I just ended my internship with Healthkicker.com, but there were a couple of articles that I wrote that some of you may be interested in. I did a few world highlight pieces where I searched online for cool places around the world with interesting hiking/running trails. It was a way to combine two of my favorite things: traveling and running!
So I’ve been back in America for about three months right now, and, honestly, I’m still not over it. By “it,” I mean not being abroad. I miss hearing Italian all around me; my friend asked me to translate a phrase for him today in Italian and I was BEAMING over it. I miss walking around Florence, the cobblestone unstable under my feet. And I miss traveling being my number one priority.
I have a bunch of friends studying abroad this semester and I can barely look at their Facebooks because I get jealous that it’s no longer me there.
I spent three and a half months abroad and visited 10 countries. I’ve been back in America for around that time and I haven’t even left the state.
I have a different set of priorities here, which definitely resembles “real life” more than it did in the past. It’s part of growing up, which is inevitable and something that I should try to be excited about. But I don’t know if I can be excited about it if it doesn’t involve traveling in the future.
Let’s just say, leaving Italy was one of the most difficult things I have had to do. I threatened to chain myself to the Duomo numerous times so I wouldn’t have to leaved. But I’ve been back in the United States for about three weeks now. I had to go back to reality and back to the rush of being a native New Yorker. As much as I love living in the land of the brave, who wouldn’t miss Italy and all the travel opportunities I had while abroad? (10 countries in three months- just saying).
So here is a list of things that I miss from studying abroad:
- The architecture- I made the Duomo my cell phone background because I miss walking past it every everyday, it’s not the same.
- Browsing the street vendors-maybe I want to treat myself to a one euro bracelet that day.
- The language- it’s a known fact that the Italian language is the most beautiful of them all.
- Field trips during my classes- field trips aren’t as common at my home college.
- The mini cappuccino machines by my classes- 50 cent cappuccino con cioccolata, yum!
- Traveling during the weekends with my friends- Prague, Istanbul, Crete, London, etc.
- The slow pace of life- okay, maybe I struggled with this while there (see above- Native New Yorker), but it’s definitely something I appreciate. We should enjoy life and all aspects of it, not rush through it.
- Italian pizza
- Pasta with amazing sauces
- Panino shops
- Just Italian food in general.
- Walking places and exploring the town- can’t do that in my hometown, which is unfortunate since I came home to a broken car.
- The store fronts- they’re so carefully crafted, they lure me in every time!
- People calling me bella- okay, sometimes it’s creepy, but other times it’s nice and acts as a good ego boost!
- Being mistaken as a native Italian.
- Having traveling and soaking in your surroundings as your biggest responsibilities in life.
I want to thank my parents, family and friends as well as Marist College and Lorenzo de’ Medici for the best four months of my life.
I will continue to write posts about looking back at my experiences as well as offering advice to those considering to go abroad.
Last Sunday I decided to travel to Venice by myself. Although I had two finals the next day, I figured exploring Venice was a better learning opportunity. But since I wanted to do well on my finals as well, I had to cut the trip short.
The moment I walked out of the train station in Venice, I was in awe. I feel like people always downplay Venice with “it’s dirty” or “you only need one day in it.” Maybe you only need one day to see San Marco’s Square, the major attraction, but I don’t understand why you would only WANT to stay there for just one day. It’s so beautiful, and there are so many side streets to explore!
My first impression of Venice is that it looks exactly like intro scene to a movie that I saw in my Renaissance Theory of Love class, Dangerous Beauty. The introduction scene includes courtesans elaborately dressed, floating in gondolas down the canal, brightly colored buildings along either side of the water. I thought the beauty was an exaggeration, but it wasn’t.
I took the waterbus to San Marco’s square. I explored the shops around the square filled with the beautiful Venetian masks used for Carnevale. The streets were narrow and winding, sometimes you would have to cross a small bridge to get to the next shop. I didn’t go far though, I didn’t want to get lost by myself.
Of course I went in the San Marco church. Naturally, it was gorgeous. There were a lot of mosaic and gold paint decorating the interior; I felt like it went perfectly with the Venetian appreciation of elaborate adornments.
Outside the church are two bronze horses, which are actually replicas. The real ones are inside, and they are perfectly grand. They are believed to be from the Ancient Roman circus that was once set in today’s Istanbul.
I then took the lift up the bell tower adjacent to the church. It was eight euros, a little pricey, but I’m glad I did it. From this point of view, I was able to get a better idea of the size of Venice, the little islands surrounding it, and how the canals work throughout the city.
