Animal Kingdom Festivities

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I didn’t expect to enjoy Animak Kingdom as much as I did, but it ended up being one of my favorite days of our vacation! Especially since my cousin Marian joined us 🙂

We started with It’s Tough to be a Bug! An unassuming but fun show. It’s 3D and had tons of cool effects. Midway through, Hopper came out and scared the living crap out of me. He “attacked” the humans with these huge spiders that fell down from the ceiling. And yes, Marian and I might have screamed in terror. Just a little. It’s also really neat how the park stimulated the bugs leaving the theatre by shaking our seats like bumping movements.

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We then went on our first Kilimanjaro Safari to beat the crowds and the heat. I was so excited to see the flamingos and the elephants, especially the baby elephant who tried to hide their face behind their trunk. I pretty melted on the spot.

We also rode the Wildlife Express Train to the Affection Station (the petting zoo), where Marian went crazy and wanted to poke the animals’ booties…. What was really nice about Rafiki’s Planet Watch was The Animation Experience, where an animator teaches the audience how to draw a cartoon animal like Zazu. It’s fool-proof and they have a live model too. The hornbill flew right above and almost hit my head.

After having a delicious lunch at Yak & Yeti, we had a MAGIC MOMENT. Marian’s friends and coworkers bestwoed upon us three free fast passes we could use for most of the rides in the park that day!!!

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Flight of Passage is probably the best ride we went on the entire vacation.

It’s one of Disney’s most popular rides for a reason: amazing effects, full-on storytelling, 3D motion, etc. The simulation fully preps you for your “mind link” in order to become your Avatar and ride a Banshee. It was the most thrilling and beautiful ride that made my heart soar! It was amazing to pretend for a while that I was flying across Pandora and witnessing this gorgeous world as a Na’vi.

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After that amazing adventure, we went on another one called Dinosaur. It takes you back in time on a mission to find a specific dinosaur and bring it to present day. This, of course, goes horribly wrong with an impending meteor and the biggest t-rex ever about to have us for lunch.

I don’t know why but I yelped a lot. I was so shook by almost being eaten and not making it out in time to our world. It’s cool how into it you can be.

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We also went on Mount Everest, the ride so awesome that we went on it twice in a row.

The first time we used our fast pass, with Marian and I at the very front holding onto each other tightly. I literally spent the entire ride both screaming and laughing in terror. My heart continued to race even after the ride was over. The adrenaline was pumping and I suggested that we do it again!

The second time around we queued like “muggles” as Momma Bear said. It took a looooong time, and the family behind us was getting super cranky and scary, but it well worth it. This time Marian and I were in the very back with our arms up in the air. It made it much more exhilarating, especially when it starts going backwards. It’s hard to keep them up thought because of how forceful the ride is. It was also cool how you can see the shadow of the Yeti ripping off the tracks and thus sending us down a new set of crazy tracks. It’s probably the second best ride we went on ever.

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The squad then got drenched while on the Kali River Rapids.

Although the ride itself isn’t that bad, it’s a nice way to have fun with the family. Especially when literally everyone gets drenched! We even wore our rain jackets just to protect our bags! We looked like fools, but happy fools.

We then used our last free fast pass on another Kilimanjaro Safari because you never see the same animals twice! This time around we saw lions on Pride Rock, watching us humans (or snacks) fawning over them.

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Our night ended with the Tree of Life Awakenings, a light show that’s projected on the massive and gorgeous tree.

It’s a series of short stories that are centered and set in nature. The one we saw was about a blue bird trying to win the affections of a pink one against a mean, green bird. The blue bird is victorious, using his powers to create beautiful flowers with rich colors. I believe the next one was Simba and Zazu singing “I Just Can’t Wait to be King.”

The tree is a combination between Grandmther Willow from Pocahontas and Hometree from Avatar. Tree of Life Awakenings is the most charming light show that Disney World has to offer.

It was a great way to end the evening.

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A massive thank you to Marian and all my fellow Singaporeans who worked at Disney World and made our first visit such a wonderful one!

The Magic Kingdom Extravaganza, Part 2

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Off on an adventure!

The Magic Kingdom is so large we had to have another day exploring the rest of it!

After Amanda let us in, and generously offered a backstage look into Tomorrowland, we started off easy at the Monsters Inc., Laugh Floor. It was truly hilarious. The interactive show can put a smile on even the grumpiest face!

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Afterwards we went to the Carousel of Progress. It’s an actual moving carousel with a super catchy song that was stuck in my head for the rest of the day! It’s cool to see how the world changes over time, especially the families.

