Monday, May 9, 2011

Dublin and London

This past weekend Danielle and I made our last european adventure, traveling to Dublin on Wednesday for one night and then onto London from Thursday to Sunday. Although it was the weekend before final exams (finals in italy? now thats not fair..) we decided that our 4 months in Europe just wouldn't be complete without going across the pond. 

Our one and only night in Dublin was fantastic. Dublin is a beautiful place and has loads of character. We hopped around from one local pub to the next enjoying all of the celtic music being performed.  We even met a leprechaun (AKA a severely over-served irishmen) named "Pauly" who showed us an irish jig. In the morning we visited St. Patricks Cathedral and the Dublin Castle. We also walked around the campus of Trinity College, Dublin's oldest University. 

Thursday afternoon we headed to LONDON, one of my all time favorite places! Only a week after the Royal Wedding, London was still gushing with Will+Kate mania... i loved it! It was hard to find a store anywhere in London that didnt have at least 10 items with Will and Kate's faces plastered on them. We even got to visit Westminster Abby (where the royal wedding took place) and walk to isle JUST like Kate did! (I was practicing for when Harry and I do the same). 

This was Danielle's first time to London and so we had kept ourselves busy with all the touristy things London has to offer. We did the London eye to see  fabulous views of the entire city. We watched the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, the most wonderful place on earth. We saw the spectacular Crown Jewels, the most wonderful things on earth, at the tower of London. And saw two musical s in London's West End. We saw Billy Elliot, a personnel favorite, and Legally Blonde, perfect for a good laugh and some much missed sorority action. 

Being around all the wonderful ENGLISH in Dublin and London made me miss home SO much! I am so so ready for the simple convinces of America. I cant wait to.... rely on my car instead of my feet. Eat chips and salsa instead of bread and spaghetti. Blue Bell instead of gelato. DIET coke instead of Coca Lite.  Go to TCU instead of LdM. Margaritas (period) instead of Margarita Pizzas. Tahoes and trucks instead of motorbikes and smart cars. Know my way around town (debatable) instead of always feeling lost. See boys in Wranglers and cowboy boots instead of Leather Jackets and tight jeans. Understand what people say to me instead of responding with 'clueless American' face. Have temperatures in the high Fahrenheit's instead of the low Celsius's.  Curling iron curls instead of the natural kind. Dryers instead of a rope and some close pins. 

Cathedral in Dublin 

Trinity College, Dublin's oldest University  
Buckingham Palace !!!

Changing of the Guard 

Big Ben and the London Eye 

Westminster Abby, Hello Kate and William! 

Me and Danielle on the London Eye 

The Famous Tower Bridge in London
Of course, above all, I am also SO anxious to see both my family and friends.  You all have no idea how much I have missed being a part of your everyday lives! It is so true that you never know how good you have it until you have to live without it. I have realized just how blessed I am to have the most amazing friends and family, and I never want to leave you all ever again! 

Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure. You’ve got to find the treasure, so that everything you have learned along the way can make sense. 


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Amalfi Coast Easter Weekend

This past weekend my roommates and I visited the Amalfi coast in Italy. I think I found my my new favorite Italian destination! We stayed in Sorrento, hiked in Capri, ruined in Pompeii, dined in Naples, and beached in Positano. All the towns (excluding maybe Naples....) were absolutely breathtakingly beautiful! Thanks to no school Thursday, Friday, or Monday we got to have a nice long trip and had the perfect balance of action and relaxation.

We stayed in little cabin/bungalows in the town of Sorrento. Sorrento to located right on the Amalfi coast and is a tourist hotspot! There were tons of people visiting there especially because of the long Easter weekend. Sorrento some very neat deep rooted Catholic traditions that take place around Easter and we had the experience of a lifetime being able to be there and take part in them. On the night of Holy Thursday there is a HUGE (about an hour long and including over 300 participants) processional. All participants wear white as they represent people 'looking' for Christ. They hold crosses and other religious items and the music is happy and upbeat. The next night, Good Friday, the mood completely shifts. The parade is dark, gloomy, even haunting. The people are dressed all in black and slowly process down the main street in town. This represents the people, not knowing yet about the resurrection, lamenting Jesus' death. These two precessions are put on by the Franciscan order which dominates the town of Sorrento. They were so neat and very unlike anything I have ever seen.

