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Alas, the Florentine heat has arrived once again. Every day it is in the high nineties, with no water in sight. The closest beach is an hour away by train, but there are a few options within the city limits. There are pools, but they are all a little outside of the city center, and believe it or not, walking for an hour in this heat will kill you. Well, if not kill you, it will at least make you feel like you haven’t slept or drank water in days. But either way, the ways to achieve relief are slim, and so my friends and I were forced to be creative.

The city of Florence is small and compact, with curvy streets bordered by back to back ancient buildings and monuments. Everything is more of less made of stone, which absorbs the heat in the summer months. This creates an effect unlike that of any other surrounding towns, thus it was named “the Florentine heat.” The heat sits amid the streets that are not formated to welcome a breeze, and billows in the valley of this region of Tuscany. Florence is surrounded by hills and neighboring villages that are situated above the valley, and there can be found a cooler, more comfortable atmosphere. But first, you have to get there.

It is hard to be motivated to do anything in this heat, and so it was a miracle that my friend Veronika and I had any energy at all to complete our mission: find baby pools and water guns to place on her terrace. A few days ago we came up with the brilliant idea, and immediately hit the streets in search of such pools. After trying a few places, we found two (the last two in fact!) at a 99 cent store, and walked home suddenly energetic and optimistic. Of course on the way home we ran into some people we knew (only while carrying something embarrassing, of course!) but everyone agreed after a few moments of pondering that, “Hey! That actually isn’t such a bad idea!”

We went home and immediately inflated our pools, filled ‘em up, and relaxed for the rest of the day. They worked better then expected and are continuing to cool us off as the days continue to grow hotter:)

Beyond Traditional Florentine Scenery

by Sarah Parsons

On a particularly sunny day after many dark winter months, the squares of Florence are bustling with families and friends, all anxious to soak up some of the long-awaited warmth.  Usually full of life as well as ideal for people watching, the classic Italian piazza is not the best choice for nature lovers seeking peace and quiet.  So where does one go to find solace and greenery within this ancient town full of dense stone and cement?

Frequently hiding their blossoms behind towering walls are an array of wonderful Parks and Gardens.  Although they may not be obvious at first glance, these green urban spaces are worth the quest for those who prefer trees and flowers.

Each with their own distinctive qualities, these areas are usually not at the top of a tour guide’s list, and are typically less crowded on a busy day.   Relaxation and reflection are more easily found in lesser-known spots, in contrast to Florence’s larger gardens that are widely appreciated as spectacles of well-maintained, formal landscaping.

The daily siesta (or extended lunch hour) that businesses throughout many Western European countries love to observe opens a large block of time in the middle of the afternoon, perfect for a quiet, relaxing break outdoors. Il Giardino Borgo, located on Borgo Pinti close to Viale Matteotti, provides a tranquil escape from the overwhelming crowds found throughout the heart of Florence.  Although not far from the commotion of Piazza del Duomo, this park exudes a calmness that can prove very difficult to find. 

There are no statues or flowers in Il Giardino Borgo, only simple shrubs and bushes, but a variety of trees sway overhead and provide shade from the summer sun’s unforgiving rays. This park is free, clean, and the layout is great for privacy. Open everyday from 9:30 am until 5pm. Go here to enjoy your lunch in peace, or to catch up on some reading.  While visiting, I also noticed that couples enjoyed coming here for an affectionate chat or romantic stroll.

Not far from Il Giardino Borgo is Il Giardino dei Semplici, which provides for a completely different experience.  Despite Florence’s large student population it is rare to find botany students, yet one would imagine they would be found here.  Initially created for the University of Florence’s Department of Biology, Il Giardino dei Semplici is an aesthetically pleasing garden as well as an arboretum.

The word “semplici” refers to the simple variety of curative plants found in this garden. Cosimo dei Medici himself commissioned Il Giardino dei Semplici in 1545 in order to advance the study of medicinal plants.   Today it is still a great place for students to go in order to observe and study a wide selection of plant species.   Although part of the University’s campus, this garden is presently open to the public.  Located at Via Micheli 3, close to Piazza Santissima Annuziata, Il Giardino dei Semplici is home to a few large and magnificent greenhouses, a small lake, and a beautiful central fountain.