Haunted Mansion, one of our fast pass rides, was cool too. The ride itself isn’t that scary, but the anticipation leading up to it was pretty creepy. You’re literally left in darkness for a good few moments. But what was really impressive was how Disney managed to create dancing ghosts that visitors could interact with. The air conditioning is also welcome on a hot day in Orlando.

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After visiting the store Fantasy Faire, we went to have lunch at Cinderella’s Royal Table, where I basically died and went to heaven several times. The castle is, of course, a dream itself. But the entrance to the restaurant has gorgeous walls of art depicting Cinderella’s story, with columns decorated with blue birds and her trusty mice, Gus and Jaq. There was even a glass slipper on display!

Upon entering the castle, visitors are immediately welcomed in by Cinderella herself! Once you’ve taken pictures and talked with her for a bit, you head upstairs to dine. You’re offered either a sword or a wand. I chose the wand while everyone got swords. The food is decent, but it’s the princesses that you go there for! Aside from Cinderella, four others walk around the room to talk with the people. They even refer to things from their films and it’s so cool!

Snow White was the first one to arrive and talked about Dopey and all the other dwarves. Then Aurora came, gave me a huge hug, and said she liked my hair. Apparently her eye color can change depending on her mood, just like how her dress changes color! Afterwards, Ariel came by nd asked how far we swam to Disney World. She even adds bubbles when she signs something. Jasmine was the last princess to join us, and by then I was exhausted from my constant smiling.

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Once we finished lunch, we headed to Space Mountain. Now that’s a ride that’ll give you serious whiplash. Even though I personally thought it was a little too long, it was still a pretty awesome ride. The great thing about fast rides is this sense of comradery amongst the people. It’s like a mix of “oh-my-god-we’re-all-gonna-die” and “let’s-do-this-thing-squad!” Once we were done we went on  the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

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We then had some time to kill before the fireworks show. So we went to Mickey’s Philharmagic show which is 3D. It’s a really cute show that centers around Donald Duck being a fool with special appearances from other Disney characters.

We also explored Main Street U.S.A. and got our Mouse Ears from The Chapeau. I got a The Little Mermaid inspired ears with purple conch shells for the ears, Momma got one covered in pale pink sequins, and Michael got a cool sap that’s personally engraved.

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Happily Ever After fireworks are truly spectacular!

After a nice dinner at Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd Skipper Canteen (super delicious), we braved the intense rain and headed to Cinderella’s Castle for the show. Despite the cold rain, the amazing show put a smile on everyone’s faces. From the medley of songs, to the clips of movies like Hercules and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the gorgeous lights illuminating the castle itself, and of course the fireworks blazing across the night sky. The uplifting song by Jordan Fisher and Angie Keilhauer was also a beautiful addition. The fireworks show is truly as amazing as people make it out to be.

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Once it ended we fled to the Starbucks, yes there’s one is Disney World too, and got ourselves some hot chocolate. Even the cups are adorable!

But then we saw that another show was playing and made sure to stay for that too. Thankfully it seems that we only missed the first few minutes. It was Mrs. Potts telling stories to Chip, such as Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, and Frozen. But of course they ended with Beauty and the Beast 😀

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By the time we returned to our hotel room, we were drenched and exhausted. Despite how late it was, the day was incredible. Staying out late in the rain to watch the fireworks was definitely worth it!

A massive thank you to Amanda who took time out of their day to get us into the park.

Around the World of EPCOT

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EPCOT is a much larger park that I had anticipated, and therefore required a more extensive exploration than originally planned. We actually ended up spending two days at this park.

The first day began with China.

Yes, a weird thing to say about being in Florida.

The Reflections of China, a 360 degree show, was a nice way to begin our day. It made me realize just how interesting China is. Especially given how large the country is, I remembered that there is much more variety within it than I had previously given it credit for. But my favorite part about visiting this country was meeting Mulan. I of course had to meet the only Asian Disney princess.

Who happens to also be incredibly badass.

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Afterwards we visited France (more like ran to) in order to meet my favorite Disney character of them all: Belle. It was honestly kind of like an out-of-body experience for me. I left feeling as though I were on cloud nine. I mean, who wouldn’t after being told by Belle that she thinks you have a beautiful heart?

Now that I had met the best princess (I know, I’m biased), I happily and almost deliriously led us to Coral Reef Restaurant, where we had an excellent meal for lunch. Although one of the more expensive places we went to, the food was really good. Even though some may say it was too salty (looking at you, Momma). It’s a really nice place that’s at a small corner right next to the The Seas with Nemo and Friends. It has a nice inside view of one of the aquariums, so while you eat seafood you can also see them.

