Barcelona Part 2

July 12th, 2012

The next days in Barcelona were spent exploring the north side of the city. There is this small church which is on the Tibidabo mountain. The mountain would be an extremely long walk, so instead we took the trolley up to the top and were able to see all of Barcelona. After stopping in a restaurant for a snack which overlooked the city, we then headed over to Las Ramblas to do some shopping. Las Ramblas is one of the biggest shopping streets in Barcelona, and it is geared mainly toward tourists. They have many souvenirs and restaurants, but my favorite part are the street artists. Their work is so incredible!

Sorry for the lack of pictures in the blog. The internet here is horrible! I promise as soon as I get a free day I’ll upload as many as possible.

Barcelona (Part 1)

July 11th, 2012

This weekend I headed on a last minute trip to Barcelona with three other girls in the program. By taking the bus we saved some money, but the trip took about 7 1/2 hours to get from Madrid to Barcelona (which was as long as my flight to Europe!). In Barcelona they actually don’t speak Spanish, they speak a language called Catalan which is sort of afusion between Spanish and French. Another thing is that for “c” and “z” they pronounce as “th”, so Barcelona really sounds like Bar-th-alona. Barcelona was one of the most unique cities I have ever traveled to and it is a great city to explore in. But be careful for pick pocketing on the Metro because no later than 5 minutes of me being on the metro, I felt a pull on my bag and turned around to see the guy behind me on the escalator opening my bag to find only trail mix. I shot him the dirtiest look as he walked off to his next target.

In Barcelona we went on a bus tour of the city to get to know the different areas then we got a metro card and took off to explore by ourselves. For anyone traveling to Spain, the metro card is a lifesaver. Especially if you are only in town for a weekend it costs about 12 euros for a two day unlimited pass and that includes all public transportation including local buses and trains. We saw all of the big touristic points in the city like Las Ramblas, La Sagrada Família, and La Pedrera, all which were unique. Then we headed to the see the Pablo Picasso museum on Sunday afternoon since its free anytime after 2pm. It is tucked into a back neighborhood of Madrid which was full of historic buildings and quaint outdoor restaurants. Although the line to get in took about an hour, once you got inside to see the work it was worth it.

Next stop was the Barceloneta beach which is breathtaking. We went partially into the Mediterranean Sea which gave the Gulf of Mexico a run for its money. It was warm, but with waves and definitely had more things to do on the water such as surfing. We ended the day by going to the Olympic Port since it is where everyone our age hangs out at nights and we ate some Paella which is rice cooked with traditionally seafood. It was one of the best dishes I’ve had in Europe, I can’t even describe how great it was. On the way out of the bar, we passed several salsa clubs where as you walked guys would pull you in to them and start salsa dancing with you on the street. It was so much fun and such a beautiful night that we spent the rest of the time relaxing outside!

Getting Settled

July 5th, 2012

Yesterday we took a tour of Madrid and I completely fell in love. We live about 6 blocks from Santiago Bernabéu, and for those who don’t know that is the stadium for the soccer team Real Madrid. It is located in the financial district which is full of shops and and upscale restaurants. The center of Madrid where most of the action takes place is called Sol and the most popular area for people my age is called La Latina and it has tons of clubs and places to get tapas which is basically bar food but extremely good. All these places are accessible from the metro which is located less than a block away from the college and the metro is really cheap.

I could see myself living here over any other country that I have visited so far. The buildings have so much character while all the street signs are made out of the Spanish tiles. The streets are lined with trees and flowers and lastly the people are very welcoming here. It is safe enough to walk by yourself and it is amazing to see the tiny shops that you will discover along the way. Not to mention, the weather is beautiful here.

I’m setting into my routine. We are provided with breakfast, lunch, and dinner here at the cafeteria, but they are only offered from specific times. I have been waking up around 8am to get breakfast, then I head out to explore the city for about 2-3 hours (depending on how lost I get!) then I come back to relax, do homework, eat lunch, then I have class at 2:30. I definitely could get use to living here who knows, I might “accidentally” miss my flight home!

