My Italian Experience Through Pictures

In Travel Conquests on November 25, 2010 at 9:21 am

More than half of my photos from the two week trip came from cities within Italy. Naturally, with so many pictures to choose from, narrowing it down to under 50 was a tough, tough process. But because dear-little-sister-Grace can’t access her facebook while in YanTai and there are others following this blog who don’t have facebook, I shall do the good deed of uploading some of the better ones into this post.

I’ve tried to keep a somewhat theme-chronology-by-city flow to these pictures, but in the end I (obviously) got tired of doing so. They are organized by city, I believe, so there is some method to the madness.

Galleria degli Uffizi, home to “The Birth of Venus”

What’s not to like about naked male statues, you prudes?

Piazza de Pitti, in Firenze, Italia

Autumn photographs so well. @Neptune’s Fountain, within the gardens of Pitti

Strolling along the streets of Siena

We rise above the world (in Siena)

Vitamin D(eficiency) no more. Hello sunshine!

Best spot to photograph. EVER.

How lovely would it be to be able to say this beauty is my homecity?

Siena, you’ll always be #1 in my heart (vom)

One of two decent photos from Pisa

So tiny compared to the Colosseum

Pillars: they give the “Rome” to this picture

Roman architecture captivates me

There’s so much more, but Forum photos will end with this

Bummed about waiting in rain for the Vatican

Welcome to the Vatican Museum

Rebellious me, sneaking shots of the the Sistine Chapel

Within St. Peter’s Basilica, in Vatican City

Such a beautiful church. Divine!

The Asian(eyed)s, at Bernini’s Four Rivers Fountain

Cointoss, to ensure my return

Awkward (but essential) solo picture

There really wasn’t much to the Spanish Steps…

One of many gelato-shop trips

Goodbye Italy. Goodbye gelato-man!


No-Carb-Left-Behind-Experiment: Italia!

In Travel Conquests on November 24, 2010 at 11:18 pm

Second leg of the trip: Italia!

Our adventures in Italy start.... NOW

“I want to go someplace where I can marvel at something. Language, gelato, spaghetti. This is my no carb left behind experiment.” –Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

If I could have the leisure to do so, I’d spend weeks experiencing Italy (wine, cuisine, culture, art, atmosphere, shopping–not so much the boys). But alas, not only is my time limited, but my bank account moreso. However, my week-long “test-taste” of Italy–of Florence, Siena, Pisa, and Rome–satiated my lifelong wish for (at least) the time being.

Welcome to Firenze, capital of Italian leather

After flying into Milan (failed, yet again, to get a stamp at customs upon entering), our group of four hopped on a train bound for Florence Firenze. Riding a train from destination to destination… part of the “backpacker” experience, no? We amicably chattered the ride away, with tons of snacks, rounds of Phase 10 (a card game I am DEFINITELY buying once back in the States–it’ll be the up&coming drinking game, I tell you…), and “glitter, sparkle” codetalk of the creeper eyeing us the entire duration of the ride.

First (authentic) Italian meal: Pre-food Coma

Waiting for our Italian carbs

What I had been most pumped about for the Italian-leg of this two week trip was, of course, the food. PASTA, GELATO, CARBS–what’s NOT to like (other than the necessity of diet afterwards)? As the Eat, Pray, Love quote mentions above, Italy was going to be THE no-carb-left-behind experiment… or so I thought. The VERY first dinner in Italy certainly had me straining against the button of my jeans… and this was a Napoli pizza, with NO cheese, just pizza crust and sauce. I had absolutely no room for gelato and had to (somewhat reluctantly) convince myself to save that for the next day. Heinous, I know. This dinner (at the fabulous Rosso Pamadoro(?), with a ridiculously-Italian waiter who fawned upon “Jennifer”) made me realize WHY Italians take that after-dinner walk; no way in hell can they maintain their figures without a healthy dose of exercise!

Group shot at the Firenze Duomo

Ponte Vecchio is actually not this picturesque...

Our nighttime stroll led us to the Duormo (with the famed Brunellschi dome!) and a spin around a carousel. And with the visit to the Galleria degli Uffizi in the morning–where “The Birth of Venus” is housed, apparently–and a walk across the Ponte Vecchio, we pretty much covered all the major Firenze sights but the Academia, the leather market, and Piazza de Pitti. We never made it the Academia (pity me, for I failed to see Michelangelo’s perfectly proportioned David), but in time we DID find ourselves snapping picturesque photos on the photogenic-but-realistically-murky Ponte Vecchio and haggling prices in the midst of the outdoor San Lorenzo leather market. For the most part, the vendors were hilarious, trying to get our attention (and our tourist cash) by fishing out compliments, sleazy pick-up lines, and promises of “special price for you.” I say for the most part, because some of the vendors (case in point: the old creeper I bought my dad’s leather briefcase from) just traumatized me in more ways than one. No thanks for him (or is it, all thanks to him?), I stick with Scandinavians to occupy my attention.

