Jam Packed Tuesday and Wednesday

So I started off the day yesterday meeting with Sari at the steps of the duomo and walking over to meet our Art History class at the fake David statue in front of Palazzo Vecchio in la Piazza della Signoria. We had a tour of the palace with our class. Each person paid their two euro entry fee and a guide met with us and took us on the tour. She was a french woman who now lives in Italy so her English was kind of all over the place, and kind of difficult to understand. The Palazzo Vecchio now functions as the city hall of Florence.

The palace used to be called Palazzo della Signoria, but in the 16th century, Cosimo I de’ Medici became the duke of Florence and lived in this palace, but then moved to Palazzo Pitti (where I visited last week), and changed the name of the palace to Palazzo Vecchio, the “old palace.” The first room we saw inside the palace was the Salone dei Cinquecento. It is an enormous room that was built in medieval style, but when Cosimo gained power, he commissioned Giorgio Vasari (famous Italian artist) to restyle and enlarge the room. The walls of the room are covered in enormous frescoes painted by Vasari. On the right side (facing toward the Duke’s seat and altar), the giant frescoes depict a battle scene of the Florentines conquering Sienna, and on the left side, the giant frescoes depict the Florentines conquering Pisa. These were important triumphs for the Florentines because Cosimo could expand his power into other regions. The second floor of the palace has a high balcony to overlook the entire Salone dei Cinquecentro. The ceilings of the room are ornately decorated with dozens of paintings and beautiful wooden framing.

After the tour of the palazzo, we went back to our classroom and had a short lecture. After Art History, I had my Pairing Food and Wine class. We learned what it means to have a “good pair” between food and wine. You want the wine to pair well with the food so that the wine and food actually make one another taste better. In class, we made pasta al ragù di tono (a pasta with tuna ragu), frittata porri e pancetta (leek and pancetta frittata), and frittelle (fried pieces of dough). My group was in charge of making the pasta. All the tastings were delicious as always. We had a dessert wine this class. It was called Negrino (little black one) and it was SO good! Super sweet.

Then I went back home and got ready for dinner. The nicest thing happened the other day. I’ll start with the back story. Last January (January 2011) I became friends with this girl named Brenna at an AEPhi convention (that I attended because I was president) that is an AEPhi at University of Texas. Her younger sister (Sydney) wanted to go to IU, so last year Brenna, Sydney, and their mom came to IU and I took them on a tour of AEPhi. Sydney ended up coming to IU this year and this past winter she rushed AEPhi and is now in AEPhi at IU. So the other day, Brenna texted me and told me that her mom was in Florence with her friends and that she wanted to take me out to dinner. SO nice! So her mom and I got in touch and she invited me to go to dinner with them last night. So I met Brenna and Sydney’s mom (Kimberly) and her friends at Hotel Lungarno over on the other side of the Ponte Vecchio at 7:00PM. The hotel was really nice! I was pleasantly surprised when I saw Sara Smoler waiting there to meet them all for dinner too! Sara is a good friend of my cousin Jordan’s from Michigan. I have been friends with Sara so it was great that she was also coming to dinner. Turns out that Sara’s uncle is one of Kimberly’s friends’ brothers. So these were her aunts! Small small world.

We went out to eat at this amazing amazing restaurant called Trattoria Sostanza on Via della Porcellana. They are famous for their butter chicken. It was delicious. After we were done with dinner, I met up with my friend’s at Katie, Lauren, and Meghan’s apartment. We went out to Be Bop for Beatles night. Every Tuesday night, a Beatles cover band plays at Be Bop. It’s absolutely hilarious. It’s really fun to sing along to the Beatles in this tiny little bar. It was fun!

This morning, I woke up early and walked over to the Ponte Vecchio to meet Kimberly and her friends. I took them on a little walking tour of my “hood.” We first walked through the leather market to get to Mercato Centrale, the indoor food market. They loved it! It’s a really fun place to take people. After the markets, I took them to Massimo and they all bought leather coats and bags. Massimo was so happy that I brought them. I’m telling you, he loves me! I am planning on going back to buy this fab bag from him.

After Massimo, I walked them over to Galeria Acadmia on Ricasoli, where Michelangelo’s David is. They convinced me to come in with them. The museum is really small, but David was amazing! He is HUGE! It’s pretty breathtaking when you see him. I really enjoyed being there. It’s impossible to take a picture, they yelled at me the second they saw that I had my iPhone out ready to take a pic. But I managed to sneak one anyway!!!! I got a great shot, I’ll attach it.

Then I walked the moms over to the duomo and pointed them in the direction of their hotel. I walked over to Faenza to go to my Italian class. After Italian I had my miserable broadcasting history class then I came back home. Tonight, I had an interview for an internship on the phone. They called me on my Italian phone.

