Lebanon Valley College Study Abroad

Spring Break, Parte Uno: Un Finesettimana a Milano

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!

Barcelona!

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

 

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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

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Madrid!

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.

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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

Un Uliveto

Since olive oil is one of the staples of Italy, I jumped at the chance to visit our guidance counselor’s olive tree grove (called an uliveto) in the Umbrian Town of Corciano. Sure, we were just pruning her trees, and I don’t have much of a green thumb, but it was still interesting!

Olives are picked in October/November, but after that you can only prune them until about April, and there’s kind of an art to it! Branches in the center are cut out, enough so birds can fly around in it, and the rest are left to grow outwards from the tree. The inside is cleared so that all of the branches will be exposed to the water and sun light, and nothing is getting in the way. It reminds me of the way rotisserie chickens spin around on a skewer – to cook evenly. The tree is pruned so that all the olives can grow evenly.

But my favorite part of the day was having a picnic, laying beneath the olive trees, and soaking up the Umbrian sunshine. It was the best way to start the period of midterms that were soon to come.

Perugina: La Fabbrica di Cioccolato

Perugina è la Hershey d’Italia. Perugina is the Hershey of Italy.

When I first found out that Perugia was home to the Perugina Chocolate Factory, I thought it was funny that I would be moving from one chocolate-town (Hershey; well, Annville…but close enough!) to another. I immediately decided that I had to visit Perugina, just to compare.

I was just going to go with 4 friends, but when we got to the bus station, we ran into ten other Umbra students who were also going to the factory; the more the merrier! This tour is almost nothing like Hershey’s. First of all, it has a more elegant and professional atmosphere in comparison to the kid-friendly vibe at Chocolate World. Your tour starts in a theater that tells you about how the chocolate is made and a brief history of the company. After the movie, you get a more in-depth look at the history and some of it’s marketing ploys in The Museum, where a tour guide walks you through multiple wall displays and outlines the Perugina story for you.

Baci chocolates came on the Italian market in 1922, and initially were named Cazzotto, which literally means ‘punch-up’ which came from their irregular, squat shape. It was Giovanni Buitoni who re-christened the chocolate Bacio. The famous entrepreneur felt it much better to make customers ask for a kiss instead of a punch at the store. Around each Baci is wrapped a love note, making it the “chocolate for lovers”.  Every day of operation, more than one and a half million Baci chocolates are made here at Perugina which is only a fraction of the 120 tons of chocolate that flows through the pipes and vats each day. (Deborah Mele 2012)

One marketing strategy the company has is to create one rather large piece of chocolate to display at the world-famous Eurochocolate festival, held in Perugia in October annually. In 2003, their chocolate went down in history. The Guinness World Record plaque in the museum read, “The world’s largest individual chocolate was a BaciOne weighing 5,980kg (13,183 lb)and was made by Nestlé (Italy) and displayed at the Perugina factory, San Sisto, Italy on 26 October 2003,” next to which there was a replica of the creation and it’s original sentiment from inside. Another strategy was the company’s support in 2009 when a man named Giovanni started an online campaign for help in his quest to get a Valentine’s Day kiss from his neighbor, Gaia (watch the story here).

After the museum, you are taken to a room that has only a counter covered in fresh chocolates to sample. Any kind of chocolate you could imagine was there: chocolate truffles, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate, 70% chocolate versus 50% chocolate, chocolate with hazelnuts, cookies made with different kinds of chocolate – everything. My strategy was to grab one of everything, and step away from the crowd to enjoy them. That’s when I realized that there is, in fact, such a thing as too much chocolate (but anyone who knows me understands that I wouldn’t let a little thing like that stop me from trying to put what I could into my bag to bring back, #freestuff).

After the sampling, we were taken on a walk above the factory on an enclosed catwalk to watch the production process. We weren’t allowed to take pictures here, but it was still cool to see. There was one area where they had massive pods filled to the brim with Baci chocolates, and another section where they were making Easter eggs as big as footballs. But they better make them now because chocolate is only produced from June to February, and the factory is closed from March to May for maintenance and producing only chocolate to be exported.

It was a really interesting experience to get a new perspective on the chocolate industry, and while I enjoyed touring the Perugina factory, I can’t deny the fact that it made me miss being back at LVC and being able to jump in the car with my friends to spend a weekend afternoon in Chocolate World.

