Wednesday, February 23, 2011

From Hope to Reality

Last year when I got back from Paris I spoke of the hope I found. The hope that someone out there is waiting for me. Someone great. This year, my vacation brought me a fine dose of reality.

I've been asked many times if I saw my Swiss friend, and the answer is yes, I did. But not how I was planning. But a brief moment of my vacation was spent with the coolest boy I have met in years.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Vacation Highlight: Shop till you Drop

I went to Italy with a plan to shop. I was saving all of my shopping for Milan - just makes sense right? We were also visiting during one of two sale seasons - yessssssss.

I'm a big fan of consignment stores, and thought consignment in Milan must be off the hook. I'm sure it was, but I couldn't find any of them. The only one I found was Milan's version of the Salvation Army, and well, I did really well in it. Everything was either 1 or  5 Euros. I bought a coat for myself, an amazing scarf, a blazer, a shawl, a silk tie and sports jacket for dad - all for the low price of 27 Euros! Awesome.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Vacation Highlight: Blowing Glass

Now, let's talk about Venice. Venice is easily the most beautiful city I have ever been to. Seriously, I can't imagine living there and waking up to those views every day.

I digress. For many moons I have been fascinated by glass blowing. Even seeing it on tv, the artistry and skill required to make those delicate piece amazes me. I mean, I break everything, so I just don't get it.

Anyways, our first day in Venice we hopped a boat to Murano Island to tour a glass studio. We sat there, in amazement, as these masters manipulated, melted and coloured the most intricate designs I have ever seen. While we were there they were working on pieces for a chandelier. That's crazy!

I can't imagine how they work in the summer though. It would be awfully hot.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Vacation Highlight: Boys Boys Boys

I am single and looking to mingle, so part of the draw of Italy was the cute Italian boys! And cute they were.

Luckily, I was able to travel to a few cities and get a sampling of each's male offerings. Here is my breakdown of the boys of Italy, city-by-city

Friday, February 11, 2011

Vacation Highlight: Trains, Again

Florence to Pisa, I think.
After Paris & Switzerland I fell I love with trains   and traveling on them. What a lovely way to see the country. Always on time, comfortable, speeding through the beautiful countrysides. Ah.

So, when ma, pa & I were planning the trip to Italy, I put in a demand to travel to each city via train. This time around though, we went first class and it was awesome, and for not a lot more money.

It's also fun to drink wine on trains.
Rome to Florence was beautiful. Florence to Pisa like a postcard, and though Florence to Milan was too dark to tell for sure, I'm fairly certain that it too was magical. Milan to Venice was incredible, all leading into one of the most beautiful cities I've ever seen.

I wish Canada had an efficient and inexpensive rail system - I'm sure the ride between BC & Alberta would give Europe some scenery competition.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Vacation Highlight: Pasta in Pisa

Our second day in Florence was spent traveling to Pisa to see some tower.

The Tower is cool - though it would be cooler if the mystery was still surrounding it.

I was adamantly avoiding tourist-trap food. We got screwed with it in Rome at the Vatican, and I was determined to find something few tourists would get to. Thanks to Frommer's we ventured to the Pisa market and found the best pasta yet.

For €5.50 we were served the tastiest, freshest meal we'd had yet. Ma's was the best risotto I have ever tasted. Mine was gnochetti with sundried tomatoes, olives, rosemary in a tomato sauce. They didn't have a menu, relying on daily specials to keep their customers satisfied. And satisfied we were!

After lunch, we left the restaurant stuffed and wandered towards the train station. As we're going I pause to let everyone else catch-up. (I'm a fast walker, I've tried, but I can't help it.) Then SPLAT! something falls on my forehead, and drips onto my jacket when I realize
I've just been shit on!
But even this horrifying experience couldn't take away from what may very well be the best pasta meal of my life.

And can we talk about how lovely Pisa is? Is every Tuscan town like this!? Beautiful! And way larger than I was expecting.

I'm ready to go back, if only for the pasta.

Have I mentioned how fat I've become?

Monday, February 07, 2011

Vacation Highlight: Irish Car Bombs with Bobby

I get my party-loving ways from my dad. No one in my family would argue that fact. So when we got to Florence and he wanted to go out, I agreed and off we went.

