And did you know Europe (and well, Australia) changes to Daylight Savings a full week earlier than America (and perhaps the entire North and South American continents)?
Paris was wonderful--broad sidewalks, soft French accents, baguettes and croissants and pain du chocolat and crepes and even great muesli cereal. France is a lot more American-ized than Italy is, I feel like I've just come out of a hole. They have Skittles! Of course, we were there in the midst of all the student protests and striking and I took a train out to Geneva between the day of Black Tuesday and the day when students stormed into Gare de Lyon and stopped train service for two hours. Lucky me.
Geneva is interesting but I think I am enjoying my time with two of my favorite not-as-close-friends-as-I-would-like Wellesley people, Pam and Robin. They are graciously hosting me and entertaining me with endless BU program gossip.
Anyhow, I must go! I am late!
Long time no see? I don't even know where I left you and since I'm writing this before I get on the internet, sorry if any information overlaps.
I'll write about a few things that are memorable but I don't think they'll be in chronological order. Katia's sister and her sister's friend (Jaana and J) came to visit and brought us some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, otherwise known as the best cookies ever. I think this was the beginning of the visitors' roll. I got to do a few of the touristy things with them again and by the end of their visit, Jaana welcomed me to the family. =o)
Pam and her friends from her BU Geneva internship program came for a night this weekend. They had taken a train from Geneva to Milan, spent the day there, then took another train to Florence. The same day, Katia's cousin and her friend (Audra and Rachel) came in from Boston so we had like, the best time at our discotheque. Lorenzo greeted me warmly even without Katia or Lynne with me and it was incredibly fun, having all these new people there. It was the first time also that the whole 'gang' was in one place at one time besides Shannon/Katia's apartment. Lynne's entire family was visiting and her 15-year-old brother came along as well. Pam's friend quickly de-sobered him and gave him his first initiation (or so we suppose) to hard liquor. Of course, with such a big group, we were bound to get separated. A few things happened here and there and honestly, I probably should have been a bit stressed but I think Italy is getting to me. This is the country with no drinking age and a weekend that extends mostly to Monday afternoon, where wine is cheaper than soft drinks and meals are not complete with only two plates. I love this country so damn much! I know this is a bit tangential but honestly--what is there not to love? Italy has so much rich history that's intertwined with indulgent art, food, and nature. I really believe that the Italians mostly have it right in how to enjoy life. I've stopped kidding myself into thinking that I'll be able to see and do everything I want to here, which just means one thing---I'm definitely going to have to live here at some point in my life.
In any case, back to the visitors--in accordance to being respectful to the guests, I won't be saying much about the events of that night--unless you ask. Sunday was spent with Shannon and the Geneva-ns, taking in the sights of the Duomo (only exterior) and the Boboli Garden in Palazzo Pitti. It was quite windy but warm at times, so it made for a pleasant day. We had lunch while we were still across the Arno and met up with Mishka for lunch, who unfortunately didn't get her pizza in time to mangiare with the rest of us.
We finished off the visit with gelato at the most gaudy gelateria in Florence. It's flashier than Baskin Robbins and Ben & Jerry's combined, and probably has about as many flavors together, too. It's amazing though, the gelato is so good and varied, anybody would be able to find something there. There's rice and soy, different varieties of chocolate and hazelnut, yogurt and mousse of different fruits and sweets. We dropped off the guests to get back to Switzerland with whisperings of Facebook and immediately, I felt like someone was missing. But fortunately, I'll be seeing Pam (and Robin!) for spring break.
Today, I met up with my conversation partner, a university student named Andrea. He brought along another friend, Azzurra (sp?) while I brought along an entourage of my own--Katia, Audra, and Rachel. They watched us pick apart our lunch and we watched them play DDR. Andrea had these amazing looking eyes, blue and green, very clear and very inquisitive. We are all supposed to get gelato this Thursday. And for dinner, Katia attempted to make us some fajitas tonight but we forgot to get soy sauce so instead, we had this spicy turkey wrap type things with pepper.
As for classes, I love that I have trips all the time. I must've bombed my Romanesque and Gothic class quiz but it was really fun to see the insides of a Romanesque church, San Miniato, which is on a huge hill on the other side of Florence. Piazzale Michelangelo was right next to it, the piazza that's supposed to have the best view of Florence, so I walked down to it and took an 11-picture panoramic shot of hazy Firenze. For my Renaissance class, I went to the Uffizi again and I'm probably even going today to give Audra and Rachel a small tour through it.
We absolutely love having visitors--come visit! The three of us are becoming really good at coordinating things with each other so that our guests aren't completely alone all the time and between Shannon and I, we might have an entire Florence tour guide book memorized.
I miss you all very much, let me know how you're doing biatches!
