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A lot of people don’t know that there are many hidden gems to upstate New York. The fall is my favorite season here because there are so many fun activities from apple picking to cider and wine tasting there isn’t enough time in the season.
I am currently in my senior year at SUNY Oswego and the same old party scene gets old after awhile so it’s always fun to do something different. This past weekend the seniors in my sorority and I went toColloca Estate Wineryfor the day.
This winery is only about a 20-30 minute drive from Oswego, NY in the Village of Fair Haven, NY. We got there by theD-buswhich can charter any event you have planned with very reasonable prices.
If you call Colloca Estate Winery ahead of time you can reserve spots in the tasting room or of course you can just walk in. We called ahead of time and were greeted by the great staff! The atmosphere is just as you’d expect cozy and urban and the staff made our time there so enjoyable. In the tasting room you taste I believe it was 7-10 different wines. The tasting is $7 if you do not buy a bottle at the end or you just pay for the bottle you buy and the tasting is then complimentary.
They just released a hard cider this season and that was my favorite. My other favorite and many of my friends favorite was a new wine they made called Mindy’s Giggle Juice, which is a sweet pink riesling. Another favorite among my friends was the Dolce Riesling
Other than the tasting room the property has so much more to offer. There is an outside kitchen and bar along with a separate area on the grounds for weddings. They also have LIVE music as much as possible during the season!
I recommend the hard cider and the pear, arugula, and gorgonzola pizza from the outside kitchen it was a great pair, their cheese dishes are really good as well!
Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands and is known for its artistry, canal systems, and narrow houses and of course the Red Light District. This city is chock full of museums and art. The cyclist and the narrow canals is what creates the cities character in my eyes.
What drew my friends and I to Amsterdam was of course the fact that we are curious twenty something year olds. Amsterdam is like a fairytale land I must say.
Why I fell in love with this city is because of the people and atmosphere. Everyone is just happy and enjoying life it makes you think like ‘is this real?’ I won’t make assumptions but if I had to guess maybe its the pot that makes them all happy or maybe its just their way of life how relaxed the environment is.
Either way whether you are a pot smoker or not this is a city you need to visit once in your life time just to experience the atmosphere of this beautiful picturesque city.
How to get to Amsterdam
My friends and I travelled from Heathrow in London to Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport via British Airways. Our flight was at night on a Thursday so when we landed not much was open besides night clubs and some restaurants. Luckily our hostel was at the center of mostly everything so we walked to a burger joint called Bar Band got a beer tower of Heineken and relaxed.
Where to stay in Amsterdam
As I’ve mentioned in many previous blog posts such as my most recent 36 Hours in Berlin,Hostelworldis my go to when booking hostels. This trip we booked Amsterdam Hostel Centre. The only good thing about this place was the location and price if you can afford better than that don’t book here. Realistically you are never in your room the whole trip so it’s not a huge deal. My friends and I got a private six person room with a balcony that was a plus! But the major downfall was the bathroom! The showers were the size of closets and the bathrooms you had just enough room to sit on the toilet still with your knees hitting the door!
What to do in Amsterdam (what is there not to do 😉 )
Day 1: This trip had no schedule to it it was more of a leisure trip at this point we were tired of seeing museums and personally I’m not a big art girl. We started the day at a creperie (thin pancakes for anyone who hasn’t been lucky enough to ever have one), creperies are all over Amsterdam and they make the perfect breakfast or lunch. I went on my own way from breakfast to go on the Heineken Experience Tour. I highly recommend it to anyone! Although I am not a beer drinker you get 4 beers at the end at their cool bar! The tour is super interactive and overall just interesting. My favorite part was the tasting in the old barn. After this I met up with my friends and we decided to go on a canal tour. MAN WAS THIS A WASTE OF TIME. That was the last time I did a boat tour unless its going to be a booze cruise. After that waste of time we went to grab dinner at Wok to Walk (great go to food when traveling in foreign countries). After dinner I headed to theAnne Frank House, this was one of my absolute favorite things I did on any trip. Make sure to book your tickets FAR in advance they book up crazy quick.
