Just getting settled in and BAM it’s over
Finals thoughts as I sit here in my empty apartment.
I am the last of my roommates to leave this apartment, the one we have grown so attached to over the past three and a half months. It seems weird to me that tonight, at approximately 8:30 pm EST, I will be landing at Newark and headed home to start my summer vacation. As this thought occurs to me, I have also come to the realization that living over here in Italy has caused me to grow up… slightly faster than I would have liked but just in time for my 20th birthday.
Last night was filled with laughter and fond memories that were made within this short amount of time, and of course some tears right at the last minute when Donna and I said goodbye to Mallory. This morning, when I said goodbye to Donna, it didn’t hit me that I would be returning upstairs to an empty apartment with my bags backed, waiting for the stroke of 9:30am to call my own taxi and ultimately bring me closer to departing this wonderful city.
Donna left at 3:45 am. Thinking I was still going to be tired, I laid back down. I was wide-awake, so I read and before I knew it, it was 7:00 am. I couldn’t help but get up and start putting the final touches on my own departure. After I finished, I made a few sandwiches and decided I was hungry. I had about six bags of garbage (mind you, they were plastic grocery bags) to take down to the dumpster, so I packed one of my sandwiches up and went for a walk.
I crossed our bridge (Ponte alla Carraia) but then realized that I wanted to look at the Ponte Vecchio, so I went up to the next bridge. But then, that wasn’t enough, so I walked over to the Old Bridge and walked up my favorite landmark in Florence. With hardly any tourists and the morning sun shining on it, I took in what I had left of my city. I relished in the fact that I had accomplished these (with some help) three and a half months and now, it was time to go. What was beautiful about being on that bridge was that I felt like I had just started a brand new chapter in my life, and I felt empowered to explore all that has yet to come.
Thank you for all the memories Firenze.
Today has been super bittersweet. I finished my last final at approximately 10:30 am and how did I celebrate? I sold my paperbacks back… well, I exchanged them back. I exchanged them for a few other books. I walked down to this AMAZING panini place called Pino’s, right by Santa Croce, and got myself the Finocchieta which is a panino with tuscan salami, sundried tomatoes, mozarella, and pesto! yum yum yum. Afterwards I walked over to Santa Croce where I sat in the sun and started reading The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud. I felt nerdy and I loved it because the sun was shining and I was basking in my Florentine lifestyle… or what is left of it seeing as I leave in two days :( I’m shocked at how quickly this entire experience has flown by. I’m a junior now… in college. Which is funny seeing as I still feel like a junior in high school. I certainly have the height to pass for that one. I’m leaving soon to go to the Academia (which I have neglected up until this point) and tomorrow, my roommates and I are making our final rounds at the Central Market, the Leather Market, the Duomo and the San Lorenzo Church. Who knows what Friday holds- possibly a lot of tears and probably another long walk around the city followed by one last roommate dinner. It’s been great and I’m sad to see it come to an end.
It’s a sad Sunday all around as my roommates and I continually remind each other that in six days, we will be returning to the states. On top of this realization, there is also the fact that we are all cramming for our finals, which start tomorrow. We have been trying to do all of the things we have yet to do (mostly me on this one), and we have also been taking pictures like crazy, attempting to capture each moment that we feel we have yet to preserve in our memories.
I, of course, have much more catching up on Florence than my roommates do. On Thursday, I finally went to the Uffizi. I am not much of a museum person so going alone is better for all involved. It was great to see and some of the work there really fascinated me, but other than that, it was just something to check off my list of things I had to do. Next, I have the Academia, which I will be doing on Wednesday or Thursday this week… and I also still have to go INSIDE the Duomo. I think if my mother were here now, she would slap me for not doing this sooner, but my roommate Donna and I are going on Tuesday morning together. I have heard, however, that the climb to the top of the Duomo is chlosterphobic and scary and I unfortunately to not do well with either of those situations, so I do not think I will be climbing the Duomo.
