Monday, January 12, 2009

the end

Okay so I relaize I have been home now for three weeks, and the Italy chapter has ended. But...I also thought that I should probably let you all know that I am safely home.

Well actually, I am safely at my second home in Nashville. Classes started on Wednesday, so I am already back into the swing of things here. Classes are gonna be tough, and taking classes in English is kinda weird. I find myself trying to pay in Euors still, and the occasional "grazie" slips out instead of "thanks." It's weird. I didn't think that I really knew Italian that well, but I find myself thinking in Italian, and then Spanish, and then finally back to English. AHHH how confusing!

Anyways...the final days of Firenze were fabulous. I went to a football/calcio/soccer game the last weekend before finals. So intense! The fans were out of control, and the visitors sat in a caged off glass section! Haha. I guess when there are really big rivals playing the crowds get a little violent and out of control.

Then I had finals. A week of hell. 3 papers, 5 exams, 4 days. Terrible. But it's long overby now, and the semester turned out very well. I'm sad now that I am not in Italy, though it's nice to be back in the USA!

Well, I'm not sure if anyone will actually read this post since it's been a while since I got back, but I'm so used to updating this blog every couple weeks now that it will be strange to put an end to it. Hope everyone is doing phenomenally!

Ciao ciao

Monday, December 1, 2008


Just thought you all would want to know...I jinxed my good luck. Got up to take a shower...NO HOT WATER. Figures. Also, no heat. And, even better, two hours later we went from having no hot water to NO WATER AT ALL. Doesn't help that last night was the coldest it has been since I got here. Thunderstorm now, snow in the forecast! Of course the one time it decides to snow in Florence is the one night that the heat is broken. Now all of this would be fine if I had some extra blankets or clothes to pile on. But no such luck on the blankets. And clothes? Well, I haven't done the wash in about 3 weeks due to the lack of hot water...every time I go to put anything in the washing won't run. I don't think I have really ever missed doing my laundry until now. So in the mean time, the cold water is back. Perhaps I will be attempting another ladle shower. Good thing the stove still works.

OH P.S. I completely forgot to mention yesterday that I went to the Olympic Village in Barcelona from the 1992 games. The stadium/track, pool, and baseball field were all being used, but it was really cool to see all the monuments built there. There was a "walk of fame" of sorts--just a bunch of plaques of different athletes' footprints, all in their shoes. Lance Armstrong has super tiny feet, and Roger Federer has huge feet! And it was funny to see all the different types of shoes for different sports. It's so strange to think that those games happened 16 years makes me feel old.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


I know it's been a while since I have updated you all on my European status...but here I am, just back from Spain, with more great stories of course! But first I will start out with my Florence adventures before heading off to Barcelona for the holiday.

After a horrible weekend last week, I finally turned in two papers totaling an astonishing THIRTY FOUR pages. I spent the better part of my week at the library, but I finally finished two research papers: one on the Mafia (which was super interesting), and one on Bernini's sculpture of Apollo and Daphne. I could not be happier to get those out of my hands. So, after quite a stressful weekend, Tuesday night became my official Thanksgiving. A bunch of us decided it would be fun to have Thanksgiving together before we all headed our separate ways for the long weekend, so we rented out a giant room in a restaurant close to our school. The chef there offered to make us an American Thanksgiving feast, with turkey and everything! He had to get a lot of the food imported from other places, and he even had one of his American friends teach him how to cook a turkey Thanksgiving style. The food turned out surprisingly delicious. There was turkey, obviously, but we also had real bread, with
butter, mashed potatoes with gravy, sweet potatoes, salad, green beans, stuffing, and of course, pumpkin pie. mm mm gooood. The dinner was great, but even more entertaining were all the confused Italians in the rest of the restaurant wondering what the hell was happening. Random people kept peeking in...probably thinking "what are those Americans doing, why is there so much food, and how are they really eating all of that in one sitting?!" Quite amusing...

