Home is Where the Heart Is

Inspiration, Personal, Travel

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Well I’m back in Texas and I’m already clicking the heels of my Jeffrey Campbells together wishing I could be traveling again. But alas, I open my eyes and I’m still here and I’ll probably be here for the next couple of years. It’s a hard feeling to live with, knowing that I need to spend a good amount of time working and saving money for my next set of adventures, but I’m more focused on it because I know exactly how rewarding the end goal feels. 

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I started working at my internships this week and it’s been really great to feel like I have a purpose during my day, as well as some structure. But I’ve noticed a major change in my priorities since I’ve been back. As much as advertising is my passion, I don’t care about being the best or working for the best company. I want to work in an environment that makes me happy every day when I come to work. What’s the point in spending your life somewhere you hate doing something that makes you unhappy? 

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Traveling by myself was EPIC. If I could tell every person in this world to travel by themselves for a week, I would, because it changed my study abroad experience so much. Being a girl traveling on your own is rare and when you encounter people and tell them that (after judging whether they would murder you or not) there is the weird respect that people have for you. I felt so independent and confident because I had to figure things out on my own like planes, trains, directions, hostels, things to see and do. It forced me to be outside of my comfort zone and I was so open-minded about meeting everyone, anywhere, that I met some of the coolest people I would have never talked to otherwise. The camaraderie between travelers and backpackers is like an immediate connection between people that always breaks the ice. Agh. I loved it so much and found so much respect for myself that coming back to the closed off people in bars in America has been an adjustment. But oh well, I’ll keep smiling and talking to strangers regardless because I know that I’ve been able to hang out with Australians, Canadians, and English people in places like Prague, Budapest, and Florence. Ch’yeah take that, frat stars. 

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Ultimately, my heart is always going to be in Texas. It’s where I was raised, where my family is, and where my best friends live. But my heart is also in Florence and Europe because that’s where I grew up. I realized how to finally see myself clearly, without all the American standardized ideals clouding my judgement. So for now, I’m enjoying my life because for once in my life, I’m not sure where I’m going to end up after graduation. Right now at this moment I think I want to work in DFW for a year after I graduate and save money and then move abroad to somewhere in Europe or Australia… preferably somewhere that speaks English. But who knows. 

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Clever Blog Title

Personal, Travel

World traveler right there.

I would try to come up with a witty title for this post but honestly I’m just fresh out of remarks today after writing a paper over the religiosity of the Renaissance so I apologize.

I feel like I’ve been on a whirlwind the last month. First my mom and my sister came to visit…oh what 3 weeks ago? It was so wonderful getting to show them around Florence, recommending restaurants for lunch, telling them which museums to see, and of course where to shop. It was a little exhausting at times because I wanted them to love Florence as much as I do – but of course they loved it. Whoever doesn’t love it has to have a dark hole where their heart is supposed to be.

The next week I left for TURKEY. Let me tell you…it was absolutely incredible. I will be writing a separate blog post about the specific places and events we did so watch out for that! Keep your head up because this next part is gonna get deep. Turkey gave me so much perspective on my life and my priorities. Each day challenged me culturally and individually and left me with a lot of thoughts to come home to. I came to the realization that I want to have less stress in my life and I want to be more carefree with my time. Each day in Turkey unfolded itself beyond every single expectation we had because we simply didn’t have expectations. I loved interacting and meeting new people who came from a completely different background and mindset than me. One day we met two young people on the street and ended up going out to bar with them later that night and having an absolutely wonderful night dancing and talking. How are you ever going to allow events like that to transpire if you are constantly planning every second of your day?

Turkish people are some of the nicest and more genuine people you will ever have the pleasure of meeting. So many people offered to help us throughout our days and every person was always willing to assist us if we asked. It was amazing how open and friendly people can be when you don’t look at someone with a cultural bias. You are able to connect better with people and communicate while creating relationships, although maybe not long lasting, will always hold a special place in your memories.

Every thing works out. No matter what happens, where you end up, or how you feel at one point in time, everything eventually comes to pass and works itself out. It’s just been easier to let life run its course than to continually fight it by making our own plans. Being open to trying new things like food or activities makes you realize how much you may or may not like. It’s a big world out there and I’m not really ready to say no to anything at this point.

