The Land of Scots

[November 20th to 22nd]

This is the last trip, I swear.

I tagged along with all my friends living in the apartments (instead of with a host family) to Scotland. It was nice to be in a place where everyone spoke English. Our plane landed and we went through immigration and got passport stamps! We had to convert our money from euros to pounds. A train took us in to the city center. Christmas markets were set up in the city so we decided to walk around and get lunch. Our Airbnb check in wasn’t until 3 PM anyway.



Here is the cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter.


And here is the grave of Tom Riddle (from Harry Potter).



The Air BnB was real nice. For dinner, Logan and Ben were the lead chefs of a delicious chicken dinner. Then we watched a documentary on the Loch Ness Monster and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

The gang had planned a van tour through the Scottish highlands. We taxied into the city and met up with the tour guide and the other touring people. The tour had to start early since the sun isn’t in the sky for very long in the winter. Anyway, we drove along, stopping occasionally to snap pics. I wished we’d been able to stop more often and for longer periods of time.


Scotland is beautiful and I want to go back. Apparently, the country has a ‘right to roam’ law or something that allows people to camp (almost) wherever they want, provided they leave the land as they found it.


Around here is where Hagrid’s hut stood for the filming of the Harry Potter movies.


Our final destination was Loch Ness, where the fabled Nessie lives. Lunch was supposedly the best fish and chips place in Scotland. They were indeed delicious (but Iceland’s was better).



The sun set as we drove back to Edinburgh. Before dropping us off, we made a final stop to take pictures of this bridge.


We had dinner at burger place. Then we watched Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.


Lotsa Pasta

[November 16-18]

Our flight didn’t leave until pretty late. So, Logan (actually some time in advance) made plans for us to take a pasta making class! (What a stand up guy!). In the morning, we walked to the Piazza Navona.


Then we walked over to another piazza to meet up with the pasta making people. We got there kind of early and had to wait for some time. This plaza has much more going on with vendors shouting and birds flying around and customers browsing.

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Eventually, all the people arrived and we were led to the place where our pasta making would happen.

The two woman teaching our group were wonderful instructors and full of energy! We were making fettucini and ravioli. The kitchen area was on a roof so it was a little chilly.

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Fettuccine with amatriciana sauce.

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Ravioli with a ricotta and spinach filling and a butter sage sauce.2018-11-18 14.05.55

I leaned that most traditional Italian sauces only have three or four ingredients, and that there are over 600 types of pasta. After the pasta, they gave us tiny glasses of limoncello. It too all my willpower to not make a weird face while trying a sip because it did not taste good. Bleh. But the pasta was amazing and they gave us each a copy of the recipes to try at home. So obviously, I’m gonna make it at home.

Logan and I visited a few more sites after making pasta.

The Pantheon. Very impressive.


The coffers in the ceiling create an illusion effect to make the dome look higher than it is.


The Trevi Fountain. Very crowded.



Then we flew home.

A Little Bit of Italy

[November 16-18]

No rest for weary travelers! After our return from the Netherlands on Thursday, Logan and I caught a bus to the airport for our flight to Rome. It was a kind of last minute decision, but a good one.

Our flight took us over the Alps.

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We landed in the evening, found our hotel (a little grungier than expected) and went to dinner. The restaraunt, called RomAntica, was a friend recommendation. I got buccatini with amatriciana sauce and Logan got a pasta with three cheese and pepper sauce. For sure, the best pasta I’ve ever had!

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We shared an also delicious tiramisu for dessert.

And now a funny story. So two German women next to us were asking us what we were doing in Rome and other general conversation stuff. When we got our tiramisu, they asked if it was good. It was and so they each ordered one for themselves. The one woman asked if there was Rum in it (good tiramisu has rum). I said that I didn’t know but I sure tasted good. When their desserts arrived, the she bent down to sniff the bowl to see for herself. We were getting our coats on to leave. The woman looked up to say goodbye and there was a streak of coacoa powder coming out of her nose! HAHA. Her friend didn’t say anything to her until (hopefully) after we left.

