Travel Diary: Budapest

Last weekend Lizzy, Kayleigh, Jenny, and I went to Budapest, Hungary, which I learned is actually pronounced Budapes(ch)t. We stayed at two different places, so Jenny and I took a different car to our hotel and Lizzy and Kayleigh took one to their hostel with a few other girls from FIT. Our driver somehow mixed up where Jenny and I were going and he took us to some random apartment. He spoke no English, so when we got there, he just said “come come” and so we followed… When we realized it wasn’t the right place, we told him the name of the hotel and he realized his mistake and took us there. We got to our hotel about the same time as the others got to their hostel, so once we got settled, the four of us met up for dinner at a really yummy place below our rooms (our hotel and hostel were right next to one another). After a quick bite, it was off to dinner for us; we were all exhausted.

Saturday morning we got up and did a walking tour of the city. It was not only a nice way to see all of the city but a fun way to get the history of the city itself. We started on the Pest side of the city and finished the tour on the Buda side. Once we were done, we decided to grab some traditional Hungarian food and had goulash for lunch. It was actually a lot better than I had expected and I really liked it. We then toured around the city a little more, saw parliament and the Shoes on the Danube – a memorial to the Jews who were taken from Budapest in WWII. Lizzy, Jenny, and I then met back up and went to dinner at another Hungarian restaurant that was close by, but we all tried other food rather than the traditional Hungarian food :). Lizzy, Kayleigh and I ended the night at a Ruin Bar, which is a bar in was an abandoned house in the Jewish Ghetto and is decorated with items that were left there. It was really a fun place and we had a good time.

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Tate Girls in Budapest

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Goulash

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Buda Castle

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Shoes on the Danube

 

Sunday morning we went to the House of Terror. It is a museum that is in an old Nazi Police station that had a prison underneath it. I never realized how involved Hungary was in the war or how affected they were by it. We learned a lot of history, but seeing the actual prison was hard to look at. After a little morbid morning, we decided to go to one of the baths for some relaxation. OMG, it was amazing. There were so many indoor baths and 3 outdoor, which is where we spent most of our time. They were so warm and a nice way just to enjoy each other’s company! We finished the night with a dinner cruise on the Danube. It was a fun way to see the city and eat some more Hungarian food.

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Széchenyi Thermal Bath

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Monday morning we walked around the city some more and enjoyed a warm day by the water! We were sad to leave Budapest and really all fell in love with the city! It was quite Americanized – there was a KFC, Burger King, TGI Fridays, Office Depot, and Starbucks, but it was a really fun place that I would love to go back to!

 

 

Florence for the Weekend

This past weekend, we stayed in Florence, which was nice to just have time to relax and enjoy the city! We started Friday off by climbing to the top of the Duomo and the Bell Tower, visiting the church museum and the Baptistery! It was such a beautiful day and crystal blue skies, so it was completely worth the 463 steps (for the Duomo) and 414 steps (for the Bell Tower). We enjoyed some gelato afterwards to treat ourselves. We then made our way to the Church Museum, where we were able to see the real golden doors from the Baptistry – they were BEAUTIFUL! I then met up with three friends from high school who were visiting for dinner and we had a lot of fun catching up and reconnecting!

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Saturday I spent the day playing tour guide to my friends. We went all over Florence in the pouring down rain and managed to take absolutely no photos  But we had a great time and I’m so happy I got to see them! That night, Lizzy, Kayleigh and I finally made it to a “secret bakery.” It’s where the bakeries start baking late at night for the next day and you go to the back door of them and can buy fresh pastries! We all got chocolate croissants for $1 each and they were delicious!

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Today, we went to see the David at the Accademia since in Florence state museums are free the first Sunday of every month! It was a bit crowded, but so much fun and we really enjoyed seeing David and the other art around the museum. It has been a gross, cold, rainy day here, so we are all now in comfy clothes and relaxing!

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Travel Diary: Milan

This weekend, Lizzy, Kayleigh and I visited Milan. It happened to fashion week, and it was a nice little getaway from Florence (not that I don’t love it – it’s just nice to get away from our other roommates)! Kayleigh went to stay with her family, so it was just Lizzy and I Friday night, and then our friend Mary-Kate decided to come stay with us Saturday, which was fun to have her there too! It was a cold and rainy weekend in Milan, which was not good for this sick chick, but we still had a lot of fun!