Overall, these are just some of things I’m trying to come away with after studying abroad. There was a quote I posted on a blog post before I left.

“We travel initially to lose ourselves, then we find ourselves.”

I never thought those words could be so incredibly true. However, being abroad makes you realize things about yourself you wouldn’t normally discover about yourself until you are put into situations that make you reconsider and reevaluate your choices.

I need to obviously write a post on Turkey and a post on Paris (which by the way lived up to every single expectation and dream I have had since I was 13!) but for now this is all I have to say.

It’s a Wonderful Life – Italian Remake

Travel

It’s been far too long since I’ve updated my blog and while I want to apologize profusely..sorry I’m not sorry. I’ve been so incredibly busy in Florence with weekend trips to Viareggio, Rome, Nice, Monaco, and Cannes it’s been non-stop for the past few weeks. Regardless, I’d like to let everyone know some of my favorite things I’ve been doing lately in Europe, some things I’m looking forward to, and of course, some things I wasn’t too fond of. 

Florence

I love living here. As I detailed in my last post, I’m starting to feel like Florence is a second home and I know I’ll leave part of my heart here when I leave. It’s upsetting but beautiful at the same time. I love visiting the cafes here and drinking coffee and just listening to the locals talk and sing as they work and catch up over an espresso. I’ve also enjoyed walking around and hanging out in various piazzas and reading. It’s a very relaxing way to spend my Thursday mornings when I don’t have class. It’s especially nice to go and read outside with midterms quickly approaching I am finally getting around to studying. 

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Rome

Rome was great and an amazing testament to humanity and the ancient world. However, its like New York collided with ancient Roman ruins, throw in some Italians who hate American tourists with a passion and pack the weekend full of walking and touring and lines and information being thrown at you every day. Just reading that was probably stressful so imagine how living it felt. I’m excited to visit Rome for another 2 days with my mom and my sister because I want to see a different side of Rome. My favorite part of the trip was definitely seeing the ancient ruins and the Vatican. The Sistine Chapel was gorgeous but my favorite part is the enormous wall where Micheangelo painted the The Last Judgement. It’s a magnificent piece of artwork that matches the magnitude of the chapel ceiling. 

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French Rivera

The beaches, the food, and the views along the mountainous coast were FANTASTIC! I love the French language, although I couldn’t say anything besides merci but it’s really beautiful to listen to. I’ve always wanted to visit Monaco after researching Grace Kelly who was an actress that married the Prince of Monaco and became a princess. I got to see her tomb which was really cool and I was able to see a lot of yachts and a gorgeous city in general. Nice, France was where we enjoyed dinner and our last taste of Carnivale! The nightlife is BOMB in Nice! My favorite places were Ghost Bar, Master Home, and Wayne’s Bar. The food was the most incredible part and if you go to Nice you MUST MUST MUST go to L’Coure which has an amazing fish, salmon, and patate. 

Viareggio

EVERY SINGLE PERSON SHOULD GO TO VIAREGGIO FOR CARNIVALE. It was one of the best days I’ve had in Italy. We saw an incredible parade, had a great time interacting with the people, and ended the day watching the sunset on the beach. Image

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Livin’ La Vida Local

Travel

I’m approaching my fourth week in Florence and after spending the weekend without my roommates and on my  own, I feel a little more at home here. I’ve cleaned my apartment, done the laundry, bought groceries, found a general idea of my bearings, and I’ve started getting into the routine of going to classes and unfortunately doing my homework.

Now I’m at the point where I feel like I’ve done the touristy Florentine things to do and I’ve ready to start seeing what Florence is truly about. There are thousands of study abroad students in Florence and most of them will stick to the normal agenda for study abroad students. Pregaming at Lions Fountain (an English type bar with Greek letters scrawled on the walls), then going out to Red Garder (the American Karaoke bar equipped with beer pong tables) and ending the night at the club Twice. I’ve been to all these places and while fun, they are also littered with study abroad students and the skeevy Italians who are trying to sleep with the pretty blonde American girls.

