Solo Trip to Portugal: Port Wine and New Hostel Friends

Before I went abroad this past year, I made a list of all of the countries I wanted to visit and Portugal was at the very top. I’m not totally sure why I was so drawn to this country. I don’t speak Portuguese (yet) and I didn’t know much about Portuguese history before I traveled there.

After living in France, a country that I’ve studied in depth, it was refreshing to be in a completely new environment. I hopped off the plane with my mind open and my stomach ready to eat EVERYTHING.

The first town I visited was Porto. It’s the second largest city in Portugal yet still felt very small. It’s located along the Douro River which is famous for a lot of vineyards so naturally, wine is a staple in Porto. But not just any wine! Port Wine is a sweet wine with a VERY high alcohol percentage. It’s usually paired with dessert, consumed after dinner, or at a wine tour. One of the main attractions in Porto is taking a tour of at least one of the wine cellars which is usually paired with a wine tasting at the end. I did the Calem Wine Tour which had a really cool interactive museum at the front, followed by a 45 minute walking tour of the cellar where the guide talked about the history of port wine, the Calem family, and the different kinds of port wines there are.

I spent about two and a half days in Porto and aside from visiting a wine cellar, I didn’t have a strict itinerary. Since I was traveling alone, I had the freedom to do what I wanted and when I wanted to do it. The first day I turned off Google Maps and just explored the city. Luckily, my hostel was near all of the landmarks and sights to see so I hit all of them by just walking around. Porto is a great city because like I said, it’s located along the Douro River which I found to be beautiful. One one side of the river you have the main city of Porto and if you walk across the Luis I Bridge (Fun fact about the bridge: it was designed by someone who worked for Gustave Eiffel, the man who designed the Eiffel Tower), you’ll find yourself in Vila Nova de Gaia or just Gaia as the locals call it. This is the side of the river that has all of the wine cellars, souvenir shops, and restaurants. I also came across a stand that was selling large portable cups of Sangria for 3 euros to drink alongside the river.

The second day I was in Porto, I decided to go on the free walking tour that my hostel offered. We explored all of the key sites in Porto and got to learn about the history and culture from a local who had grown up in the city. I learned that Porto was the inspiration behind Harry Potter! J.K. Rowling spent a large chunk of her life in Porto and spent her time writing Harry Potter at the Livraria Lello, a famous library in Porto. Even the villain Voldemort from the series was inspired by a fascist dictator from Portugal. Another important topic of the walking tour was the francesinha, a famous sandwich that comes from Porto. The name means “Little Frenchie” and it is supposed to be a portguse adaption of the famous French sandwich the croque-monsieur. It’s truly a sandwich made for those who enjoy meat as it has cured ham, steak, and two different kinds of traditional Portuguese sausages. It’s covered in melted cheese and smothered with a thick tomato and beer sauce and usually comes served with french fries surrounding it. I won’t lie, my mouth is watering just thinking about it. As you can see from the description, it is a very very VERY HEAVY sandwich. Some tourists split them among two people but since I was eating alone, I made sure to not eat lunch so my stomach would be empty just for the sandwich. You can get this sandwich from various locations around the city but the one my tour guide suggested was Cafe Santiago.

It was through the walking tour that I ended meeting a ton of really cool people. I met two other Americans who were English Assistants just like me but in Germany instead of France and a Brazilian girl who was studying Law in France. During the walking tour we realized that we all planned to go to Lisbon after Porto and ended up meeting again once we changed cities. I also met some girls who were either doing the same teaching program as me in France or studying in France.

We were all on spring break so I guess everyone in France decided to head to Portugal for some sunshine! It was amazing to see how close we could all get in just a few short days together. We ended our time together by doing a bar crawl that was sponsored by our hostel. Waking up at 5Am after being out until 3AM wasn’t the best but the memories were definitely worth it.

I’ll always love Porto since it was the first city in Portugal that I went to and the city that made me instantly fall in love with the culture. After Porto, I took a train and made my way to Lisbon with my new Brazilian friend that I met at my hostel.

To read about adventures in Lisbon, stay tuned!


Kanisha Lucille

Marché de Noël de Colmar

One of my favorite holiday season traditions in France so far are the Marchés de Noël or Christmas Markets in English. Luckily, I live in the region of France that has all of the famous ones. Eastern France has a lot of German influence which means the culture has a traits from each of the two countries.

The first Christmas Market that I visited was the one in Colmar which was voted the 2nd Best Market in all of Europe in 2017! Everyone has been telling me that I HAVE to go visit Colmar so I took a day trip this past weekend. I met up with some other assistants doing TAPIF and we had an amazing time!