Day 2:We got a bit of a late start to our day but that was fine because we were just going with the flow this trip. We didn’t want to waste more time of sitting and getting breakfast so we just popped in a Starbucks for a quick bite and then we just became tourists roaming the streets for the day and other activities. What really amazed me was the Red Light District which we stumbled upon after going through this narrow alley way. It literally was like jumping down a rabbit hole and suddenly you were inthe red light district. Prostitution culture is so different there it truly astonished me not in a bad way just in a curious way. My friends and I then all went to the Sex Museum this was just a funny thing to do I wouldn’t say it’s a must. What is a must though is the fries next to the museum! Do not leave Amsterdam without having them. I could not leave Amsterdam without an infamous picture with/of the I AMSTERDAM sign which is in front of the Van Gough Museum.
This trip overall was one of my most relaxed and easygoing trips and thats how it should be because thats how the city of Amsterdam is. I 100% will return to Amsterdam one day and I hope whoever is reading this is convinced to go to.
P.S. – The word ‘coffeeshop’ does not mean a Starbucks or cute cafe by the way in Amsterdam so remember that when going there.
When you think of Germany your first thought is most likely Oktoberfest and Munich. Or if you are a Christmas fanatic you may think of Nuremberg well because they have the best Christmas markets during the season! Hopefully by the end of this blog post when you hear Germany you will think of Berlin automatically instead.
Berlin is known for the famous Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie and nightlife. What it is also known for is its meadows and countryside which unfortunately I didn’t get to visit but it just gives me another reason to go back now!
How to get to Berlin
For this trip my friends and I travelled from Gatwick airport in London. Our flight was very early in the morning therefore we had to get an Uber at 3am just to get to the airport. After passing security we took naps until our gate was called. We flew Easyjet and this was one of the longest flights of all my traveling while in London. I can’t say how the flight was because I slept the whole way. You can also look onTrainlinefor trains to Berlin if you are coming from other destinations!
Where to stay in Berlin
As I’ve mentioned in my previous blog posts I always use Hotelworld when it comes to booking hostels. For this trip I booked Wombats Hostel, they have multiple locations
around Europe and they are well worth staying at. We stayed in an ensuite apartment and it was literally like an actual apartment I was more than happy with it. To add on to the amazing room there was also a rooftop bar and coffee shop connected to the main lobby which is so adorable and bohemian chic. I would stay here again anytime!
What to do in Berlin
Day 1: After our not so pleasant Uber ride experience from the airport we got to our hostel earlier than we could check in. There was some confusion with our room arrangements so always double check the room arrangements when booking through Hostelworld. The manager was so nice and it was easily figured out and we were able to drop our bags off until check in at 2 p.m. We were famished from our early morning travels. We decided to eat at a Thai/sushi restaurant which I cannot remember the name of but it was right near Checkpoint
Charlie. We did some shopping to kill more time after eating along with visiting Checkpoint Charlie and exploring the area around it. After being tourists we took the U-Bahn (subway) back to Wombats to check in, when we got to our room we all unpacked and took much needed naps. Once we woke up we were again hungry so we went to this diner like burger place and I’m not even going to give you the name because it was not worth it. The only thing this place had going for it was the cocktails during happy hour. Although we wanted to go out to the clubs we also just wanted a good nights rest so thats what we did instead.
Day 2: Let me just say we had the coldest rainiest weekend. We woke up to rain and bitter cold each day we were there, so dress warm in November. Waking up early I headed to the rooftop bar for breakfast, with a slim selection it still did the trick and woke me up. Today we planned a visit with a tour company to go to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. Political prisoners such as the soviets and along with jews were kept here from 1936 until May of 1945, although from what I understood from our guide is that this was a work focused concentration camp it is estimated a 30-35,000 lost their lives at this camp. Walking through the camp you get a bone chilling feeling and touring it in the weather we did made the experience even more heart wrenching. This was something I will never forget and I truly encourage anyone to visit this historic site.
