Machu, Picchu, Peru

As I packed my suitcase to go home for spring break, I was really wishing I could be going somewhere unique, exotic, or even somewhere different from home. I caught up with high school friends who were home during the same break I had, and asked what they would be doing over break or if they had any fun vacations or trips planned for spring break, or over summer too. One of my best friends said she was going to Peru to hike Machu Picchu. This is certainly different than where most people go over spring break (ie: to some warm beach in florida), and I had completely forgotten that she had told me this earlier in the year.

I love the outdoors, especially going on long hikes around my local dog parks, so I was really interested when she told me. I asked her to tell me about what she was doing for the week she’d be there, and decided to write my next blog about her trip. Note to (your)self: if you really want to see Machu Picchu and the ruins, make sure you really enjoy hiking – the average hike takes about 4 days, with about 6 hours per day.

This being said, this was the main part of her trip: hiking the Inca Trail. This trail is considered to be a ‘moderate’ hike, but there are a lot of steep staircases to climb. Her dad didn’t join them on this part of the trip because he tends to suffer from altitude sickness easily, and the high altitudes during this hike can definitely affect the body. Walking sticks can be useful for this too… they’re not just for old people! Like I mentioned earlier, the hike is very long, so bring comfortable hiking boots. To get an (exact) idea of how high this hike is – you’ll begin at 2,800 m (9,186 feet), and the highest point you’ll get up to is 4,200 m (13,780 feet).

Even though it might be warm in Peru, it does get cold at night because of the altitude. It’s more than necessary to bring some long sleeved clothes and a sleeping bag. Hiking Machu Picchu is available year-round to anyone who wishes to hike the trails. Although there are usually always crowds, it will be less crowded during october through april, given that this is the ‘rainy season,’ but in reality, it can rain anytime – so don’t let this prevent you from going during these months.

The views during the hike are incredible! Pictured below (and other pictures through) are some of the pictures my friend took during her 4 day hike with her family and friend.

As far as I know, going to Peru, regardless of if you’re going to hike Machu Picchu, will still be an incredible trip. As you probably know from reading previous blogs, I’m dying to study abroad in a spanish-speaking country. If I ever had the chance to go to Peru, I would definitely make an effort to hike the Inca Trail.  

Continuing in Canada

After writing the last blog about Banff and talking about my favorite part of Canada, I began thinking about my trip to Montreal and realized how much I wanted to go back. I wasn’t too old when my family and I took a spring break trip to Canada, maybe 9 or 10, yet I still have the most amazing memories about this place. I mentioned in my last blog that we came to ski – and the skiing was perfect – but if skiing isn’t your thing, there’s still much to explore!


Beaver Tails. Like me, the first time you hear this, you’re probably thinking of a literal beaver tail… because what else would have this name. When my parents asked me if I wanted to get a Beaver Tail, I thought they were crazy, until they showed me the little shop on a local road they had been talking about. Canada is famous for (well if they’re not, I think they should be) a sweet treat called a Beaver Tail. A beaver tail is a small-ish piece of homemade pastry dough that’s been hand-stretched and fried, into the shape of a beaver tail (hence the name) and ‘decorated’ with whatever toppings you choose. It’s made in just about every flavor from their own classic cinnamon & sugar, to peanut butter and Reese’s pieces, or nutella and bananas. The taste is relatively similar to a churro (for lack of a better comparison) minus the crunchy outer layer. I can’t exactly put the taste of this treat into words… but if you’re interested about these desserts, check out their website and read more about when they were founded, their products other than the traditional BeaverTail pastries, and more!

I already talked about one of Canada’s other famous sweet treats – the syrup on a stick – in my last blog, but if you missed it just go back and take a look!


Even though I visited Canada mostly to ski, we incorporated other fun activities into our week vacation. At the bottom of one of the ski slopes, there were these huge trampolines, with a bunch of wires connected to tall poles that stood on the edges of these trampolines. It was a makeshift bungee jumping course – all you did was get harnessed in, then you were free to jump around, do flips, whatever you wanted. Thinking back to this made me want to see if ‘real’ bungee jumping was available in Canada. Apparently, bungee jumping in Canada is pretty popular… and you can visit places such as Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, Vancouver Island, etc.


