misspotter: miss potter at school (Default)
Ciao Firenze!
Despite looking up the weather the night before, I neglected to dress appropriately for it...fortunately, the morning was spent on a bus. We only reached Florence after lunchtime (though after a series of dinners/lunches with many servings of pasta and pizza, I was happy to go with my parents' recommendation that I skip lunch and just have some crackers). After this we went for a walk to the Academia, where for the second time I got to see Michelangelo's David (this time with a tour guide who kept harping on how good-looking he was, how "tender" his face was and how we ought to admire his behind). I also saw a Stradivarius violin! But it was a little anticlimactic because I expected it to look significantly different from a regular violin :P and apart from just looking like a really old violin...yeah...I'm sure it sounds a million times better than my old violin though! Oh, and I saw a gigantic "tenor viola" which made me giggle.

It was a very rushed trip though, because we had to see all the highlights of Florence before it got dark (and it's winter now, so...) Our guide really just took us around the major churches of the city before dropping us off outside peruszi leather warehouse. There we spent an hour browsing through all kinds of luxury goods. My mum got a few jackets and other leather goods. I'm not a gigantic fan of leather in general so I wandered over to the sunglasses section. Especially the "50% sale" rack! I found a gorgeous pair of Armani sunnies for €190. I then caved in and bought a lovely little "regenerated leather" (I assume it's recycled, so that's all right with me) wallet for €10. So...that balances it out, right? 

Then it was down to our hotel for a 1-hour break before our trek to dinner in the Tuscan Hills. We did a 100-point turn on our way uphill...

...which was totally worth it! I was stuffed full of pasta once the mains came around! And the chef gave me a tour of his kitchen (I suspect it's because I was smiling all night, thanks to a delightful Skype session with J just after checking into the hotel). And there was SO MUCH FOOD. Holy crap. I say this after every Italian meal, but in all seriousness, I cannot believe this. Montebuoni was our best meal yet.

We drove home past a Tuscan monastery which was up on a hill and amazingly beautiful in the moonlight. And at this point I realized I was drunk enough to write J an email without punctuation, so he suggested I head off to bed, which I did. And had to get up at 6am the next morning to trek over to Switzerland. 
misspotter: miss potter at school (Default)
Upon our arrival in Rome, we got on a coach and went straight to the Vatican. Because...it was Christmas Eve, and the Vatican is closed for Christmas Day and Boxing Day, so we only had this one opportunity to see it! I was especially keen to see the Sistine Chapel, having missed out on it in April 2005 when we landed in Rome...on the day of the Pope's funeral. When it was closed for the papal elections. Christmas, unfortunately, is another not-great time to visit the Sistine Chapel as there are hundreds of people squished in queues trying to see it before it shuts. We had to rush through a bit (but that was ok, as I've seen all the tapestries, sculptures and maps before, and I didn't have my dSLR to take good photos). We went straight from the Sistine Chapel to the St Peter's Basilica (where the Chorale did an impromptu performance of "Ave Verum"), then explored the square. There I had my first gelato of the trip (it was a balmy 12C in Rome!) and tried to avoid being accosted by gypsies. 

Our next stop was the Colosseum. Just like with my school tour, our group had a photo in front of the Constantine Arch before going in. It seemed like this time, there was a lot more security - a sign on the entrance said that we weren't even allowed to bring in handbags! But then, they didn't exactly check us...so...

It brought back good memories, and I half-wished I'd brought my old tour jersey along to recreate my photos. But, apparently my face hasn't changed much, so it wouldn't be that funny. Maybe I have to wait til I get some grey hair...

Oh, and I feel like watching Gladiator now!

The night was still not particularly cold, to my delight! This meant time to bust out the skirts and patterned tights. Dinner was enormous - antipasto followed by two types of pasta, then salad/fish/potatoes and gelato. We had two kinds of wine, coffee, limoncello and soft drink to wash it all down. And this was just our Christmas Eve dinner! I shudder to think of what happens on Christmas Day! We then did a quick drive around town, admiring the beautifully lit city. Seriously, all the streets were decked in christmas decorations! It was glorious...there was even a Christmas tree next to the colosseum that had lights that gave the effect of falling (omg I want some!!)

On Christmas day I woke up, put on my black jeans, and found they were uncomfortably tight. This was more than enough motivation to take them off and do some exercise before breakfast. Also, my dad had woken me up at 7:15am and I'd slept fitfully afterwards (my brother's snoring didn't help). So I went down for breakfast at 8:30am. 

