San Diego, California

A few wonderful days in San Diego, California for a photography business trip. Verdict: I'd move here in a heartbeat.

  Sunset Cliffs Natural Park

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park

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  I got stung by a stringray while surfing the morning this photo was taken. I could barely walk on my foot for a few hours - so a bay tour was the perfect way to see the city without having to move too much!

I got stung by a stringray while surfing the morning this photo was taken. I could barely walk on my foot for a few hours - so a bay tour was the perfect way to see the city without having to move too much!

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  I stayed in this part of the city - lively and full of amazing food and drinks!

I stayed in this part of the city - lively and full of amazing food and drinks!

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  I could get used to this view.

I could get used to this view.

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  Great shopping and food here. Felt less touristy than most of the places I ventured - and I loved every second of it!

Great shopping and food here. Felt less touristy than most of the places I ventured - and I loved every second of it!

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  Museum of Photographic Arts

Museum of Photographic Arts

  Botanical Gardens and Lily Pond in Balboa Park

Botanical Gardens and Lily Pond in Balboa Park

  Sunset Cliffs Park

Sunset Cliffs Park

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  View from inside the Botanical Gardens

View from inside the Botanical Gardens

  The Naval Base here is home to 50 naval ships and over 120 tenant commands

The Naval Base here is home to 50 naval ships and over 120 tenant commands

  The airbnb I stayed in and loved

The airbnb I stayed in and loved

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 I miss you already, San Diego!

I miss you already, San Diego!

Boston, Massachusetts

Over labor day weekend, I was (finally) able to visit my brother in Boston - along with my entire family! We had a long weekend full of sunshine and perfect seventy degree days, despite the tropical storm warning and two delayed flights. And what a beautiful city Boston is! I expected an overwhelming New York feel - yet Boston has such a wonderful balance of greenspace, neighborhoods, and your typical 'city' feel. It's much smaller than NY, which makes it walkable, and much more understandable to my lacking sense of direction. If I were to live in a city, Boston would be a good one!

^ (Right) Our tour guide. We began with a tour along the Freedom Trail, and quickly learned that Boston has history around every corner.

^ Fenway itself from the Green Giant! We took a tour of the park and got to see all the VIP spots - including the press boxes.

^ (left) My brother and his girlfriend Emily outside of their apartment.

^ Chocolate making demonstration (and sipping chocolate samples - mmmm!) 

^ We even stopped by to see the seals at the zoo (who were extremely friendly)

^ (Left) We went on a tour of the harbor and it was so beautiful! (Right) The crew on Justin and Emily's front porch

Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville, you were so good to me!

Ever since returning from abroad, I've been craving road trips. I definitely caught the travel bug while I was over there, and am so thankful to have spontaneous friends back in Raleigh willing to adventure with me (even if it means 10 hour car rides). Zach and I took the trek to meet up in Nashville with some of our best friends from Ohio and spent a weekend exploring the city with them. I can't tell you how much fun it was! We were able to stay with locals who told us how to avoid the traps of the honky-tonk touristy areas (which was basically a street of trashy, insane party bars) and instead showed us around to their favorite places. We went to the same restaurants as Ed Sheeran, stayed in the same neighborhood as Kip Moore, and even ran into and chatted with Judah from Judah and Lion!

The thing I couldn't stop noticing about Nashville: everyone is beautiful. I mean, no joke - every single human being I ran into in Nashville looked like they could be a movie star (and a lot of them probably were.) It's full of young, hip, creatives and the streets practically bleed inspiration and energy. What a fun place to visit, yet a competitive place to live!

^ To make the drive to Nashville a little more exciting, Zach and I stopped at many thrift stores along the way (where he scored this sweet button down tee)

^ The Arrington Vineyards, where we spent a beautiful afternoon wine tasting

^ Who would have thought that Nashville of all places would be home to a full-sized replica of the Parthenon?

