Dear Mandy,

To my sister:

When I was born you had been alive for 16 years already. At first you were my babysitter, then you were my chauffeur, but as I grew up, you became my friend. You became my best friend (I know it wasn’t easy at first since I asked A LOT of questions all the time, but you stuck with me anyways, so thank you).

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Look how much you love me already

You are my confidant, my role model, my other half. You became someone I could look up to and be proud of. You overcame obstacles in your life and you’ve become one of the most amazing women I have ever met. You are my hero sissy. I don’t tell you enough how proud I am of you. I’m proud to call you my sister. Everyday I’m away from you I miss you more and more. So to make up for the distance I am writing you this list of why I love you so darn much. (WARNING: sappiness ahead, you may cry)

38 Things I love most about you:

I love your happiness– you exude such positivity all the time and it’s impossible not to feel happy when I’m around you.

I love your supportiveness– you have always supported me and been my biggest cheerleader.

I love your diligence– you work so hard at everything you do

I love your OCD– I know I will always have someone who understands how filthy every surface is (especially pens)

I love your sense of humor– you can always make me laugh, even when you aren’t trying (and especially when you tell awful jokes which, let’s face it, is all the time)

I love that you laugh at all my jokes– I can always count on you to make me feel funny

I love that you are just as addicted to chipotle as me– who else would go 7 times a week with me?

I love how caring you are– You have so much compassion and love to give and I envy how it comes so naturally to you

I love that you are exactly the person I always need– I know that no matter what, I can count on you to be there for me

I love that you love movies– and even though I spilled every single one of your reese’s pieces that one time, you forgave me (I still blame you…)

I love our memories– all my favorite memories are with you

I love that you’re obsessed with your dog– even though she looks like an ugly rat when she’s wet

I love that you gave me Riley– you gave me the love of my life in dog form

I love the one accent you do– and that it always sounds the exact same no matter what accent you’re calling it

I love your silliness– life would be so dull without you

I love that no matter what part of my life I look back on, you were apart of it– my partner in crime forever

I love that I practically live at your house– I’m there more than my own home

I love your nail polish– I love that if I want two colors I can buy one and you the other and I technically have both since I mooch off your nail polish all the time

I love your generosity– you are always willing to buy me lunch or share your food or give me your time even when I’m stingy with my own food… (sorry I just like food)

I love that we always have a good time– no matter what we do, it’s tons of fun

I love your horrible singing voice– and that you sing all the time and don’t care

I love that you love board games just as much as I do (and card games)– all we have to do is find 2 other people who love them too so we can actually play them

I love laughing with you– and seeing your oh-so-beautiful laughing face

I love crying with you– and knowing that you will always understand

I love our secrets– and that I always know they’re safe with you

I love that you snapchat me moments of your day every day– it makes me feel like I’m with you in that moment

I love your shopping addiction– it feeds mine and I’m okay with that

I love your purse addiction– same as the shopping addiction

I love to talk to you– and tell you anything and everything

I love that you’re a quitter– I’m so proud that you quit smoking cold turkey and so happy that I get to have you around longer because of it

I love that you never judge me– even when I deserve it

I love that we like the same shows– I will forever have a person to watch reality TV with. ALWAYS.

I even love how dramatic you are– I know I give you crap for it, but it’s a part of you and I love that (drama queen/ hypochondriac)

I love your family– and that you’re willing to share them with me (love you Jazzy and Raymond)

I love your heart– it’s always filled with love and happiness

I love that you’re my best friend– and always will be

I love that you put up with me– even though I can be difficult to love

But most of all, I love that you’re my sister– I will forever be grateful that I was given such a sweet soul as a built in best friend.

So you see, I’m extremely lucky. I am, how you say, hashtag blessed. I hope you have a wonderful birthday seastar. I won’t tell anyone how old you are, but if they know my age and they add 17 to it I’m sure they can do the math (I’m 21 everybody).

“Happiness is only real when shared” – Into the Wild 

That’s all for now,

Arrivederci.

Oktoberfest 2K15!

Oktoberfest was everything I thought it would be. It was packed with people, beer, and an overwhelmingly excited atmosphere. We arrived at the fairgrounds in Munich in the wee hours of the morning (7:45 AM) where we stood in line to get into, what we were told was, the best tent to be in. The line for the Hofbräuhaus tent was already long when we got into it. We then proceeded to wait an hour to get in to the tent at 9. Once they opened the doors people went crazy! There was so much pushing to get in that I barely even had to walk (I was being squished so hard that I was practically floating along with the crowd)! It was like a mosh pit X10!

