Wednesday, July 27, 2011


 Thanks for all following my blog when I was in Italy, I hope you all liked it. I just recently decided to start a new blog entitled "Eco-Lovely" which I decided to write to spread my stylish and eco-friendly initiatives. I hope you all read the intro and decide to follow this one too! My new URL is:

Love Always!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Dieci Giorni con Mia Madre in Italia: Roma, Firenze & Venezia!

So I’m on the train back to Florence from Venice with my mom sitting across from me enjoying the last sights of the Grande Canale. It’s been a whirlwind of a time with constant travelling, hopping from Italian city to city but it was so nice to show Mom all I’ve learned about Italian culture. We saw so many famous and ancient sights and ate a LOT of rich, delicious Italian food. I’m sad to see her go (my little taste of home), but I will be home in three weeks (I can’t believe it’s so soon!) and I’m happy to recount everything on the blog.

For months now, my mom has been saving and planning a ten day trip to Italy to visit me! I’ve been so excited for her to get here, especially after watching all my friends’ parents come and go, and envying their opportunity to show them all the Italian sights that have become our home. The night before I had to leave for Roma, I was futzing around on Facebook and saw that there was a scheduled train strike for the day I needed to get from Firenze to Roma! I started freaking out because Mom had already boarded her plane and I had no way to contact her. I would have to delay my trip and leave her stranded in Rome for the day until I could catch the train the next day. In Italy, there are constantly train strikes. I don’t know if it’s cause I’m not a native Italian or what but after living here for three months, I still don’t know what they hell the workers are striking for or why they keep screwing with our travel plans. Anyway, there was really nothing I could do about the strike, so I decided to go to sleep, wake up early and deal with it in the morning. So I woke up at 8 (hear that, Mom? EIGHT IN THE MORNING, just to see you!) and made my way to the station. I quickly found out that most of the trains were cancelled so I bought the first ticket available to Roma Termini and hopped on one of the only trains going. (I found out later that they need to have emergency trains running even during the train strikes, so I guess I just happened upon one of those). Despite all the supposed bad luck, this strike actually ended up working in my favor! I got to Mom’s hotel only about an hour after she did and we were able to start or Roma touring right away!
Since our hotel was in a more residential area, we decided it would be best to find a tour bus to take for the weekend. We did this in Paris and if you’re smart about using it, you can really get your money’s worth. The tour bus doesn’t only get you around the city (so you can avoid learning and experiencing public transportation or paying billlllls for taxis), but it points out all the major sites (some of which you might have completely forgotten about) and gives you an audio tour, so you can get a historical account as well as a visual one. Since it was a bit overcast the first day and we were both a bit tired, we decided to just ride around the city, listening to the audio tour and taking in the city. After one full loop, we got off at the Coliseum and went for a tour. I know this sounds so stupid, but I was completely enamored with the Coliseum. 
Mom thought it was a bit creepy and it definitely wasn’t like the grandiose, luxurious monuments that are sprinkled throughout the ancient city- but I was in awe. I have obviously studied volumes about it and realized that it was probably the most ancient place I have ever been to. Not only was it MASSIVE and still intact, for the most part, but also the history was everywhere, literally almost whispering through the stone walls. I had read that the Romans were so advanced that they had devised pulley systems to pull canvases across the whole top of the massive structure to protect spectators from rain or the fierce sunlight. I had also read (and could clearly picture after being there) that it was so enormous that the Romans used to fill the center with water like a huge basin and host battleship wars. On opening day, the Coliseum hosted over 500,000 Romans (seated in order of social class, richest on the bottom, women in the nosebleeds) and slaughtered more than 5,000 animals (“beasts”) as well as I’m sure hundreds of thousands of gladiators and martyrs. I actually learned while I was in Rome that scholars have determined that the martyrs were most likely sacrificed at a different location, but who really knows the truth.
We also got to see the location were Caesar was assassinated by his comrades. The tour bus informed us that Brutus (you know, “Et tu, Brute?”) was not only Caesar’s friend but also his adopted son! I thought that was amazing. After bussing around the city for a few hours and stopping for Mom’s first real Italian pizza (Quattro Fromaggi), we were both pretty tired and decided to call it an early night.
The next morning, we woke up early and fully energized, ready to really tour the city by foot. We hopped on the tour bus and passed by Palazzo Venezia (probably my favorite plaza and took the bus all the way down to the Vatican. I’ve always known that the Catholic Church was loaded and since this was the motherland of all Catholicism, I expected it to be gorgeous and I was not disappointed. We meandered around St. Peter’s Basilica and walked around the Vaticano Musei but the sun was shining and we wanted to get back on the bus and see more of the Roma sites. We did mail some postcards from the infamous Poste Vaticano. Since the Vatican is an independent state within Rome, it has it’s own postal system and everything. All the postcards had pictures of the Pope and very religious symbols- it was pretty hilarious.
After the Vatican we really walked ALL over Rome. We saw the Trevi Fountain (la Fontana di Trevi) and tossed coins in to ensure our return to Rome. I learned that the fountain gets so many tourists (and I guess so many people want to make sure they’ll get back to Rome that the workers clear out between 25,000 and 50,000 euro a DAY from the wishers. If you think about it, Mom and I only tossed in about 20 cents combined and I’m sure that most people don’t throw more than a euro in- that’s so many tourists! I think this is astounding and good to mention because Rome was insanely crowded and was kind of a turn off despite its beauty.

