The Final Stop: Rome (Days Nineteen through Twenty-One)


So Rome is amazing and everyone needs to spend at least a week there at some point in their lives. Before I went on this trip, people told me that Rome is a walking museum and it truly is.


The weather is beautiful, the food is to die for, the wine is cheaper than water and all the leather goods are just fan-freaking-tastic. I could go on and on and on about this city. Now I could never live here, but I would love to spend a month in a villa with a bottle of wine and a fat plate of pasta. Dream big, right?!


Our group pretty much spent the first two days in the Vatican learning literally everything there probably is to know about it. Places like St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel were unbelievable. There is so much symbolism in the smallest country in the world.


However, all of us had three back-to-back two hour walking tours so we were all pretty much done with the Vatican. And the worst part was that the Pope wasn’t even there!


The Pantheon was my favorite area. It was surrounded by bunch of local shops, fountains and street performers. At night they had some guitarists while people drank coffee in little restaurants.


Best cappuccino in the world was at this shop by the Pantheon called Sant Eustachio. It was £3 for two cappuccinos. Perfection. All my money either went to food or leather goods. We also were in Italy when they were having their post-Christmas sales where stuff was at least 50 percent off. But every five people in the city are trying to sell a selfie stick. I mean like every seven seconds someone would come up to me and say “Selfie? Selfie?” If I hear that word again, I might scream.


But the best landmark is definitely the Coliseum. Pictures do not do it justice. When you start to think about how many people built it, watched gladiators and toured it, it just becomes unreal.

Now, after a couple days of hell-ish travel and still waiting for my suitcase, I am back state side and already miss Europe. After touring all of the cities, I definitely want to live abroad in Europe and hopefully London. My two favorite cities so far were London and Rome, but for two different reasons. London is an actual, semi-tangible place for me to live while Rome is the dream place to live. That and I think I could only do Rome for a couple months.

Anyway, if you are still reading thanks. And if you have been reading this series since the beginning, thank you even more! Adventure is out there!


Day Twelve through Seventeen

Bonjour from Brussels. Well that is only partially right because Belgium has an equal split of French and Dutch culture. One half of the country speaks only Dutch and practices the Dutch culture, the other half only speaks French lives in that culture. They read different news sources, eat different meals and different ideals.


It is interesting because street signs are either in french, dutch, english or all three. It’s always a gamble if I’m going to try to speak to a stranger in french or dutch because Brussels acts as the melting pot of this weird de facto split.


We left Paris just before the huge Charlie Hebdo march with all of the various European world leaders (minus someone big from the US…whoops). The crowds were just beginning to organize in the square. We then took a fast train to Brussels. I have never been on a train like that before, so I was interested to see how we all would like it. God, why aren’t there things like this in the US?!!?! They are so efficient and more comfortable than airplanes and it only took an hour for us to take the train from the two cities.


We only had a free afternoon when we got to our hotel, and because it was a Sunday everything was closed. Next day, we went to the US State Department Media Hub. I knew nothing about foreign service especially how that ties to journalism, so it just about blew my mind. I can’t imagine doing tours in multiple countries where I don’t speak the language, but hey, to each their own.


We they practically sprinted to Cantillion brewery to have a tour of one of the oldest breweries in Brussels. Our tour guide was precious and said “Drink water? No no no no. Water is for ducks.” That’s Brussels for yeah.


We had another tour of Thompson Reuters. I got to talk to one of their staff photographer i.e. I stared googly-eyed at a real life photographer working overseas. Dream job in a nut shell. I have some friends studying here for a semester from my school and I actually ran into two of them at Reuters. They are interning there for the semester…in Brussels. K.


We grabbed lunch then headed for the Parlimentarium. This is probably one the most interactive museums I have ever been to. You get a iPod Touch and you just hold it up to various scanners all around the museum and it gives an explanation of the exhibit in your language. Super cool.


What is a trip to Brussels without chocolate and beer. It is really that good I promise. I liked the chocolate at Mary’s and it’s not as expensive as other shops in the Grand Place. Chocolate just doesn’t compare anymore after that experience.


One our last day we had a walking tour of the Grand Place and the infamous Manneken Pis statue. But fun fact: It was 20 degrees out, raining and windy. It was probably the worst day to have a walking tour, so we made it a speed-walking tour.


Yep. That’s it. Brussels’ pride and joy. It’s super tiny by the way. I personally don’t understand why people come from all over the world to see it, yet here I am from America seeing a peeing boy statue. Plus side: There was a waffle bar and a Hard Rock cafe nearby. All was not lost. That night I also met up with some friends who are studying here. It was lovely to see a familiar, American face. Then we went to Delirium and got plenty of cherry beers. Go to Brussels just for that experience alone; forget the peeing statue.