Where We Stayed

The Yard Hotel

We stayed at The Yard Hotel, which may be one of the coolest hotels I’ve ever stayed at. The rooms were all sports themed and ours was Polo. The atmosphere of the hotel was really cool and quirky and we really enjoyed it. Friday night, Lizzy and I sat in the covered bar area and had a drink and people watched, which was really fun, since it was fashion week!

What We Did

Bus Tour

Since it was Lizzy’s first time to Milan, she wanted to see all the sights, including the “Last Supper” painting. Well, to see that, you have to book it months in advance, but we found a bus tour that took you to all the sights and tickets to the painting. I had done a tour like this my first time in Milan, but it was nice to do it again and really appreciate everything I saw. We started at La Scala, the opera house, and toured the museum. We then walked through the galleria over to the Duomo and were able to go inside, which was really cool. I had never done that before and it was beautiful. There was a lot of stain glass and it was not too busy, so we were able to enjoy the scenery. We then got back on the bus and did a driving tour showing all major sites on our way to the “Last Supper” painting, which was our final stop. It was really fun and a nice way to see the city since it was pretty chilly.

Shop

The rest of the weekend we spent shopping and exploring Milan. Our hotel was situated by a number of cute boutiques that were fun to venture into. We all didn’t buy much, but had a lot of fun trying things on and seeing what the stores had to offer.

Hot Chocolate at Farage

OMG Jenny had recommended that we go to this hot chocolate shop, Farage. It was the best thing ever. Hot chocolate in Europe is not like it in the States. Here, it is literally melted chocolate. I got dark chocolate with whip cream and it was heavenly, especially since it was so cold and gross out!

Sights from Milan

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Indoor Bar at our Hotel

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Last Supper

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When in Italy, one must eat the colors of the Flag 

Travel Diary: Venice

Where We Stayed
Charming House DD724
This was the cutest little hotel tucked back by the Guggenheim museum. There were not many rooms, but the rooms were really nice. We were able to get a room with 2 twin beds so Lizzy and I didn’t have the share. And the bathroom – OMG literally anything is better than our apartment shower, but a rain shower is the greatest thing ever. Though our apartment isn’t terrible, I’ve really come to appreciate nice(r) bathrooms and showers!

What We Did
Saint Mark’s Basilica 
You can’t go to Venice without visiting the Basilica – it supposedly has the remains of Mark, the gospel writer, which Venice stole to bring people to visit and make money. Apparently back in the day, to have the full body of a gospel writer, was major for a city. You can’t get too close in the church, nor can you take pictures inside, but it is a beautiful place.

Piazza San Marco
If you didn’t know, I’m terrified of birds – pigeons especially. So the piazza is basically my worst nightmare. There are birds EVERYWHERE and for whatever reason, people think it’s fun to feed them and have them land on them… It makes my stomach nauseous to see that. When we were in the piazza, Lizzy and I had our picture taken, but that was it. The less time we spent there, the better it was.

Peggy Guggenheim Museum
This was a last minute decision, but one I’m happy we did. It was a museum in Peggy’s house on the canal. There were so many works of art by Picasso and so many beautiful things to look at within her home too.

Doge’s Palace
We did the Secret Tour at the Doge’s Palace since we are able to get student tickets. It was really cool to see the prison cells and hear the stories of Casanova and about that time. I had done this tour with my parents a few years ago during the summer and it was so hot that I couldn’t remember anything that we saw or heard about. I was purely focused on how hot I was. This time, it was chilly. We went in the morning, so it was cool, but the palace retains the cold and Lizzy and I could not wait to finish so we could go warm up. It was definitely worth the tour, though.

Getting Lost
One thing I was told the first time I came to Venice was to get lost. Well when it’s smoking hot outside, the last thing you want to do is get lost. This time, since the weather was nice, we were able to “get lost.” Just walking around and seeing the city of Venice was really fun and you never knew what the street would lead to.

Venetian Sights

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Water Taxi to Hotel

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Venice is known for seafood – so seafood pasta

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Travel Diary: Day Trip to Pisa

On Friday, we did a day trip to Pisa. It’s about an hour train ride from Florence and it was fun to go see the tower since that is literally all there is to do. Lizzy and I went with a group of girls we had met our first week here and it was nice to travel with a big group. We took the train in the afternoon since we knew we only wanted to spend a few hours there. As soon as we arrived at the train station, we headed straight for the tower and had our photo shoot. It was really fun and it’s hilarious watching people trying to get the perfect picture.