On Thursday night, my roommates and I went to Ganzo for dinner. Ganzo is our school’s “cafeteria” if you will, but it is much fancier than any type of school dining hall. It is run by Apicius, which is the culinary arts school of FUA, so they serve strictly gourmet food prepared by the students. At the beginning of the semester, we were all given 30 vouchers to Ganzo, and since we live literally forty-five minutes away from Ganzo, we hardly go. Needless to say, I have about twelve vouchers left, while some students went through theirs within the first month of being here. So, we went to Ganzo for their “Themed Dinner” night. This past Thursday was “Renaissance Night,” and we had quite the interesting meal. To start, as our pre-antipasto, we had a quail egg. Then, for our antipasto we had Pigeon Breast (which allowed for a lot of corny jokes on my part because Pigeons are like the Squirrels of Florence), which surprisingly tasted like venison… which I hate and never eat. For or Primo we had a Cheese Tart with a Strawberry Salad. For our Secondo, we had Lamb… which was also… interesting. The best (and possibly only good part) of the meal was our pre dolce, which was vanilla ice cream. For our Dolce, we had an almond pudding that was more like a custard gelatin thing. It was a weird dinner… but I got to use 8 of my vouchers (we brought our friend Emily along, and I got to use some vouchers on her!) which brought me down from 20, to 12. We all tossed around the idea of getting gelato afterwards, just to rid our tastebuds of the quail/pigeon/lamb dinner… but we made it back to our apartment before we made it to the gelato shop so that didn’t exactly happen.
Yesterday, my roommates and I went THE DINER, which is an American style Diner in the heart of Florence. We all got our own dishes (I got a cheeseburger) and then we all split a plate of strawberry pancakes (one each… no I did not have a stack to myself). The burger was beyond delicious and definitely the best I have ever had (sorry Cole, but it definitely beat Bill Gray’s) and the pancakes were PERFECT. Definitely not Aunt Jemima’s. We will definitely be going back there before we leave.
After that, we went to the Boboli Gardens, which are behind the Pitti Palace. They are a true gem to Florence and offer views of not only the rolling Tuscan country side that lies beyond Firenze’s city lines, but also views of the Duomo and Palazzo Vecchio. We basked in the sun and talked all about how much fun we have had in Florence. We reminisced about all of the trips we took in the past four months and how they seem so far away, but yet they only just occurred. It was a beautiful afternoon spent with two friends I am so happy I had the pleasure of meeting and living with.
After the Boboli Gardens, Donna and I split up from Mallory and went to the Ponte Vecchio. I had had my eye on a certain style of rings, which seem to be all over Florence lately, and having realized that I needed to still get myself a souvenir… I thought where else better than the Ponte Vecchio (which is my favorite land mark in Firenze). So, needless to say, I bought silver and white gold ring that looks like it has a small coin on the top. Inside of the coin is the coat of arms of Florence, surrounded by the words, “FLORENTIA.” I have never been happier splurging on a little piece of Florence than now. I can’t help but admire it on my little hands (especially since I have long nails now :P)
We returned back to our apartment and spent the rest of the night studying and writing and writing and studying. At about midnight, we decided that we were all hungry and we ordered take out from a restaurant on our street called Dante’s Pizzeria. We like to call it “our restaurant” because the owner is in love with Donna and constantly gives us discounts on food because of this. We realized while we were eating our Dante’s food that this was probably the last time we would be having food from there.
Now, this brings us to the present… as in right now at 5:06 pm when I am writing this very blog post about how much I will miss Florence and how I can’t believe it’s six days from over. I am hoping to make these last six days memorable and I hope I properly say goodbye to Florence by eating as much Italian food as I possibly can. I’m already pretty sure that I will be packing up all of Florence, Italy in my suitcase and bringing it all home… I just hope I don’t go over weight at the airport.
Hello Everyone! Sorry for the late update, but I have been so busy with school that I just haven’t had the time. However, I am currently studying (or was five minutes ago) and decided to take a break to tell you all about my trip to Spain!
