Tampering with Tampa- What To Do If You’re Passing By

Tampering with Tampa- What To Do If You’re Passing By

If you saw my last blog post, you’ll know that I recently went on a cruise out of Tampa, FL and it was fantastic! This post will be dedicated to sharing a couple fun things to do in Tampa if you’re only there for a short time. If you’re waiting for a flight or you’re just passing through, there is a bunch of neat places to visit in Tampa.

The Florida Aquarium 

If you like the water and all things sea life, I suggest checking out the Florida Aquarium. My mom and I went for the morning before our afternoon flight and we spent an enjoyable and informative couple of hours exploring. Here’s a tip: it’s cheaper to buy tickets online than in person. I used my iPhone to go on the aquarium’s website and bought the eTickets online for a few bucks less than if we had bought them at the ticket counter. We arrived right as it was opening since the aquarium is about 100 feet away from where our cruise docked, so the place was pretty empty.

What’s also great and convenient is that they stored our luggage for us so we could walk around unencumbered. We spent the first forty-five minutes looking around the gift shop and watching two 15 minute short 4D films. The first movie was about sea creatures and we were spattered with bubbles and misted with water as we watched. It was pretty cool. There was about 10 minutes in between the films so we sat outside in the sun and just enjoyed the day while we chatted. The second little short film was a sequel-type film to Happy Feet and the little theater was filled with a bunch of mothers and their toddlers. It was cute.

Then we walked around and saw some stingrays, which I got to touch, a seahorse, and other cool sea creatures. They were feeding the sharks and other big fish as we sat down to look in the large tank, and we learned what they all ate, and in which part of the tank their specific feeding area was. Unfortunately, it seemed like it was field trip day for the entire Florida school system and tons of groups of children began flooding the aquarium.

We took that as a sign that 2 hours was enough time to spend at the aquarium, and we scooted on out. It was around lunch time when we left and my mom had looked up a celebrated restaurant for us to try in the historic Ybor city part of Tampa. Even if you’re not hungry, this is a really neat part of Tampa to visit because it is where all the immigrants (mainly Cuban, Spanish, and Italian) went during the early 20th century, and it’s home to many old cigar factories. Mainly, Ybor City is just a really cool place to visit. it has a bunch of bars and restaurants to entertain you for a couple of hours if you’re passing through.

The Columbia Restaurant

We took an Uber from the aquarium to The Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City, and it was as if the restaurant took up the whole block it was such an impressive place. Once inside, I felt like I had entered an aristocratic 20th century house. They, like the aquarium, were good enough to store our suitcases. The waiting area is like a foyer in a beautiful home with dark wood and lovely artwork. The restaurant itself is composed of a number of rooms, each with its own kind of theme. The room we were seated in was large and bright with beautiful chandeliers, old timey artwork, and a loft area above on the side with more seating options. All of the waiters are dressed in fancy dress: black jackets and pants with dark bow ties over crisp white shirts.

It was a wonderful atmosphere and one of the most beautiful restaurants I’ve eaten in. The food was to die for as well! I ordered The Original Cuban sandwich with a cup of  the Spanish Bean Soup. The sandwich was delicious but the soup was my favorite. It was so tasty and flavorful that I wished I had ordered a whole bowl. We ordered empanadas as an appetizer and they were served piping hot and yummy!

For dessert, I ordered hot fruity tea that was filled with flavor, and my mom and I split an order of churros. The churros were so good we ate them all. They came with 3 dipping sauces: chocolate (my favorite), caramel, and berry.  Overall, the meal was amazing, and I would recommend anyone who wants to enjoy a delicious meal in a classy establishment visit the Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City. (They have other locations in Tampa as well, but this is the original.)

To digest our food after that heavenly but hefty meal, mom and I took a walk down the street, reading the history of Ybor City on the signs posted on the street. By the time we reached the end, it was time to head to the airport and end what was a wonderful Spring Break. If we’d had more time, maybe we would have gone to the beach, to the Busch Gardens, to the zoo, or visited one of the many museums that Tampa has to offer. I guess that just means I’ll have to go back!

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Ciao for now!

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Musings at the Boston Science Museum

Musings at the Boston Science Museum

I have always had a love-hate relationship with science. The love part comes in the form of curiosity at the many amazing things science has done, especially in terms of space exploration and ancient earth. I’ve never been very into the academic type of science, though, which is where the hate part comes in. It’s not that I necessarily “hate” academic science; it’s more that I just cannot appreciate and understand it the way I can science that I look at for my own enjoyment. And I feel like that is the case for most people in life: You enjoy what excites and intrigues you, while you simply tolerate the rest.

Museums, however, have a way of turning even the most boring and inane things into a world of curiosities. Luckily, as a college student, I can usually get into museums for free with a valid student ID. A couple weekends ago, a group of friends and I decided to hit up the Museum of Science in Boston. This is a museum that I used to go to as a kid with my family and on field trips, so this was my first venture there as an adult and I was a little nervous that it wouldn’t live up to my memories. Luckily it did. Now that may have been because the group of friends I was with consistently make me feel like a child, but whatever the reason it was a great time.

Natural Science

We started off on the green section which is the natural science, aka not my favorite science. But I was pleasantly surprised by the exhibits they had in this section. There were neat sections on the body with interactive activities. Some of my favorites included a table with a computer screen and above it a long tray with plastic foods encased in plastic glass, and a walking activity. The food one was cool because you would pick which of the encased plastic foods and subsequent portions you would eat for a meal. Next, the table would flip over with an even greater selection of fake food and you would choose again. Then, the computer would tell you where you range amongst other people of your age and different ages, as well as gender. It’s way cooler than I’m describing it, trust me. The walking section was interesting because you would just walk along a certain pathway and when you get to the end, there is a computer generated image of your walk/ gait that you get to see, along with how many calories you burned during that 5 second walk. Again, my description does not do this justice.