Plants originate from Italy and all over the world, including curative plant species, fruit trees and vegetables, desert and forest plants, poisonous plants, trees ranging from conifers to palms, and a unique variety of peppers from south and central America. The Giardino is open 10 am – 7 pm from April through October 15 (closed Wednesday) and 10 am to 5 pm on Saturday, Sunday and Monday in fall and winter.  There is a reduced price for students, € 3 with ID, while regular admission is € 6.  On a weekday the visitor may find a class of primary school students on a field trip, excited about learning how to identify horticulture.

For those who prefer a park that resembles the open space of a piazza, Il Giardino Demidoff at Piazza Demidoff is the perfect place.  Located directly alongside the river Arno, it is great for dog walking and people-watching.  With its uniquely picturesque location, watched over by the turn-of-the-century Russian ambassador Nicola Demidoff’s statue, this park is small and charming, but should not be one’s destination for undisturbed privacy.

Because Il Giardino Demidoff is free and easily found on the way to Piazzale Michelangelo, a steady stream of locals and tourists pass through to admire the statue under a glass pergola and to wander among a scattering of tulips and fragrant rose bushes.  The panoramic view of the river Arno, Palazzo Vecchio, and basilica of Santa Croce make this a memorable place to enjoy an afternoon.  During the summer and warmer months, a café that wraps around the central statue opens to serve espresso, wine and gelato.

One of Florence’s gems, equally as beautiful as the Boboli yet less grandiose and more manageable, is the Giardino Bardini. The 5 € entrance charge should not dissuade visitors from experiencing this marvelous place. Minor construction going on near the entrance hardly takes away from the occasion of visiting this garden, blessed with an unforgettable panorama of the cityscape.

With a complex history of inheritance and ownership that led to damage and neglect, the Bardini was recently restored and reopened.  Between the monumental staircase and mosaic-decorated fountains, there are a variety of roses, irises, hydrangeas and two man made caves.  A quaint café with a breathtaking view is situated at the top of the terraced landscape.   Although the garden’s vantage point above one of Tuscany’s prized cities might have been enough, the natural features of the Bardini are equally a pleasure to discover.  The garden is open to visitors every day except the first and last Monday of the month from 8:15 am to 7:30 pm.

The larger, time-honored gardens are incomparable, and have been around since the time in which the roots of Tuscany were formed, but they are no longer considered as concealed treasures. Just as impressive in their own right, the un-explored gardens of Florence are awaiting their chance for recognition.

Since being involved in an internship with Vista Magazine, I have been able to see and do some very exciting things that are making my temporary residence here in Italy more enjoyable and real. Although I have already been here for eight months, the majority of things I have seen or done have been with other Americans, like going on school trips and traveling. It is really hard to feel apart of another culture if you are only spending time with people just like yourself. But since working with Vista, I have been spending more time with new people have been getting involved in activities that are making me feel like I am finally starting to sink into the culture, and it is truly a really great feeling. It is after all what I wanted out of this experience; getting small jobs and developing long-term friendships isn’t easily done in a brief period of time, and I was looking forward to having this opportunity by spending one year overseas.

A week and half ago my boss at Vista Magazine told me that she was going out-of-town, but that she wanted me to include another garden in my article. For almost two months I have been working on my first article about parks and gardens here in Florence. It hasn’t been easy, since apparently Europe has had an unusually cold year, and so the parks and gardens here hadn’t felt like spring had really hit until barely two weeks ago. But as I was saying before, initially I was assigned to write on four different gardens, and now she wanted me to include another- Il Giardino Corsini. Before getting the assignment, I knew nothing of this garden, and was honestly a little frustrated that I had to include another even though I had already almost finished the article, but then she included the last piece of information, “I want you to interview the Princess Corsini.”

