Sunday, April 14, 2013

List and More Lists, The Final Goodbye.

So I‘m sitting here, my last night in Florence wondering where has time gone?  This departure from my Florentine home has really caught me off guard. Yes, for the past 3 months I was well aware I would be leaving early April, but now that I leave tomorrow, it doesn’t feel quite real.

Over the past few days, I’ve luckily got to see some of the most perfect views of Florence. I wanted to show the best of Florence to my parents, and honestly, it’s painful to leave this city.  I love Florence.  It’s the perfect mix of old and new, tradition and innovation.  I wish I could pick Florence up and bring it to the United States.  So here is a short list of what I truly will miss about my favorite European city:

-the view from Piazza Michelangelo, the Duomo, and Frisole
-the margherita pizza from Gusta Pizza
-how close Zara was to my house
-actually how close my house was to EVERYTHING
-my favorite American bar: Uncle Jimmy’s
-the fact that I could get coconut and strawberry gelato
-the Italian language
-AND the fact that I can legally drink

Just reading through this list makes me sad.  But would I stay any longer if I had the chance? Honestly, probably not.  I am so excited to go home, for so many reasons:

-the fact I get to see Erika and Marissa in a week (!), Rach and Allie a week later
-my mom’s cooking
-the steak burrito at Chipotle
-chick-fil-a in general
-sport and health and UREC
-all of my lovely friends at JMU
-my bed. my room. my car. Copper Beech.
-the fact that everyone will speak English
-my routine; including the building Zane Showker
-the fact that I can cook when I choose
-AND the food network

This experience has been life changing, and I truly wouldn’t change a thing.  Sure, I have definitely had my ups and downs but overall I really did enjoy living abroad.  Now it’s time to live it up back home.  After traveling so much in Europe, I really am inspired to travel in the United States. The cities I would love to visit include:

-Nashville, Tennessee for my 21st birthday
-Boston, Massachusetts
-Miami, Florida

Of course, this all depending on if I get a decent job this summer, fingers crossed.  I still haven’t decided on if I am going to continue writing in this blog after this post (originally it was for just for my Florentine adventure), but honestly, writing is such a stress reliever for me.  So let’s hope I make the time for this baby.  Because I am pretty proud of it.

Thank you for reading.  Even if this is your first time reading.  I really appreciate it. 

Hopefully you’ll hear from me soon.  


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Florentine Favorites: Corinne's Top 3

First off, if you are reading this, thank you.  This past weekend several people told me they read my blog post, and I was so flattered and slightly embarrassed.  I guess I don't realize that people actually read my writing, and it's such a compliment.  I hope my short episodes have gave you some insight into my life/point of view, and if not the insight, then some humor.

After reading over my last post, I felt it sort of had a bitter, cynical tone towards Italy.  That's not at all what I was going for and I truly do love Italian culture.  Sure, I disagree with a lot of style decisions, moral decisions, and overall everyday decisions, but that's life.

Overall, the culture is fascinating.  So different than the United States and I think I just love the United States because it's home.  It's where I was raised; I love it there.  But here is an experience.  I not only had to learn how to deal with no Chipotle, no close friends, no JMU, but the language barrier was a huge obstacle. Along with the language barrier, there's a social barrier. It is hard to get to know anyone Italian.  So I really learned how to be independent here, which is a big step.  And through this process I found so many special surprises that I will miss everyday.  Most of these things are so small and insignificant; but that's what makes up the experience for me.  These little places; moments; foods, this is what Italy is to me. What makes this place special.

So here it is; my top 3 for Florence (not in any specific order):

1. My walk to school.  Honestly, I didn't research Florence too much and I definitely didn't research where I would be living. I knew I was close to Gucci, which gave me some joy, although I knew I would never enter the store.  After being here I realize, those stores are fun to gaze into, but add no real beauty to Florence.  Crossing any of the bridges on the other hand.  It's like a postcard.  And I was lucky enough to have a bridge to cross on my short walk to school.  The view is amazing.  After a while I got used to it, but only recently, when I realized I'm leaving, have I truly began to appreciate the view again. sigh.

2. Osteria Santo Spirito- Spicy Garlic Pasta.  I love food, if you have been following this blog at all you would definitely know this.  Approaching Osteria Santo Spirito, you would never expect it to have the best food in Florence.  The exterior is quaint, with an outdoor seating area (lit with tiny string light bulbs), the interior is small and painted a deep red so it always looks dark but warm.  The first time I went, I ordered the cheapest dish (typical college student), the spicy garlic pasta.  When the food finally arrived, I was overwhelmed with the size of the dish.  The plate itself is a gorgeous multicolored platter, with a pile of pasta: tons on olive oil, red pepper, oregano, and whole cloves of garlic.  The simplicity of the meal makes it perfect.  When the dish comes out you think, there's no way I can finish this, well you're wrong.  Perfection.

3. My little paradise: Aka a bench I found on the way to the Michelangelo.  On one of my warmer runs to the Michelangelo, I decided to take a little detour down a random street before the summit up to the top of the city (aka I needed a breather).  I was pleasantly surprised to find a single bench, sitting in a small grassy courtyard.  The bench lies against the ancient walls of Florence that still surround much of the city.  The first time I saw it, I knew it was special.  I know that sounds silly, but the bench sits perfectly in the sunlight, barely anyone knows where it is, and it's surrounded by grass which is a rarity in Florence.  Sometimes people watching is fun; but sometimes you just want to be away from it all.  This little bench provided that for me: a place to rest, read, tan, and more importantly escape from the busyness of Florence and of my life.  I love that bench.

I hope you enjoyed reading this.  The small things make a big difference.


Friday, April 5, 2013

One last look- Italian style...Corinne's style.

I can't believe it.  One week and I am finito.  DONE.  There's such a sense of accomplishment for me, honestly.  I was so anxious to come here and now I know it's truly made me a different, and hopefully a better person.  But also very honestly, I can not wait to go home.  I miss the familiarity of Stafford (and of course JMU), my routine, and the love of my friends and family.  That and Chipotle.