Kutna Hora | Czech Republic

When you realize train tickets to Kutna Hora are only $3 round-trip, you naturally impulse-book the trip. And then you definitely don't regret it. The only thing I knew about Kutna Hora before I left was that it was home of a church full of bones. I have no idea what else I expected of the city, but it definitely wasn't the charm and beauty we encountered along the trip!

Immediately upon arrival, we ventured to the bone church, which is built from the bones of over 40,000 skeletons. It creeped me out big time initially, but the artistry involved in the making of this place made me appreciate it after getting over my heebie-jeebies. The church was built not as a celebration of death, but as a reminder of equality before the throne of God - how neat is that!

Despite the rainy weather, we took a trek to the other side of the town to visit Saint Barbara's Cathedral. I was not disappointed in the least bit!

An all together great day trip spent in a cute little town with some incredible friends. Lots of laughs, lots of memories. One of the last places I'd been wanting to check off my "to-see" list before heading back to the US. What a perfect way to say goodbye to my traveling adventures abroad!

Prague All Over Again

What a blessing it is that my family was able to visit me over my time abroad! Even more exciting was the fact that none of them had ever been to Europe. The pure astonishment that spread across their faces each time we turned a corner was absolutely priceless.

I'm so thankful for my time spent with them and that they were able to experience and understand the beautiful place I lived for three months. We explored all throughout Prague, and while I was in class, they were able to travel around themselves to places such as Cesky Krumlov.

^ During an Easter morning church service, the lighting brought tears to my eyes

^ Charles Bridge

^ Franz Kafka statue (left), and musician playing John Lennon at the Lennon wall (right)

^ An artist along the Charles Bridge (left), and the place I studied all semester long: the North Carolina State University Prague Institute (right)

^ Strahov Monastery

^ Beautiful hand-decorated Easter eggs lined the streets of Prague during this month-long celebration.

^ Climbing the Petrin tower

^ View from the top of Petrin tower

Munich + Berchtesgaden | Germany

This week was - if not the single best - one of the best weeks of my life. Over this spring break, my wonderful boyfriend Zach traveled 22 hours to visit me! We decided to adventure not only throughout Prague, but also Munich and Berchtesgaden in Germany. If you missed our adventures throughout Prague, hop back to my last blog post.

Munich was so good to us! Immediately after arriving and eating one of the heaviest (and most delicious) meals of my life at Hofbräuhaus Munchen, I knew it would be a good few days. The city is a mish-mash of all types of architectural styles, but in a way that was much more charming to me than Berlin. I still can't place my finger on exactly why - and I was most likely very biased because Zach loves Germany - but it just felt more relaxed. The city was one of the only ones I've visited that really made me feel as if I could have lived there. The people were friendly, you could walk everywhere by foot, the food was incredible, shopping was great, the tourists were few, and (this was the thing that made me feel most at home) the grocery stores were incredible. We're talking everything-fresh, flowers-lining-every-aisle kind of grocery stores. When can I move to you, Munich?

^ Another one of my favorite things about Munich - awesome outdoor markets and beer gardens!

^ Still uncertain what this was (the menu was in all German) - but if I knew, I'd eat it once a day!

^ Architectural style that reminded me of Berlin - super traditional connected to ultra modern. How does it work? Still not sure, but I'm a fan.

^ My favorite part about Munich (and undoubtedly Zach's as well) was the Ice Bach river wave! We woke up one SNOWY morning (it was 30 degrees fahrenheit), and Z decided it was a good day to go surfing. He's crazy! Seeing him surf this natural wave  (it's made surfable due to a rock under the water causing a bump in the river) was so, so much fun. Despite his - literally - blue fingers and nose, it came naturally to him. I was impressed, and pumped that he was able to check a big one off his bucket list! Put him in a landlocked city and he'll still always find a place to surf. Typical.

(I'm too much of a wimp to jump in a river while it's snowing - but hey, no shame. I think most of us would make the same decision.)