I spent the rest of the night looking up hotels and planning more spring break stuff. It’s all so stressful! Tomorrow I have an early morning. I am waking up and going to the Prada outlet outside of Florence with Kimberly and her friends. They invited Sara and I and told us to bring two friends. Liza Ruderman who is in AEPhi at IU with me, is going to come with us! Can’t wait to see all this Pradaaaaa!!!! I’m probably going to want to cry, but it’s going to be amazing amazing.

Ceiling of Salone dei Cinquecento

Ceiling of Salone dei Cinquecento at Palazzo Vecchio

Frescoes on the wall of the room

Frescoes on the wall of the room

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Pairing Food and Wine class meal

Pairing Food and Wine class meal

The butter chicken from Trattoria Sostanza

The butter chicken from Trattoria Sostanza

Kimberly and I at dinner

Kimberly and I at dinner

The tip jar at the bar of Be Bop

The tip jar at the bar of Be Bop

Beatles cover band

Beatles cover band

I want that bag on the right so badly...it's from Massimo

I want that bag on the right so badly…it’s from Massimo. It’s light gray leather

First pic of David. Had to get it from behind so I could sneak the pic. But then I got gutsy and took one in the front

First pic of David. Had to get it from behind so I could sneak the pic. But then I got gutsy and took one in the front

There he is!

There he is!

Plaster bust casts

Plaster bust casts

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When In Rome…

So our roman adventures started very early Friday morning. Sari, Katie, and I met up at 8:30AM and walked over to the train station together. We got on a 9:09 train to Rome. We had to take the slow train because it was way cheaper than buying a fast train ticket. Our train got in at around 12:40 and we grabbed a taxi and went straight to Sklare’s (Dylan Sklare my friend on “Hello Dolly!”) apartment. Brooke Maher (a friend from school) was there with her 3 friends that are studying in Barcelona, and Sklare’s friends, Giggles (Matt, but we call him giggles), Christian, and Jerry. We met them all when they came to Florence.

Sklare and Giggles lead us on a walking tour of Rome for the day. Sari and Katie started the tour with us, but then bailed and went to sleep instead hahahaa. They have already been to Rome so they didn’t want to do all the touristy walking in the crappy weather. We saw the pantheon, a lot of ancient ruins, and the coliseum. The coliseum was huge! Rome is really cool because there are just ancient buildings and ruins everywhere. It’s incredibly impressive how smart the Romans were. All the ancient architecture is so big and intricate. Way to go Romans! I really wasn’t expecting Rome to look the way it looks. It’s almost like Florence on steroids. It’s not urban or anything, just way bigger. It started to rain so we ended the tour and just went back to chill. We all met up at around 9:30 and had dinner at this place called Tony’s that everyone told me about. It was abroad central. Sooo many American students. But it was delicious. All 11 of us went together. I got this chicken called “Chicken Roman Syle.” It was chicken with some tomato sauce and vegetables.

After dinner we went and chilled on the Tiberian Island. It was cool! We sat in between the two rivers on the very tip of the island. There were all these broken tiles on the island and we threw a bunch into the river. At around 1:45, we left and went out at a club called Gilda. They go out way later here than in Florence. Gilda was actually so fun. It was WAY bigger than the clubs in Florence. Sari got into VIP and then got kicked out hahaha and everyone was so sweaty.

We walked home together at like 4:00AM (so euro). It was a pretty long walk. Maybe like 30 minutes. The farthest we walk in Florence is 15 minutes, I can’t get over how much smaller Florence is! Going to all these different places makes me appreciate Florence so much more. We got back to the hotel and just went to sleep.

On Saturday, we woke up and went to this panini place called Da Li Chochi on Via Della Scala. Giggles told us about it. It is €3 for a panini and it’s really good. After getting food we all met up at Giggles’ apartment. Sklare had his “Roma” tourist umbrella and we went on a nice walking tour to see the rest of Rome. We first went to the Vatican. It was pouring so we didn’t go in to see the Sistine Chapel because the line was so long. I’m going back to Rome in May, so I’m planning to go and see it then. Then we went to this gelato place that everyone told us about called Old Bridge. It’s right in Vatican City and it is bomb.

After a quick gelato break, we kept on trucking and walked by Castel Sant’Angelo, a castle in Rome. On Dylan’s Roma umbrella, there is a picture of the castle, so we took a picture of the umbrella with the exact shot of the castle (I’ll attach the photo below).

After the castle, we went inside a church close to the Pantheon. There is a Michelangelo statue in the church that we wanted to see. The ceiling of the church was beautiful, a really pretty blue color. After the church we stopped for a cappuccino break, then kept walking and passed two different obelisks. Dylan said that one of them was an obelisk turned into a sundial. It had hieroglyphics on it. The other one is called Trajans Column. It is a victory column depicting a victorious battle. Latin was written on it. Then it was finally time to go to the Trevi Fountain. It was so cool!!! I really liked it. It was huge/grand/majestic. I guess that you are supposed to throw coins into the fountain and then they collect the coins and donate it to charity. Sari, Katie, and I threw in a 2 cent coin and held up a “due” for a photo – so symbolic (if you’ve been following the blog, you know what I’m talking about – “due”).