The Corisini garden is in back of the Palazzo Corsini (Corsini Palace) and is still inhabited by Signora Giorgiana Corsini, a modern Princess in her own right.  Giorgiana has the title of Principessa, and exercises it evidently. She speaks in proper British English (as a second language of course) and is very friendly and excited to share the details of her life and daily activities with those interested. The Corsini garden is beautiful, and Giorgiana informed me that it has gradually been going through restoration since she inherited it thirty years ago. Her two black labs and tiny carmel colored canino were playing and running around us as we were walking around the garden, talking about the different types of flowers and history of the property.

The style of the garden is traditional Renaissance, with short-cropped hedges that make geometric designs, and romanesqre statues from the second century. It used to have more flowers, but now there are primarily orange and lemon trees aligning the pathways, and some tulips scattered here and there. She planted a special variety of roses called “banxia” as well as some lavender colored wisteria that hang from one of the large lemon houses that sits along one of the back corners of the garden. Every May she hosts an artisan fair that lasts throughout a three-day weekend, where local artists come to vend and demonstrate their respective trades.

On her property there are: two lemon houses, a wood crafter, a chef, and a small cottage where two English painters live throughout the year. While we were walking around conducting our interview, we came across the small cottage, and after I asked her what it was she told me that two English painters lived there and asked if I wanted to meet them. After she shouted for them to come down (very Italian haha) they invited us in and showed us their little slice of paradise. They have their own small garden behind their house, and a studio that is separate. The studio resembles a tree house and is accessible by a small staircase. Their living room is covered floor to ceiling with their magnificent paintings, and the lady who lives there admitted that she was living her dream and couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

Giorgiana had stopped by the painter’s house also to ask if they needed anything fixed, where there after we headed to the wood crafter’s studio where she handed him off some old wooden chairs that needed to be mended. After we walked over to the chef’s lovely, newly remodeled kitchen, and he told me about how he is getting ready to start teaching cooking courses there. He is the chef that prepares the food that is served at the artisan fair, and is supposedly well-known and greatly admired and respected. (Can’t wait to try his food next month!)

She let me walk around at my own pace and take some photos while she talked with one of the gardeners, and after I had asked all of the questions I had prepared she invited me into the Palazzo to see a painting she was restoring. We went upstairs and I saw this massive painting (about fifteen feet high and 25 across) and some of the restoration process. The last part of the interview was seeing the view from the balcony of the garden, which really put the designs into perspective. I will never forget the experience and feel really lucky to have had it in the first place.

I realize that I haven’t written on here in a while, and a lot has happened since my last entry, but today I had a truly unique experience at a Villa in Chianti and feel the need to write about it before writing about all other things I have yet to report.

Since about a month ago I have been working with a magazine here in Florence called “Vista”; it is an English magazine that produces issues with different, specific foci within Florence and Tuscany monthly (http://www.vistaflorence.com/index.php). I am currently working on an article about gardens, flowers and parks for the upcoming issue, and will post the finished product on here when all is said and done. But for now, I do not know when that will be. Updates to come soon!

But today those of us currently interning with Vista (three students from my school, one from NYU and one from Florida State), our editor Rosanna Cirigliano, plus some of the directors from mine and the other schools/programs all went out to a small town called “Greve” in Chianti (the wine region of Tuscany close by Florence) to be guinea pigs for this Villa that wants to start offering cooking classes. The Villa is called Montagliari, and it is a beautiful, very authentic Tuscan estate, where they produce their own wine, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Their production of balsamic vinegar is somewhat unique because balsamic vinegar is not typically made in Tuscany, and as with all things Italian, everything has a specific region where it originated. For instance: Chianti is famous for its wine, Cinque Terre for pesto, the city Parma for formaggio parmeggiano, Napoli for pizza, and there are many, many more.

We were invited to Montagliari because one of the interns from Vista wrote an article about their estate earlier this academic year before they built the new part of their property that will be used for this potential “cooking school,” and because they wanted to shoot photos for their brochure using us as their models. We learned how to cook crostini made with kale and garlic, make fresh pasta from scratch, something the chef called “pollo alla vesuviana” and tiramisu. After each dish we made, we sat down and ate- we arrived at 10 am this morning, and left at 4 in the afternoon! But for the last hour or so we walked around on a tour of the estate.