Pretty macabre now that I think about it.

Nevertheless we went on to look at the sea life EPCOT had to offer. Such as a dolphin and some dugongs (super adorable). Afterwards we proceeded to Soarin’ Around the World, the best ride of our day. It’s a cool 3D ride that sits you in a glider and makes it as though you are truly flying across the globe. They even add smells to enhance your experience, like the scent of fresh grass and sand. The wait time was not as long as I had expected, but it’s still a pretty popular ride.

And for good reason 🙂

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After meeting some characters at EPCOT Character Spot, we had dinner back at China in the Nine Dragons restaurant. What’s unique about this park is that all the workers are from the particular country that work at. In China we met people from Shanghai, Hong Kong, etc. It helps make you pretend as though you are actually visiting the country.

Our second day at EPCOT was mostly focused on the rest of the EPCOT world. If you start counter clockwise, you begin with Canada, then the United Kingdom, France, Morocco, Japan, America, Italy, Germany, China, Norway, and ends with Mexico. We had lunch that day at the Rose & Crown Pub in the U.K., where the fish and chips are delicious. The bangers and mash, however, is really salty. So beware!

The most aesthetic country in opinion is definitely Morocco. The buildings are really cool and the area is built in such a way that it truly seems as though you are in one of the marketplaces. Another country that was interesting to visit was Japan. Mostly because of the snacks they sold that I hadn’t had since I was super young, but also because the area is really pretty too.

The biggest surprise, however, was Mexico. Although it seems really small from the outside, once you enter the pyramid-like structure it’s like a whole other world in there! With its Dia de los Muertos theme, it gives the appearance of constant nighttime. It’s set up like a marketplace with a cool and almost eerie backdrop. There’s even a ride within the building that seats visitors super quickly. It’s about Donald Duck running away from his duties to the band The Three Caballeros. It’s really impressive considering how small it looked from the outside.

It was definitely a “don’t judge a book by its cover” moment.

A really nice surprise, however, was the Disney and Pixar Short Film Festival. Although to most it may seem unimpressive compared to the other attractions and rides, it was honestly one of my favorites. Not only because it was air conditioned and in 3D, but it was also just a lovely way to see some of the best short films that the companies have released. Three of their most successful and popular short films are shown. The ones I watched were Get a Horse!, Piper, and Feast. And honestly, some of Disney and Pixar’s best works are short films. They’re just so sweet and lovely, with actual meaningful messages imbedded in them, that it’s impossible not to enjoy them. I would definitely recommend this as well as just generally watching the short films released.

They always put a smile on my face 😊

A massive thank you to MJ who took time out of their day to get us into the park.

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Star Treatment at Hollywood Studios

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I admit that Hollywood Studios was not given as much love or attention from us as it probably should have. But it’s a cool place that incorporates tons of movie references and fun sci-fi attractions.

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We started off with Muppet Vision 3D. It’s an adorable 3D production that perfectly captures the fun and quirkiness of the Muppets. I even joke that my mother is Miss Piggy and her boyfriend, Michael, is Kermit. That sentence alone should tell you a lot of about them 😉

We then proceeded to have lunch at the most adorable place ever: 50s Prime Time Café. It’s structured and set up like an actual house from the 50s era, with photos and décor and television sets everywhere! Each tv was playing some form of black and white film or commercial that people could watch while eating. The servers also treat customers as though they were family. And my family I mean making sure we set the table correctly, no elbows on the table, asking why I didn’t eat my vegetables, etc. But it’s executed in a charming way instead of a condescending or weird one, which made the experience that much more fun! It also helps that the food is good. The onion rings are probably some of the best I’ve ever had and the chocolate milkshake was to die for (figuratively, of course).

Afterwards we stopped by the store Once Upon a Time before heading to the Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage performance.

Did I squeal and die from the experience?

Perhaps?

Did I also quietly sing along?

Absolutely.

I also remember telling my mother how a crying child needs to shut up because my dream was about to come true and they were interrupting it.

I know. I’m so nice.

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We then went on a Star Wars adventure with the Star Tours – The Adventure Continues and Star Wars – Launch Bay. Even though Star Wars – Path of the Jedi was unfortunately closed, we still managed to have an awesome time at the other two Star Wars themed attractions. We got to meet Chewbacca, who gives big hairy hugs, and BB-8, who gives off a pretty sassy vibe with its head turns.