This website is helpful in picking which is best, if this interests you!

Being in Banff

My family has been a huge skiing family for years. I can’t remember not knowing how to ski because I learned at such a young age. My favorite place to ski was in Montreal, Canada, because the mountain was so different to what I had been used to, and the food was so interesting. Some of my best friends take a trip every other summer with each other’s families, and when they told me they were going to Canada this summer, I got so excited for them. Though, they weren’t going to the same city (they were going to Banff) they would still have just as much fun as I had, and get to experience such an incredible city.

        Before I talk about Banff, I just wanted to mention something I think about whenever Canada is brought into conversation. It’s one of the only things I remember vividly about my trip, and think it’s definitely worth trying if you go to Canada when it’s cold. We tried these sugary desserts that only had two ingredients: maple syrup and snow. Syrup is boiled until it reaches a certain consistency and is poured in a line on a barrel filled with snow, and then rolled up using a popsicle stick – creating a maple syrup popsicle. It tasted like way more than just maple syrup (trust me, we tried to recreate this treat when we got home by pouring syrup into the snow and putting a popsicle stick in it, and it definitely did not work) and was the perfect ending to a meal at a local restaurant.


        Ok, back to topic – about Banff. You might be asking how they picked to go to such a ‘random’ place such as Banff; I was too when they told me. On their last trip, they had been staying at a very nice hotel, and their dad saw a glass display case of brochures for different places. The only reason Banff caught his eye… was because of the luxurious hotel pictured on the front – and after seeing it, he looked at the activities offered in the brochure and knew they had to come here next.

In asking all of them what their highlights of the trip were, they all said the same thing – ATVing, hiking, kayaking, and fishing. After reading these, you might think they seem like pretty generic activities… but in Canada these activities are on a whole new level.


ATVing: riding through these bikes through the paths is something extraordinary – zooming past with the turquoise waters on one side and the tall mountains on the other side were quite an experience.

Fishing: being able to sit and relax on the boat was what was needed after long day of hiking – being able to take in the scenery and try to catch some big fish as a nice break after tiring activities all day.


The lake that surrounded these paths is Lake Louise – the place where they went fishing and hiking during the day. The hiking paths can get quite steep, because they wind up and around a place called “Lake Agnes Tea House” and make for quite a bird’s eye view, looking down once you get to the top. They serve sandwiches, soup, and obviously tea – over 100 variations. A perfect stop during a long hike! While they obviously weren’t able to go skiing, they did visit the huge ski lodge and hotel – the one their dad had seen on the cover of the brochure – and said it was one of the most deluxe looking buildings they had ever seen.



Going to Guatemala

As much as I love traveling, I’ve kind of run out of places to talk about for each of my blogs. I would love to travel anywhere, but it’s hard to write a lot about a place I have no knowledge of without doing a lot of research first. So, I’ve been asking my friends about some of the coolest places they’ve visited and in doing so, I realized there are many more places in the world I never would have thought I’d want to visit.

Guatemala was a place my friend said she loved. In her list of places she’s been (which was pretty long for only being 18) I chose to talk about Guatemala because it’s a spanish speaking country, and I’d love to visit any spanish-speaking country. Plus, if I visited Guatemala, I’d love to understand some fun facts about it and touristy places I have to visit!

Antigua is arguably the most popular touristy city in Guatemala, probably because it’s infamous for its volcanoes, such as acatenango volcano and pacaya volcano. It’s easy to book a guided tour for the hike up the volcano – the tour guides know the easiest ways up and the quality of the experience can be improved for everyone.