In addition to these activities, there was also a section on reproduction (aka the growth of babies), so there was a live chick exhibit where you could watch chicks incubate and hatch. There was also a wall with the sizes and images of fetuses in the womb at certain times during pregnancy. It was kind of weird, but in an intriguing way. There was a station where you could measure the length of your ear, where you could guess how many stuffed animals were inside a tube, and many more. As I said, this museum takes the mundane science and turns it into exciting experiences. Up another level was a section on mountaineering and climbing which to be quite honest was not that thrilling. The coolest part of that section was the microscope you could look into and see an aerial view of some of the most famous mountains in the world, including Everest and the Grand Canyon (which, yes I know, is not a mountain).

4D Movie Experience

After the green section, we were going to venture over to the blue area which had things like outer space, inertia, lightning, etc. But as we were crossing the carpeted glass bridge, we stumbled upon a 4D movie on sharks showing in exactly 10 minutes. We decided to quickly buy tickets and were then subsequently seated in the blue-lighted area. It was a really neat experience because not only were we squirted with water when the shark thrashed its tail, but our feet were softly whipped as the fish moved their tails back and forth across the sea floor, and we were jabbed in the back when the sharks devoured their prey. I’m not going to lie, there were moments that I was genuinely freaked out, not only because of the 4D experience, but also because of the pure power of the sharks and their awesome (in the purest sense of the word) existence. It was probably only a fifteen minute movie, but it was definitely worth it.

Outer Space and Electricity

Our next stop was the blue area! This is the section I remember from my childhood. We went to the room where you can capture your shadow and stand in a rainbow of light. To capture a shadow, you stand in the (relative) dark and then someone presses the button and a camera-like flash goes off. When its over and you move back, the wall holds the form that your made. It’s my favorite part of the museum. The rainbow room is fun too because you can take such weird pictures in it and they always come out looking cool. Moving through this area, we got to the playground. There was a swing that teaches you why it moves the way it does, a pulley that you can try and tug on to move a 500 lb bag off the ground, and there is a gazebo with a spinner inside it where you will get incredibly dizzy. It truly is an indoor park, but it is also a classroom to learn all about the science behind everyday activities. I felt like a little kid again.

We also gravitated towards my other favorite area: the space section. Now, this is more of a corner than a section because there’s not a whole lot. But boy is it interesting. There is a replica spaceship that kids can go inside and look at, there’s a replica rocket, and an entire display to inform your space knowledge. Another favorite of mine is the lightning experience. It’s actually a show that goes on a few times during the day. It’s in a huge room spanning 3 floors with a bunch of metal object and machines to demonstrate lightning and electricity. A couple of times throughout the show, the person working the machines will actually generate electricity/lightning and use the different electric sounds to go to the beat of a song (at my show it was the Jurassic Park theme). It really is a fascinating sight to see and I would recommend it to anyone who goes to this museum.

Other Sections

Other exhibits we visited include the mental health section where there were artworks and videos of and by people with mental illnesses, the dinosaur section with dino skeletons, and the environment section. By the time we were finished looking at everything, it was ten minutes to closing time. So of course we headed to the gift shop and looked at all the fun science gifts and toys. It was pure joy. We were only at the Boston Science Museum for about four hours, but we saw and experienced so much and had such an amazing time. Well worth my Saturday.

Here are some neat photos I took, enjoy.

Ciao for now!

Venice Week 4: Torcello Tower, Murano Glass, & Padua Chapel

Venice Week 4: Torcello Tower, Murano Glass, & Padua Chapel

June 26, 2017 Monday

Today was a fun day because it was excursion day! I had class as usual from nine to twelve, and then had lunch on the island. But around 1:30, the whole class met up to go to Torcello. It was a bit hectic because we had to walk pretty fast in order to make the vaporetto stop we needed to be at, and one of the girls from my class had missed the first vaporetto. We were worried she wouldn’t make it, but at the last minute she came huffing and puffing towards us and got on just in time. It was a somewhat long vaporetto ride to the island of Torcello because we made a lot of stops in places like Murano and Burano. Once in Torcello, we walked towards the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta. Once close to it, we sat in the grass in the shade since it was incredibly hot and sunny outside. Rachel gave a presentation on the history of Torcello which is very interesting and I recommend looking up at least a summary of the history. After the presentation, we went inside the Cathedral, which is one of the oldest religious edifices in Veneto, and which houses some of the earliest mosaics in Venice. It isn’t too aesthetically amazing because it is falling apart and pretty plain in terms of the usual majesty of cathedrals. However, it is still amazing to be standing inside something clearly very old, and it does have some unique mosaic artwork. The mosaic on the west wall is a floor to ceiling mosaic of the Last Judgement. That was the main reason my class visited; this mosaic was referenced in one of our readings. It is mostly gold with a bunch of other colors put in, and it is breathtaking. After looking around for a bit at the other mosaics, paintings, and possible tombs of dead priests, we walked up the campanile. It was a long walk up slanted stairs and low ceilings, but the view from the top was so worth the climb. I could see essentially the whole island and even other parts of Venice. We stayed up there awhile, just changing positions and going around. As we were looking at everything, we saw a man jump off of his boat into the water to cool off, which was pretty funny. There wasn’t a lot to do in Torcello besides these two activities, and the island is pretty much devoid of people (at least in my experience), but it is still a beautiful place that I recommend visiting if you’re ever in Venice. It’s filled with history and natural beauty.