This week flew by.  The highlight was obviously my parents arriving in Italy on Monday.  I was so happy to see my mother, I cried.  It was strange to see my parents in the city I have called home for three months.  They definitely enjoyed their iPhone camera capabilities (dad just got the 5, CRAY), but I wasn't embarrassed.  Not only do my parents stand out as tourists anyways (especially my dad with the Virginia Tech gear), it's my momma's first time in Europe.  So yes, I would be taking pictures 24/7 too.  My mother kept telling me, NO ONE WEARS COLOR HERE. Yes, apparently she didn't believe me when I said this multiple times to her.  So she definitely stood out in her pink Lilly Pulitzer dress, to me in a good way. Which is a good leeway to my next topic, my style evolution.

Italian fashion is truly beautiful.  So well put together.  But I quickly learned, it lacks personality, not only that; it screams pretentiousness (to me, no offense to anyone who adores italian style, which is ages different than actual italian street style).  So after a few weeks of being here, wearing only black, I felt not only like a poser but boring.  To me style is more than a color. Ironically, my style has definitely simplified.  I'm trying to slowly but surely cut down on my current wardrobe to more necessary pieces that I truly enjoy wearing and fit well.  When I went over what I bought, I was surprised with how little I bought.  Sure, I didn't come here with a lot of money, but I like to shop.  I think my mindset has been switched from buying a lot for cheap to buying a little with quality.  Or at least that's what I'm hoping my style is evolving into, and I'm ecstatic to continue my wardrobe makeover returning to the states.

The main differences style-wise for me include:
-I'm wearing more casual heels, and surprisingly, they are comfortable for me.
-I'm wearing more black (HA!).  But more white as well.
-I'm focusing on simplicity with pops of interest, not necessarily color but pattern or detail.
-I'm trying to wear more figure flattering items, more dresses.

Here is a little preview of the items I have purchased:

(Black Leather Backpack, Prinmark, London)

(White Tunic, Zara, Florence)

(Grey Suede Boots, Random Shoe Store, Siena)

(Black Leather Booties, H&M, Florence)

(Floral Dress, H&M, Barcelona)

(Black Leather and Khaki Jacket, H&M, Florence)

(White Dress, Zara, Florence)

(White Crop Sweater, Random Store, Amsterdam)

As you can see, most of my clothing purchased probably can be purchased in the United States.  And that makes me happy, because Zara has become my latest obsession.  Some of my other purchases include: Red lipstick, a sweet, feminine perfume, a floral umbrella, leather shorts and light wash jeans; both from Zara (the jeans aren't shown because they have gum all over them currently aka I shouldn't have worn those babies out, praying it'll come out).  

So. I have decided that once again: more expensive will never mean more stylish.  However, better  quality items means more classic style.  Style that'll last.  My next few purchases that I am saving up for, aka I am flat broke, include a hot pink skirt, a silver necklace that I can layer, spring heels and some black wayfarer Ray Bans.

Happy to be here, happy to see my parents again next Thursday. Miss you all.  See you SO SO SOON.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Good Luck, Bad Luck, and The Chaotic Streets of Venezia.

The past two weeks have been, interesting to say the least.  A lot of good, a lot of bad.  The ups and downs of Italy I suppose.  Honestly the only thing that's currently on my mind is the fact I will finally be seeing my parents in a week, and I'm ecstatic.  I can't wait to see their familiar faces and honestly, shop with my mom.  It'll also be nice to show them the beautiful city of Florence and cough, not worry about money, cough.  In short, I can not wait for them to finally be in Italy, SO EXCITED. Now for a short explaination in the title of my post, starting with my food tasting last week.

One of my favorite classes I am taking here in Italy includes Wine Tasting.  I know you're all probably reading this thinking, wow that's the life.  Honestly, it really is, we taste two to three of the best wines in Italy during each class.  I'm spoiled I know.  Another highlight of our class is our teacher, Diletta Frescobaldi, who is actually Florentine royalty (not really but, her social standing in Florence is about equal to royalty).  You may be wondering why is this JMU professor royalty? Well she's not just a professor but part of the biggest wine producers in Italy, if you don't believe me, google it (you can also purchase her wine at Costco, Nipozzano Chianti Rufina).  So why am I bragging about her so much?Well it creates an interesting backdrop for my tale.  The Frescobaldi Family has not only many vineyards, but also a few restaurants, one of course being in Florence.  For one of our classes we were able to go to her restaurant and have a three course meal with three wines paired with each dish.  In short, my paradise.  My love of food combined with my love of drinking was ultimately fufilled when we ate artichoke flan and anchovie pasta (both sound not appetizing, but were oh so appetizing).  Paired with two red wines, I was very content.

I was hoping that perhaps I would end the day with a nap, but unfortuantely that is not quite what happened.  After a restless night of half sleeping half shivering from my fever, I woke up the next day knowing something wasn't quite right with my stomach or the meal I had the day before.  Long story short, I was in bed for 5 days with the most terrible stomach flu or food poisoning.  After a visit to the doctor and a lot of gatorade, I was feeling better, however timid to eat anything but toast and tea.  I decided to celebrate my departure from my room after 5 days with a pair of leather shorts from Zara.  Sometimes all you need is some retail therapy.

After some recovery and lots and lots of sleep, I was ready for my last group trip to the beautiful city of Venice.  I really had no clue what to expect from the city, of course I knew they didn't really have roads and they were famous for their gondolas, but other than that I was a bit at a loss (I kept imagining The Italian Job, such a good movie).  Arriving in the city after a long and sleepy train ride, I was greeted by sunshine.  I love the sun, especially here in Europe; it is always welcomed.  The train station opens up to their main canal, which in the sun looks brilliantly blue.  The small streets boarder the canal and large bridges connect each island to each other.  The city itself is very picturesque, from a far.  I say this because, sure, if you edit the picture taken from 100 feet away, Venice is perfect.  But if you look up close, the city is pretty dirty.  There is a lot of trash in the water.  Still beautiful just a little, grungy?