Nightlife: After warming up back at the hostel and refusing to sit in the room all night I took it upon myself to get some drinks at the rooftop bar the ‘Wombar.’ What i’ve learned from my travels is always make friends with the bartender! I believe I tried every shot on the menu the most interesting was the monkey brain shot, try it if you ever go! Also get a Hemmingway sour! the best drink ever!
Day 3:For our final day in Berlin we had to wake up early to checkout but left our bags at the front desk while we did some more exploring. We had tickets to go to the Berlin TV Tower which was a really cool experience but my favorite part was that we were luckily enough to eat breakfast at the top! We ate breakfast while the whole top spun slowly showing you the whole city, it was such a clear morning that it was such an awesome site. The food wasn’t worth it but the views were. Since we still had time to kill until we had to leave for the airport I went to walk in the Nikoverli area seeing all the museums along the way. It was a Sunday so not many shops were open but I did some shopping in the ones that were and I stumbled across a tiny four stand Christmas market. Once the shopping and sightseeing was done we all met back at the hostel and relaxed until we were ready to head to the airport. While heading to the airport we passed the East Side Gallery. This is a part of the Berlin wall only still standing and street artist took it upon themselves to graffiti it with beautiful artwork.
This was my last trip during my time studying abroad in London and I’m so happy it was because it was the most relaxed one. I did not list all the sites I saw because there are many in Berlin it is chuck full of history and landmarks, I chose to share my favorites. Plan ahead when it comes to Berlin and call ahead to make reservations at restaurants. I believe Berlin is full of history and once you see it all theres nothing to go back for. One day I hope to make it back to Berlin but to experience the countryside!
I had a great trip overall I do wish we planned better because we missed the Christmas markets by ONE day! TIP: if you don’t want to miss out like we did book your trip for the last weekend in November!
Barcelona is a beautiful part of Spain but is referred to Catalonia. It sits on the Mediterranean Sea and while I was there the people of Catalonia gained their independence from Spain becoming their own country, therefore the streets where filled with protests. My favorite part of this city was how everyone was so connected to their country you couldn’t go down one street without a Catalonian flag hanging from the window or balcony.
I have to admit when I decided to study abroad in London, Barcelona was not on my list of countries to see. But after meeting some friends and comparing prices to other places we wanted to go to Barcelona became one of our destinations and I am so glad it did the country was way beyond my expectations.
How to get to Barcelona
My friends and I were traveling from Rome to Barcelona. We had a early morning flight via Ryanair and what a s**t show that flight was! We were sitting on the tarmac for at least 45 minutes with no AC before they said their was an issue with the plane we had to deplane and board another plane. Which we then did but it took another hour just to put everyone and our luggage on the plane! This cut into our first day in Barcelona but by the end of the trip we still got to see everything. Word from the wise the cheaper airlines may be worth it because the price is cheap but always be prepared for complications.
Where to stay in Barcelona
As a student I have to be smart with my money. Therefore when traveling I stay in either Airbnb’s or hostels i decide on which I am going to stay in based of price and location. I always use Hostelworld when it comes to booking a hostel they are the best. For this trip my friends and I stayed at the Itaca Hostel in the Gothic Quarter. This is a PRIME location and the hostel was amazing. The rooms were clean and so were the bathrooms and the whole place was so cute. Our room had a balcony which was great and the living area was awesome to with tons of bean bags and balconies to eat breakfast off of. 10/10 recommend, even if you don’t stay in this hostel stay in the Gothic Quarters because its near everything and is so pretty with all its little shops and narrow cobblestone streets.
