Nice is Nice

The school had the final trip to Nice, France for the weekend of Easter. We took a bus so transportation was included which was really nice. It took seven hours to get from Florence to Nice, but it was fun because the GIF group has become so close.

Friday morning we had a three-hour walking tour through old town Nice. It was one of the best tours I have been on, mostly because the tour guide was really fun and everything he was telling us was interesting. We hiked through the local market, saw an old French palace, hiked to the top of the hill to get great views of the city, and ended in a big square (I forget the name). Our tour guide told us that the city is the least French like city in all of France. It has a big influence from Italy mostly in architecture and in the food. A lot of the buildings here have fake windows frescoed on to make the buildings look more balanced.

After the tour and lunch, most of us from the program went to the beach. It was SO cold and about twenty people got in the water, I do not know how they got in the water because it was literally freezing, and probably only 63 degrees out. We looked like the crazy Americans who don’t get to see water enough.

I also got to see Kelsey Cycan again! We just happened to be in the same town at the same time. We visited in the park and exchanged some more trip stories.

Friday night my dad showed up! It was so exciting! I tried to brag that I am really good at reading maps, and then of course I jinxed myself trying to find the parking garage. We went to a really cute restaurant on the main strip in Old Town and it was the first time I was legally drinking wine (US legal) with my dad.

On Saturday, my dad and I rented a moped and drove up the coast to Monaco. It was a windy day but such a beautiful coastline! I felt like I should’ve been in a James Bond Movie! We had lunch by the casino, walked around, and then headed back. For dinner, he took Carly, Cammy, Montana and me to dinner. We had a great time telling him stories about trips and what not.

On Easter Sunday, Faja and I had brunch at a little crepe café. We walked around the city to get some exercise and we checked out a few of the churches but they were packed! We ended up laying on the beach and getting the worst tan lines of our lives because we just layed in our clothes.Kate and Matt Munther showed up later that night…just in time for dinner! We went to the most amazing restaurant ever, everything had truffles!!!

On Monday, we took another stop in Monaco and then on to Florence. We hit four hours of traffic just getting to Genova so we stopped in Lucca for dinner at Buca di San Antonio. The best part was the wine tasted like butter! Oh and I had more truffles in a bowl of pasta…


Both on their phones….

Then they fell asleep….


Gobble, Gobble

On Friday, Carly and I left for spring break. We detoured from the rest of the group who left for Santorini, Greece by first visiting Istanbul, Turkey. We trained to Milan and had a direct flight into Istanbul.

Istanbul was amazing! We had an hour drive and traffic to get to our hostel (traffic reminded us of LA). We stayed at the Bahaus Hostel, which was two blocks away from the Blue Mosque. We drove in and were in awe that we were so close! We checked into our hostel and went to get dinner because we were so hungry. This man approached us about his restaurant on the roof of the hotel with a view of the city, so we decided to try it out. It was pretty good and of course the views were amazing.

On Saturday morning, Carly and I headed straight to the Grand Bazaar. It was huge! It is the largest open market in the world! And we were able to spend less then two hours in there (we had had practice in Morocco, which is the third largest in the world). The shops in the Bazaar were fascinating though! There were scarves, lamps, clothes, fake designer brands, sheets, towels, table clothes, jewelry…basically anything you could imagine! We left the bazaar and got lunch at this little Turkey restaurant. I had a vegetarian kebob, which was really good and nice to get some vegetables in my stomach!

Following lunch we visited the Blue Mosque. It was interesting because it is actually still used today. Men were able to walk through into the front of the church and pray, while the women were stuck in the back and had to have their heads covered. Even for us we had to take our shoes off and cover our heads. It was very interesting. We went back to the hostel and took a short nap.

After our nap we were on a hunt for something sweet. We asked a friend on the corner a good place for dessert and he told us on the other side of the river. So we took a walk through the park and across the bridge and on the other side of the water, and we ended up not ever finding the place he was talking about. However, we found a little café where you picked your meal and sat down to have them bring it to you. We bought four desserts and shared them (we wanted to immerse ourselves in the Turkish culture) and then we were still hungry and we decided to order more food. We didn’t realize how much food we really ordered and we couldn’t even finish it!

