Friday, February 27, 2009

Masked Menace in Venice

After purchasing our 5:47 a.m. train ticket to Venice the evening prior, I decided to lay low in hopes that i would be awake and ready to take on the next day's festivities. I thought I was so great for picking out my outfit the night before, have everything laying on my bed waiting for me the next morning. I got up at 4:30 primped my hair, put on some crazy makeup, my cute attempt at a functional yet fashionable clothing choice, because if it wasn't obvious, one of the best parts of going to carnevale is being able to embrace the masquerade tradition, unfortunately, I never took my coat off to show my cute ensemble. After leaving the apartment abrupty I had a feeling I didn't have my ticket. It's a long story regarding the night before, but it wasn't really my fault for not having it where it was supposed to be the next morning, before you all roll your eyes at reading this. So I opted to run back to VDP (Via dei Pepi 73) and told the girls I'd meet them at the train station by taking a taxi. So I immediately called the service, politely asking for some transportational assistance (after the Amsterdam incident, I've learned my lesson) Since it was me that was late, obviously after the taxi took longer than they had told me, my driver picked me up, a pretty cool guy, and I express to him with the most urgency that my train is leaving in 6 minutes. He gives me a look, and I'm like either he's saying well, sucks to be you or, its on.Oh it was on alright, until we got stuck DRIVING BEHIND THE FLORENCE POLICE. You might laugh at me and be like she's so dramatic, but legit tell me who this would happen to. ANYWAYS, after we got away from the cops I had a near death experience or two, nothing 11 euro wouldn't pay for. Yup 11 euro, my train ticket to Venice was 14.50 euro, not a waste of money at all. One of two things that make this perfect: The train was about 40 minutes late. The second: They never checked the flippin tickets, I would get into the whole guess what I could've done, could've saved sprinting back to my appartment at 5:15 in the morning while all the creepers were out, could've saved myself from a few near death vehicular situations, or saved 11 euro... just saying. Our train ride was just as laid back as my attempt to make it to the train station. Thankfully, a Mexican family adopted us, and helped us when switching trains after the stations kept switching which trains were arriving at which number, ughh what a mess, but guess what, we made it, in one piece (physically) and there was a beautiful day waiting for us. We starting things off with a quick lunch, stopping at shops from time to time, getting gifts, and trying to make our way to San Marco's square to take part in the festivities we've been waiting for. People everywhere were wearing masks, and some full on outfits. Not gonna lie, some scared me cuz I couldn't see any of their expression. We had a few paparazzi moments, this Asian group even asked to take pictures with us, and obviously we laughed... then eagerly accepted. Then it was time... who goes to Venice without floating around on a gondola... I wasn't about to. Giorgio probably didn't win best personality for his senior superlatives, or most friendly, but we find a way to laugh at every situation, plus he let me wear that ballin hat. haa. He showed us the sites, and shared with us his uplifting feelings about Venice, and who's ruining it and how it's going to sink... for an unforgettable experience. FINALLY, yes after hours of wandering, shopping, admiring, and being silly, we made our way to some of the most amazing sights I have ever experienced. The floats. The woman spinning in some thing attatched to a hot air balloon. The masquerade couples dressed to the extreme. The stage performers. All were a sight for all to see. Everyone should go here once in his or her lifetime. Then we hit up the Murano Glass factory. If you know me, you have been likely to encounter my compulsive shopping problem. This was the case here as well. I got Sal a lil present... shhhh. (: As we left this city of carnevale amazement, it occurred to me, Venice was able to simultaneously make my heart sink and float down the canals at the same time.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Viennese Please