After a long walk through winding roads up and down about 10 bridges, we made it to our hotel.  The hotel was quaint, cute.  Once again I am overly thankful in the fact that I wasn't staying in a hostel. Gross.  The hotel was nice.  And was in a very central location.  We began our first day with a quick lunch of pizza with a fried egg (lately I have been craving fried eggs and this pizza was nothing short of delicious) and a tour of San Marco, specifically the Doge's Palace (a king like figure in Venice, that ruled during the early days of Venice).  The tour was interesting however the Doge himself seemed kind of pointless; he had no real power or position, he was a sort of figurehead I guess.  After the tour, I did quite a bit of window shopping (Venice is ridiculously expensive).  Since I had such a large lunch, dinner time rolled around and I was barely hungry, but a few of us were eager to have a true Venetian cuisine experience.  We found a less touristic side of of Venice and sat down for a drink and some seafood tapas alongside the canal.  In short, a perfect end to a beautiful day.

We started the next day with another tour.  I definitely enjoyed the second tour more; it was a short walking tour through true Venice, no tourists, little crowds.  Venice is characterized by little charms (such as candlelit votives throughout the city) that make the city mysterious and quaint.  After the tour a few of us decided to take a water taxi to the island of Murano, known for its' glass.  I decided the water taxi is definitely one of my least favorite forms of transportation (to me it resembles deep sea fishing, aka sea sickness).  We reached the island and it was amazing the difference.  The buildings were more colorful, the people seemed more friendly, and the men also looked better.  I wondered if I stepped into an alternate universe, so pretty.  I was set on seeing someone blow glass so the first hour was full of me searching for someone to make a glass pony for me.  Finally I found a large glass shop that offered a glass blowing demonstration for 5 euro.   I sat down quickly in the back of this store and the man began to make a glass pony, blowing glass, sculpting, heating, repeat; in short, I was amazed.  He must have noticed my child like joy because after the demonstration he motioned for me to come forward in front of the audience.  Super excited and a little confused, I stood in front of everyone, awkwardly smiling, not really knowing what to expect.  Next thing I know, he's handing me the glass blower and telling me to blow.  After a good deal of blowing (I was supremely out of breathe and it reminded of when I used to play the trumpet and got really out of breathe....embarrassing), I successfully created a limp ugly glass balloon.  But I was content.

After quite a bit of walking, mostly into stores that sold the exact same jewelry and vases, my feet were beginning to really hurt.  This was mostly my fault, well all my fault.  I am set on wearing heels everyday here in Italy, and it's gotten to be a bit of a problem especially since I can no longer wear flat shoes without pain going through my legs, guess I just have to buy a bunch of heels when I get home.  But the black booties I wore were giving me terrible blisters and I was ready to return to the hotel.  Eager to show my independence and confident that I could make it back alone, I bought a ticket to the ferry back to the mainland.  After missing the first ferry, I was still confident in my directional ability, standing in front of the crowd ready to board the next boat.  As it approached, people began pushing and I couldn't quite tell if I was boarding the correct ferry, whatever, I thought assuming that all ferries go to the same place anyways.  Well. I was wrong.  As I attempted to ask a random italian if the ferry went to my hotel, a kind french couple sweetly said to me "This ferry only goes to the train station."  I literally laughed out loud.  The train station was a 45 minutes walk from my hotel.  Still set on making it back I smiled and thanked them, and got off the ferry.  After about 15 minutes of walking, my feet were killing me.  I approached the 100th bridge with little caution and a large bit of annoyance.  Walking down the steps of the bridge I glanced at my map for the trillionth time, only to feel both of my heels catching the edge of the stair.  I'm sure you can assume where this is going.  Down.  Flat on my face.  In front of probably 30 people.  As a laid sprawled out on the bottom of venetian stairs, I realized I caused quite a hold up on the stairs.  I slowly attempted to get up, sure that I broke both of my legs, and several people helped me to a nearby bench. Holding back tears I thanked them and slowly wobbled back to my hotel.  After laying in my bed feeling sorry for myself and moaning about my bruised shins, I watched Harry Potter in Italian and decided tomorrow would be a better day.

After a full breakfast, our group went to Peggy Guggenheim's house, which holds hundreds of famous works by Picasso, Rothko, and Pollock just to name a few.  I always feel a little intimidated in a place like that, not really sure what I am supposed to be looking for in each painting, but I did enjoy the backstory of Peggy, look it up. She was quite the player. After a meal at the Hard Rock (the food is gross in Venice, and the nachos and Hard Rock hit the spot; nommy) I was ready to go home.  Another sleepy train ride and I was back in Florence.

Currently it's freezing here.  A bit of a downer.  Also, I am procrastinating any and all papers I need to write by writing here.  It's hard to believe I am going to be home in less than 3 weeks.  I am beyond excited.  I want chick-fil-a, chipotle, and my bed.  Little things like that make me excited to be home.

I really want to enjoy my last few weeks here, and am overjoyed to show my parents my city.  Miss you all.  Can't wait to see you when I return to the States! (Enjoy the Venice selfie).


Monday, March 11, 2013

On an Evening in Roma.

Oh where do I begin? Rome.  I absolutely loved Rome.  Every aspect of the city really just called to me.  Roma e un citta belissima.  I can't even begin to tell you how much I really enjoyed the city.

After a quick and sleepy train ride we arrived in Rome around 10 am.  My first impression of the city wasn't too good, a bunch of grungy stores and a single McDonald's, but hey never judge a book by its cover.  After a bumpy bus ride, we arrived to our hotel (YES, no more hostels for me!) and checked in.  I was overjoyed to see my bed with clean sheets, a TV, a mini fridge and my own bathroom (oh the things we take for granted).  After freshening up a bit, and a quick lunch (where I people watched- mostly at some very attractive priests, why?) we started our guided tour.  Our tour guide Fedrico, definitely added to the positives of my trip.  He was friendly but stern and reminded me of the perfect Grandpa, throughout the trip he referred to me as his assistant and I just laughed it off (secretly overjoyed my adopted grandpa liked me).  We started the tour at the Roman Forum.  The significance of the Forum is often overlooked by many who visit Rome, but after explaining how Julius Caesar was betrayed and killed, Fedrico just about brought me to tears (either he's an excellent story teller, or, which is more probable: I cry too easily).  I was touched seeing the small tribute of flowers that Romans still place at the alter where Julius Caesar was cremated.  Italians respect and honor their traditions and history, it's very inspiring.  After leaving the Forum, we walked down the street (a very busy street that apparently Mussolini had constructed so he could have a view of the Colosseum from his balcony; selfish man, big surprise) to the Colosseum.

