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.