June 27, 2017 Tuesday

Today was an early day because instead of having class as usual, we travelled to the island of Murano. We had to be there for around 10:00 which meant I had to get up around 7:30. That was so hard! But I did it, and I met the class at the vaporetto stop in main Venice around 8:30. When we got to Murano, it was so quiet and empty because of the early hour. It was kind of eery but also really neat to be the only people walking around. It was peaceful. The reason for our early trip to Murano, the island famous for its glass works, was because we were going to be given a private tour of the Seguso glass factory. They don’t normally give tours, but for the past couple years the Seguso family and my college have set up tours for the students. When we arrived, we were introduced to Gianluca Seguso, the son of Giampaulo Seguso who our class had read about in John Berendt’s Glass Warfare. Gianluca was incredibly kind, asking each of our names about three people at a time so that he could address us directly. He showed us first the history of the Seguso family legacy which began in 1397. He then walked us outside to an area with various glass making objects and glass designs themselves that decorated the fenced in area. Through this area, we entered the workshop part of the building in which the glassblowers were crafting beautiful creations. We saw the drawn out initial designs for a project, were able to watch some of the pieces being made, and hanging from the ceiling we saw completed intricate chandeliers. Everything was amazing to behold. The amount of detail that went into everything was astounding. I’ve never thought about how the beautiful glass that I see in stores is made, but being in that work environment I now recognize how much time, effort, and skill goes into it all. We walked through the workshop, careful of the heat and the dangerous objects that were burning hot, and made our way into what I believe was the showroom. Once inside, we were given the opportunity to meet Giampaolo himself. He was a very funny man, who told us about his life and how he started glassmaking. He even went and got the book of poetry he had written (in Italian of course) and read some poems to us. He had one of the boys from my class who knew a little Italian translate the poems so that we could get the full message. When he was done reading, he offered us the chance to ask him any questions we had. After that, we were guided back downstairs and each person was given a beautiful piece of circular dark blue Seguso glass with the Seguso emblem on it. And we were handed it by name from Gianluca who remembered everyone’s name. Overall, it was an amazing experience, the Seguso family was incredibly kind and generous, and I am beyond glad that I was able to have this once in a lifetime experience.

After the tour, we were all hungry so our professor took us to a great restaurant where he knew the owner. We each had a salad, spaghetti alle vongole (spaghetti with clams), and a dessert. The food was delicious as was usually the case in Italy, but there were birds constantly surrounding us since we were sitting outside. At the end of the meal, we were offered coffee in the normal Italian way, and then we all headed off to do our own things. I went with a couple of my friends to look around and do some (window) shopping. I did buy one souvenir from Murano because I wanted something to remember it by (although I did have the gorgeous Seguso glass- which I think is a paperweight). I found a very pretty (and inexpensive) glass ring from one of the shops that said Master glassmaker on it, which I’m pretty sure means it is legitimate Murano glass. I put the ring on and then headed back with my friends.

June 28, Wednesday

Today was another no class day, because we were headed to Padua to the Scrovegni Chapel! It was also an early day again because we had to catch an early train. It was a fun journey, and I got to eat at the yummy train station cafe again. Once in Padua, we went to the museum where the chapel is located and got our tickets. We were then taken to the waiting area for the chapel, and we had to watch a video before going inside to learn about its history. We of course already knew some of its history because the main reason we were visiting the Chapel was because of its reference in one of Henry James’s writings . After watching the video along with all the other tourists, we were taken through an air sealed (I think) area because of the sensitivity of the Chapel and its art to the air. It was smaller than I thought it would be but stunning. The whole place was covered in artwork depicting various scenes from the Bible. The ceiling was a beautiful blue with yellow stars painted on. The back wall was amazing and depicted what would happen to the saved and the damned. Everything had so much detail and color and was so well preserved that it felt like the artist had just left. Because of the sensitivity of the art though, each session (aka group) was only allowed twenty minutes to look around. Because we were a school and some provision had been made, we were allowed to stay for two sessions.

After we left the Scrovegni Chapel, we gathered outside to meet with our tour guide. She walked us towards the center of the city and talked about the history of the city. We walked through the Università degli Studi di Padova and looked at the crests of all the people who had attended, and there were quite a few famous names from history included. We walked around the city as we made our way towards the Basilica of Saint Anthony. This was an incredibly elaborate and intricately decorated church, and probably one of my favorites from my visit to Italy. There were different sections of the Basilica that had various artworks, some in marble, some painted, others carved. There was one section, the Chapel of the Relics, where parts of St. Anthony’s body were on display, that was really neat to see. There were a set of small stairs that we could walk up to look up close at parts of his body, most notably his famous tongue. Everything about the Basilica was absolutely stunning and something I would love to go back and spend more time in because there is just so much to see.

By this point, we were all very hungry and tired, so we headed towards a restaurant to eat. We were seated at a bunch of tables placed together outside in the back garden area. It was a lovely area surrounded by trees and greenery, but by this point in the day it had become overcast and we knew the rain would fall any minute. But, I enjoyed the meal immensely because it was risotto, and I love risotto! We all talked and laughed and ate. It was a really nice afternoon… but then we heard the thunder. It was a surprise when the first sound struck our ears, but not totally unexpected. Luckily, we were all pretty much finished with our food. We decided to split up, and I went (in the rain) with some friends to go shopping because we had spotted some stores as we were walking around. It was a nice rainy afternoon activity and who can say no to shopping in Italy? By the time we were ready to head back on the train, it had stopped raining and the sun came out. The four of us went to the train station utterly exhausted from everything we had done today, and enjoyed a quiet ride back to Venice.

