This short post is inspired by a 6€ picnic at Lake Trasimeno, which is, according to Wikipedia (one of the more reliable sources of information), “the largest lake on the Italian peninsula.” It was really nice for the couple of us to just grab some snacks, a deck of cards, and a couple blankets, and spend a nice afternoon in the sun along the water. And, as a fish in a former life, I was thrilled to get a chance to stick my feet in the water after several months of being stuck in a landlocked region.
Since we had been studying St. Catherine of Siena in my Saints and Sinners class, it was only right that we had a day trip to Siena. I didn’t mind having to go for school; Siena was on my list of places to go anyway.
As we do in every city, we saw the Sienese duomo (no change there), saw the house where Catherine grew up, and we ended what turned out to be a very rainy day in San Domenico, the church in which St. Catherine worshiped. From here, My friend, Katie, and I met up with one of my flatmates, Rebecca, and started on the rest of our weekend Tuscany, outside of class this time.
That night, we went to San Gimignano, and by the time we got there, most things were closed. We did manage to find a small tower to climb in a park with an awesome view of the town – so in a way, I we did get to see the whole city! We also found this little restaurant down the street from our hostel. Rebecca asked the waiter what wild boar (a popular food in Italy) tasted like, and everyone of the restaurant’s 6 tables started laughing. I don’t say this to sound mean – I say it because this cute little place was so small, so local, that everyone heard everything. The food was amazing, too; I split an antipasto of ox tongue with Rebecca (it was surprisingly good and totally normal looking) and got rabbit as my main dish. Winner, winner, rabbit dinner!
The next day was split in half: first by a trip to Pisa during which Rebecca and I climbed the leaning tower (which you can definitely feel lean as you climb) and saw the duomo (of course). The second part of the day was spent in Lucca, a little Tuscan town offers itself to a leisurely stroll around the park that sits atop the city walls. Like San Gimignano, Lucca has a lot of towers, and we ended up choosing to climb one that had a small bunch of trees planted on top. This certainly differentiated itself from the other towers I’ve ventured up; how many towers do YOU know of with a garden on it?
Our time in each city was short, but sweet. None of the cities required much time, but that was just fine for me because sometimes I forget I’m actually a student here, and not just a fortunately avid traveler. This was one of those times because then I remembered that in the next week, the first of my two final papers is due.
By now, most of my friends had already been to Florence, and I started to think that I’d have to make a trip by myself. But then I heard Bri was taking a day trip with a class there and wanted to spend the rest of the weekend there – so I offered her my company.
I took the train into Florence Friday morning, and the first thing I did was head to the Galleria Accademia, where Michelangelo’s David is displayed. There’s a copy of him in one of the squares, but it’s just not the same as seeing the real one! He’s much larger than I expected, and so detailed! There’s a vein in his right hand that I marveled at for a while. There was just something about it that made him feel very human.
I then headed to Santa Croce, where the gold-encrusted head of Saint Umilana (an artifact I have studied immensely for my Saints and Sinners class at Umbra) is kept. After I got out, I met Bri – and Annie, who we then had to walk to the train station so she could go back to Perugia. Then Bri and I rushed through the Uffizi (because it was closing), strolled across the Ponte Vecchio, walked through Santa Maria Novella (the church that the main Florence train station is named for as they are neighbors), and had dinner outside the Uffizi at a restaurant we thought was packed with locals that actually turned out to be a French school group.
The next day started with climb up to the dome of the duomo (but not the bell tower because ≈463 steps up the duomo was enough), followed by a [free] historical walking tour of Florence, and a trip to the baptistery. The outside of the baptistery is completely covered in unattractive scaffoldings, but the inside is one room that is absolutely gorgeous. There’s a square on the floor right in the center that you are supposed to stand in and look up and get the best view of the gold-coated rotund ceiling.
We then met up with our previous tour guide for a Medici-focused tour of Florence. However, we left about halfway through in order to have time to see the Medici Palace. It really wasn’t what I was expecting; it was just a couple period rooms and then an art exhibit. I also wasn’t expecting running into the artist of the exhibition, a little old man who has been doing art for 50 years. He politely have us his autograph and invited us to sign his guest book. But it was no big deal – we had just gotten the signature of the artist currently featured in the Medici Palace. Whatevs!
