And FINALLY I have a bit of time to write about my favorite city to date. There’s something about Amsterdam that totally stole my heart. It’s actually the first city I’ve visited outside of the United States that I could see myself living in for a period of time. I met one of my good friends from high school, Donovan, in Amsterdam on Thursday night. Donovan’s cousins, Kirk and Bre, live in Amsterdam. They are in their early 30’s and have a 14 month old named Teia. They both grew up in Seattle and met in college at the University of Washington! Krik and Bre graciously opened up their home to Donovan and I for the weekend and it was SO much fun staying with a family. They were wonderful hosts and a ton of fun to be around.. they actually reminded me a lot of my own sister and brother-in-law. And of course having some baby time was very special seeing how much I miss my niece! I’m sure that my experienced in Amsterdam was very positively influenced by having the opportunity to live with my friend’s family.
On Friday morning Donovan and I visited the Anne Frank house. I am fascinated by WWII and Nazi Germany, so visiting the house where she and her family hid from the Nazis was so interesting. I never had to read her diary for school, so I did not know much about her, but I learned more about her and her life while touring the house. Her father actually worked out of the same home where they ended up hiding. Her father’s boss and the boss’ secretary agreed to do everything they could to hide them from the Nazis. The Franks and another family lived together in the back of the house. They shared a living room and a kitchen, and they had a few rooms to split between the families. Anne wrote about how during most of the day their blinds had to be completely shut so no one could see inside of the house. For a little bit of time during the day she could peer outside and she wrote about how she longed to be free and to run and play and breathe in the fresh air outside. She felt like an animal trapped in a cage, and she felt like the Nazis robbed her of an authentic childhood. Anne eventually died in an extermination camp, but her face and her story became a symbol of the Holocaust, and especially became a voice for all of the Jewish children who experienced life under the Nazi regime.
After the Anne Frank house, Donovan and I (based off Bre’s recommendation) went to get some Dutch pancakes for breakfast! The pancakes were SO delicious and I also tried a mint tea. Afterwards, we walked downtown and walked along many of the outdoor Christmas markets. In the Netherlands, the Dutch celebrate Christmas like we do in the States, but in November they also have a special celebration for Santa Claus, called Sinterklaas in the Netherlands. It was a lot of fun getting in the Christmas spirit in mid-November! We sampled some delicious cheeses and played in a park for awhile. We eventually made it to the famous “iamsterdam” sign and snapped a few photos. That night Kirk and Bre treated us to Thai food!
The next day, Donovan and I took Krik and Bre’s bikes and rode around the city. It was a BLAST! We rode a couple of circles around Vondel Park and through the streets. At times it was very peaceful, but riding in the middle of traffic was pretty scary haha. I survived though so all is well! Most everyone in Amsterdam rides bikes over driving a car, and I really like that aspect about the city. Also, it was apparent that many people value exercising. We saw tons of people biking, running and walking, so I really enjoyed seeing that. I felt like a little kid riding a bike again 🙂 Donovan and I ended up finding a small food market in a residential area and we stopped for lunch. We had thai chicken pot pie and carrot cake! It was delicious and fun to be with locals. That night, Krik and Bre took us on a boat party. Bre’s friend is moving to London so it was her going away party. The boat party was a ton of fun and we cruised around the canal’s of Amsterdam and drank Heineken.
My weekend in Amsterdam was so special and one of the best weekends yet. I would love to live there someday 🙂
What an experience Budapest was! It is definitely the most unique country I have visited in Europe so far due to its checkered history. Budapest was an incredible experience and a beautiful city. Buda and Pest are split between the River Danube, and our hotel was on the Pest side overlooking the Danube and the Buda side. The hotel we stayed in was beautiful and probably one of the nicest hotels I’ve ever stayed in! Our tour guide told us that Hungarians to this day care very much about knowing on which side their fellow peers live. The Buda side has many beautiful, expensive neighborhoods, so most people who live there are very wealthy. The Pest side is home to all major businesses, so most everyone who lives on the Buda side commutes to the Pest side daily to work.