Our flight from Brussels to Amsterdam to Rome had a maintenance problem, so I am typing from the Brussels airport, which I now know very well. But we are finally going to the final destination of this passport series: Rome.

Day Eleven and Twelve

Bonjour from Paris! The City of Love, and now known as the city of Je Suis Charlie. Weirdly enough a group of journalism students we Paris bound the morning of the Charlie Hebdo shooting. It’s a very weird parallel.


But Paris as a whole has been pretty calm about this. I mean don’t get me wrong, there are signs everywhere with the Je Suis Charlie logo. It is obvious that this is the biggest events to happen to France is recent history. Yet, the city still functions on. Our group has not really been effected by the shooting. It is both a strange and exciting time to be in Paris.


After a tour with a university here, we went to Notre Dame. It was a windy, rainy day so all of us where mainly busy trying to buy umbrellas and hats to help with the weather. The inside was massive. I mean it just kept going and going, and it was so dark because of the weather so it was very gothic. I lit a couple candles for my family and started to make our way to the Louvre.


The Louvre is huge. It has three floors and spreads for several blocks. It is separated by country rather than time period because that’s how much art is in it.


But just go to the museum just to see the Mona Lisa. Everything else is way too overwhelming and repetitive. If you like that 17th and early century art, then by all means go. I like more modern stuff, so this wasn’t my cup of tea. Also, the Mona Lisa is really crowded and filled with people with iPads taking no joke 50 photos. If you skip it, I won’t tell anyone.


Now the d’Orsay is the best museum in Paris. It has all of Monet, van Gogh and other impressionist work. I mean I was giddy when I saw all of Monet’s work. D’Orsay used to be a train station so it is very open and has a really cool, artistic vibe. They don’t allow photos so know what you want to take a picture of and make it sneaky; they will yell at you very loudly in french. Don’t leave Paris without doing this.


Before the Eiffel Tower, we went to Cafe Constant. It was a little cafe that one of our chaperon’s read about in a bunch of guide books and it was phenomenal. The wait staff is so nice and we had an amazing meal. I think I had a religious experience with my dessert.


After we toured a TV station, we went to the Eiffel Tower. It is so much bigger than I imagined. Definitely a wonderful section of the city. Someone got a text from their mom that there was a hostage situation in the city so we left the tower to go to a cafe to get WiFi and try to figure some stuff out.


If there is Paris in a photo, I think it would be this one. We got some wine and half of us went to the lock bridge and half went to the Arc de Triomphe Etoile.


Massive. Just unreal. It is also in the fashion section of Paris, so it was cool to walk by the YSL offices and the Louis Vuitton store. So far, Paris is really starting to grow on me.

Days Eight through Ten-Prague

Fear not Adventurers (yeah I know, I’m working on it), I have not abandoned y’all: Prague just doesn’t believe in continuous free WiFi. My hotel room seems to only have WiFi at 3 a.m. and for only 30 seconds. It has been a struggle for all. Hold on to your hats because this is going to be a long post.


But anyway, yes I am in Prague. The winter wonderland of Prague. Not going to lie, at first I was a little underwhelmed by this former Communism, Czech city, but I have warmed up to it after all. (Naturally before I leave for Paris.)


I flew from London to Prague on Sunday and met up with my group. Because of this long post, I’m being very blasé about this experience but it was frightening to go a city where I have clue about the language, to an airport without any WiFi (see intro paragraph), try to find my school group who is in another terminal (which I only found out halfway through a panicked scan of my screenshot emails) and my luggage missing for 20 minutes. But luck was on my side because I found the group right as they landed. Truly hashtag blessed.


We got to our hotel around 4ish and for those in the States that means sundown. Because it was late and my poor school group spent the past 48 hours flying and landing and flying and landing, we took it easy. Prague is known for their beer and Czech people are super proud of this. As they should. Pilsner is the main one that you can get literally anywhere. I saw people ordering them at McDonalds that’s how much Czechs love their beer. Definitely a must have if you ever come here. It’s also super cheap (like a dollar for a pint), which is a huge plus. To put it in perspective: My water was more expensive than the beer here. Water falls free from the sky for god’s sake.

This is some weird statue that Czech people made to mildly make fun of the Christians around the 18th Century. It’s a man riding a dead horse by the way.

The next day we visited a strategic communication firm and Charles University. This was of course after we got lost about ten times. The most used phrases so far has been “Look WiFi!” and “Where the BLEEP are we?!”


Czechs drink all day. I mean like beer all throughout the day, so the bar scene was super fun. Old American music from the 70s through 90s is strangely popular here. Our first bar was called Ice Bar, which was a bar completely made from ice: glasses, couches, etc. They gave you a warm parka and 30 minutes to go inside. Very touristy, but super fun. Our other favorite bar was James Dean. It plays all old music and their napkins have his signature on it. We always had fun and met a ton of people from all over the world.