 
  

Once we got into the tent we quickly found a table to sit down at! I was shocked when 5 minutes later this woman carrying 8, full-to-the-brim, mugs of beer comes and starts handing them to us. These mugs were no joke. I struggled with carrying just mine when it was full. The beer was tasty and the company was nice. We stayed in the tent for several hours just sitting and talking with the people around us. The most fun part was watching people stand up on their table and start chugging their huge mug of beer.  One guy stood up and started chugging the beer from his shoe (it was about as gross as it sounds), but everyone loved it and we all cheered him on. And don’t even get me started on the huge pretzels!! They were so good!

 
  
  

Now I have a confession to make. I don’t like beer. I am very picky when it comes to the types of beer I like and they are normally the lighter brews. This beer was definitely not my favorite, but it was good. My favorite part about being at Oktoberfest was more for the atmosphere and the people I got to interact with. (I still drank two mugs full of beer and am very proud of myself!)

 

In the afternoon we decided to leave Oktoberfest and explore parts of Munich! It was fun to see a new place and a new country! We even found a Starbucks! Since we went on October 3rd, it was a holiday and none of the shops were open. We were a tiny bit bummed that we didn’t get to shop like we anticipated, but it was still fun to see all the stores from the outside! We also came across the Marienplatz Clock Tower which was beautiful! Exploring Munich was fun!

      

We headed back to the fairgrounds around 6 PM and decided to ride some rides. The rides were kind of pricey and they were all so crowded with lines. We decided that the ride we wanted to ride the most was the Ferris Wheel so we pushed our way through the crowds of people to get there. It was 8 Euros to ride (which is around $9). After waiting in the line (it was actually more of a mob of people) we finally made it. It was fun and we got to see the entire park from up high. At this point the park was packed with people.

     
  

After the ride, we decided to eat a little bit of fair food. I got a bratwurst hotdog, some candied almonds (to take home of course hehe) and a chocolate & sprinkled covered apple. We walked around looking at all the other rides, tents, and attractions.

 
     

We decided to call it a day around 9 PM and waited for the bus to come get us. It was a fun, quick trip to another country and I loved it. The people were fantastic, the beer was great, and Oktoberfest was a blast! Prost!

That’s all for this trip,

Arrivederci!

Weekend in Pompeii, Sorrento, & Capri

This past weekend I took a bus to the beautiful region of Campania, Italy. The trip consisted of a tour of the ruins in Pompeii, trying the limoncello in Sorrento, and taking a private boat tour around the island of Capri. It was packed with adventure and so much beauty, and I would go again in a heartbeat.

  

We embarked on our trip toward the first city, Pompeii, in the wee hours of the morning on Saturday (6 AM, I was a zombie). The drive, by bus, was supposed to be around 6 hours. We hit a little traffic on the way due to an accident, but that did not deter from the fun activities that were planned for us. When we arrived we ate at this delicious place that had seafood, pizza, and pasta. After lunch we headed into the site where the ruins were located for our tour! I learned so much and saw so many amazing and interesting things. For those of you who don’t know the story of Pompeii, it was a Roman-ruled city that was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. It covered the whole city in a blanket of ash. It was not discovered again until hundreds of years later where it was found to be mostly still in tact due to the ashes preserving it.

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After being in Pompeii all day we headed to our hotel in Sorrento. On the way there we got stuck in traffic, but we had an amazing view of the sunset to make up for it. I have never seen such a captivatingly beautiful sunset.

 

  

Once we got to Sorrento we ate a 3 course meal in the hotel. I had delicious cheese ravioli, chicken with rosemary, and for dessert I had chocolate mouse cake. After dinner we went to this amazing limoncello store that had tons of cookies, candy and limoncello for us to sample. I ended up buying 20 euros worth of stuff to take home for my family to try (they were so good I want other people to share in the deliciousness with me).