With the gorgeous Tuscany backdrop behind us

Live life on the edge--LITERALLY

Though Firenze is beautiful in its own right, Siena was downright gorgeous and arguably my favorite city amongst all that we hit during the two week trip. En route to Siena by bus, we saw glimpses of the luscious green, rolling hills of the Tuscany region; once in the city of Siena, we indulged in the quaint and carefree atmosphere of the city. Climbing many narrow, winding staircases led us to a breathtaking view of the terracotta rooftops –this sight alone (okay, the warmth and sunshine contributed somewhat) MADE us feel like we were in Italy, truly and completely. Not even kamikazing pigeons on the Piazza square could negate our happy moods.

Holding up a tower? Easy-peasy

Pisa, on the other hand, was a bit of a disappointment. Literally, there was nothing else to do BUT take our obligatory photo holding up the Leaning Tower. But, I guess it was worth the trip. You want those obligatory, touristy photos when you’re young and looking good, no? HAHA

The last memory of Italy comes from the city of gladiators: ROME (Russell Crowe, by the way, was AMAZING in that movie. Top10 movies, easy). The weather turned sour with tons of rain during our stay in Rome, but the food we consumed DEFINITELY made up for any other complaints I had about that trip: I may or may not have consumed 5,000 calories in ONE meal at least once a day… eeek. If anyone is in need of good recommendations, let me say that the list given in Let’s Go Europe (written for students by Harvard students) are ON POINT. And cheap too. WIN.

The ancient ruins of Rome

If only there were smoking gladiators nowadays...

I love the Forum. Can you tell?

There’s SO much to see in Rome. Even if you’re not a history buff (and I can’t say I am), just knowing that the buildings you’re seeing and the ruins you’re standing on are 19287418723 years old makes it a mystical, awe-inspiring experience. I loved loved LOVED taking pictures with crumbling, architectural beauties within the Roman Forum, just as much as I enjoyed seeing the Colosseum and the likes.

In the piazza, heading to St. Peter's Basilica

Michelangelo's iconic ET-phone-home moment

In pouring rain, our group of 5 also went to Vatican City. Wish we had known the online reservation system would have had us skip the 1.5hours in the rained-on line. Mer. Vatican City is small, but absolutely beautiful. The Museum had too much to see for too short a period of time, but seeing the Sistine Chapel was on my list of things to-do while in Rome (Raphael’s School of Athens was beautifully painted too). Tourists are forbidden to take pictures of the Sistine Chapel; but since when was I the rule-abiding tourist? Life’s all about taking risks, even if a priest tells you off (in a non-cursing way, of course) once the deed is done. St. Peter’s basilica was divine–if I regularly had service in a church that beautiful, I am CERTAIN I would be distracted from the sermon each and every Sunday.

One of 1923876123 pictures taken at Trevi Fountain

Our Dan Brown-esque trail within Rome ended with a grand tour of the Pantheon (currently being renovated on the exterior), Bernini’s Four Fountains, and the Trevi Fountain. Trevi > Four Fountains, hands down; I didn’t expect the Trevi to be that big or beautiful.

Friendship bracelets? Eh, they're actually scams...

With our new “friendship bracelets” in hand (scam bracelets on wrist, to be more correct), our group of five has survived the first half of our trip, with only Nice and Paris left in the itinerary. Travelling with one group with little-to-no privacy or personal space strains any relationship; exacerbate that with unnecessary boy drama and differences in personality/priorities/etc, and we are left with a group of exasperated girls ready to drop the rest of the trip and hole up at “home” (yes, Copenhagen has become home). BUT don’t worry–we did manage to say ciao to Italy, bonjour to France, and indulge in the airy, deliciousness of French baguettes. Post on that, soon to come.

Italian is the language of love (or so, they like to believe), so I’ll cap the blogpost with romantic phrases you can jot down & use to woo your next boo:

Gradisco voi di piu e piu (I like you more and more),
Mi manchi (I miss you),
Sto cadendo nell’amore con voi (I am falling in love with you).

XOXO, Heej.

Note: I was originally planning to imbed all the photos into this blogpost, but I realized that 1) it’d be too long of a post and 2) there are too many pictures that I want to share with you (even though they’re all on facebook). Following post will be of just pictures, to go along with this one. Enjoy!

Prague: Gem of the East

In Travel Conquests on November 22, 2010 at 6:12 pm

This post is coming two weeks late, but…. better late than never right?! Be grateful for the fact that I jotted tidbits throughout my trip in my journal, because had I not, I would not have been able to relay anything beyond a “oh, (fill in name of city) was interesting/great/beautiful/etc”

Arrival into Prague, Czech Republic

The long-awaited travel break officially started on Friday 29 October, when I waved “hejhej” to København and boarded the plane (obviously, prior to boarding my flight, I frantically finished packing last minute, (attempted to) finish off what was left of my vegs&fruit in my fridge shelf, etc). Destination? Prague.

Yet another jaw-droppingly beautiful city

Quaint, wouldn't you agree?

