Monday, December 19, 2011

HOME.

As I write this post, I am sitting at my desk in my bedroom in North Attleboro, MA. It has finally ended and all I can say is that was the most amazing experience I've had in my life. Those past 4 months flew by and were full of beauty and adventure and I loved every second. I definitely fell in love with Florence, and I plan on going back as soon as I can. Even though this has come to an end, I realized reflecting on my trip on my car ride home from the airport that it really was more amazing than I even realized when I was there. I recommend studying abroad to everyone. It's a chance to not only discover the world, but discover a lot about yourself as well. I look forward to being back at St.Mikes and it's nice to be back with the family and friends for the holidays. I hope everyone has a wonderful break and see you in January (: For those of you going abroad in the spring, love every second and have an amazing time!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Christmas is everywhere in Florence! There are lights on every street, and there are decorated trees in all the main areas. Its so much fun because a Christmas market has come to town. Most of it has German products, and all the food they have are sausages and pretzels, and candy as well. Its really neat because you feel like you're in Germany, but you can enjoy the Christmas spirit they have there right downtown. Below is a picture of one of the booths at the fair. It was selling interesting Christmas trees, and Christmas dolls.



This is a picture of another one of the boots at the fair, it was metal crafted into little men that hold wine bottles, they were so much fun to look at and a great gift idea as well!



This picture is what the streets look like at night, with the lit up tree that has numerous Florence ornaments, and lights lining the streets in different patterns on each one. Its a magical place to be at night.


Yesterday, my friend and I did some exploring and wound up at a church called Santa Croce, and it was beautiful with stainless glass decorations and everything purple and gold, just like St.Mikes! One neat part about this church is that it holds the graves of countless people from the past. this one below is the tomb of Michelangelo. This was interesting to see and his tomb was their along with Galileo just to name a few.   


The last week has finally arrived, and the thought of leaving Italy is so hard to grasp. In a way I feel as though I am not ready to leave the beauty and magic of Florence. I am excited however, to see my family, enjoy the holidays and be back at St.mikes. Hope everything is well and I'll update you with my last week stories, hopefully I'll have a lot even though there are finals!

Monday, November 28, 2011

ROME and AMSTERDAM

SO, once again it has been a very long time since I have posted...and let me explain. Well first off, yes we do have school abroad, but to tell you the truth the work load hasn't been difficult until the past 2 weeks. We were loaded with final projects, papers and thinking about the final exams. It was a lot on top of traveling the past two weekends. So aside from school, which I have finally got caught up on all my work, the past 2 weekends were amazing. Last weekend I went to Amsterdam with three of my friends. After flight delays and cancellations, we finally made it to our "beautiful" hostel in downtown Amsterdam. It was the perfect location and it was such an interesting place to take in. It is exactly what people believe, but it it just so much more than what you think. the streets were decorated for Christmas, because they celebrate it on December fifth, and it felt like a winter wonderland. Everyone in Amsterdam is so friendly and nice and there are canals, which make it feel a little bit like Venice. Below is a picture with two of my friends in a traditional Holland clog that can be found all throughout the city



And of course, we had to go to the famous Iamsterdam sign with the giant letters you can sit in and get a few pics. It was really cool to see at night because it was all lit up and the tram ride there allowed us to see so much more of the city 


This is a view down one of the canals. as you can see, bikes line the bridge and the roads because everyone travels around Amsterdam by bike. It's really interesting to see everyone riding bikes and the castles and beautiful views makes it feel almost like a fairytale


The weekend before Amsterdam, my study abroad program API took us to Rome! It was a quick bus ride before we were placed in an amazing hotel right in the heart of the city. Rome was amazing to me because the history was so much to take in on top of the Italian beauty. There are so many famous hotspots in Rome and API made sure that we were taken to them all. Below is the fountain right near our hotel. Surrounding it during the day were art vendors and caricature artists


This fountain is the famous Trevi fountain, which honestly took my breath away when I first saw it. It is so much more magnificent than I ever imagined. Also for any of you that know the Lizzie Maguire movie, yes she did see this fountain and make a wish. Random reference, but still for any of you that know if it is definitely fun. So aside from this fountain, my favorite part of Rome would definitely be the Vatican. It honestly was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in my life. It was spectacular and of course the Colosseum was amazing to see as well. So all in all, Rome was amazing and I could even see myself living there


It's nice to be back in Florence now, finishing up all the hard work, and enjoying the last 20 days of my abroad. I cannot believe its already the end. I have met so many great people and have lived an amazing four months. I will keep you updated on the rest of my time in Florence, enjoy the rest of your semester until break!

Monday, November 14, 2011

SO, I am finally settled in after what feels like a long 2 weeks of traveling! it all started in Austria, visiting my friend Emily from St.Mikes, and also where the film The Sound of Music was filmed (personally favorite) It was so beautiful! We hiked mountains and here is one of the views of a fortress you can see from the mountains


We also did numerous activities such as touring a brewery and taking part in the Sound of Music tour, which takes you to all the places the film was filmed in Austria from the gazebo to the actually VonTrapp house. The whole time there were sing along and we had a wonderful time reliving our childhood watching this film and taking part in the tour. We also had the privilege to be on the tour with Maria VonTrapps actual granddaughter, who happens to be from Stowe, Vermont! It was great to meet her and here all about the VonTrapp house in Stowe. 