Aside from the fantastically fresh food, I think my favorite part about the visit was the walk through the Cantina and the smell of all of the wine barrels. I love that wine soaked wood smell, it is so wonderful. They had a bottle that dated back to 1939! Locked up in a case of course, but there were just so many. Even barrels from other countries, like France. Our school went to Machiavelli’s house when we first arrived back in September, and went on a tour of a wine cellar their too. But the one I saw today was much bigger and much more interesting, because the different types of barrels (sizes, types of wood) lent the rooms a variety of distinct smells, some sweet and some bitter. The variation was refreshing because I had yet to walk through a Cantina that had so many rooms as they did at Villa Montagliari.

Oh! And spring has finally hit Florence! It is still a little cloudy and chilly, but a drastic warmth has made its way into the air finally, and it can only get warmer from here on out:)

Baci e abbracci a tutti

New Semester

We are currently on our semester break. It began on Thursday, and it feels so good to be done with finals and the classes I had for the first semester here in Italy. Not that they weren’t good classes, I was just feeling a little bored. We came back from Christmas break and still had three more weeks or so of the first semester to complete, and then we had finals. So it felt like it was divided up strangely. Because in the blink of an eye we got back, had class, and then all of a sudden finals were around the corner, when we just had midterms back in December before the Christmas Holiday. I don’t know, all I know is how it felt and it definitely felt a little rushed and scattered.

But as with life, things are always changing. And with the new semester I believe things will start changing for the better for a number of reasons. Particularly because spring is just around the corner and I cannot wait for it to start getting warmer and to finally see warm, sunny days again. It will be really nice, but this happens more or less every winter for me. I was so used to the lack of season in SoCal that when I moved to San Francisco three and a half years ago, I started to experience the gloominess of winter, and how much it affects my moods. But having lived in San Francisco has really helped me cope with the dark, cold winters here, and it honestly could be a lot worse. You just have to force yourself out of your warm, comfy bed and get out into the day. And once I do that, I feel good (for the most part) unless something shitty happens haha. But Florence is a truly beautiful city (made the Top 5 this year, along with San Francisco!! http://travel.yahoo.com/p-interests-31285028. Well, in someone’s opinion at least. And I agree whole heartedly!!) and it is hard to appreciate something when you have it for long lengths of time, and I try to appreciate as much as I can and not take it for granted. But when I forget all of the wonderful things about Florence, a break usually comes around and I get to take off somewhere new and exciting, and realize how much I have really missed my new, beautiful, Italian city:)

Speaking of which, I am heading out to Paris on Monday to visit Stefanie and Marie! Can’t wait, I am so excited:) I haven’t really been there before, although I did stop through Paris en route home last time I traveled around Europe with Kyle. But I didn’t see the heart of the city at all, so it doesn’t really count. And I am so thrilled to be staying with friends instead of in hostels. Always makes for a better experience if you ask me.

But all in all, I feel like I did well on my finals and that I had a good first semester in Florence, Italy. Now time to make more Italian friends! Which is, in fact, slowly happening. Perche sto provando a parlare in Italiano, e io practico il piu possibile! And I think with time it will pay off. Because if I can leave here with anything, it would be to be able to somewhat hold onto a new language I’ve learned. And I have known people who’ve done it, and so I know I can too.

Ciao ciao

After a long absence from writing on this blog, I have finally returned! Life has just been so busy since the New Year began, and now I am finally settling in again with more time to write.

We are finishing our first semester still (the Winter break didn’t constitute the break between semesters, and we have another week long break at the beginning of February before the Spring semester begins on Feb. 22nd) and finals are coming up soon. Over the winter break I visited mainly London and Amsterdam… with some random stopovers en route and in between. The entire trip was such a blur- we had surprisingly good luck and karma, but naturally ran into some problems here and there. And thus the stories  begin!..

