Surprise ending!

Last night was our API Goodbye Apertivo! So sad. It was at this really good apertivo place that we’ve been to before but it was a little different because all the API kids had a different buffet than the people that were there on their own. AND we couldn’t have alcoholic drinks haha so we told the bartender to just make us something fun and he made what we concluded were raspberry mojitos (minus the booze) and they were super delicious! Might be my new favorite drink! By the time we sat down the food was kind of cold cuz it had been outside and there wasn’t much left so we were kinda bummed but decided we mine as well go get dinner. After some consideration trying to think of our favorite place we decided to try something new and ended up at a restaurant called Il Teatro. The service was kind of slow it took like 20 minutes for them to even notice we were there but once we ordered and got our food it was well worth the wait!

Everyones food was amazing and the wine was one of the best I’ve had! I had just come from my food & wine final (so sad saying goodbye to that class) so I was being annoying and trying to pick a good meal that would work well with the white wine. I got this really great spaghetti dish (hey Mom & Dad I like spaghetti now!) and it didn’t end up being the best match but oh well it was fun trying! They also brought us a bunch of different types of bread with our meal. Once we were all done it was kind of late and we needed to get home to study so we tried to signal the waiter for our check saying, “Posso pagare?” She came over and started asking us why we were leaving so soon and that we need to have another bottle of wine yadda yadda yadda so we told her we needed to study and then she felt bad that we’re “students and have so much stress”…little does she know of the 4 month vacation this has really been…

About 5 minutes later we’re kind of irritated because it’s taken so long to get our check but she just brings us some bottles of water and gives us all spoons. Then she comes back with these huge pieces of tiramisu for each of us! It was so sweet! She was saying complements of the chef so that you can go home and study with a full belly. How nice! The dessert was awesome and everything always tastes better when it’s free so all in all we had an amazing night! Unfortunately it was one of our last nights all eating together with friends from the API program.

Tonight I have been studying for my LAST FINAL! It’s Italian, which I really like and seem to understand well, so I’m not stressing too hard over it. Tomorrow is my last day in Florence and I couldn’t be more upset, I’m just trying not to think about it!

Arrivederci!

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Under the Tuscan Sun

This past weekend was so much fun! My program had an organized trip to many little places around Tuscany that me and my roommates went on. It was just Saturday to Sunday so we had the beginning of the weekend to relax and just hangout. Friday night we made dinner at home and watched She’s the Man, which none of us had seen in forever and quickly remembered how hysterical it is! What happened to Amanda Bynes, she’s crazyyyy now!

The trip left early Saturday morning for Siena. It is a small town and we learned a lot about Catherine of Siena during the tour. There is a beautiful church set up on a big hill that is basically the biggest thing in the town. We finished the tour at a large piazza where we then ate lunch – single slices of pizza! This was the first time all semester that we’ve just been able to eat a slice and it was so nice and a little reminder of home. The slices were huge by the way – like 1/4 of a pie! We ate our slices in the piazza and layed in the sun. I actually fell asleep for a couple minutes just sunbathing. It was nice and relaxing and fun to see a new part of Italy that is so different than Florence yet so close!

From Siena we headed to thermal baths in Rapolano. They were just like those in Budapest but a little smaller and there were more outside. Even though it was a Saturday the spa wasn’t that crowded because it is starting to get warmer and people are heading to the coast! Yes it was around 70 degrees outside but the thermal pools were still amazing to be in…not too cold or too hot! We lounged in the water for a couple of hours before leaving for the hotel. The API ladies had told us they were giving us dinner at the hotel but everyone was kind of like ya ya ok sure because every time we’ve had an organized “dinner” with the group its been just an appertivo buffet that is over crowded and not enough food. However, at 8pm we went to the lobby to check it out and there were set tables. So we sat down and were immediately greeted by a woman spooning pasta in our dishes. Amazing! The pasta was delicious and not even a small portion and my table got seconds! I was so satisfied I didn’t even need anything else, but then came the chicken and potatoes, then salad (the Italians have weird timing with their salads) and then chocolate cake dessert! I was so full it was beautiful. After dinner we all walked into town to this bar that was inside and outside and there was live music under the bridge we were on so that was nice. It was a great ending to a great day and I was excited for the next day!

