Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Italy Part II (Pisa, Florence and Bologna)

Still on Day 5:
After leaving the utopia known as Cinqueterre, we spent the afternoon in Pisa. Truthfully, aside from the center of town and the actual tower and surrounding buildings, Pisa is tourable in a half a day or less. But that is not to say that the tower and architecture of other buildings were not breath-taking and totally worth it!

View from base of the tower:

This guy was awesome. He could design anything with one hand and a tiny set of pliers and a coil of wire. From your name, to the a mini Leaning Tower of Pisa, to a bicycle, to a heart picture frame, et cetera. He was just so intensely handy and thoughtful. Very Italian as well. Heh.

That night, we arrived in Florence, exhausted beyond belief. We crashed early and got ready for a full day of touring the next day...

Day 6:

First things first, we found some parking in Florence and happened to find a spot near Florence's Arc de Triumph, which was pretty convenient as a locator for later that day.

We then promptly reserved our times for the two museums on our crucial to-do list: Uffizi and Academia, where Michelangelo's David rests. I was told repeatedly, "No pheeoto, no pheeoto!" but I took "phoooto." His hands, feet and head are enormously out of proportion to his body. It is awkward. "Perfect" my butt.

Some views of Florence:

Though this city was incredible what with the mountains of statues and museums loaded with historical and artistic treasures, it was not the most aesthetically pleasing city I have seen, especially in Italy where places like Cinqueterre exist!

Day 7:

Dog-tired and just about ready to be home, we had one more stop. Our last day was in Bologna where Sara, Francesco and Marco took the train up to meet us and have one last authentic Italian meal with us. We went to a restaurant recommended by a few Italians (see: Food Porn) and feasted to our heart's content. Bologna, like Padua and my city of Granada, is a student town but much larger and more chaotic than the former two. They had this massive market which reminded me a bit of the Camden Town Markets in London. I loved it!

After dinner, we were even sleepier. We parted with Sara and her friends at the train station and that was definitely a bummer. It's the last time I'll see her until I return to Europe. :( But I certainly will return!

We all passed out around 9 p.m. to get up at 4 a.m. for our Bologna-Sevilla flight the following day. Once home, I claimed the map we used on our epic road trip through Northern Italy and traced our path. It was much longer than I thought! I kept my feet in the shot to show you how HUGE this map is and how invariably HUGE our trip was.

And so concludes the epic Italian journey. It was such a good trip. The company was great! The guests/hosts were wonderful! And I spoke in Spanish the entire time, as that was the common language with our Italian friends and of course, Fernando and Miguel. I felt some improvement for being so immersed and having so few English-speakers around.
613 pages read
256 photos taken
62 pages written
8 cities
1 country
Yep. Successful Semana Santa, indeed. :]

For more photos, visit my Facebook albums:

Italy Part I (Venice, Padua, Verona and Cinqueterre)

Day 1:
After a night in Sevilla and an EARLY flight to Bologna, Fernando, Miguel, Arisa and I arrived in Italy on Sunday, April 17. We picked up the hybrid mini-SUV rental car and headed straight for Venice. We immediately stopped at a MediaMart (Europe's BestBuy) for an auxiliary cable to blast tunes from all four of our iPods. We visited the island a bit that night for dinner (see: previous Food Porn entry) and to experience the island at night. There was a huge harvest moon our first night and it took my breath away as it reflected on the Italian Mediterranean.

Day 2:
In the morning and early afternoon, we explored the canals and little shops nestled in the alley ways. This particular day in Venice, our trip overlapped with Alex, Chelsea and her mom's Italy trip, so we got to meet up with them in the afternoon and spend the day exploring and eating (eating, eating) with them. It's always so cool to reunite with people outside of Spain, but still in Europe Kind of trippy.

Riding a gondola across the Grand Canal:

Views of Venice (and yours truly):

Day 3:
We drove to Padua but first stopped at Jesolo Beach to play some frisbee and soak up some sun. In the course of all the days we spent at the beach (three total, I believe) I read a 600-page novel. Typical. But seriously, best part of the beach. ANYWAY, we stopped at the beach but eventually made it to the Tibetan House Bed and Breakfast in Padua.

Me being "domestic" and making coffee for the others.

Around 9 p.m., we met up with our friend Sara who lives just outside of Padua. She lived with us last semester in Spain and once had her boyfriend and friend visit us (Francesco and Marco) who also showed us around Padua. We ate at this fantastic restaurant (see: Food Porn) and they showed us the ropes of the student town of Padua. I loved it. It was like an Italian Granada. I felt very at home.

Dinner with our real live Italians:

View of senate-like building near the centro:

Day 4:
After we had our fill of Padua, we hopped back into the pirate ship and found ourselves in fair Verona where we lay our scene! First stop: the House of Juliet, of course. I wish I could post each picture on this blog, but that would be ridiculous. (If you look at my Facebook album, you can see all of them.) But here's a bit of the house:

Part of outside wall on the way in, covered in "letters to Juliet":

The infamous boudoir:

Views of Verona:

That night, after a 4-hour windy, tunnel-filled drive, we made it to the hidden set of 5 pueblos known as Cinqueterre, which means "five earths" in Italian. I am moving here one day and writing a book. I am usually a big-city kind of girl, but this place was both a labyrinth and a paradise. I fell in love.

Day 5:

We explored Cinqueterre and a few of its pueblos a bit more. We climbed up a hill and saw this 11th century castle! Incredible!

Views of the pueblo Levanto in Cinqueterre:

Later that day, after basking in a couple beaches for a few hours, we stopped in Pisa for the afternoon. Get ready for the second blog, folks!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Italian Food Porn

I have a TON to discuss, but before I blog about all of the cities I visited in Northern Italy, I want to get one thing straight: the food was damn near the best part of this trip. No exaggeration. So just to infuriate those of you who are hungry, I am going to share shots of all the food I ate whilst traveling Italy. Let's get started.