Trevi Fountain

Spanish Steps
 After the fountain, we walked down the famous shopping street, Via del Corso and went to see the Spanish Steps. They were equally as packed and my bright idea of picnicking there was quickly nipped in the bud after we spent about 15 minutes navigating between tourists to get to the top. Since it’s officially spring in Italy, the steps were lavishly decorated with hundreds of Azalea flowers and were really stunning. We then walked all the way to Piazza del Popolo, which is now the home of many of the ancient monuments and sculptures and people watched there for a while. We made our way back to the hotel afterwards and ate dinner at an adorable Trattoria near the hotel. The next morning, Palm Sunday, we hopped back on the bus to Piazza Venezia and walked around until we found the Pantheon. We collected palms there, which looked completely different than the palms at home; they were more like a stick covered in a dozen little leaves as opposed to one long stalk. We walked back to Piazza Venezia and found ourselves in the midst of a traditional Roman parade. There were probably about 500 Romans dressed up in all different costumes (holy clergy, gypsies, gladiators, royalty) parading around the square and it was really quite lucky we got to see it all! We had our final lunch at a small café near the train station and jumped on the fast train back to Firenze.

We arrived in Florence around 6:30 pm and after our walk to my apartment and then Mom’s hotel we weren’t even really hungry for dinner, just tired. I took my mom down the River Arno and showed her the Ponte Vecchio all lit up at night and we got gelato at Gelateria dei Neri (my favorite gelato place!). Mom was skeptical but I ordered my favorite flavors for her – Ciccolata and Ricotte e Fichi (dark chocolate and ricotta something, haha) and she was officially transformed into a gelato lover! I mean, seriously, who wouldn’t be? I dropped her off at the hotel and went back to sleep in my apartment, awaiting another day of touring.

The next morning, the weather was amazing. We woke early and crossed the Ponte Vecchio to head to the Palazzo Pitti (Pitti Palace, where the famous Medici family of Florence lived) and the lovely Boboli Gardens. We spent a good three hours walking around the gardens, which had a million different secret passageways and hidden trails, all just coming into bloom. After our relaxing morning, we made our way back across the river to Piazza Signoria and had cappuccinos at Rivorie while enjoying the sunlight. I brought Mom back to her hotel and went to class for the afternoon. But after class, Mom and I went out to eat at the first restaurant I had ever eaten at in Florence- Gato e Volpe! It turns out that the man who owns La Rotisseria in Guilford (one of our favorite Italian take-away places) is from Florence and knew the owner of Gato! Smallll world, but anyway when Mom mentioned she was coming to visit me here, he gave her his card and told her to tell the owners of Gato that we were friends with him! So of course we did, and we got free dessert and wine because of it! Naturally, I wasn’t disappointed with my Gato meal- I got baked gnocchi in gorgonzola, UGH SO GOOD. And Mom had veal. We also decided to be adventurous and try an appetizer we had never heard of- Crostini Toscani, which ended up being this pate spread over warm bread, absolutely mouth watering.  We ended up staying at the restaurant for about three hours and afterwards were so full and tired we went to bed shortly after.

