Posts tagged ‘Italy’

May 5, 2011


As we were zipping up our suitcases to store at the hotel for a few days, my zipper broke. Saturday morning included cleaning up the flat, saying goodbyes and racing to and from Russell Square tube station to purchase a 5 pound bag from the bag man. After I successfully transferred all my stuff from the broken bag into the new (enormous) one, we dropped our bags off at The Kingsley and caught our cab to Gatwick. We left plenty of time to be there early, which ended up being a great decision because we got stuck in bumper to bumper traffic for a good portion of the journey. Talk about anxiety. We finally made it to the airport with a few minutes to spare, checked in, got through security and found our gate to take off to Italy. I was nervous boarding the plane because EasyJet and Ryanair don’t kid; one piece of luggage within their dimensions, that’s all. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that my new bag was larger than my torso. As predicted, the EasyJet lady asked if I could fit it in their dimension bin, and by some miracle (and a few minutes of trying) it did. Annalina and Erin had shocked faces when I met up with them finding seats with my bag on my side and not under the plane. An hour an a half nap later and we arrived in Milan. We grabbed a cab to our hostel, the Zebra hostel.

Step #1: The cab dropped us off on a back street, not in the center of the city. Step #2: We walked through an alley to get to the door, which you could buzz yourself into. Highly ineffective. Step #3: Walked into a lobby full of sketchy guys everywhere. “No, we’re Canadian. Yup. Studying abroad in France.” Step #4: Get our bed assignments. No doors, no locks, no lockers, no linens. Step #5: March out of Zebra hostel forever and figure out a solution outside.

Apparently Erin saw “Redrum” written across the bathroom mirror too, just to enhance our lovely experience at the Zebra hostel. We left the hostel and figured we would head towards the train station to see the train times going to Santa Margherita (where we were originally staying Sunday-Thursday) that night, and if there weren’t any we would at least find out what time they left on Sunday. We didn’t really have a definite plan, and were prepared to shell out a lotttt of euros for a hotel in Milan-when we booked the hostel, it was the only thing left in Milan available due to Easter weekend. We arrived at the train station at 5:45 and the final train was at 6, so Annalina made a call to Henry, her family friend who was already staying there, and we hopped on. The train ride was about 2 hours and 20 minutes, and as we got closer to Santa Margherita we were riding along the coast, so it was gorgeous. We got off in town, dropped off our bags, grabbed dinner close by and came back to crash.

Our lovely/amazing apartment for a few days! Thank you!

The rest of the week was glorious, our first actual relaxing vacation of the semester. I know, I know, the entire semester has been a vacation, right? It was nice this week to just relax and not feel rushed to see everything the city/country has to offer. We hiked to the next town, Portofino, and grabbed lunch two days. Once we took the boat shuttle back to Santa Margherita. Easter dinner we went to Annalina’s mom’s favorite restaurant. They serve family style, so we got the pesto lasagna, the shrimp scampi and the grilled fish (freshly caught in Santa Margherita.) I’m not a huge fan of seafood, but I tried it and it was delicious. A big thank you to Annalina’s mom for that meal 🙂 One day we did a hike on the Cinque Terre, which was absolutely amazing. We took the train to the last of the five and made our way back from there. We stopped in each town and either ate, laid out or swam (or all three.) Pesto originated in the Cinque Terre so naturally, we ate a ton of it. The last leg of the trip was a 2 hour hike to Monterosso, and along the way we passed a guy in a lemonade hut! It was perfect timing, as we were dying of thirst. We watched him squeeze the lemon, it was so fresh and sooo delicious. We made the train back to Santa Margherita by about a minute. Our last day we laid out on a beach that we passed the first day on the way to Portofino and sat in the free section–everywhere else it cost 20 EURO per person?! Yowzas, After reading and relaxing all morning we grabbed a late lunch in Portofino and then hiked back. We made dinner three nights, ravioli, short pasta and gnocchi. Kelly and I were in charge of going in to get ingredients for salad. We came out triumphant until Annalina told us thatwe had in fact bought 2 heads of cabbage instead of 2 heads of lettuce. Uh oh. I couldn’t taste the difference once I dowsed it in balsamic vinegar and olive oil, and Annalina made herself some hot salad, but Kelly and Erin couldn’t bear the taste. Sorry guys! The town was great; small but a lot going on. Forthe first two or three days they had market vendors set up everywhere right next to the beach which were fun to browse, and there was also an outdoor ice skating rink! By the last day it had melted and they were disassembling it, but it was fun to watch.

Overall, the week was fun, beautiful, relaxing and a great ending to our semester abroad in London!

Oh wait…the Royal Wedding.

