Month: March 2014

Spring Break: Madrid

8 days, 4 flights, 3 cities and 2 countries later… My roommates and I have survived spring break! From our first experience with RyanAir to arriving to a surprise at every apartment we stayed at, there was a new adventure around every corner. We embraced all the ups and the downs and luckily all came home in one piece with lots of memories to share. It was a long but wonderful trip however we were quite glad to be back in our little town of Florence where we know the language (well some of it) and where no map is needed in order to find our next destination.

Madrid Palace

Madrid Palace

Our first stop on our spring break adventure was Madrid. Although not really knowing what there was to do before going, we filled our days with sightseeing and shopping as we ate our way around the city (shocker, shocker). After a short, uneventful flight we made our way through the metro system and into town where we were supposed to meet with the landlord of our apartment. Little did we know that he had overbooked our apartment and the previous guest would not be leaving for another 3 days. Luckily he offered to put us up in a hostel more towards the center of town in a quaint little place run by the sweetest Spanish women. It was clean, quiet and much better than our last hostel experience. We settled in then headed out for some yummy tapas and sangria to start off our trip the right way. However our eyes seemed to be bigger than our stomachs and since the waiter spoke little English, we ordered WAY too much food and even had to pull another table over to fit all of our plates… Yes we were those Americans. After a scrumptious meal, we explored and grabbed churros and hot chocolate for dessert then headed back to our hostel to rest up for the next day.

Pastries at the market.

Pastries at the market.

The next day, since we knew very little about the city, we decided to hop on the big red double-decker tourist bus. When we got on, the lady taking tickets mentioned there would be a “demonstration” going on in the city and that some of the tour routes would be a little skewed. Since we had experienced a demonstration in Rome a few weeks back, we thought nothing of it and continued on our way. We saw the Palace and the Egyptian temple then stumbled upon the Mercado de San Miguel which is where I fell in love. PACKED with Spanish people on their lunch break, it was overflowing with Spanish food and sweets of every kind. It took all I had in me to narrow down my choices and only grab a bowl of paella and a glass of sangria. I ate them happily as I marveled at the bustling crowd around me. Before we departed, I grabbed a piece of a marvelous meringue cake that tasted like a yummy cloud. I left very happy and ready to take on the rest of the day. After a few more stops and a stroll through a lovely park, we came to the main street that was full of thousands of protestors participating in the demonstration. Unlike what we had seen before, we had NO idea how to handle the situation, not knowing what the protest was about and if it was safe for us American girls. After asking a police officer for some help, we ended up having to cross through the middle of the protest because there was no other way around. The three of us grabbed hands and darted through the protesters, heart pounding all the way. Once we got our heart rates down, we made our way home and ended our night at a cute little Irish pub.

Molly Madrid Park

Park of Madrid.

The next day my roommate Jennie planned to go to the Prado Museum and although I like art, I wasn’t up for spending 4+ hours inside a building all day. So my other roommate, Heidi, and I took to the streets and shopped our hearts out down the main strip of Madrid. We had a wonderful day exploring and dodging the mass amounts of tourists (which seemed a lot like NY in the summertime) and even made friends with a churro cook who made us fresh churros in the shape of hearts. We left him a good tip and made our way home to meet Jennie for dinner then settle in early for our 7am flight to Barcelona.

Heart-shaped churros.

Heart-shaped churros.

Although not expecting much out of Madrid, we made the best out of our time and I was happy to experience a large Spanish town where I was forced to use what little I know of the Spanish language. In my next post I will continue with details of my trip to Barcelona!

Until next time…

Molly

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Czeching It Off My List

A few weeks ago one of my roommates mentioned she was dying to go to Prague and although I had thought about going to the country, I never really figured I would get there seeing as it wasn’t top on my European bucket list. However a few minutes of convincing later, I was sold and booked by trip with Florence For Fun to depart for Prague this weekend. Luckily, my spur of the moment decision did me no wrong!