We finished up the day with possibly the greatest photo. We went to the Spanish Steps and asked this Asian girl to take a photo for us. Her other Asian friends decided that they wanted to get in on the picture with us and we took a giant group shot with a bunch of Asian tourists. So so so funny. We all held up peace signs.

We then walked back to the hotel on Via del Corso, the main shopping street. Katie, Sari, and I went out to dinner just the 3 of us. We stumbled upon this small little restaurant right next to this plaza where there are a bunch of outdoor seating restaurants, and where this bar Sloppy Sam’s is. The restaurant was pretty authentic. I got roasted chicken and Katie and Sari shared Gnocchi and Ravioli. After dinner, we went to Sloppy Sam’s. At around 1:45, we went back to the hotel and went to bed.

This morning we woke up and got the hotel breakfast at this little cafe next door.

Really quick side note – my friends have pretty much designated me the Italian speaker of the group. Not sure how this happened because I don’t speak Italian, but I’m trying to learn it so badly and my Spanish speaking skills certainly help a lot. I booked the hotel reservation in Italian…don’t really know how I was successfully able to do that, but it happened. So at the little cafe, the waiter was talking to us and I was speaking Italian, but he must have been able to tell that I knew Spanish from my accent because he asked if we were from Spain and I told him no and that we were American. He responded saying “Barack Obama.” Pretty funny response. OH and another great moment was when we were looking around for restaurants in the plaza where Sloppy Sam’s is, the guy standing outside the restaurant promoting it, mistook us for Italians and was further convinced that we were Italian when I was able to respond to him in Italian. He said he was complimenting us. Great!

So after breakfast, we checked out of the hotel where the mean hotel lady charged us way more for having a third person in the room…so lame. Then she called a cab for us and we went to the Termini train station. When we were buying our tickets, the machines didn’t take credit cards, only debit cards because it asks for a PIN number which our credit cards obviously don’t have. So that was annoying. We got on the slow train back to Florence and just sat and did our own thing. I’m currently writing this blog entry, waiting for wifi to post it. Of course today is a beautiful day, no rain at all, and we are leaving today. Oh well….

Like I mentioned before, I am so much more appreciative of Florence and can’t wait to get back. I really love how accessible the city is and it’s actually nicer I think in comparison to Rome. Everyone seems happier in Florence and nicer. I like that a lot.

I’ll post this when I get back home with a bunch of photos from the weekend!

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Me and Brooke!

Me and Brooke!

Brooke, Dylan, and I

Brooke, Dylan, and I

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The trees here!!!! So cool!

The trees here!!!! So cool!

The coliseum

The coliseum

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Brooke's friends, me, Matt, and Dylan

Solo shot at the coliseum

Solo shot at the coliseum

Pose girl

Pose girl

The pantheon

The pantheon

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I'm obsessed with elephants. Saw this and had to take a pic!

I’m obsessed with elephants. Saw this and had to take a pic!

This asian girl was wearing an IU hat...

This asian girl was wearing an IU hat…

The Vatican

The Vatican

The Vatican with our umbrellas

The Vatican with our umbrellas

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Dylan's umbrella and the Castle

Dylan’s umbrella and the Castle

The church with the blue ceilings

The church with the blue ceilings

Michelangelo statue

Michelangelo statue

The hieroglyphics obelisk

The obelisk turned into a sundial

The other Egyptian-esque obelisk

Trajans Column

Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain

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Throwing in our due coins

Throwing in our due coins

The group photo with the asian tourists

The group photo with the asian tourists at the Spanish Steps

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Sushi and Sauna

Well let me just quickly fill you all in on yesterday’s craziness. So when we woke up yesterday morning, still no wifi…so we called our provider and tried to get to the bottom of the issue. I decided to just leave the apartment and go to the school to use the wifi there. Guess what? Wifi was out. Apparently there was a national problem with a ton of telecom internet providers. Some server in Bologna went down and they had to shut down a lot of their customer’s wifi throughout Italy. So that sucked. After a couple hours, it came back at school and at home. Oh yeah, and it was Dash’s birthday yesterday (my ridiculously cute bulldog). Happy birthday Dash!

I had an Italian quiz yesterday which went very well I think! Then I had my TV Broadcast class then came back home. I had some dinner and then got dressed to go out. I went downstairs to meet Katie and Sari at the end of my street and we all walked over to the train station together to buy a ticket to Rome. We are going to Rome tomorrow!

We then met up with Zorn and all went back to Katie’s apartment. We went out to Kikuya. Alex from Bus2Alps (the program that we went to Interlaken with) was there. Kikuya was cool! It’s a small little pub/bar and they have these beers called dragoons that are VERY strong. They taste really bad, I swear they have poison in them. If you ask the bartenders for a lollipop, they will give you one to suck on to hide the flavor of the dragoon. After Kikuya we went to Naima, and then home. Early night.