Prague has only about a million people in it, so it’s pretty quiet compared to London, New York or Miami. I always felt pretty safe in the city even in the bars and streets at night. The older Czechs don’t really like Americans, but everyone our age was super nice and friendly.





The second day was our free day, so it was mainly spent trying to see everything in Prague. We went to the monastery, Prague Castle, Lennon Wall and the Astrological Clock. If you are planning to go to Prague, definitely go to the monastery and castle. The wall and clock can be done really quickly. The cathedral in the castle was stunning. The detail work in the mirrors, the doors and steeple is unreal.


There are a bunch of tombs or dead royalty and saints there as well. Kind of cool. Kind of creepy. Either way, definitely worth seeing. We bought a ticket that allowed us to five locations in the palace. Side note: bring your student ID overseas!!!! A ton of museums in Europe offer student discounts at museums with your university ID. We at lunch at this cool local restaurant at the bottom of the hill of the castle.

Czech food can be summarized in one word: Dense. It’s really good, but just super rich. Lots of meat and potatoes kind of thing. I have loved every meal, but feel so stuffed at the end of it.


So if you are still reading this, gold star for you. Thanks a lot for your time.

Anyway, Prague is a great city to have as an extension of your trip. For instance, if you are going to Germany you can easy do everything in Prague in three days. It’s a super cheap city with great beer culture and tons of history. The castle was awesome, but can easily be done in one afternoon. It is a lot more efficient to do Prague in a couple days rather than a week.

Food is really rich and really meaty, so Vegans, vegetarians, etc. beware. The majority of the food is potato based so all the gluten-free people can come here without a problem.

A lot people speak English, so it was easy to get around and ask for help. As always, you get a lot farther with a smile when you travel and that completely applies to Prague. Hold doors open for people, give up your seat at the train station, people here really appreciated that and were more willing to help us out.

Prague is super small and I was able to walk to all the major places in one afternoon. Transportation is super cheap, except be careful with cabs they tend to rip you off. But all in all, I really liked the city.

Day Seven

Naturally, my last day in London would be cold and rainy. So why not go on not one but TWO London Walks today?


My first tour was the Notting Hill and Portobello Road walking tour. I have seen the movie Notting Hill more times than I would like to admit (ok like more than five) and have always wanted to go to the Portobello Road market.


The walk was a great tour. I love how London Walks has a nice mix of need-to-know information with some nice fun facts. For instance, our tour guide Tom told us all about the history of Notting Hill when it was first founded as well as show us some celebrity houses (like Richard Curtis…I LOVE YOUR WORK). It is interesting how Notting Hill was one of the worst slums and now properties sell for £7 million. My head was spinning when I was trying to convert that to American dollars.


The market was also amazing. I decided to have lunch here and had a falafel and a banana, Nutella crepe. Clearly, the crepe stole the show because I never looked up while eating it. If you ever plan to go to London, please try to plan your trip to be able to see the market on Saturday morning. There are tons of antique, food and clothing stands all along the market. Everyone is so colorful both in personality and in their fashion. I love how Notting Hill has still preserved their bohemian style even though more families are moving to the area.


My mom’s one request when she went back home was to try to make it to Kensington Palace. I was in the area and had about an hour to spend, so off I went. I honestly did not think that Kensington Palace would be that large. It is near the Kensington Park entrance, so the palace is surrounded by green grass and a mini, well kept forest. There was even geese flying; it looked like a Jane Austen movie.


I was only going to just look outside and around the garden, but I saw that the palace has an exhibit about certain dresses the Queen, Princess Diana and Princess Margaret wore over the years. They are so tiny! Like any other American, I love Princess Diana so it was cool to see some of the dresses she wore, but they didn’t have the dress that she wore in the photo with her dancing with John Travolta so that was a mild let down.


I then realized that I had 15 minutes to get to the Tower Hill tube station for my Jack the Ripper tour, so I practically ran to the High Street station. The Circle Line moves at a glacially pace fair warning, so if you ever late for something that requires to take that line plan 45 minutes before you go. The walking tour to be honest was kind of a let down. I heard so many good things about this specific walk and I wasn’t that impressed. This could be because I was exhausted and hungry, but I thought there would be just a little bit more. I loved the Notting Hill and Harry Potter walks better. But it was interesting to learn about “the original serial killer”.

Tonight is my last night in London and tomorrow I fly to Prague, so here is my overview of London.

I absolutely love this city and it is almost heartbreaking that I am already leaving. I would love to live here if possibly because London is both a cosmopolitan hub and a historical landmark. The city is super developed, but still pays tribute to its older roots. The tube is phenomenal. It’s easy to get around with all the multiple forms of transport.