Colmar is a pedestrian friendly city so all of the markets are accessible by walking. The markets are separated into 6 separate mini villages and each have different artisan vendors, food dessert, and other crafts for sale. There’s also A LOT of gingerbread products for sale.  My personal favorite was La Petite Venise! As the name suggests, it is resembled the Italian city of Venice.


Another one of my favorite markets was Place de l’Ancienne Douane. It’s located right in the middle of the city and is surrounded by a bunch of cute chalets arranged around a fountain. There’s also an indoor Christmas Market here so if you get too cold, you can warm up inside!

Depending on the language, Vin Chaud/Mulled Wine/Glühwein is a holiday favorite for people going to the markets. They sell them in cups for about 2 euros and if you pay an extra euro, you get a souvenir cup that also will allow you to get refills. To me, it tastes like a hot Sangria. Would I drink it again? Probably. Did I absolutely LOVE it? Not exactly.


This town looks exactly like a Fairy Tale during Christmas. All of the buildings were decorated with lights so when it got dark, it was absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately, the magic didn’t show up too well in photos. If you ever find yourself in Eastern France or Germany during the Holiday Season, you must go to a Christmas Market to experience it in person.


Thank you so much for reading and let me know in the comments if you’ve ever been to a Christmas Market in Europe!


Kanisha Lucille


When I explained to the bank teller why I needed to open up a bank account she replied (in French of course) with “Wow you’re so brave!” At first, I didn’t think much about her statement as I feel more lucky than brave. But the longer I stay in France, the more I realize that she was right.

I knew that moving to a new country, even if it was just for 7 months wouldn’t be easy but I had no clue just how tiring it could be. Things that are simple like knowing where to buy a towel or how to set up a cell phone suddenly become time consuming challenges.

I’ve been in France for almost a month now and it’s been a wild ride. I’m so blessed and lucky to be in a program that I have dreamed of since high school and I’m learning new things everyday. I started my journey with a night in Paris visiting my best friend who is also doing TAPIF and I found out that France has PINK BEER that tastes mostly like soda. I was in Paris during Fashion Week and it was such a cool experience to see the streets full of models and fashion designers. I only got to stay for a day so I didn’t experience Paris Fashion Week to it’s fullest extent… I guess that means I’ll have to come back next year 😉

After leaving Paris, I took a train to my small town of Belfort. It’s in the Eastern region of France which is close to Germany and Switzerland and has a very unique culture. One thing that is popular here ( and in Switzerland) is La Raclette. Raclette is a type of cheese made from from cows and it originates in the Alps. You warm up the cheese in a machine and pour it on potatoes and various meats. Having Raclette is a very social gathering and people will have small parties and enjoy this wonderful melted cheese (and wine) together for hours and hours. One of my students was surprised that I had already been to a Raclette and told me I was “integrating into French society very well.”

As far as teaching goes, we’ve pretty much just been in an observation period. Every academie and school have very different ways of how they “prep” their language assistants. I’ve spoken to some assistants who started teaching a lesson the very first day and some who did not have their schedules until the end of October. As far as my school, they had me observe classes at various times during the day so I could get a feel for what level the students were at and how confident they were speaking English. Some teachers wanted me to introduce myself and made the class prepare questions to ask me about my personal life and life in America. Some of my favorites were:

“Do you prefer Macron or Trump?”

“Have you ever seen Spider-Man in New York City?”

“Do you have children?”

Given the current political climate in America right now, it’s basically a guarantee that someone will have a question about your views on Donald Trump. I always answer in a diplomatic way but the French themselves are very vocal about their distaste for Trump.

The first two weeks are also filled with a lot of orientation and administrative things. When I was applying to the program, I kept reading about how important it was to bring several copies of all of your documents. THIS IS CORRECT. You have to jump through a lot of hoops before you’re actually legally allowed to stay in France. All of the paperwork and doctors visits can get overwhelming so it’s nice to see everyone at the orientation days to know that you aren’t alone. Our academie had two orientation days where we made sure all of our documents were in order, mingled with other assistants in our region, and went over strategies for the classroom.

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We also had some time to explore during the orientation days. Besancon is extremely beautiful and has a lot of cool nuggets of history. The city is surrounded by water so it was a strategic area during times of war. There’s a lot of ancient Roman architecture and tons of beautiful cathedrals. I still have a lot of major things to visit in town like the Citadel and Victor Hugo’s house but I really enjoyed everything we saw during our short visits.