As I’ve already said, I came to Florence to get away from the typical TCU scene and in itself the typical college lifestyle of partying. This Friday I drank a little too much vino and ended up spending my entire Saturday afternoon hungover in my apartment instead of exploring the city. Now maybe that sounds like an excellent Friday night at TCU but here I just felt embarrassed and upset that I missed out on a wonderful day in Florence.

On my Friday afternoon though I went to my new favorite coffee shop on the other side of the river and then took a different way back to my apartment exploring the side streets and all the different and unique shops.

On my way back I went to the Pitti Palace which is one of the Medici’s homes that has been converted into not one, not two, but TEN museums. If you could see the inside of it, you would understand how it’s possible. It was room after room after room of hundreds of paintings and statues. The decor of the palace itself was sometimes more interesting than the portraits of aristocratic families! My favorite part was the costume museum…or course.

I guess I’m ready to find more things to do in Florence besides the typical things. Don’t get me wrong, the Uffizi gallery was incredible it almost brought my to tears. Going to the Academia and seeing the David was an experience I will never forget because the sheer magnitude of the statue is literally breath-taking. I just want to see more of Florence and experience everything it has to offer.

Some things I would like to do:

-Go see the Duffy Photographic Genius Exhibit*

-Go bars outside of Santa Croce

-Go to the Leather School

-Visit the Antique Market

*Addendum: The Duffy exhibit was incredible. Very inspiring portraits of the 1960s and 70s that included models, actors, and celebrities. Below are a few photos I grabbed from the web.

 

 

 

Florentine Fashion

Personal, Shopping, Travel

Italians have a reputation for being fashionable and let me tell you that they have not let me down. They are always well-groomed and prepared to look good for the day when they venture out into the Italian streets. I agree with the sentiments I’ve heard that Italians are partial to black and neutrals because almost every single jacket I see here is black. However, as I see the spring trends creep into the beautiful windows along the major shopping streets, I see bursts of spring colors like teal, peach, and yellow and I have an inkling that Italians style may begin to bloom when it warms up.

After being in Italy for a week I’m already worn just about everything I’ve brought, save for a few dresses just aren’t warm enough for the chilly weather we have been having the past few days. I’m beginning to analyze the things that I’ve brought and wondering if they accurately reflect who I am. I’ve brought with me one of my favorite dresses which is full of bright colors, but after seeing all of the black here I feel like the dress screams “HELLO I AM AMERICAN!” rather than my usual,  “Hello! I am quite wonderful and fun!” But in reality, this dress really does represent me, but I feel like if I want to fit in with the Italian fashion, I’ll need to sacrifice a part of me (the loud, outrageous part) that often is shown in my clothing choices.

When I bought this dress I immediately knew that I wanted to wear it when I went out because it’s a very lively dress and I wanted to tell people that I’m fun. But here I feel like it would seem like I’m screaming for attention in a negative way. I’ve always dressed in a way that reflects who I am or who I want people to think I am. I’ve always chosen clothes that I’m drawn to which are usually bright colors, fun patterns, or basic pieces that I can mix and match with my loud accessories. These clothes, in addition to my outgoing personality, create a persona which many people describe as colorful. Even in middle school, I would dress in different themes every day depending on my inspiration, which could range from ballet to hippie to punk rock. In 7th grade, I even made my own pair of jeans and planned an entire outfit around my two favorite colors, black and hot pink .

Ignoring my horrible haircut, this outfit was pretty in style at the time for my middle school. Even though looking back makes me cringe, I remember feeling so confident and in charge of my style that I didn’t care. I’ve always identified myself through my clothing so I often believe that others practice the same thing and therefore I often judge a person based on their wardrobe. However, through my new experience with a limited wardrobe, I understand that there are limitations people face with their closets. Budget, practicality issues, and environment are all issues that people face when they get dressed in the morning. Clothing choices are simply about choosing which persona you want to exhibit that day, sometimes you are dressing to fit into a certain environment or layering on several shirts that may not match because its so incredibly cold outside you don’t care. Every fashion choice we make reflects more than just our personality, it reflects the choices we make for our day. I still believe in the idea of communicating through our fashion choices but I also believe that clothing was created for a purpose and for most people they still function with a purpose of clothing our bodies. But I’ll still live my life wearing adorable clothes that fulfill the same purpose.