My friend Ginny (pronounced Jee-knee, not Jinnie:-p) and I left for London on Dec. 30th, and flew into Birmingham, England. We did this because it was much cheaper to fly into Birmingham during the NYE holiday season, and we saw that we could catch a 3 hr coach directly to London from Birmingham for only 7 GBP. So when we arrived to Birmingham we were searching at the airport for the coach stop, but after no luck finding it we asked the information booth where it was located and they informed us that that coach stop we were looking for was located in town near the city center. So because my dumb ass didn’t read the email the company sent me when I booked the tickets (which I apparently didn’t need to do, but my friend recommended we do because it was “necessary”) I wasn’t aware that we needed to get to the city center to catch our bus, which is about a 30 min ride from the airport, and so we had about 2 hrs to figure this all out and get there on time. Once we figured that out it was about 12:30pm and our bus we booked left at 2pm, and the next bus into the city came at 1pm. So we finally got to where we were told was the city center around 1:35pm, and with much misdirection and anxiety we were running around a quarter mile radius trying to find this so called “bus stop.” After no luck, and already having missed the bus because it was ten passed two, we figured we would ask somebody how to get where we needed to be in order to catch the next bus. We walked into the closest store and the first people we asked were incredibly kind and told us our map was shit, and so they offered to drive us to the city center (which we were no where near by the way.) I figure she and her friend decided to so generously offer us a ride because we were sopping wet from pouring rain and we must have looked miserable, and because her and her friend appeared to be of a background that would support positive Karmic acts and energies. After she dropped us off, we spent a generous amount time looking for this ambiguous bus stop, that was described as being in front of a “McLaren” building on X and Y streets. We found the McLaren building and asked the front desk man about this bus company and he said we had found the right place and that he had seen it many times stop outside, but there were, I kid you not, absolutely no signs or ways of knowing that it stopped there… had you not been from Birmingham. After he helped us call the company (since our phones weren’t able to call the help line since they are Italian, and nothing Italian ever works!) we found out we had to wait three hours for the next (and last) bus at 5:30pm. We killed time by having fish and chips at some mall food court, drinking beers at a local pub, and waiting, freezing cold in the pouring rain. But this mysterious bus finally did come! And we were truly over joyed when it turned the corner and saved us from the dark, damp city of Birmingham.  In the end we were grateful that we had such great help from the locals, and that at the end of our English journey we were NOT flying out of Birmingham, but had booked tickets out of London instead! Phew! And when we caught the bus we had to pay again because we had missed the bus we booked, had we not booked it we wouldn’t have lost out on 20 pounds!

After a relaxing three hour bus ride, we arrived at Victoria street station in London. It was a short walk and tube ride to the Hostel we booked, and it was good to see some familiar streets again. I stayed at the same hostel when I came to London the first time with my friend Kyle a few years back, and so it was fairly easy to find from memory. We tried to go out and walk around after we settled in a bit, but there wasn’t a whole lot open in that quiet neighborhood at that hour of the evening, and we were exhausted anyway and so we decided to call it a night. And the next day was New Year’s Eve!

We spent New Year’s Eve day exploring different neighborhoods of London, looking for good places to come back to during the night after watching the fireworks at the London Eye. Along with window-shopping and sight seeing, we visited mainly Brick Lane, Old Street, and Camden town. We asked random shop owners and passers-by about local spots, and were told of some good places to go. And after eating lunch at a pub called “The Ice Wharf” in Camden town, we headed back to our hostel to relax, start drinking and get ready. We met up with my friend Rachel from home (who was visiting a friend near London, and who was also coming back to Florence with me to stay for a while after celebrating New Year’s together in London) and took a walk around town before heading over to Embankment and the Thames for the fireworks show. Any area within a few mile radius of the London Eye was absolutely packed full of people, and they were herding us into different sections like cattle. After doing a huge circle to get to where we wanted to be, we had to wait for about an hour until midnight and it was absolutely freezing! But there was a DJ playing somewhere near by and it was definitely worth seeing the fireworks in person, in London! So awesome:) It took about an hour and a half to get out of the madness of the crowd leaving the fireworks show, and into the part of town where we wanted to be.  So when we finally got back to Camden town around 2 in the morning, and stumbled into some random bar/club, we just decided to spend most of our evening there.