What was really fun, however, was meeting Kylo Ren. I guess my apprehensive look made him think I was the perfect one out of our group to single out. I vaguely remember him saying he sees me being his apprentice. Apparently I responded with a very important question: “Do I get paid?” Pretty sure he said no. When we left, I called him buddy and he told me to be silent.

The beginnings of a great partnership, huh?

In order to kill time before our dinner reservation, we went to the Under the Sea – the Little Mermaid live performance. While it was still nice, it was not as impressive like the Beauty and the Beast one. The majority of it was a montage of the animated film with small moments of live actors. The sea life puppets however, particularly Sebastian, was really fun. The Under the Sea segment was boppin’. I also found it hilarious that Ursula is so incredibly larger than life that they had to create an animatronic of her, and not get an actress to play her instead.

Ursula truly is one of a kind.

Dinner was at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater, another incredibly cool pace to have a meal at. The inside is built like a drive-in movie theater, where the ceiling is made out to be like the night sky with stars and palm trees on the side. The seating is like an actual car with built-in tables, so I got the entire backseat to myself. Just like in real life actually 😉 While you eat, there are movie clips and trailers playing on the screen. They’re either sci-fi or monster related shows that are from the 50s to the 60s. It’s a really cool setup that you should definitely check out. It also helps that the food is good too.

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We end our time at Hollywood Studios with the Fantasmic! Show. Here’s the thing though, it’s advised that you look for seating between an hour to two before the show begins. “Why is that?” you ask. Well, because the crowd becomes a stampede trying to look for a good place to watch the show. We were lucky considering that we went about twenty minutes before and found seats near the very top area of the arena. It also helped later on with getting to the buses. The show itself, while not as impressive as the fireworks at Magic Kingdom, was still cool. Especially with the special appearances made by so many badass Disney villains, particularly my queens Maleficent and the Evil Queen.

Would I recommend going to it?

Probably only if you go super early and get a seat that’s really close to the stage. Or if you have something to ward off crazy people who are willing to trample you.

A massive thank you to Natasha for taking time out of her day to let us into the park.

The Magic Kingdom Extravaganza, Part 1

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Anyone who has an inner child wants to visit Disney World (or Land). It’s the place where having fun and making dreams come true is not only the norm, but thoroughly encouraged. For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to visit. But it turns out that the happiest place on earth is also one of the most expensive.

How bubble-popping.

But the time finally came when my cousin Marian pulled some (more like many) strings. As an intern as the park, she was able to give us discounts and snag us tons of fast passes. We ended up mostly paying for food, merchandise and gas. The idea that I was going to Disney World, however, really only hit me when I was actually there. The months leading up to it, and even the drive itself, couldn’t convince me that I would soon be in one of the few places in this world where childhood dreams and nostalgia run rampant.

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No heat, humidity, exhaustion, or downpour could deter me from having an amazing time on my first visit. I would get to not only finally be at Walt Disney World, but I would also be sharing the experience my mother (also a first timer) and my awesome cousin whom I typically only see once a year across the globe.

We started off at the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom. It’s a really cool game that takes place all over the park itself. The goal of it is to save Pongo’s dalmatians from Cruella de Vil, with the help of Merlin himself, while also facing a potential deal (more like a threat) from Hades. While the game itself is a cool idea, especially with all the interactive mirrors within Magic Kingdom, we were so caught up with our own schedule and distracted by so many things that we ended up not really playing. Sorry Pongo 😦

 

 

We went on the Pirated of the Caribbean ride, visited the stores Castle Couture and Bonjour! Village Gifts, got a sneak peek at Cheshire Cafe, and tons more! On the first day, lunch was at Cosmic Ray’s where I had a delicious burger with macaroni and cheese in it. With what was probably the most delicious strawberry slushie ever.

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The most surprising ride for me personally was the Magic Carpets of Aladdin. Although somewhat unassuming and not particularly thrilling like some of the other rides, I found it really enjoyable. The line is short and fast, with an entrance guarded by a “spitting” camel. There’s a button in each carpet that allows you to control however high up you wish to fly. I, of course, didn’t know this until Marian and her friend MJ decided to mess with me and have us super high off the ground… But it was a really nice ride that didn’t make you want to throw your guts up.

So there’s that.

I will say though, that the Agrabah Bazaar right next to it was disappointing. Nothing about the actual store related to the Aladdin film and was quite unextraordinary. The only cool thing about it was it’s name and the occasional visits by Aladdin and Jasmine.

