Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ooh La La Paris

Oo la la Paris ~
My time in Paris was well spent; I did a lot of running around and freezing. In fact, I did so much of both the skin on the backs of my calves was rubbed raw. I kid you not. So we arrived on the 11th, unfortunately the ‘airline that is always on time’ Easyjet, was not on time (either coming or going). Actually it was an hour late departing from both Pisa and Paris. By the time we got to our hotel on Thursday night it was actually early Friday morning and mom and I were exhausted. We woke up the first morning early to get breakfast then we went back to bed till about 12:30.

The 12th was spent in two very beautiful places, the first, Notre Dame. It was a very beautiful cathedral similar to some of the ones I have seen around Italy. Why does it seem that the Catholics and Presbyterians always seem to get the pretty churches? Anyway, After that mom and I got tea and a strawberry crepe (creepy is how I like to call them) and took a cab to the Louvre. It was important that we go tonight because it was free entrance on Friday night after 5 for anyone under 26 (or unemployed) and I happened to be both! I thought, I could easily master this museum in 3 hours, but I was deadly wrong. Fortunately for you guys I didn’t die literally, just mentally. The Louvre has to be the most beautiful museum and building I’ve ever laid my eyes on, and I was so happy to be in Paris. We went and saw the famous things, mainly the Mona Lisa but we also went and saw some other works of Da Vinci, and Picasso and Delacroix. I also was fascinated with all the statues they had that were Greek and Roman. If you want to know what else we saw I suggest you pick up a book that has a list of the works of art.
After the Louvre we went in search of a vegetarian restaurant which turned out to be a very posh bar that served me a 10 euro hash brown, aka Potato pancake. I was starving.

The 13th – the day of realizations.
I realized that my dear friends in Italy were flying home without me. I was okay with this because I was not flying back to the U.S. on the other hand it was very difficult saying (sort of) Goodbyes. Mom is not feeling well and hadn’t since yesterday so she stayed the day in the Hotel. Unfortunately it was today I realized I packed only 2 pair of socks and underwear each and it looked as if I’d be doing laundry in the bathroom sink. Also, how was I to be cleaning my teeth without a toothbrush? I ended up going to the corner store and picked up 2 apples, some clementines, brie, crackers and a toothbrush. But since we had no hotel room fridge, I tied the brie in a plastic sack to the window rail since it was only 0 degrees centigrade outside! Today I went to see the Musee De L’Orangerie, the Musee D’Orsay, and the Eiffle Tower. I liked the Musee d Orange something or other because it was an easy museum to tackle. It held Monet, and I was introduced to Cezanne, Modigliani, and others. I wasn’t expecting what was the Musee D’Orsay. It was massive. I felt almost as overwhelmed in here as I did in the louvre, and I definitely didn’t give myself enough time to conquer the entire thing feeling in the end as if I missed all the good stuff. In here we had Van Gogh, Monet, Manet, Degas, Lacombe, and others. (Same thing from the Louvre, go get a book)!

The 14th-15h- I’ll make this shortwinded so you don’t fall asleep. The 14th was a big day, the last full day I had in Paris and I wasn’t going to waste it in bed. Not that my mom was wasting it, but she was ill, and I was not. I discovered the metro today and it came in handy, I stayed dry and less cold than the night before potentially saving my calves. So I went to see the big monuments, Tour Montparnasse, the Montparnasse cemetery, Pantheon, Eiffel tower (went last night too), Arc de Triomphe (thank Napolean for his arrogance), Concorde and Madeline. On the

15th I went up and saw the Sacre Couer (Sacred Heart Basilica) and Moulin Rouge before catching the plane. IT was then I realized that my calves were rubbed raw and I was starving and exhausted and cold (at least I was dry). Paris treated me decently, and I would love to go back.

My Firenze. . .

Well.. my time in Firenze has come to an end. I cant say its sad because I had a fantastic time and great memories that can never be replaced. I was sad to say goodbye to my friends on Thursday when I took off for Paris, and now that I have returned all i have to say goodbye to is Firenze. So i thought i would enlighten you on what my Firenze is about..

