Typical Tuesday

It’s Tuesday night and I am fully satisfied after my food & wine class. Tonight we cooked three dishes as always (2 courses and dessert) and got to try out first dessert wine! We had pasta with a tuna ragu, leek & panchetta fritatta and fried dough strips! I helped cook the pasta dish, and I have to admit I was a bit skeptical of it and if I were home there is zero chance I would have even tried it, but the past 3 weeks I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how much I’ve enjoyed each dish so I tried it and didn’t love it, but liked it enough to get seconds 🙂 If I were to make it at home, which I hope to once I’m back in the states, I would just do it without the olives. I’ve been meaning to write about the INCREDIBLE gnocchi we made last week. I’m not even sure why they were called gnocchi because it was just big balls of spinach and ricotta cheese. I’ve been dreaming about them for a week now and keep saying I’m going to make them here for my roommates but haven’t gotten around to getting all the ingredients and what-not. I basically only eat pb&js and pasta when I’m home because it’s just easy.

This morning I had my travel writing class, which I always dread for some reason (because it’s at 9am) but I always end up enjoying. Today we were given an object that we had to feel with our eyes closed and then write about the journey it took us on. I had scissors and they didn’t take me on a journey so much as they reminded me of how much it stinks being a lefty in a world full of rightys. Then we went to the San Lorenzo cloisters, which is literally my backyard, and I learned that Michelangelo designed it! How crazy. Something I see out my window every day was designed by one of the greatest artists in history.

I tend to dread Tuesdays because I have three classes, starting at 9 am but they’re probably my favorite day now! I can’t complain about a day ending with a free, three course meal and wine!

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Interlaken, Switzerland

I’m OBSESSED with Switzerland

There is really nothing else to say about Switzerland other than it is perfection. It was the only place I have ever been outside in the snow, totally underdressed, and in pure bliss. Everything was so beautiful and quaint, and there is nothing prettier than seeing the Swiss Alps everywhere you turn! I actually teared when I left Sunday afternoon, but I’ll get to that in a little…

Thursday night me, Bre and Hannah headed to the train station at 6:30 for our 8 hour bus ride! Surprisingly the ride didn’t feel too long, we watched a couple movies and made multiple stops for dinner/bathroom breaks. I slept a little, but by the time we were in Switzerland it was pretty hard to get any shut eye because the roads are so windy and constantly turning. We arrived at the Funny Farm hostel at 4 a.m. and had to trek up 4 flights of stairs before falling sound asleep.

We had nothing planned on Friday, so we got to sleep in and have time to relax and explore. We were starving by the time we woke up and excited to finally see Interlaken in the sunlight! Our hostel lobby was basically filled with just study abroad students and it was a great atmosphere with a pool table, fire place and bar. Everyone was talking about this Irish pub across the street so we went there for some breakfast. The place was so cute, just like what you would think of a typical pub, and packed! After a little bit of waiting, we somehow got a table that had it’s own draft lines in it! It was so cool, you had to like put in a coin and pour your own beer – we didn’t use it though because we had already gotten drinks. Me and Hannah both ordered bacon & eggs and were shocked with how much bacon they gave us! I had at least 15 pieces on my plate. That’s not normal. As I was almost done, I realized that I’d probably die if I ate all that bacon so I left a few pieces. After breakfast it was snowing pretty hard so we went back to the hotel and sat by the fire and read! We were perfect snow/lodge-bunnies. I brought a Sarah Dessen book with me that was in our Italian apartment when we moved im and I’m still reading it now its so good! At 5 we met for a private chocolate tasting! YUM. The place was about a 15 minute walk through the snow but I didn’t mind at all because it’s not like I was in Massachusetts – I was in SWITZERLAND! At the tasting we got soooo many (dare I say almost too many) samples of milk, dark and white chocolates, chocolate with nuts & liquors & mints, chocolate galore! By the end of it I didn’t even want to look at chocolate anymore (did I just say that?!) and couldn’t think about buying any. PLUS I forgot to mention everything in Switz. is like 10x the price in America. And the exchange rate is just about equal to the dollar. The smallest/cheapest piece of chocolate was around 30 francs and that was something I couldn’t afford. Luckily, I kept some samples! Hopefully they’ll last until May, but who knows. That night we ate at the hotel restaurant because the snowstorm got pretty bad!