After, I took the water bus to Murano. I don’t know if I got off at the right Murano stop, but I followed a family of Italian tourists. We (yes, we- I temporarily pretended I had friends) went to a glass-blowing demonstration. I had to listen to the demonstration in Italian because I was the only American and I didn’t want to draw attention to myself when he asked if anyone spoke English. My Italian has gotten better, but my vocabulary doesn’t really extend to glass making.
Anyway, it was amazing to see the skill of the “maestro” and how he was able to craft the glass into an elegant horse. I loved browsing the shop, appreciating the fine art of Murano glass.
By the time I got back to the train station, the sun was setting. There was a very romantic feel, with the pink sky, rose toned buildings, and the glistening, drifting water of the canals.
Venice has a very magical feel, full of culture and art. In a lot of the travelogues that I read this semester, Venice was often described as dead. I have to disagree. I found it very alive with its celebration of their past and present.
For my last weekend trip, my friend and I went to Prague with Bus2Alps and stayed at the CzechInn.
I did not know what to expect with Prague, but throughout the semester I had heard from various students that it was their favorite city. I now understand why.
After a 13 hour bus ride from Florence, the first thing we did when we arrived at the hostel was bundle up in scarves, sweaters and gloves. It was a good 20 degrees colder in Prague than in Florence.
We then went on the tram and metro to meet our guide for our walking tour. He took us around the city, including Old Town Square and the Old New Synagogue. We had such a large crowd that it was difficult to understand what he was saying to us, but we were able to take in many beautiful sights and its history.
Throughout the years, Prague has been subject to many foreign invasions and political unrest. In the city, we were able to see the German and Russian influence from the second World War. There are many government buildings that were built when they became the Czech Republic in order to reaffirm their position.
One of my favorite results of the political unrest within the city is the Lennon Wall. The Wall was built as a dedication for the famous Beatle, John Lennon. In 1988, the wall was a source of irritation for the communist regime of Gustáv Husák. It acted as a civil protest by the students in Prague, calling their movement Lennonism. Students would write on the wall ideas of peace, quoting Lennon and his ideals. The government would return everyday, painting over the graffiti, and the students would continue to come back.
This piece of art continues to live on today. People still come by and paint over the wall (as tradition), which encourages people to continue to contribute to the wall. The ideals on the wall are still characteristic of young people; ideas of love, peace, and togetherness. My friend and I wrote on the wall some of our favorite quotes, in English and Italian (ti voglio bene), and Beatles lyrics. It was nice contributing to this living history; we’re part of the peace, we are a part of a layer of this history. There must have been thousands of people that wrote on it before use, and there will be thousands after us, but we all have the same ideals. We all shine on.
The wall is located off of Charles Bridge, the oldest bridge in Prague (and at one time, the only). Its construction started in 1357 under King Charles IV, and finished in the beginning of the 15th century. It’s a wide bridge that, during the day, is filled with vendors selling jewelry and artwork; there are beautiful pictures of the Wall and paintings of the bridge. The bridge is packed with tourists, but it is definitely a must-see. There are religious pieces along the edge of the bridges, probably a result from the Renaissance.
The Christmas market in Old Town Square had just opened the weekend we were there. There were lines of shops selling Prague souvenirs, as well as Christmas ornaments and decorations. There were also food vendors, where they were selling this cinnamon fried dough. It looked like a hollow cylinder. Mine had Nutella in it. Of course it was amazing. We also got potatoes melted with cheese and ham. I also ordered a chicken skewer on a baguette. Now picture it, and try to appreciate how I attempted to eat it, because it was very difficult and impractical.
There was also a huge Christmas tree and stage, decorated with the lights. The entire square was lit up by the white Christmas lights.
Prague was one of those unexpected beauties. The buildings and squares all had a unique feel to them; although I was in a big city, I felt like I was in a small town.
As Bus2Alps says, “Prague has shed it’s not-so-distant oppressive past to re-emerge as a culturally rich wonder and a mainstay of every traveler’s bucket list.”
That it has.
Oh. And fun fact- Prague is where most of Eurotrip was filmed.
Last weekend, my friends and I thought it was a good idea to squeeze Paris and London into one weekend. Yes, we got to hit all the main sites, but we didn’t get to wander and because of travel issues (of course) our time in London was cut short.
We began our trip when we arrived in Paris late Thursday night. Since everything was closed at that point, and we were vehemently opposed to eating McDonald’s, we settled for some good ole kebabs. I know it’s not French, but the kebabs stands are more popular in Europe than in America, so that made us feel a little better.