From what I heard before going to Rome, the Colosseum was going to be a disappointment.  Prepared for a letdown, I walked into the interior of the Colosseum, and to my surprise, it was magnificent.  I loved it.  Part of me was imagining the Lizzie McGuire concert (if you don't understand the reference, I pity you)  and part of me was enjoying the vast amount of history surrounding me.  Our guide continued to explain what went on in the Arena, which if you saw Gladiator you're pretty set on the historical background, and then it was picture time!  Fedrico had to force us to leave after a 30 minute photo shoot (honestly I could have stayed there all day taking pictures, it was fascinating).  We then headed to the Pantheon, which was the most perfectly constructed building I have ever seen (the height of the building is exactly the length of the width).  Although the Pantheon was absolutely stunning, it was getting late, Corinne was tired and hungry aka grumpy.  I had a quick meal of penne pasta with a spicy red sauce and following my pasta binge, I was exhausted.  After quite a bit of contemplation, I decided to stay in and sleep instead of going out; it was the best decision I had ever made. So sweepy.

 After waking early and refreshed, we headed to Vatican City.  I knew that the Vatican was its own country, and I was pumped to get another stamp on my passport, except my tour guide kindly reminded me they no longer give stamps on your passport in Europe (which I should have known based on my lack of stamps so far- how are people going to know that I'm a world traveler?!).  We had a quick tour through the Vatican Museums, and unfortunately we couldn't see the Sistine Chapel due to the fact cardinals were preparing for the election of the new Pope, so exciting. After, we enjoyed a quick lunch which at first seemed like a great deal: chicken, spaghetti carbonara, salad, and potatoes! all for 12 euro!  But after some lousy service, a small portion size and a ridiculous charge for service and bread, I realized it was a tourist trap.  Grumbling and forking over more than I agreed to, I left the restaurant a little bitter.  My mood was instantly cured by some amazing coconut gelato, beautiful weather and being in front of St. Peter's Basilica at such an important time (I was secretly hoping to get interviewed, look ma I'm on TV, but no).  Although we had to wait about 45 minutes to get into St. Peters, but it was definitely worth the wait.  The church was breathtaking and so beautiful, the frescoes, the marble statues, and the mosaics were breath taking.  My favorite piece was definitely the Pieta, which was perfection, I actually learned some crazy person thought it was so perfect they attacked it with a hammer.  Hence the reason it was behind glass, which made me really sad. The church itself was a tearjerker but really made me proud of my faith and the talent of the humankind, like seriously, the Renaissance men had perfection on lockdown.

After some rest, a dinner at an amazing panini place, and a fantastic cannoli with chocolate chips, we headed to the Trevi Fountain, which was so pretty at night.  The water looked so clear and blue and it was just one of those moments you know you'll never forget.  After some white wine and interesting conversation, I went to bed completely content.  The next day was a free day, and without our amazing tour guide, I was a bit at loss what to do.  We first decided to head back to the Trevi Fountain for some more photos ops and I looked around for my Paolo (Lizzie McGuire reference number 2), a bit disappointed only to find rude Indian men asking if I wanted my picture taken for 20 euro.  After some photos (taken for free), we headed to the Spanish steps.  I was overjoyed to be back were my dad once was in the military.  I walked up and down the steps a bit at a loss on why they were significant, but I was still happy to be there enjoying the sun.  I then unfortunately had a quick lunch at McDonald's (this is becoming a bad habit; I understand) and some cannoli flavored gelato; we headed back to the hotel and made our way back to the train station, and by 6 we were back in our rainy home, Florence.

The weekend really was amazing for me, but now I need to get back into the swing of things.  I plan to be productive in my last few weeks in Florence (especially with my workout schedule, all this Italian food is killing me!).  I am looking forward to my trip to Venice next weekend, and my mom and dad coming the following weekend (!).

I really am starting to miss friends and family, but I am happy to be here for a few more short weeks!  Miss you all.


Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Ups and Downs: Amsterdam, Paris, London

I am falling behind on these blog posts!  I really need to get my stuff together.

My time in Florence is actually flying by and each week seems shorter and shorter.  Which is a good and a bad thing, I do miss the US, mostly my friends and family, but I wanna take in as much culture as possible and only have a month and a half to do it.  Time to get to work.  As for the reason I haven't been blogging, well, it could be attributed to the fact that I am very busy all the time (which is the same excuse I give for my lack of exercise) but in reality I am a bit lazy.  I have in fact been very busy for the past two weeks, the last 10 days were my fun, hectic, emotional spring break.
I started my trip in Amsterdam.  We flew in early and arrived to our hostel by the afternoon. The atmosphere of Amsterdam was nothing like I expected.  Honestly, Amsterdam had never been on my 'must travel to' list, mostly because of the negative connotation of word 'Amsterdam'  (drugs and prostitutes), but the city was surprisingly fascinating.  Amsterdam was full of eclectic food choices (my favorite being the multiple french fry stands), vintage book stores, and lots and lots of clothes.  I was surprised how American everything felt in Amsterdam.  Everyone was overly friendly, spoke english, and dressed for the most part like Americans.  It was a welcomed change from the black wardrobe and permanent frown I had been rocking for the past month in Florence.  My cuisine highlight was definitely the huge food market I found in the central Amsterdam.  This was nothing like the fresh food market in Barcelona. Imagine a Wegman's on steroids.  Absolutely amazing;  freshly baked cookies and scones, gourmet soups and pre made salads.  After a lot of good food, some really exciting bars, and a surprisingly clean and comfortable hostel stay, I was ready to go to Paris (aka I wanted to relive Lauren Conrad's Paris experience on The Hills- meeting a french band, vespa ride to the Eiffel Tower, etc.)  Unfortunately, I had probably the worst luck ever in Paris; I decided it's not my city sadly.