So much chocolate!

So much chocolate!

Saturday morning was the big day! We had scheduled canyon jumping! Apparently, Interlaken and New Zealand are the only two places in the world that you can make a jump so high from an actual canyon. Pretty crazy. The jump wasn’t until 2:30, so we got up early and walked into town to explore more and find the lakes. The stores and shops were all tiny and close together and I just kept thinking about how incredible Interlaken would be at Christmastime. If only! We went into a souvenir shop (where everything was still insanely expensive) and I bought some gloves that say Switzerland on them. The old guy who owned the shop was really cute and pointed us in the direction of the lakes. We just had to follow the river for about 30-40 minutes before it opened up. The walk was very cold, but very worth it, and VERY beautiful! The water there is crystal clear and teal – like in the Caribbean. So crazy! We had a little photoshoot (of course) in front of the lakes then had to rush back to the hotel to get picked up for canyon jumping!

Beautiful!!

Beautiful!!

I didn’t know what I had gotten myself into with this jump. The guy at the hotel was telling us about how scary it is and felt bad for us so he gave us some free shots of jager to loosen the nerves. That was greatly appreciated. We got picked up by the crazy looking guy with very few teeth, a long pony tail and a hat covered in skulls. Great. The bus had other future jumpers in it and we made some friends and all talked about our nerves. It was about a 30 minute drive to the canyon and I was sweating the whole time. When we got there the guy took us up a road covered in snow that was really steep and like a 25 minute climb. Luckily I was wearing sneakers with two pairs of socks so I wasn’t too cold in the snow. I think my adrenaline also kept me warm because I didn’t feel cold the whole time. We got up to the top and I could only think “this is insane” but reminded myself it was a once in a lifetime opportunity! A few girls went before me and my friends and they were absolutely insane – jumping HEAD FIRST off the platform, like diving. Ya right was I doing THAT. But seeing people jump so quickly made me feel a little better, thinking it wouldn’t be that scary once I was face-to-face with the edge. When it was my turn I don’t even know what I was thinking, it’s all a blur. The guy hooked me up to the cord, and I just remember doing the sign of the cross and jumping. Then I was free falling for a LOT longer than I thought I was going to, before swinging to safety at the bottom. The jump was over 300 ft and the guy told us we were falling over 70 mph. OMG. I wish I could post the video on here, but I don’t think I can. If you want to see it email me! Or I’m sure I’ll show everyone when I’m home! It was truly the funnest, most insane & crazy thing I’ve ever done! Something that I will never forget.

Scared before the jump

Scared before the jump

After the jump we got free beers and warmed up in a cute little cabin. When we got home we were starving and went back to the pub for dinner. I got the greatest club sandwich ever, it had grilled chicken, tomato, lettuce, bacon and eggs! And the french fries were just as amazing. I ate my whole plate in under 5 minutes. When we went out that night we met these really cool girls who are studying abroad in Prague. They were so nice and it was great to make new friends!

Unfortunately we had to leave early Sunday afternoon. We woke up that morning and went ice skating! I was so bad, I don’t even remember the last time I skated, and had to use a kiddy bar to push around in front of me haha. After a couple of minutes I could stand up on my own – barely. After that we went to a bagel shop that a woman from NYC owned. The bagels were delicious and I got this cinnamon raison cream cheese that was delish. We left Switzerland around 3 and got home just before midnight! The bus ride back was definitely long, and I actually cried watching the alps fade away.

This weekend was absolutely hands down the best weekend of my life (maybe after Countryfest last summer) and I continue to feel so lucky that I am here in Europe. I also was annoyed when people (my sister) talk all about how Europe is so amazing blah blah blah but It REALLY IS. Life is so simple and easy here & right now I can’t imagine ever leaving!