So after a delicous Thanksgiving, Barcelona was only a train, bus, and plane ride away. Who knew that we would need to leave 8 hours before our scheduled flight to get there on time?! Seems a bit rediculous to me, but hey, whatever saves money! So...we got into Barcelona at last, checked into our hostel, and wandered around the neighborhood at 11pm, starving and searching for anything edible. The first place looked a little was called "Bar Granja," Spanish for "Farm Bar." Now, I don't know about you, but any place with the name farm in it doesn't exactly sound appetizing. So we moved on. The next place we found was definitely right up our American alley...HotDoks. Yes, we found a hot dog place. And they had fries. With salt. At last...a country that uses salt in their food...Halleluia! So after a wonderfully American meal, we headed off to bed, ready to explore Barcelona. The next day we took the metro downtown. It was so easy to get around in that city. I love that the metro is actually on time and takes you everywhere. It was so easy! I felt like by the end of the weekend I knew Barcelona better than Florence! So after learning the ins and outs of Spanish public transportation, we ventured around the water and walked up and down La Rambla, the famous main shopping street in Barcelona. We found an incredible market. (I have decided that markets are just fabulous, and every time I see a market now I go crazy). But this market, La Boqueria, was phenomenal. Huge. Massive. Blocks long. I have never seen so much fruit piled into one location. Or meat for that matter. But not in the same place...that would be gross. There were some interesting selections to say the least. My favorite was probably the random pig heads. One of them was even decked out in some sweet sunglasses. We saw full chickens, with the feathers still attached, needing to be plucked out, and pig brains, intestines, hooves, all sorts of fish, octupus, shark. You name it. I was very amused at all this, but I don't think Lauren was feelin' it (she's a vegetarian), unfortunately, we didn't last too long in there.

Then we wandered around the waterfront. It reminded me a lot of California...Shoreline Village. The harbor was full of giant sail boats everywhere, and we walked over to the aquarium. Then we had lunch at a Spanish/Mexican restaurant. And then the trip took a turn for the worse. At the time, the chicken and cheese enchiladas smothered in green chile sounded like a grrrreat idea. I will come back to this... So after a tasty lunch, we wandered back to the area around our hostel. It started raining so we went to watch a movie for a bit, and then that night we headed to Hard Rock Cafe for a good ole American Thanksgiving treat. Sounds like we ate a lot of American just so happens that Hard Rock cafe was the place to be for Thanksgiving, and it was really fun sitting around, meeting a bunch of random Americans from all over the place. The best part was when some guy accidentally elbowed me in the back. I turned around, he apologized, then we were about to go our separtate ways when he said hi. He looked vaguely familiar, so I asked him where he went to school...He said he had already graduated and was just visiting Barcelona for the week, but he went to...Vanderbilt. Of course. So then we had that moment where I was like "Oh my gosh,
I go to Vanderbilt!" We got to talking about that, and I asked him what his major was. Commnications and Spanish. Of course. So I run into some random person in Barcelona from Vanderbilt who studied the same thing that I am now. What a small world. Turns out he looked familiar because we had class together last semester. Weird.

So that was Thanksgiving. But then three o clock in the morning rolled around...and that "tasty" lunch from earlier that day seemed to be making a comeback. Lauren and I were up all night, sick to our stomachs. Food poisoning is horrible! So all night and the next day were not so fun. We went to see La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi's famous unfinished cathedral, but both of us were hunched over in pain the whole time that we went back to the hostel for the rest of the day. Bummer. It's a good thing we had quite a bit of time...we still ended up doing most of the stuff we wanted to on Saturday. Saturday was a much, much better day. We got up early, it was pouring, and seemed like a great day for museums. We went to the Picasso museum first. WOW. He had so many different styles...I had no idea that his early works were so realistic. It was definitely the coolest art gallery I have ever been to. To think that every single thing in that museum was done by Picasso is just unbelievable, and that is supposedly a small collection! It was also a relief to look at something that wasn't painted between 1430 and 1680. Renaissance art is so engrained in my head that looking at all Picasso's abstract works made the whole thing even more enjoyable. I could have spent hours in there. But remember...I was traveling with two girls who hate looking at art for more than 20 minutes. So I was kinda bummed, but I did make sure to see everything quickly. Then we went to the Chocolate museum. SO MUCH FUN! It was pretty small, but so cool!!! There were sculptures of horses and people and animals...pretty much anything...but sculpted in chocolate. And there was a bunch of stuff about the history of chocolate. Apparently Americans, on average, eat about 11 pounds of chocolate per year (that's an individual person!), and the Swiss eat about TWENTY THREE POUNDS! Woah. That is a ton of chocolate. That's
billions of pounds of chocolate consumed in just one year! I was baffled at that thought. And maybe a little disguted. But of course, I ended up eating a ton of chocolate later that day, after visiting the gift shop. Haha.