Starting the day I was excited to go to Paris, the fashion, the food, everything.  We decided to take a train; the tickets I had previously purchased online.  Arriving at the train station early, we hastily went to retrieve our tickets, only to find out that the train station in Amsterdam didn't accept our reservations.  Livid, I was forced to spend close to $300 on a one way trip to Paris.  Although I was furious (I had to use the remainder of my 'just in case' money on the train), I was set on making my first day in Paris a good one.  We were able to see the Champs-Élysées (SHOPPING) and the Louvre.  Before coming, embarrassingly I had no clue what the Lourve was, I thought it was a river or maybe a canal, bad I know.  It ended up not being a river (big surprise there) but the largest museum I have ever been to.  If you are thinking of going and love art, make it a full day trip.  Once again I felt a little less cultured when the only painting I recognized was the Mona Lisa (which was a bit underwhelming-all the movies make the painting look huge, it's not), but I still enjoyed walking through the museum alone gazing at paintings, sculptures, and my favorite part: jewelry from all over the world.  After a full day of walking around (I chose heeled boots to walk around in for a good 8 hours, not so smart) I was more than ready to return to the hostel.  After a metro ride, I casually reached into my purse for my wallet.... NOTHING. My wallet and everything inside it (license, debit card, money, etc.) was stolen, and I had no extra money (due to the train incident earlier that day); in short, I was a mess.   After a fair amount of crying and a long phone car to my parents and to the bank, I was just ready to go to sleep. 

The next day, refreshed,  I went to Versailles, which was absolutely beautiful.  I gasped at the beauty of each room (the security guard laughing) and pretended I was Marie Antionette.  However, my daydreams were rudely interuppted by hoards and hoards of Asian tourists which made my French daydreams a little less realistic.  After a lunch of a baguette and cheese under the Eiffel Tower (very touristy; however I did see many locals just walking around eating a full baguette NOM) we went back to the hostel to get dressed for a full night.  We started the night off back at the Eiffel Tower, we were able to get tickets to the top and the view was amazing at night; unlike any view I have ever seen.  We then found a small french restaurant, where I ordered a steak with french fries?  Either way it was divine; on a side note don't order sausage in France, it's intestines.  After a bottle of champagne under the tower, we headed home.  The last day in Paris I sucessfully managed to shatter my raybans and break the zipper on my purse.  Like I said, Paris and I aren't the closest of friends.

Moving on, London was my favorite part of my break.  I decided the experience you have in a new city really depends on the people you're with, and I couldn't be more happy to see my best friends Rachel and Allie.  It was definitely the comfort I needed after Paris.  We arrived in London early morning, and as I looked around for Rachel, I saw a british girl walking past me in a tan trench, maroon pants and boots.  Cute outfit I thought, but after a closer look, THAT'S RACHEL; she looked so european.  I basically cried after finally realizing it was her.  After dropping my stuff off  at the hostel, Rachel and I were ready to explore.  We had a quick lunch at a local food market (amazing), my meal included a venison burger on french bread and a chocolate english pudding cake.  We later met up with Allie, another emotional reunion, and walked around London.   After seeing Big Ben and that bridge from Harry Potter, I was completely satisfied just sitting and hanging out with my two friends from home.  Another comfort; they had a TV and I had time to have my fix of the Food Network (aka Barefoot Contessa and Dinner's Drive Ins and Dives).  

The next day we went to Harrods, which honestly was the highlight of my trip.  Harrods is nothing like any other department store, no, it's the Ritz Carlton of department stores.  It was like a museum holding everything I love: designer clothes (Oscar de la Renta gowns I could touch!), Fine jewelry (one Cartier necklace was 2 million euro), and gourmet food.  It was literally mind-blowing and although I only left the store with a red velvet cupcake, I enjoyed it. The rest of London seems like a blur but was filled with little highlights that made me love the city: finding a three story bar with live music (mostly Kings of Leon covers), having one of the best coffees from Monmouth, and casually running into Justin Bieber (literally craziness, some of his fans are psychopaths, although I must admit I was screaming with excitement right next to them). Leaving London was a bit difficult, aka leaving my friends, but I was ready to return to Florence.

After the hustle and bustle of busy city after busy city; I was more than happy to be back in the small Firenze.  I loved London, however I really appreciate Florence after being so overwhelmed with the amount of people and the size of the city.  There is something so quaint and beautiul about being able to walk across the whole city in 40 minutes.  Florence is still definitely my favorite city so far, and although I had to get used to speaking Italian once again, I enjoyed returning to the comfort of my bed, my routine, and my clothes.  My trip was long and exhausting but honestly amazing.  It also was A LOT OF MONEY, therefore I will be remaining in Florence for the rest of my semester, which I am perfectly content with.

I miss everyone at home, thanks for reading. 

Oh and once again, enjoy this embarrassing picture of me in a shoe.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

A Surplus of Embarrassment and Carbs

This weekend was really uneventful but full of little moments that made it worthwhile.

First, a little comment on food.  The food here is great.  I am used to great, and I mean great food at home, so I'd say it's about equal to Mom's cooking.  However compared to ehall, dhall, and any other food I attempt to put together at JMU; Italian food is beyond amazing.  The main downfall is the amount of carbs the Italian diet consists of, which is A LOT. Carbs are a girls worst enemy, Corinne's best friend, and a scales worst nightmare.  For me, there is something so comforting about a big bowl of pasta, hence my love of Italian food and my lack of self control here in Florence.  The diet consists of: a pastry for breakfast, a panino for lunch (of course on thick pieces of focaccia bread), and then a large pasta dish with  a big basket of bread.  Sounds like a lot of carbs? yes. The problem with this is pasta is cheaper than any salad or meat, much cheaper, it's known as primi piatti, the first dish and the cheapest.  I love pasta, but this is creating a bit of road block on my path to healthy living:  which only means longer runs for Corinne, that I can't complain about when I'm running through the beautiful Florence.