I woke everyone up in my hostel early Friday morning by continuously singing/shouting that we were in Paris and that it was time to get up. No one was too happy with me, but it got them moving. We left the hostel and got lost in the rain, of course, looking for the metro station. We finally reached the metro and while we were at the information desk, my friend’s iPhone got stolen. Between that and the rain, everyone’s spirits were dampened (look at that pun!), but I was determined to keep moving so we could see everything.
The first monument that we saw was the Arc de Triumphe, which is actually a monument for fallen soldiers. In the center of the Arc is a large French flag, which blows majestically in the wind. I imagine the monument to be very patriotic and moving for the French.
We then walked down the Champs-Elysees, one of Paris’ most famous streets for shoppers. We found a French cafe along the way where we got lunch. The street was decorated for the holidays, with sparkling white lights on the buildings and trees, white wire globes with shiny blue balls, and fake snow. It was a winter wonderland.
We then crossed the bridge to the Eiffel Tower. We decided to be ambitious and climb up it, as opposed to taking the lift up. We deemed it “the workout to last us the rest of the semester.” Along the way up, the stairs were numbered and there were signs that explained its architecture and gave background to its purpose. They displayed the other possible designs the creators were considering for the 1889 World Fair. On what they call the first level (or the first breathing stop), there is a restaurant and souvenir shop. Sitting in the restaurant was a groom and his bride. I wish I asked them their story, I wonder if they got married on the tower or just in the city of Paris.
There’s a bar at the top of the tower. When we finally reached it, we each got a celebratory flute of champagne. Being able to say that you had champagne in Paris is impressive enough for me, but adding at the top of the Eiffel Tower as well, makes it even cooler.
By the time we got down from the Eiffel Tower it was already getting dark. At a certain time each night, the Eiffel Tower lights up. The Eiffel Tower was literally glistening. I think it was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.
We made our way to Notre Dame. It was pitch black when we saw it, I would have thought that there would have been lights illuminating it. But the darkness gave the cathedral a very gothic look. The architecture was amazing. I was really interested in the gargoyles though, mainly because of Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame. We wandered the streets around there which were full of pubs and shops. It had a nice nightlife going. We stopped at one place and got crepes, mine had Nutella and bananas.
We then took the metro to the Louvre. Although we did not go into it, just seeing the outside was beautiful. The pyramid in the courtyard is stunning, especially at night- it glows. I think Paris in general is amazing at night.
As a result of a last minute decision, Saturday morning we went to Disneyland, Paris. The happiest place on Earth, but in Europe. I don’t think it can get any happier than that. The park was decorated for the holidays as well, which put us in great spirits. I felt like a little kid again when the Christmas parade went by and we were dancing along and taking pictures of our favorite characters on floats. We were only able to get on three rides, but they were all very different than their American counterparts. I guess safety standards are a tad different in Europe.
We then had to rush to the airport to hop on our plane to London. We spent the night in Piccadilly Circus, London’s Time Square. Off the main circle are streets filled with clothing and souvenir stores. There were big, bright signs advertising various products. I saw one sign with the Union Jack and the Beatles saying “Let it Be.” I don’t even know if it was advertising anything, but it was so British!
London was decorated for Christmas as well. On one of the main streets off of Piccadilly there were arches, each with a day of Christmas, from the song “The 12 Days of Christmas.”
That night we went to a steak house. I had mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and bbq chicken. It was the most American thing I’ve had in a while. And it was great being to ask for things in English, and then getting a responses in English as well.
The next day, we planned on doing a hop on, hop off bus tour. We started with it, got off in one place to switch to a different bus, and then it didn’t come. We wound up wasting two hours. We were able to rush along though. We saw Parliament, Big Ben, London Tower, and the Tower Bridge, all the main buildings we wanted to see. The only thing that I didn’t get to do was take a picture at Abbey Road. And shop. Oh well, I guess that just means I need to go back there.
London was such a beautiful city, maybe because it reminds me the most of Manhattan. But the buildings are prettier and some much older. I was sad to find out that most of Old London, where the Tower is, was destroyed during World War II. In Italy, I get to see so many ruins and old buildings, that I forget that with how much has been preserved there is even more that have actually been destroyed in war.
Although the trip was a tad rushed, I am so happy that I got to see both of these cities, two of the most famous in the world. I understand why now, both have a unique feel that links them back to their history as well as the modern era.