 

The next day, we woke up early, had a delicious breakfast at the hotel, and walked to the bay of Sorrento to catch the ferry that would take us to Capri. Once we got to Capri we got on a private boat that gave us a tour around the island of Capri. I got to see so much beauty on this little boat. It took us to different caves around the island, places where the water was a brighter blue because the white rocks underneath made it lighter, and to the 3 famous rocks that are associated with Capri (also known as the Faraglioni). Everything was so breathtakingly beautiful.

 

  
  

 

  
  

 

   
  

 

After our private boat tour, we went into town and checked out a few gardens. We had lunch at Villa Verde, which is a very popular restaurant in Capri. There were pictures of all the different celebrities and people that had been to the restaurant all over the walls. It was very delicious and the staff was super nice and welcoming. After lunch, we decided to do the chair lift which was about a 15 minute ride up to the top of Mount Solaro. It was fun and inexpensive (only 10 euros roundtrip) and at the top there was the best view from all sides.

 

 

  


After visiting a few more shops around town we decided to call it a day and head back to the ferry that would take us to the mainland of Naples. The trip was a blast, and I’m so glad I was able to see so many beautiful places in 2 days. My favorite part of this trip was most definitely Capri. It’s turquoise waters and stunning beauty had me captivated. I would love to go back to Capri sometime soon to experience snorkeling and swimming in the amazing blue waters.

That’s all for this trip,

Arrivederci!

Cinque Terre, Italy!

Cinque Terre, meaning 5 lands, is a beautiful place consisting of 5 different cities. This past weekend I decided to go, with my roommate Melissa, to visit this wonderful location. Each city had something in common, whether it be the steep hill that it was built on, or its colorful houses. Their beauty was magical, almost mesmerizing. The view of the ocean was peaceful and magnificent. I never wanted to leave.

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We arrived in the first city around 9 AM. It was cloudy and a little chilly, but nice because the walk down toward the shore was not an easy one (it was very steep and clumsy me almost tripped like 6 times). Once we did get into the city, though, we were amazed at how beautiful and quaint everything was. The shops and restaurants were just starting to open and you could feel the temperature gradually starting to warm up. I walked over to where the view of the water was and came face to face with the most amazing seaside view I’d ever seen. There were fishermen boats and rafts bobbing in the still water, sailboats far out in the view, and beautiful rocks which have been shaped by years of being by the sea. The sea was the color of blue topaz and I almost could not handle the immense beauty of the turquoise morning sky.

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After hiking out on the rocks by the sea, we headed over to the second city by train. This city seemed bigger, but for the most part resembled the 1st city. The houses were still stunning and the view from where we stood on the edge of the shore was still magical. It was in this town that I saw a man with dreadlocks dive into the water and enjoy a mid morning swim. If I was brave enough, (I’m a tad bit terrified of open water) I would have liked to jump in the water as well.

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The next city was probably my favorite of the three we visited that day. We decided to spend the majority of our time here on the beach and in the water because it was too tempting not to. This city was much larger than the others, and it had a beach. We decided to eat lunch close to the shore. Cinque Terre is best known for its amazing pesto (which was amazing on a piece of focaccia!) and its fresh seafood. Melissa and I decided to get fish and chips at a little shop right off the shore. I was very impressed by how fresh and delicious the fish was. After we ate our freshly cooked fish we headed over to a bar that was very popular in the area to get piña coladas and sangrias. We made our way to the private beach with our drinks in hand!

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Enjoying my piña colada!
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Proof that I actually got in the water

I’ve never been the kind of person who enjoys beaches since I prefer mountains and cool air much more, but Cinque Terre was different. The water was begging me to get in. So I went, hesitantly, towards the beautiful body of water and put my feet in. The water was so nice I had to get further in. Maybe it was the alcohol or maybe it was just how beautiful and amazing the water was, but I felt brave enough to go further out into the water than I ever have. We stayed in the water, soaking in the sun for a little bit until our fun was cut short by my new little friend.

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Right after I was stung!

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Several hours later!

I have never been stung by a jelly fish but, when I felt the burning sensation on my leg I was almost positive something had stung me. I hurried out of the water so that I could get as far away as possible from whatever had hurt me. I looked down at my calf and saw nothing at first, but slowly the welts started to appear. After making sure it was a sting and nothing more, a guy put some ointment on it (no one peed on it, ewwww) and told me to stay out of the sun. The pain was not fun, but it was bearable. We laid under the umbrella for a little bit afterwards before we decided to head back to Florence.