Prague was definitely one of my most favorite places I’ve visited so far. Although originally weary of the people we would meet when we arrived, I found the town to be incredibly Americanized and full of lovely people with neat accents. After a 12 hour bus ride through the night (how fun does that sound??), I took off my sleeping mask to find the sunny city of Prague in all of its architectural wonders. After a quick stop by our hostel at Fusion Hotel, which was surprisingly wonderful and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a cheaper place to stay, we headed out on a guided tour of Prague. We made our way to their astronomical clock in time to see the time change at noon which entails a fun ceremonial ritual then headed to the Charles Bridge. We finished our tour in the old Jewish Ghetto of Josefev which was my favorite part. Ever since I learned about the Holocaust in 7th grade, I have been fascinated by it and although I won’t be able to get to Auschwitz on this trip, I plan to make it there sometime in my life. My roommates think I am creepy for my fascination, but the history behind it all truly interests me. After visiting a couple synagogues and exploring the streets, we headed to a favorite restaurant of students where I finally found a burrito and pretended I was in Mexico for a few short minutes.

Our free time on Friday included exploring the sights as well as climbing the clock tower to find some of the most amazing views of Prague. When we arrived back to our hotel that night, we got ready and headed out with our group to do a pub crawl. A couple watered-down sangrias later, my roommates and I danced until we were falling asleep on our feet then headed home to crash until morning. We awoke to a dreary day but were excited to see the John Lennon Wall. Although I’m not a huge Beatles fan and didn’t know much about the wall previously, it was an amazing sight so we took a ton of photos and then headed up to the Prague Castle. There was a Starbucks at the top with the most wonderful view, it was the perfect way to reunite with one of my favorite American beverages. Who knew Italy has outlawed Starbucks from entering its country?? With my vanilla latte in hand, we explored the Castle and its Cathedral then headed down the many flights of stairs to stop in a quaint restaurant for lunch. Keeping up with the local cuisine, I ordered beef goulash and apple streusel for dessert, both of which were WONDERFUL! I seriously haven’t met a food over here that I don’t like.

We ended our day with a little shopping in the local market and got ready for a late dinner at the most wonderful place. Kolkovna is known in Prague for its gourmet food at cheap prices so we sat down to a complimentary beer and because I was feeling adventurous, I ordered the leg of goose. Before you judge, it was actually wonderful and tasted like a moist turkey leg. However dessert is what really stole my heart. Warm chocolate soufflé atop a tantalizing vanilla sauce garnished with raspberries… In case my description didn’t do it enough justice, trust me when I say I fell in love. OMG. I walked out with a wonderful food coma and we headed to a 5-story club where the music was a little too loud and the smoke constricted my lungs. Good experience but never will I ever go back!

We finished our trip with a 12 hour bus ride back to Florence on Sunday and although I thought I may go crazy, the ride included a drive down the German autobahn and beautiful sights of the snowcapped mountain ranges in Austria. By the way, the highway rest stops here are phenomenal… Clean and full of great food and wonderful views. I made great memories and hope to one day come back to Prague!

Until next time, I will be studying for midterms and nursing a cold, while getting ready for spring break in Spain next week!

Molly

Mediterranean Mojo: Part 2

I don’t even know where to begin for this post because I have so many wonderful, happy, beautiful memories bouncing around in my head! I guess I will start from the beginning which included the most glorious breakfast buffet. We had a wide array of different bread and pastries, fresh fruit, cereal, yogurt as well as a fabulous coffee and tea bar! It set the tone for the fabulous day that lay ahead.

We left the hotel in Nice and headed to Eze which is a small village on top of a cliff. The Fragonard perfume factory is housed there so we got a quick tour and made a few purchases. Then we found the trail and walked up to the village of Eze. It was a quaint town with small cobblestone streets, perfectly quiet while situated on the most beautiful cliff overlooking the ocean. I decided right then and there that it was a potential honeymoon location (because yes, this is what I think about while traveling). We rushed through the town, trying to capture the picturesque streets but our photos didn’t do it justice. I never wanted to leave.

Little did I know that yet another beautiful site was awaiting me just 15 minutes away. We made our way along the coast to the wonderful Principality of Monaco. Yachts and sailboats and blue water and beautiful military men in uniform… Someone please tell me I can stay forever! The streets were clean, the ocean breeze was fresh and the classiness of Grace Kelly lingered in the air. We made it in time to see the changing of the guards, where I spotted my future hubby with a tall stature and a phenomenal French accent. I stalked him for a little while then made my way to the Cathedral to visit Grace Kelly’s grave. We stopped for lunch to eat a ham and cheese crepe that followed with a crepe filled with perfectly chocolatey chocolate and whipped cream. We did a little souvenir shopping then headed to the gardens that were dedicated to Grace Kelly. Situated right along the cliff, we sat in the sun and stared out in awe over the beautiful Mediterranean sea. I’m positive I could live the homeless lifestyle on the beach if I meant I got to wake up to those views everyday.