What to do in Barcelona
Day 1:For me after the stressful flight issues the first thing I wanted to do when I got to Barcelona was go to the beach. Although it was November it was fairly hot and I wish I brought my bathing suit on the trip but I didn’t so remember to bring yours! But first I had to get something to eat so I headed to the Boqueria Market where I swear I think I tried one of everything at each stall. It was amazing this place is a must if you are visiting. After my stomach was full with the best meats, cheeses, smoothies, fruits, and candy I decided to walk to the beach. The walk is not bad at all and the views are great you’ll pass a gorgeous cathedral on your way then you’ll hit Port Vell. There was yachts in the harbor from all around the world and vendors lined up. I finally got to the beach and was able to relax the beach wasn’t sand like normal beaches it was more like gravel and theres was beach glass all along the shore i collected so much I was able to fill up a mini bottle with it! Worked as a great souvenir for myself! BEWARE: The worse part about the beaches in Barcelona is the vendors on the beach they will try and sell you ANYTHING and won’t stop that is the only downfall to the beach. After my relaxation at the beach I met up with my friends for lunch I had a liquid lunch aka a whole pint of Sangria Cava! Its a must try in Barcelona while my friends enjoyed Paella which is also a must.
Nightlife:Espit Churitos was our nightlife for day one and it was so much fun! The place has over 200 different shots all for €2.50 each! We found out this was a hotspot for pregames for students studying abroad. You must stop in it’s a blast!
Day 2: We spent the whole day touring architect Antoni Guadí’s work. If you don’t know who he is well open a textbook! Just kidding I didn’t know who he was either but now I wish he was alive to build my future house. He was a Spanish architect who built the most unique buildings in Barcelona.
We started at his house Casa Batlló which is covered in colorful mosaics and has this awesome water ball room on the roof. We stopped and ate lunch at Brunch and Cake a breakfast and lunch place it was too boujee for my liking and the menu is very limited. After we ate we were ready for more walking so we headed to the nearest metro station and took the metro to Park Güell.
We then had to walk up to the park once you reach a certain point they have escalators but honestly it was a HIKE I recommend taking a taxi to the entrance of the Park. But once you get into the park the views are well worth the trek. The park overlooks the whole city! After embracing the magnificent views there head to the Sagrada Familia which was my absolute favorite part of the trip. Construction on this church started in March 1882 and is still not complete. You walk inside and the stained glass lights up the whole church different colors.
Be sure to get tickets to the façades the nativity one has the best views! You take an elevator up 367 feet and exit and you get an even better view of the city than at the Park well worth the extra money.
Dinner: After playing tourist all day we needed a good meal so we headed to El Japones which was an amazing sushi restaurant. I still have not had sushi as good as I did there. Its in the L’Exaimple region of the city, in a small ally between Rambla Cataluyna and Passeig de Gracia. It was expensive but it was a great last meal to celebrate our weekend in Barcelona
Day 3: It was our last day so I only had a few hours to kill so I headed to Montjuïc. You take a cable car ride up and I think this truly gives you the best view of Barcelona.
To the left you have the sea and to the right you see the mountain tops and in the middle of it all is the bustling city of Barcelona. When you get to the top explore the castle and make sure to walk the perimeter its so beautiful you can see the airport and cruise ship terminals from it! After that head to Rambla Street to do some souvenir shopping!
Lunch: Before heading back to the hostel to pack up our things and take a taxi to the airport I grabbed lunch from El Nacional. There are four bars in the restaurant and four different restaurants within it so you can choose from seafood or something from the grill at La Braseria. It was so cool and I recommend making a stop there for a few meals.
All my tickets for the sights such as the Park, Sagrada, and House of Gaudi were purchased very much in advance make sure you book in advance so you don’t miss out on these amazing places!
I flew Vueling home and although the flight was delayed it was an overall pleasant flight back to London. This trip was amazing and so eye opening to me truly from the culture and amazing sights I saw. I am so happy I ended up making this a destination of mine and you should add it to your list of future travels if you haven’t already since you started reading this.