The hikes are long, so bring extra snacks, and enough water – “trust me… you’ll be thirstier than you think” said my friend as she was describing her experience up the volcano. It’s also important to dress warmly – even if it’s warm outside the day you go, as you climb up, it gets cooler and you’ll regret not having warm clothes (especially if you choose to camp the night and see the sunrise in the morning.) The hike is physically challenging, so make sure you’re prepared for it.

Another tourist attraction she told me to visit is called Semuc Champey, a natural monument consisting of a limestone bridge above a river. The color and look of these turquoise pools make this spot an incredibly popular swimming attraction for tourists. It’s a little hard to find, so my best advice (from my friend) would be to also have a tour guide for this activity. 

If you’re into some of the history of Guatemala, visit some of the Mayan ruins. Some of the most well known ruins are Yaxha, Tikal, Quirigua, and Zaculeu. In being honest, I have no idea where these names originated, and because I’m not exactly into the deep history of places, I didn’t look into it – but I’m sure if you google these places you can find pages and pages of history on these places.

Like I said in my other blogs, don’t be afraid to explore! These places are all from a relatively subjective point of view, because these are places my friend visited. But if you go to Guatemala, just ask locals where they think you should visit and explore on your own with your friends and family and make the most of it. 

Interested in Ireland

After finding a roommate for freshman year, I naturally began to look through her Facebook to see what she’d been up to during the year (definitely doesn’t qualify as stalking – just being curious…). Some of her coolest pictures were from what looked like a school trip to Ireland. The pictures and scenery were unbelievable, so I was dying to hear more about the trip and asked her to tell me a little bit about it.

Her favorite place to visit was the city of Galway, Ireland – she said you can’t leave Ireland until you go to this city. In fact, it’s the fourth most populous urban area in the Republic of Ireland and the sixth most populous city in the island of Ireland. More food for thought for getting you excited about Ireland: In 2007, the city of Galway was named one of the top 8 “sexiest cities” in the world… and later in 2008 it was ranked the 42nd best tourist destination in the world. It’s been known as the Cultural Heart of Ireland for the variety of its job opportunities, style, architecture and design, and cultural diversity.

If you were to google, “top 10 best things to do while visiting Ireland,” number 2 on most sites would be to visit Cliffs of Moher. In fact, a couple years ago, this tourist attraction drew in almost one million visitors. The visitor facility was built over a 17-year period and was officially opened to the public in February of 2007. These cliffs have even been so popular by tourists over the years that they’ve appeared in a variety of popular movies such as The Princess Bride (1987) and Leap Year (2010). But I can’t forget the most notable movie – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – I bet you’ve never noticed it before! Look out for this scenery next time you watch those Freeform weekend marathons of Harry Potter!  People describe the views as “breathtaking” – even on the really cold and windy days. There’s also a gift shop and local café nearby, a nice break to get away from all of mother nature’s elements on the cliffs!

Cliffs of Moher (Google)






My roommate’s view when she visited







Harry Potter scene
Harry Potter scene

Speaking of cafes, another major tourist attraction (in Galway) is the shop called “Coffewerk + Press.” This small, local cafe combines design and art with the international world of specialty coffee into the quintessential shop. Coffewerk + Press’ mission is to “create a dialogue” between design and coffee and the local Ireland community, said owner Daniel Ulrichs.

Ireland is incredibly known for its beer and whiskey production. Because the drinking age in Ireland is 18.. be sure to visit all the unique, local breweries or restaurants in the small towns to take advantage of this aspect. You will certainly not regret it, and it’ll be something you will definitely remember!

Coast to Coast: California

Instead of thinking of the different countries around the world I’d like to visit, I began to think about what states I want to visit when I get the chance. I really haven’t been to too many places – New York, New Jersey, Maine, Florida – nothing too interesting.

Two of my best friends go to University of California, Berkeley, and University of Southern California and everyday I’ll see their snapchats or pictures on facebook and wonder what it’d be like to live there for a prolonged period of time, or just to visit. The everlasting warm weather certainly seems appealing compared to the single digit temperatures and piles of snow in State College and Philadelphia. I’ve never been to California, because the one chance I was given was when my lacrosse team was going for Spring training, but I had strained my ACL right before the trip and was unable to go. Ever since, I think about what I would’ve done if I had been able to go.