^ After a few days in Munich, we hopped on a train and experienced the most beautiful three hour train ride of our lives. We took a winding ride through the beautiful mountains, which were freshly dusted in snow. Magic!

^ Water so clear I was tempted to drink out of it!

The minute I stepped out of the train station in Berchtesgaden, my heart dropped and my eyes started glistening. There are no words to explain the beauty and peace of this incredible place. I felt God's presence in every corner, every landscape, every single detail.

I have loved experiencing so many beautiful cities throughout my time abroad, but I have learned one thing about myself: I love nature. If I live in a city, I need a place to hike, to unwind, to escape the constant hum of cars, trams and metros. Manmade architecture has nothing on God's creation - just look at this place!

^ We could have spent a month here and still not have been able to hike all the incredible trails.

Visitors in Prague!

I love, love, loved exploring this city with two of my favorite guys! My brother Justin and boyfriend Zach visited me for a bit in Prague, and we had a blast getting to know the ins and outs of this beautiful place. It surprised me how little I'd explored my own city - I was shying away from the "touristy" parts of town for far too long. I'm not only thankful for being able to see Justin and Zach, but also for a refreshed excitement about Prague brought on by their new perspectives.

We visited all throughout town, but documented here are two main places: the Vyšehrad castle, and the Prague castle district!

^ Views from the area surrounding the Vyšehrad castle

^ Justin enjoying views near Vyšherad

^ St. Vitus Cathedral, part of the Prague Castle

^ I loved seeing the Vyšehrad castle, but loved the area surrounding it even more! It was beautiful - full of greenery and lots of adorable little buildings.

^ The Vyšehrad cemetery

^ We went to lunch at my new favorite gourmet burger spot - Dish!

Florence, Italy

Goodness, what an incredible city Florence is! I spent a long weekend exploring the ins and outs of this beautiful place with Amanda and Megan, and fell in love with its charm. The duomo. I mean come on. When I turned a corner through the winding streets filled with restaurants, bakeries, and leather shops, then looked up to see a building so unbelievable, I was speechless. I loved how easy it was to get around, the food, the atmosphere, the tiny streets and countless vespas. It was almost exactly how I'd dreamed Italy would be: the red roofs, stunning architecture, and food to die for. The only thing that surprised me was how touristy the city is. Living in Prague has me spoiled; I am immersed in a culture surrounded by Czech speakers and locals. In Florence, I was more surprised to hear a local speaking Italian than I was to hear a tourist speaking English.

^ After climbing the bell tower, we had a beautiful view of the Duomo at sunset!

^ Inside the Florence Cathedral

^ The cathedral ceilings (along with just about every other building we entered) were incredible!

Leather markets and shops were EVERYWHERE. I enjoyed bargaining with a few sellers in the market and became fairly good at knocking their prices down 50%.

^ Driving in Florence is terrifying. There were multiple moments on our taxi rides to and from the airport that I thought I was going to die. Their driving is extremely aggressive because it has to be - otherwise they wouldn't get anywhere! Florence in itself wasn't created for driving, so that adds to the chaos. The thin, winding streets don't give cars much space to pass; many locals opt for vespas and mopeds to get places.

^ The duomo, cathedral, and baptistry.

^ Gelato to. die. for.

^ We stopped by a charming paperie where the owner gave us a demonstration of how he creates his work. It was beautiful!

^ The Ponte Vecchio

^ Uffizi gallery views!

I could eat Ladurée macaroons for every meal and never get sick of them

^ We climbed up a huge hill and stumbled upon this incredible view of the city

Inside the Duomo

Don't even get me started on the food. Italian food most definitely has my heart! We had so much delicious pizza, pasta, gelato, pastries, bread, and coffee that I can't even remember it all.

Lindava, Czech Republic + Berlin, Germany

This weekend was full of so many fun adventures. It is so surreal to me that two places so close together can be so incredibly different! Our entire study abroad group went on an excursion to Deutschland, and took a pitstop in Lindava to do some glassblowing along the way.