Saturday night we went on a tour that I found on a brochure in our hostel. It included a Spanish dinner of tapas and sangria, and a flamenco show. The tapas were good...just pieces of bread with different toppings, like the Spanish version of a sandwhich, but with only one piece of bread. The flamenco show was one hundred percent my favorite part of the trip. The dancing was incredible, and the music even better. I have never seen anyone move their feet so quickly, and the expression and emotion in the dancing was so intense. And the Spanish guitar was beautiful. The show didn't last very long, but it was definitely worth it. And so, that was the end of our Barcelona adventure. I loved Spain...and it was so fun being in a country where I actually know the language. I mean, I know enough Italian by now to get around and ask questions, but knowing Spanish was great! I got directions, talked to people in stores, ordered stuff at restaurants, and just had random conversations all in Spanish. I didn't realize how well I knew the language until I was actually there using it. The words just came out, second nature, I didn't even have to think about it. It almost makes me regret not studying in Spain. Almost. So now I am just more determined to speak in Italian everywhere I go. Surprisingly, I found myself thinking a lot in Italian while I was in Spain. So that must mean I am retaining something! The two languages are so similar that at first it's really hard to tell them apart, especially from a distance. But when I got back to Florence today and heard people speaking Italian, it sounded so different for the first time. Cool.

So now, once again, I am back to my little bedroom in Florence, waiting for something new and exciting to tell you. It's currently thunderstorming outside, and I am a little nervous that the power could go out. In which case, I would have no idea what to do. We don't have candles or flashlights. And it's night. I can just imagine that happening, and the power not coming back on for a week or so. That would be typical Italy...especially considering last week we had no hot water or heat in our apartment for three days. That was miserable. It was colder inside the apartment than outside...and it was about 50 degrees outside. I had to wear everything I owned to keep from shivering in the middle of the night. And I showered by using a ladle to pour hot water on my hair, which I got by boiling water on the stove. It was quite a sight...and quite a disaster. So yes, I am back in Florence, with power and heat and hot water. For now.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

finally, some more pictures

A few more snapshots...and a new post below!

At the saltmines in our great outfits...and Hitler's hideaway house.

The hills are alive with sound of music...

Lucerne along the river, and the Dying Lion sculpture.

In Paris! Bird's eye view of the city and Moulin Rouge.

The Opera House and, just for you Brooke, some girl with a panda sweatshirt.

A shot of the bridge, and WOW! the Eiffel Tower.


Another trip this past weekend, and I am exhanusted! We had classes in Venice, so our whole program took a train and left Florence to explore the land of canals. We left on Friday morning and got to Venice around noon, then took a water taxi to our hotel! Talk about inconvenient...those things move so slowly I could probably swim faster. But that would be gross...the canals smell terrible. One of the girls fell in. She reeked of sewage water the whole next day...gross.

Anyways, Venice was beautiful and the weather couldn't have been better. No rain! The only down side to the weekend? Class. Usually it's not too bad, but the lectures we had were so long and boring. On Friday we walked around all of Venice and went to a bunch of churches and saw San Marco (and obviously frolicked around with the pigeons), but our professor kept going and going and literally FIVE HOURS LATER we were done, only to do the same thing on Saturday...and Sunday. So I could say that I truly experienced the finest Venetian culture, but really I spent more time inside churches, fading in and out of listening because my stomach would start growling, or something else would distract me. O well! During the little free time that we actually had I got to go on gondola ride. I went with two other girls, and some random German couple (so not exactly the most picturesque, romantic expectation, but great nonetheless) and we ate cookies and sipped wine while our nerdy gondolier showed us around the city. There are no cars anywhere in Venice...I think that was favorite part about it. You didn't have to worry about getting hit or run over like in Florence. And there weren't really any bikers either. (Speaking of which...I was walking to get lunch yesterday and some lady decided to run into me on her bicycle. She just peddled into me and then yelled at me and rang her little bell while she continued to peddle. I don't think she understood that she would have to go around me, not through me).