So today, I woke up, worked out, then Sari, Katie, and I went to meet up with Jillian from Bus2Alps for lunch at a sushi place. It’s called Sushi Nami and it’s actually pretty good! At the restaurant, Jillian told us that a bunch of the other Bus2Alps people were coming to meet us. Cool. So we basically were sitting in on a Bus2Alps staff lunch hahaaha. So yeah, the restaurant was good! It was 10 euro for all you can eat sushi. I got miso soup, a tuna roll, and salmon sashimi.

After lunch, Sari, Katie, and I decided to go to the gym to use the sauna. It was sooo nice! Really really really hot, but it felt good. We also went into the hot jacuzzi tub. It’s rainy today so it was nice to do something warm.

We’re meeting up to go to Yellow Bar for dinner and then we’re planning on having a quiet night since we have a 9:00AM train into Rome tomorrow morning. We are going to see my friends Dylan Sklare and Brooke Maher. Can’t wait! Hopefully we’ll be able to navigate and figure everything out okay. It’s supposed to be rainy this weekend which is a bummer, but oh well!

Posted this on Instragram in honor of Dash's birthday

Posted this on Instragram in honor of Dash’s birthday

Lane and I at Kikuya with our lollipops

Lane and I at Kikuya with our lollipops

Sushi in Italy at Sushi Nami

Sushi in Italy at Sushi Nami

I doodled this in class. Leaving for Roma tomorrow!

I doodled this in class. Leaving for Roma tomorrow!

Well Today Was Quite the Day

Today started off just dandy…had to study for my Art History quiz. I woke up early, made some online flash cards and made a study guide. I got to my class, took the quiz, and then we had a field trip. We walked over to the other side of the river and went to Palazzo Pitti. Palazzo Pitti is now considered to be the largest museum complex in Florence, and is divided into several galleries. It used to be owned by Luca Pitta, a wealthy Florentine man. It was later bought by the Medici family who seem to have bought every piece of real estate in 16th century Florence.

The famous Boboli Garden is inside the palace. We got to see the garden from a window inside a palace. I’m going to go back to the garden when it gets warmer out and without my class. It was magnificent. The Palace was exquisite. It had an unbelievable collection of renaissance paintings. I’m talking hundreds. Oh yeah, and the Palazzo Pitti has the largest collection of paintings by Raphael, I think 12.

The paintings were huge and all had fantastic gold intricate frames and they covered the entire wall, floor to ceiling. Mom, you would have died. It was so over the top, fab. The decorated painting on the walls was fantastic too. The walls were painted so meticulously that they look carved or made out of stone or 3-dimensional gold, when in fact all the creations are flat and just illusions. These artists were talented back then…

We walked from room to room TRYING our hardest to snap pics. We got yelled at in every single room for taking a photo. You weren’t allowed to take any pictures at all, not even without flash. I snapped a bunch of pics, but some are not so good.

When class time was over, I walked back to the other side of the river to my classroom on Via de Faenza. I had my food and wine class. Today in class we learned the process of how wine is actually made and the regulations behind Italian wine making. We then made the meal: spinach and ricotta gnocchi paired with a white wine from Tuscany, meatloaf paired with a chianti red wine, and a chocolate cake. The gnocchi was sooo good. Let me know if you want the recipe, it was super easy and a hit.

Then I went back home and had to deal with Rome accommodation drama. I planned to go to Rome this weekend with my friends Sari and Katie. We were going to stay with our friend Matt in Rome, but he got evicted from his apartment this past weekend for noise complaints…so we had no where to stay. So I’ve been on a wild hunt trying to find somewhere close to my friend Dylan’s apartment, but everything is booked! Last night we found this great place, but then I called again this morning to book it, and it was already taken. So that was out of the picture. Finally, we found another place, but it was so stressful and took hours to find. Oh. And the best part was that the woman booking our reservation from the hotel on the phone didn’t speak english. So thanks to my very few Italian class lessons on numbers and simple vocabulary and a little google translation, we were able to book the hotel room for Friday and Saturday night. Katie, Sari, and I are all squishing into one room, so hopefully this all works out.

Oh wait, so when I got home from class and was researching places to stay, about 30 minutes into my search, our wifi went out. So I went over to Sari’s apartment and booked the hotel there. So after about an hour of being there, their power went out. Oh the joys of being abroad…

So I came back home and thankfully our wifi was back, as slow as ever. And it’s been going on and off. It sucks. I finished up some homework, and now I’m blogging. I am so exhausted though. This past weekend, I hardly slept and I have been waking up pretty early here and have late nights. Woof.

View of the Garden of Boboli

View of the Garden of Boboli

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A table completely carved out of semi-precious stones

A table completely carved out of semi-precious stones. Unbelievable work put into this

Best and sneakiest way to snap pics here

Best and sneakiest way to snap pics here. Me and Sari

The walls are floor to ceiling covered in frames

The walls are floor to ceiling covered in frames

These frames!!!!