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Another ride that may not be on your radar is Prince Charming Regal Carousel. Like the Carpets ride, the line is pretty short and quick. The ride is one of the oldest at the park and was apparently ridden by Walt Disney himself. It’s, as the name suggests, a charming ride decorated with Cinderella scenes and gorgeous horses. After managing to get a horse adorned with red roses, I lifted my arms off to my side and let them glide along as we spun. It was nice to just be on a calm ride that made your heart soar, especially after dealing with crazy crowds in the heat all day.

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The best ride that day, however, was most definitely Splash Mountain. It’s got so many faux drops that the anticipation leading up to the big one is almost unbearable. The animatronics were also really cool. I mean, who doesn’t root for Were Rabbit?

 

 

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The highlight of the day for me, was hands down the Be Our Guest dinner. As a fervid lover of Beauty and the Beast, this was a no brainer. But if you’re wondering if the hype is justified, it is. The castle is absolutely gorgeous and, in my opinion, more beautiful than the interior of the Cinderella one. There are suits of armor leading to the entrance “talking” about the food and other topics of nonsense, statues of beast-like creatures and a stained glass portrait of the famous couple themselves. The ceiling is angelic with a massive chandelier right in the middle. What was really cool, however, was the simulated view on a snowy mountain making it seem as though it were winter. And yes, the food is actually really, really good.

And you get to meet the Beast too!

And yes, I died a little inside.

To be continued . . .

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A massive thank you to Marian and MJ for taking time out of their day to let us into the park.

Louisiana Dreamin’

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On our way to Florida, we stopped and spent a few days in Lafayette.

We stayed at the Mouton Plantation. It’s a very charming house with adorable and quaint decor. Our room was the Magnolia Suite that stays on the second floor. There were tiny little nooks throughout the suite, with fawn shaped coat hangers on the side wall. My bed, under the largest nook area, has rose printed pale pink sheets. It was literally heaven in the shape of a bed. There was also an adorable white bathtub that I could take a nap in.

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After visiting the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist (a gorgeous red and white brick church), we spent the rest of our time at the Rip Van Winkle Gardens.

We were welcomed by peacocks and sent off by roseate spoonbills. There was gorgeous greenery everywhere with a Balinese gate and a Lotus fountain. The place also allows visitors to tour Joseph Jefferson’s house and are treated with the story of his life. It was really cool to her about his life and his family, not to mention the hilarious tour guide and air conditioning in the house.

We finished our day off with a meal at Blue Dog Café. I had what was probably the best burger I’ve ever had (besides Whataburger, of course). I definitely recommend their Chicken Sando, it’s to die for. Their beignets are also delicious. It’s probably the best dessert they have.

On our way back from Florida, we instead spent some time in New Orleans.

The first night we went on a Royal Carriage tour. If you ever visit NOLA, you should definitely book a tour with them. They not only give a nice carriage ride while telling the history of New Orleans, but the tourguide also tells visitors ghost stories and where the best “haunting” areas are.

Definitely worth it!

What’s not worth it, however, is the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum. Although the idea of it is interesting, as well as the aspect of leaving memorabilia and gifts behind within the actual place, the museum is soooooooooo small. The space is super tight and since the air conditioning isn’t strong, it’s super hot and humid. For all the hype and the price of their tickets, I was a little disappointing. If it weren’t for it being overly hyped, it probably wouldn’t be as bad.

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A really cool place to visit is the Mardi Gras Museum of Costumes and Culture.
If the gorgeous displays of outfits isn’t enough for you, visitors can actually try on some looks and take photos! It’s a really cool way, and the closest without actually doing it, to experience what it would be like to participate in Mardi Gras. It was definitely a highlight of the trip for me.

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We of course also went to Cafe Du Monde for some beignets.
The wait time wasn’t as long as we anticipated because the line itself went very quickly. As soon as you see an empty table, you head towards it and flag down a waiter to order. Since the place is really famous for one kind of dessert, the menu itself is short. Each serving contains three beignets and you can only pay in cash. So make sure to come prepared because we didn’t! One of us had to find an ATM while waiting for our food just to make sure we could pay. The cafe also has what was probably the freshest and the smallest orange juice served ever.

And yes, the beignets were worth it.

Our time in New Orleans ended with an amazing helicopter ride!

We flew with Heli Co. New Orleans and it was so cool!

Did you know that you have to pay extra to take off the doors? I mean, whaattt???

It was the first time I had ever been on a helicopter, let alone one that was doorless. It was so cool how we got to wear the headphones and communicate with each other like spies in a movie chasing down a criminal. The wind was so aggressive that at one point my headphones fell off my head! It was a crazy, exhilarating and awesome experience that perfectly completed our NOLA adventures.