But yeah...the gondola ride was wonderful. And then we had a group dinner. SEAFOOD at last! Obviously Venice is known for having delicious seafood, so I had some shrimp rice stuff and clam spaghetti and some sort of white fish with potatoes and peppers for dinner. yummm. I was little bummed to miss out on dessert...but I left early to go see a chamber concert of Vivaldi's Four Seasons. It was incredible. I don't usually go for the all instrumental
classical stuff, but these musicians were unbelievable. Best part ofthe whole concert: the cellist had his nose pierced. It was pretty subtle, but every now and then he would start swaying his head around and the light would catch it just right, and the little diamond stud would glitter. It got to the point where I just couldn't stop his emotional sway dancing expression was hilarious. He was def into the music way more than any of the other guys. Hah.

Other than exploring around some of the glass shops (which were extremely colorful and beautiful), that really was the extent of my Venice adventure. I think I did a lot with the little free time that we actually had. So now I'm back in Florence with no plans for the weekend and I couldn't be happier. Perhaps I will try to get ahead on some of my work?! Doubtful...I will probably waste my time watching TV on the internet. I found an awesome site that lets you download episodes from pretty much any show, any season. Dangerous. Currently I am "catching up" on about 7 shows. In other words...I sit in my bed and watch Grey's Anatomy for 4 hours before doing my homework. Then once I'm caught up on that...I move on to One Tree Hill, Desperate Housewives, Gossip name it, I'm pathetic.

Well, in the hope of being productive, I'm gonna go read some more of my Mafia book for a research paper. A plus...the reading is actually interesting, and it's for a class. Who would have thought...

Monday, November 3, 2008

Fall Break

After what was quite the long, exhausting week traveling around, I am finally back in Florence! The week was so incredible...I don't know where to begin, so I'll go from the beginning...but this is gonna be a long one.

Day One: The clock screams 4:15 AM, and I am out of bed. We caught a 5 AM bus to Pisa, where we flew out to Paris. So far, smooth travels...remember that. After the quick hour flight, we caught a train to the metro station and then took the metro to out hotel in Paris. Unfortunately...we caught the wrong metro. 4 hours later...and finally we found the hotel. I suppose the fact that I spoke the best French out of our group didn't help, considering I only know bonjour, si vous ples, and merci. Maybe we should have brought a French guide? Well, it probably wouldn't have been so entertaining to take the easy way out! So after quite the log haul to find our hotel, we ventured back onto the subway and headed downtown. We saw all the usual sights...Eiffel Tower, the Lourve, Champs de Elysse, Arc di Triumph, Notre Dame, the Opera House, and a bunch of amazing churches. They were all so incredible. The Eiffle Tower is soooo's hard to imagine how man actually built that monstronsity. But then again, the same goes for the Notre Dame, and pretty much everything giant and amazing in Europe. WOW. My favorite place? I bet you can guess...The Opera House. O MY GOODNESS GRACIOUS I have never been inside a place that was so inspirational. I suddenly felt like I should just bust out an aria...but I'm pretty sure the people rehearsing wouldn't have appreciated that. This is the opera house that inspired The Phantom of the Opera...there actually is a lake underneath it...sooo coool, but you can't actually see the lake (it was put there when construction started for some sort of architectural purpose). Oh it was so beautiful...decorated all in gold and ruby red...just like you would imagine from hundreds of years ago. We saw the Mona Lisa at the Louvre...she is quite small...and you can't even get very close to see her, so that was kind of a bummer. But the rest of Leonardo's collection was there...and those were awesome! And then of course we saw a bunch of other stuff that is famous...but not in comparison.

In my hope to write a shorter novel than this entry will already be, I'm just gonna let you fill in the details about the rest of Paris...except I must mention the FOOD. One day we decided to have a little French picnic, so I found a market, and we all got French baguettes and rotisserie chicken and fruit and cheese...and had a Parisian picnic under the Eiffel Tower! That was by far the best meal I cheap and so yummy. I also had some amazing apple crepes one day...and obviously we found a Mexican restaurant for dinner one night. Haha. It figures that I would find the one Mexican restaurant in Paris and decide to eat there. Oh, and I can't forget Angelina's and hot chocolate. We waited in line for an hour just to get seated at this cafe that had the most delicious hot chocolate I've ever was milk chocolate and white chocolate mixed creamy. yummm