These frames!!!!

Tondo Doni - a circular painting traditionally given to woman as a gift usually after they have given birth

This is a tondo doni which is a circular painting traditionally given to woman as a gift usually after they have given birth

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Famous Raphael painting. Portrait of Maddalena Doni.

Famous Raphael painting. Portrait of Maddalena Doni.

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Stacy making spinach and ricotta gnocchi in class!

Stacy making spinach and ricotta gnocchi in class!

Our meal from food and wine class. Spinach and ricotta gnocchi, Italian meatloaf, chocolate cake.

Our meal from food and wine class. Spinach and ricotta gnocchi, Italian meatloaf, chocolate cake.

 

 

Interlaken to Florence. Only a 9 Hour Adventure.

So on Sunday, we all woke up at around 8:30. I took a fab shower (not.) at Balmer’s and got dressed for the day. The showers were so ghetto at Balmer’s. You had to hold down the button for the water to to go, like a public bathroom sink faucet. We all went down for breakfast, used our last breakfast vouchers, and then all went back up to our room to grab our stuff and checked out. We all put our bags in a room at Balmer’s to keep there until we left for our bus. Our bus was scheduled to leave at 4:00PM and at this point it was 10:00AM and we had nothing to do. So what did we do? We went to hang out with our pal Sheppy at the Irish Pub next door.

There honestly wasn’t much to do in Interlaken, besides look at how beautiful it was. Especially because everything costs so much fricking money in Switzerland. So we went over to the pub and sat at this table where there is an individual beer tap. You get to pour your own beer at your own table. It’s swwwweeet. We chilled at the pub until around 2:00PM. Some of the Bus2Alps staff members came to hang with us. We know how much they loved us. Our relationship with them was kind of like we were the campers and they were the counselors. We loved them!

After the pub, we went to our favorite and most gourmet restaurant in all of Interlaken. The coop grocery store…the only place where we could get food for a decent price. We got some deli meat and called it a day. We walked back to Balmer’s, ate some lunch, got our last fix of wifi before the ride back to Florence, and grabbed our stuff to walk towards the bus.

I was determined to get the best seat on the bus. I literally ran in front of every single person and left extremely earlier to go and save the seat for Katie and I. We got the seat where we could put up our feet and the TV was right in front of us. This time we weren’t squished and the ride was so much more comfortable. About 2 hours into the ride, we hit some traffic in the middle of a tunnel underneath the alps. We were there for AN HOUR AND A HALF. It was awful. we did not move an inch for an entire 90 minutes. No joke. Miserable.

Finally, we got out of the tunnel, kept driving, and stopped at around 10:00PM at a rest stop to get some snacks and for a bathroom break. We got back on the bus and drove straight to Florence. We got to Florence at about 1:15AM. We walked back to our apartment from the train station where the bus dropped us off.

Overall, Interlaken was great. It was so so so beautiful and it was such a great opportunity. I am so lucky that I have the opportunity to see all these amazing places that most people never get to see in their life. I want to take advantage of traveling. Even though this abroad experience has put a serious dent in my bank account, I am so happy to spend every penny and nothing that I do is a regret. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I know that I have to take advantage of every moment.

It was so fun spending the weekend with my 7 new friends. It was like a weekend at camp in a crappy hostile. It was so fun and a really great bonding experience.

Good morning ladies! Time to rally and rage

Good morning ladies! Time to rally and rage

All of us with Sheppy, the owner of the Irish Pub

All of us with Sheppy, the owner of the Irish Pub

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Welcome to Balmer's!

Welcome to Balmer’s!

We got the best seat on the bus!

We got the best seat on the bus!

Views from the bus

Views from the bus

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Day 2 of Interlaken

We woke up, used our Balmer’s breakfast vouchers and then met up with two of the Bus2Alps leaders, Jillian and Nick, to take us on a walking tour of Interlaken and to the river. It as great because it was like a private tour, just the group of 8 of us and Nick and Jillian.
We walked through the town, went to the Metropole hotel to see the view of the entire city. We saw the view, some people got a coffee (which cost like $9) then continued on to the lake. The lake is called Lake Brienz. It was absolutely GORGEOUS!!! We took a bunch of pictures. It was pretty crazy to see just because it was so pristine and didn’t even look real. I took a photo in front of the alps and it legitimately looked like I was just standing in front of a backdrop. It was so so beautiful. It was pretty warm and we ended up taking our jackets off. We walked back to towards Balmer’s to go to x-port, the Kebab/Pizza/Greek place to get some lunch.
We went back to our room after lunch to chill then at 4:30, we left Balmer’s to walk to the Chocolate store, Schuh, to watch the chocolate show. We got a little history on chocolate from a chocolatier that works at Schuh and had some chocolate samples. We had an 8 frank voucher to buy 8 franks worth of chocolate. Of course, Meghan went over the limit. After the chocolate show, we went back to Balmer’s and ordered in Thai food for dinner.
Of course we went to Metro that night and saw all of our Metro homies. We danced the night away and saw the chocolate man (the guy from Schuh that did the chocolate show)!!!! It was so funny.
Then we saw my friend Vince from my wine and food class and chilled at the kebab restaurant. Lane and Katie literally ate Tzatsiki sauce and ketchup from the bottle. Gross. When we got back to the room, Meghan was eating her chocolates that she had Sari hide that she bought for her parents. Woops!!! Classic Meghan.
Then we all went to sleep at around 1:00AM.
View of Interlaken from the Metropole Hotel