Central Market

This morning I had an early class and then decided to check out the Central Market for the first time! It is ridiculous that I haven’t gone yet considering it is about 10 feet from my apartment (I really have a great location!) and is probably closer than the grocery store I’ve been going to. The first couple weeks I didn’t go because I couldn’t find it. Whoops! I don’t know if it’s just me or the fact that I’m American, but when I think of a “market” I think it’s outside. I knew it was close to where I live and would try to search for it but the only vendors that are outside are all selling clothing and fake Hermes bags. Then once I had my Food & Wine pairing class our teacher took us on the tour and showed us the building the Central Market was in. And it is a huge building in fact, right in the center of the clothes markets I walk through every day on my way to class. I wonder if I ever would have found it if it wasn’t for her? I’d like to think so but I’m not sure.

So today I finally found the time to go. I only had 4 euros on me and was just in the search for eggs (le uova). When I went inside the market for the first time I was completely shocked. Nothing in Italy seems to not shock me though, now that I think of it. It’s basically like a shopping mall, but with food. There are just a million different booths set up all around and little cafes with bars selling sandwiches or pizzas or whatever. Fruits, vegetables, homemade pastas, meat, FRESH meat like with the rooster’s head and gobbler still on it, nuts, oils, chocolates, pastries, everything! It was magical. I spotted the nuts and remembered I’d been craving almonds so I bought 100 for 0.50 euros. I thought that was a deal! I kept walking around until I found the eggs with a sign for 1.50 for a pack of 6. I’m not sure if that’s a good price or not because I forget what I bought them at the grocery store for, but I figured I’d take a shot at bargaining. I never know if people understand English or not so I just held the eggs in my hand and held out 1 euro and just kind of shrugged, trying to say, “This is all I have but I desperately need eggs” and he took it! Such a good feeling! If I had more money on me I would have gone crazy trying to get away with as many deals as I could. It’s like going into the supermarket and paying whatever you want for everything. As I was walking out I saw some packaged, real-life, OREOS! They were only 0.50 euros but I figured I’d keep the 2.50 I had left in case I needed something desperately until Thursday, when I leave for Switzerland!

My travel writing class is seeming to progressively get more interesting and I’m enjoying it more than I thought I was going to two weeks ago. Today we basically just went over the reading (which was surprisingly enjoyable) and then got to leave for 45 minutes and write about observing a person/people. I went to a cafe/bar (they’re called the same thing here) and wrote about a woman who met a man there and I’m pretty sure they were having an affair. Then we all read our little essays to the class and I wasn’t even nervous to share my writing, which is usually not the case! So far it’s been a good day 🙂

Roma

I have sooo many more pics but it takes a long time to upload them onto here! These are just the best ones that cover the most important parts of the city! Enjoy!

 

Don’t forget to make a wish at the Trevi Fountain

I just got back from Rome and have never been so exhausted! I’m trying not to fall asleep right away though, because it’s only 7:30 and I don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night. WOW ROME WAS AMAZING! Maybe just because it was the first place I’ve traveled to outside of Florence, but I am obsessed! It is just so old and beautiful and everywhere you turn there are huge statues and churches and omg it was just incredible.

Friday morning the bus left at 7am which was an early wake-up call for us. Thankfully, I slept basically the entire 4 hour drive and woke up excited to see Rome out my window! The bus dropped us off in the middle of town and we immediately started our first tour at the Column of the Immaculate Conception. It was my first glimpse of the ancient statues and I was in awe. Just a short distance from that was the Spanish Steps, which I thought for some reason was going to have a lot more steps. There were so many people on them its hard to capture a good picture, but I loved the church (I think it was a church) at the top of them! After taking too many pictures with every combination of people, we ventured to the Trevi Fountain. THIS WAS MY FAVORITE PLACE!! I wasn’t expecting it to be so big and my mouth just dropped when we turned the corner and I saw it for the first time. There is no possible way to describe how beautiful and grand this fountain is. Of course I threw a coin in, but forgot to make a wish because I was focusing so hard on getting a good picture. My bad. And I didn’t even get a good picture either. Legend has it that if you throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain you will find your way back to Rome again someday. LET’S HOPE! Our tour guide told us that every year all the coins are collected from the fountain and given to the poor people of Rome, and last year 40,000 euros were collected!! We got a break to get lunch at the fountain so we grabbed the first paninis we saw. Mine was turkey and was delicious, but I realized later that I’m not supposed to eat meat on Friday’s during Lent, oops! After the Trevi we found our way to the Pantheon, stopping to see many columns, statues and fountains along the way. The Pantheon was HUGE! And inside was really cool with Raphael’s tomb and a bunch of others. I took a video of us walking into it but can’t post it here – just the pictures! The tour ended a little later at the hotel and we obviously all napped. Once we were all awake we took a walk to see our neighborhood and sat down for dinner in a cute little piazza that had a ton of restaurants outside with big heating lamps. I got the gnocchi in pesto sauce and it was like I was eating little clouds. They were perfect! I’m still always so surprised at how small the portions are here, which is a good thing definitely, but I am continuing to expect a massive plate of pasta like I would get back at home.