Wishing you all a happy Valentine’s Day with lots of love,
Meghan

Sotto il Sole della Toscana

After Paris, I was worn out. I had nothing planned for the next weekend but to sleep – and of course I decided that since I can sleep when I get back to the states, that I needed to change that and make the most of my weekend.

My roommate, Annie, and I decided that with her lone free Friday, we would make a day trip to Cortona, which happens to be the little town that Under the Tuscan Sun is set in. There isn’t really much to do here, and you can explore the majority of it in an afternoon.

So after sorting out an issue we had in figuring out what train we were supposed to be on, navigating the town we ended up in for a bus stop that would take us up to the top of the hill that was actually Cortona, and trekking uphill into the main square, we were starting to question whether our trip was worth all this trouble. It was.

Cortona’s small, but it’s beautiful. Because you’re high up on a hill, you have some really wicked aerial views of the Tuscan countryside, the mountains, and Lake Trasimeno. The weather was beautiful (something pretty rare for Italy these days, since we’ve been getting mostly fog an rain), so Annie and I had no problem just walking along and sightseeing. We even stumbled upon this organic wine shop, where the owner invited us in for a tasting! (#freestuff)

Back in Perugia after a nice day out with my roommate, we picked up Rebecca (another roommate), went out to dinner at a restaurant right outside our apartment, and went stargazing in the piazza because some astronomers had brought out their telescopes for kids to enjoy. (We saw Jupiter and it’s three moons, and Pleiades!)

I’d probably say that on my list of Top Fridays, that one was probably up there. Thanks to my roommates for making it so awesome; you guys are just two of the best parts of this semester. (:

Parigi

Entirely free weekends are hard to come by for us, Umbra students. But when Rebecca and I found one, we decided to spend it in Paris for my first international trip while abroad!

This one was much more difficult because while I’ve taken a few years of Spanish, and Rebecca is really good at Italian, but neither of us speak French. So figuring out how to get to our hostel after we landed at 11pm Thursday night was quite interesting. But we did get there eventually – at around 12.30/1am. Needless to say, we were ready for our trip to truly begin.

On Friday, we started out by going to the Arch di Triomphe, strolling along the Champs-Élysées, checking out the Tuileries Garden, getting lost in the Louvre (where Mona Lisa is surprisingly small for having such a large amount of fame), and going to the top of the Eiffel Tower at night.

There’s a lot more to do in Paris than in Rome, so I scheduled Saturday to the minute. We got up early to visit Sacré Cœur (dome, sanctuary, and crypt) before heading to the Fragonard Perfume Museum, Musée d’Orsay, Sainte-Chappelle (which might have been nicer if it weren’t for the scaffoldings), Notre Dame, the Panthéon (which we had to run to see before it closed). We spent the night trying escargot which is surprising tasty, and cruising along the Seine.

On Sunday, we were just strolling along, going in no particular direction, when we realized we were headed right towards Notre Dame. We hadn’t been able to climb to the top the day before, but we were determined to do it right then and there! So while our last day only gave us a few hours before we had to catch our flight, but it was just enough to allow us to check everything off our To Do list. But I’d still go back. Anytime.

 

El Campo Grande

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It was five in the afternoon and Steve randomly texted Juliana to ask “Do you want to go to the park and look at the birds?” By birds he meant the pavos-reales or peacocks that live in the El Campo Grande, the main park in Valladolid. Even though we have been in Valladolid for almost a month, we still had not ventured into the center of the park to get a good look at everything. So, we brought along cameras and went for a walk on one of the nicest days since we had arrived.  The pavos-reales were everywhere and we just started chasing them around to get the best picture possible. After we got tired of the birds, we continued exploring throughout the park. We found fountains and various other sculptures.