Also, for girls who are dying to know about the shopping scene in Florence, it’s incredible! The stores range from cheap to affordable to expensive. H&M and Zara are always crazy busy, but I bought a ton of great clothes for a reasonable price including a trench coat for only 20 euro! There are also a lot of cute boutique stores that are a little pricier but have different unique clothes.

*TIP: In the middle of February, almost every store in Florence has MASSIVE MARKDOWN SALES where almost everything is 50% off so you can get great deals on early spring merchandise and winter wear. I’m planning on hitting the stores tomorrow during my break tomorrow. I’ll post later about the best stores to hit when in Florence.

La Bella Vida

Personal, Travel

So here I finally am…Florence. Italy. This semester is here and happening and I am loving absolutely every minute of it!

Florence really and truly is one of the most gorgeous places I have ever seen! I honestly find myself catching my breath every time I see the Duomo or the Ponte Vecchio…and everywhere else for that matter. How can you look at a structure that is over 2000 years old and not be impressed by the sheer beauty, magnitude and detail that was put into it!

So far I understand the hardships that I’ll face abroad. Like losing my luggage for the first two days I was in Florence and having to accept it and move on with my travels. I did pretty well with handling the situation with a positive attitude, but by the end of day two I really needed a shower. ASAP.

Italian language is definitely something I didn’t prepare myself for. Everyone here knows basic words in English mostly and a lot know enough to talk with customers (think waitresses and store clerks). Their knowledge of English matches my knowledge of Italian…which is piccolo, unfortunately. However, ciao, gratzia, scusi, and bene get you fairly far in the main areas of Florence. I can’t wait to start my Italian class on Monday so that I can start to learn more vocabulary..and how to form sentences.

So far I’ve had an apertivo (wine and something to munch on…think happy hour Italian style), gone shopping at the San Lorenzo leather market, bought my groceries at the Central Market, gone on a walking tour of the city center, gotten very lost multiple times, and eaten some of the best pizza of my life. We also had a delicious seafood brushette last night at dinner that was pure heaven!

As I reflect on my first few days here, it’s starting to set in that I have the choice of what my study abroad semester will be like for me. I see others who are trying to grasp very tightly onto their American customs and mindset while I am trying to push myself to delve into the Italian culture…even if it just one cobblestoned step at a time. It’s not going to be easy by any means but I think that the more people are fighting it, the worse the culture shock can be.

I am really keeping my positive attitude though and I’m proud of that and I’m trying really hard to be open and talk with everyone I meet. I know I still have some time to adjust but I guess it’s just more exciting to settle in. My apartment is finally all set up with my clothes hung up and I will be cooking dinner tonight with my roommates. Then it’s out for another night of bar hopping. Tomorrow we are going to a vintage market I read about here. I am hoping to visit some museums on Sunday and explore the city by myself a little bit. I also need to keep reminding myself to actually use my camera a little more!!

I was so worried about making friends and having someone to confide in here and while I do have Monica here as someone I really know very well – I am starting to understand that I want to be alone when I am here. There is nothing wrong with going out by myself during the day and exploring a piazza or reading a book while drinking my caffe latte con panna. I wanted to get away from the TCU scene and I think for me it really just meant I wanted to get away by myself. 

Ciao America!

Inspiration, Personal, Travel

Today officially marks the two weeks leading up to my departure from Texas to Florence. It’s been a long time coming and I feel like I am better prepared for it after writing several of these blog posts.

But at the same time, it’s finally hitting me that I’ll be leaving everything behind. My boyfriend, family, friends, and my closet. All the things I love most in this world will be here in America while I’m out gallivanting off in Europe. I guess it finally hitting them that when you travel, you are always going to be leaving something behind.

Regardless, I am stoked. This semester is going to be a much needed break from my rigorous schedule of work and school. I’m looking forward to having lots of adventures and experiencing everything study abroad has to offer me. One of my resolutions for the new year was to maintain an open mind abroad. I also wanted to focus on staying positive. I need to be prepared for things to get messed up along the way and allow myself not to plan every detail of my trips. I also need to focus of making new friends and making sure I don’t get wrapped up in my anxiety. Change is sometimes really hard for me to do, but I hope that the beautiful sites and people abroad will help to numb the pain.