Back to Europe!

July 4th, 2012

After a full 48 hours of traveling, I finally am in Madrid!

This set up is completely different from the set up in Florence. For one, we’re all in a big dorm and I have my own room with a private bathroom. This building is run by nuns which means that there are quiet hours, restriction on guests, and also we have to turn in our key every time before we leave the building. The ups to living here are that we have a pool and restaurant on the first floor of the building and we also have maids who come in to clean our room and wash our sheets weekly, ahh the luxuries! I live on the 8th floor of the building and I have a great view of the square which is beautiful at nighttime. As of right now, I have no idea which part of the city we are in, but I do know that we live in more of a residential area that is filled with locals.

Today I start my Spanish Culture and Civilization course which goes from 2:30-5:45. I don’t know how many days a week I have this class but hopefully I will find out more information today. Until then!

5 things you (probably) didn’t know about Firenze

June 22nd, 2012

Hi guys! Sorry I haven’t been posting – to put it lightly exams kicked my butt! 3 exams back to back to back was not fun but I feel confident in all of my classes.  In my cooking class part of our exam was to cook a dish without the recipe, and we were awarded top dish! It was the scariest feeling when he was about to try it because although he’s one of the nicest professors, when the subject is food he’s all business. Luckily, he loved ours so I think I’m ready to become an Iron Chef – Food Network Channel here I come!  ;)

All of us girls have been out and about, enjoying our last days here in Florence. Today, were packing and cleaning since we’re leaving to the airport tomorrow. Tonight we’re going out for Gusta pizza since that place has become our official date night routine! After, we’ll probably hangout in the piazza and take some finale pictures.

I won’t be on here until next Tuesday or so. After flying to Florida for a couple of days, I’m off to DC on Friday and then next Monday I will be in Madrid! But in the meantime, here are 5 things that you (probably) didn’t know about Florence:

  1. Crepes started in Firenze – not France.  The daughter of the Medici family here in Firenze married the King of France and brought them with her to France.
  2. Gelato was first created here and you can find a Gelateria on every block.
  3. Florence use to be the capital of Italy before Rome.
  4. 89% of the businesses in Florence are family businesses
  5. If you have blonde or any sort of curl to your hair the vendors will call you “Shakira” as you walk by.

goals so far..

June 18th, 2012

As you guys might remember, the first blog I wrote I listed some goals that I would like to accomplish and since it is getting close to the end of the trip I figured now is as good as any time to check them off!

Below were my goals:

  1. See Casalduni, the town in Italy where my family is from: Couldn’t end up going since there are no hotels by that area and my Italian isn’t that good.
  2. Be able to understand Italian by the time I leave: mostly, so check!
  3. Find a vintage clothing/antique store in every country (sorry mom!): check! 
  4. Don’t gain more than 5 pounds, this by far will be the hardest: I’m proud to report that I lost 4 pounds here – the all pasta and gelato diet actually works! ;)
  5. Take this journey for what it is – a life changing experience. Explore, Learn, Experience daily. Minus the many rainy days which kept us inside for the more part, I definitely turned this into a life changing experience. I explored through the mountains of Italy (canyoning), I learned all about the Italian culture and regions in Italy, and I experienced once of oldest cultures in the world. 

I will always remember the days I spent learning how to cook in Italy, the day I saw a Vogue photoshoot on the Spanish Steps in Roma, the nights spent staying up just so we could go to the secret bakery, and the many friends I met along the way. This trip was amazing and I can’t wait to tell everyone the stories that never made it into the blog.

Calcio Storico 2012 Azzurri

June 17th, 2012

Calcio Storico has been an event that Florentine’s have been waiting for all year. It is a medieval game that has been around since 145o and used to be played with prisoners.  It is a mix of boxing, soccer, rugby and hockey with one goal: get the ball behind the opposing players wall.  They can use any force necessary (punching, kicking, etc.) in order to get the win and there are no rules.  It is common to see players taken off by stretchers and have broken bones by the end. For those Hunger Games fans, it was basically a real life version of it.