Day 1: Madrid, 19 April 2012
We arrived in Madrid in the middle of the day. We were pretty happy with ryanair since our flight was on time. After getting lost a few times in the airport, we finally found the metro and started our mini trek to our hostel. We transferred three times and then wound up on Gran Via, only a few blocks from where we were staying. We were pretty pleased with our hostel (it was a far cry from the one in Paris). After settling in, we met up with my friend from Fort Drum, Liggia.
Liggia and I were in the same sixth grade class and Girl Scout troop when I lived in upstate New York and she has been living and studying in Madrid for the past two years. Anyways, we met up with her and she took us to El Mercato de San Miguel. We got a variety of different foods, from sushi to empanadas and churros. It was all so good! After the market, we went to the Royal Palace. I felt super cool because the last time I had been there, I got to go inside, but now the inside is closed off to the public. We went behind the Palace to Los Jardines de Sabatini. We said goodbye to Liggia and went to Plaza de España to meet one of Mallory’s friends, Maryam.
Once we met up with Maryam, she took us up to El Templo de Debod, which is an Egyptian Temple. The views of Madrid from there were awesome! We could see the zoo and some crazy amusement park, and of course the Royal Palace. Afterwards, we walked through Gran Via and back to our hostel. We took a while to relax and then around 10:30 we went out to meet Maryam again for TAPAS!!
We went to a bar called “El Tigre” right off of Gran Via. We paid 6 euro for a tub of sangria and all we could eat Tapas. It was awesome!! I met some really cool people and had a few great conversations and needless to say, I was a liiiittle tipsy at the end of the night. Luckily, we were right around the corner from our hostel and pretty much crashed after that.
Day 2: Madrid, 20 April 2012
This was our “see all the museums and parks” day. We started off in the morning with an amazing breakfast of waffles (so good!) and then started walking down Gran Via to go to El Museo del Prado. We waited in line for about thirty minutes, got in for free (always a plus!) and then practically did the ENTIRE museum, which is quite a feat for me. We saw a lot of famous paintings (like a lot) and ate at the museum café (which was so-so) and then we left.
We walked from the Prado over to El Parque del Ratiro, where we met up with Liggia once again. However, this time, she brought her adorable baby boy, Alex! He was so cute! She took us around the park and we saw a glass house and Alice in Wonderland inspired gardens. While we were walking around in Wonderland, we met a peacock. No joke. He actually came like within two feet of us. It was so cool yet slightly scary at the same time.
From Wonderland, we started walking back towards this huge lake when we met up with Liggia’s boyfriend Antonio. He was telling us all about Madrid and it was nice to get a local’s perspective on things. We split up from them for about thirty minutes while Mallory and I rowed around el Lago del Retiro. That was quite the adventure by itself!
When we met up with Liggia and Antonio again, we went to Plaza de Colón. I’m not quite sure of the significance of this Plaza, but there was this GIANT Spanish flag flying over the whole thing. We said goodbye to Liggia, Alex and Antonio there and turned around and went to the Reina Sofia museum. There was a lot of Picasso and Dalí there and Mallory and I ended up being a little more creeped out and confused than intrigued. We saw most of the prominent works, like Guernica (a favorite of my mom’s) by Picasso and then left.
We walked back to Puerta del Sol and attempted to find somewhere to eat. However, being on Italian culture time, we figured somewhere would be open for dinner only to discover that Spaniards don’t eat until 10pm! We were so hungry and so exhausted that we settled for Wok to Wok, a stir-fry place. It was delicious and so satisfying that we didn’t even care we weren’t having Spanish food.
Day 3: Madrid to Barcelona, 21 April 2012
This day started out quite rough. We left our hostel pretty early and got to the airport with some time to spare. We were already on the bus, past security and getting ready to board our plane when we were all sent back to the terminal because our flight was having technical difficulties. Needless to say, we didn’t leave Madrid until 12:30, and it was only 8:30 in the morning. But luckily, ryanair was so nice to compensate us with a sandwich for our troubles. How nice of them.