So my weekend.  Friday, I woke up late (no classes; which is a beautiful thing for a business major with 8 ams every day last semester).  My roommates and I decided to go a favorite spot of ours for a late brunch, The Dinner.  It's my little America in Florence, and after a messy but delicious BLT with fresh cut fries, I was ready to go on a long run.  Except, I ended up doing the opposite of that and went to the Florentine Chocolate Festival.  It's a chocolate festival, you can't say no to that! The festival was quite close to my house and was full of various chocolate treats: chocolate covered strawberries with whipped cream (which I purchased right away with no guilt or hesitation), chocolates shaped as animals, chocolate wine (questionable), and even chocolate with marijuana (even more questionable).  It was an unreasonably cold day and I was perfectly content sitting on the steel benches warmed by the sun, just people watching.  As I dreamt about swimming in chocolate, I was rudely interrupted by pigeons, and when I say I was interrupted, I really mean I was attacked.  After a minor panic attack and a great deal of screaming on my part, I could hear the laughter of four Italian boys behind me.  As I looked next to me, picking up a piece of bread, I realized they threw their leftovers from lunch at me ON PURPOSE so the disgusting pigeons would fly towards the random person covered in bread aka me lying on a bench.  Glaring at the immature boys, I got up and left the chocolate paradise and headed home.

That night, I was able to actually cook an Italian meal.  A Italian professor from JMU, who came on the trip with us, has an apartment and invites a few students over every Friday night to enjoy a nice meal (aka not pay for a dinner and eat some fresh food: my kind of deal).  We were first treated to delicious salty bread with grape tomatoes and a glass of red wine.  After a few minutes, we helped her prepare pasta (a spaghetti with tomatoes, pork cheek, and onions) and another dish  made with thinly sliced beef, mortadella (which is like bologna but better, much better) and mozzarella cheese.  After the huge meal, a few glasses of wine, and some interesting conversation, I concluded it had been a successful night.  It definitely sparked a little inspiration in me; I WILL cook more at home (after my recent pinterest recipe finds, I have to).

The next day started with a nice walk to the Piazzale Micheangelo, which takes about 30 minutes (up a mountain, wheezing). The view was gorgeous and showed the whole Florentine skyline in all it's glory.  After a small photo shoot (embarrassing and typically American of me) and a small sandwich, we headed back home satisfied will the beautiful view and the minor workout.

That night my host mother invited us to attend a masquerade ball with her (a charity event).  She told us we needed to wear a dress and a mask (this all in broken english) and that's about it.  I was excited to go, and after a large meal of garlic pasta (sensing a theme?) I began to get ready.  I wore a tight blue laced dress with a matching mask.  Slightly regretting the amount of pasta I inhaled just hours before, I zipped up my dress (tighter than I recalled), still happy to be dressing up for something.  After a short drive, we arrived at the venue and entered cautiously, only to find no one there. GREAT I thought.  The interior of the venue resembled a club, all white walls and furniture, a large dance floor with a lot of colored lights (for some reason white is the new black in nightclubs). Finally after 30 minutes of sitting awkwardly on the chic white leather couch, people began to arrive.  All the guests were young italians that were all well dressed, I am assuming most were Italian socialites or well connected college students (I really had no clue why so many young people were at this specific charity event), and to no surprise,  none spoke english and all stared a lot.  I realized this event was going to be interesting to say the least,  but I was still eager to make it a good night. The DJ was only playing American club music (a good sign), and everyone was just sort of standing around.  In my natural American fashion, I got a drink, and danced in the middle of the floor: I knew all the guests knew I was an American and were staring (maybe glaring?), but why not have a little fun?  And after a few minutes, everyone was dancing, drinking and having a good time.  After a few hours of dancing (which began fun but ended painfully thanks to my 4 inch black wedges), we were driven home.  The night officially ended with a my lack of self control aka a late night run to McDonald's (NOM).

After a nice  long run this morning, I am currently procrastinating my studying for mid-terms (which includes writing a six page paper on Italian Art more specifically Giotto? HELP) by blogging.  I am looking forward to Friday aka the beginning of spring break and seeing my favorite twins, Allie and Rachel (Amsterdam, Paris, and London YAY).

I miss everyone at home and hope you all are doing well, I heard we're not getting mail on Saturdays anymore, just another reason for me to stay in Europe (I kid, I need my Chipotle).  

Please enjoy this photo of me embarrassing myself (something I learned I am quite talented at here in Europe).


Sunday, February 3, 2013

Me, Myself, and Florence

Yesterday I had one of the more surprisingly nice days here, wandering Florence by myself.

Florence is actually a very, very small city.  When I run, I can easily reach the border of the city in 5 minutes, this is saying something because these are slow runs, cough out of shape cough.  So yesterday I decided to explore the city a little by myself.  