June 30, 2017 Friday

I didn’t do much Thursday except go to class and we visited the Academia. Friday, however, was our very last day of class and it was bittersweet. We watched a movie, Pane e Tulipani (2000), which was a beautiful film, and then talked about it in relation to our time in Venice. After this, we went to the Museo Fortuny, where I gave a presentation on the history of the museum and the man who lived there. Museo Fortuny was once the home of the man Fortuny who was a man of many talents but probably most notably as a dressmaker. His home was nicely decorated with art and clothing designs. There was one room that was showing a very strange film that was simply images and video of things like x-rays of people kissing or writing, etc. The upstairs had a diorama for one of his theaters. At the very top of the museum was an interactive art piece with balls of clay on a table that one could add to. Past this was the book shop, which I enjoyed looking at.

I decided to head back with a couple of the guys from my class, and in order to catch the vaporetto on time and not have to wait another hour, we had to run all the way from Fortuny to the vaporetto stop. While I was running, who should I literally bump into but my parents and brother. It was just like a scene from a movie: I’m running through Venice and I hear “Alexandra?” and I turn around to see my brother. I told the other guys to go on without me, and I chat with my family for a bit outside their apartment. I knew that they would be arriving today, I just didn’t know when. I offered to come and hang out with them for a little bit, but they said they were tired after the long flight and just wanted to rest. So, I hugged them goodbye and sprinted off again towards the vaporetto stop. I caught up with the boys and we made it to the vaporetto with about a minute to spare. I was red in the face and sweating, but man I had a fun time running through Venice.

That night was the farewell dinner for everyone studying in Venice from my college. We all got dressed up and went to a nice restaurant where we had amazing food buffet style. After we ate, and toasted, and reminisced, we were all brought to the gondola stops. There was enough money left over from the program that we could all have gondola rides, which was so exciting. I got to go around a small part of Venice dressed up in a gondola with five of my friends. If that’s not the perfect ending to an amazing month in Venice, I don’t know what is.

July 1/ July 2, 2017 Saturday and Sunday (and a little bit of Monday July 3)

These were the last couple days that we all had together, and some people were already leaving. They were two days packed with goodbyes, hugs, and promises for reunion back at school in the fall. One of my favorite parts of the weekend was going back to the nice and green park overlooking the water and just sitting and reading with Iulia. It was a simple and calm way to end the weekend. My family was coming to meet me on Sunday morning, so I got to say goodbye to everyone who left before I did. When my parents came, I showed them around San Servolo, my room, and then we got my suitcase and headed back to their apartment/ hotel. I took a nap, and then my family and I walked around the city together, reminiscing about the last time we had been there. Except this time, I could show them around the place I had called home for a month. We went to dinner on the water because my mom loves the view, and then explored the city at night. Of course we had to get gelato, and then we went back to the apartment around midnight. Monday, we traveled the city even more, and ended out day with a visit to Saint Mark’s Square at Florian’s Cafe, somewhere I had wanted to go for so long but never got the opportunity to. This iconic cafe has been in countless movies about Venice and is an essential part of the tourist experience. (It is also quite expensive, so if that’s a factor in your trip, I wouldn’t recommend.) We sat in the piazza as the sun was low in the sky and the air was getting a little cooler. We stayed until dark and listened to the band play songs that we only partially knew. And then we went back to the hotel for our very last night in Venice, before we took the train to Napoli in the morning.

Where is some place you have always wanted to visit for an extended period of time? Leave a comment below.

Ciao for now!

Venice Week 2: Jewish Ghetto, Palaces, & Lido Beach Day

Venice Week 2: Jewish Ghetto, Palaces, & Lido Beach Day

I’ve decided to write about my experiences week by week instead of day by day because I wanted to really enjoy my time in Venice without the pressure to sit down and describe every aspect of it. I’m still going to describe what I did each day, just in a more limited fashion with a few photos here and there. So, without further ado, week 2…

June 14, 2017 Wednesday

As usual I had class in the morning from 9am to 12pm, and then spent some time hanging out before going into the city. It was a cloudy and rainy day, but I am only in Venice for a limited time so I have to make the most of it. A group of people from my class thought it would be interesting to tour the Jewish ghetto. I was going o join a little later along with my two roommates. We were supposed to meet them around 3pm, but because of the weather and the slow vaporetto system, we did not end up getting there in time to join the tour. It was incredibly humid out, so we decided to cool down and take a bathroom break inside a nearby restaurant. We bought some water to rehydrate, and as I was waiting outside for the other two girls, I saw a tour go by with some familiar faces in the group. It just happened to be our friends who had arrived before us, and they were taking the tour. We tagged along near the back of the crowd for a bit, but we couldn’t follow them inside some of the synagogues because we hadn’t actually paid to be on the tour. So, we said see you later and made a plan to meet up with them in half an hour for dinner.

While waiting for them, the three of us walked around the little shops and tried to learn some of the history of the ghetto. When we found the others again, we walked to a nice little restaurant called Gam Gam Kosher Restaurant, and we ordered a bunch of different foods to share. Luckily for us, it started raining while we were eating and was finished by the time we were ready to leave. We explored a little bit more that day, but then headed back to San Servolo for an early night and to catch up on some reading.

June 15, 2017 Thursday

Again, I started the day off with class. Since it was Thursday, we watched a movie called “Don’t Look Now” which was kind of haunting and scary, but still pretty cool to watch. It was a hot and sunny day, so after class some of us girls wanted to go to the beach. We took a vaporetto to Lido laden down with our bags filled with bathing suits, towels, and sunscreen. Once at Lido, we walked to the end of the island to the free beach because who wants to pay for a day at the beach? Along the way, we stopped into a little cafe/ grocery store for some food supplies. I bought a spinach stuffed pizza thing (great description, I know), and we all bought a large liter of Orange soda and water to drink on the beach. Once we were actually at the beach, we changed into our bathing suits and proceeded to spread out the orange tapestry that Iulia had bought from a beach peddler. We took turns going into the water, making sure someone was always with our stuff. The beach was crowded and it was later in the day, but it sure was fun and relaxing to be on a beach in Italy. But because it was later  (around 17:00) and it had been so hot all day, the water was actually pretty warm. It was still nice to go in and swim, it just wasn’t the refreshing cool water that it normally is. When it was my turn to stay with our belongings, I took out my packet of Proust and proceeded to read. There was a slight breeze that turned the pages and pushed my hair into my eyes, and it was pure perfection to be reading on this beach.