We ended up meeting some locals who invited us back to their place to experience the “real” London haha; They were some harmless English boys, who I am sure thought they were going to get more from the evening then any of us girls were planning to give…

But it was fun going back to their apartment anyways, because I was able to discover that they were fans of Banksy!!! and that they had some of his art up on their walls! And one of the guys even told me that there was a Banksy tag just five minutes down the road, and offered to take me to go see it! But aside from seeing the Banksy tag in person, it was really interesting hanging out with them and hearing their thoughts on American culture and music; One of the guys was really into electronic music and claimed to be a DJ so of course he had a lot of opinions on the subject. And I have to say,  it was pretty funny being the novelty for once, and the people with the accents. Even though we were in London, to me it still felt like they were the ones with the accents. After hanging out with them late into the night/morning, we went back to our hostel and slept in to wake up to a beautiful, sunny, New Year’s day in London:)

Rachel went to go meet up with her friend, while Ginny and I walked around London, and went to go see Avatar! I was so excited to see it (in English nonetheless!), since I wasn’t sure if it was going to play entirely in English in Florence, and movies don’t come out in Italy until wayyyyy after they are already released everywhere else. And I was so happy that Ginny agreed to go with me! Unfortunately I have heard many people say they aren’t too pleased with the plot of Avatar, and that it wasn’t very original, yet I still loved every minute of it. So much, that I went and saw it again with Rachel in 3-D in Amsterdam:-p And again last night here in Florence haha!

After a lovely time in England, Rachel, Ginny, and I flew back to Pisa where we parted ways with Ginny. Ginny was off the spend the rest of her break in Prague, while Rachel and I were headed for Amsterdam! We spent a night in Pisa, because our flight into Brussels (en route to Amsterdam) left out of Pisa the following morning. Once getting through bullshit Ryanair personnel for the third time and we had arrived in Brussels, we were waiting in line to catch a bus to the main train station when a family approached us and asked us if we wanted to split the price of a cab for a little less then the bus would have cost. I only mention this small detail about our trip because during the cab ride into the city, some creeper flashed Rachel on the freeway! I was listening my music staring out the window when I heard Rachel shriek, and I look over to see her gesturing me to take my headphones off, and she explained the whole scenario. She was horrified haha! Welcome to Brussels!

The train ride from Brussels to Amsterdam is approximately three hours, so we got in fairly late, around 8pm. I had written down one hostel I had found online, but we decided to walk around to see what we would find. We didn’t find anything after searching for what seemed like a long time, but enjoyed the beautiful Christmas lights and holiday decorations. The whole town is covered in snow and it is absolutely freezing there! Something like -7 degrees Celsius. Bloody. damn. freezing. After giving up on randomly finding and selecting a hostel, we went and found the one I had looked up online as a back up, and decided to stay there.

Not only was it freezing in Amsterdam, but I (stupidly) handed off my boots to Ginny for her to take back to Florence to make my bag a little lighter. I don’t know why I didn’t think Amsterdam would be covered in snow, probably because I am an utter genius! So the whole time Rachel and I were trudging around snow and ice covered Amsterdam in Converse and sneakers:) I only fell once!

Our accommodation was a studio with ten beds on the fourth floor of a tall, narrow, dutch apartment building. When we arrived, exhausted by the bitter cold, we couldn’t help but notice the girl in the corner coughing and sneezing up a storm. From that moment on I knew I was going to catch something. They had the heater on full blast, so to make matters worse, we were constantly going from freezing cold to a burning hot, stuffy room full of sick people. The following morning I woke up and my throat was rough and my nose was congested. I totally called that shit! I get sick fairly easily, but I tried not to let it ruin our time. We still ventured out during daylight, and sometimes late into the evening. I drank lots of tea and did my best to stay warm. I am still battling a lingering cold, but it is way better than it was and it never got terribly dreadful. I got lucky with that one!

