Friday, May 21, 2010

Florence and DAVID (Post #14)

Alright, so time to catch up on this blog as it is May 20th and I am writing about March 13th!!!

So the eight of us, as I mentioned in the Bologna post, took a train to Florence on March 13th where we would stay until Sunday, the 14th. The train we took was the coolest thing ever. There were "cabins" of 6 seats with a door and blinds for complete privacy. It was awesome because we just sat down, closed the blinds, and slept until we reached our destination.

We got there later than we arranged our hostel. To sum up a long, unnecessary story we basically were led to a different building since they gave away our reservation. We followed this really sketchy woman who spoke a lick of english. I have never been so ready to get mugged than I was at this time as she led us through alleyways and around dark corners. Keep in mind there were 8 of us and we booked it for 5 to try to save some money. We finally get to the hostel and she brings us to the front desk. She keeps telling us to pay 40 Rubies which in her own little world apparently implies 40 Euros. We were asking to see the room since we were relocated. She did not understand and kept yelling at us for no reason. "40 Woobies, 40 Woobies"
she would say with her slight lisp counteracting with her italian accent. Eventually she called her boss and Luke spoke to him on the phone. During all of this, the 4 with me were rather calm and patient while I was going ballistic. I have no patience for stuff like this as most of you know and I had to sit down so I didn't strangle this woman. Meanwhile, Isa, Juri, and Sarita waited
outside. Finally we paid and went to the room. The room had two twin-size beds individually and then three twin size beds pushed together to make 1.5 King-sized beds. Instantly Nick claimed one because he booked the hostel and I claimed the other because I paid and am the biggest. As a side note, we are all obsessed with these stupid gummy peach rings. Nick threw one in the air and I dove onto my bed to catch it in my mouth. Instantly the aluminum (literally) bed frame collapsed, awesome huh? So I put that to the side and put my mattress on the floor. We set out stuff down in the hostel and went to explore. Eventually we snuck everyone in to the room and left the hostel by twos. The woman clearly couldn't count as 4 groups of 2 walked past her when the room was booked for 5! ha --> So much for summing the story up.

The only real thing worthy of mentioning for that night was the dinner and post-dinner. We walked around forever trying to find a good menu for good prices. We finally found one and sat down. I wish I remembered the name because at the time of the trip, not the time I am writing this, it was the best meal I have had. I was feeling very greedy and ordered garlic bread with oil to split with Nick and ordered a plate of Lasagna and a plate of Tortellini with Ham and Cream. It was AMAZING! A couple people ordered famous Florentine Steaks and they were massive. We were all laughing because Lenny was joking about how they just ate an entire cow. Everyone really enjoyed their meals although the portions still werent completely satisfying but for once I will take quality of quantity. Some of my friends' meals came with dessert. They could choose cheesecake or a bowl of fruit. I ate my friend Simone's apple who we met a little earlier before dinner. I hate to say it but that apple might have been the best part of the meal. It was soooo good I couldn't believe it. The waiters could see how much I loved it so they gave me another apple free of charge (we literally had three waiters because of the massive amounts of food the nine of us ate)!! I was raving about this stupid little apple while everyone else was raving about their entree. We left there after many thanks to the waiters and went to a bar for a little bit. There was nobody in there so we had the entire thing to ourself. After a little while we went back to the hostel because it was now like 1130pm. We saw a Merry-Go-Round (carousel) so we all went on it. We all bought a ticket except Lenny and after a couple minutes the guy tried to catch up to Lenny to get him off but he jumped off and ran away haha. The guy operating the carousel stopped the ride a minute later and we went back to the hostel. We ate some pizza, joked around, and somehow ended up making a hog pile on one of the tiny beds. Of course I was stuck on the bottom but as you can see we enjoyed it.

The next day we walked around and did all the touristy stuff in Florence. The picture below shows the Bronze Doors of the Battistero (Baptistry) of San Giovanni. It is directly across from the Duomo. The bronze doors took six years and 20 of the 28 panels describe events in the life of St. John the Baptist. More popularly they are known as the "Gates of Paradise". If you literally turn around, this is the image you see. The famous florence Duomo. I will further explain the Duomo later on in the blog.