Happy Family. Mom, Bro & Sis, haha <3
As luck would have it, Laurent was in Florence visiting his family the same week! So we met up with him the next morning on the Ponte Vecchio. Mom wanted to do some leather shopping and I’m always up for shopping, so I brought her to the San Lorenzo leather market and we spent some time perusing the stalls. Laurent had wanted to go see the museum next to the market so we went inside and saw a plethora of relics and sculptures, with some by Michelangelo and sketchings by Da Vinci all along the walls. It was definitely cool. Afterwards we went to my third favorite piazza (after Santa Croce and Signoria), Piazza Reppublicca and had a brief lunch. Of course, I had to go to class, so Mom and Laurent went to the Bargello and across the river to see some of the sites of Florence. I met up with them for drinks at the hotel later and when Laurent got back on the bus back to his aunt’s house, Mom and I went to a restaurant I had heard was the best restaurant in all of Florence- Acqua al’Due, right behind my apartment. Not only was the décor really trendy and modern, but also the food was ABSOLUTELY amazing. It was probably the best food I’ve had in all of Italy, but it was expensive and I’m happy Mom was there to share it with me J. Florence’s famous cuisine is the beefsteak and I had heard that Acqua al’Due does it best. I ordered the Balsamic Steak and Mom ordered the Blueberry Steak. Both were amazing and I have honestly dreamt about them since then. We also got the desert platter and sampled all their famous dessert (it was the only time I had actually enjoyed Tiramisu!). After Mom went back to her hotel, I went out to celebrate Nathalie’s 21st birthday and ended up staying out a littttle to late but I still managed to make it to my 8:15 AM field trip to an art restoration lab 30 minutes away from my apartment the next morning. Since I had a full day of class (literally from 8:15 AM until 7:15 PM that day, with a quiz in between), Mom and Laurent spend the day at the Uffizi Museum and at Galleria del’Accademia (where the David is). Meg arrived from Rome the same night, so after I picked her up from the station, the four of us went out to dinner! That night was the Italian TRL awards in Santa Croce, so after we dropped Mom off at her hotel, we went out and attempted to traverse the streets but they were JAMPACKED with hundreds of Italians so we didn’t end up staying out too late.

In cognito with my cappucino
We caught an early train to Venice the next morning and arrived at Stazione Ferrovia at around noon on Thursday. We hopped on the waterbus and made our way down the Grande Canale to our hotel by San Marco Square. We were a bit too early for check in, so we sat outside on the river and had a delicious (and healthy) lunch. We have been eating SO much pizza and pasta that my stomach has been constantly churning, so I ordered a simple Caprese salad (Angie- Caprese salad and Venice, could I think of you more in one afternoon?). After lunch we checked into the hotel and wandered around Venice. We saw San Marco square and wandered around the backstreets shopping and exploring. I was surprised cause I had already been to Venice and I was able to find my way around almost naturally. I bought a hilarious white fedora hat to protect my face from the sun (it was so strong that I got sunburnt just eating lunch!). I sent a picture to Brendan and he said I looked like an Italian gangster.. haha.
We ended up at the Rialto Bridge and continued wandering for a few hours. I was getting tired from my jumbled sleeping schedule so we headed back to the hotel for a little siesta. After I woke up, we went to this adorable Venetian restaurant. Since Venice is famous for its seafood, I mean it is an island- I ordered spaghetti with clams (I really wanted to get the Spaghetti al le mare, aka all different types of seafood) but I’m always nervous to communicate that I can’t have scallops, so I try to play it safe. Mom ordered their fish of the day, Grilled Sea Bass. It was so traditional that they brought the fish out and deboned it right at our table! Definitely delicious! And they were so nice, the waiters called us “Bella” about a dozen times and we ate in this garden under romantic lights, ahaha romantic dinner with my mommy in Venice!
The Rialto

The next morning, we hopped on the waterbus and went to Murano Island, where they make the famous Murano glass. It was about a 30-minute ride from San Zaccaria, so we got to enjoy the river a little bit. Murano was lovely; it wasn’t too touristy and very scenic. We wandered around all the shops and bought some beautiful jewelry. We ended up having lunch at a small bistro on the river. Mom finally got spaghetti with clam sauce and I got homemade tagliatelle with pesto and shrimp. It was awesome, but I hadn’t realized it was going to be black pasta, which has always upset my stomach, even in Providence. I didn’t know if it was the pasta or the constant transitioning from city to city, or if I am just getting sick, but I after I got us back to the hotel, I slept for the rest of the day and night. Mom wandered around the markets and San Marco but also decided to call it an early night. We woke up early this morning and decided to save some money and utilize my navigation skills to walk us to the station. Luckily I didn’t fail us and managed to get us there about an hour early. We sat out on the steps like regular Italians and soaked up the sunshine. Now we’re on the train back to Florence, going to go get some last pizza at Yellow Bar and maybe one last gelato before Mom hops a taxi to the airport! Love ya Ma, thanks for coming!!
San Marco Square!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Primavera in Firenze