So then Bri and I went on our way to the station and caught the next train back to Perugia after what was a very short, very busy few days in Florence.
One of our major goals of our study abroad was to get to Ireland and do some hiking and we have certainly accomplished our goal with three long days of traveling, hiking and Irish music. When we arrived we discovered that our hostel was situated above one of the best restaurants for traditional Irish music in all of Dublin, so of course we had to go.
The environment was so lively and friendly. People were singing and dancing and there was a band playing with a fiddler and guitarist/singer. Fortunately we had prepared for the trip in Valladolid by laying out on the beach and listening to some traditional Irish music. So when the opportunity arose we were able to join in, singing and clapping along to songs like “Galway Girl” and “Whiskey in the Jar.” Amid the festivities we met a girl from Ohio, three guys from New York, another from Canada, and a bunch of rowdy Irish folk. Because we had to catch an early train in the morning and we thought it was 1:00am, we headed off to bed.
We arrived at the train station at 6:30am for our train to Cork at 7:00am, but upon arrival found out that we had hopped timezones and were there an hour earlier than we had thought. The train station was not even open yet, lesson learned. When we arrived in Cork at we only had 10 minutes to get to the bus station, so we literally sprinted through the streets and thankfully caught our bus in time to travel to Kinsale. After 5 hours of planes, trains and buses we had arrived at our first destination, the quaint port town of Kinsale. We wandered through the tiny town of brightly colored buildings until we found our hostel where we met Sophie, a young Canadian girl traveling around Europe.
Once we discovered we had similar plans for the day, we decided to explore together. First thing that we wanted to see was Charles Fort. After a hilly 40 minute walk with scenic viewpoints, we found our fort. We spent a while exploring every crack and crevice of the old, ruined fort.
Apart from seeing the weaponry, storehouses and barracks, we were also able to see the ocean views and our next destination, James Fort. Two hours of walking later we arrived at a grassy hill and just beyond was James Fort. Just as we get to a clearing we saw a vivid, full rainbow cresting over James Fort.
We couldn’t get into the fort, but we still explored the area, got stuck on the ruins of a house, and got a beautiful view of Kinsale from afar. We walked back to town for dinner and another not quite as fun, but equally as interesting night of traditional Irish music. We enjoyed freshly baked muffins for breakfast and saw Sophie off before going to see a castle that overlooked the town.
After wondering back to the bus stop we discovered two things: Ireland has sporadic weather patterns with hail one minute and blue skies the next and that Ireland’s bus website is less than reliable. Although our bus tickets were bought for that specific day, at that specific time, to that specific location, the bus does not exist until summer time. When the normal bus through Kinsale arrived, an hour later, the very nice driver told us this vital information and gave us a ticket for 3 different buses to Kenmare (instead of our 1). Despite our stress and struggles, we arrived in Kenmare only a half hour later than expected.
Upon arrival, we had to navigate to our Bed and Breakfast, without a real map and with no idea where we actually were in the town. It was raining when the first short journey began and after asking 2 people for directions and finding the correct road, the sun brightened up our walk. We walked up and down the steep rolling hills and admired the mountains and scenery surrounding Kenmare, a very tiny town. We found the Bed and Breakfast, a thatched cottage in the middle of no where, only to find out they did not have a reservation for us.
Thankfully, the owner had a room for us and we had no problems with our stay. Even though we were tired and hungry, we set out to hike a part of the famous ‘Ring of Kerry’ trail. We found one of the highest peaks (on a trail) in Kenmare and were able to see the whole town and the lake beyond. However, we were not content with sticking to the road and decided to do some wandering. We hopped a fence and proceeded up a golden hill, but we soon discovered it was nothing but a swamp. With soaking and muddy feet we pressed on to the top with occasional leaping and jogging to avoid larger puddles. At the top, we had a perfect view of the surrounding landscape, where we took plenty of pictures before heading down the mountain.