We left around 18:00, and walked along the sidewalk to a restaurant we had been to before. We sat outside under the canopy and the waiter had to push two tables together to accommodate the five of us. We took a look at the menu, and I decided to try the spaghetti alla vongole (spaghetti with clams). It is one of my favorite dishes and I was not disappointed with my meal choice. It tasted delicious and I devoured all of it. Obviously we all had a glass of wine with the meal, and I chose Prosecco which I thought went well with my pasta. We ended our meal with some gelato and then walked back to wait for the vaporetto.

June 16, 2017 Friday

Since we don’t have class on Fridays, a group of us decided to visit the Ducal Palace in St. Mark’s Square. It is something we had passed for two weeks now without ever going inside. So, we bought tickets online beforehand (which I recommend doing because the lines to buy tickets there are so long, and it saves a lot of time) and headed over around noon. To start with, the courtyard inside is big and beautiful and you can see the design of the building as a whole. It is quite a nice sight to see. There are curved arches, marble statues, and elaborate architecture. Inside the actual palace is even better. The ceilings are covered with breathtaking artwork and carvings, the rooms are massive and filled with historical and incredible paintings, and the sheer size of it all is almost overwhelming. I could have spent hours in one room in particular, I think it was the ball room, since it was huge and along all the walls and the ceiling were masterpieces of artwork.

I took a stroll down to the dungeons, and along the way there was this neat window that looked out into the canal. I felt kind of sorry for the prisoners who were kept in these dungeons because they were essentially at or under the canal level, so it was damp and dingy. I’m sure some of them probably deserved to be down there, don’t get me wrong, but the conditions were dark, damp, and depressing. Not somewhere I would want to live, but it was pretty neat to visit. I would definitely recommend taking a day to explore this magnificent and dominating building if you’re in Venice.

Ciao for now!

Venice Day 8- Verona, Castel Vecchio, & Visiting Juliet

Venice Day 8- Verona, Castel Vecchio, & Visiting Juliet

June 11, 2017 Sunday

Sunday was the day that we all decided to take a trip to Verona. In order to make the most out of our time there, since we decided on only a day trip, we booked one of the earliest trains there. So, I woke up at 6:30 am, got dressed and ready, and packed my bag with everything I would need for the trip (money, wallet, passport in case I needed ID, camera, sunscreen, sunglasses, chapstick, and some other random bits and bobs). The first vaporetto of the day left at 7:10, and at 7:05 one of my roommates and I were sprinting towards the stop to make it on time. Once on the vaporetto to the San Marco stop, we met up with the other six girls going with us. We were the only people on the boat other than a woman with her suitcase (most likely going to the airport) since it was so early.

When we arrived at the San Marco vaporetto stop, we had to go to another stop in order to take a different vaporetto to the train station (the vaporetto in Venice are like buses in major cities, with certain ones going to specific places in the city). We arrived at the train station around 7:50 and since none of us had eaten any breakfast yet, we stopped into a cafe in the station (after we had located our train of course). I ate a blueberry muffin with a small cappuccino (I know, I know you’re all shocked that I didn’t order an espresso. Sometimes a girl has to change it up a bit). We got on the train in groups as we got our food, and managed to find 8 seats together. About three minutes before the train was supposed to leave, two girls from our group were still not on board. We started to get concerned when, like out of a movie, they walked down the aisle towards us just as the train was leaving the station. Apparently one of them had spilled her coffee and the cafe had kindly replaced it for her, but it was a close call.

During the hour and a half train ride from Venice to Verona, we talked in our respective groups of four and admired the view of the countryside outside the window. When we arrived in Verona, we were met at the station by Francesca’s friend, Joan, who was there taking a class. She showed us which bus to take from the station to get to our first destination: The Colosseum. When we stepped off the bus, we were greeted by this beautiful fountain surrounded by lush green grass and sweltering heat. Maggie had Rick Steve’s guidebook from which she gave us interesting facts throughout the day about the various places we visited. At the Colosseum, only a few of us went inside of it while the others waited outside (you had to pay to go in). The “inside” was really a bunch of amphitheater seats in the open air, but it was amazing to see. On the stage there were men setting up a set for an upcoming performance that I think was going to take place there. Even though it was only 10:30 am, it was brutally hot, so I sat down and put on some sunscreen. Then I took pictures along with some of my friends.

After the Colosseum, we met up with the others and made our way to Centro Storico. Along the way we stopped into some of the stores lining the street. Six of us decided to buy some macaroons at a little French pastry shop, then we looked into a perfume store, and finally we made it to Centro Storico. Here, we followed the signs to the house of Juliet (from Romeo and Juliet) and went into the famous courtyard. It was packed with people. There was a mob of people trying to take a picture holding the breast of the Juliet statue because apparently this is good luck in love (I mean Juliet didn’t seem to have too much luck in love considering both she and her lover died, but I guess it’s the myth of Juliet). Naturally we had to partake in this tradition as well. Then, a couple of the girls decided to go up to Juliet’s balcony and take some pictures there, so while they did that I went into the gift shop and bought some postcards as souvenirs.