Down below you will see my favorite part of Florence. As a kid I read the entire Children's Beginner Bible (600+ pages with pictures) in less than a day. My favorite story was David vs. Goliath. We went to the Galleria dell'Accademia where the Statue of David resides. You walk through the security, buy your ticket, and enter the museum in a big room of art portraits. I briefly looked at them but quite honestly could care less about them. I booked it straight out of the room and turned the corner to the next room. As I turn the corner and I look up and see a direct path between my current position and the 17 foot statue. I was in awe because I have been waiting to see this ever since I learned I was coming to Italy. You hear about Michelangelo's statue in classes and on the internet, you learn about David in church and religion classes, and I finally found myself face to face with him/it. I instantly noticed the head and hands were much larger in proportion to the rest of the body. This was because it used to sit on top of the Duomo and looks proportional from a distance. In addition, it was surrounded by an approximately eight foot high plexiglass wall because some asshole a while back took a chisel to the statues toes. My friend snapped a picture and got yelled at instantly by security. I HAD to have a picture so I hid behind a pillar and had my Australian friend Luke look out for the security guard while I kept my eye on the other 2. I turned my flash off, saw my two guards were not looking, and my mate Luke gave me the OK to snap one. VOILA! Be sure to click on it for a larger view.

We left and decided to get a view of Florence so we decided to climb Giotto's Campanile which is literally 20 feet from the Duomo. It is 277 feet tall as you can picture below. We were blessed with BEAUTIFUL weather so it was probably 70 degrees. I was wearing Jeans so I honestly almost died climbing this tower.

You can see that we were above the rest of the Duomo and this was not even the highest point yet.

This is a view from the top. Here you can see another church in Florence; not sure what the name of it is though.

In this picture above you can see Piazza della Repubblica. The arch is known as Arcone and you can also see the Carousel we were on the night before!!

Here you see the Palazza Vecchio which is the town hall of Florence. It sits above Palazza della Signoria where the replication of the David sits in addition to a couple of badass statues and very cool fountain you will see very soon. I really do not have much to say about this besides it was an extremely impressive structure. It reminded me of the famous bell towers you see in a place like Siena.

Below you see the coolest fountain I have seen (until I saw the Trevi in Rome). This is called the Fountain of Neptune. It originally was just the statue resembling Cosimo de'Medici in an octagonal foundation but the Florentines hated it. Added were the bronze river gods, laughing satyrs, and marble sea-horses. We continued to walk around the plaza looking at the statues. I would post the replica of David but you already saw the real one so there is no need! If you do want to see the replica feel free to email me and I will send the picture (or you can good Palazza della Signoria).

Pictured below is the badass statue I mentioned above. You may not like it but this lion looks ferocious and anytime I look at it quickly for some reason I think the ball in his paw is a head of a human.
It really is amazing how symbolic the lion is over here in Europe. They clearly have a strong, noble symbolic meaning because I have seen these similar statues in Florence, Rome, Vienna, and etc. Europeans clearly like the Lion icon as it not only represents strength and nobility but courage, bravery, power, and royalty at the same time.

We walked from there to the Ponte Vecchio Bridge that some of you I know have been waiting for. On the way I saw many statues by Michelangelo, Donatello, DaVinci, Bernini, and many other famous sculptors of the time. You see the Ponte Vecchio bridge crossing the beautiful and clean Arno River hahaha. You can see the individual shops built into the bridge similar to the houses of Cinque Terre are built into the cliffs. This bridge was covered with jewelry stores, vendors, butcher shops, and much more. I have never seen anything like it as it is approximately 175 feet long. So we crossed this bridge slowly as we gazed at the shops and products they have to offer. We all stopped to take a few pictures. Here is a picture with my good friends Isa and Sara.