One of the first things you should do in California is go to to In-N-Out Burger. Skip the diet or healthy-food-eating for the day and order a double-cheeseburger, french fries, and milkshake. I can’t say I know what all the hype is, because I’ve never been here, but anytime I hear about someone going to CA, one of their first stops is always here.

My friend’s picture of In-N-Out Burger at night.
Check out the menu here

Speaking of food, my friend told me a spot where ‘all the celebs go’ – The Malibu Nobu, and also one in Los Angeles. With three separate dining rooms and an elegant bar and lounge, it’s the perfect spot for a fancy, high-class night. While it’s certainly pricey, it would definitely be worth the cost.


If you kept up with my previous blogs, you’d know I love the beach, the ocean, everything about it – and like to surf, even though I haven’t mastered it yet. California always reminds me of the stereotypical bleach blonde hair, tan skin, and oceans filled with surfers. My friend always goes to Venice beach to relax after class or on the weekends, and she said this beach is typically known for its ‘mellow waves’ – perfect for beginners. The Venice Beach boardwalk is also a huge tourist attraction, and the view is apparently breathtaking just as the sun is setting.  Definitely make this beach a spot on your list to visit, especially if you’re new to surfing! On the other hand… Manhattan beach is known for its larger waves – more for advanced surfers.

Searching For Singapore

A new semester, a new set of passion blogs. If you had been following my blogs from first semester, you’d know I wrote about traveling – places I’ve been, places I want to go, etc. I am very passionate about this topic, so for second semester, I will still be writing about my interests in traveling! After reading my series of blogs I hope you have more of an interest in traveling because it is something I think everyone should do if they are given the opportunity.

If you read a couple of my past blog posts, you’d know I have an older brother who is currently a senior here at Penn State. He studied abroad his second semester of junior year in Singapore. When he told me this, I remember thinking – Singapore? Why so random? (Random in the sense that I’d never heard of someone going abroad to Singapore, I usually hear about people going to Italy, Spain, etc.) But after seeing the multitude of pictures and videos he would send us, I hope to get the chance to experience Singapore- and hope you do too. 

Because Singapore is so adjacent to many other countries, he traveled almost every weekend. His studies and classes were done in the university he stayed at in Singapore, but on weekends, he traveled to countries and islands like Thailand, Kaula lumpur, Gili islands, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangkok, Krabi, Melbourne… the list seriously goes on and on. This is the benefit of traveling to somewhere like Singapore – so do some geographical research before you pick a place, hopefully you’ll get to experience multiple countries during your abroad semester. 

The first thing I would be most excited about when traveling to Singapore would be the foods. Trying new foods wherever you go is a must – you can learn more about different cultures by just tasting the foods – what spices they use, flavors, etc. Some of the most typical foods to eat in Singapore are foods like noodles, rice, seafood – and ingredients such as coconut milk and soy sauce.

traditional soup with rice noodles

You can get these ‘soup dumplings’ at many Chinese restaurants in the US – filled w/ soup broth and chicken

Definitely try to head to the beaches in or near Singapore. One of my brother’s favorite things to do while he was there was visit the different beaches, like Palawan Beach. The color of the water was crystal blue and turquoise, the sunsets at night were magnificent, and it was just extremely relaxing.

He went parasailing, snorkeling, and my personal favorite – sea walking – all things I want to get the chance to try. Sea walking is similar to scuba diving – a glass dome is placed over your head and air is fed through through a tube and you walk on the bottom of the sea. You can peacefully observe everything around you – the fish, the plants, etc. – without disturbing anything. The views are just incredible.

To add to these incredible views, you’d have to visit Marina Bay. Located in the central part of Singapore, Marina Bay encourages commercial, residential, hotel, and entertainment usages. Visit it at night – it’s quite the view!