So after months of trying to decide where to go abroad I have my top list of places:

1. Paris

2. Barcelona

3. Turkey (spring break with Monica Taylor)

4. And I’m leaving this last outside trip open 🙂 Although I will say I’ve been throwing around the ideas of Poland, London, Stockholm, Budapest, Berlin, Dublin, and Amsterdam….but we will have to see once I am there.

Back in November 2010, I also made a list of the top 10 places I wanted to visit (and I was so sure I was going to see all of these hahaha):

1. Paris, France (cliche but it’s a must for any fashion junkie)

2. Venice, Rome, Tuscany

3. Amsterdam (the quintessential college destination)

4. Moscow, Russia

5. Stockholm, Sweden

6. Ireland, Scotland, London

7. India (where I want to spend my spring break)

8. Barcelona, Spain

9. Beijing, China

10. Greece, anywhere.

I am so happy with how much I’ve changed just in the past year at home, but I know there are so many more changes ahead of me in these next few months. I hope I can still reflect and write about them on my blog, but if not there’s always Facebook.

I Can’t Wait For: Viva Espana!

I Can't Wait For, Personal, Travel


After talking with a very good friend abroad right now, Spain is a happening place to visit!

Not that this would be news to anyone. I mean, the Cheetah Girls went to Spain, so it must be quite awesome.

Basically, Barcelona and Madrid are now on my list of places to visit while abroad next semester in Florence, Italy. I cannot wait to explore these cities per recommendations from friends and travel sites. I’ve heard from many people that Barcelona is the worst city for pickpockets and I’ll have to watch my stuff closely while traveling the streets. However, to combat this negative comment, I’ve also heard Barcelona has the most incredible nightlife in Europe and I can’t wait to explore their bars and clubs!

Madrid is said to be the ‘Spanish Paris’ (and as you may know, I am most excited to visit Paris, despite comments of it being overrated). Madrid is said to be beautiful, well kept, and a vibrant city full of Spanish culture. While it may not have the grunge and artistic feel that I’ll love in Barcelona, it will have breath-taking architecture and museums.

The most important factor about Spain is it’s relative costs compared to other European cities. Clothes, food, and hostels are all cheaper than most big cities, making Spain a cost efficient trip for study abroad students like myself.

To See and Do

Most of Europe is known for the amazing churches that display incredible architectural feats from centuries past. Spain is no exception. In Barcelona I’ll have to see La Sagrada Família and the Sinagoga Maj14, both are religious sanctuaries. I will need to see the Picasso Museum and I’ll probably take a tapas tour to taste the cities.  In Madrid I will visit the Retiro Park and visit the Royal Palace of Madrid in addition to visiting a multitude of museums in the area.

As for Barcelona nightlife, I’d like to go to Razz Matazz and Opium, per suggestions of Ashley. If I go in the the warmer months, I’ll try to visit an outdoor bar Liquidor an upscale bar called Palau de Dalmases – Espai Barroc. In Madrid I’ll try spend my night out on the town visiting Adraba and try to catch some jazz music at Café Central and grab a famous cocktail at Museo Chicote. Barcelona is known for late night partying throughout the weekends so I’m sure I won’t be disappointed when I venture out to paint the town rojo.

Above is a picture of Ashley near the Barcelona port. Isn’t she precious? 🙂

56 Days

As I enter my countdown to Italy, I am starting to realize a few things.

I cannot wait to leave.

It’s been a wonderful semester so far, but I am ready to expand my horizons (as corny and cliche as that may sound) and embark on a journey (even cornier, but still true). I feel that TCU has allowed me to take incredible courses and meet extraordinary friends but I’m ready to see what else is out there. I understand that being alone and on my own for several months will be difficult, but I’m excited to get to know myself a little better. I constantly picture myself walking the streets of Florence, drinking in the environment, and getting a better understanding of what it means to be abroad. So although I’ve spent a large amount of time on this blog discussing the places in Europe I want to visit, I know that Florence will be my home abroad.

After New Orleans, You Are Never The Same.

Personal, Travel

It’s been far too long since our last chat. I guess that’s my fault though.