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All Roads Lead to Rome

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For those of you who don’t know, I spent my first semester of the current school year in Europe. The University of Dallas has what is called the Rome Program. A group of 95 students, 5 professors, and a small group of staff live together for four months on the outskirts of Rome. Almost every weekend is a four day weekend, so everyone is allowed to travel outside of Italy until classes resume late Monday morning. There were also tons of class trips made throughout Italy and Greece.

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While I had been to Italy before (Milan, Venice and Calabria), I had never been to Rome.

To say I was both nervous and excited is a serious understatement. Not only was I once again in a foreign country, far from my mother for four months (the longest we had ever been apart), I would also be with these 100 something people 24/7 for a whole semester. On a very small campus.

Everything and anything was foreign.

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I told myself don’t get attached,
But in my mind I play it back,
Spinning faster than the plane that took you.

It took about a week or two before the dust settled.

We were given both tours of the campus and of the city Rome before classes began. It was awkward, as it always is when you’re around new people in a new environment. People naturally tended to stick to the friends they already had from beforehand and jetlag was a bitch.

Meals were three times a day at a specified time for an hour, freshly made by the Mensa staff led by Nino and Nuccia (mensa means canteen/cafeteria). The Capp Bar, where students can get snacks and drinks, was worked by work study kids led by the amazing Vasile and Alina. A vineyard covered the front of the campus, filled to the brim with grapevines and adorned with gorgeous roses. A few gazebos were placed throughout campus grounds.

My favorite place, however, was the lounge room right next to the Capp Bar. It contains a couple of tables and chairs and four red leather couches great for naps. It was there where I did my studying. Where I had dance parties and karaoke night with my friends. Where I spent late nights with my friends talking about nonsensical things. Where I had my hot chocolate and Sour Cream & Onion Pringles I bought from the Capp.

The majority of my best memories from those four months was in that lounge room.

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On the ground level, there is a tunnel that connects the basement with the lounge room and Capp Bar.

It’s called Shakespeare Alley.

On one side there are Shakespearean characters painted onto the wall. Such as Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Puck and Titania, Othello, King Lear and his three daughters, and a few more too.

Every semester students are given the chance to paint and draw on the other wall whatever they wanted (as long as it was PG-13). From quotes to inside jokes to advice, we would gather together in our free time to paint for fun. I distinctly remember a friend and I on a “mission” to paint something very specific.

Here’s some background info. first:

One of the Resident Coordinators would frequently talk about his “traumatic childhood memories,” typically involving a chicken or at least some form of animal. One of which was a fox he accidentally killed with his vomit. Yeah, pretty gross.

So my friend and I banded together for “Mission Fox Killer.” On the wall we painted a fox with it’s soul going towards the sky (melodramatic, I know) with a horror film font used to write “Fox Killer.” It was perfect for when we would get too stressed and needed an outlet.

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That same friend and I also designed our class t-shirt.

Th very top I am wearing in this post.

The Rome Program is directed by two people, one is which is Ben. During a large portion of the semester, however, he was back in the States due to his work visa or something. I like to just joke that he was deported from Italy. The week he left our other leader made a joke, saying “We’ve lost Ben. Have you seen him?” Ever since then students constantly made the joke “Where’s Ben?”

I later thought of the idea of having this be the theme for our shirts, while my friend, an awesome art major, did the drawing portion. After giving some options in terms of design placement, we turned it in and won the design competition!

It’s a perfect inside joke that will for sure put a smile on our faces.

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The delicate beginning rush,
The feeling you can know so much,
Without knowing anything at all.
And now that I can put this down,
If I had known what I know now,
I never would have played so nonchalant.

Sometimes we would have lectures in the city.
Since technically campus was on the outskirts of Rome, via driving it takes a little less than an hour and by commute it’s almost two hours (pretty rough). So whenever there was an opportunity to go into Rome via driving, students relished it. From getting gelato to shopping at Tiger, it was always a blast. Tiring, but still a blast. We even managed to attend the Papal Audience! Since this is a hardcore Catholic school, this was particularly a big idea. I’m pretty one of my friends who was standing next to me was almost to have palpitations from seeing the Pope.

Funnily enough, as time went on, walking by the Colosseum and the Roman Forum became the norm. Yes, this is so spoiled of me to say but that was our reality for a whole semester. Going into some of the world’s most beautiful churches, visiting esteemed museums, and so much more was given to us.

My personal favorite is the Trevi Fountain.