View of Interlaken from the Metropole Hotel

Lake Brient

Lake Brienz

It's so beautiful!! Better photos soon to come

It’s so beautiful!! Better photos soon to come

It looks like a fake backdrop

It looks like a fake backdrop

Due at Metro bar

Due at Metro bar

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At Lake Brienz

At Lake Brienz

The group holding up their "due"

The group holding up their “due”

There are few places in the world more beautiful than here

There are few places in the world more beautiful than here

The infinite abyss!

The infinite abyss!

The chocolatier at Schuh

The chocolatier at Schuh

Zorn and I

Zorn and I in the room at Balmer’s

Outside of our hostile room. Balmer's Monch Room 34.

Outside of our hostile room. Balmer’s Monch Room 34.

When we saw the Schuh chocolatier out at Metro....

When we saw the Schuh chocolatier out at Metro….

Well We Made It to Interlaken!

Myself with my 7 friends signed up for a trip to Interlaken with a student traveling program called Bus2Alps. They have tons of different trips and they organize the transportation and accommodation.

We met up with the group at 7:30PM at the Florence train station, about a 10 minute walk from my apartment. When we got on the bus, we all had to sit separately because the bus was so packed. Luckily I got to sit next to my friend Katie. The bus ride was around 7-8 hours. They played movies on the bus and there was one rest stop where we got to go to the bathroom and get some food.

Finally, at around 4:00AM we arrived in Interlaken. We went straight to the hostile where we are staying. It’s called Balmer’s and it’s this cute little cottage. We stay in rooms with 10 people. All of our friends are together, so it’s good.

We went to sleep for a couple of hours and then woke up at 7:30AM to start the day. Lane, Sari, Katie, Meghan, and Lauren signed up for skiing. I was too scared to ski considering I’ve only skied once, when I was 8, and I’m extremely injury prone (my two broken arms from last year…), so skiing didn’t seem like a good idea. Instead, Merel, Zorn and I bought a train ticket to go up the mountain to explore and see the mountains.

So we bought a ticket for a town called Wengen at Balmer’s and we got on the train and we missed our stop…so we went all the way to the top of the mountain. The top was beautiful! Completely white. Snow everywhere, people skiing. It was cloudy/foggy/snowy, so it was hard to see all the mountains.

Zorn and Merel and I went to a restaurant at the top of the mountain and they got sodas…they were 7 franks. No thank you. Everyone was staring at us because we weren’t skiing so they had no idea what we were doing at the mountain. There was a really cool huge teepee with a cafe/bar inside. Of course, we got stared at inside the teepee, so we left.

We got back on the train back to Balmer’s. When we were on the train, the conductor told us that we had the wrong ticket and didn’t have a ticket from the top of the mountain to Wengen. We knew that. We got lost and missed our stop. He told us we had to go with him when we got to Wengen to talk to the ticket people. So when we got to Wengen, we stayed on the train, the conductor went outside and tapped on our window and told us to get off. We got off and went to the ticket office with him where he explained to the ticket people what happened. We told them we were lost and didn’t know what to do and didn’t have money on us. They got the manager involved who told us that we were stupid and we told him we were completely lost and didn’t know what to do and that our money was at our hostile. He said to us, “GO AWAY!” So we walked out and waited for the train and didn’t even get to see Wengen.

When we were waiting for the train back to Interlaken, the manager came up to us and told us that we were stupid again, and that we’re lucky they didn’t call the police…we missed our stop and were lost!!!!!

When we got back to Interlaken, we went to an Irish pub. This place is so expensive. It’s ridiculous. After the pub we walked to the casino. Such a joke. Zorn only bet about 5 franks and won 30 franks! No way did I bet anything. It scares me.

Sari and Katie met us at the casino and then me, Sari, and Katie walked to the grocery store so we could buy cheap food to eat for dinner so we didn’t spend 30 franks on a meal. I got turkey and an orange. Gourmet.

We walked back to Balmer’s and then hung out with all the Bus2Alps staff and other students until Metro was open. Metro is literally the only place to go out at night in Interlaken and it’s in the basement of Balmer’s. It’s hilarious. So all the students all hung out at Metro and then we actually made it to bed before midnight since we had such a long day.