Anyway. The next day was full of sight seeing. First, the Colosseum. Absolutely insane. I sat down to sketch and heard snippets of guided tours walking by. Apparently, the reason the Colosseum isn’t fully intact is because at some point in history, it was ransacked for material.


Then we walked over to Palantine Hill and the Roman Forum.


After that, we just kinda wandered around, running in to famous buildings and monuments.


A lot of the ruins were below the road because the modern city of Rome is actually build on top of the old city. I’m not really sure how that worked.


A view of Rome



In the late afternoon, we took a subway up to the Vatican. It was getting a little chilly and the light wasn’t great but I’m glad I got to see it.


We ate dinner at Melo, another friend recommendation. I got pasta again (suprise!) which was delicious but not quite as good as RomAntica.

The Netherlands: Amsterdam


Our morning started with a continental breakfast including bacon and eggs! Very exciting since most hotels and hostels have the traditional bread and cold cuts. Then we gathered for a tour of the Anne Frank House. That was the most heart wrenching experience of my life. But I learned a lot. And it was certainly a worthwhile experience.

Anyway, after being properly depressed by European history, we walked through a brownfield park. It was not quite as exciting as Landschaftspark but it was still quite lovely. There was more attention to the ecological restoration component which I appreciated.


Afterward, we were free to walk around Amsterdam. I didn’t realize until the trip that prostitution is also legal here and so we took a stroll through the Red Light District. It was weird and smelled of weed. A few women were on ‘display’ in the windows but since it was the middle of the day, I think most of them were on break. The clientele for this sort of thing probably comes by in the later hours.

Dinner was at this restaurant called Pesca that Ben’s mom told us about. They have fish out on display and you pick your fish and they cook it for you however they want. Unfortunately, our group was too large to do that so we just told them our budget and the prepared a whole meal for us based on that. And let me tell you, it did not disappoint! We had olive bread, Calamari (which I’m not a fan of) and prawns to start. Then they brought out mussels in butter lime sauce. The main course was sea bass with a side of salad and baked cauliflower. SO DELICIOUS! And not too expensive.

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We got an early morning start, meeting Da Daktores (the roof doctors) to learn more about green roofs. The roof we shivered on had an ingenious system that captured rain water to water plants from beneath and reduced peak flow for runoff during large rain events.


We warmed up in a coffee shop for a bit, then visited a park that was actually a series of islands.

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For lunch, our coordinator took us to a traditional Dutch herring stand. The sandwich I ordered had raw herring, pickles, and onions. Basically halitosis on a bun. Honestly, it tasted alright, but I couldn’t get past the slimy, raw herring texture. Logan ended up finishing my sandwich. Unsatisfied with the aftertaste, I bought some macaroons.

Our afternoon was spent on a very long tour of canal and water infrastructure in Amsterdam. I am embarrassed to say that I don’t remember much from the tour.


By the end of the tour, we were all hungry, tired, and sore from walking. Luckily, dinner was soon. It was a group dinner at a pancake place. They had savory and sweet pancakes. They weren’t fluffy like I expected but were more like a thicker crepe. Quite delicious.


Before leaving for Bonn, we went to the Vincent Van Gogh museum. And it was pretty much the best museum experience of my life! I wore my starry night socks. We couldn’t take pictures, unfortunately. But we got to see an evolution of his art and I learned so much about him (including the fact that he was born in the Netherlands, which I didn’t know). He didn’t actually start painting until I think 27 and he only sold one painting the whole time he was alive. I got to see a number of his famous paintings, including the sunflowers, the cherry blossoms, the yellow house, a few of his self portraits, and crows over wheat field (which was allegedly his final painting before his death. BUT the museum also had an unfinished painting that is speculated to be the actual last painting he was working on). The only bummer was that Starry Night did not make an appearance. It’s currently on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

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Here are some pics



Check out this insane bike parking garage. Biking here is intense.DSC_0536


The Netherlands: Rotterdam

[November 10-12]

The whole of last week was spent in the Netherlands. Their country has implemented innovative water management infrastructure due to a decent portion of the country being below sea level and thus quite prone to flooding. The tour was mostly so we could learn about this storm water management but also because it’s a trip to the Netherlands.


