Saturday, November 16, 2013

A little catching up to do...

Hello, hello! 
   Since my last post I feel like I have been all over Europe traveling through Italy, to Portugal, and then to Belgium. It has been a long couple of weeks but it has definitely been an adventure! Unlike my other posts, since there is wayyy more to write about, I will try and make this one short and sweet. 
   Where do I start? The last week in October was my fall break off from classes so my friend Nick and I decided to take the opportunity and travel through Italy. We both had been to Rome with our families once before so we decided to travel to places we've never before been to. The way the week worked out was that we would travel to three different cities--Cinque Terre, Florence, and Venice--and spend a day and a half in each. This worked out perfectly because as two college students who didn't want to spend all our money and all our time in museums, we had the time to wander around and explore. We started off in Cinque Terre which in Italian actually means "The Five Lands" which are located on the Mediterranean Sea. They're old little fisherman villages that are so beautiful! We stayed in Corniglia which is the village right smack dab in the middle. 
Corniglia from the boat
It is also the only one not right on the water, which Nick and I found out after getting off the train and hiking up the steep hill in the pitch black. That would be the first hike during our time there. The five villages are reachable by train or by trail. During our full day in Cinque Terre, we hiked from Corniglia to Vernazza and then to Monterosso al Mare. We met another American, Albert, who was backpacking through Europe. 
Nick, Albert, and I overlooking Vernazza
He came with us on our hikes which was great because we got to hear about his stories thus far and he gave us some advice on the other Italian cities we were going to visit. The views from the hike were amazing. We took a break at a look out spot which was beautiful! It was a cloudy day, but you could see the sun trying to come out and you could see where the land met the ocean. All in all, I found it breathtaking. 
The picture doesn't do the moment or view justice
From Monterosso, we took a boat to Manarola where we explored a bit but many of the shops were closed. We headed back to Corniglia via train and took the shuttle back up to the top where we showered and grabbed dinner.
Here's a map so you're not completely lost!
The next day was a "travel day" where we were able to morning and early afternoon in Riomaggiore before heading to Florence. We walked around a bit in Riomaggiore and grabbed a pizza to split before heading to the train station. We then took the train from La Spieza to Pisa Centrale and then to Florence. We arrived in Florence in the early evening and made our way to hostel. After checking in and resting a bit, we grabbed dinner at this Chinese restaurant that this elderly Kiwi couple we met in Cinque Terre told us about. Finding this restaurant was a miracle! The lady we met couldn't remember the name of the restaurant but described where it was in Florence and from those directions we managed to find our way. It was perfect because it was cheap and it was a change-up from the pizza and pasta that we had been eating everyday! 
Found it!!
We walked around at night got gelato. YUM. I'm pretty sure that we got gelato every night we were in Italy. Hey, when in Rome right? Or in this case, Florence! We sat on one of the bridges and ate our gelato before heading back to sleep. Florence was the start of my killer mosquito bites. That night, Nick and I woke up multiple times throughout the night to kill mosquitos that were flying around. I can honestly say I don't think I've ever been bitten that many times in one night or in the same place!! My arm was COVERED with bites…and of course Nick had barely any. 
Heaven on Earth

Bad quality picture, but my arms were covered!! 
During the day in Florence, we wandered around a bit and went to the leather market that is just a little ways away from the Duomo. With the help of Nick's great bargaining skills, I got a new leather purse! After my exciting new purchase, we went to see the statue of David. We walked around the museum a bit, saw the statue, and then left to get pizza. We headed back to the hostel to relax a bit and then decided to go to the lookout point at Piazzale Michelangelo. We tried getting there for sunset, but sadly missed it! The view from the top was still pretty to see during the night! 

After trekking down from Piazzale Michelangelo, we grabbed dinner and gelato (anyone seeing a trend here?) and then walked around a bit. We headed back to the hostel where they were having a little get together and I met this guy who was from Wales but working on a farm in Italy. It was really cool to hear his stories and meet some of the other travelers there! The next morning we checked out, dropped our bags off at the train station locker, and then went back into Florence where we wandered around a bit. In the late afternoon we left for Venice via train and arrived in the early evening. This wouldn't have been a problem except that it gets dark really early. Venice is already a confusing city so the darkness only added to the adventure of finding our hotel. We were staying near Piazza san Marco in Venice which is pretty far from the train station. We hopped on a vaporetto which is a boat bus that took us to the stop. From there we wandered around crossing multiple bridges and eventually got lost. Oh, and we didn't have a map because they were being sold for 2 euros at the tourist office and well, we're cheap college kids! But a total miracle happened! We went into a grocery store we found and all of a sudden this girl comes up to Nick and asked if he went to Colgate. Turns out she goes there too and was studying abroad in Venice! She was really friendly and super sweet because she left the grocery store and took us to where our hotel was. After that we parted ways, she was leaving for a weekend trip to Rome in the morning and we checked in and got dinner. Guess what we did after dinner? Yup, you probably got it right. We walked around and got gelato!! Except it was freezing cold with the wind so we decided to call it a night early. 
The next morning we woke up, grabbed bananas for breakfast, and started walking around. Pretty much all you can do in Venice is go to museums, eat pizza/pasta, and get lost! We weren't really in the mood for museums so for most of the day we found ourselves walking down little streets and crossing bridges. 

Shameless selfie waiting for the Vaporetto

Since we were in Venice we figured we couldn't leave without going on a gondola…even though it was 80 euros! Well let me just say that it was the biggest waste of my 80 euros. We were on the little boat for maybe 25 minutes. Now, before anyone says "well didn't you check the prices beforehand?" you should know that all gondola rides are 80 euros but I guess it depends on the driver how long you go out for! It was a bummer in my opinion, but hey at least I can say I've been on one! 
View from our gondola: Realto Bridge
We were starting to get pretty tired of walking around and getting lost so we decided to ride the Vaporetto for a bit. Perfect timing because it was as my friend Leah would call it, "the golden hour" where everything is beautiful and lit wonderfully by the setting sun! We even saw the sunset from the boat bus. 

We of course, then headed back to our hotel where we hung out for a bit and then went to grab our last Italian dinner and gelato! The next day Nick would be leaving to go back to Paris and I was going to meet up with my family in Lisbon, Portugal! It's crazy how fast studying abroad is flying by. That week marked the "halfway" point of the semester! I'll continue with the rest of my traveling adventures in another post…don't want to write too much in one! Hope all is well in America and everyone is getting excited for Thanksgiving! Can't believe I won't be home for it this year, but I have offered to make a Thanksgiving dinner for my host family so we will be celebrating it over here! Don't worry that will be another blog post…


1 comment:

  1. Loving the blog...this trip sounded wonderful!!! Pictures are great, Steph!!