February 17, 2011

Older, Wiser & possibly a bit more Italian

My birthday last week was incredible! My roommates got me cakes (yes, plural), Paul made me carrot cake and the house celebrated in the 1st hour of last Wednesday with me to complete my birthday’s success. Wriglesworth surprised me by having a bottle of champagne, chocolate and a card on my desk when I came in Wednesday morning! Overall, whoever said my birthday in London was going to be anti-climatic was wrong….sorry (but not sorry!)

Unfortunately, my health had a really rough past weeks. Since coming to London I had a weird cut on my face and it ended up turning into a bacterial infection that took over the bottom of my face, and it was really painful and gross by last Thursday…so I went to the Medicentre and went on antibiotics. One week later and my face is back to normal!!! While on antibiotics I got the stomach bug that Sarah woke up with on Monday morning. I left work on Tuesday at 5:30 and stayed in bed basically until 6pm yesterday. Now, knock on wood, all of that is behind me and I can get back to living a relatively normal (because is this really normal? a 3 month vacation in London?) life here in the UK.

This weekend we went to Italy!! We stayed in Florence Friday night and Bologna Saturday night. Ryanair is an airline that has super cheap flights, but the catch is that they are a) not from main airports and b) weird times. Our flight was at 6:30 am on Friday but we left out of London-Stansted, so our journey began at 3:30 am Friday morning. (The plan was to go to bed around 8pm Thursday night…that didn’t happen.) We took a cab to the bus station, and then a less-than-hour bus ride to Stansted. The entire check-in process took all of 6 minutes. It was heaven. We got our boarding passes stamped, flew through security, and as soon as we got to our gate we were in line to get on the plane. I slept on every form of transportation that morning…sort of bummed, because I missed going over the Alps on the plane ride over :(. Annalina got pictures though..amazing:

We arrived in Bologna around 9:30 am (Italian timezone) and took a bus into the center of the city, took a train ride to Firenze which an identical replica of the Harry Potter Hogwart’s Express. We got to Firenze, and although Elayna/Stacey/Caroline lived approx 10 minutes from the station, it took us over an hour and a half to get there due to us exploring without any sense of direction and heading towards the wrong bridge. Luckily, we were in Italy so who really cared? We had pizza for breakfast, gelato for snack, and by the time we met up with the JMU girls, we had pasta and bruschetta for lunch. There’s no time to NOT eat in Italy, you’ve got to take in as much as you can, especially when you’re only there for one weekend. After exploring the city we split up and went back to our hostel, Archi Rossi. It was a really nice hostel and only 20 euros per person. We went to a place for dinner in Florence named Oibo. The way it worked was that we bought a drink and then had as much buffet as we wanted…aka dinner and a drink for 8 euro. Afterwards we went to a bar named Naima which has happy hour until 11 so we drank for cheap until whenever, met all of their friends and then after the night stroked the boar’s nose before going back to our hostel. (Stroking it means good luck and that you’ll return to Florence)

Saturday in Florence we, naturally, woke up and ate Italian food. Spaghetti to start off the day is not such a bad thing 🙂 …It was also almost 11:30 by the time we found a relatively cheap place to eat. We met up with the Florence girls and then climbed the duomo!! It was 8 euros and worth every penny. I’m adding the panoramic pictures into the pictures section of the blog. After more Italian adventuring we parted ways and hopped on our train to Bologna. Once we got there we realized that our hotel was in fact 20 minutes outside of the city. So, a 20 minute cab ride later we arrived in our FOUR STAR HOTEL in San Laazaro. It was so nice, especially as a change from our hostels and our not-4 star Madison House. We made friends with the concierge, Francesco, and he told us about a local pizzeria. The owners were from Naples and it was absolutely the best pizza I’ve ever had in my life. Annalina’s birthday was on Sunday and Francesco played a Happy Birthday recording for her when we came back to the hotel. Sunday we took a bus back into the city and explored all day. We climbed the tower, which had more steps than the duomo, and had just an incredible view, despite the foggy weather. Later in the afternoon we decided to break for coffee/tea in the square, and after being there for only a few minutes the entire square filled with people..turns out we were in the middle of a protest/demonstration against the Italian prime minister. (We also saw one in Florence the day before) After watching that for a while we went on a mission to find a restaurant Annalina’s friend had recommended to her. We finally found it and it was 100% worth it. Great last meal in Italy..even though we got gelato right after. It’s safe to say we might’ve gone up a pant size after this weekend…and if not, our peacoats definitely fit a little more snug on Monday. We got in around 1:30 am Monday morning/Sunday night and passed out before class in the AM.

It was weird coming back on Monday and only after 3 days wanting to say “Grazie” to everyone. We definitely at least tried to speak Italian as much as we could this past weekend. Overall, such a fun weekend and a great start to our travels during free weekends 🙂