Rome is a city full of history and tourists. There is so much to see like in Florence that it is hard to do it just in one day but my friends and I saw as much as we could. As in Florence, Rome also had the cute narrow cobblestone streets but while spending the day it was clear Rome was more for tourists. The city is very populated and dirty in some spots, as always when traveling beware of your surroundings and pickpockets. I hope this itinerary will help you see in Rome in a day if you are limited on time like my Florence one but if not make sure to enjoy it all at your own pace! Especially the gelato you’ll miss that most when you leave.
Here is a map of how we saw the city on foot:
How to get to Rome
My friends and I decided to fly to Milan through EasyJet since it was cheaper than flying directly into Rome at the time. We used google flights to find most of our flights while traveling because it gives you a variety of options. What really got us though was that we waited until last minute to buy the train tickets from Milan to Rome and that ended up costing us as much as our flight! In the long ruin if we bought the train tickets the same day as our flight it would’ve been cheaper for us but lesson learned, NEVER WAIT LAST MINUTE. Always look into all your options to see what is cheaper and what is worth it.
How to spend the day
We decided to explore Rome the day after my eventful day in Florence , click here if you want to find out about it. It was super sunny and beautiful but my hangover was violent, we hit the town with a bottle of water in hand and a few Advils in my body. I used Google maps because they are always reliable although I do love Citymapper and TripAdvisor once again to plan our day and buy our tickets for the sites we planned on seeing.
Colosseum – We took the metro (subway for you non-cultured people) from our Airbnb in Vatican City to our first stop of the day the Colosseum. As soon as you exit the station the Colosseum is right there in your face. Surrounded by other ancient ruins and these giant trees. Parts of it has been destroyed by earthquakes but there is so much of it still standing along with other ruins. Next to it is the Roman Forum and your ticket for the colosseum is good for that too so don’t pay twice! We didn’t have time so we skipped that. After a solid hour or so here we went to a tourist trap for lunch! Oppio Cafe (not my choice just putting it out there) don’t get me wrong the view of the colosseum was great but the food was a rip. Don’t fall for these traps, walk of the beaten path to not get ripped off.
Pantheon – After that we headed towards the Pantheon. We were walking through narrow sketchy alleys for awhile and then all of a sudden it led us to a bustling part of the city. On every side of you there was a new ancient ruin and those giant trees it was something out of a history textbook it was beautiful. It took us longer than expected to get to the Pantheon because we kept stopping to enjoy the ruins but we finally made it there and man was it packed. The most shocking part about it was it was this giant ancient build smack in the middle of a city! The astonishing part about the Pantheon is the dome and if you go inside the opening at the top you see right into the sky.
Trevi Fountain – Like every travel blogger I recommend going here EARLY. My friends and I went around noon and it was swamped with people. The alley way we walked through from the Pantheon to the Trevi Fountain was my favorite! It had a ton of leather shops and souvenir stores I stocked up on my gifts there. After walking through the alley it spits you out right to the Trevi fountain another piece of history in the middle of the city with everything built around it. After watching someone get proposed to in front of the Trevi Fountain (future husband if you are reading this don’t do that be original) and enjoying gelato we had to head to the Vatican Museum because we had tickets for a specific time.
Vatican Museum/Sistine Chapel – We took a taxi there from Trevi Fountain because it was too far to walk. We thankfully pre booked our tickets and I highly recommend doing the same because our taxi driver said you can be waiting 3-5 hours or even all day to get in! We didn’t even have to wait we walked right on in! But I will tell you it is worth the wait to get in if you didn’t pre book your tickets. Everything about the museum was astonishing and breathtaking. The best part was the Sistine Chapel, we bought tickets that included this so make sure you do to because you don’t want to miss out. The paintings and artifacts in there are amazing. You aren’t aloud to take photos in the sistine chapel but I snapped one for those not lucky enough to go there yet. Still not over how this was all hand painted!
After our day being tourists we headed to a quiet town square called Campo de’ Fiori. This is a cute town market square with so many restaurants to choose from. Because like us you are probably going to be starving from all that walking you did.