Sunday we woke up and left for Cortona – where the movie Under the Tuscan Sun was filmed!!!! If you’ve seen the movie (and if you haven’t you must) I don’t need to explain the beauty of the town. The busses dropped us off at the bottom of a huge hill, where Cortona is located, and we had to take little vans up to town because there was a rare car race going on through town. Of course we had a tour and then got to stop and see some of the antique cars. They were antique racecars though, not like the ones you see in parades, and it was exciting to watch them race around the windy roads. After Cortona we went to Castello da Verrazzano for a wine tasting. At this point we were all very tired and a little cranky because they told us it was going to be a short bus ride and it was 2 hours long. Getting off the bus there was a lot of complaining but as soon as we made our way to the Castle gardens everyone shut up. It was absolutely gorgeous filled with lemon trees and fountains and a nice old British lady gave us some history about the castle and the Verrazzano family. We went on a quick tour of the wine cellar then were seated in a grand terrace for the tasting. We tasted 4 wines – 1 white, 2 red, 1 dessert (ew) and had lots of appertivo to go along with it. Prosciutto, salami, bruschetta, olive oil, quiche, biscotti, salad and olives were just a few of the things that were passed around our table. We drank and ate for about an hour and had so much fun meeting the 5 other girls that sat at the table with me, Bre and Michelle. They were all so nice and all from different places and I’m sad I didn’t get to meet them earlier in the trip 😦 The wine tasting was definitely my favorite part of the trip!

2 bad things about the weekend:

1) I somehow managed to get allergies for the first time in my 20 years of existence! As soon as we got on the bus Saturday morning it was like flipping a switch – my nose was uncontrollably running, eyes water, I couldn’t stop sneezing (and I have obnoxious sneezes) and my throat was sore. It was awful. I barely slept Saturday night because I kept having to wake up to blow my nose. Thankfully it didn’t ruin my weekend and I stil managed to have a ton of fun!

2) I forgot I needed to charge my camera battery. So when I turned on my camera in Siena it started to die so I knew I couldn’t take my pictures. So I basically could only take like 1 picture at every place.

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Cinque Terre

Today is the most beautiful day I have had in Florence! Just absolutely perfect weather! I feel so lucky to be here and glad I could share the start of spring with my sister.

A couple of days ago me, her and Justin went to Cinque Terre! It’s a place on the western coast of Italy that is made up of 5 small towns all close together – so close that you can hike from one town to the next in about an hour or two. We woke up early for a 8am train from Florence to Pisa then Pisa to La Spezia then La Spezia to the first town in Cinque: Riomaggiore. It was a lot of travelling but we made it there by 11:30ish. Of course it was a beautiful morning with sunshine and blue skies, which quickly changed as soon as we stepped off the train. Even though it was overcast all day, it actually made for some pretty pictures and we were lucky it never rained! There are a couple hiking trails that run through the towns, but the easy, scenic route by the coast was closed due to landslides. We were pretty bummed but decided we’d spend time in the towns then take the 2 minute train rides in between.

Riomaggiore was exactly what I pictured it to be! So many colorful boats lined up on the coast, huge cliffs and rocky shores. The water was a beautiful acqua color with random rocks and sandbars all around. Me and Jill had a little photoshoot before we got on the next train to the third city. We decided to skip the second because we knew there was a lot to do in the 3rd, 4th and 5th towns! The third town is called Corniglia and was less than a 5 minute train ride form Riomaggiore – I told you they were close!! There was a huge crowd getting off the train and we kind of got swept up with all the people walking up the hill on the road. It seemed like there was no where else to go so we just followed until people started dispersing to different restaurants for lunch. We didn’t want to stop yet so we continued to walk until we found the path that was closed off. There was man there who told us we could “go at our own risk” and we figured if they even said that then it couldn’t be too bad. So we went down the forbidden path! Such rebels.