Abroad in Australia

“Are you going abroad second semester?” A question most juniors in college get when talking to someone about their future academics. I have an older brother who’s a senior here at Penn State, and an older sister who graduated from Hamilton College (a very small liberal arts school in New York), and they both got those questions pretty frequently. Instead of taking the usual path of going abroad second semester junior year, my older sister decided to do a short-summer abroad in Australia. I’ve never been to Australia, and basically the only thing I think about when someone says Australia are the kangaroos. And, obviously, “P. Sherman 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney” (a quote from my favorite animated movie, Finding Nemo).

One of my sister’s favorite part of Australia was hanging out with the kangaroos (and other animals like snakes and koalas). She got to feed them and take pictures with them – something you obviously don’t get to do everyday. The Taronga Zoo houses many of Australia’s animals if you’re ever around!

Speaking of kangaroo.. (if you’re a vegetarian or vegan because of your love for animals, skip this part!) she actually tried kangaroo, and another animal named a wallaby – similar to a kangaroo. Better than she thought, they tasted kind of like a nice steak, except the kangaroo was a bit gamier. Something different she noticed from the US was that there were baked beans at almost every breakfast she had, but it wasn’t weird and was considered the norm – probably just a European thing.

(She's not even exactly sure what this is)
(She’s not even exactly sure what this is)

Her other favorite part of Australia was snorkeling in the Great Barrier reef. (Side note: if you’ve been following social media like Facebook, you probably read all the articles a few weeks ago about how the Great Barrier Reef ‘died.’ In reality, it actually didn’t completely die but is in the process of drastic coral bleaching – which could eventually lead to its degradation.) My sister explained that she “was basically in a scene from Finding Nemo.” (Another side note: me and my sisters make frequent references to our favorite movies, Finding Nemo being one of them.) Despite the pictures, it’s truly something you have to see in person to really experience. So, if you’re ever in Australia, put snorkeling in the Great Barrier reef at the top of the ‘Australian bucket list.’

Not sure how she got this close to the sea turtle... but she'll always have this picture to prove it!
Not sure how she got this close to the sea turtle… but she’ll always have this picture to prove it!

Certainly do take advantage of the city. One of my sister’s biggest regrets after leaving Australia was that she hadn’t explored the city enough. Any city looks completely different during the day than it does during night, and there’s definitely a different scene at night. If you’re of legal drinking age (it’s 18 in Australia, wink) head to the bars! The night-life is similar to that in America, but still so much fun. At a bar in one of the hostels she stayed at, there was something called “jelly fighting” – in this case, jelly meant jello. Basically, two girls would fight each other in a baby pool of jello – which believe it or not can be more entertaining than you’d think.

Deer crossing isn't really a thing in Australia like it is in PA... but koala crossing is
Deer crossing isn’t really a thing in Australia like it is in PA… but koala crossing is!

Next Stop: Hawaii

Palm trees, coconuts, piña coladas, sky blue water, leis … I don’t know about you, but all these things remind me of Hawaii.

Ever since those cliche movies which take place in Hawaii – soul surfer (the movie where ‘Bethany Hamilton’ gets her arm bitten off by the shark and learns to surf with one arm), 50 first dates (the movie where a guy named Henry begins dating a girl, Lucy, to later find out she suffers from short term memory loss) – I’ve always thought about visiting Hawaii. It just seems like some exotic, magical place where it’s physically impossible to not be happy.

If you didn't know, the movie Soul Surfer was actually based on the true story of Bethany Hamilton's life!
If you didn’t know, the movie Soul Surfer was actually based on the true story of Bethany Hamilton’s life!
The two main characters in "50 First Dates"
The two main characters in “50 First Dates”

Two of my best friends (whose families are also best friends) take trips every other summer together and a few years ago they went to Hawaii. Seeing their pictures made me even more jealous of how I still have not been able to visit.