Our hostel held events throughout the weekend and on Saturday night they had a pub crawl where we paid 5euro and were taken to the bar scene. It ended up not really being a pub crawl, and Carly and I ended up leaving because we just wanted to eat and waffles are a nightlife specialty food in Istanbul.

On Sunday we met up with Carly’s friend from high school’s best friend in college (if that makes sense). She took us to a good local Turkish restaurant and then we visited the Asian side of Istanbul. On the other side of the river, we drank some tea but didn’t do too much more. We ate kebobs for dinner and went to sleep early for our early flight to Greece!

Viva espagna (Part II)

I went on a school trip to Sevilla, Spain the second weekend of March. We had to buy our own transportation there, so Cassie and I flew together and had a layover in Barcelona where we switched airports and got to be back in the city. It was really nice to have been there the weekend before just because we knew the city pretty well.

On Friday morning, we had a four-hour walking tour around Sevilla. We visited the Jewish quarters, the Spainish Cathedral, and Plaza de Espana. We went to Starbucks probably three times just in this day because we missed walking around with coffee cups. It sounds really sad, but I guess it’s the simple things in life that makes us happy.


The school provided dinner for us as well as a Flamenco show. It was sort of funny because they’re moves were so dramatic. It was very entertaining all in all.

On Saturday the school took a trip to Cordoba, but Cassie, Rachel, and I stayed to visit with Kelsey Cycan (my freshman roommate from LMU who transferred back to University of Maryland)! I was so excited to see her and she was able to show us around the city to all of her favorite places!

Kelsey took us down to the river where we drank Sangria in the sun and then took a paddleboat ride down the river. We went to a little restaurant for lunch and had Tapas. We took naps later that afternoon and met back up with Kelsey for dinner at a Japanese restaurant (because we could not eat any more tapas). Kelsey and I went to the local bar scene and had a mojito, but we didn’t stay for long because we were both so tired from a long week. It was so great to see her though!

On Sunday, Cassie and I left early out of Sevilla but had a long layover in Barcelona. It was really nice because we were able to go to MILK (our favorite brunch place in Barcelona)! It was a very exciting day because we then spent the afternoon at Starbucks with a coffee, free wifi, and comfortable couches to get some homework done.

Siena, San Gimaniagno, Cinque Terra, & Lucca

I apologize for being so far behind in blogging! Renie and Andrea arrived last week and between visitors and school it is hard to get blogging time in!

Last Tuesday, the three of us walked up to Piazza Michelangelo and got beautiful views of Florence!

Last Wednesday, they came with me on my school tour to the Pitti Palace. It was really fun, and they enjoyed saying they went to the Gonzaga University for a day!

Following the tour, we took a day trip to Siena and San Gimaniagno. We took the bus so it was sort of a rough drive but it was an adventure! We visited the Cathedral in Siena and the palace where they have the horse races.

In San Gimaniagno, we climbed up to the top of the tower and got beautiful views of the Tuscan hillsides! After our little bit of exercise, we thought it would be good to have some gelato! And we went to the best gelato place worldwide!

On Thursday, we headed up to the Cinque Terra. We stayed in Manarola for two nights, but were able to visit each of the five towns. The town that had been destroyed by the mudslide was very sad, however, was constantly being worked on. Due to rockslides, the only trail open was the love trail, so we got to be lazy and take the train from town to town.

Saturday morning we visited Ponte Venerre and walked up to the church. We had to take a bus here and it was quite an experience. We all felt a little sick from the driving and the fact that the bus was packed with people!

Saturday night we stayed in Lucca at Hotel Universo! We were able to do some shopping, eat dinner, and get gelato (where the owner made me speak Italian to him and it was a complete failure)!

On Sunday, Renie and I went to mass for Palm Sunday. We first went to Michele Church but there was a palm parade (even though we held olive branches) and we walked with the group to the Cathedral. It was a packed service because the Bishop was there giving mass. We barely understood anything but were able to follow because it was similar to most Catholic masses.

We ended up back in Florence Sunday afternoon with enough time for me to get some homework done!

!Hola Spagna ~ Barcelona!