After we finally got the right picture, we walked around a bit to see what Pisa had to offer (which wasn’t much) and found a cute place for lunch. We then headed back to the tower to go into the cathedral right by it and then back on the train to head back to Florence.

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When we arrived back in Florence and ended our night at the chocolate festival that was going on at Piazza Santa Maria Novella. HOLY YUM! There were so many different types of chocolate and a million different ways to eat it. I got chocolate dipped cake pops and a waffle on a stick dipped in chocolate. Literally the greatest thing ever!

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This is all chocolate!!

Travel Diary: Rome

This past weekend, Lizzy, Kayleigh and I packed up our backpacks and headed to Roma! We took the train from Florence, which was a super easy hour plus ride and arrived in Rome around 11 am. We dropped our bags off at the hotel and headed out for the day! Rome was a nice getaway weekend and we especially loved the shower at our hotel!

 

WHERE I STAYED

 Palazzo Al Velabro

We booked out trip last minute and, of course, it was Valentine’s weekend, so a lot of places were already booked up. However, Palazzo Al Velabro wasn’t and boy are we happy it wasn’t. It was in the perfect location, right by some of the ruins and by Hercules’ Temple and an easy walk to everything we needed to see! It was a beautiful hotel and our room was really nice. We had 2 beds and a pullout and we all slept so comfortably, but the highlight of our room, aside form the small terrace and kitchenette, was the shower. I think we are all much more appreciative of a nice “big” shower, compared to our little one in our apartment. The hotel also came with breakfast, which was a nice way to start our mornings before our big walking adventures.

 

WHAT I DID

Big Bus Tour

After we had walked literally all over Rome to see the sights, we decided to do a bus tour to see them again but also give our legs a break. It was roughly a 2-hour hop on/off bus ride that started at the train station and took you to all the major sights. The nice part about the tour (aside from sitting) is that it gave you an audio history of what you were looking at, so we got a lot more information.

 

Vatican Museum

As an art history nerd, this was one of my favorite things we did. Not only is the Vatican filled with an insane amount of art, it also houses 2 of the most important works of art I learned about in class – the Sistine chapel and Raphael’s The School of Athens. The whole museum was beautiful and definitely worth going to!

St. Peter’s Basilica

Another beautiful place in the Vatican filled with history. And it was a good way to beat the heat that lasted only while we were in there!

Piazza Navona

We walked through this piazza during our excursion of the city and it was absolutely beautiful. There are 3 fountains that are so amazing to see and later at night there are street performers and people selling art!

Trevi Fountain

I literally could just sit and stare in awe of the fountain. It is breathtaking how massive it is and all the details. Definitely a fun place to people watch and take in the beauty of it.

Pantheon

Not too far from the Trevi Fountain is the Pantheon. Luckily, we made it just in time for the rain to begin, so we stopped and really took our time looking around. The coolest part with the rain was that it would slowly fall through the opening and was so beautiful, but it was hard to capture!

Villa Borghese

A beautiful villa set in a garden filled with art – how can it get any better? So fun to look at and some artists I had never heard of. Oddly enough, I ended up running into a girl that went to my high school there… After touring around the villa, we toured the gardens surrounding it and it was so fun! Definitely one of the best things we did.

WHERE I ATE

Where didn’t we eat is probably a better question. We joked that we all needed to go on a juice cleanse after the trip from all the food we ate. We usually started with breakfast, then would grab lunch, then coffee, followed by gelato, and eventually dinner. It sounds like a lot, but when you are walking 9 miles all over Rome, on the cobblestones, you need a break eventually!

Piccolo Arancio

OMG, the cutest little place by the Trevi Fountain and it had the craziest pasta concoction I had ever seen, so naturally I had to get it. Ricotta and Orange Cream Ravioli… holy yum! Quite possibly one of the best things I have ever eaten!

Tony’s (Hosteria del Moro)

Seriously, this may have been the best pasta ever (I think this is going to be a reoccurring phrase)! I had gnocchi with gorgonzola and it was as delicious as the picture below looks. Lizzy had truffle ravioli and let me have a bite and it was just as good!