On Friday we took a 20 min ferry to Capri to spend the day hiking and exploring. Capri is stunning. The mountains are amazing and the water is crystal clear. There is also TONS of great shopping here! We got to cliff dive into the FREEZING water (still considered 'winter' season here). We also took a boat into the 'Blue Grado' where the water is touched perfectly by the sun making it appear an almost lucid teal blue color- SO NEAT.

Saturday we took a train to Pompeii to see the ruins there. In the year 79 a huge volcano erupted on mount Vesuvius. Volcanic Ash covered the entire city of Pompeii killing all life there but perfectly preserving the town coated in ash. Only 150 years ago an archeologist discovered something deep underground the land that was the ancient city of Pompeii.  After much digging and restoring (which continues to this day) the entire town of Pompeii has been uncovered and can now be visited as one of the largest and oldest collections of artifacts. It is truly amazing to walk around Pompeii (which is HUGE)  and see the temples, walkways, restaurants, even ash coated people, that are from the year SEVENTY NINE. 

After exploring Pompeii we got to climb mount Vesuvius!!! Climbing the entire volcano takes a pro about 2 full days... so we got bussed halfway up and then ventured to the top, which was PLENTY of hiking! Mount Vesuvius is the only active volcano on mainland Europe and had it's last major eruption in 1944. We could see smoke rising out of the MASSIVE hole at the top which has scorching temperatures and is 4200 feet high. cool. 

After a long day we trained to Naples to eat at the 150 year old, Da Michele Pizzaria which was featured in the movie Eat. Pray. Love. with Julia Roberts. The pizza was the best I've tasted. ever. However, besides eating Naples is kind of a bust... (AKA the next day our guide told us that there was an article in that mornings paper about a lady who, upon refusing to give up her purse to pickpockets, was dragged up and down the streets in broad daylight, the same day we were there...) The pizza was worth it!!! 

Sunday we had a relaxing Easter on the beach in Positano. Positano has got to be the most beautiful beach I have ever been to. It is right at the foot of a large mountain which is lined with colorful beach houses stacked one on top of another; making facing the water just as beautiful as facing the picturesque shore. We had FABULOUS sunny weather and soaked up the sun all day! 


Beautiful Capri 

Ready to go Hiking in Capri 

Loving Capri  
Heading down to go to the Blue Grado

Inside the Blue Graddo

Easter Processions in Sorrento 

Ruins in Pompeii 

17 year old woman with fetus from Pompeii 
Church uncovered in Pompeii

Mount. Vesuvius! 

DIRTY feet from hiking... TB's aren't made for this....!

Beautiful views on our crazy bus ride to Positano Beach 


View from the beach,  laying out! 

Our Bungalow in Sorrento 
Back in Florence now where the weather is also beautiful! 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Time is FLYING!

I cannot believe it has been so long since my last post! After Spring Break school always flies by, but here it is going even faster! With the bustle of more and more tourists arriving each day and the weather becoming so incredibly nice here I feel like I would give anything to slow the days down a bit in order to extend my time in Florence.

Spring Break in Greece was fantastic. There is so much to see in Athens and the history is fascinating. The Acropolis was amazing and the views of Athens from all the way up there were to die for! The island of Corfu, where we stayed, is incredibly beautiful. I have never seen such clear water. The weather cooperated and we were able to do a lot of laying out on the perfect beaches. We spent our days four-wheeling around the island exploring new beaches and tiny towns. I would go back to Greece in a heartbeat.

The weekend after Spring Break all the TCU study abroad students in Florence went to Rome with our school here. There is SO much to see and do in Rome that cramming it all into one weekend makes for an extremely exhausting trip! Compared to quite Florence, Rome seems like a crazy place, so many cars, people, and action. I loved going to Rome for a visit but am very content with living in Florence!

Parthenon in Athens 

amazing view from up top

Corfu island!


hiking in Corfu 

ATVing in Corfu! 

Making our wishes in Trevi Fountain, Rome

The whole TCU group on the way to the Vatican 

School of Athens, my favorite 



Thursday, March 17, 2011

Italian Unification and a special visit!

If there is one thing that Italians are especially good at, it's celebrating! Sometimes, as in the case of this week, the celebrations are a bit last minute. About two weeks ago, the Italian government decided it would be a good idea to throw a huge celebration honoring the 150th Anniversary of the Italian Unification (150 years of all the regions in Italy being united under one government). Leave it to Italy to plan a HUGE country-wide party at the very last minute! 