A few weekends ago, my friends and I went to Barcelona. It was a really fun trip. There ended up being nearly 20 of us that went on the trip, so it was a little crazy at times. Carly, Tom and I ended up leaving the group to do our own things because it is so hard to get anything accomplished with 20 people in a big city.

On Thursday, we arrived in the afternoon and checked into our hostel. We then walked to a really good sandwich place where we had to wait in line for an hour but it was totally worth it. The sandwich place was near the beach so after we ate we walked to the beach. It was a beautiful beach, and I had no idea that Barcelona would’ve had such a thing. I felt like I was on vacation in Hawaii or something (except it was cold). Carly and I met up with a friend who we met in Morocco for dinner Thursday night. It was really fun to be able to catch up with her and getting some good tips on where to go, what to eat, and everything else in Barcelona.

On Friday, Carly, Tom, and I got up and went on a double-Decker bus through ALL of Barcelona. And when I say all, I mean all! We did both routes and got off at about half of them. It was really fun to be able to see the Sagrada Famiglia, the cathedral, the Olympic stadium, the port, Park Guelle, and much more!


On Saturday and Sunday morning we went to this amazing breakfast restaurant. I had the best eggs Florentine of my life! The owner started the restaurant with students studying abroad in mind who miss American big breakfasts, and it is amazing! We all visited the Picasso Museum after brunch. It was very interesting, however, there wasn’t any of his big works in this museum, but the history and development of Picasso was very interesting.


And I wonder why I am gaining weight (check next photo):

Saturday night, a group of us went to the Barcelona futbol game! It was so much fun. It sort of reminded me of an LSU football game, but there was a soccer field in the middle of the stadium. It was not as crazy as I imagined it to be but it was so much fun. And they won which always makes a sports event exciting!

Before flying out on Sunday morning before we flew out and after breakfast, we went and stalked the W hotel. It overlooked the beach and as always, there were green apples available!

Bargello Museum

The Bargello was one of my favorite historic sites we have visited in Florence. I loved how there were so many famous artists and great historic pieces from those artists. On the first floor there is Michelangelo’s high renaissance works. The Druken Bacchus sculpted in 1497 was most likely commissioned by Cardinal Raphael Riario and displayed in Jacapo Galli’s Antiquarium. It is a fascinating piece. Michelangelo made the sculpture look drunk, as if it is going to stumble over at any minute. It has hair of grapes and symbolizes how one should drink in moderation. In comparison to Giambologna’s Bacchus created in 1560, Michelangelo’s is unstable and drunk. Giambologna’s is calm and looking down. It’s stance is more solid and stable.

Michelangelo’s Pitti Madonna was carved in 1504 for Bartolommeo Pitti. It’s unfinished surface reminds me of Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child on the Stairs. They both have a similar structure, but compared to one another, you can see the change and growth in Michelangelo’s art. The Pitti Madonna has a lot more depth and definition.

I really liked Baccio Bandinelli’s Adam and Eve statues created in 1550. They were large, created for the high altar of Florence’s Cathedral. Baccio imitated Michelangelo’s figures without their expressive force. The statues were removed from the altar because they disturbed the faithful. The statues were very nice, however, a bit unproportional. Their bodies were carved very well but did not have the muscular defintion as Michelangelo’s David.

Giambologna’s Mercury is an uplifting statue that was built in 1565. It is a bronze piece that is balancing on a gust of wind coming out of Putto’s mouth. It is meant to be seen from all sides. The finger of the statue was once broken off, and if you look close enough you can see where it had to be fixed.

Giambologna’s Turkey, Eagle, Owl were very interesting because these were amongst the first carvings I have seen that were animals. They were executed for the Medici fountain.

In class we have learned about the Sacrifice of Isaac competition panels built in 1401-1402 many times. Lorenzo Ghiberti created one of the doors and Filippo Brunelleschi did the other. Both scenes included the sacrifice of Isaac and it came down to Ghiberti winning the competition. There was an offer for both of them to work on the bronze doors, however Brunelleschi had too much pride to do so. This is around the time when he switched to architecture. Both panels were amazing however; Ghiberti’s panel had three different scenes. Each separated so it wasn’t as crowded. It also had a lot more depth so the scene was scene more clearly then Brunelleschi’s.