Thank goodness we walked though, since we literally just ate and ate!

ROMAN SIGHTS:

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Trevi Fountain

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Pantheon

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Colosseum

 

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The School of Athens – Raphael

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Vatican

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Bus Tour

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Villa Borghese

 

 

 

First Week of School… Finally

Today concluded my first week of school, after 2 months of relaxation. So far I really like all of my classes! I have three classes on Tuesday (Travel Writing, Italian, Lifestyle of Renaissance Florence), one on Wednesday (Palaces of Florence), and one on Thursday (Italian).

Travel writing is an interesting class so far… the main goal my professor wants us to get is basically descriptive writing. Our first assignment that we started in class was to describe a color to a blind person that has never been able to see. I had never really thought about how you would describe a color so it was challenging. We have 2 major papers in that class – one describing a specific part of the Duomo to someone who has never seen it and the other is about traveling in Europe. We also read a number of short stories from authors who wrote about travel and then we have to read George Orwell’s book, Down and Out in Paris and London.

Italian is a fun class – there are only 10 of us in it and Lizzy is in my class too! However, it’s elementary Italian, but my professor has chosen not to speak any English in class. I think it’s great, except I have no idea what she’s saying half the time, so it’s a lot of fun haha. It’s easy to read Italian though since it’s so similar to French, but I often want to say it with a French accent instead of Italian, but I’m slowly getting the hang of it.

Lifestyle of Renaissance Florence is different because we really look at the people and art that made Florence what it was during the renaissance. My professor is a born and raised Florentine, so he is really proud and knows a lot of information on this topic.

Lastly, Palaces of Florence is probably the coolest class ever! We spend the first hour of class in the room with a lecture, but the second hour and a half is spent either in the palaces or walking around outside (apparently some are privately owned and you aren’t able to tour). I really think I’m going to like this class a lot!

This weekend, Lizzy, Kayleigh and I are heading to Rome for a few days and I am excited to get away for a bit! Pictures and stories to come soon

xoxo
Grace

Taste of Tuscany

Yesterday we visited Tuscany and to two vineyards for a wine tasting. We started off Altesino, a smaller vineyard that was in a villa about 2 hours outside of Florence. There we tasted 3 red wines – a Rosso Toscana, a Rosso Di Montalcino, and a Brunello Di Montalcino – since we were in the Montalcino region. They were okay, but I am not a big fan of reds and they were pretty strong. The area was beautiful and though it was a cloudy day, it was really nice – aside from all the wind!

 

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It was just a little windy

We then took another hour trip to another vineyard in San Gimignano called Tenuta Torciano. It was in this amazing house that had been there for generations – the guy that gave us our lesson in line was a 13th generation winemaker. There we tasted 8 wines – 1 white, 6 reds, and a dessert wine. The white was by far my favorite, but it was nice to try the others. At this vineyard, we also got lunch and to try olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and truffle oil. Our guide apparently really liked me and gave me lots of truffle oil on my lasagna and then literally poured the balsamic in my mouth. He had wanted to put it on our plates and have us use our fingers to try it, but I got it poured down my throat (but it was delicious)!

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The pouring of the balsamic

After leaving the vineyard, we headed to the town of San Gimignano, where we just walked around for a bit. It’s said that they have the best gelato in the world, so we obviously had to try both places that were ranked, and they did not disappoint! It also happened to be Carnevale, so there was a parade and everyone was out. It was a cute town and fun to see! Now we’re home and ready for bed after our long and exciting day! This week we start classes, so it’ll be nice to finally get into a routine!

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Hazelnut and Chocolate Chip

 

Florence Days 4-6

Wednesday was our first morning in our new apartment. We quickly learned that the noise on the street echoes (as one girl noticed as she screamed “echo” down the street) and people are LOUD at 3 am. While the noise eventually subsided, I finally fell asleep in the wee hours of the morning only to wake up at in a few hours for the first day of orientation. We made it through the 2-hour session and had the whole day to explore even more. Lizzy, Kayleigh (our roommate from FIT) and I grabbed coffee at a café near our apartment and then went on a hunt for a pillow. We may have the tiniest beds in the world and the stiff pillows did not make it any better. But we found some, and let me tell you, it was glorious to sleep on. We went back to rest for a bit before walking around and shopping some more. While on our walk, we found a cannoli place where they make the cannoli for you… it was the best thing ever! We ended up at dinner at a restaurant with all study abroad students that had a deal for dinner and sat a table with three girls from a different school. They were the nicest people and we spent the whole night laughing and talking, which was nice to meet such normal people and have a good time. But, by like 11 we were exhausted and were in bed and asleep!