Ciao tutti!
Sorry I didn't post this weekend but to be honest, I didn't travel anywhere so I sort of forgot I had things to recap. Never fear, I'm posting now :) This weekend I, obviously, stayed in Florence but I actually had a WONDERFUL weekend. A lot of my friends went to different places (Steph & Shira went to Paris, Molly was in Germany, Nat's parents were here, Meg went to Rome for Saturday & Sunday), so I kinda planned on having a relaxing weekend from the get-go. On Wednesday after classes, Molly asked if I wanted to get the famous Gusta Pizza with her. Since I hadn't tried it (and I've slowly been realizing I only have a month left here), I said yes! Meg and Nat ended up meeting us and we all indulged in the most delicious pizza I have ever laid eyes on/smelled/tasted. For those who eat pizza with me regularly (Angela), I even ate the crust, THAT'S how delicious it was! They also have this spicy olive oil on every table that I immediately fell in love with. And I tried this Italian beer called Nastro Azzurro which is now probably my favorite beer (haha). All in all, GustaPizza was an AMAZING DELICACY and the second I left, I was craving it again. 
So Thursday, the weather was beautiful. It was high seventies, like it's been all weekend. It's pretty boggling how quickly Florence transformed from winter to spring. I felt like just a few weeks ago I was wearing boots (gli stivali), scarfs (la sciarpa) and jackets (la giacca) everywhere, now I sweat when I wear jeans out! Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining (and I'm already getting tan!) but this primavera came outta nowhere! So on Thursday, I laid out a little bit and then wandered with Meg and Nat around the city. We found this yummy fruit and yogurt place and treated ourselves. After Nat had to go meet her parents at the hotel, Meg and I want BACK to GustaPizza to get Nastro Azzurros and lay out at the Pity Palace with drinking them. Even in the late afternoon (we were at Pity from 4-530) I still got burnt! The sun is soooo strong here and it stays strong for so much longer than the states. 
That night, Meg, Nat, Rachel and I decided to go out before Meg and Nat departed for their weekend excursions. We went to Kikuya to get their infamous "Dragoon" beer, which is supposedly this very strong beer and I've been nervous to try it. So we just went for it and let me tell you, NEVER.AGAIN. The Dragoon is tricky, see it tastes like a regular beer so it's not hard to drink, but it has over TWICE the alcohol content of a regular pint of beer. So essentially, just casually sipping one of those puppies is equivalent to chugging two and a half beers. I didn't anticipate the effect it was going to have on me, so naturally I just went home and plopped down on my bed. Down for the count like a rookie, so disappointing. (In my defense, Meg said the same thing happened to her- she just had a longer walk home). 
Needless to say, I didn't do much on Friday except lay out in the sun. I stayed in Friday night and wrote a paper for my Ethics class that's due tomorrow. I even did the presentation! Saturday I woke up to a bbm from Robin (who's studying in Perugia) saying that her and two of her friends were doing a bike tour through Chianti and wanted to stay in Florence for the night. So since my apt was practically empty, I said they could crash here! We all went to the Diner (since we all eat Italian food constantly), we had actually wanted to go to this Mexican restaurant across the street from my apt called Tijuana and have margaritas, but they were all booked with reservations. Afterwards, Robin's friends came back to the apt but I took Robin out for Sangria at Kikuya and then to secret bakery! It was fun to show someone around and I can't wait for Meg to get here in two weeks!
Sunday, I spent most of the day sunbathing at this semi-beach on the bank of the Arno but the sun was SO HOT that I came back early and wrote ANOTHER paper due next week when Mom's here :) I was so productive! Yesterday, I had class as usual but after class, Kayla and I decided to go out for a dinner date! We went to this pizza place in San Lorenzo, near Mercato Centrale, called Rossopomodoro (which means pink tomato, haha kinda close to Red Tomato in Madison... oh, except MUCH BETTER). I got this delicious pizza with Bufala mozzarella, proscuitto slices and arugula. It was heaven, pizza is my new favorite meal. I need to get it at least once a week before I leave. After we went to Gelateria de Neri and got dessert- dark chocolate and yogurt gelato. So yummy!

Hmm what else.. OH, today I registered for classes for my first semester senior year (so weird)! So next semester I'm taking: 1- Sociology of Disaster with Hirsch, 2- Urban Sociology with Hirsch, 3- WMS Capstone: Representations of Motherhood with Sedney, 4- Principles of Moral Decision with Petri (my second Theo) and 5- Women and Family Issues Internship (hopefully with the Women's Center of Rhode Island!). So that's a full course load, it's gonna be interesting getting back into the swing of things at PC but I do miss it and I'm excited to start senior year :)

So I'll probably post again next week! I'm meeting Mom in Rome on Friday for the weekend and we'll be getting back to Florence Monday morning! I'm so excited to see her and do a little mini-Italy tour together! Updates soon :)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

London Calling!

Hey everyone!