Our bus drove off in the wee hours of the morning with a bunch of sleeping students. We woke up at our first stop. Kinderdijk. A UNESCO world heritage site (just for you mom) of historic windmills that pumped water from canals back into the sea. We walked around the site and even went inside one of the windmills.

DSC_0054DSC_0105DSC_0011The next stop on the way to Rotterdam was the Maeslantkering mechanical storm surge barrier. The giant appendages were built to protect the city of Rotterdam, and is part of an extensive system of flood barriers and dyke that has been developed to prevent disastrous flooding. It was drizzling when we arrived. We watched an informational video about the gates and then went outside to take a look. Each of the arms is taller than the Eiffel tower!DSC_0115DSC_0118

Here’s an informational sign with a drawing of the barrier.

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Once the tour was over, we scurried back into the van and traveled the rest of the way to Rotterdam.

We arrived in Rotterdam and checked in to our hotel. Yes! A hotel. With towels and comfy beds. It’s called ‘The Student Hotel’, with amenities catering to the youngsters of the world. It was very hip and had witty signs on the walls like “Here comes the son” and phrases on the shampoo bottles like, “Shower is knowledge.” A group of us went out in to the city in search of dinner. We walked around aimlessly for a few blocks and came across this crazy plaza with funky buildings.

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None of the buildings look expensive and futuristic. This funky n-shaped building seemed interesting so we decided to investigate.

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Inside the building was a market with stalls selling fancy cheese and spices and food. The underside was a giant mural of fruit which I quite enjoyed.

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In the morning, a few of us walked around by ourselves since planned activities didn’t start until 1:00 PM.

Here are some floating trees.


And a funky bridge.DSC_0127

An this thing.



In the afternoon, we had a tour of stormwater infrastructure and stuff around the city. Pretty neat. The city is much smaller than I expected.



This machine is pretty cool. It sucks up smog from the air and condenses it into a black powder that is made into (kind of ugly) jewelry.


For dinner, we went to an Indonesian restaurant. They brought us a bunch of sampler plates with all different sauces and curries and rice and what not. Very yummy! In the evening, we played ping pong and fusball in the confusing maze of a lobby.


Before heading to Amsterdam, we made a stop at these recycled, floating wetlands. The plastic pieces are made from recycled plastic collected from the river.


And then we made a quick stop to look at a parking garage. Don’t worry it was actually cool. It was part of a effort to restore the beach front. Honestly thought, I forgot to look at the parking garage part because I was looking at the shells and rocks along the beach. The sun came out for a little which was nice to see.


Our final stop before Amsterdam was the little town if Leiden. It’s a cute college town with canals and brick everywhere. Very picturesque. We walked around for a bit and got lunch in a little diner. Logan got a black berry, cheddar, jalapeno, and bacon grilled cheese. Interesting and tasty flavor combo.


It was getting dark when we arrived at our funky hotel, The Vokshotel, in Amsterdam. Our room was weird. The toilet and shower were in separate rooms. But instead of a door to the shower area, there was just a metal chain curtain that hid very little.

After getting settled in, everyone went off to do, um, legal things. The weed things.  (Don’t worry, cannabis is legal in the Netherlands and they were responsible and safe about it) Logan and I decided to just walk around. The city is quite unique with it’s many canals and hoards of bikes.



Landschafts Park

Oh man, this was quite a while ago now. Like, before fall break. You can thank my laziness and spotty wifi for getting so behind on all my blog posting.