Saturday we didn’t have anything scheduled so we just walked around and went to Vatican City. I was sure to bring my passport because I know it is technically its own “state”, but they didn’t check passports and I was upset because I wanted mine stamped again! We didn’t go inside the St. Peter’s Basilica or the Sistine Chapel because the lines were sooo long and we were hungry and tired after a long day. I regret that after talking to my other friends who went inside and “their lives were changed”, but mine was changed at the Trevi so too much life-changing in one weekend might be weird. That night we ate dinner at a place called Classy in the Front Sloppy in the Back HAHA and it was so good as well! We ended up back there that night too!

Today, Sunday, we woke up and had breakfast at the hotel. I finally got to have one of the chocolate croissants I’ve been craving and so I had 2. We checked out of the hotel and got in the bus to go to the Colusseum! On the way we got to see the whole side of Rome that we hadn’t seen yet and I was continuously amazed by all the insane architecture and how old everything was. I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that basically everything there was made B.C. as in Before Christ. The Colusseum was enormous, as expected, and just so crazy to be in. I need to see the movie Gladiator now. We walked all around it and went on the ground floor as well. After our tour we got back on the buses to come home and it was weird for the first time my mental image of “home” was my apartment in Florence, and I couldn’t be happier. After this weekend it really hit me how lucky I am that I have the opportunity to study here and really experience so much of the world! Thanks Mom & Dad ❤

I’ll post an album either later tonight or tomorrow!

Beyond Italy

I AM TOO EXCITED TO SLEEP!!!! I just finished planning and booking trips for the majority of the semester! I know people who study abroad in Europe tend to travel a ton on the weekends because everything is so close and cheap, and I knew I wanted to, but the past two weeks me and my friends have kept saying, “oh we’ll do it tomorrow…” and then, “let’s plan trips this weekend…” and I was nervous I was never going to leave Italy (which wouldn’t be a bad thing, don’t get me wrong).

I have been constantly changing my mind for where I want to go on spring break and me and my friend Hannah finally decided we wanted to go EAST! We booked a trip with a program (they say that’s best to do for spring break so the planning is taken care of and you can just relax) to Budapest, Krakow, Prague and Ljubljana (I can’t even pronounce the last place is that bad?). All I know is that Budapest is the “Paris of the East” and Prague is somewhere everyone says you must see. The other two look amazing and I feel like my experience is going to be so unique! Activities during the trip include going to Auschwitz, the thermal baths in Budapest, pub crawls, cave diving and apparently the exchange rate is like 0.1 to the US dollar, or something insanely cheap like that. Ok I actually just googled it and got this:

Screen Shot 2013-02-13 at 2.23.11 AM

I’m sold. IS THAT EVEN REAL? All my other friends are going island hopping in Greece to Athens, Santorini (sisterhood of the traveling pants AH!) and Corfu which all look absolutely amazing. That is where I would have gone if I didn’t go east, but I figured I’d mine as well get in as much as I can! OH and did I mention we booked our trips for 50% off because there was some valentine’s day special WOOHOO!! So it was sooo cheap! I am like giddy writing this!