Donatello’s first David created in 1406 is located in the Bargello as well. It was built for one of the buttresses of the cathedral. It was placed in front of the Palazzo della Signoria. Donatello’s St. George created 1415-1417 was done for minor guild niche of Armourers and Swordmakers at Orsanmichele. The relief was St. George and the Dragon introduced “riliveo schiacciato”. Donatello’s second David was created in 1425-40. This is the first freestanding bronze nude since classical antiquity. It is adorable and represents the true David in the bible, unlike Michelangelo’s, which is way to old.

Luca della Robbia also is in the Bargello. His Madonna and Child created in 1450, shows the glazed terracotta reliefs with blue background and white figures. He started this style because he was competing with some of the most influential artists to the Renaissance at this period. So he created art that was affordable. His art can be seen all throughout Florence.


Afrika, Moroccan Style!

Three weekends ago, my friend Carly and I visited Morocco. We went through a travel company called Bus2Alps, and thank goodness we did because it could have been a little sketch if we were alone.

In order to get to Morocco, we had to take a train at 6:30am to Milan, another train to Albergo, a bus to the airport, Ryan Air flight to Dusseldorf, and a final flight to Marrakech. And through all of the travel, the trip was completely worth it!

On Friday we started the day off with a tour of the city. We walked through many many streets full of shops selling jewelry, spices, clothes, shoes, meat, lamps, and everything else you can imagine! We went into a palace and school of Islam. The architecture was amazing and so different then Europe.

Following the tour we visited a Moroccan pharmacy. I thought this was going to be boring, because it started off as just an explanation of the spices of Morocco, but then the man started introducing natural cures for everything you can imagine! And of course I was suckered into buying it all! I got the Moroccan green/mint tea, weight loss tea (will need it after study abroad), Moroccan cosmetic oil, acne cream, ginseng oil (cures headaches), cold medicine, and more! And it’s all-natural! There was also a 20 DIR massage, aka 2 euro! Couldn’t miss that either!

We got sandwiches for lunch and then split up into separate activities. The majority of the group went canyoning, but a group of us went Dune Bugging through the desert instead.

It was so much fun driving again…until it started raining. It rained and we got wet, as we started to dry, it rained again. When it stopped raining we hit a muddy area where we got covered in mud! Which would have been a lot of fun if we had more clothes, but they were one of our two pairs of pants! Luckily for the last part of the trip we were given jackets and stayed dry until we got back.

The trip through the desert was amazing. It’s fascinating the lives that people live. The small hut that is surrounded by garbage, and the fact they did not have cars still baffles me. We literally saw multiple men with their donkeys to get into town and real life Sheppard’s herding their sheep. Living in such a civilized society keeps me from realizing how a third world country is living. It was really an experience.

After the tour, Carly and I went and got Moroccan pants since we had nothing else. I got bright yellow and Carly got purple (LSU colors). We also spent a lot of time bargaining for jewelry and other goods! The shopping was just fabulous!

We had dinner at a Moroccan Restaurant. I ate cous cous with vegatables, various meats, and a salad. The food was really good! There were belly dancers who came in and put a show on as well.

On Saturday, we drove an hour out of the city to ride camels. I made a new friend with the baby camel, and as I was standing there the mother turned around and bit me! It was crazy! I knew they spit but not biting! I decided not to ride on that camel but rather on another named Fatima. Carly and I shared because there weren’t enough for everyone. We rode for a good ten minutes and that was plenty long enough. It was not the most comfortable ride.

Following the camel rides we had tea at a Burma house. We were also given homemade bread, butter, honey, and oil. It was amazing. We had the option of getting henna from a ten-year-old girl too.

We went on a hike up the in the mountains and saw a waterfall. It wasn’t a huge waterfall, but we got a good workout and saw beautiful views as well.

That night we had dinner in the main square. Within all the chaos, we sat down for an amazing meal. We got the traditional meal as we had the night before, but it was still just as good because their food is so natural and light.

Overall, Morocco was an amazing experience! I don’t think I will go back, so I went all out and tried to see everything while I was there. The only thing I missed and I want to go back for is a visit to the Sahara Desert.