It’s been an overwhelming semester so far. My classes are grueling, I’m working two jobs on campus, and I’m still an officer for my sorority. It’s tough being in college…that’s something they don’t show you in the movies.

I was lucky enough to visit New Orleans, LA this weekend for my fall break. I was able to go with all of my girls and we had a blast. Bourbon Street was insane, crazy, and a little too much fun. I couldn’t have asked for a better getaway in the middle of this crazy hectic semester.

While the nightlife in NOLA is incredible ( I mean Bourbon Street never sleeps!) the culture in New Orleans is such a unique mix of art, French architecture, creole, and African-American culture, and music. The city is a hodge podge of all different and beautiful sights, smells, and sounds. It is literally overwhelming to walk around during the day with the flocks of people gawking at street performers who are juggling knives, painting beautiful landscapes, or just playing a mean saxophone.

What I loved most about the trip was going to Frenchman Street, which is a small unique block that is home to several jazz clubs. Not only is it an overload on artsy and hip people (which we all know that’s my favorite kind of people) but it feels like such a hidden gem amongst the tourist parts of the French Quarter. There were people swing dancing to the jazz music and jiving like I have never seen before! It was a one of a kind experience that I felt many people don’t get a chance to take part in while they are in NOLA.

The trip was one of those times that I won’t forget. It was a time when I was able to celebrate being young and free. I can’t wait for the time when my kids decide they want to go and have the time of their life.

I’ve realized that I have an intense desire to travel (obviously, I mean I have several blog posts about it). I think that my love for cultures and willingness to experience anything when traveling makes me a good traveler. Throughout the trip I realized how crucial it is to have a positive attitude no matter what. I hope that I focus on that in Florence and remember how important it is to appreciate where I am each day. I am still having trouble deciding where to go outside of Italy, but I have decided to stay a lot more in Italy and Florence. I want to be able to truly experience Florence and all that it has to offer. I guess I just want to make a second home for myself. While traveling in Europe is exciting and enticing, I understand that I may not have the funds or the ability to leave all the time.

I Can’t Wait For: Berlin

I Can't Wait For, Travel


It’s a city that has a rich history and an awesome nightlife. Lonely Planet likens it to New York City in the 80’s with all of the grungy artistic culture that overwhelms the city. After talking to a few friends about their study abroad adventures in Berlin, I think this actually might be a great choice for my sister and I while we are traveling. There is a ton of cultural history to explore during the day but at the same time there is a vast amount of clubs and bars to entertain us during the evening.

Day Activities

Moviemento is rated as one of the top things to do in Berlin and I have to agree that the oldest cinema in Berlin sounds pretty cool. The 3-screen theater holds only a 100 people and shows foreign films throughout the day If my sister was visiting in February, I would totally head to Berlin for their German independent film festival, Berlinale. But unfortunately, we would be traveling there in March.

I think I’ll book a few tours for us, especially the Berlinagenten tour, which takes you to see unique stores and restaurants in Berlin. Maybe they’ll take us by Colours, a local thrift store that won’t break the bank.

I also CANNOT wait to see the ultimate graffiti expression the Kunsthaus Tacheles.This space was inspired by post-revolution artists who displayed their emotions via spray cans. I love contemporary art and  would consider this to be art.

Nightlife

I think for our first night there, I might book a New Berlin Tour, which is a pub crawl around Berlin’s best bars and hangouts. Then after we are familiarized with the city, we can venture out on our own the next few nights. There are so many clubs and bars I want to see that it may be hard to fit in everything! First I think we could start out a night at the Floating Lounge, which is a good spot to meet local Germans who are friendly. My friends have told me that I absolutely MUST visit Berghain/Panoramabar, also known as the best club in the world. No seriously, that’s its reputation. Then we could head over to the river to Bar 25, if it’s not too cold. I want to check out Künstliche Beatmung, which is an ultra-retro club which could be an awesome night of dancing if we go on Friday or Saturday.


I think my main objective in Berlin is to have some great nights going out, while still trying to drag myself out of bed in the mornings to see all the historical sites they have to offer. I know my sister is definitely wanting to go to some places where she can get a little crazy so I think Berlin may definitely be the place to go. I hope I get to dress as cute as some of the native Berliners on Chictopia do.