When we finally arrived in Girona, we had to take a bus to get to Barcelona, something we were not looking forward to. After an hour, we had arrived! We walked through Barcelona and saw some major sights on the way to where we were staying. We dropped our stuff off and walked to Plaça Catalunya. From there, we walked down Las Ramblas to the water! It was such a nice day out and despite our achy feet and the windy weather; it was great being able to be by the water, a first for many of our trips.
We walked further and further and eventually ended up on the beach. We sat there for a while admiring the Mediterranean when a stark naked old man came casually walking by. We didn’t really expect it because to be quite honest…it wasn’t that warm out! We noticed after that that there were some storm clouds rolling in and we figured we better make our way back before we get caught in the rain.
After the beach, we walked… and walked… and got lost a few times and then while we were correcting ourselves, we heard a lot of shouting coming from almost every building. We were shocked at first but then I remembered there was a Barça game on and all the shouting was coming from the rows of bars that lined the streets. We thought for sure they were winning because on our way to dinner, a bunch of guys flooded the streets shouting and yelling in celebration, one even had a blow up doll… but my boyfriend told me later that they lost. So, we were a little confused.
We stopped at a restaurant on La Rambla for dinner. I had told Mallory that she absolutely had to try Paella, and luckily we found a restaurant that was serving it. It was a cute little place and we were quite happy with the selection. We had been talking all day about how we had to try Spanish wine and so we decided that with dinner we would order some. Assuming that the “house wine” would be Spanish, we order half a litre of that. Unfortunately, it was Chianti wine… from Italy of all places. We were bummed, but we drank it anyways.
After dinner, we went back to the apartment we were staying at and crashed. I could barely keep my eyes open and I passed out right away.
Day 4: Barcelona, 22 April 2012
We didn’t exactly get lucky with the weather in Barcelona. The day before had been nice but then it basically poured on us. Today, wasn’t especially different.
Mallory and I decided to buy a city ticket for a bus tour where you could “hop on and hope off” at all of the major sites. We thought this was perfect considering most of the things we wanted to see were far apart from each other. So, to start… we went to Sagrada Familia and, pardon my French… HOLY SHIT it was absolutely STUNNING. When we rounded the corner on the tour bus and the guide said, “If you look to your right, you will see La Sagrada Familia,” my jaw literally hit the ground. It looked as if the outside had been formed by sand. Not just any sand, the type of sand you mix with water and then create drip castle with. It was unbelievable, and the inside was even more unbelievable. It was by far the best part of Barcelona, and possibly the entire trip.
After La Sagrada Familia, we took the bus to Park Güell to see all of the Gaudí work. That was really amazing to see. We saw the famous benches that he designed as well as the home that he lived in. Gaudí was the famous architect that designed La Sagrada Familia and his architectural style basically built Barcelona and influenced other styles in other cities as well.
Halfway through Park Güell, we realized that the next big thing we wanted to see, Camp Nou, was closed. It had completely escaped our minds because it was one of the last stops on the bus route. However, we finished up at Park Güell and went there anyways.
Camp Nou is where Barcelona’s soccer team plays… and it’s the biggest futbol stadium in the world. I had been to the Real Madrid stadium back in 2008 and I really really really wanted to see Camp Nou. So, we went and we got to see the outside. It was slightly depressing because I knew the inside was probably so impressive… and it was right there, but sadly we couldn’t go in.
After Camp Nou, we took the bus back to Plaça Catalunya and went to… McDonald’s for a McFlurry. This has become a thing of mine (thanks to Mallory) that whenever we have travel woes, we take it out on a McFlurry. It works quite well and always makes us feel better. We wandered down La Rambla again, doing some more souvenirs shopping before heading back to the apartment where we stayed. After that, we walked back to the bus station and got on the bus back to the airport. Our flight was at 10:35 and we arrived back in Pisa at 11:55, just in time to catch the last bus back to Florence.
Overall, it was a great trip and we had a lot of fun! Despite a few setbacks, we really got to experience Madrid and Barcelona.
less than one week :(