Food is a little pricy over in Firenze so we went to a market and bought bread sandwich meat, cheese, and condiments for some cheap sandwiches. We utilized the great weather and ate our sandwiches on the steps leading up to the Pitti Palace. We ended up just laying there for an hour or so; a couple of passed out including myself. We then headed back to the Duomo and went inside. Right outside though the girl I met from Cinque Terre saw me. Mary Hester saw me and introduced me to her family. It was unbelievable how small this world is when I met a girl in Cinque Terre and she happens to spot me out of the thousands of people in all of Florence. The inside was very beautiful and I got some descent shots once I turned the flash off.
Here you can see the mosaic ceiling in the Duomo. I like this Duomo a lot but it is very similar inside to all of the others. The Duomo in Milan is still my favorite which I definitely will put up pictures of soon!!

On the train home Lenny, Nick, and I sat in a cabin by ourselves because we all ended up getting split up. The girls wanted to shop and we knew they would be late. We ended up at different train stations and got there 5 minutes before the train departed. So the three of us met an Italian named Angelo. He is from Sicily and works in Milan. He was probably the coolest italian I have met. He was very down to earth and very personable. We had some great conversations and the highlight was Scopa. Scopa is an italian card game; basically THE national card game here. It was very difficult to learn but he taught well and picked up rather fast. He was my partner and the two of us beat Nick and Lenny 2 games to 1. Each game is to 11 points so it took most of the 3 hour trip back home. Since this train ride we have actually invited him to Arco and have gone out to a few bars with him. That about sums this trip up. Florence was nice for a day or two but did not live to my expectations. It was VERY touristy and too similar to other places I have been. It didn't live up to the hype in my mind, but I did have a great weekend. Sorry it was not too entertaining with humor but not a ton of funny content was worth writing about.

I will try to write my Prague blog next but that will be a long one since I was there for 5 days. Please email me with any questions or comments, I love to read them and reply when I get a chance!!! Also shoot me an email if anyone wants to see the entire album of pictures.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

I Miss... (Post #13)

As we all know, it has been quite a while since my last blog post. So this post will simply ask all of you to hang with me and be patient! I have been super busy as projects, travels, and playing basketball/soccer have hit me at the same time. Since I last wrote, I have been to Florence, Prague, Rome, Barcelona, Canary Islands, and Madrid so we all can see I have a ton to catch up on. If I am lucky I will be able to write Florence today because it has been far too long. In the meantime, hope everything is going well back home and at school. Hope the better weather is there although I heard it snowed in Vermont on APRIL 28 which is ridiculous! Thank god I wasn't there or I would have gone crazy.

Just to give you a little reading material, my friend and classmate from Rutland High, Greg Josselyn, has been studying abroad in Florence. He is done this week, but his class had a field trip up here to Milano to see "The Last Supper" painting. He gave me his number and we ended up meeting up by the Duomo you have all seen in a previous post. I showed him around a little bit and had about two hours before he had to meet up with his group and head home via train. Greg brought up two bottles of Tuscan Wine since southern Italy has MUCH better wine than up North. He and I sat there in Milan, Italy during a studying abroad program in front of Milan Central Station drinking Tuscan Wine. Haha I think that is amazing. We were discussing how lucky we are and what a fantastic experience we have both been blessed with. Here my friend from Rutland High School and I just happen to meet up and enjoy the beautiful Milano weather. We discussed our abroad experiences and then reminisced about good old Vermont. Family, friends, school, internships, jobs, and our first meal were all brought up while drinking our Tuscan Wine. I do not recall that Greg had an actual first meal in mind, but mine is definitely Taco Bell and he strongly agreed.

I am realizing I am starting to get ready to go home even though I have two months and one week left here in Milan. Six months is a LONG time to be away from friends and family; away from your everyday life that you have developed a routine in. Luckily I get to skype family and friends and also have a great group of friends I hope to see and stay in touch with when our adventure is over.