Then, because we were in such a good mood after getting amazing deals and finally making decisions on spring break, we decided to find the cheapest flights anywhere in Europe for the few free weekends we have. At first we were all set to do Paris but then we realized we’d have to miss class and since we’re such good students (cough) we decided on Barcelona since the flight  is leaving on Friday (no classes!). So in two weekends from now we’ll be getting our tan on in BARCA! We all have friends that are studying abroad there too so it should be an unreal time.

Oh and did I mention I’m going to ROME this weekend?! I’ll be sure to post TONS of pictures and try to chill with the Pope before he retires.

My semester timeline of traveling:

Feb 15-17: Rome, Italy*

Feb 21-24: Interlaken, Switzerland (tentatively, but so necessary)

March 1-3: Barcelona, Spain

March 9-10: Venice, Italy*

March 16: Bologna, Italy

March 21-31: SPRING BREAK > Budapest, Krakow, Prague, Ljubljana

April 4-14: Jill & Justin are here!

April 6: Lucca, Italy*

April 13-14: Cinque Terre

April 20-21: “Under the Tuscan Sun” Trip*

April 26-28: Amalfi Coast

*= with my abroad program

Now that I’ve been here for some time…

Even though I don’t necessarily feel like I’m in a foreign country every second of the day, there are definitely some moments that make you just stand back and say, “woah”. For example, when walking around the city it really just feels like I’m in NYC or Boston (of course not the walking on cobblestone part but I’m used to that by now and couldn’t even tell you what the streets look like in America) until you turn the corner and see a ginormous, beautiful cathedral on one block and then a naked statue on the other.

The ambulances here are frequent and make a really different noise, its more like sing-songy. But seriously, people here must be dropping like flies or dramatic because we hear an ambulence at least 10 if not 13 times a day. No lie.

People can tell I’m American usually in two way: if I happen to wear my yoga pants to the 99 cent store (it’s RIGHT underneath us I can’t get dressed up for that) or by how fast I’m walking. Right now I don’t have much of a problem standing out as an American because there are just soo many, but that’ll probably change in the coming months.

Wine is not the only thing that runs like water – PIZZA does! Me and my roommates have been averaging about a pizza/pizza and half a day since we’ve been here. That’s EACH! Yes, if two of us try to split one we always end up ordering another to split too. However, I’ve miraculously managed to lose weight. I’m sure that won’t last. And today I’m actually going to see if I remember how to work out. But yes, the pizzas are cheap, delicious, and really thin. And we can usually take them to go!!

Free drinks here are normal (and safe) and happen often. People here love Americans and are always bringing up free shots and creating random one time buy 1 get 3 free drink specials. It’s pretty awesome. I won’t go into much about the nightlife because I know my mom will call me with an earful but it’s amazing, wild, LATE at night, and so much fun!

Piazzale Michelangelo

The past few days have contained school work, walking, eating and more walking. On Wednesday I had two classes with the same teacher, then Thursday is an easy day with only one class in the afternoon. On Saturday me and my roommates walked around and went to the Piazzale Michelangelo – it’s has the best views of the city! I took some pictures but then my camera died so I had to take the rest with my iPhone, which actually probably takes better pictures than my digital camera anyway. It really felt like being in a postcard because the views here are what comes up when you Google “Florence, Italy” for the most part. Besides the incredible views, we walked a little farther up hill to an old cemetery and church. Inside the church was so beautiful and peaceful. There were a lot of people, but you couldn’t talk or take pictures with a flash. The pictures from there are a little hard to see because it was so dark.

It got cold out really fast so after about an hour of sightseeing we left to go back into the city center…but we obviously had to stop at the chocolate festival! Luckily, the festival is right near our apartment and is going on for 8 days, so I’ll be a frequent customer. There were a ton of booths set up all with different themes and I got this amazing freshly baked donut filled with chocolate and rolled in cinnamon and sugar. Michelle and Kayla got waffles on a stick dipped in chocolate fondue and then Hannah got a cup of strawberries with hot chocolate and whipped cream. We learned that “hot chocolate” in Florence isn’t a drink like in America. It’s basically chocolate melted and you eat it with a spoon. OH and also there was a group of people in tights that were throwing flags around JUST like in Under the Tuscan Sun. I took a video of it and will try to post it on here!