The main thing I learned: Berlin is big. Their tram stations look like airports and you will get lost. I tracked a total of 27,000 steps one day exploring the city, and most definitely had aching feet! It was all worth it for the little stop sign iconography, adorable paperies, mish mash of architectural styles, funky street art, bustling energy, extremely strange film festivals, meat + potatoes diet, double decker buses, coffee shops on every corner, and locals who smiled just a bit more than those in Prague. Learning about their history was both devastating and incredible; I am so glad I was able to visit!

  ^ Sklárská Krčma, where we learned glassblowing in Lindava

^ Sklárská Krčma, where we learned glassblowing in Lindava. We made several different things including mugs and vases and grew to appreciate what professionals do, then got to see them in action! They ship a lot of their glass pieces to the States to sell, and have even created things such as the PGA tour trophies.

Amanda stamping her beer mug ^

^ They also had a gallery full of beautiful glass pieces we got to explore

Eventually (after lots of naps on the bus), we made it to Berlin! It is such a strange concept - driving across a country's border without even realising, then eventually looking up and all the signage has switched languages. Not to mention, Germany is so different than Prague. The architecture is incredibly modern, and there is countless amounts of construction going on in the city. It feels more fast-paced and sleek, yet not nearly as charming as Prague. The mish-mash of architecture in Berlin was strange, though; one minute I felt as if I was in New York, then I'd turn a corner and be standing in front of a massive, ornate cathedral. Confusion.

^ The Reichstag's classic marble architecture paired with a massive glass dome coming off the back... how does that work? Not sure, but I like it.

Inside the Reichstag dome ^

^ View from the dome

^ Jewish memorial - a powerful thing to experience in the heart of Germany.

^ We called them the "German Chunks," after realising they outnumbered the pigeons. Never thought we'd experience a bird that was more of a pig than those in Prague!

^ The Berliner Philharmoniker was designed with intelligent acoustics in mind; if you want to hear the violins the loudest, you sit in a certain spot, but if you want to hear everything the same, you sit somewhere else, etc. etc. --- so cool!

^ The Sony Center, where the main part of the Berlinale film festival is held. We were happy to be there during the festival and I was lucky to see the movie We Demand, then get to hear the producers speak about it. (It was a weird indie film that I didn't understand but was all together a good experience)

^ Checkpoint Charlie, the crossing point between east and west Berlin during the Cold War.

^ Rachel and me in front of the Berlin dome

The TV tower was how I oriented myself throughout the city ^

^ The most adorable little stop sign man

^ There was a whole souvenir shop dedicated to solely the cute little ampelmann!

^The Bauhaus Museum ... too cool!

^ Me and Amanda at the Bauhaus museum

^ Beautiful window display at one of my favourite shops in Berlin

^ Pergamon Museum

There were trampolines in the square! ^

^ Others saw the overcast weather as gross. I saw it as perfect photo lighting! Ha!

^ When trying to get to the Berlin Wall, we accidentally stumbled upon the cutest flea-market-style little market. It was full of all sorts of funky things!

^ The East Side Gallery is part of the Berlin wall that is now covered in beautiful murals.

^ My sweet friend Anna!

^ The year the wall no longer divided Berlin! * Note the stripe of underpants glued down the middle of the 8... not sure why...

Sázava Bead Making, Praha Zoo | Czech Republic

This weekend has been a fun one! For my kiln glass studio class, we took an excursion to Sázava and learned how to make glass beads. It was a therapeutic, fun, and rewarding process - I was thankful to have spent the day there understanding the process and experimenting. The glass center where we had the workshop, Cesty Skla, also had a beautiful gallery of glass artworks that was inspiring, delicate and stunning!

^ Glass rods we melted and used to create beads

^ They look like lollipops before they're dry enough to separate!