The celebrations began this past wednesday and continued all through the night. Everyone got off work today and school was cancelled to ensure that everyone could party the night away! Wednesday night was crazy here!!! I have never seen the streets so packed with people! All the state museums were open until 1 AM, the entire city was lit up in RED WHITE and GREEN, there was a patriotic parade, there were bands playing in every square, and amazing fireworks off of the top of the Palazzo Vecchio building. It was so neat to see all the Italian pride here! Italian flags lined the streets, gelato was made in red, white, and green, and people even dressed to theme! Sometimes it can feel like tourist city over here because of all the americans studying abroad and school groups, but this was true ITALIAN spirit and all the true Italians were the ones out to celebrate. 

Today I had a WONDERFUL visit from a best friend from TCU, Lizzie. Lizzie and her aunt have been in Rome this past week and got to come to Florence for the day today. I still cant believe she was actually here; seeing where I sleep, where I go to school, my favorite spots...its so surreal! I had SO much fun taking her and her aunt around Florence and, a HUGE win in my book, I didnt even get them lost!! I LOVED catching up with Lizzie and hearing all the TCU news. It was such a comfort to hear that things were not drastically changing back home and that everyone was still doing alright. A visit from a good friend is always nice, but it is definitely extra special when its a visit from halfway around the world!!! 

Piazza Signora all lit up 

....and Piazza de Republica

Palazzo Vecchio 

The Pointe Vecchio bridge in Tri-color 

amazing fireworks show

Lizzie in Florence! 


Lunch with the whole group! 
I am off to Greece tomorrow for Spring Break!!! Cant wait to be there for a whole week!!! 


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Fun in Tuscany

You would never know by the rain today what a beautiful weekend in Florence it has been. Friday and Saturday were sunny and around 15 degrees celsius . We have midterms at Lorenzo di Medici this upcoming weekend so instead of traveling we stayed home in Florence to 'study'. 

And by 'study' I mean: 

Friday: Horseback riding, wine tasting, and dinner excursion in Tuscany. We did all this through a company called 'Fun in Tuscany' and had a ball! All the roommates, including Danielle's mom and aunt who are visiting, and I got picked up in Florence early in the afternoon by our fabulous guide, Sam. Sam ("hi, I am Sam. Sam I am. I do not like green eggs and ham") then drove us about thirty minutes outside the city to the horse-stables in the Tuscan country side. Sam (who, throughout the day became not just our tour guide but our cowboy, photographer, entertainer, story-teller, wine expert, D.J., and any other odd job that we required) got us all saddled up and we were off. We rode on a beautiful trail ride through miles and miles of red wine vineyards.  The highlight was definitely seeing the incredible pink sun set on the seemingly endless vineyards. 

After saying Ciao Ciao to the horses we went into the quant little town nearby for our wine tasting. Sam had promised we'd be trying some of the best wines of Tuscany and Sam didn't disappoint! 

After learning about and trying a handful of Tuscan wines we went to our family style traditional Italian dinner. Sam had us laughing throughout the entire meal with his italian jokes, tricks, and stories. After a full 'Tuscan' day we headed home. Sam, careful not to let the fun dwindle, continued to entertain on the ride home with his 'One Nation, One Station' car D.J, expertise and had us all perfecting the hand motions to a rocking 80's Italian classic. 

Saturday: Hiking in the mountains of Fiesole. Kelly (one of my roommates) and I signed up for this hiking excursion with our School. Fiesole is a part of florence that is in the mountains and overlooks the city part of Florence. A short bus ride takes you to the town on Fiesole and then from there there are many hiking paths which provide INCREDIBLE views of the ENTIRE city of Florence. Although waking up early and heading out for a 10 kilometers hike seemed a little daunting for a lazy Saturday, I am SO happy Kelly and I dragged ourselves out because this hike was AMAZING. The views were astonishing and the terrain was so different than anything I am used to. One minute we'd be walking through an almost desert-like area with cactus and the next minute its muddy and wet because of the underground waterways that are seeping to the surface.

We followed the hike that Florentine Stone Masons would take to the top of the mountains to retrieve the stone to build  many of the structures and churches that make Florence what it is today. The hike was quite challenging, I cannot even imagine doing it while carrying a hunk of stone! 

Horseback riding!
Red Wine Vineyards 
Fields in rural Tuscany 

Wine tasting 

Great view of all of Florence 
Kelly and I on our fabulous hike! 

Stone used to build Florence 


Castle where Madonna and Guy Richie got married 

We could see everything from way up here! 
Such a fabulous weekend in Florence, I cannot believe I am surrounded by so many beautiful things!