When we finally left the mass of people in Juliet’s courtyard, we made our way down to Joan’s apartment building where we met up with a couple of her friends. Then we split into two groups of about five people each to get lunch since we all wanted to eat at different places. The place my group went to, Osteria del Bugiardo, was lovely,  had amazing food, and was very reasonably priced. We decided to share a meat platter, a cheese platter, and a vegetable platter which was filling and delicious, and was less than 7 euro each when we split the bill. By the time we met up with the others after lunch it was 2 pm.

We went to a beautiful church called La Basilica di Santa Anastasia. Inside there were beautiful paintings and an incredibly elaborate ceiling that was difficult to look up at but breathtaking to behold. We were also given the electronic tour information electronic device that gave a history of the painting or sculpture I was standing in front of. There was a little chapel in the back where people could go, so I went in and said a little prayer. We left a little while later and walked to the square where the statue of Dante is placed. In it there was a gelato place where I and a couple other girls decided to treat ourselves. I chose a wonderful mix of limone (lemon) and fragola (strawberry) which tasted divine. As we continued down the road and after I had finished my ice cream, we found a beautiful picture location where we paused to take some snapshots. Just off of this were various cafes so we split into two groups depending on what refreshment we wanted. I went to get an espresso to wake me up while some of the others went to get gelato.

After we had some food and drink in us, we brightened up and continued on our way. We found the Duomo di Verona and I went inside along with 3 others, Caroline, Rachel, and Maggie. Inside to the immediate right when you walk in is the small chapel room with a giant basin as the main focal point. To the left when you walk in is a hallway that could go to two different rooms. The room more straight was the area where you can look down and see the exposed foundation, but it also had an altar and some pews set up like a small church. The room more towards the back and to the left was the main Cathedral area which was ornately decorated with the most exquisite artwork, organ, and marble. The dome, which was the main focus, was off to the side in the center. It was  intricately decorated and painted with such pleasing images of angels. After about half an hour of looking around, we left to meet up with the others who were having some drinks across the street.

We decided to end our tour of Venice with the Castel Vecchio before getting dinner which is precisely what we did. We entered under the arched structure after crossing a small wooden bridge. Once across the bridge, there was a magnificent courtyard, so green and lush. After I had bought my ticket, I was told I would have to leave my backpack in a cubby, so I paid one euro (which I got back at the end) to store it in a locked cubby. The lower rooms were all sculptures, while on the second and third floors there were a lot of different paintings from the late 15th, 16, and 17th centuries. Many, if not all, of the paintings were religious in some way, either depicting the saints or depicting the Virgin Mary with Jesus (Madonna and Child). They were all really interesting to look at because of how long they have lasted over the centuries. but after a while it is difficult (for me at least) to look at the same concept displayed over and over in each painting. At last, one of the last things we did at the castle was go up to the top where we could see pretty much the entire city and where we could look out into the river below. There was also a brick build walkway that was the bridge between the multiple buildings of this castle where I looked down into the courtyard of the front entrance and was mesmerized by the completely different views.

At this point, it was around 7 pm and we were tired, hungry, and mainly just wanted to take a load off our feet. We went into one shopping store (OVS) for about 15 minutes then headed back to the Colosseum which is where we were first dropped off by the bus in the morning. There, we found a great restaurant right in front with a perfect view of the Colosseum and some reasonable prices. I believe it was called Ristorante Pizzeria Olivo, and the food there was delicious. I ordered some kind of pasta with tomato sauce and eggplant topped with a giant prawn, and it was so good. Iulia, Fidelia, and I also split a tiny bottle of wine that was about 0.375 liters, which was about 1 1/4 glasses each. When we finished our food, we walked to the bus stop and took the bus back to the train station where we then waited for about an hour. While waiting, we looked at the pictures from the day, we talked about what we had seen and done, and I read a bit of Plato’s Phaedrus for class.

The train arrived around 21:50 and by 22:00 we had departed Verona. Unfortunately, this train was a fast train and we had assigned seats in different cars so we had to split up. But, luckily for me, Iulia and Maggie were also in my car and it was pretty empty, so I abandoned my assigned seat to sit with them. It was a pretty tame ride where we joked and chatted the hour away. But, there was some commotion when someone came to check tickets because this group of people sitting a few seats away from us did not have any tickets and were escorted out of the car. After they left, I heard some raised voiced and then never saw them again. Other than that, not much else transpired. By the time we arrived back in Venice, it was about 23:15 and we knew we were not going to make the 23:30 vaporetto back to San Servolo. That meant that we would have to wait another hour for the 12:30 vaporetto, and by this this point in the night we were all exhausted. So we took the vaporetto from the train station to the San Marco stop, then transferred over to the San Zaccaria stop. The half hour ride there wasn’t too difficult because I sat outside and looked at Venice by night under the beautiful, almost orange, full moon.

We waited at the San Zaccaria stop for about 45 minutes, during which time I continued to read. Everyone was so tired that we passed the time pretty much in silence. When the vaporetto finally arrived around 12:45 am, we shuffled on and looked out into the night as we rode towards San Servolo, our home. After such a long day, I was glad to be back. But, because there are three of us sharing a room, I did not get to shower until 1:30 am and didn’t go to sleep until around 2:15 am. But even though I had class the next morning, it was all worth it to see the beautiful city of Verona.

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Ciao for now!

Venice Day 7: Calm Mornings, Ciao, & Ca’ d’Oro

Venice Day 7: Calm Mornings, Ciao, & Ca’ d’Oro

June 10, 2017 Saturday

This was a day for sleeping in late and relaxing. I stayed in bed until probably 11:15 am when the cleaning woman knocked on my door and wanted to check that the room was empty. I opened the door while still in my pajamas and half asleep, and there was an exchange between us that I think meant that she would come back later, but what I heard in my head was that she would be back in 5 minutes. So, I hurriedly threw on my new cropped white off the shoulder shirt under my blue and pink striped romper, put some white sneakers on, and hurriedly did my makeup. Then I grabbed my backpack with my homework and took the rest of my box of blueberries out of the fridge and headed to the tables outside. I sat in the shade reading Plato’s Phaedrus while sipping on my water and occasionally popping some blueberries into my mouth. Every now and then when I would look up from reading my book I got to see the green of the trees and out the window in the wall I saw the blue of the water. It was such a tranquil and beautiful way to start my day.