Austria also had wonderful food, mainly desserts that were so delicious. One of my favorites was the apple struddle which was surrounded by warm vanilla pudding


After coming back from Austria on Tuesday night, I had a day in Florence before leaving Thursday morning for Cologne, Germany! A friend of mine who I interned with this summer lives in cologne so myself along with 2 friends got to stay with him and get his experience of Germany. It was by far one of my favorite places, and the people were so friendly! On November 11, 2011 at 11:11 am we took part in the Carnival that begins each year on this date. It basically looked like Halloween, and as you can see by the pictures below, people filled the streets in all sorts of costumes. There was also parades and traditional German carnival songs and it was a great cultural experience to be a part of. 


The rest of the weekend, we spent exploring the city which was also full of delicious desserts. Below are just a few examples of the mouthwatering treats lining the streets. Cologne was also much more modern than Florence and even had the one drink I've truly been missing, Dunkin Donuts coffee. It was wonderful to finally get a little taste of that and experience it among one of the most up and coming German cities.


Overall, the past two weeks were amazing, and I cannot wait to head off to Rome this weekend with API to see the big city of Italy! I'll let you know how that trip goes as soon as I'm back (: hope all is well back at St.Mikes!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sicily and Malta were both beautiful vacation spots! It was so nice to have a week off of classes and get to relax in the sun before it gets too cold. First we went to Sicily, where we stayed in a beautiful Villa overlooking the water. Here's a picture of what our balcony looked like!


While we were there we went on a boat cruise that took us to islands north of Sicily. One of them was an active volcano where we took sulfur baths in a natural sulfur pool, and you could feel the heat bubbling below you! Then we went to a wine tasting right near mount Etna, which is a volcano in Sicily. That was beautiful and delicious! We were in Sicily for 4 days then headed to Malta, which was originally a British colony so they drove on the opposite side of the road, as well as drove on the opposite side of the car. We also went on a cruise of the Mediterranean and went to a place called the Blue Lagoon, below, that was so blue full of fish and surrounded by beautiful islands! Here's a picture below


It was really nice to come back to Florence though, it really feels like home now! One interesting thing that I thought i'd share is somewhere i felt some of the strongest culture shock since I've been here...Subway. We went today to get sandwiches and it looks the same on the outside but it was interesting to see how the Italians do subs. First off, the breads were different, the sauces were different and they LOVE loading sandwiches with mayo...they also offered corn and carrots and other varieties to put on your sandwiches. The cookies were different too, and the way they made the subs, from not forming an organized line, to making it take very long to prepare it was a completely different experience. I know, you're probably thinking this has to not be a big deal compared to other events in Italy, but to me, it has been one of the biggest shocks lately!  So if you like subway, go enjoy a nice, quickly made, delicious breaded sandwich for me. Hope all's well! I head to Austria Thursday through Tuesday to visit a friend from St.Mikes as well as see where the Sound of Music was filmed. I'll let you know how that goes!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

This past weekend was great! Got to see some friends from back at school and from home, so it was fun to show them around the city and of course enjoy a weekends worth of going out to eat. We also did some touristy activities such as climbing the Duomo which is the large church in the middle of Florence. You have to take winding staircases to the top until you reach the dome in which you have to climb steep stairs until you arrive on the roof with the most amazing view! Even though I was a little scared...I managed to get a picture to show you exactly what I saw!


This is really the view of one of the most beautiful places I've ever been that I am proud to call my home for now! Right now is midterm week so i actually have been studying a lot because this is when teachers here actually load on the work. This weekend though is the start of mid semester break! So I'm actually starting first in Sicily in a beach side villa with my roommate from back at St.Mikes, Fallon from here and her friend from England as well as her family! I'm so excited to catch up and enjoy Sicily. After that, we're flying to Malta (Which was a 7 Euro Plane ticket) for the remainder of the week to meet up with our friends from here. Malta is an island south of Sicily and East of Africa. It's one of the oldest civilized places so it should be really neat. I might not have internet access for a while but I will fill you in as soon as I am back! Hope your semester's going great (:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

So Verona was beautiful. We got to see Romeo and Juliet's houses and her balcony which was neat and it is a very historical city so we saw churches built soo long ago! Here's a picture of the balcony below. The wall you walk past to get to the balcony is also covered with writing from people who visit with their names and the name of who they love. We also learned that they repaint the wall every six months because that's how fast it fills up and it is quickly filled once again! 


Then we went to Venice which was honestly one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. Gondolas are exactly what you picture and the rowers of them really do wear striped sweaters and little hats! It was such a cultural experience. It was also interesting to see a city traveling strictly through water, there are no cars! It's an island so we had to take a boat to get there and when we arrived it looked almost fake because of how beautiful it is and surprisingly the water is actually very clean! We even got to see a parade in the city center which was very exciting



The trip was amazing but I was sitting in a restaurant last night getting dinner for my friends 21st birthday and I realized how different restaurants are here. Here are so major differences

1. You don't tip, you're not expected to however a lot of places can include a service fee. And because you're not tipping them waiters can take their time serving you and you're not their first priority like in the U.S.
2. It's very rare to find tap water here. You have to buy bottled water at every meal
3. There is a fee for sitting, so a lot of places each person has to pay to use their tables so take away or to go is very popular here
4. Multiple courses are very popular, therefore the serving sizes are really small, but like i said before, the food here is AMAZING!

I'll keep you updated with more, one of my friends from Saint Michaels who's studying in Grenada, Spain is coming to visit for the weekend so I'm very excited to show her around the city!