What I Need For Europe

I’m am so excited for my upcoming Europe trip that all I want to do is plan and shop for it. Since this is my first trip abroad, I’ve been doing tons of research on what I will need and came up with these initial essentials:

What I Need For Europe

1| The Perfect Travel Purse – I want a durable purse that is light weight for all day use as we explore the sites. The last thing I need is a bulky, heavy purse that is going to make my shoulder hurt by the end of the day, so the lightweight LeSportsac Classic Hobo looks perfect. It’s small enough that it won’t get in the way, but big enough to hold my essentials. Plus it’s a cross body purse, making it harder for someone to try and snatch it.

2| A Lightweight Carry-On – I’ve been told to bring an empty duffle with me since I will likely come home with more than I took. I’m going to need somewhere to pack all my European purchases, and again, LeSportsac seems to be the best solution. Their bags are so lightweight and fold up easily for travel. I love the Abbey Carry On since I could easily use it for all my other travel in the future. Plus it matches the purse and I’m a sucker for leopard print :)

3| A Card Case – I’ve read on several sites that it’s a good idea to have a small card case to hold your credit cards and cash so that you can safely zip it up in an inside pocket of your purse, making it harder for pickpockets. Apparently it’s easier to grab a big wallet. I’ve had my eye on this little Coach Card Case for a long time, and this is the perfect excuse to buy it!

4| Mini Straightener – I am not lucky enough to be one of those people whose hair looks good when it dries naturally. Instead I look like I have a frizzy, wavy rat’s nest on my head. I’d like to be able to straighten my hair every day, and while a regular sized straightener isn’t so big, I’d like to have a small one to save as much space as possible.

5| A Non-Hiking Backpack – We are going to be taking a trains and traveling around from city to city. The thought of wheeling a suitcase behind me sounds miserable, so I’d like to get a non-hiking backpack. These travel backpacks open on the front like a regular suitcase instead of hiking backpacks where you have to load everything in from the top, making it easier to find and organize your stuff. I don’t think I need a big fancy one, since we won’t literally be backpacking around Europe. Just one that can hold all my stuff and keep my hands free.

Do you have any suggestions on what other essentials I might need?

My 30th Birthday: I’m Going To Italy!

You guys, I’m going to Italy! For my 30th birthday!

I’ve been wanting to do something big for my 30th birthday but couldn’t come up with any good or affordable ideas. Well David saved the day. He found a deal on Emirates – 2 round trip flights to Milan for $800! Seriously, that’s not a typo. For $400 I am flying to Italy! The deal is good for 1 more day, so be sure to check it out if you’re interested!

Going to Italy has been a lifelong dream of mine and I cannot believe it is finally going to come true. I spent most of college studying the history and culture of the Italian Renaissance and I cannot wait to go see all the things I learned about in books. We haven’t worked out the logistics yet, but the plan is to fly into Milan, take a train to Rome, then onto Florence, Venice, then back to Milan. We just wanted to be sure to book the flights before the deal ended, and will work out the kinks over the next few weeks.

Since this is my first trip out of the country (I don’t think Mexico or the Bahamas really count) I don’t even know what I’m going to need for the trip. At least I already have the most important thing – my passport.

I apologize in advance to those of you that follow me on Pinterest because I am going to be a pinning machine with all things travel.

I Hate Miami

Not the city, not the people, just the University of Miami, and only in the context of the long-standing football rivalry between them and FSU. In fact my roommate in law school went to UM and we were very good friends, except on game day.

We play Miami tomorrow, and in the spirit of Hate Miami Week (yes, it’s a real thing and is observed by FSU students, alumni, and fans) and in honor of the game, I thought I would post about the trip David and I took to go to the FSU vs Miami game last year.

This time last year, David and I drove down to Tallahassee for the FSU vs. Miami game. I had been planning the trip since July, and it was the first time I had been back for a game in 4 years. It was also David’s first ever college football game, so I’m glad I picked the biggest home game of the season to take him to.

We drove down to Tallahassee on Friday night and got into town around 11:30 PM. I felt so giddy being back. I drove him around campus and by the stadium so he could see the set up for ESPN’s College GameDay. He was awed by the size of our stadium, which isn’t uncommon when people see it for the first time, since it is the largest brick building in the Southeast. After driving around a bit we went and checked into the hotel. I had originally hoped to go out after checking in, but it had been a long drive,  and we both thought we should rest up for Saturday since it was going to be a long day.