Ok moving on...We got to the train station on Day Four of our European adventure...only to find out that our train tickets that were advertised online for 80 euro had decided to jump up to 150 euro. wallet took a hit after that. But it all turned out well, and thankfully we left just in time to avoid the giant snowstorm that hit Zurich one day later...we never would have made it to Lucerne. So after a four hour train ride, we took the bus to Erin's aunt's friend's house, and we stayed with her family. It was very nice to have a real bed to sleep in, a home cooked meal, and real people to spend time with! Annie (that's the friend) made us fondue the night we got was so scrumptous. Oh, and we had carmel apples and some more hot style...for dessert. On Wednesday we bundled up to face the SNOW that had fallen overnight, and we ventured into Lucerne to explore the old town. Too bad we couldn't really see the mountains--the fog was thick, but Lucerne is right at the base of the Swiss Alps. I really would have wanted to go skiing, but there wasn't enough snow on the ground (or enough money in my wallet...) But we wandered the streets...the buildings are so pretty...painted and decorated in Medieval style. We saw the famous dying lion statue there...It's this sculpture of a giant lion, like 3 times life size, that is carved into the side of a mountain. It seems pretty random, but it was really cool. And then we went to a glacier museum and a mirror maze, which was quite entertaining, and very disorienting! After a quick stop at STARBUCKS (yes, starbucks...I have never been so happy to find one) we headed back to the bus and back to the house and back to the train station.

Night: Zurich Train Station: Dark, Cold, Scary. The adventures of the night train begin! Okay, so yes it was dark and cold, but scary? Not at all! That's probably because we got a 4 person cabin, so no strangers! And the conductor was super nice and became our best friend. He woke us up in the morning to make sure we didn't miss out stop in Slazburg. Not that we were actually sleeping in the first place...worst "mattress" I've ever slept on. So we got into Salzburg at 4:30 AM, ready to go...but apparently the town wasn't ready for us! It was we wandered over to our hotel (which turned out to be extrememly nice...4 stars...a great find by Olivia!). We hung out in the lobby for a couple hours, and then the manager was nice enough to let us check into our rooms at 7 AM...that's 6 hours earlier than we expected, and it was very nice to sleep for a few hours before facing the cold again. All day Thursday we just explored Salzburg. It was my second time there (since my choir trip senior year of high school) I split off from some off the other girls, and Kristen and I took an adventure of our own. First we explored the cemetery..yes I know that sounds like a creepo thing to do, but it is so beautiful and peaceful there...and we ventured up throught the catacombs in the side of the mountain. That was neat. Then we took a finicular up to the top of the mountain and explored the ancient castle walls. The view was ended up clearing up by the time we got to the top, so you could see all the Alps and the hills and pastures, and the entire city spread out below. We couldn't stop taking pictures. We also wandered around a marionette museum while we were up there...that was silly. Kristen and I attempted to work our own little show. It's much harder than you would think to move those suckers around! After a few hours and some more hot chocolate, we went back down he mountain and found a great restaurant. We had soup and crisp apple strudel! We felt quite Austrian. Then we walked around the town, eventually ending at our hotel across the river. Early to bed, and early to rise for the Sound of Music tour! My halloween consisted of a bus full of random people singing along to all the sound of music songs and seeing all the places where the movie was shot. That was fun...even though I had seen most of the sights before, our tour guide was hilarious. He asked a little boy on our bus why cows wear bells...and the little boy answered, "Well, it's because their horns don't work!" Haha...he was pretty clever. Oh, and then between sites, our tour guide decided it would be a great idea to teach the entire bus a new rendition of the "Do, Re, Mi" song (some German guys taught it to him on the last tour). It goes a little something like this:

Do, a beer, a German beer.
Ray, the guy who serves the drinks.
Me, the one I buy beer for.
Far, a long way to the bar.
So, I think I'll have a beer.
La, la la la la la la.
Tea, no thanks, I'll have a beer.