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After an hour of wandering through the park, we found a little lake with a bridge that we wanted to go stand on. While searching for it, we found a flight of stairs; we didn’t know where they went, so naturally we started climbing. The steps were tall and difficult to climb (especially for Juliana), but somehow we made it to the top and we were quite impressed. From the top of La Cueva we could see over the entire park and all around the city surrounded by clear blue sky. Of course we had to take some nice photos…which took us some time considering we were using a phone set on a 10 second timer. After climbing down we were amazed to see that we had been standing on top of a cave, hence the name La Cueva. We set back to our original goal; searching for the bridge, however, after a couple of minutes of searching we realized we had been standing on it all along. It was quite embarrassing…

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Later that night, we decided to show our bored fellow Dutchman Erin the glorious Cave of Wonders in El Campo Grande. By the time we arrived at the park, few paths off the main boulevard were sufficiently lit to be able to venture and view what the park had in store. However, ‘twas not all in vain (said Erin), for there was one path that had a fountain and an empty small amphitheater. The three of us climbed atop the stage and began to perform for our imaginary audience, with sketches varying from Shakespeare to Disney. Right in the middle of a stirring rendition of Mulan’s music, Juliana peered from stage right and saw a man locking the gates. With a mighty shriek from all of us, Erin leapt from the stage followed by Steve and Juliana. After a brisk jog out of that section of the park we realized that the entire park was being locked, not just our personal theater. From the middle of the park we weren’t sure if the main gate was locked yet or not, but it was definitely closed. So obviously, we started to contemplate various methods of escape, such as climbing over the gates. However, the closer we got we came to the realization that the gate was slightly opened, but Valladolid’s finest was just about to close it up for the night. Erin says that their pants were not the only things that are tight; they are strict about their rules too. And so ended our journey to see the glorious peacocks knowing that as the sun rose our journey to Madrid would just be starting….(tune in next week)

-Juliana, Steve, and Erin

Quando Vai a Roma…

Orvieto was my first day trip with my friends, but Rome was my first weekend away.

We started Friday with Nutella-filled croissants outside the Collosseum before exploring the inside. Then we went across the street to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, where I realized what a shame it is that we don’t really have buildings at home like they did in Ancient Rome. Katie and I then went to a church of Saints Luca and Martina (where we found a hidden crypt), saw the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Vittoriano (a free museum where we ended up stopping for a snack at the roof-top cafe), visited the Pantheon and the tomb of Raphael, saw Piazza Navona, Piazza del Popolo, Piazza di Spagna and the Spanish steps, of course threw coins in the Trevi Fountain, watched fireworks from a bridge over the Tiber River, and that was all just the first day!

On Sunday, we visited the Vatican museums for free because it was the last Sunday of the month, saw the Pope give the Angelus in St. Peter’s Square at noon (where they had a little incident with the dove…), and explored St. Peter’s basilica from the bottom, all the way up to the top, which happens to be a 531-step trek! Afterwards, we made our way back to Roma Termini to return to Perugia.

I thought it was hard to leave the Sistine Chapel and all of its glory behind after 20 minutes. I didn’t realize how hard it would be to leave Rome in its entirety. I’ll be back to catch flights or trains and whatnot, but it’s not the same. Katie and I hit all of the touristy highlights with time to spare, but that didn’t make it any easier to go back to Perugia, for we still had Italian class to attend bright and early the next morning.

Un Giorno a Orvieto

Since we don’t have classes on Fridays, and we all happened to be free of field trips, some friends and I decided to make a day-trip to a little town southwest of Perugia called Orvieto, which is only a two-hour train ride away.

There honestly isn’t much to see or do in Orvieto, and it really only is a day trip, but it’s still worth the visit! The first interesting thing about it is the fact that because Orvieto is up on a hill , you need to take the funicollare to get to the center of town. The funicollare is just like an enclosed ski lift that you can ride up and down the hill to get in and out of town. It’s a short ride, and really nothing special, but you get to see some wicked views of the town below on your travels.

The biggest attraction is the Duomo, which took 30 years to plan, and 3 centuries to complete! Like almost all Italian churches, it is grand, ornate. and always worth venturing into. However, the most striking thing about it is the facade. This Romanesque-turned-Gothic style cathedral is covered in sparkling gold (ooh, shiny!) and colorful paintings that are sure to catch anyone’s eye.

But the coolest part about our day was that we, in a way, got two cities out of one trip! Below Orvieto, is a collection of underground caves that have existed, for who knows how long? Through a tour with Orvieto Underground, we climbed down stairs, through big open tunnels (and also really tiny, almost claustrophobic tunnels), and even saw this ominous well. The caves were believed to have been used for noble families to escape the city, should the need arise, but also for other purposes such as WWII bomb shelters.

Our time in Orvieto was short, but by dinner time, I was ready to go because from there, I was headed for a weekend in Rome!