Vienna Video

by my roommate<3

Paige Hansen

Packed up and ready to go, the 5 of us head off to the train station... in which a gelato stop is found to be necessary. Clearly, I had no objection. We made it to the train station and met with my cross-cultural psychology teacher, Francesco. While smoking a cigarette he began to indulge some of the details of our adventure that awaited. As we pile into the overnight train, in our "cozy accomodations", Lauren, Paige and I began playing cards, listening to music and getting yelled at for being loud, stupid, Americans as usual. After a not-so-wonderful night of sleep, we arrived at our hotel, my roomie Evy, and I did a little unpacking then met the gang in the lobby. Within minutes of our walk outside the hotel, there it was... yes, finally, a starbucks. Our eyes lit up like it was Christmas morning and ran ahead of the group in order to snag our lattes without Francesco scolding us. We condintued onto St. Stephan's Cathedral, which would be an understatement to say it was amazing at first sight. On the way we me took part in some tourist-driven activity... notice the starbucks in our hands, haha. We continued onto some Royal apartments that had been preserved since the days of the Austrian empire, and learned about the emperess Sisi, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Museum after museum, my brain was saturated with Austrian history, and at that time I was ready to head back to the hotel. Evy and I went up to our room, hung out and got to know eachother a little more, after all, we were staying in the same hotel room on Valentine's Day... haha how romantic. I walked into my bathroom and saw what may have been another piece of heaven, I thought to myself, there's no way I can be this lucky... Starbucks and a bath in the same day. I put on my ipod speakers, took out my copy of Something Blue, soaked myself in bubbles and had the most relaxing 15 minutes that I could remember since leaving the states. Time came to get ready and head out to dinner, which surpassed all expectations. This restaurant was loud and fun, the waitresses dressed as what I would consider a conservative German Beer Girl. A man with a violin followed by a man on the accordian singing and dancing around the restaurant, from table to table with everyone laughing and clapping. For the first time since we've been in Europe we didn't feel like obnoxious Americans, and what a feeling it was. Dinner was a traditional farmer's supper in Austria, filled with simple hearty meats and potatoes, along with a dish I would relate to macaroni and cheese and apple strudel...mmmm. At one point during the evening, two men approached our table saying they were from the Elite Modeling Agency, which apparently isn't some stupid fake mall type of thing, tried to approach a couple of us concerning a career in lights, camera, action. I happened to be one of them, and they handed me a form to fill out, I wrote my name, well not my name, my Italian alias "Giovanna", after I refused to hand out my cell phone number and address I think they could tell I was a bit more than unsure of the legitimacy... on the other hand, another lucky chosen one, my roommate Paige refused the entire ordeal, they began saying she was arrogant, and we laughed. My roommates and a few other adventurous girls went to the Bermuda Triangle to conclude our evening with some drinks and music, after some shots and good times, we headed back to the hotel. We started out next morning dressing in several layers and having a buffet breakfast. More museums... then we had some free time and did some shopping :). Then we made our way back to the hotel to get ready for the opera/ballet/concert. The show was wonderful, not to mention an intermission with a glass of champagne. After we went to a nice restaurant with our guide and teacher Francesco, which was beyond delicious. The next day, yes, more museums, I can now say I have seen a real Monet, in front of my eyes, along with "The Kiss" which surpassed all expectations. Then we were granted free time. We wandered the streets of Austria to stumble upon some of the finest chocolate and cake shops, and yes we gave in, with no regrets of course. We met back at the hotel, back to the train station and headed back to our lives in Florence. Though it had happened already in the past, my roommates and I can say with confidence that we conquered the Austrian Empire.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Charlie's Angels Meets Amster-DAYAM!

The anticipation of my first real trip while in Florence kept me from getting any shuteye the night before my departure. My thursday started off with sleeping late, running a few errands, and some procrastinating packing. As 2 a.m. approached us, Emily, Paige and I got our last minute belongings together, ate a quick "breakfast" and went outside to await for the cab we called ahead for. Our excitement may have gotten the best of us, specifically Paige, as she continually kept calling the taxi service asking where our cab was because we had a 3:35 a.m. bus to catch to the Pisa airport. This happened to the point where the woman on the other line replied in her heavy accent, "ah ok, you want cancel, ah ok" then hung up abruptly. At this point, we all got a little frazzled and all three of us on our cells trying to get a taxi ASAP! Finally we realized via dei pepi 73 was no longer a destination they were interested in, so I requested a cab for a street about 5 min. down the street. As soon as we started walking, a taxi came. This is what I would consider one of those "you had to be there moments", but I'll try anyways. My lovely blonde roommate Paige starts sprinting back carrying her huge carry-on waving her hands in the air frantically screaming down the street, I was laughing so hard I legit could not walk, nevermind run. Finally, we're in the cab, only to approach Santa Croce, where conveniently enough a number of drunk American students approach the cab, wanting its services. Some stupid American Boy, who was actually pretty cute :X, got pissed, and kicked the cab. Great. So our cute (in a cute old man sorta way) driver takes his glasses off his balding head, puts them in his pocket on the front of his shirt and is headed out to handle this boy that keeps true to why everyone hates Americans. ughh. In an extreme panic of us missing our bus, Paige pleads with the driver, finally he gets back in the car, feeling grateful and relieved, she responds, "Mi Dispice...Loco". If you know any of the Italian language, I'm sorry is Mi Dispiace, and crazy is not loco... that would be spanish. Again, may be one of those moments, but we exploded in laughter. We finally reach the bus stop. Paige didn't get her ticket ahead of time, and somehow managed to sweet talk her way onto the bus, and was the only one who did so without a ticket ahead of time. thank god. We arrive at the airport only to approach this woman who I'll refer to as "La Spiaggia" (you figure it out). Of all the people, we would have to deal with this woman, thank you RyanAir. We get on our plane, a decent flight, arrive in the Netherlands, get on another bus and head for Amsterdam. So, tired. Clearly. Took a little nap, and waited for our hosts to pick us up at central station. We dropped off our belongings and headed out for our first day.