By the way, I don’t have my computer so I can’t upload all my photos. Just pictures that I take on my phone.

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Merel, Zorn, and I before going to the top of the mountain

Merel, Zorn, and I before going to the top of the mountain

The teepee bar at the top of the mountain

The teepee bar at the top of the mountain

Train station at Wengen

Train station at Wengen

Sari, Katie, and me in Balmer's before Metro

Sari, Katie, and me in Balmer’s before Metro

Balmer's felt like camp

Balmer’s felt like camp

Classes Are a Cultural Experience

First of all, everyone says that going abroad is a joke, and that classes are easy, but I beg to differ. I have so much work and so much reading! School is taken very seriously!

Second of all, I want to tell everyone that while yes, I am taking cultural classes that may be perceived as “easy” or a “joke”, like my food a wine class, I have to say that these are the types of classes that really teach you about the culture of Italy first hand. I wouldn’t have this type of experience anywhere else. And of course I am not learning about mathematical equations, or scientific formulas, but I am learning about life!!!!! What a great lesson!!!!

This morning I ventured out to the photo store so that I could buy a new camera case and memory card. Ugh. Such an unwanted expense, but I had to do it. After the camera store I came back home to do some reading for one of my classes and then met Sari on the corner to walk to our Art History II: High Renaissance to the Present class at Piazza Strozzi.

Today we had a field trip to the Laurentian Library. The library is right by my apartment, right by the leather market. It holds over 11,000 manuscripts and thousands of books. The library was built for the Medici family, which held a lot of power in the olden days of Florence. The library contains manuscripts and books of the Medici family. The library is particularly special because it was architecturally planned and built by Michelangelo.

The library is placed in a monastery that is connected to a church. The monastery has a courtyard with an orange tree in the center of it. When you go to the library, there is a vestibule that you enter before you go into the actual library. It is stunning. It is all gray stone and has incredible architecture. It is symmetrical, graphic, yet elegant. The vestibule gives off this intimidating and grand feeling.

Once in the vestibule, you have to walk up this elaborate staircase to get into the reading room. The reading room is fantastic. It looks like the aisle of a church. An incredibly long aisle is lined with pew-like benches that used to hold all types of manuscripts organized by subject. The ceiling of the reading room is all made out of intricately carved wood and the floor is terra cotta tile decorated with white tile illustrations. The windows are stain glass with “grotesque” designs.

Grotesque is a style which originated in Greece. It is a style which is an elaborate designed symmetrical pattern. Our teacher referred to the design of Hermes scarves as grotesque.

After visiting the library, we went back to our classroom (which is a 10 flight of stairs hike). In class we learned about Michelangelo and his famous works including The Sistine Chapel and David.

My next class was Italian Food and Culture: Pairing Food and Wine. So like I mentioned earlier, this class is an amazing experience. Like yeah, why do I need to know about wine? But it’s actually great because it’s so cultural. I have learned that Italians take their food and wine SO seriously here. Wine isn’t consumed here for the sake of drinking an alcoholic beverage like it is in America, it is a drink that is used to compliment food, and food is just an enormous part of every day life here. My teacher told us that she has only been drunk twice in her life, but has a glass of wine almost every night because it’s part of the experience of eating.

Today in class we learned how to properly taste wine. We went over how to use our three senses, sight, smell, and taste, to evaluate wine. After going over the basics of wine tasting, we broke into three separate groups and made pasta carbonara, chicken cacciatore, and a pine nut cake. I was in the pasta group. So delicious. It was fun cooking in the classroom kitchen, and a super bonus is that there is a dish guy, so we don’t even have to wash the dishes!

Our teacher chose two wines to pair with the pasta dish (white wine) and the chicken dish (red wine). I personally liked the pasta dish more and the white wine more, but that’s me.

When we were done with class, I went back home and read about CBS News and prepped for a Skype interview that I had tonight for CBS News. The interview was running late, so Lane, Sari, and I decided to go to the outdoor chocolate fair that is here for the week.

This chocolate fair is so dangerous. Thank god it’s so expensive, because we could have done some serious damage here. We tried to find testers of everything, but there are some stingy chocolatiers out there! Chocolate = amazing = dangerous = yum.

We came back home and I had my interview. I hope it went well!

Our teacher explaining the monastery and library

Our teacher explaining the monastery and library

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The Michelangelo vestibule before the reading room

The Michelangelo vestibule before the reading room

The stairs are fab

The stairs are fab

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Wooden ceiling

Wooden ceiling

Stained glass grotesque windows

Stained glass grotesque windows

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I signed the guest book at the library

I signed the guest book at the library

Pairing food and wine class. Meal 1

Pairing food and wine class. Meal 1

Carnevale!

Today we went to Viareggio to celebrate Carnevale, the big celebration celebrated throughout Italy that kicks off the start of Lent.

We took a bus from the train station to Viareggio, about an hour away from Florence. Viareggio is a small beach town that reminded me a lot of the jersey shore. We got our tickets and entered in the blocked off area for the humungous fair/celebration.