On the first day we toured around the Pest side. Our tour guide explained the history of Budapest, which I found most fascinating. In her words, “Budapest has always been on the wrong side of history.” In WWI, Budapest aligned themselves on the side of the Austrian-Hungarians. Of course we all know that the Allies won the war, leaving the Hungarian economy in devastation, as well as their empire ceasing to exist. In WWII, Hungary took the side of Nazi Germany, believing that Hitler would bring economic and social prosperity to their country. Again, the Allies won this war and when countries were being liberated from Nazi Germany’s possession, the Soviet Union “liberated” Hungary, turning them Communist. Events led to the Cold War, and Hungary was not truly liberated from Communist regime until 1990! I could not believe this considering I was born a mere 3 years later! On this tour we also got to see the Jewish Quarter, where the Nazis forced Jews to live in the confines of the ghetto. We got to tour the Dohany Street Synagogue, which was built in 1854. Despite so much destruction in the area, the synagogue was never bombed or burnt down. It is the second largest synagogue in the world, next to the synagogue in New York City.
That night, my friends and I decided to treat ourselves and get massages at the hotel’s spa! It was so nice and relaxing. After our treatments, we had dinner at a traditional Hungarian restaurant. The food was SO delicious! I had red wine, beef puff turnovers and goulash soup! I also tried paprika chicken. It was so yummy.
The next day, we had an early wakeup call at 6:30 am to catch the 7:00 am metro to go to the famous Hungarian thermal baths! There are multiple indoor and outdoor baths, and it was so relaxing. If I lived in Budapest I would start everyday at the baths! Later in the day, we explored more of the Buda side and got to see the Buda Castle, as well as explore Budapest’s most famous and least expensive indoor market. We had some free time later on so a group of us decided to hike up to one of two remaining Communist statutes in the city. The view at the top was absolutely breathtaking and looked over the entire city. We were there at sunset and it’s a memory that I will never forget. That night everyone got together for a Hungarian cooking class! We made 8 different kinds of dishes, and needless to say everyone was stuffed afterwards!
My experience in Budapest was so special and I loved every minute again. I’m already looking forward to when I can return 🙂
Buonanotte mi amici! Mi dispiace that it has taken this long to update my blog. In the past three weekends I traveled to Rome, Budapest and Amsterdam. Life has been a whirlwind this month! I’m currently relaxing in Florence over my Thanksgiving break, so I figured this was the perfect time to finally update you all with what’s going on in my life. We will start with Rome……
First off, my best friend from home, Cammie, visited me in Florence for a couple of days. She is studying abroad for the semester in Madrid, Spain. Our time spent together in Florence was wonderful! On Friday morning Cammie, Zach, Jenna and I took the train from Florence to Rome. We even had our own apartment 15 minutes away from the Colosseum! I loved Rome.. we toured the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, Vatican City, the Vatican Museum, the Spanish Steps and the Borghese Gardens. We were definitely were busy during our three days! My favorite sites were the Colosseum, the Vatican and the Borghese Gardens.
The Colosseum is one of the greatest architectural pieces I’ve ever seen. I had a much greater appreciation seeing it in person than I ever have before merely seeing it in textbooks. It was built during the reign of the Roman Empire and was used as a spectacle for games. Essentially, African slaves and lower-class citizens were used as gladiators who fought to the death against animals which included tigers, lions, elephants and giraffes. The games were ones of blood baths and drew enormous crowds. The Colosseum was a representation of how great the Roman Empire was during its height.
The Vatican was absolutely incredible. We went into St. Peter’s Basilica as well as the Vatican Museum. I loved seeing The School of Athens by Rafael, as well as Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. Exploring the Vatican is more of an experience than something I can describe, I’d say. It was probably the true highlight of my weekend. I also have invested more time in learning about Papa Francesco than any other Pope before, so seeing the change that he is having on the Catholic Church is exciting.
We visited the Borghese Gardens on our last day and ended up staying there for about 5 hours, exploring and hanging out with each other. We wanted to go into the Borghese Museum, but tickets were sold out. It was a little bit rainy, which I loved, and a lot of the trees still had beautiful orange, red and yellow fall leaves. I loved walking around, relaxing and exploring the grounds.