We also found a place that we can take out pizza and we get a discount so it’s only 5 euros and I found a bottle of red wine that was actually really good for only 2.50 euros. I’ve been trying to mostly eat my groceries and so have had a lot of fruit! Something I don’t usually get enough of at home. And I’m basically living on Frosted Flakes and PB&J. The jelly is weird in that it has little grapes in it. Tomorrow starts the first week of classes where I’ll actually have to take notes/listen/and do homework so that’s a bummer, but whatever because I’m in ITALY!

Classes Started

Two days of classes have already passed! I am obsessed with all my teachers and I can already have a conversation in Italian (an easy one!). Yesterday was Monday and I only had one class – Italian. I was kind of nervous going to it because I heard the professors speak only Italian, but my roommates reassured me that wasn’t true because how else would you know the simple words they were saying. Well they were wrong.

My professor walked into the room the first day and handed out the syllabus, asked “has anyone taken Italian before” and 10 heads shook “no”. Those were the last English words I’ve heard from her. I was absolutely mortified that first class when she just kept speaking Italian and I was so confused it like hurt my brain. I’m not used to being confused in class! But somehow, I got it. And now, two days later I can tell you my name, my age, where I’m from, the months, days of the week, seasons and tell time. WOW. I guess this really is an accelerated class! On Tuesday we had to stand up and talk about ourselves and that was only the second day! I’m so excited to learn so much more. I have this class every day and I’m really glad. Side note – my professor is the trendiest, coolest lady ever! She has the best shoes and makes a funny noise when someone slips and speaks in English and I laugh every time.

I found out today that Tuesdays are my busy busy day. I have class 9-11:30, 3-4:15 then 6-8:30. It’s not too bad because they’re all spaced out, but that many hours of classes in one day, even in Italy, is a loooonggg day. I started the day with Travel Writing, another class I was really looking forward to. It was really early in the morning for me (because I’ve been sleeping in so late…maybe I’m still jet lagged?) and the teacher had a British accent, which I obviously wasn’t expected so I was really thrown off from the start. We didn’t do much in class today, but overall it seems like a class I’ll enjoy and we get to walk around the city a lot and journal. It does have a bit of an “english class” vibe to it and by that I mean we were talking about narratives and themes (dislike) but whatever, I’ll live.

After that class I came back and napped and it was amazing.

Then I went to my Italian class again where we did our little speeches about ourselves and proceeded to not say anything in English. Rough life! Before my final class of the day I finally made it to the grocery store. I picked up eggs, oranges, bananas, grape jelly, turkey, bread and green tea all for 13 euros, which I would consider to be a deal but I’m not really sure.

My food & wine pairing class aka THE BEST CLASS EVER I CAN ALREADY TELL, was at 6. I made a lot of friends in that class right from the start! YAY! One girl was from Newton, MA – small world. The professor was wearing a purple shirt, purple eyeshadow, eyeliner and glitter so I knew I’d like her right from the start. She told us we’d be cooking every class and then eating and pairing wines. Amazing. This first class she prepared for us the poor man’s meal of pasta with onions and chile powder and I don’t like 2 out of those 3 ingredients but surprise, surprise, it was delicioso. She paired it with a rosé which was great too. Then we went on a walking tour around the city, stopping at all the best chocolate, gelato, wine etc places. We also went to the top of a department store (I forget the name but I’m definitely going back since I didn’t have my camera because who woulda thought that is where I’d end up on my first day of the class) where you get a whole view of the city and it looks like you can touch the Duomo it’s so close! We finished the tour early because it was raining but nothing could put a damper on that class (pun intended).

So Tuesdays may be my busiest days, but they’ll certainly be the best! Tomorrow I have Italian Culture & Society to look forward to, along with more Italian. Oh, and it’s the same teacher for both classes who I’m obsessed with so that’s a plus.

CIAO!