It was first introduced to me by the Lizzie McGuire movie (yes, I know), but nothing could have prepared me for how beautiful it is. It’s much bigger than I expected and was just absolutely breathtaking.

And yes, I threw a coin in and made a wish.

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What was nice about the program was that almost everyone had the same classes: English, History, Theology, Philosophy and Art History. There was a handful of students, including myself, that took an Italian class and replaced one the other classes with it. That way everyone suffered studied together.

Every exam felt like a squad mission that we had to complete in order to survive (which is basically true).



Finals week was both the worst and the best.

Worst because, well, finals.

But the best because everyone banded together. It was comforting to know that I wasn’t the only one struggling to retain so much information in a short amount of time.

Plus the study breaks were like mini parties.

It could be playing cards, singing/dancing to music (particularly Thank You, Next by Ariana Grande), or fooling around on the piano that was in the lounge room. It’s always a blast even when it’s serious studying time. Specifically when it gets to the point wherein we’re delirious and laugh at anything.

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The semester was by far the most grueling, exhausting, wonderful, exhilarating, experience I’ve had thus far.

Yes, it had it’s downsides. Such as constantly being exhausted (whether from the traveling and/or the intensive classes), or being in close quarters with everyone 24/7, or having to eat pasta 3 time a day everyday, or not being able to see your family.

But it also gave me the opportunity to travel to so many places! From Paris to Vienna to Venice to London, I was blessed to see some of the most amazing and awesome places in Europe.

I will say, however, that it is most definitely the people that can make or break an experience. And the people I was with those four moths are truly spectacular. From the staff to the students to the professors, everyone contributed to making the semester what is was. Whether you were someone who taught me, or I became close with, was someone I was already close to, or even if we only said “Hi” once in a while passing each other in the hallway, I am thankful for you. So thank you for the most incredible semester of my life! There is truly no word or words to completely encompass everyone about the experience.

F(all) ROME 2018

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This is when the feeling sinks in,
I don’t wanna miss you like this,
Come back.

FROME 2018 PLAYLIST

September by Earth, Wind & Fire

Africa by Toto

Thank You, Next by Ariana Grande

Apple Bottom Jeans by T-Pain

Dancing Queen by ABBA

Take Me Home, Country Roads by John Denver

Edelweiss from The Sound of Music

Hey Stephen by Taylor Swift

Love On Top by Beyonce

Jordan Belfort by Wes Walker & Dyl

Come Back, Be Here by Taylor Swift

xoxo

The Unquenchables

Pretty Little Galway Girl

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For those of you who don’t know, I spent my first semester of the current school year in Europe. The University of Dallas has what is called the Rome Program. A group of 95 students, 5 professors, and a small group of staff live together for four months on the outskirts of Rome. Almost every weekend is a four day weekend, so everyone is allowed to travel outside of Italy until classes resume late Monday morning. There were also tons of class trips made throughout Italy and Greece.

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For my last long weekend, I went to Dublin and Galway.

At this point, many students had gone there and I had heard nothing but good things about Ireland. Everyone there is either incredibly kind, hilarious, and/or laidback. There was not one mean person that we came across during our visit.

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Our first day in Ireland was spent running around Dublin, trying our hardest to see as many things as possible. From the Ha’penny Bridge, to the Chester Beatty Library, and many, many more!

For lunch we had super delicious (and super cheap) food at an American-inspired bar. It was one of the few times I had chicken during those four months (why don’t Italians eat more chicken???).

What I remember most from that day were the rainbows.

RAINBOWS.

As in plural.

Dublin was rainy and super cold, but we welcomed with three different rainbows that day. One of which was a double rainbow!

How lucky are we?!

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After spending the morning in Galway, where I ate BIG chocolate pancakes with cinnamon hot chocolate and bought a Claddagh ring to show off my singleness, we headed to the Cliffs of Moher.

Right before we arrived it had been raining quite heavily. So when we were walking along the cliffs, it was extremely muddy. Boot-ruining, mushy-sounding, feet-trapping muddy. I lost count how many times I almost fell (not off the cliffs at least).

But the views were absolutely breathtaking.

Every inch of the place was something out of a painting. The dreamy blue waters, the massive cliffs, the flocks of birds that flew at a distance, all encompassed a gorgeous scenery.

Truly an unforgettable experience.

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We ended our time there with a big, hearty dinner.

Eating soup, various breads, huge slices of meat  and tons of potatoes.

After stopping by a chocolate shop for some last minute desserts, we headed back to Dublin and caught our flight back to campus the following morning.