So I'm am finally back and rested from London! Sorry I didn't post yet, but I was a walking zombie yesterday and after I went straight off my plane/train to Florence to my class and the grocery store (with no sleep at all Sunday night, might I add), I crashed into a 13 hour slumber. It was glorious!

So now, about London..
I went with my new roomie from Muhlenberg, Steph- who I loveeee! Her ex-babysitter/family friend has been living and working in London for five years now and just recently moved into a new, spacious apt and invited Steph and a friend to come for the weekend. We obviously jumped at the opportunity and bought extremely cheap plane tickets on Ryanair. Since they were so cheap, our flight on Thursday morning was delayed for TWO hours, which was an unfortunate start to the weekend but it didn't deter us! When we got their we met Hiliary at her work and she took us out for a drink to meet her friends. We were starving so she brought us to a pub to have Thai food! I was sooo excited because I miss Thai food a lot (there's none in Italy) so it was delicious. We then retreated back to her apt and fell asleep immediately (Steph said she went to brush her teeth and when she came home I was already sound asleep). 

On Friday, Hiliary went to work so Steph and I wandered around Angel Station area. We went into a lot of shops and found a vintage market- which was AWESOME. I bought two new (well, old I guess) shirt and a dress. After that we went grocery shopping and went back to Hiliary's apt to make dinner. She was working late so we went across the street and sat outside drinking Strongbows. We really lucked out with the weather, it was pretty sunny and warm all weekend. Although, Florence was in the 70s all weekend- I think London was around mid-60s.

Saturday, we woke up with Hiliary and went out to breakfast. Steph was pumped because the cafe had bagels (they're impossible to find in Florence). Then we wandered around the shops in her neighbor, mostly vintage but there was a designer store and a hand-made bazaar. It was really fun and I, of course, bought myself a new dress there too. We then met up with a few of Hiliary's English friends and walked along the South Bank of the river. We stopped for Strongbows at a bar overlooking the water and went to a HUGE farmers' market for lunch. We saw the Globe Theatre, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and all the touristy sights, and the weather wasn't too bad so it was a really enjoyable walk. That night we went to a "trendy" party which all I can say about it was it was freaking weird. The theme was Coney Island and it was all people my age but they were all dressed in really peculiar outfits and were just... weird. I felt like I stepped into a real live Lady Gaga video. I guess it was cool to see how real Londoners party, but I was happy to be out of there. 

Steph & I with a funny statue!

Steph & I posing with Big Ben :)

On Sunday, Steph and I woke up early and took the famous double-decker buses and the Tube to Harrod's department store. Fun fact about Harrod's- apparently you can ask for anything, anything and they will have it at Harrod's, even a saddle for an elephant. The store was massive and once I walked in, I was completely consumed. We walked around for a while just marveling at everything but had to meander our way out to find Hiliary and go to Buckingham Palace! We took another bus and walked along the grounds, enjoying the warm weather. I realllly wanted to take a picture with the infamous guards who apparently will NOT move no matter what while on duty, but you can't get near them :( It was a bit disappointing.  After we saw the Palace, we went out for a traditional "Sunday Roast" with Hiliary and her English friends-  I guess it's the thing to do on Sundays. It was yummy, kinda like a pot roast with potatoes and veggies, but the DESSERT! OMG, SO GOOD. Steph and I split a "sticky toffee pudding with custard drizzled on top" and it was AH-MAY-ZING.

So that night we didn't sleep, just relaxed and watched American TV! We took the bus at 2:30 AM to get to the airport for our flight and didn't get back into our apt until 12:30 PM Monday. It was a longgg travel, but well worth it!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

adventures in backpacking!

So, I want to preface this blog by saying I will never, EVER, backpack, ANYWHERE again. Don't get me wrong, I had a hilarious spring break but I have never felt so gross and disgusting than I did all last week. It's not like we couldn't find showers or anything, but living out of a backpack reallly took it's toll on me. Backpacking through France and Ireland also solidified my absolute and complete appreciation for AMERICA. I LOVE BEING AMERICAN! When I decided to come abroad, I was convinced I'd be one of those people who fell in love with Europe and never wanted to leave, but slowly more and more every day I miss America. Of course I miss my family and friends, but I honestly miss America culture. At first I thought that Italy was just completely different than the US, the people walk extremely slow, stores are open at sporadic times, shop owners aren't always the friendliest. But venturing to two other countries this past break made me realize that most of Europe is that way. Granted the Irish are so friendly, but the Irish youth are freaking psycho! Meg said that they have this weird obsession with breaking glass, like bottles and light bulbs...? Also the style here (and there) gets me. No one ever seems to wash their hair or apply makeup normally. I never thought I was an overly-hygenic person or a crazy neat freak until I came abroad and ALWAYS feel dirty. I find myself craving my shower at home or in Providence with real shampoo and conditioner that makes my hair smooth. Oh well. Don't take this the wrong way, my spring break made me realize that I made the best choice of cities to study abroad in. Florence is beautiful and I think I feel the most at home here than any of the places I've traveled to!