In Rome you can’t go wrong no matter where you eat (unless its a tourist trap). Always beware of your surroundings when traveling and go off the beaten path so you don’t get ripped off and get the best meal for your buck.
After traveling to Italy I quickly realize why so many people fall in love with it. Between the narrow cobblestone streets in Florence to the shopping in Milan and the sight seeing in Rome it’s full of history and beauty. Can’t forget about the tasty gelato and perfectly executed pasta (I’m drooling). With all the beauty Italy has to offer it was so hard to pick where to visit since I was only in Italy for a few days. This guide I hope will help you narrow down where to visit and add Florence to your list of definite’s.
Using google maps and TripAdvisor and multiple travel blogs I discovered how my friends and I would get the most out of our time in Florence! Below is a map of our day. Note: we walked to every spot! Wish I was wearing a Fitbit that day to see how many steps I took.
In order to spend a day in Florence and get the most out of it you need to go there with a plan. The best part about Florence was everything you will want to see is in doable walking distance from one another. A day in Florence is a go, go, go, go vacation because you have limited time.
How to Get to Florence
If you are traveling from another part of Italy like I was train is your best option. Booking your train tickets in advance is a great way to save money. The train is fast and the views are amazing from valleys in the countryside to wineries you’ll see it all on the train. I was coming from Rome so I used GoEuro to get the best price for my train ticket. Throughout my traveling I have used GoEuro and have always been pleased with it, they give the most train times available and best prices.
How to Spend the Day
Since there is so much to see in Florence I recommend staying longer than a day but if you are like me and only had a day to spare here is what to hit in a matter of hours.
Galleria dell’Accademia – As shown above the walk from the train station to here is not bad at all and you get to enjoy the beautiful architecture along the way. Also you will pass through the Mercato di San Lorenzo.
This was an unexpected stop on our journey and it was a nice surprise. There was so many leather goods and trinkets I could’ve stayed there for hours shopping but we were crunched for time. This is a great place to get some souvenirs if you have time.
Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore – After taking some inappropriate pictures with the Statue of David we headed to the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore.
My friends and I decided not to go inside because we already had so much to see this day and we had already seen so many churches in our travels. The special thing about this church that makes it stand out is its dome. If you book tickets early enough you can climb to the top of the dome and see all of Florence I hear its best at sunset. Or if you are like me and my friends and looked into tickets to late and missed out on the dome experience head to the Piazzale Michelanglo and you will still get an amazing and gratifying view of Florence. When we were athe Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore there was a Magnum ice cream bar pop-up shop next to it! I hope whoever is reading this right now that it is still there for you because it was delicious and I hope you create a great tasting ice cream bar.
Piazza del Vino – After all this walking and gauking at the beauty of the city you will be starving and craving some wine and pasta. If you don’t have time to check out the wineries outside of Florence in other parts of the Tuscany region then this restaurant is for you! You step inside and immediately feel like you are in a wine cellar but you are actually in a restaurant in the city if Florence. Their wine is amazing and so is the food to go with it. I recommend the Olianas Rosato, it was a mildly bitter but sweet Rose wine and it was so smooth it tasted like you were drinking grape juice. This place is the hidden gem of Florence.
Piazzale Michelanglo – Once your stomach is full and you’re feeling tipsy you’ll be able to make the 36 minute walk from the restaurant to the piazza. This was our final stop of the day. Although it may feel like its taking forever because of your drunkness (is that even a real word) I promise you will eventually get there, and it will be worth it! Once you get there take a million pictures of the amazing view and do some souvenir shopping for some trinkets. I could’ve stayed there looking at the views forever it looked like I was standing in a postcard.
If you have more time take a train to Pisa for a day or few hours!
No matter what in Florence you cannot go wrong with its beauty and food and wine there is so much to enjoy. I prefer to walk around the city when I’m being a typical tourist. This is because I feel like you see so much more and its more of an adventure because it never is a smooth walk in the park in walking in a different country. So next time don’t call an uber to your next tour plan out time to walk.