Mardi Gras, Carnevale Style!

This weekend in the United States is Mardi Gras, but in Italy they have a whole other style of celebration the beginning of lent: carnivale style!

We visited Venice this weekend because it is known for the spectacular crowds and costumes for carnivale. It was completely true, however, there can never be a weekend without something going wrong. We were planning on leaving for Venice Friday morning and coming home Sunday morning, train tickets already purchased. We booked a hostel, The Venice Museum, in the middle of January ready for Carnivale; however, Thursday night we got an email cancelling our reservation because “the heater was broken”. We personally think they double booked and decided to keep the people paying more then us who had planned in advance and had a better price. So we scurried to find something, but with a group of 8 girls, it was really hard to find something affordable. We split into two groups, and the group I was in split a room on Hotwire for less than our hostel was going to be! We had to sneak two of the girls in, but we stayed at the Molino Stucky Hilton, somewhat of a replay of Budapest except for we could not even afford a cup of tea at this hotel, it was 8 euro!!!

The weekend turned out really fun. San Marco square was packed with people. There was a stage with runway competitions of people’s costumes and also a few dance performances. It was insane that such a huge event was taking place in front of historic churches and palaces. I honestly thought Doge’s Palace was going to fall down from the speakers!

The weather was amazing this weekend and the sun was out! On Saturday, there were just so many people that it was really frustrating to try and go anywhere. When we woke up to leave this morning on the train, we saw normal students like us, just sleeping in the streets of Venice. It was quite the party!

It’s been pretty nice because we now have figured out a great way to save money. We only allow ourselves to pay for one meal a day, and go to the grocery store and just buy fruit and food for sandwiches. It’s pretty awesome, but I don’t think I’m going to be able to eat any prosciutto and bread for a long time once I’m back in the states!

My Nose is Hungarian

Last weekend I visited Budapest. It was a school trip, however, we all flew there and had met at the hotel. I flew with my roommate Montana, and we had a layover in Munich. It was really nice because we were able to get a large salad and carrot juice at the airport and it really started the weekend off right!

Our layover turned into a delayed flight, and thank goodness because a man started having a heart attack while we were waiting for the plane. If it had not been delayed we would’ve had to have to land between Munich and Budapest.

While waiting for the flight, I looked over and noticed this person standing to the side of me had a very similar nose shape as I do. I turned and looked around, and believe it or not, but EVERYONE had the same nose as me! I asked Montana to check and she was baffled that it was true! I have a Hungarian nose! I felt a connection to Hungry before I even landed…these were my people!


We made it into Budapest around 1am and took a cab to our hotel. The hotel ended up being a five star luxury hotel, The Corinthia Hotel. There was a buffet style breakfast, free wi-fi, a gym, and a spa we were allowed to use! It was heavenly! Especially when it was so cold outside (-6 Celsius)!! Basically, Hungry was very cheap.

On Friday we went on tours around the city. We saw churches and historic sites. It was really cold so I wasn’t able to obtain very much information, however, the architecture of the city was amazing!

We went to the House of Terror, which really wasn’t that scary. It was really scattered and jumped time periods, so it was hard to clearly understand what was going on. Basically, it was a museum about the communist government in Hungry and how Germany and the holocaust affected Hungry. We went to dinner with a group of students later that night, and I had the best meal since being abroad: grilled salmon over creamed spinach with mashed potatoes (only 10 euro)!!!!

On Saturday we continued tours and saw even more beautiful views of the city.  We visited the central market, which was really cool. It had food on the bottom floor, like fresh groceries, and lunch food and souvenirs up top. The place didn’t have any heat so we didn’t stay to long. We also decided to save money and walked back to our hotel. It was a thirty-minute walk and we couldn’t feel our limbs, but it was ok when we had the spa to go back to.

For dinner, the school had planned a cooking class for all the students on the trip. We made all sorts of Hungarian foods and each and every one of them was amazing!! We made goulash, garlic meat loaf with hard-boiled eggs, stuffed peppers, cherry creamed soup, creamy mushroom paprikish, chicken paprikish, apple struddle, and chocolate and vanilla sponge cake (sorry for the spelling errors). My friends and I were really worried there wouldn’t be enough food for everyone so we ran around the kitchen grabbing everything we could get onto two plates, wolfed the food down, went back for seconds, and did the same thing with the desert. Let’s just say we were all in a food coma the rest of the night. In order to save money we would stuff ourselves at breakfast and at dinner and eat fruit for lunch that we took from the morning buffet…it worked out pretty well.