Around 12:45 some of my friends started to come around to the tables for lunch, so I decided to join them. We all enjoyed a lunch filled with conversation and good Italian food from the San Servolo restaurant. After lunch, I quickly ran back up to my room to grab some necessities for my purse. When I opened the door, I realized that the room had not been cleaned yet, that I must have misunderstood the woman, and that I had not needed to rush after all. But it didn’t matter since it actually got me up and going with my day. After I had grabbed my purse and some money, I met the rest of my friends at the vaporetto stop and we headed into the city. As we were walking along, we came across a crowd of people gathered around some students (I assume they were students since they were young and there was a lot of them), most likely a song and dance group, performing in the middle of the calle. They were singing a capella and harmonizing beautifully, but they were also dancing perfectly in sync to the beat. We stopped to watch them for a few minutes because it was so neat, then we continued on our way.

We had decided the day before that we wanted to go to Ca’ d’Oro, so that’s what we did first when we arrived in the city. Because we’re students, we paid a reduced price to get in which was great. We started off by going into the courtyard where there were a couple  of statues and mosaics to look at. I went over to the sign that had the history of the building and right next to it there was a little square hole in one of the walls that looked out into the street out front. I went over to look into it, with my sunglasses on, and I was startled to find a man looking back at me with a big smile who said “Ciao!” Since I had my sunglasses on, I hadn’t realized there was someone from the street looking in. The whole thing was really funny, and my friends laughed at me for some time afterwards.

Next, we went inside up the stairs to the first floor which had a few rooms of statues and paintings. All the art was very beautiful and mostly religious since it was from around the 16th century. Upstairs on the second floor there were more paintings and sculptures and bronze, but there was also a room filled with carpets and rugs. Along the walls and next to the carpets were the descriptions of each type of carpet and its origin.

After about an hour or so we left Ca’ d’Oro and walked around a bit. We found a gelato place to stop at and I got fragola (strawberry) and mango which was delicious. At this point in the day, it was around 4:45 and a couple of the girls wanted to see if there was a mass at the church in Piazza San Marco, so we walked there. It turned out that the mass was at 6:45 instead of 5:30 as we had thought. We decided that since some of us wanted to go back early and get work done while the others wanted to go to mass, we would go and grab some food then split up.

We ate at Rosso Pomodoro near Piazza San Marco, and since it was early (about 5:15ish) we got some light food. I ordered a caprese salad and a glass of prosecco while some of the others ordered salad, ravioli, and some pizza, along with some prosecco. It was really good, but at the end of the meal those of us who were going back to San Servolo had to go to catch the 6:50 vaporetto. We left our meal vouchers with the others (since this restaurant was one of only a few places that takes the meal vouchers we were given through our university course), and headed on our way.

Back at San Servolo, I decided to take a nap since I hadn’t been getting a lot of sleep the past week and I decided to use this day as my catch up day. I took a nap until about 8pm and then I did some homework before finally getting ready for bed and going to sleep around 12 am.

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Ciao for now!

Venice Day 4: La Salute, Splitting Up, and Sunny Skies

Venice Day 4: La Salute, Splitting Up, and Sunny Skies

June 7, 2017 Wednesday

I started the day with class, per usual, and we discussed Henry James’s “The Grand Canal.” After the academic part of the day ended at 12 pm, my whole class, including the professor, took the 12:50 vaporetto to the San Zaccaria stop to begin a sort of field trip. Now, the weather report predicted that it would rain, but so far the sky was sunny with only some clouds in the sky.

So, we traversed the calle of Venice until we found the restaurant we had reserved for lunch. There were about 15 or 16 of us and the restaurant was pretty small, so we took up a significant portion. We were separated into two tables, and I was sitting at the table the did not include my professor. The food we ate was delicious! Each table got 2 plates of meats and cheeses and bread along with some pickles and olives. To drink we had different kinds of water: fizzy water or mineral water. Overall, the meal was one of my favorites.

After we ate, we all took a traghetto to cross the canal. Unfortunately, the boat was only allowed to sit 14, so our professor had to wait for the next one before he could join us. As we landed on the other side, it began to rain and we still had to walk to La Salute, a famous old Church that houses the painting Le Nozze di Cana by Tintoretto. We all went to see it because this painting was referenced by Henry James in “Grand Canal.” It was beautifully painted and the information about it was very interesting to read.

When we had spent some time seeing the painting, our class split up to have our own adventures. A group of us stayed at La Salute to attend the 4 pm mass. That was a cool experience because obviously it was in Italian, but it was also in a church that visitors were passing through and some would stop to watch the mass. It was almost like being in a zoo. Anyways, mass was only a half an hour, so after, we continued on our way traveling around Venice. The rain had stopped and it was a beautiful sunny sky, the kind that only happens after a rainstorm.

We were pretty tired at this point, so we grabbed the 7:10 vaporetto and headed back to San Servolo to have dinner. After dinner, we congregated because one of our friends hadn’t been in touch with us since we left her in the church around 4 with a guy she befriended talking about art. It was 9 pm and we were worried so we emailed our professor, but then about 20 minutes later our friend finally texted us back that she had been out of wifi range so she could not send or receive text messages. We were relieved to hear from her so we split off to go to our respective rooms. I got ready for bed and then went to sleep.