My Firenze is..
a town that never sleeps
a town that can never make up her mind on the weather
a town where a beautiful bridge was saved by a Nazi in WW2
a town you can climb over 400 steps inside of a dome to see over the whole city
a town where cats are in a paradise called the Boboli Gardens
a town where you fight for your right to walk on the sidewalk
a town where if you dont finish your plate it means you dont like the food and you wont get dessert
a town where an Indian-Italian man thinks its a sin if you dont take your leftovers home.
a town where i am greeted in my favorite restaurants
a town where the pizza man makes a margherita pizza in the shape of a heart or dances with you
a town where pizza is reasonably priced (anything over 5 euros is expensive).
a town where I can buy my fruit and veggies from a fruittivendolo
a town where I get to walk past historically important art every day
a town where I can walk up the hill to listen to the monks nightly prayers
a town where the river looks similar to the Willamette
a town where dogs poop everywhere.. its like a landfield.
a town where stop signs are mere suggestions.. if there are any.
a town where pedestrians, bicycles, cars, and motorbikes have equal street and sidewalk rites.

These are only a few things about my Firenze that I am sharing with you, for I think everyone should come and visit and decide what makes their Firenze. If you cant get here though, you should figure out what makes your home, your home.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

It's getting colder!

Tuscan Hills

Boy oh boy!

The temperature outside is dropping so quickly. There is no understatement when they told us to pack lots of layers in our luggage. I was wearing about six myself, just the other day.

My mom finally arrived on Thursday and it was really good to see her. I keep having to remember that she is not acclimated to the city yet and not to run her off her own feet (the cobblestone can be trecherous).

So Thursday I took her out to dinner at Goldenview and it was very tasty! Its one of the most expensive restaurants on our meal voucher list. Then Friday I met up with her and we went to the Bargello and walked around town, took a visit at the German market and ate some tasty food at Il Teatro (another meal voucher place thats just as tasty as Goldenview).

Saturday morning I took her to a small town called Lucca, and even though it had been downpouring since Thursday night we had sunny weather all day. The purpose of going to Lucca is because the Lucca Digital Photo Fest was going on and they had a ton of exhibitions. There were about 10 locations around Lucca each holding 3-4 exhibits.

To our pleasant surprise, Lucca had lights strung up everywhere as well as some markets going on around town! So after our jaunt to a couple of locations to see the photos we decided to peruse the markets. Even more to our surprise we discovered an ice skating rink and a chocolate festival going on!

boboli gardens, a cats paradise

Sunday we took our time getting ready for the day and decided to take advantage of the sunshine and go to the Boboli Gardens. These are some massive gardens on the Pitti Palace property (once occupied by the Medici's). Unfortunately my mom and i seem to have some bad timing and ended up getting slightly lost while they were closing. This creepy woman came on the loudspeaker and was announcing for people to exit. All of a sudden there were no people in the gardens at all and suddenly i felt my life was threatened. In all reality it wasn't, but it was reminiscent of a scene out of a horror movie (ie Battle Royale)!

Fortunately we made it out safely, and I did happen to find a 25 lb cat in the gardens at he was really cute!

Monday I had signed my mom and i up for wine tours with Todd of He came and taught three classes at my school for us, 2 on wine and 1 on olive oil so I knew it would be a good tour and I was not disappointed. He took us up into the beautiful Chianti hills which were so colorful, lush and gorgeous.
Mom in vineyards in Chianti, swiping at fruit flies
This is the last official week of our trip and I am very sad to be parting ways with my roommates and classmates (and of course, Firenze). Forunately I still have one week left with my mom (she happens to be cooking a house dinner tonight).

Monday, December 1, 2008


Katie C trying to keep her umbrella under control. The wind won!


A lot has happened since Venice, I am sorry for not updating.

November has FLOWN past and I am amazed it's already December! December marks the end of my journey and I am feeling the panic go to see things while I still can.

My mother arrives in Florence on the 4th, which makes it exactly two weeks, exactly fourteen days until I go home.

Home... how I miss you (especially burritos) .

So the first weekend of November was spent in Dublin! I went with 6 other people- Andrew, Katie C, Candace, Shantyel, Amanda, and Alex. Why? Despite the fact that the Irish have the loveliest accents in the world we were going to see the Flogging Molly show (which was the best fun)!

