December 10, 2011

Sunny & Nice {French Riviera}

Forgive me {again} for taking a mini vacation from the blog but I truly have been on an endless vacation the past few weeks. Following fall break, I've traveled to a new country {yes, country} every weekend! As I tweeted the other day, I've lived more out of a suitcase this month than out of my closet. Oh, and the airport body scanners that used to make me nervous now seem as normal as brushing my teeth! I am BLESSED!

Let's rewind and finish the story of my time in France! After the rendezvous through Paris, Katie, Kait, and I hopped on an EasyJet plane to Nice. While it's still a no frills airline, the flight was a bit more enjoyable than Ryanair so the mid-size price tag was well worth the upgrade. As thankful as I am for Ryanair for giving me the opportunity to travel, I'm just as thankful to be back to normal airlines!

November 15, 2011

A Day in Paris

While I love experiencing seasons {for the first time thanks to the SoCal 70}, all I want to do {and usually do} these days is curl up in bed with a steaming cappuccino! I've re-emerged though to share the second half of my incredible Fall Break ...

November 4, 2011

A Taste of Fall {Vienna & Zurich}

This post is long overdue but traveling for ten days takes it out of you! Kait & I started off celebrating finishing midterms by indulging in a true taste of true fall in Vienna & Zurich. The California girl in me just wanted to run & frolic in the leaves {this is one of the first falls I've seen the leaves turn}!

October 16, 2011

October 12, 2011

Where Art Thou?

Verona never topped my day trip list so when I tagged along with a group of friends to the city known for being the setting of Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet I had little expectations. What I found will forever ingrain my memory as one of the most beautiful cities in Italy!

October 10, 2011

The {SECRET} Secret Bakeries of Florence

If you've spent any length of time in Florence you've probably heard the whisperings about the secret bakeries. A few are not so secret but still remain out of the tourist's eye so the hunt for them late into the night is a popular excursion for students and Italians alike. These industrial bakeries turn up the oven in the middle of the night to cook the pastries for the next day that fill the shelves of the city's cafes. Some will let a hot, fresh pastry or two slide off the bakery sheet if in return you allow them to slide a euro into their apron. It may be illegal but the police like their bombolone here too so they may be standing in line with you too...

October 3, 2011

Cooking in the Countryside

Another busy week leaves so much to say & little time to do it {or little motivation to acutally do so}. In fact, just before I posted this my computer charger caught on fire and my battery is on the verge of dying thanks to a power outage while my laptop was plugged in. But now that my rant is over, yesterday's excursion deserves a bit of unrestricted space so brace yourself, I wrote like my autobiography is being published tomorrow...

From the time planning began last year, cooking in the countryside topped my Italian adventure wishlist. Naturally, the chance to cook with esteemed Tuscan food blogger,Giulia Scarpaleggia of Jul's Kitchen would be the cherry on top. Giulia's blog introduced me to the joys of Italian cooking so I was ecstatic when she graciously extended a welcome to come cook with her! Giulia recently started offering private cooking lessons in her  family's {BEAUTIFUL} restored villa, I Tigli, in Colle di Val D'Elsa, a medieval town that is everything you dreamed the Tuscan countryside would be.

September 26, 2011

Old World Charm

What a week it's been! It's gotten to the point where I have so much to share & dwindling time to tell so I hope romanticizing about my weekend in Venice will do!

Kait and I decided a few weeks back we wanted to spend some time in Venice. I actually didn't expect to take this trip as many friends & family warned of the busy squares and dirty streets but Bami {my grandmother} sharing her memories of Venice and a few other nudges intrigued me to see the city but stay for more than a day. I found myself as entranced as my grandparents had been.

September 20, 2011

Finding Firenze

"That’s a part that I didn’t quite expect before I came here— the presence of ordinary in an extraordinary place."
-Claire Shalinsky, Claire Across the Pond

The more I deepen my ties here, the more I realize just what living abroad means. I'll never be a Florentine & I'm still in a state of enchantment as I see the Duomo on my walk to school, but I can see the difference between me & the dazed tourists as I walk down the street. I no longer hold a map and I turn corners without thinking twice. Yet, there is still a whole side of Florence I do not know and will only meet with time.

September 12, 2011

Tuscan Archipelago & Cinque Terre

Well, life has truly started! Classes started last Monday {Tuesday for me} so just as I thought I was getting settled I added a whole new layer to my adventure. I'm really looking forward to the discussions and global perspectives I'll encounter while studying Italian, Art History, Ethics, and International Management! I cooked a bit more this week, ate lunch on the steps on Santa Croce, and wandered around the city to take in the sites!

Friday morning I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to take a yacht cruise to the breathtaking islands of the Tuscan Archipelago. It meant waking up at 4:30 am, walking twenty minutes in the empty streets {not the wisest decision as the bars had just let out}, and taking a 2.5 hour bus ride but I would do it over and over again {and call a taxi next time}! We arrived at a dock in a typical Tuscan hillside town and boarded the boat for a day of exploration. I didn't know much about where I was other than that the Tuscan coast lies on the Tyrrhenian Sea and is home to a group of small islands, many of which are still natural preserves.As you can tell, little english was spoken on the excursion that day...

September 5, 2011

Gusta Gnocchi

The more I settle, the more I want to explore! Unfortunately it was a bit rainy this weekend which forced me to learn to do laundry {they do things a little different in Italy} & fight with my gas stove top that wouldn't light. I wasn't able to figure out the stove and my clothes ended up soaking wet, even after I had watched two YouTube videos & used Google translate to translate all the knob.