Our way down was even more interesting and adventurous. Again, we were not content with the makeshift mountain trail we’d taken up, so we decided to make our own trail on the way down. We jogged down the mountain side, attempting to tread lightly through the boggy water. We climbed under, through and over barbed wire and many tiny hills before arriving at a bigger obstacle in our path. Before us was a five foot deep and 3 foot across gulley with a small stream at the bottom. After a bit of mental preparation we leapt across the troublesome gap. Then we stumbled through some tall and thorny shrubbery and found a little running creek, where we jumped in to wash off our muddy shoes only to step in a puddle of mud 5 steps later. Shortly after we climbed out of the wilderness and up to the road back towards the town. All the town had was a fancy restaurant, so we tried our luck and ate pizza awkwardly surrounded by families wearing suits and dresses, doing our best to hide our muddy shoes. We were exhausted so we headed back to the B & B, along a pitch black road, with perfectly visible stars, and took nice warm showers before an early night for rest.
The following morning we had our first real Irish breakfast. Laid out for us was fruit, granola, yogurt, OJ, and then our hostess (Caremel) came out with tea, hot plates of Irish bacon, eggs, sausage, mushrooms, tomato and toast.
Needless to say, we were stuffed, but it was the best breakfast in Europe so far. They gave us a ride to the bus stop, where once again we had a dilemma with the buses. We realized that the specific bus doesn’t run on Saturday out of Kenmare and we were stranded, with another traveler, once again. Thankfully, this man had a friend who called a cab, and going against our better judgement of walking to Killarney (only 15 miles), we took it with him so he wouldn’t have to pay the whole fare. In Killarney we were happy to find out that our train would definitely arrive later that evening. So, we set off, without worries, through on and off hailstorms to Killarney National Park. From there we took ever path and side path that we could to get amazing views of the lake and the snow capped mountains on the other side.
After we tired of walking we made our way back to town to do some souvenir shopping and to eat. Later we boarded our train, to head back to Dublin, found our hostel, once again without a map, and went to sleep to prepare for a long day of traveling back to Valladolid. We both still insist that some day we will return to Ireland, but there is no way that we will do it without a car.
Juliana and Steve.
We arrived in Segovia, and the first thing we saw was the gigantic Roman aqueduct. It is the most in-tact aqueduct in Spain and is quite impressive. So, obviously we had to spend some time taking pictures and admiring the architecture.
Then we ventured to a water fountain with water from the mountain and drank some of the refreshing water. As we walked the narrow streets we admired the cuchinillos and various pastry shops. Cuchinillo is the most famous dish of Segovia and it consists of an entire baby pig served on a platter. We then ventured to an ancient fortress on the edge of the highest part of town, el Alcazar. We looked at all of the weapons, armor, king’s bedroom, and decorated ceilings.
We climbed the perilous spiral staircase which opened up on the tower where you could see all of Segovia.
We then went to the Cathedral and took pictures of everything we possibly could.
In Salamanca we toured the cathedral, finally being able to go to the upper levels and view a church from above.
We then climbed to the top of the bell tower to see a grand view of the city, and also nearly became deaf in the process.
We then took a brief tour of the city visiting La Casa de Conchas (a house decorated with shells), the beautiful plaza mayor and the university.
Then we had time to explore. We found a nice place to bask in the sun where we listened to a violinist play pop songs and many of us gave him change because he was so talented. From there we wandered into a candy store and bought chupachups (lollipops) and were offered free cookies! We adventured into souvenir shops and then we headed back to Plaza Mayor where we waited, and studied, for the group to head back to Valladolid
Steve and Juliana
I was feeling really beat after spring break, and I was super excited to take the coming weekend off, but then Annie suggested we go to Venice, and I just couldn’t say no.
We got there midday Friday and we needed to catch a traghetto (water bus) in order to get to our hostel. It was only later that afternoon, when we were walking through town, that I realized we had needed to take a water bus because there aren’t real roads in Venice. There are streets, but they were made for walking, and the main method of transportation is by boat. I love the water, so this was my kind of place!
We spent the evening walking around St. Mark’s square and climbed to the top of the campanile (bell tower). Well, it wasn’t really climbing; there was an elevator – but in any case, we got up there, and it was awesome to be able to look out over the islands that make up Venice (more on this later).