After a nice run next to the Arno, a quick shower, I was on my way. I decided to wear a nicer outfit: black leggings, a light brown sweater, my brown leather jacket, a patterned green and brown scarf, and my brown lace up boots.  I was feeling ready to conquer the world, aka the small city of Firenze.  Of course as soon as I stepped outside, it began to rain as in pour.  Typical.  As I searched the contents of my white leather purse for my umbrella, the wind began.  WHY ME? I thought as I crossed the bridge, my umbrella turning inside out four times, no exaggeration, I counted.  So much for my outfit.  I finally reached my destination, Mama’s bakery; the Italian version of Panera.  After ordering a bagel with sundried tomato cream cheese, I sat down enjoying the well-designed interior of the cute café (the owner is from San Francisco, and the interior features pink walls with silver accents).  After my bagel and coffee, I ventured out to find an umbrella that wouldn’t turn inside out every five seconds.  Walking over the Ponte Vecchio, I stared at all the beautiful jewelry shops in envy; not paying attention at all, I basically walked directly into a moving scooter.  You know when you run into someone, and you do that awkward stutter step from side to side, well that was me, stutter stepping a moving vehicle.  After recovering from my near death experience, I walked into H&M, found a cute floral umbrella, and threw the broken embarrassing contraption of an umbrella away.  Next, I needed to find chapstick.  When I say NEEDED, I am not kidding.  Either it’s the saltiness of the food, the never ending cold I seem to have, the lack of water available, the increase of alcohol available- but my lips have been clinically dry to the point of painful.  I walked into the pharmacy and awkwardly motioned to my mouth hoping she’d notice my dry lips, she did.  After paying, I opened the package in front of the pharmacist and applied some chapstick, sighing with relief.  She seemed amused.  Next I decided to treat myself to some tirimisu gelato.  As pathetic as it may seem, I already know my favorite gelato spot. It seems the most creamy and full of flavor.  After the ecstasy of gelato, I walked around the duomo admiring the huge church, vowing to climb the claustrophobic stairs once the weather was nicer.  After wandering around for a few more hours, casually pretending I can afford everything when in actuality I can afford basically nothing, I went home.

Sadly, Florence has been taken over by American students, more importantly American girls.  This only fuels the fire to my Italian Fashion excursion.  I need to step it up.  I will try even harder to wear nice clothes all the time, ugh if only yoga pants, nike frees, and my northface weren't so comfortable.  

As for my ever evolving fashion, my outfits seems to mirror the same general look each day.  Dark wash skinny jeans, black leggings*, or black pants, heeled black, gray or brown boots, and a larger sweater with a scarf.  Pretty simple. Simple can look elegant if you put the right pieces together.  Trying to balance look elegant and fun young style is a difficult task, hopefully being in Italy is bringing me one step closer not only a more Italian style, but better style in general. 

*just a comment on wearing black leggings as pants, although it may be acceptable in some occasions I will probably refrain from wearing them as pants because of my little excursion yesterday; never had so many dirty stares from women and creepy stares from men, lesson learned.

With all the perks of being in Italy, I do still miss Virgina.  There’s nothing like home.  But for now, Florence is a pretty good second.


Monday, January 28, 2013

I wanna soak up the sun, in Barcelona.

Oh, how to describe Barcelona.  Are there even words?  In short, I loved it.  Barcelona was the most alive city I have ever experienced.  The people were more friendly (probably because I looked very American, still), the food was amazing (paella, seafood galore), and the weather rivaled that of sunny California. But words truly could never describe the beauty of the city, you have to go to understand what I mean.  The most memorable part of the city?  The sun.  I know this sounds silly, but the sun is so strong there, it almost changes your mood when you sit in it.  The fact that Barcelona is right by the beach might help a little.  For me, who hates the cold, the strength of the sun was absolutely magical and made me happy.

The trip started off with a long day of traveling: bus ride from Florence to Pisa, flight to outside of Barcelona, bus ride to Central Barcelona.  After sitting for hours, I was ready to explore.  We checked into our hostel, which seemed clean but a little crowded (this was my first hostel experience, and it was, well interesting but tolerable).  Dropping our stuff off, it was time to explore.  The weather as I said before was amazing, warm.  I wore a light sweater and jeans, that I ended up wearing the whole weekend (finally no need for my dreaded north face rain jacket!) After wandering for a few hours, finding mostly souvenir shops and American fast food, I realized I should have researched the area I was staying in a little more.  Although we were right near the water, our hostel was right next to the area known as La Rambla: a gorgeous and famous street with tons of people and street art, but also the most touristy area in all of Barcelona.  After a quick lunch of... McDonald's (I know this should be a crime; a minor setback in my cultural excursion-after not finding any lunch spots cheaper than 10 euro, my cheeseburger and fries were delicious and only two euro) we finally wandered into my favorite location in Barcelona: the most amazing outdoor food market, selling everything including fine chocolates, fresh squeezed juice, cups of french fries, and live seafood.  They even had little tapas bars throughout the market selling various lunch meats on baguettes.  I was in love. The food was so fresh; the people so friendly.  I could have stayed in that market for hours.

That night, excited to experience the night life in Barcelona, my crew and I were set to go out at 11 and meet some people our age.  Boy, was I surprised on what I found.  Not a crazy night life with people in their twenties walking from bar to bar, no.  We walked into our first bar, and were greeted by the stares of old people eating their dinner.  And by old, I mean like 80.  Eating dinner at 11.  Like I said, I should have researched a bit more before traveling, lesson learned, after a drink I called it a night.

The next day was probably my favorite day here in Europe (Florence needs to prove itself, I kid; Florence is perfect as well).  We started the day with a tour that I was dreading (walking, walking), but ended up being so enjoyable.  The tour gave me the background of Barcelona that actually allowed me to understand the culture and the city.  I learned about which movies were filmed in Barcelona, where to go and where to avoid, and bits of the language (Catalan is spoken, closer to French than Spanish, craziness!).  I also took my favorite picture of the most adorable father and son, which showed the happiness of Barcelona in a single shot.  LOVE.

That night I learned to make paella.  I usually am not the biggest fan of seafood, but this paella was magical; full of calamari, shrimp, clams, and mussels.  I was a little hesitant about taking a cooking class, but it was the best experience.  Our chef took us to the market once again, we bought the ingredients to our dish, he explained the significance of each ingredient, and we finally walked to the restaurant.  While he prepared the paella in front of us in a large flat pan, we ate various types of tapas and drank multiple glasses of sangria.  In short, a good night.

Leaving the sunny Barcelona was hard especially returning to the cold of Florence, yet I was happy to be back at my home.  My home away from home.  Loving it here, come and experience the love. Also come to Europe to prevent me from taking pictures similar to the one below.  Can't help it.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Simplicity and Surprises: Siena and Soccer

This weekend was eventful for me, and such a blast.  Where do I start?  Siena first.  A common saying here in Italy is "When Siena cries, Florence laughs" explaining the rivalry between the two cities that dates back almost a thousand years.  The saying for my Sienna trip yesterday should have been, "When Siena cries, Corinne cries".  No, I didn't physically cry, but I easily could have.  I'm not the biggest fan of cold (I hate it with a passion), and I especially am not a fan of cold and wet, which unfortunately describes the weather of our day trip perfectly.