The taxi driver dropped us off in the nightlife centre of Florence, but just like in Paris, for some reason, the first bar we stopped in to was a karaoke bar. Oye.

We were stone-cold sober, so I figured, what the hell, let's do shots!

So I ordered two Irish Car Bombs.

My pa had no idea what the hell was put in front of him. As he dropped in his shooter glass, he abandoned the drink, so I had to do both of them. Fun!

We had a couple of beers there, watched American students sing Katy Perry & songs from Grease and then continued our stroll. Stopped in another lounge, which went from packed to empty in five minutes. I blame Bobby. Finally we ended in a full-on nightclub on reggae night. I pounded my drink and got us out of there. Awkward.

Iris / Bobby time happens very rarely, so even among the drunken students, this was totally a vacation highlight.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Vacation Highlight: Living Like a Local

For this vaycay we rented apartments in each city rather than staying at hotels. I did this in Paris and found my experience to be so much better because of it. Though the five flights of stairs is something I will never get used to.

Rome we had a lovely apartment in the Testaccio area. According to Fodor's this area isn't really explored by tourists. YAY! We ate mainly within a few block radius of the apartment, and often had difficulties finding anyone that spoke English. AMAZING!

Florence was again, in a lovely area, on top of an amazing bakery and across the street from a delightful deli. Milan was right off the tram line and so accessible. Venice was cool, but three flights made for some difficulties for my parents. (Don't get me wrong, I hate stairs too. They are in fact, one of my biggest fears. Stupid right?)

The thing all of these places had in common was that there wasn't another tourist in site when we left our room. For a few days in each city, we got to kinda see what life is like in each city. What living in Rome, Florence, Milan and Venice would be like.


So thanks and - you have totally changed the way I travel.

Bonus - each apartment was close to half the price of a hotel.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Vacation Highlight: Getting Religious in Vatican City

Our first day in Rome, a Sunday, we hopped a tour bus (I really like these hop-on hop-off tours for a first day in a city. Helps gives you some bearings, you know?) and made our way around Rome. One of the first stops was Vatican City.
Me, Pa, Ma & Aunty Cherry at Bernini's Piazza San Pietro

As we walked in to St. Peter's Bascillica, my aunt noticed that they were having mass. I haven't been to mass in a very long while. I generally try to avoid anything that makes me feel like a hypocrite, but figured, if I'm going to go to church anywhere, this should be the place.

It also helped that I couldn't understand anything being said and that we walked in half-way through. But for the rest of my life I will be one of the more impressive Catholics, having gone to a mass in St. Pete's.

Question: how much money is Vatican City worth? Talk about opulent. Wowzas.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Vacation Highlight: Birthday Best

I have made no secret of my love of birthdays. They're super fun and all about you. Nothing wrong with that.

This year, I was dealing with serious jet lag. I woke up at 3am and faced the day with two hours of sleep, looking like shit.

As we started out it was clear we would be wandering around ancient Rome and exploring. From the Mouth of Truth to Teatro Marcello to the Colosseum. This was the day we wandered the city the most.

Fun little run-in: As we were waiting for the elevators at the Colosseum, an old dude gets off the elevator, and in a bratty tone says to his daughter, "I don't have to do anything, it's my birthday!" I got excited, yelled, "HEY! It's my birthday too!". When he turned around he had a 6-0 button on his sweater. He was exactly twice my age! NEAT!

For dinner we found a suggestion from the Frommer's Guide in our neighborhood. Perilli's on Via Marmorata, Apparently this was the place to experience authentic Roman cuisine. So we did.

The food was amazing. The service untouchable. And the whole experience was delightful. Also, I tried lamb testicles. What?! The comedy of errors went like this.
Me: I think the lamb sweetbread sounds good.
Aunty Cherry: iris, they're balls.
Me: (in my head) I love balls of bread!
She should have mentioned they were nuts.

Anyways, my 30th birthday was ridiculously special, but made even better when ma said 'I had my doubts about this trip but this has been really cool!'

Mission accomplished.