Luckily the game wasn’t until 8:00 PM so we were able to sleep in a bit and have a relaxing morning. We grabbed breakfast, got some Starbucks, and stopped to get some beer to tailgate. Once we were ready to go, we loaded up our wheely cooler and went on our way.

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It was still early and the tailgate lots weren’t going to open until 2:00 PM so I decided to take David on a little tour of campus. Out first stop was Westcott Fountain. Every time I see this fountain, no matter how many times I walked by it or even jumped in it during college, I get goosebumps. Also, this is the only photo of David that he has allowed me to post on the blog.

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Next we stopped by my sorority house where I ran into some alumni I hadn’t seen in years. Being at the house brought back so many memories.

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Around 2 it was finally time to start tailgating so we trekked from my sorority house across campus to a friend’s tailgate. We drank some beers, enjoyed some jello shots, played some flip cup, and I got to catch up with sorority sisters I hadn’t seen in years. It was a great time. After a while,  a few of us decided to walk over to another tailgate. I was so thankful I had invested in my wheely cooler. Carrying all our beer around campus as we tailgate-hopped would have been a major pain. My only concern was what to do with it when we went into the game. Poor David was a great sport wheeling the cooler around all day, which was tricky when we had to do a little off-roading through the grass.

The second tailgate was also a blast. I got to see more sisters I hadn’t seen in years and we stayed there partying until it was time to leave for the game.

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Before heading into the game, David and I decided we should stash the cooler in a hidden place so it wouldn’t be stolen while we were at the game. Luckily there were some dense bushes near our second tailgate and he climbed on in, hiding it out of sight.

David and I had a great time at the game! The Seminoles won and it was great to be there to see it in person. When we walked out of the stadium the Chief Osceola statue was lit which always make me happy. Fun fact: the Seminoles were the only Native American tribe that was not pushed West by the U.S. Army. For this reason, the base of the statue says “UNCONQUERED.” I know it’s a little blurry, but it was the best shot I could get.

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After the game David and I had planned on going out with some of my friends, but we had both drank more than enough for the day and were exhausted. We decided to just walk back to the hotel, which involved an enjoyable and peaceful walk through the campus that I love so much.

On Sunday morning, we stopped by the bookstore to get a new decal for my car, and then it was time to go back to the site of the last tailgate and find the cooler. We weren’t sure if it would still be there.

Since David was the one to climb in to hide it, I offered to climb in to retrieve it.

It was still there!

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And the left over beers and waters were still cold! Note: we did not drink the beers – those were the last thing I wanted after being sick from drinking the night before. We did chug the cold waters though.

when we finally got back to Atlanta I was exhausted, but we had an amazing weekend. I was so happy to be back in Tallahassee, at FSU, and that I got to witness the game. I was even happier that I got to share it all with David.

Here is to hoping the Seminole can pull off a win like last year, although, I think this game is going to be a lot harder, especially since it is in Miami.

Harry Potter Vacay: Recap

This past weekend David and I went to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, mostly to experience the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I am a HUGE Harry Potter fan and have been waiting years to be able to go to Universal just to see it all come to life. I’ve tried to get David just excited as I am about Harry Potter, and while he has really grown to like it, he is nowhere near my level of obsessed. He was such a good sport and so patient while I just ogled and awed over everything.

Since Universal Studios was closing early at 5pm for Halloween Horror Nights, we decided to start our day there. Plus it seemed only natural to explore Diagon Alley before heading to Hogwarts and Hogsmead.

Once we got to the London section of Universal, I saw Kings Cross Station and immediately got giddy, grabbing David’s arm and pointing. We followed the crowd toward a red brick wall, and when we turned the corner, what was hidden behind that wall took our breath away.

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There were several alley ways in Diagon Alley to explore, filled with stores from the books. Walking around truly made me feel like I was in the books and movies. It was so realistic and well done. I didn’t want to leave.  I could have spent all day just sitting and enjoying my surroundings. They even included Knockturn Alley, which has a really neat store in it that focuses on the villains and Deathly Hollows, so be sure to go explore the less desirable side of Diagon Alley. David was so patient with me while I explored every nook and cranny of the place.