All the Italians were dressed in costume and the floats were HUGE! They were so crazy and bizarre. We took tons of photos of the floats and of the people. We stopped to get some lunch at a little street fair food stand. Nothing too good, but it did the job. It was so crowded, that every restaurant had at least a 1 hour wait.

One of today’s highlight’s was when we passed this thing where you could get inside this giant blow up plastic ball and you could roll around in a blow up pool. We all chipped in some money so that we could watch Sari get in the ball and take pictures of her. It was so funny, she couldn’t stand up. After 5 minutes of Sari trapped in the plastic ball, we kept walking around and thought that since we were right by the beach, we may as well go on the beach.

So we took a little stroll onto the beach, wearing leather boots and combat boots in the sand. There were sailboats out by the water which was very pretty.

After about 15 minutes on the beach, we went back to the street to watch the parade some more. At one point I noticed that my camera case that had been clipped onto my purse, was gone. Someone must have unclipped it and stolen it. I was so upset. Katie Demiranda and I spent a solid 20 minutes retracing our footsteps to see if we could find it, but it was completely gone. Within a 5 minute span, it was gone. I noticed that it was still there 5 minutes before I noticed it was missing. I was so upset. There were memory cards in the case, that I now have to replace. Thank god that everything that was gone is replaceable at least.

Watching the parade got a little old after a while, and it was pretty cold out, so we went into a cafe to just pass some time. When it was finally 5:15, we made our way back toward the entrance of the parade to meet up with the group to catch our bus back to Florence.

There was tons of traffic on the way back, and it took about 2 hours to get back. When we got back to Florence, we walked to Ben’s apartment to go to the bathroom and got his two roommates Zach and Josh, and walked across the river to Gusta Pizza, some of the very best pizza in Florence. This was my first time going, but everyone has been raving about it so it was definitely time to try this pizza. There are only 6 options on the menu, and they only have pizza. And basically just like everything else in Italy, you can only pay in cash.

I got the GustaPizza. It is pizza with marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese, lettuce, cherry tomatoes, and parmesan cheese. Delicioso!

Our two roommates, Amanda and Rachel got back from Interlaken late tonight and told me and Lane all about their trip. It sounded great, but freezing! It’s great because they told us everything we need to know before going.

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Some girls in their masks

Some girls in their masks

Just the beginning of the crazy floats

Just the beginning of the crazy floats

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Marzipan

Marzipan

Sari in the bubble

Sari in the bubble

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Selfies on the beach in Viareggio

Selfies on the beach in Viareggio

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Big group photo

Big group photo

We danced in the streets with these people

We danced in the streets with these people

Old ladies on the float

Old ladies on the float

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This is bizarre. That's Obama

This is bizarre. That’s Obama

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Me and Jenna Mizzi. Love her purple wig

Me and Jenna Mizzi. Love her purple wig

Gusta Pizza. Delicious!

Gusta Pizza. Delicious!

Just Your Typical Saturday In Florence

Woke up this morning and put my sock bun in my hair. Lane, Sari, and I met up at 12:00 to go shopping at the indoor market. It is the best place ever. All the produce and meat and cheese is so fresh and often times cheaper than the grocery store. Got some broccoli, oranges, nectarines, tomatoes, and some beautiful fresh tuna. Lane, Sari, and I all bought tuna and decided that we were going to make it for dinner. Before we even started shopping for food, we sat down and ate at this little sandwich stand inside the market. They serve pasta and sandwiches. You can get turkey, roast beef, boiled beef (kind of like brisket), or tripe sandwiches. We got boiled beef. It was delicious. Super authentic Italian food from super authentic Italian guys. Moto buono!

We made friends with Massimo, the produce guy, and the fish guys were awesome. There was another fish stand where they were jamming out to U2 and just passing out free cups of wine. Party in the market!

After the market we went back home and I had a little credit card drama. Everything is so complicated because there is no way to communicate with American companies since I have an Italian phone. I can only communicate via email and I hate it. I feel trapped!

I did some reading for homework and then went with Sari to the bookstore because she had to buy her books for class. We walked around our neighborhood a little (Sari and I are neighbors) and found an even closer grocery store, a humungous 1 euro store, and found a kebab place on her street…dangerous.

Then we just went back home to chill and Sari came over to mine and Lane’s apartment to make our tuna dinner. It was so good! After dinner, we obviously had to go get gelato. We went to Venchi (SO GOOD). I got chocolate, nougat, and chocolate hazelnut.

Sandwich from the market

Sandwich from the market

Getting our tuna in the market

Getting our tuna in the market

High roller in the euro store (those are 100 euro napkins)

High roller in the euro store (those are 100 euro napkins)

My delicious dinner!

My delicious dinner!

Arguably some of the very best gelato in Florence. Not even kidding.

Arguably some of the very best gelato in Florence. Not even kidding.