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La Salute

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I just thought this was beautiful. It’s some kind of stain for art that was in the window of a nice little shop.

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Ciao for now!

Visiting Edith Wharton’s House (of mirth)

Visiting Edith Wharton’s House (of mirth)
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This is the view of the house from the back

Last summer, I took a day trip with my mom to visit the famous author Edith Wharton’s “house” in Lenox, MA. (I say “house,” but in reality it is more like an estate.) It was one of the most beautiful days of the summer and a perfect time to see the gorgeous gardens her estate is known for. The house is gigantic and was built under Edith Wharton’s instructions, so it is magnificent. There’s even a little cafe on the back terrace that serves delicious lemonade and lots of different treats to snack on. My mom and I chose to go on the guided tour of both the house and the gardens, although there are also separate tours of both if you want to look at one or the other on your own time.

The house was phenomenally decorated and had exceptionally beautiful artwork all around. It was also neat to find out many little facts about this famous female author. For instance, apparently she would write in bed for the first few hours of the morning and then get up. One of the floors was turned into a museum type area with walls of informations about Edith Wharton’s life, while on the first floor there was a bookstore selling all of the books she wrote along with some nice memorabilia. Overall, it was an amazing house.

The gardens were my favorite part, mainly because I could imagine Edith Wharton walking around on a similar sunny day 100 years prior to me and taking inspiration from her beautiful surroundings. There were two different gardens on opposite sides of her giant walkway. One was French inspired (my personal favorite one) while the other one was inspired by the Italian gardens. There were so many beautiful flowers to see, although some were not in bloom since it was the middle of summer.

Essentially, to get to the actual house and gardens part of the property, we had to walk through what was basically a park. Now, whoever runs the estate allows artists to put up their sculptures or pieces of artwork along the grass or in the woody areas. Some of them are really cool, while others are just plain weird. They are for sale… for a hefty price. There is also a large building (which in itself looks like a big house) that used to be the stables. As we were leaving, The Shakespeare Company was putting on a Shakespearean play right outside this building on the lawn. So, if you’re looking for a nice day trip, I highly recommend checking out the Edith Wharton house because there is so much to do and see.

Here are some of the many photos I took while visiting:

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This is the front view of the house (as you can see, it’s very impressive).
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This is one view of the backyard area on the far side of the very large back terrace.
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Here I am enjoying some snacks on the back terrace which also has a little cafe
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This is the French inspired garden
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This is the view of the house from the French garden. If you look closely, you can see the grass stairs.
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Here is a panoramic view of the stunning French garden.
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I am standing under a trellis in the Italian garden, and a bit farther back there is a pond.
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Here is the library.
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And here is the dining room table. Edith Wharton did not like to associate with anyone she was not particularly fond of, so her dining room table is small. This way she can have intimate dinners with only the people she liked.

This was such a fun trip, and I would gladly visit again because there is just so much to see. I could spend all afternoon sitting in the gardens they’re so beautiful.

Ciao for now!

 

My muse is a museum: Boston Museum of Fine Art

My muse is a museum: Boston Museum of Fine Art

I absolutely love museums! The history that dwells within (and on) museum walls just astounds me. I am amazed at how I can look at something today that was created hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years ago. To me, history is the like an eye on a person; if an eye is the window to the soul, then history is the window to the world. Just being in the presence of a piece of art painted by Monet or Van Gogh or Renoir makes me shiver. And the ancient art, well that just completes the whole experience. Some of these pieces were created thousands of years ago, and I like to picture the real people who looked at or used them. It’s crazy to think that someone who lived in the B.C. era looked at the same thing I am looking at in 2016 A.D. That’s why I love history. I feel like it creates a closeness between people and generations that isn’t otherwise there in daily life.

I visited the Museum of Fine Arts and it is just incredible. There are so many beautiful pieces of art there and they are all so different from one another. There are the paintings  by Monet, Renoir, etc and then there are the vases from ancient Greece and the tribal masks from long ago Africa. There is also a room filled with furniture from eighteenth century France and in the next room are paintings and trinkets from the Dutch royalty in the seventeenth century. And in another room, there are American objects from around the time of the Revolutionary War. I could go on and on, but the imagination captures the idea better than the words do so I’ll just let you think about the endless possibilities that museum held. Oh, also I took some pictures so if your imagination can’t quite come up with it, then here are some visual stimulants. (I’m not an expert on art. All the commentaries are my opinions)

(All photos were taken at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, MA)

img_1117Canal Venice by Pierre Renoir (1881)

This is my favorite painting mainly because I recently visited Venice and it reminds me of the beautiful city. But I also love all the different colors used.

img_1123Mother and Child by Claude Monet

This painting reminds me of me and my mother, and I really like the matching blue on the mother and the child contrasting with the red from the flowers in the background.

img_1125The Pink Cloud by Paul Signac (1916)

I like this one because it reminds me of cotton candy haha and it’s just so colorful and happy

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I’d say that these two paintings are worth a lot of… Monet 😉

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I like this painting a lot because I felt a kind of calm and melancholy  looking at it. It made me wonder so many things about the woman in the painting.

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I just liked the power that this painting reflects… also its huge which kind of adds to the power

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This was the room with the fancy French furniture

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There are two giant baby heads sculptures outside in the back of the museum. They are named Night and Day… this one is Night I believe (because  the eyes are closed)

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This was a mirrored image of the bottles inside… it seemed to go on forever. I thought it made a really cool picture.
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I hope these pictures were interesting and beautiful to you. I highly recommend visiting a museum soon, any museum, because they hold so many amazing things, and they are a fun way to educate yourself on the world. In addition, many museums offer student discounts; I got in free just by showing my college ID. And, going with friends always makes for intellectual discussions.

Ciao for now!