The hike was amazzzingggg!!! Probably one of the best things I’ve done here. It was manmade, which was good because I was expecting to be like in the dirt on the side of a mountain, and pretty difficult. We were definitely sweating at times and was glad the weather wasn’t any warmer than 60s. There were cute bridges and lots of flowers and streams and it was just really nice to be in nature. Oh and there were of course awesome views!! It took us about 2 hours to get from Corniglia to Vernazza (4th town) where we stopped for lunch outside on the water. I got a sandwich, Jill had some gnocchi, and Justin a pizza. Then we took the train from there to Monterosso where we were staying for the night. We were in a really cute B&B right in the center of town! Once we got there and put all our things down it was around 4 and we figured we should spend the last few hours of daylight exploring this last town. We went on a few paths up cliffs and saw an old church and statues and little shops in town. Everything was very quaint and pretty and I would definitely go back there!

For dinner we went to a tiny restaurant right next to where we were staying. The town was really quiet at night and we figured it was beacuse it was a Thursday so not many people stay over on week nights, and it’s not really the season to visit there yet – the summer months are probably more popular. So there was basically just us and locals eating in this tiny restaurant. I have been on a seafood kick and wanting to try all these new foods so we ordered muscles to start. I’ve never had muscles before but I’ve served them and know they come in a garlicy buttery juice…these didn’t! They were just so fresh and still had barnacles on the shells! I thought they were delicious and Jill and Justin said they were the best and freshest they’ve ever had. So now I might be let down every where else I have them in the states but you can’t really go wrong with garlic and butter anyways. Then for dinner we all ordered seafood again. I got gnocchi with clams and a local white fish in a tomato cream sauce and it was no lie the best thing I’ve EVER eaten. Beats everything even in my food & wine class! (maybe) Jillian got some spaghetti scampi that she was a little scared of because the crawfish were fully intact with their heads on and she made Justin take the meat out for her…and Justin got grilled swordfish! We all agreed it was the best meal we’d had in a long time! And basically now I’m on a seafood binge but it’s hard because I can’t really make it here in my apartment 😦 So sad.

Some pics from the trip:

 

Spring Break Part 1

So happy to be home!! Thankfully, today is a national holiday so we didn’t have classes and had the day to recuperate and relax. Me and my roommates walked around in the nice weather and ended up at the pizza place where the Jersey Shore worked when they were here. The pizzas were awesome and we ate them outside in Piazza Republica. But that doesn’t matter so let me explain my spring break!

For my break I went on an organized trip called the Eastern Loop. I went with my friends Hannah, Ashley and Erin and there were only 37 of us on the whole trip! We left Thursday night from Florence at 9 pm and drove through the night to Ljubljana, (pronounced “Lubiana”) Slovenia. We got to our hostel, which used to be an old jail, at 3:30 am. There were cell bars in the rooms behind our doors it was cool!

Hostel in Slovenia

Hostel in Slovenia

Friday morning we had a tour of the city and our tour guide was so cute! We learned a lot about the history of the city and how they have lots of myths about dragons. The city was very small and had lots of cute restaurants and shops running along both sides of a river. We got lucky because it was in the 60s and sunny so I got some color while walking around. After the tour we got lunch and sat outside by the river, it was the first time in Europe that I had a salad with actual salad dressing! As in not just olive oil and balsamic vinegar. This is something I really do miss about the U.S. Then we walked up a steep (a lot steeper than I had anticipated) hill to a castle with amazing views of the Swiss Alps. Our tour guide encouraged us to go up there for the view because it had just snowed on the Alps the day before.