We also took a trip to the Zoo in Prague. Who doesn't love a good zoo? We walked 14,000 steps this Saturday wandering around looking at the hundreds of animals. One of the funniest things to me was that there was a goose exhibit. When I initially saw it, I assumed the geese had accidentally flown into the exhibit and taken over (I'm so used to seeing them in the US)! It wasn't until I saw the exhibit description that I realised the "foreign geese from America" really are something a Czech may have never seen before.

^ My friend Anna posing alongside a strange statue

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^ View from the top of the zoo

^ The peacocks roamed free (and squawked very loudly)!

On our ride back from the zoo, we didn't have any plans and decided to hop off the tram and wander around a bit. We saw masses of people following a trail of lanterns (so naturally we followed them), and look where it led us!

It was the Chinese New Year and I had absolutely no idea! What a fun surprise, getting to see performances from acrobats, dancers, musicians, and eating some good Chinese food.

^ Sweet friends Anna, Lisa, and Megan. We had a fun time!

Old Town Square, Prague Castle | Prague, Czech Republic

I turned 21 this past Saturday! To celebrate, my friends and I spent the day exploring Old Town Square and touring the Prague castle. We also had some incredible food at Kavárna Obecní Dum and Fraktal. It was a day well spent, that's for sure!

After brunch, we went to Old Town Square, which is the biggest tourist spot in Prague. It's at the City Center, and a two minute walk from the NC State Institute. We wandered through the elaborately decorated Church of Our Lady before Tyn, and then St. Nicholas Church. I was torn as I viewed the stunning places filled with golden relics and beautiful historical paintings; torn between appreciation of our Lord, and sadness due to realisation of this portrayal of Him. It felt impersonal, cold, intimidating, yet fancy - a portrayal of wealth and worldly wants. Shouldn't it have felt more personal, warm, and inviting if it were an accurate portrayal of the way our Lord loves? Isn't a church supposed to be a place of community, fellowship, and love? Nevertheless, I loved examining and recognising many of the stories depicted of Jesus in almost photorealistic paintings of His history. The pure size and strength of the buildings made me feel small, acutely aware of His mighty power and presence.

^ The Church of Our Lady Before Tyn

^ Bubbles in Old Town Square

We began our Castle Tour shortly after walking through the churches. Our tour guide, Tom, was extremely informative and so much fun to talk to! It was well worth 120 kuronas to have someone explaining all the history behind each thing we saw. Everything here is so, so full of rich history it's unbelievable. We began by taking a tram ride up the hill and I learned that the Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world! This surprised me because the castle doesn't look like what you'd normally think; it is actually a collection of many separate buildings all from different time periods. There is a different story behind each and every piece of the puzzle, many of which had been destroyed time after time before taking their current form.

^ Foreign affairs building and castle guard

^ View from Castle District

^ Views from within St. Vitus Cathedral

Our tour guide kept joking about how "chill" the Czech Republic is. He said oftentimes the president will wander throughout the castle district with only one body guard! Can you imagine that happening in the US? Never!

One thing I also thought was interesting is that the people of the CZ have recently been unhappy with their president. Because of this, people snuck into the castle district at night, and replaced the Czech flag with red underpants! This was intended to represent that underneath it all, the president is still supporting communism. Since the Czech Republic has a rocky past with their previously communist government, this assumption of the president leaves a bad taste in many Czechs' mouths.

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^ Glass mural that was just recently exposed (top of photo)! When initially constructed, the builders didn't realise the material they were using would eventually blacken with rain. For many many years, no one could see this mural because it had entirely blackened over. In 1992, however, a technology was developed that allowed the cleaning of the mural without damaging the glass - and thank goodness, it is beautiful! 

^ St. Vitus Cathedral

^ This part of the castle district reminded me of Česky Krumlov!

^ (Left) The builder of the cathedral loved clocks, which inspired this beautiful part of his design. If you look closely, there are two clocks and each one only has one hand. One tells the hour, and one tells the minutes!

Afterwards, we went out for dinner, my friends baked me a delicious cake, and we celebrated. It was a 21st birthday full of adventures not many get to say they experienced. I am so grateful!