Last but certainly not least, we traveled to Monte Carlo. Our first stop was the Monte Carlo Casino where cameras were forbidden but the sites will be ingrained in my head forever. Massive chandeliers hanging from gold plated ceilings while fabulously dressed men and women strolled through ready to play their hand on the dark wood Roulette tables. I slipped 5 euros  into a machine that I had no idea how to work and played my luck. Only cashing out with 0.30 euro, I knew I had some practicing to do before I ever hit another casino. Still pretty cool to say my first slot machine was played in Monte Carlo! We left the casino and found Lamborghinis and Porsches, Ferraris and Bentleys as we made our way around town being glared at for our obviously poor American statures. Since we couldn’t afford anything, we walked and enjoyed the sites and on our way back to the bus saw two children riding in an electric Ferrari car also known as an electric Barbie car in the US. Funny how different the price point is over here!

I said a very sad goodbye to the place that touched my heart forever and we made our way home through the traffic back to Florence. This was the first trip I went on where I wasn’t glad to be home. I could have stayed in the French Riviera forever and I know that I must go back again during my lifetime. Maybe next time it will be on a rich man’s yacht with servants feeding me grapes… A girl can dream! It was an utterly fabulous trip and I feel so blessed to have been able to see these sites at such a young age… Thank mom and dad!

Until next time I will be making cannoli’s and heading to Prague this weekend!

Molly

Mediterranean Mojo: Part 1

I sincerely apologize for my week hiatus in posting anything. I was trying to find something that truly inspired me and boy did that happen this weekend! On Saturday morning I left for the French Riviera… Did that really just come out of my mouth (or rather, my keyboard)?? When I say I have seen heaven, I mean that this place looked like coastal Northern California on steroids. It was hands down the most incredible place I have ever visited. The decadence, the beauty, the ocean, the crepes… I may or may not have already started looking for jobs there after graduation.

This trip was put together by the school where I am studying so we paid a flat fee and had tons of activities on our itinerary. We began our bus ride up the coastal road through Italy and eventually made our way into France. Just the view alone from the bus was enough to get me excited! I never truly realized how much I missed having a body of water so close. As our adorable teacher and fabulous tour guide, Franco, talked to us about the regions of Italy and France, we made our way to our first stop which was Cannes. Our bus parked casually at the marina where we were able to get off and take just a few quick steps to the ocean. Clearly I ripped off my shoes and ran to put my toes in a foreign sea. The water was cold but heavenly. We took some touristy pictures and marveled at the yachts then headed to the main road, passing a few topless old ladies on our way by. I can only hope to be topless on a beach in Cannes when I get older!

We found where the Cannes Film Festival is held and enjoyed the scenery then headed to lunch overlooking a phenomenal view of the city. We ended our time in Cannes with a stroll through a wonderful antique market where I purchased beautiful antique diamond earrings (I promise they were in my price range!). We sadly hopped back on the bus and headed to Nice with a guide who told us all about the architecture and history behind the places we were passing. We arrived to yet another picturesque waterfront and then headed inward to the old town of Nice. We strolled through small streets and passed a large flower and soap market (can you imagine the scents… Wonderful!) and also several chocolate and candy stores. Our guide stopped in front of one of the oldest chocolate stores in Europe but didn’t give us time to go in… Obviously she didn’t know who she was dealing with! Wiping the drool off my mouth, we made our way to Fenocchio’s, a famous ice cream place in Nice, which was really the only reason we decided to follow the guide on the tour in the first place. I got three scoops of different flavors and happily enjoyed my treat on the way back to the bus, just in time to catch the sun setting on the beach. We said goodbye to the water and headed inland to our 4-star hotel with the most amazing view of the city… These people know how to keep me happy!

After a nice long shower with HOT water and wonderful water pressure, I struggled to peel myself out of bed for dinner downstairs. We had an eggplant stuffed with mixed veggies followed by a delicious chicken and potato dish and ended with a chocolate banana cake. It was all wonderful, especially the warm baguettes that they continually replenished. We headed upstairs with a happy belly and snuggled into our beds, ready to take on the next day in Eze, Monaco and Monte Carlo.

I will include more about my travels to Eze, Monaco and Monte Carlo in my next post. But until then, I hope you dream of sandy beaches and clear blue water and decide to make a trip to a seaside city in your near future!

Molly