So then we went to dinner at a restaurant along the a canal that we saw had a great meal-deal; 4 courses for only €15! I ended up getting spaghetti with cuttlefish ink sauce (which made the spaghetti black), sea bass in “crazy sauce” (which just seemed like a butter and garlic sauce), roasted potatoes as a contorni (Annie got salad, which was literally a bowl of lettuce), and this desert that was like an un-toasted crème brûlée. Overall, one of my better meals.
Our second day got started early with an exploration of The Doge’s Palace, a climb to the top of St. Mark’s Basilica, and a walk through the Correr Museum and the National Archeological Museum of Venice. Then, after lunch, we went on a gondola ride through the “streets” of Venice and went on a guided walking tour of the town. Following a walk along the Rialto Bridge, we went to this mom-and-pop-like mask store near our hostel, where I got a ceramic Carnevale mask as a souvenir, and then off to a little restaurant for dinner before returning to our hostel for the night. Venice shuts down around 7, and with the tiny, poorly lit streets, we were forced to turn in early. But in doing so, we got plenty of sleep for our next day of travelling!
We packed up our things and brought them with us as we took the water taxi to the island of Murano, which is famous worldwide for its handblown glass. We wanted to see the glass museum, which actually consisted of only three smallish rooms, but we got there so early, we got to spend some time sitting outside at a cafe and playing card games. Murano is small and simple, so after the museum, we got back on the water taxi because then it was off to Burano.
When I first heard about Burano, its description was simply, “that place with the colorful houses.” Research then told me that it was known for its lace production, and so we spent the rest of our free time here. The little town is so cute and quaint! The houses really are colorful, and it makes the island that much prettier. We went to the lace museum, which was interesting, but, like Murano, small, and so we spent the rest of our time just walking around among the colored buildings before we had to catch another boat back to the train station to return to Perugia.
The following is part of a composition I wrote for my Intensive Elementary Italian class (also translated back to English) about my week in London:
Dopo una notte nell’aeroporto, sono andata a Londra da sola. Quando ho atterrato, ho dovuto usare la metro (o “tube”), e poi ho incontrato la mia amica che mi ha offerto il suo dormitorio per la settimana. Sono stata felice per il mio viaggio a Londra perché, per un cambio, le persone parlano inglese ma, naturalmente, la prima persona a cui ho chiesto indicazioni è stata una donna da Milano con un cattivo inglese. Ho finalmente trovato la mia amica, e lei mi ha portato nel suo appartamento perché sono stata molto stanca.
After a night in the airport, I went to London alone. When I arrived, I had to use the metro (or “tube”), and then I met up with my friend who offered me her dorm for the week. I was very happy for my trip to London because, for a change, the people spoke english but, of course, the first person I asked for directions was a woman from Milano with bad english. I finally found my friend, and she took me back to her appartment because I was very tired.
Il martedì, ho seguito la mia amica al British Museum, la National Portrait Gallery, e la National Gallery. Più tardi la sera, abbiamo visto Trafalgar Square e Buckingham Palace, e poi siamo andate in biciletta attraverso Hyde Park prima del nostro ritorno all’appartamento.
On Tuesday, I followed my friend to the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, and the National Gallery. Later in the evening, we visited Trafalgar Sqaure and Buckingham Palace, and then we rode bikes through Hyde Park before returning to the appartment.
Il mercoledì, la mia amica ha dovuto assistere alle sue lezioni, così ho girato per Londra da sola. Ho cominciato la mia giornata con il cambio della guardia al Buckingham Palace (anche ho visitato al Royal Mews e il Queen’s Gallery) e poi ho preso la metro a Westminster per vedere il Big Ben e per fare un giro al London Eye. Dopo un pranzo di pesce e patatine fritte (perché, in Inghilterra, ho dovuto mangiarli), ho incontrato molte celebrità al Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, dove i manichini sono quasi realistici. In quel momento, le lezioni della mia amica erano finite, così sono tornata all’appartamento per cenare.
On Wednesday, my friend had to go to her classes, so I travelled through London alone. I started my day with the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace (I also visited the Royal Mews and the Queen’s Gallery), and then I took the metro to Westminster to see Big Ben and to ride the London Eye. After a lunch of fish and chips (because, in England, I had to eat them), I met many celebrities at Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, where the mannequins were almost real. By that time, my friend’s classes were over, so I went back to the appartment for dinner.