ANYWAY- spring break was, all in all, hilarious. Here's an outline of my trip. I went to Paris with Meg and Nathalie and we met up with Rachel from Friday to very, veryyy early Monday morning. Then on Monday (my birthday!) we flew to Dublin and spent the day there. Then we took a bus to Galway and stayed with my fave twiinnny, Meg O'Neill! On Friday we bussed back to Dublin and flew home Saturday morning. Like I mentioned we live 100% out of our backpacks since we flew Ryanair, the extremely cheap European airline that makes you pay extra for any type of amenity such as 30 euro for checking on bag. We also bounced from hostel to hostel, some definitely better and cleaner than others. 

Our first half-day and night and Paris were, for lack of a better word, AWFUL. When we got off the plane, we had to take an hour and a half long bus into the city center (Ryanair is so cheap because it flies into obscure airports, so we flew from Pisa to Paris-Beauvais for like 10 euro- about 15 dollars). When we got off the bus it was downpouring and we had no idea where in Paris we were. We found a grocery store and got these disgusting premade sandwiches, which tasted gourmet since we were so ravenous, and wandered in the rain until we found a Metro station. Then we took a hour metro ride to Chelles-Gournay, only to wander around in the rain for another TWO HOURS looking for our hostel because apparently no one in the WHOLE town, even with my seemingly fluent French (compared to my terribly broken Italian), knew where our street was. When we finally arrived, after just manning-up and taking a sketchy taxi, I think the only taxi in the whole town, we were soaking wet and our backs felt like they were about to break in half. Most of my clothes were damp since the rain seeped into my backpack and I was completely miserable. None of us could fall asleep and in the morning all we wanted to do was get the HELL out of there. That's when our luck started to turn around. Instead of charging us a cancellation fee for checking out two days early, the receptionist gave us directions back to the metro and only charged us for one night. THEN, Rach had met this America student studying in Florence on the train over who was staying in this hole-in-the-wall hostel in the center of Paris. We had really no trouble finding the hostel and there were enough openings that we could stay, for only 18 euro a night!

Now, when I say hole in the wall- I mean complete hole-in-the-wall hostel. The outside door was so run down that it looked like a hostel was there twenty years ago, but not now. Once inside we had to climb three flights of stairs and enter into an apartment-like door which opened up into an Alice in Wonderland looking hostel. The walls were plastered with bright colors and life-size movie posters- it was hilarious.
Nat, myself and Rachel posing outside our hostel.

Me on my bed, next to the Over the Hedge posters...
So after we unloaded all our backpacks, we walked around Paris. It was overcast, but we went to the Eiffel Tour and saw the Seine. It was nice but I was happy I had already been there, cause I was way to exhausted to appreciate anything. I was so excited to because our hostel was located only a few blocks from the bar that Laurent had told me to meet him at if I was in Paris. So after, we napped and got changed into normal clothes, we wandered over to O'Malley's Pub to find Laurent. He had told me he had a huge rugby tournament that day and would be celebrating afterwards with his teammates at this pub. And we found him!! It was so fun! Their team had won and all his teammates were taking over the bar, they were all hilarious and I loved seeing Laurent!
After our night out in Paris, we woke up early and went to the Louvre and ate at a classic French cafe! Then Nat, Meg and I took the bus back to Paris-Beauvais and stayed in a hotel near the airport since our flight was so early in the morning.