There are 4 teams made up of the districts of Florence and my district happens to be “Santa Croce” which is Azzurri (blue).  The players are massive and if you can imagine the craziest fan base you know and times that by 10 you’ll have the crowd at Calcio Storico.  They threw their water bottles at the players to distract them, the cheer nonstop altogether, and they WILL give you dirty looks if you sit down. They have flags, smoke guns, whistles and everything possible in order to help their team win.

It was intense, and all I can say is thank god our side won otherwise I don’t know how it would’ve gone! We ended up winning 11-0 beating the Santa Maria Novella district which is red.  Now our team faces Bianca, which is the district on the other side of the Arno in the finals on the 24th.  The game was overwhelming, interesting and addicting to watch all at the same time.  The game ended with the players throwing out carnations into the stands for the victory.

Piazza Michelangelo

June 15th, 2012

Piazza Michelangelo is one of the few places where you can go and get a glimpse of the entire Florence skyline.  It’s beautiful and that is where we are spending tonight!  We’re going to head up there for sunset and to take plenty of pictures, (I’ll try to upload them but the uploader still isn’t working).

The last days have been spent doing homework and enjoying our last weekend in Florence.  Last night we went out to Meso which is a turkish place that has the best kabobs in all of Florence. They are a must have! Then we went walking around Florence and just spent the rest of the time hanging out with friends.  I’m definitely going to miss it here but I am ready for exam week to be over and to see all of my friends and family.. eight days!


June 13th, 2012

Today was another day without classes which meant a day spent doing more papers and relaxing.  Instead of having a complete day off, I had to go to a meeting with a class at a company called Confindustria.

What do you think of when you see a product with the label “made in Italy”? Typically we think it’s good quality.  Well Confindustria is an organization which controls companies that put “made in Italy” on their products.  Their job is to ensure the consumers are getting the best quality since it is representing Italian culture and goods.  The organization has been around for over a thousand years now and they are in charge of 135,000 businesses globally.  Typically they don’t let students or anyone from the public meet with them but our teacher pulled some strings and got us in.  Everyone was very nice and they brought us out food and answered any possible questions that we had.  After we sat and talked to the Director for a good 30 minutes which was a very pleasant surprise.

On a side note: officially ten days left in Italia. I’m sad to leave but happy to get back all at the same time.  I started packing my souvenirs too hoping that I could fit everything in my one bag.. we will see later how that goes!

relaxing day in Firenze

June 11th, 2012

Hi all!

Not much to post about here since everyone had tons of homework to do.  But I realized I never really described to you guys about Firenze or my daily life here..

Firenze is a city that is trying to renew it’s image and not to be known just for its’  history. Firenze is where Gucci first started, Pinocchio’s author is from here, and many other famous people either lived here or did something important for the city.  The youth rebel by spreading graffiti all over the streets and a lot of it has to do with political issues.  Most people keep to themselves, but for the most part it is really safe here.

I live on a street which is about a 15 minute walk to the Arno (the river). It is a quiet street filled with old shoe shops and many apartment buildings.  Directly across the street from me is a coffee house which I go to daily for either a coffee or crostata and to the right from me is a very cute vintage shop called Lady Jane Boutique. I love walking away from the busy life at the piazzas and getting to our quiet street which is filled with jasmine plants.

Everyday on my way to school a local shoemaker in his 50′s always says good morning to me which brightens up my day.  I run into several families taking their children to school which is probably the most adorable thing ever to see a five year old dressed so fancy! The streets are extremely busy in the morning and everyone gets settled into their daily routine. The rest of the day is spent walking to classes, helping tourists find places, and meeting people simply by sitting on the steps of Santa Croce which is the big church by our house.  It’s a simple, easy life here in Firenze and that is exactly what I needed right now!