Didn’t get a chance to really see much of the city when I first landed, but if anything the start of our trip was a sure sign that Prague would be filled with booze, beauty, and bonding. Our hostel was absolutely fantastic, with clean facilities, showers with refreshing waterpressure, and engaging roommates; the two Austrailians (Cass & Dave) were an absolute riot amongst us, the two Brazilians never caught-on that we understood exactly what they were conversing amongst themselves in Portuguese about us (“hostels should note that hot (semi-naked) girls would share mixed dorms” and “should we accidently run into them at the castle?”).

Free booze? We're happy about it

Quick--get me away from the awkward lesbian come-ons!

Hello, new Aussie "friends"

First night started off with free champagne & beer at the hostel bar. WIN? Who cares if it was a corporate party with 40+ year olds, dancing by themselves–free booze makes it worth it in the long run. Had complete awkward moment in which a lesbian totally was hitting on me and staring at me from 5 fee taway over her drink for the duration of the night; thankfully escaped that (sorry, I like boys?) by running across the street to grab THE best gyros I’ve had. Over cheap, but delicious food, we met a posse of crazy/drunk/annoying American girls along with two Austrailians; I thought one was cute, although I DID specify that only from his eyebrows to his nose was cute (why can’t that work?). But hipster didn’t really do it for me all that much; I’d rather stick with my man back home (in Denmark).

With Charles Bridge behind us

Saturday 30 October: Leah, Destiny, and I went on a free (3 hour) walking tour of the city, guided by Irish-Greek Michalis; Destiny was utterly shameless (“How can I find you on facebook?”). I know I say this about every European city I’ve visited  (and believe me, I haven’t even hit THAT many yet)… but Prague was abso-fucken-lutely gorgeous! There was a sense of being thrown back in time, with the primitive street-cars, old architecture, fall foliage. Three hours of trekking throughout the city (in heels, no less) turned out to be more like 4, and my feet were crying a bit afterwards; but getting a chance to (somewhat) orient myself within the city and catch a glimpse of all the “must-see’s” of Prague was well worth it. I’m still blown away by the fact that the Czech have had their “independence” for 20 years; 20 years ago, they had no coffee, religion, chocolate, induglences–you would never appreciate that passage in time as much as the Czechs (who are very hard to identify amongst a crowd of people, unless you hear them speak Czech)

"Charlie's Angels"--how creative of us

Bar 1 – I’ll spare you from drunken pictures of the shitshow

The walking tour led way to a pub crawl; ohmy, what a HOT mess that turned out to be. The trio (“Charlie’s Angels” with me, token Asian, pretending to be Lucy Lui) ready ourselves to rage through the five bars and end at the famed 5-story club. So much for THAT happening–after the first (OPEN) bar, it’s a miracle that I even made it to the 3rd (or was it 4th) bar. Did I mention I don’t remember most parts of that night? Like… how I refused to leave the first bar, despite the fact that everyone was clearing out. Or throwing a guy up against the wall (NOT for a PDA sesh, sheeesh) just to make my point across to the blondchick in company.? Or re-tracing my steps from bar 3 to bar 2 to find my lost stolen ID (which I got back, somehow, from someone). Or drunkdialing Daniel to let him know tourists dig Asians, stealing Leah’s phone after my phone died, calling “Daniel” (actually just punched random digits)… yeahh, it was THAT kind of night. The kind that miraculously ends up with everything okay, despite the high probability that shit could’ve gotten really REALLY bad. I mean, I did lose money and bawl in the streets of Prague until a random, old Czech stranger led me to my hostel,  but I’m alive to tell the tale! And I didn’t end with a busted lip like Destiny. WIN.

Photo-opp en route to the castle

What a fantastic view of the city (if I say so myself...)

Leah, Destiny & I within Prague Castle

An architectural close-up of its beauty

Group with Prague as a backdrop

Sunday 31 October and Monday 1 November, in comparison to the drunken shitshow of the night before, were low-key with “touristy” visits to the Prague Castle, the Lenon Wall, and the Jewish Quarter (gratifying, interesting, and moving… respectively) and lots of gift-shopping. The never-ending search for (cheap, but pretty) Russian dolls for the little sister, communist memorabilia for the boyfriend, dishes etched with “The Kiss” for the mother… after dishing out that much dinero, I could hardly afford my ri-donk-ulously regretful purchase of my jewelry box; oh woe is me, for my swiping of the credit card certainly snatched the carefree-spending of the rest of my trip (sorta).

Immersing myself in Lennon's call for peace, love, and beauty

Destiny & I at the Lennon Wall

The only other thing worth mentioning in the last days spent at Prague is: ABSINTHE SHOTS. All of us were ranting about how we NEEDED to do it… God, was it terribly disgusting or was it terrible disgusting? Having it lit on fire and seeing all the sugar-melt-spoon-shenanigans was real cool but the taste is gut-wrenchingly nasty. Why don’t you just take a shot of acetone (nail polish remover, for those who don’t speak feminism/chemistry)? Literally. The. Same. Taste. And. Smell. EW.

Lost that smile upon first swish...

That’s the essence of Prague. Now I only have to tell you about Florence, Siena, Pisa, Rome, Nice, and Paris. Oh bother…

Cam-whoring, as per usual. Don't hate on me.

Fall foliage: much more appealing to look at than my unfinished paper