So then we all sang along...hilarious. Anyways...after that tour we headed off to see the saltmines. We actually crossed the border to Germany, and on the way we saw Hitler's house, and all the areas he developed during WWII. That was kinda creepy, but man, he did pick quite a beautiful location. I'd live there. So when we got to the saltmines we had to wear jumpsuits and take a little mini choo choo train (like the ones in the mall for little kids) into the mine, and then we got SLIDE down the shafts! We linked into groups of four and then held on tight and slid down the mine! It was sooo much being 6 years old again! And then we got see how salt was extracted from the earth, and learn about how salt used to be so valuable that it was used as money, and cool stuff like that. And then...we saw the salt lake. It looked like a mirror...I couldn't even tell it was water at first. It's this lake in the middle of the mine that is soooo salty (we got to taste it...yuck) but so incredibly crisp and clear. We took a boat across the lake, and they play a super sweet, but very corny, light show while we went across. And then after seeing some salt deposits, we took a finicular back up the mine, and the little choo choo train out. It felt like an educational DisneyLand experience. The jumpsuits totally sealed the deal. Plus, now I can say I really did dress up for Halloween!

So that was the end of our eurotrip...all that was left to do was to get back to florence. Seems easy enough, right?

Wrong. Although our flights were already booked, the train already settled, everything in order, there was obviously no way to avoide all glitches. The flying went smootly. We arrived in Milan at 8, and then had to take an hour bus ride from the airport to the train station. Duhn Duhn Duhn...disaster. When we got to the train station, the 10 train we planned on taking wasn't running. There's Italy for you...completely unreliable transportation system. So, in a frantic occurance of events the folloing took place:
We ran over to an internet cafe to look up our options.
1. Get comfy in the sketchy Milan train station, try to sleep (but not really, since we would have to watch our stuff, praying it wouldn't get stolen), and then catch an early train out. um...NO
2. Find a hotel within our budget (not likely) and then take the train at 5:30 the next morning.
or 3. Go back to the airport, one hour away, in a speeding taxi to get there by midnight in time to rent a car before they closed, proceed to drive 4 hours across Italy in the dead of the night, through fog and rain, and get back to florence at 4.
We went with option 3. Obviously! It was quite the adventure...
but luckily it all worked out, and there were limited crazy Italian drivers on the road. We were perfectly safe, just very exhausted. I have never been so glad to get back to my crummy, mini twin size bed in Florence.

Woah...what a week. Quite a few stories, and so many great memories! I'm sure I've left out so many things, but there is no way to fit in everything. Now that I have been typing for the past hour, I am assuming this is wayyyy to long. So, enjoy...and I will post some pictures when I get a chance!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

midterms and muggers

Hip hip hooray midterms are over! Well sorta...I do have an Italian exam tomorrow, but I have decided that studying for that would be overrated and totally not worth it. I have studied so much in the past week that my brain is on overdrive and there is no space left for new information. Today I had my art history test, so I stayed up to the wee hours of 4am last night cramming...and I'm pretty sure it paid off! Therefore, I decided to take a 4 hour nap today after the test, and then I got Mexican food for dinner. I am so excited about the place I found. I got nachos and a steak burrito for 6 euro! And is was super I'll probably go there for lunch tomorrow. haha. Then after dinner, I wandered around the corner and found a bar that has American coffee!!!! I have never been so excited to have a latte. yummm. So today was filled with wonderfully un-Italian food and culture, and it was so great!

But then I had a bit of a freak situation...Lauren went to walk over to our school around 7 tonight to print out some papers, and while we were walking we almost got mugged! A guy came up behind us on his bike, and we thought he was going to pass us, but then he grabbed Lauren's arm and pushed up against the wall and started shaking us, screaming "le borse, le borse" (give me your purses)! I was so freaked out, I started screaming at the top of my lungs...something along the lines of "get the hell away from us, leave us alone...ahhhhhh." It seemed to work...he hopped on his bike and rode away laughing, like it was some kind of joke. jackass. I think he realized that my super screachy scream was calling attention in our direction...there were people like 50 feet away from us (who didn't even react, might I horrible)! So anyway, we are totally fine, but just really shaken up. And now I never want to leave the apartment past 6pm. Especially since we were together...I will not ever go anywhere alone again!

So much for having an exciting, uplifiting story to tell you all. midterms and muggers...ugh. I'm sure I will come back next week with exciting adventures from France, Switzerland, and Austria. Saturday marks the beginning of fall break, and I have never been more pumped! Which means...I won't have my computer all next week, but I'll be able to access e-mail if anyone is desperate to talk to me =) Ciao for now!