We rented bikes at some cute caffe, had an amazing lunch, and went to the Anne Frank Museum, which was an indescribable experience to be in a place where so much history took place and people all over the world know about. After that, we hopped back on our bikes, only to experience some insane weather. First a drizzle, then a down pour, then hale... not cool. We stopped at another cafe` with no place to put our bikes, so obviously we made one. We didn't feel bad. But we were extremely paranoid they were going to be stolen so we were a bit exteme when it came to locking them up. Got back on our bikes, headed back to the apartment, in which our host made us a fantastic dinner. Then put on our dancing shoes and headed to club Home. Had a great time, but we were so tired. Woke up the next morning ready for a new day, went to the Van Gogh museum, which I surprisingly really enjoyed. Then the magic happened. We went to a "saks5thavenue" type department store. When I tell you it was love at first sight, there's no exaggeration. We went to the cafe' on the 5th floor, indulged in a fine lunch, then went shopping and Emily and I continued our indulgence all the way to the shoe department which resulted in designer flats. It's ok, I don't feel bad. We continued to some touristish areas as we approached a famous bar. The Bulldog. To my amazement, I entered and some large bald man approached me and asked for my ID. Yes, I was surprised and annoyed and I argued.Apparently I don't look 18 yet. We hit up the supermarket, and made dinner for our hosts in order to thank them for their hospitality and the fantastic meal the night before. I fell asleep watching a movie.
Our final day we got up, walked around, did some more shopping, went to a few tourist shops, where we approached these lollipops with a hemp leaf on them. Paige and Em purchased them, and they were, by far, the most, disgusting, repulsive, tasting things I have ever encountered, but it's ok, we got a good laugh out of it. We then got an amazing dinner with some tapas and then went on an evening cruise tour around the city, which was surprisingly extremely beautiful and romantic- That is until we got off the boat and ventured to the red light district. We met this nice older woman on the way back to her hotel when we asked for directions and she walked us most of the way, Mona, was very nice and even took a lovely photo of us, then we continued on. Prostitutes posed and pouted scandily clad in window displays under, well, a red light. I honestly never felt so bad for someone when I saw this old, nasty, skeevy man approach one, as the girl was charming smiled, and discussed prices... I'm assuming it was too much for his budget cuz he left without paying for her time. All I kept thinking was, Thank God I go to college. This didn't take out the tourist part of me, I laughed a lot, some of the names of the shops, for example, my favorite was the "I love you store" haha brought some amusement. I thought it was a nice take since most of the names were graphic and repulsive, but hey, that's just me. After three solid days full of experiencing all the different aspects of Amsterdam, I was more than content. No, I didn't get high at a coffee shop, everyone knows I don't like weed, but I'm just gonna say the one lick of the lollipop was enough for me. We got back to the apartment and began packing. Note to Self: Leave room for purchases while traveling. AKA wear a pear of leggings, yoga pants, and sweatpants, while on top wearing two tank tops, a long sleeve tee, you're stupid fat heavy scarf, a hat, and jacket so you have room in your luggage. Then we watched "BOLT", dozed off only to awake a 4a.m. alarm on my phone. We got in a cab, got on our bus, got on our flight, with surprisingly a significant less amount of difficulty than on the way here... you're probably thinking too good to be true... well of course you're right.