First night, I ate the gnocchi while Miguel had pizza with artichokes and Fernando had the calzone:

In Venice the following day, I had a healthy breakfast of bakery pizza, followed by a real Italian latte later, and finally finished the day with spaghetti pomodoro.

The next day we traveled to Padua (or Padova, in Italian) and met an old housemate Sara, and her boyfriend Francesco and friend Marco. I had met them all in Granada before. Marco is a a chef and helped us all order our dinner at a very authentic/non-touristy restaurant in Padua. I had a pizza with cream sauce and prosciutto and mushroom. He also ordered white wine for us and it was the best I have ever had. It is called "prosecco" or "frizzantino." We went to a famous gelato shop called Grom where I (no exaggeration, again) had the best gelato I have ever tasted. The pistachio was like pure, creamed pistachios. It blew my mind! They topped it with this incredibly thick whipped cream and a biscotti-like cookie. Drooling again. Later we stopped by a bar and they bought us all a very Italian, very youthful drink called a "spritz". So delicious!

A couple days later in Florence, Arisa and I had a lovely lunch outside of a quaint restaurant, slightly off the beaten path. She had salmon pasta and I gorged on yet another pizza with mushroom. The crust was the best part. So perfect.

Our last day in Italy was spent in Bologna where Sara, Francesco and Marco met us just to say goodbye. They even took a 2 hour train to see us. We went to a restaurant recommended by multiple Italians and were pleased to again find zero English on the menu. Authentic, indeed. I ordered the spinach tortellini and was not disappointed. :]

And here ends your dose of food porn.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Road trip: Italian style.

I'm currently googling Northern Italy weather, gas prices this week, sipping on a smoothie I made from virtually every leftover fruit and vegetable I had in my fridge (waste not, want not), memorizing Italian phrases and trying to figure out what to pack WHILST blogging. I should definitely sacrifice this entry for some realistic preparation, but I'l give you a quick rundown.

Tonight, Fernando, Miguel, Arisa and I drive to Sevilla and stay the night there, to fly out of Sevilla at 10 tomorrow morning to fly into Bologna, Italy! We will spend one night there, rent a car and off we go!

April 16: Bologna
April 17-18: Venice
April 19: Padua (and Happy Anniversary, parents!)
April 20: Cinque Terre
April 21-22: Florence
April 23: Fly back to Sevilla

I'm going to sit back, let the Spaniards drive the manual rental car, and take entirely too many photos. That and eat my weight in carbs.

On a side note, I had one of the best weeks in Spain ever. I didn't travel outside of Granada. I didn't take an exciting tour. I didn't meet anyone famous. It was just the best. :]

Feliz Pascua y que tengas una Semana Santa perfecta!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Poet Bus Driver

Every day, past the same cubist street lamps, dangling over Gran Vía’s wide avenue
Every day, through windy Cartuja, littered with fliers, “For Rent,” “Missing,” “Translator for Hire”
Every day, up and down hills lined with passive students becoming his every stop
And if I should be so lucky,
I will take a thirteen minute bus ride with the next John Keates.
I count the beats of his habitual movements – his timing in a perfect iambic pentameter,
I observe him discreetly so he’ll never know my analysis.
My poet bus driver drives me mad.
He’s hard at work until the caesura of the Almighty Red Light, when I catch him sneaking scribbles in his notebook,
And humbly scribes to a distant muse in Spanish fragments.
Though to the untrained eye, he is simply tallying his route or total transit passes sold today
But I know the truth,
I see how his mind wanders in traffic and recites his own additions to Lorca’s greatest works.
And one day, I’ll slip him a note as I pay for my fare
Telling him how I see his talent,
How I’ve practically studied his work
But he will probably assume it’s an old receipt or gum wrapper,
And toss my confession to the floor.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Photographic Injustice

My pictures really can't properly express how perfect this city is. I live in a paradise, truthfully.

A friend of mine found this video on YouTube which so perfectly depicts Granada (in a couple minutes, if that's possible). It's in Spanish, but to summarize it for you, the speaker basically says it's an "oriental jewel" of Europe and the Arabic and mysterious influences make it what it is.


Please watch! It's fantastic. :] ¡Viva Grana!

Sunday, April 3, 2011


Finally, after seven months, I made it to a futbol game outside of a bar. :] It was Granada versus Cartagena 2-1. YES! Granada is a second division team, but as a friend of mine said, second division futbol in Spain is like first division everywhere else. It was actually a really good game.

Charlotte (new Dutch roommate of mine, who is a doll) and I bought the tickets for ourselves, Alex, Chelsea, Brandon, Natasha and Joakim the other day. We climbed up these stairs in this apartment with odd lighting. We both definitely thought we were about to bust a drug deal. Great people though! We ended up getting seats on the, more or less, ground level but dead center. I was more than content.

The game started off with Granada scoring within the first 15 minutes. We were all trying so incredibly hard to learn the chant that the Spaniards were singing. "Something something something JUEGA something something something CAMPIONES something something GRANA GRANA GRANA!" We should be professional translators. All of us.

And as for team spirit, we were ON it. Charlotte provided us with face paint because she's a thinker. The ladies (the guys were WAY too embarrassed) painted our faces after a little deliberation as to whether the team is Granada Futbol Club or Granada Club Futbol. We got it right. :]

There were some hooligans that went all out. I can't explain how impressive their synchronized chants, dances, gestures, signs, and scarves were. All we could think was, "Can we hang out with YOU guys!?"

In summation, I have never sworn in Spanish so much in my life. Maybe more than the 7-year-old kid next to me. And that kid had the mouth of a sailor. And it was hilarious. Only in Spain.