View from the castle

View from the castle

That night our whole group went out for a traditional Slovenian dinner. It wasn’t really anything I haven’t had before. It was four courses, consisting of salad, soup, main course and dessert. The soup was really good, some time of beef broth with asian noodles, the main course was a huge chicken cutlet with vegetables and rice and then dessert was an apple pie-type pastry. It just wasn’t in the shape of a normal pie piece and definitely had other fruit in it, but it was called ‘apple pie’. Everything was delicious and I had a glass of the white wine, which Slovenia is famous for. I loved the city because it was so cute and reminded me of home, or more like downtown Newburyport by the water. In retrospect it isn’t anything like home, but when I haven’t been home in so long random things bring me back.

The next morning, Saturday, we woke up and checked out of the hostel to depart for Lake Bled. Apparently, it is one of the top-rated wake-boarding lakes in the world! It was beautiful but didn’t compare to the beauty of the lakes in Switzerland. However, the surroundings were much nicer. There was another castle at the top of a hill in the background that many people on the trip walked up to, but we chose not to. We walked around the lake, it took about an hour or so, and then got the famous pastry, Kremsnita, at a cafe with gorgeous water views. It was a custard/vanilla/flaky pastry that was DELICIOUS!! I also got a piece of carrot cake 🙂 We left the lake mid-afternoon for Budapest, Hungary.

Kremsnita

Kremsnita

BUDAPEST IS AMAZING!! I am aware I need to come up with better adjectives than “awesome”, “amazing” and “beautiful” but I can’t think of any right now. Anyways, I really am obsessed with Budapest (but not as much as Prague so just wait til I get there!). The city is so unique in that it is actually two cities – Buda and Pest – separated by the Danube river that runs through. The Buda side is more suburban and smaller, but we stayed in the Pest side which is the urban, city part. The Chain Bridge, along with many other bridges, is the most famous that connects the two sides. We made it to Budapest around 10pm and immediately showered and went out on the town! The four of us, and some girls we made friends with on the trip, went to an underground club that was insane! It was so big and had tons of graffiti and writings on the walls and was just a really cool atmosphere. They also served food late and had these amazing hot sandwiches that were about a foot long and hit the spot after a long day of being on the bus.

The next morning we woke up for a walking tour of the city that ended up being FREEZING COLD! I knew it was going to be colder on this trip, but was not ready for temperatures in the teens and snow! I only had my leather boots and my feet froze. The tour was enjoyable for the first half and then once it got too cold we kind of just stopped and got lunch and warmed up. That day we went to these markets outside (once we had revived ourselves in a warm cafe) and found t0-die-for dessert. They were these cylinders of dough that are cooked over coal and then rolled in cinnamon and sugar. AMAZING! They also had these in Prague but they were smaller there 😦 BUT the Prague ones had Nutella inside :)!!!!!

Delicious!

Delicious!

Back to Budapest, from the markets we navigated the metro system to the House of Terror. I wasn’t a fan of going there, but I figured its part of history and I should learn more about history and the war etc. So for those who don’t know what this place is, it’s basically where the secret police operated in Hungary during World War 2. It has exhibits dedicated to fascist and communist dictator regimes during that time. It was a really somber and depressing place to go, but I am glad I saw it and it definitely prepared me for my trip to Auschwitz.