We had a walking tour from 10am, where we got to visit all the places I went to on my first day in Rome in 2005: the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and various squares. Lunch was supposed to be "light" but consisted of entree, pizza, pasta, dessert...and they were still asking us if we wanted salad!! 

And then after an afternoon nap, there was our Christmas Dinner...wow. I'll put up pictures later :)
misspotter: miss potter at school (Default)
I've dreamed of returning to Venice since I visited in 2005 with my school's music tour. For some reason, I found it really magical - a combination of the history, architecture, food, and music. I have fond memories of running around the rainbow houses of Burano, making friends with Italian high school girls (some of whom are still on my Facebook), trying to communicate with Italian guys in tight shirts on Murano, lying about my age to get a child's ticket into the Doge's palace, being attacked by pigeons in St Mark's square, gorging on gelato, performing in St Mark's, taking photos of all the glassware we couldn't afford, and singing in the back of boats. (I also understand slightly more Italian than I do German (thank you, 5 years of Latin) so reading menus, street signs and such are less stressful. )

Of course, everything is different now. I'm no longer a teenager with a teenage metabolism, I'm in a relationship so I can't go around creepily taking photos of cute Italians for my scrapbook,  and most of all, it's winter. This means sub-zero temperatures, short days, early closing times, and FOG. Fog is terrible for photos because all the colors are ruined. Also I found I couldn't use my flash without getting weird speckles from all the water vapour. But as my brother says, it makes you feel like you're in Pirates of the Caribbean, like big pirate ships are just waiting to come out. And when we were doing our gondola ride, it felt extra spooky. 

Yes! After missing out on gondola rides in 2005 when it just rained continuously, I can finally say I have done it!! And we really did it in style this time - with a bottle of Spumante and a guy serenading us accompanied by a piano accordion. We were ferried through the mist at dusk, while "Moon River" played. How much more could anyone ask for?

Once we came back from the gondola ride, we hopped into another boat to get a look at St Mark's square at night. It really started to get cold...but thanks to my 5 woolly layers, I felt comfortable enough to sit on the outside to get a really good view of the grand canal. Again, the mist added to the atmosphere! We then sat down for a hot chocolate at one of the cafes (which we later learnt would've cost us 10 euros if we'd gone without the group).

We arrived back at the hotel at about 7:30 and had another three-course meal that finished with...TIRAMISU!! Which was the most amazing tiramisu I've ever had in my life...it was creamy, chocolatey, full of caffeine and alcohol. My dad rushed off to a concert and left halfway through dinner but I went up to my hotel room to do laundry. Yes, my life is so exciting! 

On the second day in Venice we had a lovely "sleep-in"...an 8:45 start! Which I used to catch up on photo uploads and Skype. Breakfast was a simple affair compared to the Germanic feasts of the past week - cereal, toast, eggs, cheese and fruit (and bacon/pepperoni/ham for the carnivores). Our first stop of the day was a glass showroom where we got to watch a glass blowing demonstration and then get pestered by a salesperson to buy €500 glassware sets. If only I had more money...the tumblers in particular caught my eye because they had the ability to always land upright when dropped  ("because of gondola!")

Afterwards, we were taken to St Mark's again for a walking tour of the back streets of Venice by a lady who liked to say, "yoohoo!" and told us where to get cheap pizza. This we did...regrettably...because we then went out for a multi-course lunch on the island of Burano at about 3pm. It started with bread and fish purée, then there was lasagna, risotto, fish, salad, calamari, prawns, and to finish it off, biscuits, coffee and amaretto! And lots of red and white wine, which was beautifully light and easy to drink...

That night was fairly uneventful - just a lot of packing, Facebook messaging, catching up on Once Upon a Time, snacking lightly on popcorn, and knitting. Because the next morning, we had a 7:19am train to catch. My brother set his alarm for 4:30am which quite annoyed me (I had set mine for 5) but he didn't get out of bed for almost 30 minutes anyway, so I got dibs on the bathroom :D

We went down to the lobby to use the last of the free wifi, breakfasted when the hotel restaurant opened at 6:30, and left the hotel at 7:00. Luckily our train station was just opposite us, so it was very easy to be on the train by 7:15. We had to change once before getting on the special "high speed" train to Rome. I used the train time to nap, study cardio, knit, and listen to copious amounts of Josh Groban. 

So yeah, for the second time I have escaped Venice without being bitten by vampires in white dresses :D

February 2013

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