Supposedly, something Hawaii is known for is its waves. I can’t say if this is true or not since I’ve never been there, but if I believe everything I’ve read on Google, people from all over the world go to Hawaii solely to either surf or watch other people surf. Ever since I became interested in surfing, witnessing these huge waves was added to my bucket list. Obviously I wouldn’t be the one to actually surf them, but to watch someone do so in person would be an amazing opportunity. If this interests you, I highly suggest visiting Oahu’s North shore at Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach, or the Banzai Pipeline to see some experienced surfers in action!

Why do restaurants call pizza with pineapple and ham, “hawaiian pizza”? Is it really hawaiian? Well, yes, there are pineapples in Hawaii, but Hawaii is also known for many more of its more exotic, unique fruits. Have you ever heard of the Rambutan, Egg fruit, Poha berry, or starfruit? I’d definitely make sure to try the authentic Hawaiian food. There’s a small, local restaurant named “Helena’s Hawaiian Food” located in Kalihi, a neighborhood to the west of the main town of Honolulu. They’re most famous for their pipi kaula short ribs – marinated for a minimum of overnight, smoked, and dried for at least 12 hours before being cooked. When my friends and their families visited Hawaii, they tried this restaurant and said it’s well worth the wait (considering there are only 11 tables inside).

When I went snorkeling in Ecuador (refer to some of my first few blogs about my experience in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands), a few people asked me if I’d ever been snorkeling in Hawaii. My answer was always no, but after listening to what they had to say (from experience), I know that (depending on where you go snorkeling), the aquatic life in Hawaii is incredible.

While you can pretty much sightsee wherever you go, just from pictures, I know that Hawaii is a place with amazing scenery. It’s volcanoes and beaches, tropical valleys, mountain ranges, and waterfalls make sightseeing a must do.  

Interests in Italy

If you were to ask me my favorite food, I wouldn’t even have to hesitate to say pasta. Pasta’s been my favorite thing to eat for forever – spaghetti, penne, rigatoni, elbows, bow ties, basically anything – you get the point. I’m also probably one of Food Network’s biggest fans – so I would call myself an expert on the right pasta’s taste, texture, etc.  So, as a fellow pasta lover, and as cliche as it sounds, I’ve always wanted to go to Italy simply because they are famous for their cuisine.


When I was in 6th grade, my brother and my mom went to Italy for my brother’s spring break trip with his school. Seeing all the pictures and videos they sent me while I was sitting at home doing nothing all week could not have made me more jealous. After coming back home, they told me their favorite aspects of their trip, and their favorite foods. Granted, they were on a school trip so they didn’t exactly have much “free time” to go explore the tour or find random restaurants wherever they pleased. Nonetheless, they loved the places they visited and the food from the restaurants they visited and couldn’t wait to go back. Because they visited a while ago, they had a hard time remembering what they had told me 7 years ago. Instead, I did some research about the best places to eat pasta in Italy!


You might find some of these restaurants a little pricey… but you have to splurge a little – unless you have family or friends living in Italy who you can visit every once and awhile, traveling to italy isn’t exactly something you do every year – so going to these restaurants is basically a “once-in-a-really-long-time” opportunity.


Da Danilo: an extremely authentic-looking dining area, red and white old-fashioned checkered table clothes – this restaurant looks like a scene out of a cliche rom-com movie. The amount of pasta dishes offered is innumerous… And I think the picture speaks for itself.

My favorite type of pizza is margarita pizza (fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil) so I thought it was more than necessary to research some of the best places to find the best margarita pizza: Armando al Pantheon. While this restaurant is extremely tiny and usually crowded, the quality of their food certainly makes up for it. Again, the picture below shouldn’t need an explanation as to why this restaurant is ranked so highly – just look at it!

While Italy is known for its pasta… one of my brother’s foods was the gelato he had everywhere they visited. Specifically in Venice, there were gelato places everywhere. Because they visited so many, they couldn’t remember the names of the dessert shops – so I researched some of the most popular gelato shops in Venice – and I found Alaska Gelateria. This place has some of the most unique gelato flavors such as ginger and basil. These flavors seem a little funky for gelato… but I can’t say for sure until I’ve been there!