Our weekend was very cold and wet, yet we had the most fun! Friday night we went to the show, Saturday morning we slept in then we went and saw Trinity College, shopped and got dry in a Starbucks and went and saw James Bond after getting our dinner in an Irish equivalent to a Quick E Mart. Sunday we went to Planet Hollywood and walked and saw a Castle, and walked past some other castles, then we went to the Guinness Brewery which was a lot of fun and really interesting. After that we split up as a group and Alex, Katie and I walked to Kilmainham Gaol, which the desk clerk at our hostel was a 5 minute walk from the storehouse (it was actually 45 minutes). Since we were short on time we caught a bus back to O'Connell st. which was being used for a Christmas Tree lighting and ran back to our hostel fighting our way through the masses of crowds. Since O'Connell was blocked it really prohibited us from getting back to the airport! So we asked our hostel people where we could catch the bus, but Amanda had text Katie directions so we followed them. And got lost. So we spent the next 15 minutes running around in the freezing cold trying to find a bus that would go to the airport. Finally we flagged down a random bus and the driver told us to hop on. He was doing all he could to get us to the right bus stop! Sadly, we ended back where we started, literally down the street from the hostel, in which we walked back to the street that started the same journey all over again. Fortuantely we found the right way go to and found our bus stop, in which we were told upon arrival the bus would be late. And it was... 5 minutes... no bus...10 bus... 15 minutes... no bus... PANIC! we had 45 minutes to get to the airport so we finally flagged a taxi driver down, named Eugene who was possibly the nicest man ever. After a friendly conversation about politics we arrived at the airport just in time to catch our plane. I also, had apparently caught a cold and was feeling it the minute I sat in my seat.

The next week and weekend I was busy being really, really sick. My throat felt like it was on fire, which in turn made my ears feel like they were on fire, which made it IMPOSSIBLE to sleep! I spent 12 days on antibiotics and felt a lot better just to feel like crap again during thanksgiving.

Our thanksgiving we had 5 days off from school and most of the kids took off to other countries. Katie R, my roommate, and I were the only 2 who stayed home. Wednesday that week we went to Piti Palace to see the Modern Art museum and then we went shopping! Thursday we took off for Bologna, where i went and saw Flogging Molly yet again! I must say they put on a much better show here than in Ireland! Friday we came home and crashed, Saturday we went to the market and cooked and ate all day and had a wonderful thanksgiving with a bunch of foreigners. 5 were from the states, 2 were from Norway and 1 was from Germany. The Norwegians and German had never celebrated a thanksgiving before so they were all very excited!

I'll update more later!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Singing in the Rain- In Venice!

Well I would just like to start by saying Go Obama!

Things are well here in Florence, I spent part of my night at a big election party occupied by mostly Obama supporters. The event was large, with at least a few thousand in attendance through-out the night. It was held between six pm to four am. A modgepodge of events were taking place inside Saschall's, a large concert hall on the outskirts of Florence. There were live bands, two large screens with CNN, booths (mostly supporting Obama), free food, open bar, and people milling about trying to settle in.

.. Pictures and more to come about the election party. Now about Venice..

The five of us, Me, Katie Cook, Shantel, Amanda and Jacie left early Friday morning on the 31st of October, hoping there would be some great happenings in the squares of Venice. When we arrived it was raining and cold and everyone was about with their umbrellas. All the colors made such a lovely introduction to a beautiful city. We found our hostel, luckily, and dropped things off and set out for an adventure. There are so many shops of masks and glass it's mind boggling. The canals are equally mind boggling because there are so many, and each feels unique with it's own special characteristics such as plants hanging from windows or colorful boats lining the narrow passageways.

We returned after great exploration for a rest, a change of clothes and a gathering of moral. Our room was quaint, and our five beds, reminiscent of the 60's with their green burbur covers were side to side taking up two-thirds of the room. The other third was used as walking space to our spacious and clean bathroom. Fortunately Katie Cook decided to do pilates which turned into a comical event of us trying to mimic her on our Orphanage-like beds. A seach through our tourists books lead us to believe there was a Mexican restaurant on the island that would be open for dinner, and we were greatly disappointed when they kept telling us to come back in a half an hour. So we decided to depart that idea and get dinner else where.

We were not really surprised though to find that Venice really had no nightlife, afterall we had been properly warned. On the other hand there were masses of children running amok trying to get treats from every shop open, including the butcher shops! We decided to head back to the hostel for a second dry off and to call it an early night.

The next morning we were greeted by blue skies, sunshine, and two crazy sounding alarms that lasted for five minutes each and did not seem to cause anyone on the island to panic. We were off for the day to have breakfast and to do some serious shopping! We just happened to wander past a location to get on the Gondola's so we decided to go on a 50 minute ride and it was so much fun! The rest of the day was fulfilled by lots of walking, snacking, shopping and visiting the flooded Piazza San Marco which was not flooded the previous day. Fortunately we had a mostly dry day and only a slight amount of rain. We concluded our day by early dinner at a cafeteria then departing around 4:30 to Firenze sweet Firenze!

a happy Gondolier

Monday, October 27, 2008

Friends, Romans, Countrymen, Lend me your Ears

Well, we just got back from Rome!

