Photography by Brianne Lee

Photography by Brianne Lee

Prague: A Fairy-Tale City

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Studying abroad has many elements of adventure to it. First, there is the actual departure from your home continent. Then, there is the opportunity to venture even further, the opportunity to explore outside of your newly settled foreign land. This past weekend, curiosity and exploration led me to Prague.

 If when you think of Europe you imagine castles, old bridges, historic medieval archways and buildings from centuries gone by, then that is Prague in a nutshell. It really is that fairy-tale place you imagine when dreaming of old European cities. 

I swear to you, magic was in the air. Not the Disney-type where forest creatures break out in song and dance. No, Prague is magical in its own way. The city seems to be torn right from a picture book where fairy dust constantly rains and (somehow) beer is given to you for free at dinner but you have to pay for water. 

And did I mention they have Starbucks...?! 

Enjoy the highlights of my weekend in this enchanting city!

Old Town Square

Astronomical Clock

Charles Bridge

John Lennon Wall

Prague Castle

A cylindrical pastry sold hot with a dusting of cinnamon and sugar. They are made by wrapping dough around a wooden stick and roasting it over an open flame until it is fully cooked. These are to die for!

And of course...the many stops at Starbucks :)

I find one of the most painful things, as a photographer is feeling like you didn’t document what your eyes saw properly, and not having enough time to capture all that you want to. Prague is one of those cities where its' beauty can simply not entirely be captured on camera. I do however, hope you feel a glimpse of what I did through looking at these images! 

Lost in Venice

Monday, March 10, 2014

Ahh, Venice… The magical sinking city that seems to float on water, where residents still need boats to get around and where visitors unfailingly get lost in its winding maze of alleyways, bridges, and canals.

On Sunday, Meghan and I caught an early train to spend the day in Venice! Once we got into the city we decided to follow the crowd of tourists; all who seemed to be following these yellow signs pointing to main attractions such as the Rialto Bridge and Piazza San Marco. Meg and I quickly grew tired of hordes of people all going in the same direction, so we decided to go off the beaten path. If you look at any website or ask anyone on what to do in Venice I’m sure you’ll receive the response “get lost in Venice.” This is exactly what we did.

We wandered through narrow and sometimes what seemed like “secret” alleyways. Discovered the most picturesque canals (the small canals are the best, they are peaceful, quiet, and so full of character). We crossed bridges over water that looked as though it had been used to clean someone’s paintbrushes. The crowds of tourists we’d passed before were long gone.


On one of the many random streets we turned down, we found a quaint little restaurant to grab some lunch. Meg and I each had a flavorful plate of gnocchi with a four-cheese sauce, bread, and free water! 
(A very rare thing to find in Italy.)

After lunch, we decided that we should try to find our way to the Piazza San Marco. We thought this would be easy…wrong we were. After what felt like an hour of wandering, we finally managed to figure it out!

  Just past the Piazza, we found ourselves looking out at the magnificent blue water before us. Taking full advantage of the weather, we bought little bottles of Prosecco, seated ourselves by the edge of the water, took off our shoes and basked in the sun!

Getting lost in a foreign city is an excellent way to step away from the obvious and have a unique and memorable experience. In a city like Venice, you are almost guaranteed to bump into something new and astonishing around every corner. It’s a place of endless discovery!

Follow Your Nose!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

One of the perks of living here is you get to unfold all the little secrets that Florence has to offer.  Every day is a mystery to solve!  I’ll let you in on a little secret I have just recently discovered. 

Two words…Secret. Bakeries.

If you've spent any length of time in Florence you've probably heard the whisperings about the secret bakeries. The night bakeries are not “secret” in the sense that they are unknown. Instead, it is their location that makes them secret, tucked away into the maze of streets. They are inconspicuous and hard to find. Without a doubt, the best way to find them is to follow your nose.

 It wasn’t until this past weekend that we found the secret bakery. A good friend of mine from high school, Heidi, is currently studying abroad in Bulgaria. This week, her and two of her friends made the trek to Italy for their spring break and decided to spend a couple days here in Florence! It was so wonderful seeing a familiar face and being able to show them around this city.

 While out late one night, we had the cravings for a late night indulgence! Suddenly, we were struck by a delicious savory scent emanating from a back alley. We followed the scent to the source where we encountered another group of people standing in front of a glass door.

An Italian man emerged in a white baker’s apron. The people in front of us handed him a couple Euros in exchange for three large white bags filled with pastries. When it was my turn, I asked the baker for “something with chocolate.” In exchange for one euro, I received a warm croissant with a gooey nutella filling. It was so delicious that Heidi and I may or may not have gone up for seconds…or thirds. (:

Nighttime snacking lacks in Florence, since most places close by 10pm. Therefore, finding one of these “secret bakeries” feels not only like an accomplishment, but a delicious chocolate-filled nighttime adventure!

A City Dressed-Up To The Nines

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Last friday, my friend, Catherine, and I caught an early train to the small town of Lucca just North of Florence. Our first impression of the Lucca was the long, towering walls surrounding the entire city. I had read about these before. Apparently a lot of smaller Italian towns were once walled, but few remain completely enclosed. Lucca is one of the few entirely barricaded by these walls, leaving you to ender it through one of a few secret passages - small, hidden paths that go through or over the wall.

Given the size of Lucca, by the end of the day Catherine and I had walked around the entire city! We noted how quiet and peaceful of a place it was. No busloads of flashy-happy tour groups or shops tailored to sell all the same souvenirs. Only beautiful medieval buildings, spacious squares and quaint little shops.

We arrived back in florence around nine and in no more than twelve hours later, Catherine and I were back at the train station joined by two of my roommates, Abby and Krista, to venture to Milan!

When one hears “Milan” they might be likely to think “Fashion”, and with good reason.
The city itself is dressed up as though ready for a “night on the town”. Together with the bright colors of the buildings and shops, cathedrals, statues and fountains, the city of Milan is full of architecture completely unique in its artistry and mixing the old with the new.

The first day was interesting to say the least. After walking around and exploring for a few hours in the pouring rain we decided to head back our hotel and try to warm up. While checking in, we were asked to present our original passports. Unfortunately only one of us had our original while the rest of us simply had a copy of it. I'm still not quite sure how this could have slipped our minds, but our lesson was learned after spending three hours at the Milan police station waiting to get a half sheet of paper stamped that allowed us to stay overnight at this hotel. Oops.

The next day went a lot smoother. We took full advantage of the beautiful weather and decided to climb the Duomo di Milano. My were the views stunning!

The rest of our day included a visit to an Andy Warhol Exhibition, wandering the streets, eating surprisingly delicious street food and gawking at all high fashion stores. 

While walking around Milan, it’s hard not to feel a little out of place as young and fashionable Milanese pull off the latest fashion trends with style and ease. Milan is so much more than high fashion though and I think far too many judge the city before experiencing it. One thing that perhaps surprised me the most was how normal most of the city seems. Once you leave the central area, those fashionistas start to disappear and in their place emerge corner coffee shops, local restaurants and affordable stores. 

It was a long and tiring weekend, but in the best way possible! 

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