So a few weeks ago, we took a class trip to Landschafts Park in Duisburg. The area had a lot of industry (steel work and coal mining in particular) and the vestiges of these activities were left to rust. Landschafts park took the industrial structures of a steel plant and turned it into a large park. We learned about these post-industrial parks in school so it was really cool to visit and play in one. In the morning, we walked around the park. There was a section of outdoor climbing walls with hand holds everywhere! Very cool. My friend Ned, an avid rock climber, was reluctant to move on. We also got to climb to the top of the blast furnace.

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Here are some cool little gardens

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After lunch at a little kiosk, we went on a bike ride to a huge gasometer. Inside was a photography exhibit that looked like you stepped into an issue of National Geographic. Massive images were displayed in the space, all about mountainous and wild landscapes. We saw a few pictures of Iceland which was exciting! There was also three-dimensional model of the Matterhorn.

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At night, the structures were lit up in spooky colors.

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The next day, we traveled over to the Ruhr Museum that used to be a coal plant

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Paris: Gardens of Versailles

On Sunday, we planned on visiting Versailles then leaving from there to drive home. Going inside was expensive and we got there later than anticipated and the line was crazy long but the gardens were cheaper and had no line. We learned about the gardens of Versailles in class and I think we all had pretty high expectations for what they would be like. In my honest opinion, I thought they would seem grander. But these gardens were also designed mostly for looking at from a distance and not walking through. The level of detail was maybe less than I had expected but also exactly what I thought it would be like.

Here is the entrance to the palace.


Around the side was the gardens entrance. The gardens were all about having complete control over nature. Shrubs are trimmed to make geometric designs and shapes.



Here, you can kind of see the “axis to infinity” which was a symbol of power in the sense that it looked like the king’s domain stretched on forever (it didn’t).


Sometimes being a landscape architecture student stinks because instead of just appreciating the grandeur of this place, I think “Wow what an extravagant waste of space” and “It wouldn’t hurt to add a little more plant diversity”. I know, I know, that’s rude to say about such a famous attraction. Anyway, branching off from the sides of this main axis was a maze of hedges that led to different spaces with statues and fountains.


There were fountains everywhere but none were running. Probably because when they were built, they had to divert an entire river to make them run since (I think) the grounds were actually up hill from the nearest water source. When Louis XIV strolled through the gardens, servants would follow him and turned the fountains on as he passed and turned them off when he left because it wasn’t actually possible to keep them all running at once but still needed to create the illusion that they were always running. Pretty funny, I think.

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Paris: I Should’ve Bought a Beret

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My perspective of time has really changed with all this travelling. I would not have thought it would be worth it to drive five hours to spend a day and a half in Paris, just to drive five hours back. But, there I was, sitting in the middle seat of the rented hatch-back, sandwiched between Logan and Ned while Ben drove and Tom played the sound track to Bohemian Rhapsody the movie over the speakers. We had left at 2 or 3 in the afternoon on Friday and arrived at 9. Logan and I found our Air BnB and (as I’m sure you can guess by now) we went out to get food. It was not a far walk. The pizza place on our block looked good enough so we sat down. It’s been quite frustrating to not be able to communicate with people every where we travel. But, luckily, our waiter spoke English. The pizza at this restaurant was actually some of the best pizza I’ve ever had.

We had a full day of super-touristy sight-seeing planned for Saturday. In the morning Logan and I took a subway from our place to the Arc de Triumph, got breakfast, and waited for Ben, Ned, and Tom to come from their Air BnB. It was chilly and windy with minimal sun and I had left my warm jacket at home (I’m sure you’re disappointed mothers). Once they arrived, we took a tunnel below the traffic circle to see where it led and learned that you had to buy tickets to see it up close and (apparently) climb to the top of it as well. The line wasn’t too long so we decided to give it a go. The arc was pretty cool and the view from the top was unexpectedly lovely.

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Poor Logan just can’t escape all the tall things.

Anyway, after that, we strolled over to the Eiffel Tower. Stopping along the way to get food at a farmers market. Booths lining the streets sold little Eiffel Tower trinkets, postcards, berets, and other Paris paraphernalia.