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All things considered, I would say that it was a successful and fun day. The sting happened more towards the end, and surprisingly did not ruin how much fun I was having. It might take me a little bit to get up the courage to go back in the water anytime soon, but I don’t doubt I will. This is a place that I would love to go back to and stay for much longer. We did not get a chance to do the hike that many people do when they visit, but I’m saving it for next time.

That’s all for this trip,

Arrivederci!

One Day in Tuscania!

Five days into my stay here in Florence, me and a few friends decided to take a bus trip around Tuscania for a day! Our first destination was Pisa, and yes I did in fact hold up the leaning tower in a typical tourist fashion. (Who could pass that up?!)

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The Baptistry, Cathedral, and Tower in Pisa
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Doing my tourist thing!

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Pisa was definitely beautiful. We were only there for an hour so we didn’t get to explore for very long, but what I did see was amazing. The Cathedral and Baptistery were absolutely stunning on the outside and even more so on the inside.

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A better shot of the leaning tower

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Inside the Cathedral in Pisa

By noon we had arrived at the second location, San Gimignano. The sights just from the bus were picture worthy. There was mountains and a crisp fresh air to breathe in. We stopped at this little tourist place that fed us loads of bread, pasta, and wine. This little city is known for their wine and let me tell you first hand, I can definitely see why.

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After lunch, we went into the city to explore. It was built on a little (but still very steep) hill. There were shops and tourists and tons of places to stop and buy little trinkets for souvenirs.  When we got to the top of the hill, there was an assortment of restaurants and stores. My favorite part of this location was the gelato that we got from Gelateria Di Piazza, which is very well known all over the world! I decided to get a cone and 2 scoops of the delicious gelato (one caramel and the other pink grapefruit). I was extremely impressed and can definitely see why they are so popular and well-known!

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Street of San Giminagni

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The third and final location of the day was quite possibly my favorite. We made our way to Siena, known for its medieval brick buildings, gothic structure, and the Palio event which are horse races held twice a year. Everything about this city was amazing from the structure of the buildings to the people who lived there. My absolute favorite part of this day was the cathedral. The outside was very beautiful, but the inside was like nothing I’d ever seen before. There was so much beauty inside of this church that it was hard to fathom how anyone could have created it. The entire time I was in the cathedral, I was struck by how stunning everything was. If anyone is ever in Siena go to this cathedral because you will not be disappointed. (The pictures don’t do it justice, it was the most beautiful building I had ever seen)

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Streets of Siena, adorned with the flags of the winning horse for the most recent race that happened.

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Side of the Cathedral in Siena
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Drumline in Siena
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Inside of the Cathedral in Siena

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The ceilings were absolutely amazing in this room of the cathedral

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Overall, I quite enjoyed my day trip to these historical cities. The sights and the history behind everything was my favorite part. Being around so much beauty is something I could definitely get used to.

That’s all for this trip,

Arrivederci

First Week in Florence, Italy!

Florence is beautiful. The atmosphere, the people, the architecture, the history. All so breathtaking. I feel that, in the one week I’ve been here, I’ve already learned so much. I’ve learned how to order food in Italian (for the most part, I’m just bragging because I can say ciao, prego, and grazie), I’ve learned how to get around the city without getting lost (a big fat thank you to maps), and I’ve learned so much about the history.

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Inside the Palazzo Borghese

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The Duomo, in the city center of Florence

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Just one of the many streets of Florence

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The Duomo cathedral

My favorite thing about Florence so far has definitely been the food. Everywhere I’ve eaten has been molto bene! I’m so impressed by all of it that I can’t help but take pictures of everything I eat. I have become one of those people who post food on social media and I have no shame what-so-ever. Even the presentation of the simplest of meals looks amazing. (WARNING: If you don’t like pictures of food, you should probably skip the next several pictures)

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Sautéed green beans and farfalle with pesto, a meal I cooked on the 3rd night here!

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I just wanted to show what a lot of places looked like here when you order food! This is in the Central Market.

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Margherita Pizza from the Central Market, best I’ve had so far!

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Small slice of margherita pizza and a cappuccino from Eataly

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Ravioli with pear sauce at a small restaurant by the Santa Croce, so delicious!

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Found a cute little Mexican restaurant a block away from my apartment and fell in love with these amazing nachos!

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Very delicious piña colada!

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My favorite place to eat pizza so far!