Il giovedì è stato il mio giorno preferito perché la mia amica ed io spontaneamente abbiamo prenotato una visita per il Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio Tour. È stato molto divertente, e mi sono sentito ancora come una bambina. La quella notte, siamo andate a Binario 9 3/4 a King’s Cross e abbiamo comprato i biglietti per il treno per Hogwarts.
Thursday was my favorite day because my friend and I spontaneously made reservations for a Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio tour. It was a lot of fun, and I felt like a kid again. That night, we went to Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross and bought tickets for the train to Hogwarts.
Il venerdì è stato un giorno interessante, ma non è stato il mio preferito. È stato il solo giorno quando ha piovuto. Ma, la mia amica ed io non abbiamo permesso alla pioggia di rovinare la nostra giornata. Abbiamo fatto un giro del Tower of London, abbiamo attraversato il Tower Bridge, abbiamo visitato il Globe Theater, e abbiamo visto il Millenium Bridge e St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Friday was an interesting day, but it wasn’t my favorite. It was the only day it rained. But, my friend and I didn’t let the rain ruin our day. We toured the Tower of London, crossed Tower Bridge, visited the Globe Theater, and saw the Millenium Bridge and St. Paul’s.
Sabato è stato il mio ultimo giorno intero. Abbiamo cominciato con un viaggio al mercato di Portobello Road, e poi abbiamo continuato per Abbey Road per giocare nel traffico e fare foto. (Le macchine hanno fatto fotografia molto difficile.) Dopo, siamo andate a Westminster Abbey, Kensington Palace, e allo Sherlock Museum. Ho finito il giorno con cena a un pub tradizionale inglese.
Saturday was my last full day. We started with a trip to Portobello Road market, and then continued to Abbey Road to play in traffic and take pictures. (The cars make photography very difficult.) After, we went to Westminster Abbey, Kensington Palace, and to the Sherlock Museum. I finished the day with a dinner at a traditional English pub.
Domenica è stato il giorno per il mio viaggio di ritorno a Perugia. In 12 ore, ho preso un taxi, un aeroplano, un autobus, un treno, un minimetro, e un ascensore al fine di arrivare al mio appartamento. Inutile dire, ero molto stanca, ma questa vacanza è stata il miglior viaggio mai fatto.
Sunday was the day for my trip back to Perugia. In 12 hours, I took a taxi, a plane, a bus, a train, a minimetro, and an elevator to my apartment. Needless to say, I was very tired, but this vacation was the best trip ever.
My first weekend of break was spent in Milan during women’s fashion week. Rebecca and I happened to be staying just down the road from a show on Saturday, and we were staying with an English intern from Roberto Cavalli who was there to work the show. But our trip didn’t start as glamorously.
Our train was 2.5 hours late after breaking down somewhere between Florence and Bologna. Then we couldn’t find the tram to take us to our apartment. And of course, then it had to start raining when we went for a walk that evening. Though we did happen to find a carnival and Castello Sforsesco!
On Saturday, we saw and climbed to the top of the duomo, spun on the bull mosaic in the floor of the mall (which is supposed to bring good luck), walked through Piazza Mercanti where there was the center for fashion show press and free professional hairstyling, saw the museum at Teatro alla Scalla, and visited Pinoteca di Brera. Then we walked down the main high-fashion shopping strip and wondering if there will ever come a day when we will find it acceptable to spend upwards of 250€ (about 350$) on a pair of shoes. We found Museo di Milano on our walk and stopped in before going on to La Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie – right next to the home of the last supper (“Cenacolo”), where they told me I could maybe come back at 8am the next morning to try and get a ticket to see it. So I did.
I showed up outside at 7.45, and at 8.30, as I’m waiting anxiously at the counter for something to come up, a guy from a tour group says they have an extra ticket for the 8.45 viewing. AHHH!!
It was AMAZING! His English was really good, too, and he was translating the tour guide for me the whole time. My goodness! People book months in advance to see The Last Supper! I am So unfathomably fortunate that I was able to get in that day – and even in time to catch our train!
I guess spinning on the bull in the mall really was good luck! Hopefully it carries over to my week in London. Cheers!