Budapest was amazing! It was really cold, but completely worth the trip. The sites were beautiful and the history mind-blowing!  I would definitely make a trip back when it’s warmer, like late spring!

Casa Buonarroti: The Home of Michelangelo (Buonarroti)

On Wednesday, we visited the home of Michelangelo Buonarroti, also called Casa Buonarroti. He purchased this house in 1508 after he returned to Florence from Bologna. Over the next ten years, Michelangelo enlarged the house by adjoining two neighboring houses. His nephew, Leonardo Buonarroti, lived in the house and turned the three houses into a single palazzo. Leonardo’s son created the present appearance. In the palazzo there are three main windows to look in from each side and even a fake window to balance the appearance. Cosimo, the last Buonarroti, gave the palace to Florence when he died childless in 1858. Since 1964, Casa Buonarroti has been a museum.

On the ground floor, there is a collection of Etuscan and Roman Urns. They are all very small pieces of art compared to what I have seen in previous museums. The collection shows the appreciation of art in history because they are antiques. There were paintings of the Buonarroti collection, many based on Michelangelo’s work. The paintings were not as detailed in anatomy as Michelangelo’s future paintings, but told stories of myths.

Upon coming upstairs, there is the sword of Buonarroto Buonarroti, captain of the Parte Guelfa in 1392. The room next door creates some of the very first artworks of Michelangelo. Michelangelo moved into the Medici palace in the beginning of his teen years Donatello saw his talent. Michelangelo began sculpture art in the Medici Sculpture Garden. In 1489-92, Michelangelo created the Madonna of the Stairs. This relief was done in riliveo schiacciato taught to him by Donatello’s pupil Bertoldo. Up close, the relief does not seem to have much depth, however, when you take a few steps back, the intensity of each outline is amazing.  The Madonna in the relief is a bit unequal in her calves; good to know Michelangelo even made mistakes. Also around this time, Michelangelo created his Battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs, 1489-92. The theme was suggested to him by Agnolo Poliziano, tutor of Lorenzo’s children. The details of muscles and the anatomy of the body are fascinating. The art is a symbol of not to drink more than you can handle and to allow your mind to lead your body. It is suspected that Michelangelo, even around the age of fourteen, has such an interest in the necessity of anatomy in his art.

Also on the second floor, there were rooms glorifying Michelangelo. Multiple artists created scenes of his life, such as the presentation of projects for San Lorenzo to Leo X, presentation of the model for St. Peter’s to Pope Paul III, and composing his poems. The entire room was covered in paintings, even the ceiling. Part of the room we could not walk on because the tiles and marble were falling apart. There was another room that glorified Michelangelo and it symbolized night and day. There were stories of the Buonarroti family and a bronze portrait of Michelangelo by one of his pupils, Daniele da Volterra.

During the 16th century, wealthy families had chapels in their houses and the priest would come to the house for mass. Casa Buonarroti had a chapel with a beautiful ceiling and a miniature dome-like structure in the middle.  There were frescos with Florentine saints and an inlaid altar with Holy Family, designed by Calenzuoli from a design by Pietro da Cortona.

The library was in the next room, where Illustrious Florentines were painted on the higher part of the walls. There are many Florentines on the walls; they all circle the room looking into the center where we were standing. The powder room is the last room on the second floor. There are signs that show how toilets had yet to be invented, and therefore were not present in the room. However, there was art, such as the Discobolus original by Myron 450 BC.

Downstairs, there is a new area that is dedicated to festivities done in honor of Michelangelo for the fourth centennial of his birth. There are sculptures that embrace the practice and usefulness of anatomy in the art of the human body. Michelangelo in his younger years, spent days in a mortuary dissecting cadavers in order to understand anatomy to a fuller extent. The stories of Michelangelo are fascinating because it shows how much he truly enjoyed his profession.