Italy has long been high on my list of places to visit, so when the International Students House in London offered a trip to Sicily, I was quick to apply! The International Students House offers discounted trips for students from all across the world studying in London. I was excited when I got accepted, especially because Sicily is somewhere that will be harder to travel to later in life, as it is a bit out of the way compared to the rest of Europe.
On Friday morning, we left London bright and early and flew to Milan. We flew over the Alps, which were absolutely gorgeous!
We arrived in Sicily just as the sun was setting, making the sky a brilliant pink and red. Sicily looked different than I was expecting. There were lots of Roman ruins, streets made out of volcanic rock, tons of churches, buildings built around or using part of toppled ruins, and graffiti everywhere. It was like no where else I've ever been! After checking into the hostel, we went on a walking tour of the city. We stopped for gelato, which I of course was extremely excited about!
Then, we went on a group dinner to a restaurant where underground volcanic springs flowed right through the bottom floor of the restaurant! They served us a quite a few appetizers (included fried pumpkin!), pasta, and more gelato for dessert. I think I ate my weight in pasta, pizza, and gelato each day I was in Italy!
The next morning, we went on a hike of Mt. Etna, past areas destroyed in previous lava flows.
The volcano was gorgeous! Much to my surprise, there was a lot of snow at the top and it was much colder than the city. The view was so pretty!
On our way down the volcano, we stopped at the lava tubes that were made in a prior eruption. With helmets and flashlights, we climbed down a ladder and through the tubes. Before long, there was a blocked off passage and a massive drop off, where we weren't allowed to go. It was such a neat experience.
We stopped an organic farm that uses volcanic soil and sampled their honey, olive oil, olives, and wines. They had a Mt. Etna lava liquor that was 70% alcohol, but I wasn't brave enough to try it!
On Sunday, we went to the beach! The weather was totally different than on the volcano! We explored one of the towns on the mountain and spent some time on the pebbly beach. We waded across the ocean to a smaller island to check out a former house. The house was like a castle!
We spent the evening indulging in pasta, pizza, and gelato. I think I ate my weight in all three each day I was there!
We left early Monday morning. I didn't want to leave! I had so much fun exploring Sicily and meeting fellow London students!
Thanks for reading!
Sweden was high on my list of European destinations to visit during my year abroad for several reasons. I always thought Scandinavian countries looked beautiful, I was interested in culture, and it is the home of my University of Colorado at Colorado Springs iBuddy, Amanda! I am fortunate to only have classes Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, so after class on Wednesday, I hopped on a plane to Stockholm! Surprisingly, the flight was reasonably priced and only two hours.
When I arrived, I realized that I didn't know anything in Swedish nor how exactly (or at all really) the currency worked. Luckily, most everyone that I encountered spoke English as well, even if they did initially begin speaking in Swedish. On my first cold and rainy morning in Sweden, I was standing in line at a coffee shop when a friendly, elderly woman started talking to me in Swedish. I replied in English that I was sorry, but I didn't know her language. Unfazed, she kept on talking and laughing in Swedish! I would have liked to pick up a few words in the language, but it is so different from English!
My first tourist activity was a hop-on, hop-off bus tour while listening to an audio guide. This gave me a great opportunity to see the city and decide where I wanted to check out further! I ended up stopping in Old Town and wondering around for most of the day. It was quite nice! For dinner, we went to a Thai restaurant that was decorated like a bungalow. At our request, it even "stormed" like at the Rainforest Café!
The next morning, I went to the Vasa Museum to check out the Viking ship that sunk in the Stockholm harbor. It was massive! I didn't know much about the Vikings beyond what I learned in elementary school history classes, so it was really neat! They also displayed lots of artifacts that were discovered within it.
We went to Herman's all vegetarian buffet for lunch, which had a gorgeous view of the harbor! I love how most Swedish restaurants include tea or coffee with lunch.
I found that hat and mittens I'm wearing in Old Town. I heard that the mittens were made in northern Sweden out of wool and are fantastically warm. The hat says "Sweden" on it.
Later that day, we went to Kaknastornet, which is a tower overlooking the city and harbor. Even though we both hate elevators, we braved it for the views! And it was worth it! We arrived right as the sun set and it was a gorgeous view in all directions! It looked way better than the photos portray!
The next morning, we went to Skansen museum and zoo. The museum included historical re-enactors, complete with a book binding store, a bakery, a glassblowing demonstration, and a pottery shop. The zoo had a variety of Nordic animals. I especially enjoyed seeing this owl!
There was also an adorable little chipmunk hanging out by the caramelized nut stand.
Amanda and her family generously hosted me and really made me feel like part of their family! On my last night there, we went to an Italian restaurant for dinner and then to a go cart park, where I rode a mechanical bull for the first time! It's amusing that my first time on a mechanical bull wasn't in Butler, but rather in Stockholm! The padding was an American flag inflatable, which I also found amusing!
The next morning, I flew back to London and my neglected reading! A few last random comments:
1) I really like how most shops and restaurants burn candles in front of their buildings. It makes it look so cozy and comforting.
2) Did you know Swedes eat more bananas than anywhere else in the world? Below is the place where they store all of the imports!
3) It was a lot colder in Sweden than London and it gets dark so early! I think the sun started to set around 5 PM.
Thanks for reading and many thanks to the Moser family to the incredible stay!
Hi, I’m Crystal! Just like you, I love to travel. You’ll get all the best tips and insights from my experiences as a former ice-skating coach in Iceland and former study abroad student. Of the 24 countries I have visited, a type 1 diabetes diagnosis has been the strangest land yet. Type 1 has not slowed down my travels and you'll learn how to take type 1 with you on the road! You can connect with me further on Instagram @CrystalChilcott, or send me ideas of where I should travel next via email: firstname.lastname@example.orgHappy Travels, Crystal
What am I up to today? Check out my Instagram feed below to find out!