As our plane attempted to land in Pisa, the fog was too thick and we shot right back up in the air, only to land in Genova, Liguria... although a beautiful place with breathtaking coastlines and mountain ranges... another 2 hours from Pisa. We got on a bus with legit 30 Italian Flag throwers ranging from all adult ages, and us 3, in the back row, surrounded. As Emily put it so nicely, "Honestly, the way they are with us, it's like we're the only women on this planet, like how could they honestly be like this with everyone", I don't know Em, I just don't know. We got to Pisa, hopped onto another bus, which took about another hour and a half, and finally made it back to Firenze, hopped into another cab and finally, I never thought I would be so happy to see my humble apartment. Although it took a lot out of us, it's safe to say Charlie's Angels: Mission Amsterdam-Complete.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Chocolate Rain

They say when it rains, it pours, but after my day in the rain, I must disagree. A day spent wandering the glistening streets of Florence with Paige and Emily made me sunny on the inside =). We spent our day exploring, discussing our travel plans, telling stories of our days before Florence and what we expect and so much more.
I've only known them barely a week but I feel like our new friendship is timeless. We frolicked through the streets without a care in the world, dancing in the rain and watching as the sun faught to shine down on us. We spent quite some time in a quaint cafe` near our apartment and enjoyed the company of authentic Florentines coming in and out, and grabbing their caffeine fix of the day.
Even something as simple as a design in my foam put a huge grin on my face. The capuccinos here are amazing and warm up my day at the start. After playing, and posing on the streets having fun with our cameras and what not, we stopped in a church, another cafe` for a light lunch and it finally occured to me that, I live in this amazing place for the next 4 months and these surroundings will soon be the norm. At the cafe` during some girl talk, we noticed the the employees were admiring us closely. We laughed and realized, a blonde, red head, and brunette... haha they must think we're like Charlie's Angels or something. Cheesy, but hey, we enjoyed it. He brought us 3 little desserts on a small platter of which were delish, and then Paige sees him drizzling white chocolate on some little espresso cups full of Italian hot chocoloate, saying, "Oh I hope he's making those for us", my naive self thought, "No Paige, he just brought us desserts, I'm sure people ordered those", soon enough he brought them over with a smile on his face as if it were Christmas morning so we laughed, and Paige suggested we make a concrete memory out of it and take a photo with our new friend. All this day made me realize was, so what if it rains on my parade, it's still a parade to me...

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Market Madness

Our first adventure to the market was actually really fun. Though a little challenging to find, we made it and got the fresh fruits and veggies we've been dying for, we've been a little carb crazy since our arrival. We bought some of the highest quality ingredients for a greattt dinner we made later on. We were surrounded by vendors and Florentines trying to make the best deals around. I don't even wanna discuss what we paid, but it's fine since our dinner was fantastic. The finest pastas, bananas, mangoes, apples, green beans, bread, tomatoes, and pesto! Oh and we bought our "love fern", some pretty flowers to give our apartment some life and color. We worked up quite an appetite, especially after staring at food for so long, and made our way to the popular ZAZA, where our true american spirit showed, since we were the loudest and people in the restaurant, chatting, laughing, and everything in between, hence why europeans hate us, it's ok we had a good time. We then went home for a bit, back out to do some more shopping, made our fantastic meal, had a low key evening trying to plan our future travels and just enjoying eachother's company.

Florence, I think "You really got a hold on me" =)

Space Electronic?

Another Florentine adventure today, to which PETALS explored. PETALS is an acronym I sdeveloped in order to list my roomate and myself. Paige is my california dream, Emily is my "ootah" (utah) homance, Traci is my home away from home, Amanda is my rugby superstar, Lauren is my sweetie pie, and S is for meeee... heheh so anyways PETALS got some great pizza and we went into the less saturated and tourist filled part of florence where it seemed to be the true simple life. After hours of walking, we returned to our apartment for a short time, only to continue on a walking tour. Exhausted doesn't even begin to cover it, then we grabbed a quick snack with no desire to go out. So obviously the second we get hot water back I throw myself into the shower and head to the discotec of the night "Space Electronic", could the name be any cheesier? I really don't know. Unfortunately the night wasn't the same without my bromance but we did what we could to make the best of it. This club was crazy. The bar was a legit fish tank and the upstairs had cage-like dancing platforms and a ring-like dancefloor to boot. We drank, danced, and laughed the night away. Oh and took shots with one of the faculty... totally normal.