Things to for sure see: Tower of London, Victoria and Albert Museum, Fortnum and Mason, Spitalfield Market, Natural History Museum (but only first thing in the morning), Notting Hill, Portobello Market and Southbank Centre.

Things to maybe skip if you don’t have enough time: Jack the Ripper Walk, Tate Modern, Kensington Palace, Liberty of London, and St. James.

Day Six

Ta-ta to Mom and Allison as they fly back to the States. I moved from the flat to my new hotel room until I fly to Prague, and no joke my hotel room is the size of a hallway.


I could barely fit my suitcase through the room, that’s how small we are talking about. It was like the building mis-measured the floor and realized that there was a little sliver of space and thought “challenged accepted.” It is in a nice location and has a nice bathroom, so I can’t complain too much. The hotel is close to a lot of museums in Kensington, so today was dedicated to that.


Thank God that London paints these phrases at almost every crossing or else I would have definitely been hit by a car by now. This is also what helped us all not get killed in the Bike Adventure of 2015.


The Victoria and Albert Museum is definitely my favorite museum in London. Each exhibit has interactive stations where you can take a quiz on what year the object was made or what it does. This is so great because it makes the museum more exciting and not so dry. The museum is also modeled by the time period of each exhibit like if you were looking at French 18th Century furniture, the ceiling and floors mimicked that. It better set you in the time period that you were looking at.


There is also an exhibit called Disobedient Objects that is about political and social protests throughout the 20th Century. I knew about some of the protests, but it was nice to find the origin of certain movements like the Pink Triangle coalition. It had an interactive wall where anyone could write anything they wanted like “pro choice”, “meat is murder”, and “free Pakistan” and other messages like that.


I then moved on to stand an hour in line for the Natural History Museum. The sneakiest part about it was the line started at the bottom of the entrance’s staircase so you just thought “oh I just have to make it around the corner.” Well, turns out that they wrap the line around the gardens THEN up the staircase. Very, very sneaky.


After an hour, I walked into the museum and saw the dinosaur skeletons. I then bought a ticket to the Wildlife Photographer of the Year, which was amazing and worth standing in that line for. The coolest part was the 17 years old and younger section of that exhibit. I was both envious and frustrated at the talent that these kids possessed. An 8-year-old boy won the kid’s division, but that photo could equally be competed with the adults. An 8 year old. But, only go if you pinky promise me to early in the morning to miss the outrageous line.


So, I met this British guy Tom at school and found out that he is from London. I told him that I was planning on going during Christmas break, and he said to message him when I’m here. So I did! We grabbed coffee (or a cuppa as he called it) and talked about America, London, school and other topics. It was awesome to see a familiar face and get some caffeine; both were very much needed. Thanks for the chat, Tom!


Later, I grabbed a burger and fries at this place called The Diner in memory of my mom and sister, who are hopefully back home with the pug by now. The Diner also had these amazing hard milkshakes with all these different types of liqueur. Definitely try if you have the time!

Day Five

After the Bike Adventure of 2015, the Rice family did not leave the flat until at least 12:30 p.m. We were all tired to say the least.


Today was the Tate Modern day, so we went to grab a late lunch at the Southbank Centre, which is almost right next to the London Eye. No, we did not go on the Eye, but we did get a ton of street food around that area.


Since I am the only one out of the Rice girls who can eat gluten, I decided to get Dutch pancakes with Nutella sauce and powdered sugar. This is dying meal worthy, guys. They are little petite pancakes slapped with Nutella. The people at the stand were also super friendly, which only made the experience that much better.


There were also a bunch of different food, drink and accessory stands on this strip by the Thames. Every two stands had mulled wine, and one stand said that the doughnut place stacks two doughnuts on ice cream with chocolate sauce that hardens. Allison and I were not bold or hungry enough to try it, but if you are ever in that area please do it for one of us.


I grabbed some street food for lunch while Mom, Allison and Graham went to an Italian-esk restaurant called Strada. Mom and Allison said they got the best meal on the trip there. There mashed potatoes (or “mashed” here) was awesome and was really well seasoned. The place was super packed so service was not as good as it could have been, but great food.


Allie didn’t feel well so she took a cab home while Graham, Mom and I went to the Tate Modern. To be honest, it wasn’t nearly as good as I thought it would be. The main floor was the best part, but there wasn’t as much stuff on the upper floors. This might be because we didn’t want to buy tickets to the main exhibits and the fact that we were super wiped-out from all the walking. There were some Picasso paintings so that made it a little bit more worth it.


The rest of the night was us all trying to figure out how to work British washing machines and packing for tomorrow. Mom and Allison are going back to the States while I stay here for a couple extra days before going to Prague.