Wednesday, March 29 - Saturday, April 1 : Geneva, Switzerland
Saturday, April 1 - Tuesday, 4 : Dusseldorf, Germany
Tuesday, April 4 : Florence
Anyone excited for me? I'll be flying, training, training, and flying. And I'm staying with friends in all those places, I'm seriously excited to see some old faces again! :o) Florence is wonderful--I saw the entire city laying below me at the Piazzale Michelangelo while on a field trip with school and fell in love all over again. I'm extremely glad that I picked this location, Italy has so many wonderful sights to offer on its own, I feel panicked that I cannot see all of Europe this time around. I'm convinced I want to spend part of my life somewhere on this continent. In any case, I am going off on a tangent so let me focus back. Classes are well although I pretty much flunked the Romanesque quiz I had today. I finally have more of an idea of my daily schedule and how to get around the city. A 5-day trip to Spain is in the works but I have SO MANY places to go even after my school term ends, it's not even funny. Would anybody like to join me? I should put up my 'List of Places to Go and People to See' soon in the case that somebody would be able to (join me that is).
I miss you all terribly!
P.S. I have a new 'sister', if I haven't mentioned that before.
P.P.S. We have a huge crush on a worker at the nearby discotheque but it really isn't as sketchy as it sounds. He dresses well and is pretty nice.
P.P.P.S. I was assigned a conversation partner! We're supposed to meet twice a week to practice speaking to each other in English and Italian. My partner's name is Andrea. And in Italian, that's a masculine name. And he's 19. We meet on Monday!
Shannon had a friend coming all the way from Toulouse, France on Friday and since I wanted to visit a couple of museums in the same city that she was meeting her in, we made our way to the Santa Maria Novella train station last Friday. Her friend was due in around 7pm and our plan was to get to Genova (or Genoa, in English) around 3pm. I was planning to come back that night but oh, the trains had other plans for us.
We got to Pisa about 5 minutes AFTER our train from Pisa > Genova LEFT. So we took another train, probably a faster one anyhow, and got to the main Genova station. Genova is where Christopher Columbus was born--if you remember, he was only sponsored by the Spanish (King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella) but was Italian by birth, as in Cristoforo. The train station had a statue honoring him. We walked around the town, via de Garibaldi was full of grand palaces and such, but it didn't seem worth our money to look at museums when we thought we would only be in town for a short time. We did end up getting a room for the night because we got to Genova a little later than we had hoped. We walked to the port as well and got cappuccinos that had a star chocolate powder stenciled on it.
Shannon unfortunately forgot both her phone and the note that had her friend's boyfriend's number on it so we waited until 7pm to attempt to find her at the train station. When we saw no signs of her, she checked her email and voila! There it was. We met up and walked around some more, eating and enjoying what little nightlife Genova offered. The two apparently biked a whole lot from France, through Monaco, and I guess they only took a train at the tail end of their adventure, even camping and pitching a tent on a mountain for the last night's sleep.
The next day proved to look better than the past few days' rain, so we headed to the 5 towns of Cinque Terre. The tiny towns are built into the hillside of the Italian Riviera, overlooking the sea, and there is a walkway and train between all 5 of them. We got to the first town, Monterosso, but the road between the 2nd and 3rd town was closed so after getting a quick bite (focaccia bread with tomato and cheese---DELISH!), we took a 2-hour detour hike to Corniglia. Oh my, that was seriously fucking hard. I am still feeling the effects of that hike. We got into the quiet town of Corniglia and figuring we had as much time as we wanted, ate and hung out until our train to La Spezia, which I guess is the biggest town around there (and not part of Cinque Terre).
So we said au revoir to the ones heading back to France and Shannon and I took our train to La Spezia. We get there, look up tickets to Firenze, and surprise! There's not one leaving until 2am. It was around 10pm then. Four hours in a town that's hardly on the guidebooks (only as a stop to get to Cinque Terre). I was literally penniless, I had one eurocent and of course that's even less than one US penny. We had no choice but to wait it out. Thank god I was with someone as positive as Shannon because we really made the best of it.
We walked around town trying to find a place to sit indoors and drink coffee or any thing, so we ended up finding a cute cafe where they not only served us our drinks, they gave us some sweets and potato chips. When they closed, we walked to another bar, where a cute Asian girl talked to us in Italian while we sipped on our shared Bacardi. And when THEY closed, we had no choice but to go to another cafe/bar, where soccer (which I've actually started to call football) was being shown and we were lucky enough to be able to sit there until our train came.
We had reserved seats (I guess most trains throughout Italy needs one, except short ones like Firenze<->Pisa so we ended up in this compartment with two very stinky men. They had been sleeping before us and throughout the whole ride, they were awake and creeped me out--enough to convince me never to travel alone at night, as the other comparment we were in when we were going to Genova had been pretty pleasant, with businessmen-types and couples rather than surly-looking and tired (and smelly) men we were riding with now. We talked the whole way through so we could be awake enough to catch our train from Pisa to Florence. At the Pisa train station, we met Jackie, who had been on our regional train the entire time. Jackie was just coming back from Torino, after watching her fave Apolo Ohno finally get a gold medal for one of the short track events. She's actually made the same trip about 3 times this entire duration of the Olympics.
We got back to Florence around 5am on Sunday and I basically slept all day. This is how my day trip to Genova was extended to 3 days. We were lucky to experience Cinque Terre (literally, 5 lands, I guess) on a good weather day, as it didn't rain at all and it was cool enough to keep us from being totally exhausted by the heat.
I've been sent 5 mail/packages so far, thanks so much! :)