On the morning of my 21st birthday, we landed in Dublin. After we found our hostel, Citi Backpackers's, which was wayyy nicer than our other hostels, we found a Irish pub to eat at and get my first drink as a 21 year old! We got beef burgers and I got a Bulmer's (my favorite Irish) drink and we chowed down. After our huge meal, we took a four hour nap (haha) which felt so good and woke up just in time to go out an get a drink for my birthday! We walked down to Temple Bar and found this great pub with live music called the Old Storehouse. I got another Bulmer's and when the performer asked for requests, Meg and Nat started screaming "PLAY HAPPY BIRTHDAY," which of course caught the attention of all the Irish guys next to us and the singer sang me Happy Birthday. I was wicked embarassed but one of the Irish guys then proceeded to buy us Tequila shots and when I later went to buy a Guinness, the bartender asked me if I was the Birthday Girl and gave it to me on the house! I love Ireland!
The next morning we woke up early and took a bus to Galway to see Meg! It was so great to see her (even though she had class and we were exhausted). We stayed in the first night just catching up. The next morning when she went to class, we walked around Galway just appreciating the beautiful weather and scenery! We ended up walking down Salthill and just basking in the sun for a few hours. It was nice to finally relax and not have to rush to catch a train or have our thousand pound backpacks weighing us down. That night Meg took us out in Galway! It was a blast and I missed going out with her so much! We met up with some of her friends there but mostly just danced with each other all night, some much needed twin time!
Just loving my twinnie in Galway!
The next morning O'Neill had more classes :( but Meg and Nat and I woke early and hopped on the Aran Islands tour. The weather was beyond beautiful, even at 8 in the morning and we took the scenic bus and the ferry over to the islands. We decided to rent bikes and just soak up the sun. It was so nice out that I got sunburnt and the islands were stunning. When I think of Ireland in my head, I picture the Aran Islands. Not a lot of houses but just vast green pastures with horses, cows and sheep, surrounded by stone walls, all enclosed with Caribbean-clear blue water. We literally spent the entire day biking around taking pictures, it was the most relaxing and cleansing day. City living is another thing that's taken its toll on me. I miss fresh air and the ocean breeze! I'm sick of breathing in fumes and dust. The Islands were just what we needed!
Biker chick!

Nathalie and I with the cows, mooo.

I want this as my new vacation home!

The next day we bussed back to Dublin, relaxed that night and flew back to Florence in the morning. I immediately showered and threw all my clothes in the wash. I threw out all the socks I wore and was really tempted to throw out my boots and some shirts, but I decided a good thorough washing was good enough! I'm happy to be back and Florence and I actually felt at home in my apartment last night. After this trip I've decided I definitely made the right decision coming here and even though I miss America a lot, I'm definitely going to miss Florence when I'm home.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

La Settimana di Esami!

Ciaoo! Today is a great day, I have finally completed all my exams, it's St. Patty's Day and 150th anniversary celebration of the Unification of Italy. Parties all around! Haha. Yesterday I finally completed my exams, which I surprisingly stressed a lot about. It's common knowledge that the classes abroad are easier than our home institutions- so coming here I knew I wouldn't have to put much effort to do well. When we got here we found out that not only do Providence and Fairfield's classes transfer for direct credit but our grades are factored into our GPAs. So, my roomies (who I still love a lot! Hey Steph and Shira!) get to take lots of fun classes like Food and Wine Appreciation and Italian Fashion, and then can essentially  get any grade above a 70 to be able to pass. Providence didn't allow this for us. We had to take pre-approved classes (that's why I'm taking Chemistry and Ethics, eck) and if I get a 70 as my final grade, I have a 70 into my Providence GPA- which I've worked so hard to keep high and clean. So of course, as midterms are coming up and my roomies are galavanting around the city, all us Providence students actually had to study... a LOT. 

Let me tell you that I absolutely hated scheduled exam weeks more than anything. Normally, the only scheduled exams we have are Finals Week, and midterms are spread out according to the teacher, so they usually never fall in the same week. So, this adds to the stress of everything. Not to mention that midterms are going to be my first graded assignments, cause I don't really have tangible homework here AND I have no idea how my teachers will format or grade their exams. So needless to say, I had to paint another coat on my nails to keep me from knawing them off, I was stressed.

On Monday, I had two midterms: Chemistry and Intermediate Italian. I studied a lot for Chem which was a little disappointing since it turned out to be really easy (or maybe all my studying paid off). Italian was pretty simple too, especially considering that I didn't really study much for it at all. So all in all, Monday's tests were successful and got me feeling confident. Tuesday wasn't too bad either. I only had one exam, History of Photography. My teacher had previously given us a list of 30 photographs and told us for the exam she would randomly choose 10 of those and ask us to list the artist, title, date and type of photograph (heliograph, gelatin silver print, albumen print, etc). So all I did was made flashcards and studying for that was a sinch. I was still feeling pretty good, so good in fact that I decided to go for a longg run on Tuesday afternoon to clear my head before I started to study for Wednesday's exams. It was sunny and beautiful and I ran in only a tee shirt- no jacket! I was definitely feeling good. Then I sat down to start work on my two next, and last, exams- Ethics and Gender Relations in Italian Society. I wasn't too worried about Gender since I've studied so much about American Gender Relations, but Ethics was starting to worry me. I had already typed up all the notes from class as my study guide but thought it would be a good idea to go through his powerpoint presentations. I logged on to the email he gave us for class and almost passed out when I read the latest posting. At 5 PM the night before the exam, I see "Possible Essay Questions for the Midterm," I read on further and the email said he was going to randomly choose 4 of these essays for us to write about, and this would account for 60% of the exam grade. I almost vomited. I like to be extremely prepared for exams so the fact that I was just seeing this email the night before, when I had another exam to study for, freaked me out. Luckily I had some good ideas for some of the questions and my friend Meg came over and we collaborated on ideas for the other ones. Throughout the rest of the night I was continually writing the essays in my head to keep my ideas fresh, and I barely got to study for Gender.