On Monday we made it to the famous THERMAL BATHS! Basically, the best part of the whole trip hands down! Before we went there though, we had to check out the Grand Central Market, the largest in Budapest. We shopped around and I finally got some gloves that are cute and knitted and Hannah and Ashley got this amazing looing lango (I think that’s what it was called). It was just a fried dough circle but with toppings and they got Nutella (obv) and bananas! Wish I had some but for once in my life it was too early for me to eat sweets. After the market we headed to the thermal baths! There are a couple different places to go, but the one we went to was called Szechenyi. It’s a spa that has about 15 pools, some inside and some outside, that are heated naturally by two thermal springs. There is a lot of sulphate in the water and so the inside pools smelt of sulfur and were kind of gross to be in. Outside though, was, wait for it, AMAZING! (someone get me a thesaurus) The first outside pool we went in had a lazy river and bubblers but wasn’t has warm as we’d liked, especially because it was SNOWING! Yes, I was outside in the a bathing suit in a pool in March in a snow storm!! After about 30 minutes in that first pool we decided the other pool looked better. The only bad thing was that you had to get out of one pool and run to the other – in bare feet in the snow! But we managed and that second pool was soo incredible. We just sat there on the steps of the pool, submerged to our necks, absolutely relaxed. We had made massage appointments and so only had about an hour to stay in that pool, which was fine considering the recommended time was 20 minutes in the pool, but I would have actually stayed there all day. Before getting our massages we hopped around from pool to pool inside, but like I said they smelled gross and were filled with old people in speedos and bikinis. Ok now let me get to the massage! UGH! So good! It was an hour and I was just soo relaxed I fell asleep at one point. At another point I burst out laughing but oh well. After the massages we left (around 7 pm) and had to trek back in the snow to the hostel. But it wasn’t far! That night we got dinner at a local place that was really cute with live music. And we treated ourselves to 2 desserts!

Thermal Baths at night in the snow!

Thermal Baths at night in the snow!

I’m going to stop here for now because I need to make sure I do my Italian homework due tomorrow! I have to write a journal of every day’s activities on break! I’ll probably finish the trip later tonight or if not, tomorrow! OH and of course, more pictures to come!

Midterms

It’s been so long since I’ve blogged! I’m just about done with midterms (thank goodness) and will be leaving for Spring Break tomorrow night! I just have to get through my Italian midterm first. It shouldn’t be too hard, I feel like I know more than I think I do. We have been reviewing all week but nothing can prepare me for the listening part because the Italians talk so fast and it’s impossible to hear through the little speaker that my teacher plays it through. Oh well. My other three midterms were easier than I thought, and a lot shorter. Basically just 10 short answers. The teachers here really want you to pass because they know everyone is studying abroad and doesn’t care much about schoolwork while we’re here.

Last weekend was my first weekend staying here in Florence for a month, and boy was it relaxing! So nice not to have to wake up really early and get on a bus then a plane then a train etc. and we didn’t have to go out to eat every night and actually made our first “family meal” since we’ve been here! Me, Michelle and Hannah made chicken cutlets, steamed broccoli, and a new pasta dish I found on Pinterest – it was all so good! And we had leftover so we could eat it the next day too. Sunday was St. Patrick’s day and even in Florence it’s crazy! We did a bar crawl during the day and all got green shirts that have The David on them with a clover and wig on they’re cute.

Yesterday in my food & wine midterm my teacher made food for us after we finished the test and it was just this saffron risotto that was amazing!!! I had never had risotto before and I’m glad I got too, because that’s probably not something I would order out at a restaurant. I’m all about the homemade pastas. And pizza. And seafood.

Even though midterms are over tomorrow I’m actually depressed that it means we’re halfway through the semester. Tomorrow I leave for Spring Break and will be gone TEN DAYS and miss Easter 😦 and then it’s APRIL. I’m excited because I have visitors coming in April but it scares me how close this is to over. I refuse to leave! This will probably be my last blog until I come home, unless I have some time to blog from my phone while I’m travelling but I can’t promise anything!

Eastern Europe awaits!

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Padova & Venezia

Last weekend I traveled to Padua and Venice with my program! It seemed like the longest weekend ever even though we were only gone from Saturday to Sunday. I had a hard time packing because it was forecasted to rain all weekend long and I didn’t want to wear my boots and ruin them, so I chose to wear sneakers. Also, my raincoat isn’t that warm so I had to wear a lot of layers under it.