Zach has friends from high school studying abroad in Rome and we met up with them one of the nights for dinner. They made us reservations at “the best pizza place in Rome,” and indeed, the pizza was out of this world. The restaurant was so busy, but luckily we had a reservation. I had a mozzarella, pesto and potato pizza. I still dream about it! 🙂
My first time in Rome was a ton of fun and will always hold a special place in my heart.
Ciao everyone! It’s been awhile since I’ve updated my blog.. last week was pretty hectic and I’m in the middle of preparing for midterms, so my updates have been a bit delayed. In this post I am going to tell you about my adventures in Barcelona last weekend! And what a trip it was.
We took the train from Florence to Bologna and from Bologna we flew directly in Barcelona. The traveling was seamless and we were all very grateful that we didn’t have any hiccups along the way. When we landed in Barcelona we took an airport shuttle that dropped us off in the middle of a huge square with lots of shops and people. From there it was about a ten minute walk to our hotel which ended up being a REALLY nice place. They even gave us shampoo and conditioner.. it was truly wonderful. 🙂 We found a nice place to eat dinner around 10 pm and we picked this particular restaurant because the prices were VERY cheap, so naturally we thought we hit the jackpot. We ordered fish and chips and when the waiter brought us our food we were underwhelmed by the portion size… they gave us about 4 tiny pieces of fish and about 20 tiny french fries. The food was very good, but not exactly satisfying. We came to find out later that we ate at a Tapas bar, which explains the tiny portion sizes. Tapas are very popular in Spain, and the idea is that a party at a Tapas restaurant order multiple, smaller dishes to keep the meal more interesting! It’s a really neat concept. We retired to our hotel after dinner as we were exhausted.
In the morning we had a delicious breakfast at the hotel and the group of us gathered in a bus to go on a tour of St. Ignatius’ life. St. Ignatius was born in the year 1491 in the Basque region of Spain. He was canonized in 1609. He began his life as a solider in the Spanish army during the Spanish-French War, during which time his legs were badly injured and he could not continue life in the army because of his injury. After dropping out of the army, he had to rethink the direction of his life. He ended up choosing to life a life solely for God. St. Ignatius went on to found the Jesuit Order. We first stopped in Manresa, where St. Ignatius lived as a hermit inside a cave. During the year that he lived in this cave he wrote his most influential book, “Spiritual Exercises.” We also got to see the Cardener River where St. Ignatius experienced a moment of spiritual ecstasy in which he was inspired to write the “Spiritual Exercises.” (At Gonzaga, University Ministry actually offers a Cardener retreat!)
After leaving Manresa we headed to Monserrat, which is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen in my life! We drove up a huge mountain to get to Monserrat, which is a small town on the mountain comprising of three monasteries. The views from the town looking down into the valley were breathtaking. We stopped in Monserrat because St. Ignatius traveled through this area when he was on his spiritual journey; He stopped here to contemplatively pray. While in Monserrat, we got to hear one of the oldest boy’s choirs in all of Europe sing. Their origins date back to the fifteenth century and the boys in the choir today ranges from the ages of 5-9. The boys live in the monastery and receive an education there. They attend school from Monday-Friday and are allowed to go home to spend time with their families on the weekends. The program is very prestigious and it is considered a great honor to be apart of it. We only got to hear them sing for about 7 minutes but it was absolutely beautiful. Within the first ten seconds I had tears in my eyes! We heard them sing inside of a grand church, so the entire ambience was breathtaking and very holy.
We got back to Barcelona in the late afternoon and we decided to walk one of the most famous streets in Barcelona, Las Ramblas. It was a very big and busy street with lots of restaurants and street vendors. We decided to eat a Tapas restaurant, and it was delicious! We had chicken, seafood, vegetables, bread and meatballs. We also ordered paella, which is one of the most famous dishes in Spain. It is similar to a gumbo; It comes with rice mixed with vegetables and chicken with lots of spices. It was really yummy and we also had margaritas! After dinner we continued walking down Las Ramblas until we got to the harbor. It was the most beautiful and warm night and it was one of the best feelings to smell the ocean again! We crossed the bridge to the other side of the harbor where we shopped in an indoor/outdoor mall for a little while. (I bought a dress and a necklace!) We spent some more time walking around, eventually making it back to our hotel where we retired for the night.
