A Travellerspoint blog

November 2014

Ciao Italia!

Current Anxiety Rating: 2

overcast 58 °F

Hello all,

As I believe I mentioned in last weeks post, I visited Florence this past weekend! I wrote a first draft of this post on the plane back from Pisa which I present for you now with lovely photographic additions! Now in Technicolor! (Vanna-White-Gestures Wildly) :

Hey Errybody,

I am writing this up as a first draft on the flight from Pisa to Barcelona/ Barcelona to Granada, mostly so I can make sure it gets posted in a timely manner (Note from the present: Oh how the best laid plans go to waste). I am on my way back from my weekend-long Italian getaway! Four friends and I visited Florence from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon and it was truly an amazing experience. I am so glad that I went. We did tons and tons of things in our two days (give or take) and I didn't even have a horrible terrifying panic attack so I would say it was a resounding success! Rather than bore you with every little detail, I shall give you the highlights! (Which to be honest will still probably be long winded, but hey, nobody's perfect.) To begin....

1) PIZZA. ITALIAN PIZZA. DEAR GOD...Italy definitely had me at hello, so to speak, with regard to food. A place known for it's pizza, pasta, and gelato? Oh, yeah. I guess I could do that. Obviously, pizza in Italy was a can't miss for me. By the time, we had gotten all settled in at the hostel, our stomaches were quite rumbly. We ended up at a place called "Gusta Pizza" on the other side of the Arno river, about 35 minutes away from our hostel. It came recommended by a friend of a friend who had studied in Florence the semester before and boy was it worth it. By the time we got there, we were all ravenously hungry. Unfortunately, we got there 20 minutes before it opened,so we eyed the menu and just sort of stared in with hangdog eyes. The waiters remained unmoved. By the time they opened, there was quite the crowd happening, but I was willing to throw some elbows at anyone who tried to get between me and pizza. Because pizza and i are close like that. To my surprise, once the restaurant opened up, the waiters really got moving! It was like a well oiled machine in there and we got our pizzas in maybe 7 minutes tops! I went with Margarita (tomato, real mozzarella, basil, the basics) and it was worth every penny. Best five euro I have spent so far.

Take a peek!:
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2) NEW FRIENDS: We also had a tag along for the weekend from the US who was the same hostel as us and that was lots of fun, too. He had been there a day longer than us so he was able to give us little help navigating.

3) PONTE VECCHIO: After pizza we made our way back for gelato--naturally--to round out the night. We stopped on the Ponte Vecchio which we had sort of stumbled upon by accident and took in the view of the river, which really puts the "river" in Granada to shame. Even though the stars weren't out, it was a beautiful night and we were all in the proper state of mind to enjoy it now that we weren't hungry out of our minds. The bridge really gives an impressive perspective on the the city at night with all the lights reflecting and the architecture all lit up. Walking onto the bridge was sort of a "whoa" moment for me. It just hit me that I was in Italy with a bunch of awesome people doing things that I could have only dreamed about before...

4) GELATO: To shatter that sense of suspense right here, we did indeed make it to the gelato place. It was another recommendation from the friend who had studied in Florence, and even after an entire pizza to myself (not to brag or anything), it still definitely hit the spot. We got tons of gelato heap-age (that's a word right?) for our money, and there was the added fancy splendor that it was gelato from *Italy*. Also, like I said before finding the place also gave us some time to explore a bit and take in the city at night which was a real treat.

Here is a picture of the Gelato Shop:
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5) LEATHER MARKETS: On Day 2, our first order of business was to hit up the famous Italian leather markets. I had to keep reminding myself that yes, i already have a brand new purse at home and no, i don't need an italian leather jacket. It was a struggle.

6) THE DUOMO: From the market we also got our first view of the Duomo, the Florence cathedral. It is by far my favorite cathedral I have seen during my time in Europe. The coloring alone makes it seem so much more breath-taking. It has this alternating accent of green marble that gives the building a distinctive depth and pop. And it seems HUGE! You can see it from all over the city and when you are walking right beside it, it is immense.

After lunch, we came back later to get a peek inside, which, while lovely, couldn't live up to the outside. But that's not to say it wasn't beautiful. The Duomo actually had one of my favorite interiors of the cathedrals I have visited. The interior was way more minimalistic with lots of open space that made it seem like, with the addition of--I don't know--several hundred thousand books, it could be a library. But that might just be me being crazy. My favorite thing was that the religious aspect was less ornately present. It was understated and subtly, and somehow that made it feel more relaxed to me. Also, the Duomo dome (say that ten times fast) was exquisitely painted, so much detail everywhere you looked. It was incredible.