France has been good to me so far and I’m excited to see what else my time in Europe has in store. We’re currently on holiday for Toussaint two weeks and I’ll be heading to the Balkans tomorrow! I cannot WAIT to be back in Burek territory and I’ll definitely be blogging about my time there.

A bientôt !

Kanisha Lucille



This summer I visited New York City for the first time ever. As someone who was obsessed with reality tv and fashion, I have always dreamed about going to New York City and luckily enough for me my boyfriend moved there after college! I only had a weekend to spend here since I was interning in Washington, D.C. Monday through Friday. I bought a super cheap bus ticket and embarked on a 6 hour bus ride. I’ve braved several Serbian busses traveling on unmarked roads so I wasn’t too stressed about this one.

For my inaugural trip to the city, I really wanted to be as touristy as possible (without buying an I ❤️ New York shirt) and I wanted to capture it all using a disposable camera. And YES, they still sell disposable cameras and you can get the film developed at CVS or Walgreens.


We started out our next day with a trip to the beach. The Airbnb we stayed at was in Coney Island just a few blocks from the beach and had an amazing view of the city. Coney Island definitely isn’t a pristine resort town but it’s great for a getaway from all of the hustle and bustle in the city.  I love using Airbnb when I travel because you get to pretend that you’re a local for a few days. (For $40 off your first Airbnb purchase click here).


As I’m writing this I’m getting ready to go to New York again for a week before flying to Paris! Let me know if you have any coffee shop recommendations in NYC before may tastebuds are spoiled from drinking fancy European coffee everyday 🙂


Kanisha Lucille

Vegan Skincare: Lush

I struggled with acne prone skin for so many years until I simplified my skincare routine and used more natural products. If you couldn’t already tell, Lush is my favorite skincare brand. This isn’t everything I use on my face but these are my staple skincare products!

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For cleanser, I use the Dark Angels charcoal cleanser. It’s messy but it smells really good and makes my skin feel super clean afterwards. I don’t like cleansers that foam so I really love to us this one. It’s really messy and can leave black marks in your shower and sink but they come off with water.

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The second facial wash I like is Kalamazoo. It’s marketed for bearded men but you can use it on a hairless face as well! I use this one if my skin is feeling especially dry because the consistency is almost like lotion. It doesn’t strip the oil out of your skin but is still super good for acne prone skin! It’s got pineapple juice and it smells super good. This one also doesn’t bubble up so if you like cleansers like that then this one is good for you too!

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I can’t even find the words to describe how much I LOVE coffee scrub. This stuff smells amazing (if you like the smell of coffee) and leaves your skin glowing. I like to use this in the morning before class because the strong aroma wakes me up. I’ll use it on my entire body maybe once a week but it can get very messy.

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This is the newest product in my Lush collection. I bought this mask out of desperation when I was visiting family in Michigan because for some reason my skin decided to break out. This helped clear up my face after one use. I put it on for about 20 minutes before bed and when I woke up my skin was noticeably clearer. The best part about this mask is that its self preserving so you don’t have to refrigerate it like the other masks. It has peppermint in it so it tingles on your face and feels super refreshing when you wash it off.

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As you can see, the labels on this bottle rub off super easily but this is the Eau Roma Water. It’s a toner water that has rose water as the main ingredient. I use this stuff EVERY DAY and I can notice a difference in my skin when I don’t use it. It’s best for acne prone skin and helps with soothing any itchiness or redness. I use it after cleansing my face and before I put on moisturizer. I’ll also use it throughout the day if I feel like my skin needs to be refreshed. It also just smells really good!

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Like I said, Lush bottle labels rub off super easily but this is the Grease Lightning Tea Tree Cleanser. It’s classified as a cleanser but I think of more as a serum. I use this about once a week to prevent acne and everyday if I experience a break out. I put this on in place of my moisturizer once I spray my face with toner water.

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The last product isn’t exactly “skin care” but I do use it during my skincare routine. Lip scrub was the first product I ever purchased from Lush back 4 or 5 years ago and I’ve loved using it ever since. I wear lipstick close to everyday so in order to keep my lips smooth I use this stuff. I love the popcorn flavor but I’ve also used the Bubblegum one.

Photo Gallery: Paris, Je t’aime


I was originally going to write this in French until I realized I can’t even express how much I love Paris in English let alone another language. I got the chance to go to Paris during the Summer of 2015 and it was everything I had imagined and more. Some of the pictures in this gallery are from Normandy which was equally as beautiful.


À bientôt ma belle Paris!