The next day, I woke up early (930 AM!) and studied a little more before my exam at noon. We got to class and you could tell we were all nervous. Some girls hadn't even seen the possible essay questions and a lot of people were asking eachother for ideas. He passed out the exam and drew cards to determine which questions each row would be assigned. I ended up getting two that I liked and two that I HATED. He then tells us that the essay portion is worth 60%, so if you choose to only write one essay elaborately, he will grade that from the 60%, but you could also write two essays- each from 30%, or three, or four respectively. I choose to write three of them and was overall pretty satisfied with my answers. After that I went straight to my next exam, Gender, for which I hadn't really studied for. We were all a little shocked when she passed out the exam- 6 short answer questions regarding oddly specific points she made in class. THANK GOD I've taken gender classes before, because I referenced all my previous knowledge to answer about half of the questions. The other questions were taken from the Italian history readings which I luckily did, so all in all I think I did pretty well. I was pleased!

Now, I'm finally on spring break! Nathalie and I went out last night to celebrate our completion of exams. The streets were wild with people celebrating the 150th Anniversary. At every Piazza there were concerts, events and fireworks! It was awesome, there were parades right outside my window. 

Tomorrow, I depart for spring break. I'm flying from Pisa to Paris. Staying in Paris for the weekend and then flying to Dublin for my 21st birthday! The morning of the 22nd, Meg, Nathalie and I are taking a bus to Galway to stay with Meg O'Neill! We will be flying home on Saturday and I'll update you all then!

Wish me luck, 
Love all of you!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Un Bello Pomeriggio di Firenze

I'm really getting used these four day weekends. Last night, I went out with a small crew but I had a good night, nothing too wild. So I slept in a little, but planned on meeting Nathalie and Meg for sandwiches at Oil Shoppe at noon. So I woke up reluctantly at 11:15, but despite my lazy anger at the time in hindsight I'm so happy I did!
We went to Oil Shoppe and I got the number 19, something salami-ish, spicy and wonderful. It was so hot that my nose started running uncontrollably. It was GREAT. Definitely woke me up and got me ready for the day, haha. Afterwards, we walked around and I bought a new pair of flats since the ones I bought last week gave me wicked blisters on my toes. Since it was so nice out, Nathalie told us about this secret "grassy knoll" she found on the hill near her apt where we could go and sunbath. So I ran back to my apt, changed into some gool ole American sneakers and a white tee. We crossed the river and hiked up the BIGGEST hill ever, but once we reached the grassy knoll, all was worth it. I think we laid out in the sun for over three hours, just chatting and soaking up the rays. 
Once the breeze started to pick up, I went back down and treated myself to the best gelato ever. Gelato di Filo is across the river, right at the base of Piazza Michelangelo. I got myself a cone of dark chocolate and strattichella (sp?) cream and literally devoured it before I got to the river. It was such a perfect, Florentine afternoon!

After I got home, we had to talk with our landlord because our oven is broken (joy!), but luckily he said it's "his problem" aka we don't have to pay for anything! And the electrician will be coming on Thursday to fix it. Annoying, but hey at least I don't have to pay.

My roommate Steph also just invited me to go to London with her for the last weekend in March. Her old babysitter/family friend moved there two years ago and offered us a living room to crash in for the weekend, so we found some reasonably priced tickets and booked our trip! I'm so excited because I love hanging out with Steph and I really wanted to make it to London at some point, but the hotels and hostels are INSANELY expensive there. Now we don't have to worry about that!

I decided to stay in tonight to get work done, but instead I revised my resume and cover letter and applied for a few internships. I also made myself dinner and just kinda bummed around. I went out wayyy too much last week and it made me tired the rest of the weekend so I don't want to repeat that the weekend before midterms! Tomorrow Nathalie's friend is coming from home, so we're all going to Gatto e Volpe for dinner and then showing her the bars around town, so I need to be all ready for that too! Hopefully tomorrow won't be such a beautiful day out so I'll feel more motivated to do work.. but probably not. As of now the forecast is 60 degrees and sunny so, hellllllo grassy knoll round two :)