Our trip to Siena was filled with fascinating art and architecture; I'm beginning to wonder if any city in Italy is ugly. I'm assuming no.  Siena had a pleasantness that Florence lacked, a simplicity and a quietness that you won't find in the busy streets of Firenze.  No one seemed rushed which is so beautiful compared to the hustle and bustle of America.  My one and only complaint, was the horrible, horrible weather.  As I stated above, it was so cold.  When we arrived it was snowing, which is actually a rarity in Italy, so apparently it was a treat.  For me it would have been a treat if I was wearing a parka, ski pants and snow boots.  The snow turned into rain, and I realized I wasn't going to enjoy the outdoor tour very much.  This was partially my fault, aka I thought I'd be okay wearing my leggings and a rain jacket. Chilled to the bone, I took shelter in anywhere I could find, which actually led me to one of the best cappuccinos I have ever had (you have not had real coffee until you've been to Italy), a delicious lunch of proscutto and funghi pizza, and 13 euro gray suede knee high boots (I basically cried of happiness finding such a steal). Overall the little surprises I found throughout the city made my Siena trip worthwhile.

After a cold bus ride home, a quick dinner, and going dancing last night, I woke up late this morning feeling a little groggy and a bit sore.  But there's no time for tiredness when I had a soccer game to go to (Florence v Naples)!  The Florence soccer team's colors are purple and red, which reminded me of home and James Madison.  Unfortunately, I don't wear purple too often and almost have no JMU spirit gear (I know, shocker), so I was at a bit of a loss on what to wear.  Deciding that it wouldn't matter since my chances of meeting an Italian soccer player were zero to none, I just focused on dressing warm, learning from my mistake from the previous day.  After a long walk, my group and I made it to the crowded stadium.  What did I enjoy most about the game? The fans.  I thought fans in the United States were intense. Nothing compares.  These fans are die hard.  And really mean to the opposing team.  I had the pleasure of sitting in the Florentine section that was right next to the Naples section.  The only thing separating the two rowdy groups was about 30 policemen. The Italian fans were very rowdy, very funny, very loud, and very drunk.  The majority of my time spent at the game was watching the crazy group of Florentine men shouting obscenities at the Naples fans and flicking them off.    They also like to rub their stomachs as an insult, not really sure what it meant it was one of their favorite gestures. It was actually unbelievably entertaining.  There was such a camaraderie felt throughout the stadium, I couldn't help but join in on some of the cheers, although I had no clue what I was saying.  It was such a fun game, although it was raining the whole time, again.  But my day was topped off by another stumble upon, finding a real supermarket, with everything from mousse (which I desperately needed and gave up on finding) to chips (which I have been craving).  The market was only a 15 minute walk from my house, and definitely worth it.

The weekend was a success and I can't wait for next weekend, BARCELONA.  Hopefully it'll stop raining, because this weather is limiting my ability to copy italian women (I have worn a Northface and Bean boots for the past two days- AMERICAN; no black pants with heels, the weather is cramping my style literally).  Maybe I'll just suck it up and buy a Burberry Trench (hi mom).

Overall, I believe I am beginning to understand enjoying the simple things each day that define Italian life.  Come to Italy and enjoy these simplicities with me.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Dreaming of Florence, Oh and Gelato

Florence is the prettiest city I have ever been.  Hands down.  Whether you have a taste for old or new architecture, Florence is truly enchanting.  I have yet to travel to Paris, but Florence at night takes on a whole new level of magic.  Watch out Disney World, I'm pretty sure Florence has you beat on the whole magical feeling.

Last night I decided to venture out (with my roommates of course, Florence isn't the safest place at night) to find this famous gelateria.  I know you're probably thinking, 'Corinne has been in Florence for a full week and has not even thought to get a gelato!?'  I know, I know.  What was I thinking.  As I ventured out, the night cold and wet, I admit I was almost dreading walking around.  Unfortunately, the weather hasn't been very friendly to me aka raining and freezing.  When it rains in Florence, it literally pours.  But to my surprise, Florence at night takes on a new vibe, that's inviting and warm.  Walking down the street it was almost as if I was seeing a whole new city, the reflection of the lights illuminating the street giving the buildings a soft glow.  The hectic sounds of traffic were quieted and the stores looked brighter and more colorful.  As we walked through the streets in awe, I realized Florence was still very much alive.  

Unlike Americans, many Europeans like to shop at night which I find strange, and as I strolled into the more busier area of central Florence, the city came to life.  Vendors were busy selling their various street food, which included some sort of bread and toasted walnuts. Men and women with children walked briskly from store to store with bags and bags of clothes.  Older couples strolled slowly down the sidewalk.  Vendors were busy trying to convince anyone to buy their leather goods. So alive; I loved it.  

As a kid, when asked 'what's your favorite food?', I would always respond, ICE CREAM! (says a lot about me as a child), and I knew my first gelato would life changing.  Before I knew it, I was standing in front of 'the best gelato in Firenze' according to my host mom.  Entering it looked like any other Gelateria.  In Florence, they display the gelato like candy in a window, sculpting the creamy goodness into beatuiful waves of pure deliciousness.  I decided on the basic chocolate and stracciatella (similar to chocolate chip).  As I placed the first bite in my mouth, done.  Gelato is different than ice cream, in that it's a thousand times better.  Honestly, it's the creaminess.  I highly recommend it.  Before I knew it, my small cup of gelato was gone, sadly, but I was satisfied. 

Walking home I couldn't help but wonder, what is it like to live in Florence?  Florentines walk around everyday like it's nothing, but how can you get used to a beautiful city like this?  My deep thoughts on life were then interrupted by me stepping in a large puddle. It really needs to stop raining.

Enjoy the pictures I took, and come to Florence!