7am on a dreary morning in Valladolid we embarked on a 7 hour train ride to Barcelona, a city on the Mediterranean. The ride was very long and boring, but once we arrived and stepped out from the depths of the metro station we were ecstatic. The first thing we did was take off our jackets to feel the almost 70 degree Mediterranean air.
To start off our adventures we headed to the famous street Las Rambles and on our way encountered the Arco de Trion, a large arch in the heart of the city. Las Rambles is a large street lined with stores and restaurants with a wide walking path that is packed with people speaking all different languages. We stumbled upon a huge fresh food market that had almost every type of fresh food you could want: fish, vegetables, fruit, meat…everything. We all got delicious fruit juice and vegetables to make salad and we went back to our hostel to relax on the terrace because we were exhausted from traveling.
The next day was non-stop sight-seeing. We started with the Sagrada Familia, an indescribable cathedral by Antoni Gaudi. It is still under construction, but it is still an incredible building. Then we went to see some of his other works in the city, like casa Mila and casa Batllo. However, casa Mila, the one that we really wanted to see, was under construction and covered in rafters so that we could not see it at all.
Next we went shopping, found our way to Las Rambles, and then worked our way to the ocean. We tried to find a place to eat and ended up finding a cheap little restaurant along the water. The food was wonderful; we ate a two course meal of fresh mussles, calamari, and paella with seafood. After a fulfilling lunch we set out once more for the ocean.
The weather was nice enough for us to consider going swimming, so we decided to take a plunge into the icy water. Besides all of the weird looks and being freezing cold, we thoroughly enjoyed our dip in the water.
Our next trip was to another of Gaudi’s famous works, Parque Guell. Little did we know, it was on a mountain, but you can’t get a better view of Barcelona from anywhere. We trekked to the top of a “hill” and were able to see a 360 degree view of the entire city. We spent almost 3 hours touring the park while taking in all of the nature and architecture before dragging ourselves back to the hostel.
Finally, on our last day, we went to see the cathedral. It is a large Gothic cathedral with high pointed vaults and beautiful stained glass windows. After looking around we took a minute to admire the mini-orchestra playing outside on the steps. around the orchestra were many large circles of church members dancing to the music. Then we headed to the depths of the metro once again to make our long hard journey back to Valladolid.
-Steve and Juliana
Sorry we are so late on this post everybody, but we have two posts coming up very soon.
Two weekends ago we went on our first weekend excursion, a 3-day trip to Madrid, Spain’s capital. After a scenic and quite entertaining bus ride (there were tablets with movies and games in the seats) we arrived at our location. At the point we had to learn how to use the Metro, which was an adventure in itself because it was the first time for many of us. We finally arrived at our hostel, which was actually quite a nice place with a lot of interesting people, before we embarked on our journey around the city.
The first thing we did was go to a playground and enjoy our lunches. The playground was wonderful! We stayed there for about 20 minutes reliving our childhood days and from there we set out for more ‘mature’ adventures.
We set out for the Palacio Real, which was a grand and beautiful building overlooking most of Madrid as well as all of the surrounding gardens. We ran down into the palace gardens and ended up just hanging out and taking ridiculous photos. By the way, the weather was perfect for practically the first time since we had arrived in Spain.
We then wandered to the Plaza Mayor, which apparently every Spanish city has. We enjoyed looking at the painted buildings, a fat spiderman and a creepy sparkly goat. We then went to a really cool supermarket comprised of tons of different eateries, bars and pastry shops which were very similar to Reading Terminal in Philadelphia. After a well-deserved nap we decided to take a quick trip to Garet’s favorite part of Madrid, the red-light district, which was located next to the biggest and fanciest McDonald’s that we had ever seen.
The next day we set a goal of seeing every notable part of the center of Madrid that we could possibly see, including: an Egyptian palace, many fountains, el Museo del Prado (where we saw the famous Velazquez painting, Las Meninas), and the Buen Retiro park. The park had a huge glass palace, a couple of ponds and many musicians playing fun music.
The following day we awoke, and went off to an open air market where we bought two books from the Eragon series in Spanish for our reading pleasure. Then we headed back to the hostel for a dismal trip home to discover that there are real lollipop trees all over Spain…So for all of the art critics out there, lollipop trees do exist.
-Steve and Juliana