We took a break in our exploration to jump in line f or the Gringrotts ride. We ended up waiting 2 hours, but there was no way either of us was going to skip the ride. Obviously the rides aren’t very long, and I doubt any ride is truly worth a two hour wait, but the ride was fantastic regardless. The detail inside the bank was amazing just like it was all over the rest of Diagon Alley. They even had goblins and newspapers with moving pictures for you to look at while waiting in line!

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IMG_0337IMG_0335Before leaving Diagon Alley, we were sure to visit Olivander’s and check out the wands. You can buy 30 something famous wizards wands (including Harry, Voldemort, and Death Eaters), or buy one that coincides with your birthday. They also have plain wooden ones and interactive ones that allow you to do magic tricks at specific places within the park. I knew selecting the right wand was a serious decision so I decided to think on it and buy my wand at the other Olivander’s shop over in Hogsmeade.

Before heading over to Hogsmeade and Hogwarts, David and I had to get Butter Beer. Butter Beer was one of the main reasons I was so excited to go to Universal. They sell it in both parts of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but we couldn’t wait any longer to try it. When we entered the little pub we found ourselves faced with some tough choices.

IMG_0289I stuck with my original plan to try Butter Beer and David got the Wizards Brew, which was a dark lager they brew on the property. It actually tasted pretty good, but both of us agreed the Butter Beer was better. It was fantastic. So rich and foamy. It is similar to a cream soda, and the foam tastes a lot like the foam on top of a cappuccino. It’s so sweet and rich, that an entire cup is too much. I couldn’t finish it no matter how delicious it was. You also get foam all over your face when you drink it, which is half the fun. I also managed to somehow get it all over my pants, but it was a small price to pay.

IMG_0290IMG_0300As it got close to 5pm and Universal Studios was about to close, David and I headed over to Islands of Adventure to explore Hogwarts and Hogsmeade. We had planned and were really excited to take the Hogwarts Express from Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross Station but the wait to get on the train was 45 minutes, and by that point in the day, we were losing our patience with lines. We decided to skip the train and just walk over to Islands of Adventure.

Entering Hogsmeade was wonderful, if not as shocking as rounding the corner to see Diagon Alley had been.

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IMG_0307Before really exploring, David and I decided to go get in line for the Hogwarts ride. The wait was only about 45 minutes and the ride was fantastic, just like the Gringotts one. Of all the rides we went on that day, those two were my favorite. It was amazing to walk through Hogwarts in the line and see familiar scenes like Dumbledore’s office and the defense of the dark arts classroom.

IMG_0316After the Hogwarts ride, we went on to explore Hogsmede. It felt a village trapped in Christmas and it was magical. I had so much fun exploring Honeydukes and the other stores. While exploring we saw that the Dragon Challenge roller coaster had a 15 minute wait and we jumped right on. It’s a traditional roller-coaster and we both loved it. After the ride, David and I headed over to finally purchase our wands. I knew I wanted Snape’s, and wondered why I even felt doubt or the need to think about it in the first place. From the very first book, for some reason I was always drawn to his character, and he was always my favorite, even when seemingly evil. David, who has only seen the first 3 movies was confused why I would want Snape. He picked out Dumbledore and when the wand clerk said it’s the most powerful wand, I told him now he has to watch the rest of the movies to find out why.

When I say that wand went with me everywhere, I am not exaggerating. I carried it around with me and wouldn’t put it away, back in its box. I looked like a kid. Even after we left the park, it came with me to dinner in my purse. It even made me question my muggle status when David asked me if I knew any spells and I did the Patronus spell. My Fitbit instantly went off. I mean, I could have just hit my step goal, or I could be a half-blood wizard (or even full blood since I am adopted after all) and my letter to Hogwarts somehow got lost. I like to pretend it’s one of the later options.

IMG_0325 The trip to Universal was everything I had hoped it would be. I will caution that Diagon Alley was insanely crowded, and so was Universal Studios as a whole. Hogsmeade and Islands of Adventure were much less crowded. Despite the crowds and lines, we both had a wonderful time. I can check it off my bucket list now, although I have no doubt I will be going back in the future.

The next day, David and I spent the day with his father and his girl-friend. We went to 4 Rivers, which is supposed to be the “best BBQ ever” and I have to admit it was pretty delicious. Needless to say between the theme park food, Butter Beer, and BBQ, I feel like I gained 50 pounds this weekend.

IMG_0328Needless to say, it was an amazing weekend!