The next day, Saturday, was a combination of bus/walking tour. We saw La Sagrada Familia and other architectural buildings, mainly designed by Spain’s most famous architect, Antoni Gaudi. La Sagrada Familia is a massive church and its design absolutely blew my mind. Part of it is has been under reconstruction for many years, and Spanish citizens are hopeful it will be complete in the year 2026. I really cannot but into words how genius and beautiful this church is.. so I’ll let my pictures do the speaking for itself! 🙂 Later that day, a group of us independently took the metro to Park Guell, which again was designed by Gaudi. It is an expansive and beautiful park and Gaudi specifically designed the famous mosaic pieces which are very characteristic of Barcelona. The main reason that I knew about Gauid’s mosaics is because I took Spanish for about 10 years of my life and on the cover of almost every Spanish book there was a picture of one of his mosaics. When we got back to our hotel we decided to go to a restaurant/bar to watch El Clasico, the futbol game every year between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. While I’m the first to admit that NBA Basketball is my preferred sport to watch, I happen to know a thing or two about what’s going on in the soccer world and this match is one of the most watched matches every year. So to be in the city where the game was being played was so awesome. It was very fun watching it was a big crowd of people, obviously rooting for their hometeam. Barcelona ended up winning 2-1. We went out to a bar afterwards for some drinks and went back to the hotel after.
Sunday was our last day in Barcelona, so we grabbed breakfast and walked down Las Ramblas again. We stopped to get a little taste of home at McDonald’s.. fries and coke had never tasted so good. We walked down to the harbor and tried to find some shade to relax in; It was 75 degrees and perfectly sunny! A beautiful and hot day. I got to dip my feet in the harbor, which made me incredibly happy. After relaxing for awhile we got back on the shuttle which took us to the airport to fly back to Florence!
Barcelona was a young, cool, vibrant and exciting city. I cannot wait to go back and I’m looking forward to exploring more of Spain in the future!
I hope everyone is well and ready for the weekend! In this post I am going to recap my Friday last weekend as well as my cooking class last night!
Last weekend I had the opportunity to visit 3 different Tuscan cities in one day! I traveled to Siena, San Gimignano and Monteriggioni. It was an absolutely beautiful, sunny day and the three cities were GORGEOUS. It’s always fun to see a different part of Italy besides Florence. We spent most of our time in Siena and I fell in love with this city! The main piazza is in the shape of a giant circle and is a hub for Italians and tourists to sit down and enjoy some gelato and the sights within the piazza. After a yummy lunch, we had the chance to grab some gelato (mascarpone and cappuccino flavors!) and relax in the piazza. After the group re-convened we hiked to the top of a tower that was supposed to be a church but was never finished. The view from atop was absolutely breathtaking. It was a perfectly clear day so we had a 360 degree view of all of Tuscany. I could have stayed there for hours. We had less time to spend in Monteriggioni and San Gimignano, so we simply walked around the tiny towns, enjoyed wine and took in the scenery! It was an absolutely perfect day.
Last night I got to experience my first Italian cooking class at “In Tavola”!!! We cooked an eggplant, mozzarella, basil and tomato appetizer. Normally I don’t enjoy eggplant, but this dish was fabulous. Next we prepared homemade noodles for our main dish, lasagna! We made two different types, a beef and red sauce lasagna, and a vegetarian pesto lasagna. They were both delicious but I think I enjoyed the beef lasagna a little bit more. And lastly, for desert, chocolate cake!! Needless to say, the cake was mouthwatering. We had water and red wine with our meal as well. I’m already checking their website to see if there are any opportunities for my friends and I to sign up for another class.
Tomorrow my friends and I head to Perugia for a famous national chocolate festival! Try not to be too jealous 😉 And next weekend I head to Barcelona, Spain! So keep a lookout for some more blog posts to come.
Jenna, John, Laura and I in Monteriggioni