7) CIAO, GIMI: We also met a painter outside the Duomo and his work was incredible. He did them all in watercolor, all of different Florence landmarks--From Memory! His name was Gimi and he let us as lots of questions which was fun for me as someone who used to paint. He just seemed incredibly nice and seemed so flattered that we liked his work. He had one of those happy faces, you know? My friend bought one of his pieces, and Gimi even personalized it for him. For whatever reason, meeting him and seeing his work with this beautiful cathedral in the backdrop really struck me. It was just another one of those moments were I felt fully present. Like my mind wasn't moving a million miles an hour or thinking about what we were going to do next or where we were going to eat, I was just right there in the world in front of a beautiful cathedral, admiring someone's incredible art.

Here he is in all of his glory:
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8) DA VINCI INVENTION MUSEUM: On our way back to the hostel, we stumbled upon a Da Vinci Museum, not of his paintings, but with replicas of tons of his inventions. You could touch them and interact with lots of them to see how they worked and what they did. There were little explanations of each on in various languages. And of course, a table for coloring. Naturally, we got stuck there for a solid 15 minutes. That may not seem like a long time, but we just filed in and quietly went to work drawing in a silent, serious fervor. I went into zen mode. It was kind of funny because here we were, all 19, 20, and 21 year olds, sitting on children's stools very intently working with oversized colored pencils at the entrance of the museum. Literally, this was the first thing we saw, and we went right to it. The rest of the museum was pretty cool. Obviously, not as cool as coloring. (Duh!) It was small, but lots of things to look at and it was fun to get to go to a museum while we were there! We just sort of got side tracked and missed the other ones actually. Oops.

Here are the fruits of our labor. I think Da Vinci would be proud. And definitely worth missing the David :)
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9) FINAL HOURS: Another one of my favorite moments was right before we left. We had come back to the leather market on Sunday morning and decided to get some lunch fixings at the food market that was right next door. The food market had tons of booths selling pasta and fresh meat and wine and cheese and bread, the whole nine yards, on the first floor. On the second, they have tons of Italian restaurants that sell freshly-made food. With the Beatles Greatest Hits flooding over the speakers, we split a bottle of fancy Italian wine along with pizza, bread, and a ball of fresh mozzarella, and we just enjoyed the scenery and each other's company. It was another one of those moments where I just felt completely content. I just knew I was having one of those amazing, once in a lifetime moments. In Italy enjoying the food and the great company of the new friends I have made during my time here.

It really was an amazing trip. I don't know how else to describe it. I have been mulling it over for a week now, and I still don't think I have fully processed all the adventures we had and the things that we saw, nor do I think even with all the adjectives in the world I could properly describe those feelings of complete contentment I had while I was there. We packed a lot into those two days and I really enjoyed my adventure. Florence was an incredible, breathtaking snapshot, and I would love to go back and explore it further someday.
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And that's a wrap!

T-minus 21 days left on my big abroad adventure, and I can't wait to tell you all about the last leg. Thanks for sticking with me so far and caring enough to check in and see how I am doing! You are the best!

Afectuosamente,

Alison

Thank you to the Helen Barr Rudin Grant for making this blog and my adventures abroad possible*

Posted by TrixiStella 15:51 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Freeeeeedom. Sort of.

Current Anxiety Rating: 2

Hello There!

I have officially survived my midterms! I know. I had you going there for a second when I didn't post on Sunday, but I am indeed alive and well. Gotta keep you all on your toes. Actually, I had the best of intentions to be proactive and post on Wednesday before my trip to Seville and Cordoba, but alas, my brain was doing its best impression of television static because I had just finished my Literature midterm. That post would have just been utterly no fun to read, so I decided to come back when I could think straight.

Despite all the nerves and fears about my first european exams, they all went pretty well. They actually weren't all that different from Midterms back home. Some professors give them. Some don't. The professors who give midterms in smaller classes tend to care less about them because they have a pretty good idea who is paying attention versus who is smiling and nodding but actually imagining their trip to Ireland. All my exams were formatted a little bit differently: I had one test that was all essay/short answer. I had one that was a combo of matching, fill in the blank, and short answer. And one that was just basically "write everything you know about the listed concepts." So, overall not too bad. Fairly painless. All the fearful and frenzied studying probably helped somewhat.

I was actually surprised at how non-anxious I was about my exams. The only test I was really nervous about was my Literature one because we covered a ton of stuff and my professor writes his power point slides exactly how they always tell you not to in school (Text! Text everywhere!) But, even then, I was just nervous. Not like stomach cramping, nausea, head-ache, hell-fire mess. Just normal, average person nervous. Weird, huh?