After a 18 hours of flying, we finally made it to Belgrade in the early evening. We were originally supposed to have a group dinner together at a traditional Serbian restaurant but after 12 pieces of lost luggage and hours of waiting at the airport, everyone was just ready to go to the hotel. We stayed at the Hotel Slavija which is an old Soviet style hotel with a certain charm and character that you can’t quite understand until you stay a night there.

We unpacked quickly because we were all starving and ventured out into the city to find something to eat. Of course, since it was out first night in a new country we wanted to try something typically Serbian but once the sky showed that it was about to pour rain, we settled for a simple American style hamburger. This was our first experience with the language barrier that we would be dealing with for the next two weeks. Since none of could actually read what came on any of the burgers we all ordered by faith and just hoped for the best. Like I said, we were beyond hungry so we would’ve eaten anything at that point. Our burgers weren’t bad but they didn’t come with anything on them and in typical American fashion, we asked for ketchup right away.

Since everyones sleep schedules were messed up, we all woke up pretty early. Instead of trying to fall back asleep, a group of us went to find the one thing all tired travelers need…COFFEE. We found the cutest coffee shop on accident called Pizza del Caffe that soon became our favorite spot. We walked in and and we so surprised to find such a chill atmosphere. Oh and the high speed wifi was also a plus. At first, we were all going to order a basic drink but thanks to someone asking what a drink was on the menu we all became OBSESSED with the Cappuccino Med Pomordranza- an orange honey cappuccino.

Next up was our sight seeing tour of Belgrade. The first stop was The Church of Saint Sava which is one of the largest Orthodox churches in the world. We went on a good day because there was some sort of performance going on with a lot of cute dancing children so it was a nice glimpse of Serbian religious culture!IMG_4196IMG_4213IMG_4216IMG_4199Processed with VSCO with v5 preset

After this we took a short lunch break and my friends and I went to a place called Burrito Madre. It was essentially a Serbian Chipotle but much much MUCH cheaper and I’m sure a a lot healthier. We continued our sightseeing by walking to Sava River. The view was so gorgeous especially since it was right in the middle of the day.

From the Sava River we walked to the Belgrade Fortress AKA where everyones new Facebook profile pictures were taken. The view from the fortress was amazing! The sky was so blue and clear so you could see for miles and miles.

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We ended the day by walking around the city to Knez Mihailova which is the fancy shopping street and then went to dinner at a traditional Serbian restaurant. They brought out HEAPS of food so all of the many miles of walking we did all day was worth it.


Our second day in Belgrade we went to the Palace of Serbia and had a tour of all of the different rooms. We also spoke with some people from the Ministry of Youth and Sport about different programs that Serbia has to keep its youth engaged and learned more about Serbian life from the governments perspective. We also went to the National Bank of Serbia and got a tour of the museum. No pictures were allowed but if you’re ever in Serbia I would definitely recommend going! I never knew the history of currency and the Serbian economy could be so interesting.

We finished the day with dinner on the river and while we had a lot of struggles ordering food since we didn’t know Serbian and the waiter didn’t know English, in the end we all enjoyed our meal. It really served as a reminder of the importance of having some basis of a country’s language before you visit. It’s easy to assume that someone somewhere will always speak English which is true in most places, but it’s always best to be prepared  to tackle the language barrier.


On our way walking back to the place where we got taxis, we passed a skatepark with this on the opposite side. For some reason, it took me by surprise that Serbian teens were so much like Americans when it comes to the different social scenes and pastimes, especially with something as niche as skateboarding. IMG_4296

We left Belgrade for a week to go live with our host families in different cities but we came back and spent some more time in the city afterwards. We went to our favorite coffee shop one last time and ended up at the Museum of Yugoslavia. I definitely went crazy with how many pictures I took there so I’ll post those in a separately. One of the things I loved most about Belgrade was all of the graffiti around the city! I know very few Serbian words so I’m not sure if any of these walls say explicit things but let’s hope they don’t! IMG_4405IMG_4406

This piece of Serbian flag colors was one of my favorites because of how simple yet powerful it was. One thing I learned about Serbians is that they are super proud to be Serbian and they know a lot about their history and language. There’s such a rich and long history of Serbia and its people and they take pride in their culture and are so ready and willing to share it with anyone who is interested. Anytime I asked a question about something that happened in Serbia or the surrounding area recently or thousands of years prior, someone had an in depth answer. IMG_4410

I can’t wait to go back to Belgrade because there’s so much more I wanna see and so much more food I wanna eat!

-Kanisha Lucille


“They held no elected office. But they led a nation. They marched as Americans who had endured hundreds of years of brutal violence, and countless daily indignities — but they didn’t seek special treatment, just the equal treatment promised to them almost a century before.” – Barrack Obama