Let down by my American ways, I left the apartment {after it stopped raining} and ventured across the Arno for the promise of good pizza {thanks Allyson for the tip!}. It was a beautiful night and had cooled down to the high 70's. Walking from the city center where I live to the bridges that cross the Arno is quite the shift. On the other side of the Arno things are a bit more peaceful and trees fill the hillsides. I {LOVE} being in the center of the city and having everything at my fingertips {including listening to the bells of Santa Croce ring as I type} but sometimes escaping across the water is a nice change.

September 3, 2011

First Days in Firenze

Has it already been four days? Well my life abroad has officially begun and I love it.I've already been stretched & challenged but in ways only studying abroad can provide for. There's sooo much I could tell you but I'll try & keep it to the highlights!

I checked-in Wednesday and was promptly dropped at the apartment, bags and all, with the van driving off the second the door closed. Thankfully I had Kait with me! We spent the day adjusting, meeting our roommates, and settling in our apartment.

The apartment is beautiful! We're in the heart of the city, 5 minutes from the Duomo & 3 minutes from Santa Croce. The rooms are spacious and I found the comforts of home in the ice machine! I thought I'd be drinking room temperature water for four months {phew}...

September 1, 2011

Last Bliss in Ireland

The last few days in Ireland were pure bliss! I've only been in Firenze for a day but already it seems like a week ago! Let me see what I can recall...

We spent our last day in Skerries exploring Ardgillan Castle which was a 2 mile {walk} from the B&B. Along the way we enjoyed the beautiful coastline of the Irish sea & laughing as drivers glanced confused at the American girls in their fancy winter coats walking along the side of the road on a summer day.

August 29, 2011

Hidden Emerald

Yesterday, the three of us {happily} left our hostel in Dublin for a quaint fishing village just north of Dublin known as Skerries. Standing on the platform with a group of locals holding two full suitcases & a carryon made for quite the scene. I struggled to "mind the gap" boarding the train and thankfully, a nun quickly helped me lift my final bag before the doors closed. 30 minutes later the DART dropped us into rolling hills & roaming sheep.

When we got off, there were two cars in the parking lot and no taxis in sight. Three girls, an empty platform, and an array of luggage- it was a scene straight from Leap Year. After reaching two dead numbers the train attendant said he knew of no more cabs and that there was nothing more he could do for us. Claire requested the phone, calling the B&B owners who quickly sent a cab that {RACED} over to get us.

The taxi driver was quite surprised to find us {and all the luggage} but made a joke of it and we piled {with suitcases on our laps} into his Mercedes sedan. In a thick accent he quickly told us Dublin was "a shithole" and about how he'd been living in the town for 50 years and is still referred to as a "blown in".

August 28, 2011

Snapshot: Dublin & Skerries, Ireland

{Where} I went: Dublin & Skerries, Ireland

{Who} I went with: Kait {College Friend & Study Abroad Mate} & Claire {High School Friend}

August 27, 2011

Green is for Go!

I'm finally here! After delay after delay {not one part of our journey didn't face a delay, including landing in Dublin with no gate to park at} Kait & I made it to Dublin. Customs was quick as could be and we found our bus within 5 minutes of walking out of the terminal. Regardless of the delays, we made it & nothing felt better than hugging my friend Claire who was here for two days waiting for our arrival!

Kait & I quickly dropped our bags in the hostel room & decided to turn around and go to make up for the time we missed. We purchased a Hop On-Hop Off pass to Dublin's bus line which allowed us to hit all the main stops with unlimited rides for $14 Euros. This was the best way to go!

We stopped first at Trinity College to walk around the breathtaking grounds! It was lightly raining and made the greenery glisten. The campus fits my idealistic picture of a college-gothic architecture, endless brick, & a center courtyard where students gather to socialize. After walking around most of the {42 acre} campus, we hopped back onto the bus and got off a few stops later at St. Stephens Green.

August 25, 2011

Dublin Delays

Well, it looks like my growth and lessons in patience have already begun!

I knew it would be an interesting morning when I walked up to the American Airlines ticketing counter and local news stations were sitting hungry outside the terminal waiting for discouraged passengers. Aware that my flight was already 2 hours delayed I calmly waited in line promising myself not to give the ticket clerk a hard time as flight delays we're out of their control. By the time I made it to the counter, my flight was three hours delayed meaning I'd miss my connection to Dublin...

August 17, 2011

Presently Packing

In just a week, I'll be waking up bright and early to make the drive to LAX to head off to Ireland for a few days. Pinching myself that it doesn't end there as I'll be off to Florence for a few months! I love telling people I'm headed to live in Italy for a few months. Everyone has a story to share with me about their Italian fantasies...including the Nordstrom shoes salesman who wrote down a leather shop behind Santa Croce that apparently has the world's best leather. You can bet I'll find it!

As for my final Ireland plans, my girlfriends and I decided on 3 days in Dublin and 2 days in Skerries (a fishing town North of Dublin I stumbled upon thanks to Trip Advisor). More to come on this adventure...

April 17, 2011

Ciao Bella!

As I sit here leafing through six guides to Italy (hey, a girl's gotta do her homework), I can only dream what life will be like come August.

Studying in Florence has been in the works for quite some time but became official about a month ago when my friend and I put in our deposits to study abroad. I sit now with an appetite for the Italian culture and culinary treats.