The internet informed us that the Eiffel Tower is taller than the Washington Monument. Like the Arc, we had to buy tickets if we wanted to actually walk up to it and climb up it but we decided it was good enough to just look at it from afar. I took a million pictures of it but here are just a few.


Next up is the Cathedral of Notre Dame, which I didn’t really know much about. Still, the intricate sculpture was impressive.


There was this flock of pigeons in the plaza that would fly up and land on people if you just stretched out your arms. Here are Ben (left) and Ned (right), becoming one with Paris’s urban wildlife.


After that, it was the Louvre. We didn’t go inside but walked around the court yards with the glass triangles.


For a snack, we stopped at a bakery and I got a macroon. I wish it had lasted forever.

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In the evening, we went to dinner, then out to a few bars.

So who says one day in Paris isn’t worth it? No one does! ‘Cause it was totally worth it.

Here’s the whole crew 🙂 Tom, Ben, Ned, and Logan.


Stay tuned for Versailles in the next post!



Greece: The Ancient Agora and Hydra

In the morning we went to the Acropolis museum, which was pretty cool. It was mostly statuary and pieces of ancient buildings and columns. The outdoor entry space had glass panels that looked down below on a current excavation site. On the way back to our room, we took a look at Hadrian’s Arch and the Olympion.

Hadrian’s Arch, right next to a very busy road

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Unfinished temple to Zeus in the Olympion.

2018-10-18 11.00.26Since our plan was to take a later ferry to the island of Hyrdra (Idra), we had to go back to our room, grab our stuff, and check out. After that, we headed over to the Agora, which was the open air market and civic center of Ancient Athens. It was much more vegetated than the Acropolis.

Here is a view of the Agora with the Acropolis in the background.


Temple of Hephaestus


We had noticed numerous signs that said “don’t pet the tortoises” which seemed strange until we saw tortoises all over the Acropolis and the Agora.


After seeing a lot of old marble ruins, we sat down at a delicious falafel restaurant, then took a metro to Pireaus, where the ferry would be to take us to Hydra. I thought the port would be a cool area with boats and places along the water to sit, but it was a massive, industrial area with busy roads and over-sized cruise ships that broke the skyline behind them docked in the harbor. We got there way too early and walked around looking for a place to sit by our dock area. Lots of people walked by trying to sell things and asking for money, which was kind of uncomfortable. I had pictured the ferry as one of those boats where you can sit on the deck and watch the water but it turned out to be an ugly metal boat that looked like a plane without wings.

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We were hoping to see a sun set but passengers were confined to the cabin.

The sun was long gone by time our boat docked, at Hydra. Lights from the little town crept up the mountain sides.

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We walked along the waterfront and up to a lookout point, checked into our little hotel room, and then found a place for dinner. It was quite, without the noise of traffic on this (almost) car-less island. After watching fish swimming in the clear blue water, we turned in for bed.

Greece: Delphi

Wednesday, October 17th


We decided to rent a car and drive to Delphi, Greece. Logan thought it would be easier to rent a car from the airport. It was not easier. We had to get up and take the subway and two trains (we got on the wrong one) to get to the airport. Then wait for the airport shuttle to take us to the car rental place. It took much longer than expected but eventually we were on the road.

What I didn’t realize until the drive was Greece is pretty mountainous. The road climbed up the side of the mountain with some nice views down in to the valley below.


Delphi is an ancient city that (I think) was where the Oracle, speaker of prophecies, supposedly lived. I assumed there would be some kind of temple at the top, but whatever path we were on did not have any temples to the Oracle. I think we must’ve missed something. A steep, wide path made switch-backs up the slope. Every level were more ruins, temples, and other buildings.

I can’t tell you much about what we were looking at because there weren’t many signs or maps an I also didn’t do any outside research. But still cool.




We saw this wild pig/boar thing crossing the road.DSC_0258_edit


There are cats all over Greece!