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Don’t even get me started on the coffee here! I thought I loved and knew coffee before I got here, but I definitely did not. Their coffee is so small! My favorite thing so far has been the macchiato. I have learned that my favorite brand of coffee so far is Illy so if anyone is ever in Europe look for this brand wherever you go! I also have tried multiple cappuccinos here and have been thoroughly impressed by all of them. Coffee culture in Italy is so much different than in the states. I love it. I love how coffee isn’t rushed here, it seems appreciated. I watched this video and found that it really helped to describe how coffee in Italy really works.

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Capuccino

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Macchiato

Florence, also called Firenze in Italian, is a wonderful city with tons to do. Eating gelato is one of those things, and I have found that I am very good at it. I have tried multiple gelato places around the city and I still feel like I walk past a new one every single day.

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Eduordo’s Gelato

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Watermelon and Moscato d’Asti champagne gelato!

My time here so far has been incredible to say the least. At first the culture shock was a little… shocking I guess. Everything is so beautiful and old and has so much history whereas I’m used to a much newer and more modern place. Something else worth mentioning about how much different it is here is how much smaller everything is. The sidewalks, the streets, the cars, even the fridges! It makes it seem much more delicate in a way and I find that it adds to the beauty of this magnificent city.

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One of my absolute favorite views, and it’s from my laundry room!

One of my favorite things about coming here has been meeting new people. I am constantly surrounded by new people who are from all over the world. Many of the people who go to LdM aren’t even from the US. It’s been so amazing to hear about how other parts of the world compare to Italy as well. Although I haven’t met many Texans here in Italy, I still feel right at home with the friends I have made. My roommates especially have made my time here much more adjustable. I love sharing this experience with so many amazing people and am looking forward to meeting many more.

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Two of my roommates (Amy and Melissa) and I on our second night here.

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My roommates (Melissa and Paige) and I shopping in a little store called Zuiki

Although I do miss home and its nostalgia, I am looking forward to what this semester will bring. I can say with absolute certainty that this trip has made me a much different person already. I feel that I am more willing to branch out and try new things and I am so happy that being here has done this for me. I am exploring and I am trying new things and all it took was 5,633 miles to get to this point. I am excited to see what studying here will bring and I cannot wait to travel to other places in Europe and try even more new things!

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Studying abroad has been a dream. Florence is nothing like I expected it to be, because it’s so much better. I may be in the honeymoon phase of my stay here in Firenze, but I have no doubts that I chose the perfect place for me to be. This city, and all its beauty, is just the beginning of my travels this semester. I can’t wait to share more with y’all.

But for now,

Arrivederci

First Stop, New York City

New York City was quite possibly the most amazing city I’ve visited in the the states. Our hotel, Park Central, sat just a few blocks away from Times Square. The food was great, the people were always in a hurry, and the cars blared their horns constantly. My mom, Jasmine, and I decided to be typical tourists and tour the city on a bus (no one is allowed to judge us until they’ve tried it because I thoroughly enjoyed it!).

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The memorial for one of the twin towers
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One World Trade Center

One of my favorite things about the city was this little place called Ellen’s Stardust Diner located on Broadway. When we went in, we had no idea what we were getting in to. The food was great, but what was even more amazing was the waiters and waitresses singing. Not only did they serve you and stay attentive the entire time, they also sang and performed songs. They were all so amazing and fun and the entire experience there was like no other. I would recommend it to anyone who likes music, great singing, and a fun atmosphere.

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In the middle of Times Square with my mom and Jasmine
Jasmine found true love in NYC
Jasmine found true love in NYC

One of my favorite things in the whole world is a beautiful view. Maybe growing up in the flattest place in Texas (AKA Lubbock) made me appreciate any kind of view more than most people. New York City was not only filled with amazing city line views but also a lot of the architecture was overwhelmingly beautiful as well.

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My mom taking the perfect selfie on top of the Empire State Building

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I think that this was the perfect trip to take right before my departure to Italy. I loved spending time with two of my favorite people in the whole world in a city that I knew I’d love. We got to enjoy two very amazing broadway musicals, Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables, eat multiple slices of pizza, and walk around Times Square at 1:00 in the morning. The trip was unforgettable and I am so glad that I went. It was the perfect way to spend my last 5 days in the states and I wouldn’t have changed a thing.