Letná Park, Charles Bridge | Prague, Czech Republic

Thank goodness for sunshine and 50 degree weather that allowed us to have the most wonderful day! It has been an average of about 20 degrees since we arrived in the Czech Republic, with several days dropping as low as 2 degrees. It was nice to thaw out and switch to a lighter coat for a few days! A few friends and I set out to explore our new home on our first free Friday of the semester. Our hostel is a block from Letná park, which gives us quick foot access to some of the most beautiful views in the city! We began in the park, a huge lush green hangout spot complete with a beer garden in the middle. On the edge of the park, there is a hill drop off to a stunning overlook of the city. It is my go-to place to explore because it puts the loud, bustling city into a new perspective, transforming everything to seem so tranquil and quiet.

^ Me hanging out at my favorite overlook in Letná

^ My friend and roommate, Megan!

Views from Letná

My sweet friend, Amanda! ^

Public transportation is confusing! I have been working hard over the past few weeks to try and orient myself around the city (but I have little to no sense of direction) - so it's proving to be difficult! Nevertheless, I'm enjoying intentionally getting lost to force myself to find my way home. Thank goodness for map apps and friends willing to support me in my constant confusion. The language barrier here is a little harder than I expected - I keep finding myself missing fluent English speakers, but am thankful to be enrolled in Czech Language and Culture class, which will undoubtedly help.

After we wandered through Letná, we walked down the hill and across the river to explore more. With feet aching from cobblestones but smiles on our faces, we wandered around (I don't even know where we were) and stumbled upon so many beautiful places! Right before sunset, we decided to walk across the Charles Bridge which was built over the Vltava river beginning in the 1300s. It was lined with incredible historical and religious statues, and is silhouetted by unbeatable views of the Prague Castle.

^ Charles Bridge with Prague Castle in background

One of the most wonderful things about Prague is the enormous amount of street performers. Almost everywhere you go, there are musicians on the street, creating a surreal (movie-like) feeling as you wander down the roads lined with intricately decorated architecture.

This guy was awesome - he even played a recorder out of his nose! (Ok - that part was a little weird)

The views here are incredible, but SO IS THE FOOD !! Goodness, do I enjoy some good ol' Czech cuisine, riddled with nothing but carbohydrates, salt, and butter. That's some good eatin'. (Don't worry mom - I've also eaten a few salads here and there)

^ Little pastries... I don't know what they were but they were stinkin' delicious

^ Megan eating Tredlník. These things are everywhere throughout the city. They're delicious, warm, cinnamon, bread-y, comfort food. I've eaten too many to admit.

What a fun day it was! Falling in love with this city more and more every day.

Český Krumlov, Plzeň, Tábor | Czech Republic

Český Krumlov - fairytale city! This place was incredible in so many ways. Not only were the views breathtaking, but it also has a rich history and some of the best food I've ever eaten. The town itself is quite small; confined within the surrounding Vltava river, it can't be more than ten miles wide. After spending a few days exploring its' breathtaking scenery and activities such as traveling to the Lipno treetop walkway, touring a chocolate factory and bobsledding, my favorite was this incredible view from the Český Krumlov castle!

  Me and my friend Megan enjoying views atop the Český Krumlov castle.

Me and my friend Megan enjoying views atop the Český Krumlov castle.

We also explored the Karlštejn castle (which was originally built in 1348.... 13. 48. !!!) - King Charles IV's home. The intricate architectural details here caught me by surprise; there is no doubt I'd notice a hundred new things if I returned! 

Our walk up the mountain prior to our tour made my legs sore, but sure did warm us up in the 10 degree weather! We learned so much as the day went on, and I loved getting to talk to our tour guide! I loved that the Karlštejn castle was initially built for Charles, but was expanded to guard imperial crown jewels and holy relics, such as the photo on the right. They were beautiful!

The fun didn't end there! We took a trip to the Pilsner brewery in Pilsen to learn more about the lager that Czechs are so proud of.

Na zdraví!