As time goes by, it has been almost four months, I start to think about what I look forward to and what I miss:
--> Seeing and being with my lovely, caring, and competitive mother (what a good son I am). I miss going to Applebees or Bagel Cafe with her or having a good laugh at something truly stupid yet we both find completely hysterical. I actually miss being in the new house because of my big room and more importantly because I know how happy my mom is in it. In addition, I have to say I miss the "HIIIII" that she yells when she walks in the door. I miss her asking me to go for a hike even though she knows I will never say yes. I miss being home so I can drive my car rather than my mom driving my car! Miss our three cats and Husky, Tippy (did not name her). Last but not least, I miss my mom's cooking...which happens twice a month ha. Keep in mind that two cooked meals a month counts if I ask her to make me a sandwich or bowl of cereal!!!
--> Seeing my pharmaceutical brother who can remind me everyday I will get diabetes if I drink too much soda (which I have only drank 2 liters in the last 20 days) or that I will get an ulcer if I eat too much in one meal. I miss talking fantasy baseball whenever I want and trying to get him to trade me a player every day. I actually miss the daily Lance Armstrong update as he follows him on Twitter haha. Running to Ramuntos or the Psalms is definitely on my must-do list when I get back. Also miss seeing how you two are doing on the new house and swinging by to say hey. I actually cannot wait to throw the baseball around so get your glove ready!!
--> Seeing my sister (in-law, which isn't necessary) who is always JUST one text away. Whenever we are bored we text each other and see whats up, cannot do that over here. I miss being asked to let my nephew Bauer out (he's a dog for those wondering how I could possibly let a kid out) when my bro and Em have to go somewhere for the day. I miss arguing about sports with her because I always have something opinionated or stupid to say and she will enter a debate with me. Also I miss meeting up at Bagel if she has a minute for lunch.
--> Seeing the Grants. Sometimes I am invited over for dinner or see them doing something related to my bro and Em whether it is dropping something off at the house or errands or whatever. I miss the farm. I miss doing "manly things" as we call them ha. Even though some off those jobs can be a bitch, I love it because it is a good work out, I get to help the Grants out, and makes me feel more important and OF COURSE, manly. I miss mowing the massive field or hitting golf balls from the tee either towards the pin or into the pond, cutting trees down, splitting wood and stacking it, driving the tractor and hummer, and enjoying some fresh off the grill hot dogs, hamburgers, or tasty veal as we take a quick break for lunch. One thing I do not miss and Mr. Grant can probably guess it; carrying shingles to the roof. That was by far probably the most miserable thing I have done in my life (physically) giving me a new-found respect for roofers, but also the ability to say I did it! What I miss the most is obviously shooting the guns. I miss the good conversations with Mr and Mrs Grant, Casey, and Michele...and of course Benny!!
--> Calling my Grandma occasionally to see how shes doing. Hope everything is well with her and the rest of my relatives all over the country!
--> Going to Clem's or Sugar and Spice with the family after church on Sunday Mornings before I go play basketball (which I do miss my group of bball buddies).
--> Seeing my closest friends, teachers and coaches, and parents I am closest with and seeing how they are all doing. Luckily I keep in touch with them on facebook and keep in touch with the adults via email.
--> I never thought I would say I miss going to church (no offense God). At home I try to go every week and when I go, I feel better about myself in general. I just feel accomplished and less-stressed when I go. BUTTT I went to the Vatican for Easter Mass with the Pope so that should count for six months of church. MOM I know what you are thinking and I swear church is offered here only in Italian! I am not going through that!
--> Driving my car and not relying on public transportation and being super efficient in getting where I want to go since I "challenge" the speed limit :-)
--> Huge portions for cheap prices, here you sometimes pay 15 USD and are not full. If I oay 10 USD in the States I am more than full practically laying on the floor of the kitchen or the restaurant.
--> Ordering whatever I want in English and getting exactly what I ordered because I actually know what to order!
--> Bagel Cafe, Taco Bell, Psalms, Ramuntos, Applebees, Cheesecake Factory, and Olive Garden (as I am drooling)
--> Not being stared at EVERY single minute because Italian Americans do not stare like Italians here
--> And last but not least, playing Call of Duty on my Playstation 3 with my friends online and killing as many people as possible (I repeat playing online)

I could go on and say more and write more about each person or category but I am too lazy and too busy; if that combination makes any sense.

That's enough blabbing for now as I will hopefully finish my Florence blog today or tomorrow. Sorry if there are any errors, no revisions today. Happy Cinco de Mayo and happy birthday Casey!