Rome was a very busy place, and we had a VERY busy weekend! I think we walked a culmination of about 30 miles for the weekend (friday-sunday).

We started our trip on Friday morning, taking the fast train from Florence to Rome. After we dropped our stuff off at MJ Hostel, we went to the Vatican where we had a tour of the Museum, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peters Basilica. All of which are essentially connected by walkways, which is amazing! I have never seen so much beautiful art concentrated in an area like that before. To say that I have stood under Michaelangelo's fresco in the Sistine is something I never thought I would find myself saying.

(photo: standing near the Pope-hat fountain)

After that tour we walked all around Rome, finally ending at the Spanish steps (and there are a LOT of steps by the way). From there the group parted ways, and we all had dinner and gelatto and went back to the hostel. This was my first Hostel experience, and it was an interesting one. Our room was up like six flights of stairs and let me tell you that Roman stairs are VERY STEEP. The showers were grimey, but were a necessisty after walking that much! My bed was a sight for sore eyes except that it sloped to one side and that made for an interesting two nights sleep.

-- more pictures and the rest of Rome soon!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Ciao Bella!

Well Hello! Last week was terribly busy! Lets start off by our guided Uffizi tour on Thursday by our wonderful Angela. Angela is a German women, who is fluent in German, English and Italian - and she is probably the most intelligent person I know! She is an Art Historian so she does most of our tours as well as our ILC lectures. I dont know how she stores all this information in her head but she does!

photo: Me in Lucca

Friday we as a group went to Sienna and San Gimignano. Sienna is a rival of Florence, and they were at war with each other for about 300 years. Finally Florence conquered Sienna, but the Sienne's still hate the Florentines. (Really, all towns are rivals- just because). Sienna was a beautiful little city with a unique and fantastic history! Everywhere you went in that town had the smell of good food being cooked and it definitely made your mouth water.

We then went to San Gimignano, and it was another equally lovely peaceful little town. San Gimignano sits on a hilltop, like most of the towns, and it had gorgeous view points of the valleys of Italy. I enjoyed San Gimi a lot better, and it was then when I realised how much I love being here and how much I don't miss the United States. Then I got pooped on by a pigeon and quickly changed my mind! After that though a group of us went to a torture museum which was really a waste of 6 euros because mostly it was just drawings of examples of torture.

photo: me in San Gimi with all the towers behind me

Monday, October 13, 2008

Highlights. . .

Everything is going well here in Florence and I am commencing week three of my stay so I thought I would give you all some highlights.

So far I have visted three other towns, Fiesole- a quiet Etruscan town minutes away from Florence. We also visited Pisa to see the leaning tower and Lucca (right) for a nice afternoon stroll. I have climbed the Duomo here in Florence and I visited the Uffizi and the Boboli Gardens with my museum pass.

I have been sad that there are not very many animals in the center of Florence, especially cats. However when I went to the Boboli gardens on Saturday, I discovered that all the cats in Florence are there and it is quite a haven for them!

Sunday a group of us took a trip to Cinque Terre and what a grand day that was. I was swimming in the Ligurian Sea I realised that was THE highlight of my trip. The day was beautiful, and the sea was as clear as could be - you could see the fish swimming between you as you floated along.
Well, I'll have more pictures and maybe some video up soon, tomorrow if not wednesday!

Monday, September 29, 2008

here I am Italy!


I am in Italy finally! It seems like just march that i was just applying for the program. So our flight from PDX was 6 hours, then we had a 5 hour layover in JFK. Let me tell you about JFK- its one hot and muggy airport, with no air conditioning. It's really not all that interesting either, and you cannot buy stamps there. Our flight from JFK to Pisa was about 8 hours, which was not that bad at all. The turbulance ripped my stomach up!

We arrived in Pisa around 11 AM, and took an hour drive and got dropped off at our apartments. Ours is a nice apartment, very modern and we only have one flight to go up. The whole apartment and entrance is marble, which makes for a chilly evening.

We have had two walking tours of the city, and yesterday we went and viewed everyones apartments.

We had our first pizza and italian wine at a restaurant called La Campane! it was very good, and seemed to be the very hip place to be on a sunday night.

Monday, September 22, 2008

commence exploring

Well, I leave for Florence Friday morning! I have been wishing, if I only had one more week at home, if I only had one more week. But I had two weeks to get things taken care of, and pretty much just lazed about the entire first week. I'm very excited to leave though!