I have actually been surprised about how relatively relaxed I have been on most of this trip. When I imagined coming here originally, I was gripped with this intense terror, but the reality has been way less panic-inducing. I am starting to think I felt so overwhelmed before I left because I took all of the unknowns from all the possible situations and obsessed over them all at once. Will I get lost? Will my host mom like me? What if my flight is delayed? What if I don't get my luggage? What if it turns out I'm terrible at speaking Spanish? What if I can't get help if I need it?.....And on and on and on. But, luckily, reality doesn't work that way. Or at least, it hasn't. (*Knock on wood*) Sure, the first few days were incredibly jarring, but after I got past some of the initial culture shock, I was able to take each stressful situation as it came. I have also met some really cool and interesting people that I feel comfortable with, and I have adjusted to Granada. Sometimes, on my more pessimistic days, though, I do worry that that my lack of anxiety somehow means that I am not doing enough things to challenge myself. But I have actually been doing a ton of stuff! Stupid Pessimism! You inaccurate thing, you!

In fact, two weeks ago, I went to a Tetería (a tea shop) as well as an awesome Jazz Bar and I also saw a movie in Spanish ("Dracula") with some friends. This weekend, I went to Sevilla and saw the castle gardens where they filmed new scenes for Game of Thrones Season 5; I rowed a boat (with less than stellar success, but I wasn't planning on rowing boats for a living); I climbed up 32 stories to the top of the bell tower in the Seville Cathedral and got to look out on the whole city (It was freaking amazing!); I saw where Christopher Columbus's remains reside (no really awesome feelings about old Chris himself, but it was still kinda cool); I payed 30 cents to use a public restroom (maybe the biggest adventure of all). And I had a really great time while doing all those things. Well, maybe not the bathroom thing but still...but you get generally what I am saying here.

I may not be jumping out of planes or rappelling down mountains, but I am doing things that I will remember for the rest of my life. Maybe, I have adjusted. Maybe, I got all my worrying out of the way before I got here. Maybe, it is all the olive oil and bread. I guess what I am saying, is I going to stop worrying about not worrying and try to enjoy the last four and a half weeks to their fullest.

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Thanks for reading, guys! I am off to Florence this weekend, and I can't wait to tell you about all the amazing things I saw there! All of the food! Stay tuned!

Afectuosamente,

Alison

Thank you to the Helen Barr Rudin Grant for making this blog and my adventures abroad possible*

Posted by TrixiStella 03:42 Archived in Spain Comments (1)

Midterms, Midterms, Midterms

Current Anxiety Rating: 2 (Post-test Relaxed)

overcast 57 °F

Hello everybody,

Sadly, I don't have much to update about this week since I spent most of last weekend under a pile of homework and studying for midterms, but I wanted to check in and let you know that I am alive and well and (mostly) sane. Combine all that homework and studying with the fact that both my roommate and host mom were gone, and you get a very stir-crazy Alison. If there is one thing I miss about being at Lawrence, it is the fact that interaction with other human beings is just one short shuffle down the hall away (in vaguely clean old sweat shirt and yoga pants, no less). Because we are guests in someone's home while in Spain, we aren't allowed to have anyone over, so if you want to interact you have to put on real pants (gasp!) and real shoes (oh my!) and in all likelihood spend some money (good heavens!).

Cabin fever got the best of me on Saturday, so I ended up venturing out to grab dinner. My friend and I decided we needed to have the quintessential Spanish dining experience, and we both ordered the "Menú del Día" where you pay a flat fee for two dinner courses and a desert. I ended up ordering Paella, a hamburger (not very Spanish, but the heart wants what the heart wants), and apple cake to finish off. It was worth it for the desert alone. It tasted like there was pureed apples in the batter, and there were yummy flakes of apple baked on top AND there was chocolate sauce. Like I said, worth every penny. Or euro, rather. And that was my big excitement for the weekend. Well, besides the zombie on roller blades. Because what says November 1st like a Spaniard on rollerblades, dressed as a zombie, carrying a shovel, making scary noises!? I really can think of nothing more appropriate. All I can say is this: At least he wasn't dressed as Santa.

In more recent news: I just finished the exam for my History of Music class, and I have two more exams next week. This week also happens to be our only five day week of the term. Why they chose to make it the same week as midterm exams is beyond me. I have gotten off pretty easy so far though. Out of my five classes, I only have midterms in three, and I have knocked one out of the way already! Woo! And my professor in my first exam even let us go early after the test. I really can't complain. But never fear, I will soldier on and do my best to do so anyway.

Hope this post finds all of you well! And best of luck to all of my Lawrence friends braving 8th week! Keep on trucking :) You are almost there! And if you don't believe me....

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Maybe you will believe my friend Ryan (or a very enormous picture of him).

Afectuosamente,

Alison

Thank you to the Helen Barr Rudin Grant for making this blog and my adventures abroad possible*

Posted by TrixiStella 05:55 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

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