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Strut Like You Mean It

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For those of you who don’t know, I spent my first semester of the current school year in Europe. The University of Dallas has what is called the Rome Program. A group of 95 students, 5 professors, and a small group of staff live together for four months on the outskirts of Rome. Almost every weekend is a four day weekend, so everyone is allowed to travel outside of Italy until classes resume late Monday morning. There were also tons of class trips made throughout Italy and Greece.

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Since Thanksgiving happens right before Winter Break, the majority of students decided to stay in Europe instead of flying back to America.

A lot of us chose to spend Thanksgiving in Barcelona.

Of course, the Cheetah Girl in me flipped out.

If you don’t know why, we can’t be friends.

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I was lucky enough to visit La Sagrada Família, a gorgeous and modern church still under construction. It’s not for those more inclined to traditional styles, but it’s definigely a unique structure filled with amazing stained glass. Also, from afar the outside looks like a cavern. Particularly those in the Natural Bridge Caverns. But up close, it’s covered in sculptures and engravings of religious scenes and symbols. Even if you don’t want to go inside the actual building, I would most definitely recommend at least seeing the outside.

I also managed to go to Parc Güell. While most of the park isn’t free, it’s the Monumental Core that attracts people the most. It contains tons of cool designs and patterns that are incredibly intricate. With tons of cool columns and arches. It also gives the most amazing view of Barcelona and is where the “Strut” scene was shot in the Cheetah Girl’s sequel. It was literally a childhood dream come true!

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I also fell in love with La Boqueria.

A lot of people may just wave it off and say it’s only a tourist attraction, but it really isn’t. It’s an awesome market filled to the brim with quality and cheap items. From fresh fish, to cartons of eggs, to homemade chocolates, and freshly made juice! The marketplace is gorgeous and was a 5 minute walk from our place. If you don’t do or see anything else in Barcelona, at least go to La Boqueria!

It’s definitely worth it.

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Compared to my other travels, this one was quite chill. With the stress of school and the constant backpacking, having time to just stay in one place and rest was absolute Heaven. My time in Barcelona was one of the very few places I visited where I actually had time to nap.

It was glorious.

IMG_0165IMG_0166It was also great to just hang out with the squad.

I hadn’t been with this particular set of friends I traveled and stayed with since my first Paris trip. So being with them was really nice. We would buy groceries for our meals and make them together for meals, or for those of us who didn’t cook (like me) cleaned up while listening to Christmas tunes, or watched Blue Bloods on the tv that was provided at our place.

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We would also make hot choclate on late nights listening to Nat “King” Cole songs.

As well as fresh toast with butter and scrambled eggs for breakfast, paired with awesome orange juice.

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Thanksgiving dinner was amazingly.

We made mashed potatoes, mac ‘n’ cheese, tons of other stuff, and bought buckets of KFC chicken. Originally we were going to try cooking chicken ourselves, but KFC seemed like the better option.

And it was.

It was HEAVEN.

Despite missing my momma, Thanksgiving in 2018 was a wonderful experience. Not just because of the gorgeous city I was in, but mostly because of the people I spent it with.

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My First Women’s Retreat

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For those of you who don’t know, I spent my first semester of the current school year in Europe. The University of Dallas has what is called the Rome Program. A group of 95 students, 5 professors, and a small group of staff live together for four months on the outskirts of Rome. Almost every weekend is a four day weekend, so everyone is allowed to travel outside of Italy until classes resume late Monday morning. There were also tons of class trips made throughout Italy and Greece.

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On one of the weekends, students were offered a chance to go on a Women’s Retreat at a center in Albano.

The guys had theirs a few weekends before us, so we had a Girls’ Night watching She’s the Man, eating snacks, and having a mini dance party.

The retreat was about three days. It was a completely silent one and all meals were prepared for us (the bread was amazing with some oil, pepper, and salt).

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I had never been on a retreat before so I was hesitant to go at first. But after some urging from my friends, I decided to go anyway.

It was free after all.

What was also nice about it was that while there was a schedule, no one was obligated to attend all events. So technically I could have just skipped everything (except meals) and relaxed/slept.

The only “events” I participated in was a Rosary prayer and Adoration for one hour.

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My favorite part, however, was being able to just journal while looking at the amazing panoramic view of Lake Nemi. The clear, blue water was literally sparkling whenever the sun was up. The sunlight felt like absolute perfection against the cold, winter air. But it was the most relaxed I had been that entire semester.

I almost dreaded going back to campus, especially when all the girls erupted into chatter when silence was over.

It was actually painful…

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