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Making my cannoli

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The final product

Thursday, after a pretty good night’s sleep, we went to orientation again this morning for just a bit. After that, we walked back to our apartment and got situated before heading out for lunch. We went to this really yummy burger place by us and enjoyed some non-Italian food We then explored some more of the city and went across the river to get some gelato and walk around there some more. We eventually found our way to our friend Cassie’s apartment, which was fun to see (but I like ours a lot better)! Now we’re just relaxing and enjoying the comfort of our apartment before a welcome dinner at the school tonight!

 

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Yesterday, we had our last session of orientation and rewarded ourselves at News Cafe with a Nutella lined coffee… Though I am not a coffee drinker by any means, it was pretty good, but not good enough to convert me. We then went on a little walk and enjoyed and ended up at All’antico Vinaio for a panini – OMG this was literally the most amazing sandwich I’ve ever had. I can’t even describe it – it was so amazing! We grabbed our sandwiches and walked across the Ponte Vecchio and sat in front of Boboli Gardens before going in and walking around them. It was so beautiful and nice to escape from the “city.” We finished the night at dinner with Jenny at the Mercato Centrale. This weekend we’re just enjoying Florence and doing a day trip to Tuscany!

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Milano Panini

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Ciao for now!

xx
Grace

Florence Days 1-3

I have finally made it to Florence and to say that I am excited is way understated. Lizzy and I arrived after a pit stop in Amsterdam to a rainy Florence, with all our luggage in tow. Though we were insanely exhausted, we decided to explore a bit so we could get comfortable with our new home and try not fall asleep! After a delicious lunch in one of the piazzas, we went on a mission to find shampoo and conditioner at Sephora and after visiting 2 Sephoras, I was finally successful! Who knew that it was that hard to find shampoo? We then decided to venture over to the area of our new apartment and see what it was like. When we finally arrived we looked around and there were very few people in sight and not many places to eat or shop at and while we were skeptical (don’t worry mom, that changed quickly), we decided to go back to the hotel and rest since it decided to rain harder. With one more go on the town for dinner, we both crawled into bed at 8:30 and slept fabulously! Monday morning, we woke up well rested and enjoyed a nice croissant at a little café.

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Yesterday, I was determined to find a curling iron or hair straighter. After many visits to department stores and pharmacies, I was about to give up, when I saw an electronic store (I had read that they carried them), only to find it was closed. However, the sweet man that owned it came running up after us and opened it for us. Praise the lord! Lizzy and I then ventured across the Ponte Vecchio and grabbed a slice of pizza before climbing to the top of Piazza Michelangelo. Don’t let the photo below fool you, it took us 3 breaks on the steep steps up to get to the top, but the view was well worth it! After our trek, we thought we’d go explore the area around our apartment since it was a beautiful sunny day. And much to our surprise, the area was packed with people (see mom, it’s going to be okay!) We finished our night off with dinner with Jenny and it was so much fun to see her!

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Stairs to the Top

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View from the Top

Today, Tuesday, we went to orientation for our apartment and finally got our room keys. Lizzy and I packed up our suitcases and took a taxi to our new home. It only took us using 4 of the 6 keys to finally get into the front door to then have to figure out the next key to use to open the next door. 3 trips later, we finally made it with all our stuff to our door on the 3rd floor, which uses two keys to get in. Our apartment is perfect! There’s a decent sized kitchen with a fridge, oven, microwave, and even a dishwasher. Off that we have a little living area with a TV. Lizzy and I share the first room and there are 3 other rooms for the 4 other girls, plus 2 bathrooms. The ceilings are high, so it makes it feel a lot bigger and it’s IKEA furniture, so it’s pretty modern for such an old city. The window in my room is across the street from a music school, so we hear the piano and other instruments, which is fun to hear. Orientation starts tomorrow and I’m excited to meet more people and get everything ready, but, for now, it’s nice to finally be unpacked and organized! I’ll try to write and post pictures as much as possible!

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Our bedroom

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The Kitchen

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Living Room

Ciao