We left Saturday morning at 8:30 and I mistakenly led my roomies to the wrong bus stop..oops! Two busses meet at one place and the other two meet at another. Luckily, they let us on one of the busses because there was room. It took about 3 hours to get to this little organic farm in Padua (Padova in Italian) for our first stop. It wasn’t raining out just extremely gross like foggy, cloudy and humid. We couldn’t walk too far into the farm because it had been raining all week and the ground was disgusting, but we did get to see some cows and chickens. They all smelled so bad EW! Then we went inside and had a homemade organic meal fresh from the farm! The first course was pasta with a meat sauce that was really amazing! Then they gave us fresh cheeses, sausage and polenta (a Padovian specialty), and then finally homemade cookies and cake! Lunch was great and then we got back on the bus to head to the center of town for a tour. The tour was really interesting and we learned about how Galileo studied at the University of Padua, which is where he discovered the Milky Way. We also went into the Basilica of Saint Anthony where there was sooo much old stuff. We couldn’t take pictures inside the church and that was kind of annoying. Inside the church there was a statue of the first female graduate ever from Univ of Padua. That night we went out to dinner with a big group and had a lot of fun then went out to this bar where like all of our program was so I got to meet a lot of new people.

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Galileo (with a bird on his head)

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The next day we woke up early and drove an hour to Venice. The city is made of 118 islands with 400 bridges WOW! We parked our bus and then had to take a 30 minute water taxi to the main island and saw the BEST views of Venice. We got off the boat and met for a tour where we saw the majority of the city. It was cold and wet and I was starving the whole time so right after the tour we ate lunch! Then went shopping. I got some Murano glass that is made only in Venice and then we just window shopped and walked around the rest of the day. Venice was extremely beautiful but I feel like all my pictures came out bad because the sky was gray and gloomy.

Finally this coming weekend I’m staying in Florence! It’ll be my first weekend in over a month here and I can’t wait to have so much more time to explore. We plan on climbing the over 400 stairs to the top of the Duomo tomorrow!

Spring?

It’s raining today..and has been since Tuesday..and will continue to until next Thursday! I guess that’s normal for around here during the change into spring. So at least that’s good, spring is coming! It was nice enough to layout and get a tan on Monday, which I guess was just a tease. I had my yoga class this morning and our teacher told us it sometimes will rain the whole month of March. Yuck!! We are going to Padua & Venice this weekend with our program and Venice is already a wet-enough city! I don’t have rainboots here with me so I’m a little curious as to how this weekend is going to turn out. None of us have heard of Padua but apparently it’s a “hidden gem” or Northeast Italy. Sounds exciting!

Tonight we’re going out to eat with a big group of girls to this place called Dante’s where students get free wine and big groups usually get a lot of free food we’ve heard, and then going to a DMB cover band!! We have class tomorrow (on a FRIDAY!) because apparently schools in Italy think it is necessary to make up class time that we have off for Holidays!? For example, tomorrow we have a Monday schedule day for when we miss class Monday, April 1 for Easter Monday! I also didn’t know there was an Easter Monday in addition to Easter Sunday. Hmm…

Let’s hope the rain lets up before my trip to Venice!

Pictures from Spain!

Barcelona bound!

I’m currently in Barcelona, Spain waiting for the rest of my friends to wake up from a midday siesta. We got here around noon after traveling on bus to Pisa then took out first RyanAir flight (surprisingly not scary at all) then another bus from the airport to the city center and from there the metro! So much transportation, but ya gotta do what you gotta do! We made it to our hostel around noon and somehow we lucked out with what I would say is the best hostel ever. It’s smackdab in the center of Barcelona, they provide a walking tour, breakfast and pub crawls all included for 13.5 euro a night…doesn’t seem real! There are six of us so we have two rooms of 3 with huge bathrooms too!

Once we were settled in we walked outside to find somewhere to eat lunch. We ended up at a cozy cafe where we got tappas, sangria and of course, churros! They gave us hot chocolate to dip the churros in too – amazing! We all sat and enjoyed each other and laughed probably the hardest I have on this trip for hours together at lunch…it was a great way to start the trip!

The wifi has been down at our apartment since Wednesday. At first it was awful not being able to communicate with the outside world but by the second day it was kind of nice to disconnect. I’ll be sure to keep everyone posted on my trip to Barca by the end of the weekend!

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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!