I have my plane tickets to Dublin for November 7th-9th - I'll be seeing a favorite band of mine, Flogging Molly there. It is truly a pleasure to say that I'll be seeing them there!

my mom is planning on meeting me in Italy for the last leg of my trip, then we'll spend a few days in Austria, then back to Italy, and back home around December 18th.

I've been toying around with maybe a trip to Barcelona or Monaco. My first priority is to see all of Italy though.

I am almost done packing, toiletries-check, underware/socks-check, "summer clothes"-check which is mainly tank tops, a skirt and 2 capris; and i'll be packing my "winter clothes" and electronics soon.

Oh, I am not looking forward to 19 hrs of combined plane time! (6 hrs to JFK +5 hr layover, 13 to Florence).

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Firenze, Firenze!

Well this is a small unlabeled street map of Firenze, and the area where I'll be spending most of my time. I'll be attending classes at ABC school and living within 15-20 minutes walking distance.

I went to an informational meeting on Saturday the 23rd and met some of the people I'll be schooling with. They warned us women of pick pockets, to heavily guard our purses. Also we'll need to bring toilet paper as some public toilets are kind of like outhouses.

Things I am hoping to do:

  • Go to all the museums I can: Uffizi, Accedemia, the Science Museum, etc.
  • Shop for fresh produce at the markets
  • Attend Sunday Mass once at Il Duomo
  • Acquire recipes from the locals
  • travel on the Italian Coast (esp. Almafi)
  • Go to 1-3 other neighboring or close countries: France, Austria, Spain, Germany, Greece, and Ireland are some of my choices.
  • Speak Italian with some locals
  • Go to a European Chocolate Festival

Well. . . This is it for the time being. I'm sure I'll ad more to my list later!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Good News + More waiting + Crazy

Well! It's true! I am a future recipient of the Gilman Scholarship- at the value of 3,000 dollars! Fortunately I am also relying on our federal gov't to cover another large chunk, and am going to be "loaning" from my mom to cover the rest. I am very fortunate and feel that I am very blessed in many different ways to be able to go on a trip like this.

Unfortunately I am still playing the waiting game (few months before I leave) and am still trying to teach myself Italian. I have found this whole experience to be pretty stressful and I have not even left yet! It's a new experience for our financial aid director at LBCC and I am sure that our travel abroad advisor thinks I'm a nutcase. I am not even going to cover AIFS and the difficulties I have come to experience with them.

I am SORRY but this whole thing, this traveling abroad thing is NEW to me. I am very green, very very green when it comes to applications and deadlines and scholarships and dealing with programs and trying to make everyone happy! I think I have pissed a few people off, and probably annoyed others- but I want to make sure all my bases are covered, ya know? So excuse me if I email you 5 times in one week.

*sigh* that was my rant.

In other personal news: I got engaged on June 14th and we are planning our wedding for August 1st, 2009. I have discovered the best website on earth The Knot via my best friend Lindsay who is also getting married next year!

Also, it seems like when the meatball starts rolling down the spaghetti of life, it rolls fast, downhill and collects dirt chunks along the way. We have had concerns of health for my nephew who has CF- contracted a bad virus that messes up his motor skills. Two of my cats have needed veterinary care, I have been mildly job searching, planning a trip to Canada with mom this summer, trying to clean my real room because we're in the middle of a remodel, and just trying to figure out my life in general. Things are crazy and stressful and God decided that I work better under a lot of pressure. He must not realize it makes me cranky, snappy and my hair fall out.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Well its June 10th, and I leave for Italy on September 26, 2008. SCARY!

The waiting game drags on as I wait to hear about scholarships, and waiting to get the info packet that tells me where ill be living.

I hate flying and I keep trying to reassure my mother no Natalie Holloway incident will happen. I tell her "the most you have to worry about is diseases, zombies, snakes on the plane, plane crashing on an island that doesn't really exist, or into the ocean in which case she should worry about sharks." I say "don't worry I'll be fine." After all, I watch Shark Week on the discovery channel, I read about survival in case of zombies, I will know what to do in case i land on that non existent island. As for snakes I am not afraid and well, if its a disease than I am SOL unless Tom Cruise or Jason Stathom show up with the magical antidote.

But I am not really convinced myself that I'll be fine. Seriously, what if I land in Florence and there was a horrible disaster whilst we were in flight and there are zombies raping the land. I would have no time to prep on the plane..

In the mean time I get to look forward to the trip to Victoria BC that my mom and I will be taking in august. Oh i also have to find a job :(
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