Because it was fairly sunny while we were there, it was really nice to just walk around and admire the city. The canals were covered in snow and ice, and the buildings with their detailed mouldings and cute entry ways- it was all quite picturesque and entertaining to simply observe. Aside from seeing Avatar at this amazing art deco movie theatre, we went and visited the Anne Frank house. And although we expected it to be depressing, it was still really interesting to see and walk through what used to be her house and see all of her belongings that they have on display. I didn’t know how much of her stuff they still had honestly, and was surprised to see everything in such great condition. Something from the Anne Frank house that really stuck with me was a video they were playing at the end of the exhibit. The video was a short clip of Otto Frank, Anne’s father, taken in 1967.  He explains discovering her journal in his briefcase, after the war and the liberation of the internment camp where he was held, and what he felt the first time he read it. One of his last statements in the video was that he never knew Anne had such deep feelings and thoughts about the war and her surroundings, and that he never saw her express herself nearly as much throughout her daily life as she did in her writings. He said that if anything, one of the most important things he learned from reading his daughter’s journal was that no matter what a parent thinks, they can never fully know their own son or daughter.

Of course Rachel and I spent some (or most) of our time in coffee shops, mainly because it was just too cold to be outside for hours at a time anyways! But it is such a surreal experience, being able to walk into a coffeeshop/bar and order a drink and a sack of herb, walk into the back and light one up.

Oh, Amsterdam. What would we do without you?

And one of the best things about our trip to Amsterdam was finding this amazing little dutch deli! So good! Once we found it, we ate there three times in two days! And not only was the food amazing, but the people who worked there were really nice. One of the ladies told us that “Croquettes” were the specialty of Holland, and had us try some. They are essentially twinkie-sized, fried corndog like things, filled with a combination of meat and some kind of mustardy sauce. Tasty! 

Something I really enjoy about traveling (that being in Amsterdam reminded me of specifically) is not only getting to experience new places, but that sometimes it also feels like I could possibly be traveling back in time. Maybe this wouldn’t happen all over the world, but because of how old many old  places there are within Western Europe (such as: old houses, roads and monuments) I am usually capable of tricking myself into believing that I am existing in a different era. Love it:)

We met some cool girls while staying at the hostel in Amsterdam, but didn’t formally meet them and hang out with them until the very last possible moment on the day we were all leaving, naturally, but that is how it always happens! But one of the girls was a school teacher, and so it was really nice to be able to talk to her and ask her some questions about how she got started with her teaching career, since I will be on that path in the very near future.

Rachel and I returned to Florence, happy to be somewhere ten or so degrees warmer, and she stayed with me for ten days and left yesterday. I miss her already and was really happy to have her around!:) But now I am back to school and life’s obligations, which aren’t so bad really, but I kind of wish I were back in London. It is such a cool city and I still have so much to explore there. Until next time!

Oh, and if you were wondering what “Cockfosters” meant, it is the last stop on the Piccadilly tube line in London. Makes me laugh every time!

Buon Natale e Buon Anno!

Florence is currently covered in snow:) It is freezing, but it is so beautiful- I didn’t believe it would actually snow here (because our professors said it only snows maybe once every four or five years) but it snowed here this year! I need to get some snow gloves and go play in it!

I am going to be in a little town called Coimo, by Domodossola, Italy, for Christmas Day, and then I will be back in Florence on Dec. 27th for three days. I leave again on Dec. 30th to spend a week over New Year’s in London with my friend Ginny:) And after that, I am going to Amsterdam with Rachel (who is flying over from CA and I will be meeting up with in England, Yay!) for the remainder of my break!

I am leaving on Wednesday to go out of town for Christmas, and I won’t be able to access the internet for four or five days,  so I wanted to leave a Happy Holidays message for anyone who comes by and reads this…

Feliz Navidad!! Merry Christmas!! Happy Hanukkah!! Buon Natale!!

I’m wishing everyone the best of the best, and see you in 2010!

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