Thursday, April 8, 2010

going retro: thursday top ten refigured.

I don't actually know if it's entirely possible to "go retro" on a blog that is less than three months old, but we're going to pretend that it is. In the spirit of going retro, I'm bringing back Thursday Top Ten in a whole new way...

Ten European Cities Have I Loved

We're going to look back at all the traveling I have done thus far in the semester, and then look ahead at what is still to come....ooooooh.

[These are in no particular order. Except maybe the order that they are stored in my Pictures folder.]
1. Verona. My roommates and I set off on a slightly impetuous overnight journey to the home of Shakespeare's starcrossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet. We had an excellent dinner at a kitschy restaurant called Al Bracere before spending most of the next day walking around, eating crepes and gelato, before deciding we'd seen enough and heading home.

Verdict: The city itself is cute enough, and way more...developed than I had been expecting. I really enjoyed the sights of the city, including the above-pictured Roman amphitheater, Juliet's house, and the Piazza delle Erbe, where we of course stopped to sample some fruit from the local market, but I felt like the city itself was too small to warrant any long amount of time being spent there.

2. Roma! API took us to Rome the last weekend in February, where we spent 3 days touring ancient Roman ruins, drinking espresso, sampling the local cuisine, and 1 memorable night drinking at a bar appropriately named...Sloppy Sam's. How perfect.

Verdict: I liked Rome more than I thought I would. It was way more urban than I expected, but somehow still less dirty and toursity than I'd been led to believe. It did, however, solidify my certainty that studying in Florence was the right choice for me.

3. Amsterdam. I actually just blogged about this a few days ago, so I don't think you need much of a recap here. I mostly spent my days wandering the city and eating Vlamese french fries (no mayo, thanks), while trying to avoid being hit by bicycles. Oh, and I also ran into my childhood friend who I hadn't seen for probably 7 years here.

Verdict: I would love to go back to Amsterdam with some of my closer friends to hit all the sights that I missed the first time around. While the city is gorgeous, I don't think I met more than five legitimate Dutch people the whole time I was there. That's how touristy it is.

4. Bologna. Another recent adventure to the city historically known as Italy as la grassa, which literally means "The Fat." I think you can draw your own conclusions about the typical cuisine of Bologna from that nickname. I spent one day in one of Italy's gastronomic capitals, hopping from restaurant to restaurant, waiting to be wowed.

Verdict: I was a bit underwhelmed by Bologna, to be quite honest. I expected...more somehow, in all areas. More history. More cool buildings. More good food. I think that if we had asked API for some restaurant recommendations we might have done a little better. And a tour guide. That would have been nice.

5. Belfast. [Hey, these are kind of almost alphabetic!] The second stop in my spring break was Northern Ireland's teensy little capital city, where I enjoyed a homemade Irish breakfast and pints at what seemed like every pub in the city with my dear friend, Jenny (pictured above).

Verdict: The smaller-town feel of Belfast was exactly what I needed after a hectic three days in Dublin, but I definitely think that 2 days is all that you need for this city. If I'd stayed any longer, I might have gotten bored.

6. London! I spent three days with one of my best friends from high school, Jessica, while she showed me all of the things I missed on my first touristy whirlwind visit to the city last spring. We drank a ton of coffee, ate lots of cookies, met an army of swans, and then suffered the consequences of one pint too many in Kingston.

Verdict: This was the best part of my spring break. I think I could travel to London a million times and never be bored, and not just because the company is fantastic. There is just something about that cold, drizzly city that gets me every time. And after discovering both Ben's Cookies and Borough Market this past visit, it's a sure bet that I'll return eventually. Or at least have Jess ship me some cookies.

7. Innsbruck. Mary and I took an overnight train to this quaint Austrian town in early March, where we experienced some um...Austrian hospitality along with a lot of museum tours, thanks to the snow, which kept us mostly indoors.

Verdict: I loved this little town! The views of the Alps were absolutely stunning, and I found most of the museums to be incredibly interesting. Of course, being Floridian, I was impressed by the snow at first, but later regretted ever celebrating its presence.

8. Dublin. My spring break started with 3 crazy days in the Irish capital and let me tell you, they do not share the Italian stance on drinking. It is accepted, promoted, and expected that people will get drunk. At 5 PM. Every day of the week.

Verdict: I definitely didn't get to see as much of the cultural aspect of the city that I liked. This was probably due to the people who I was traveling with who had...shall we say...different interests and expectations of our trip. Nevertheless, I drank enough Guiness to make an Irishman proud, and enough Irish car bombs to make the politically correct blush.

9. Venice. Another API sponsored excursion. We were all thrilled for this trip, which took place during the famous Carnevale. However, upon arrival, it immediately became clear that partying in Venice for Carnevale is much better in theory than in actual practice. All of that quiet melancholy, the beautiful canals, the fantastic all disappeared in one giant, glittery and insanity-inducing weekend.

Verdict: The food was underwhelming (and horribly overpriced). To say that the streets were crowded would be a criminal understatement. We didn't get enough time in either Murano or Burano. Honestly, this weekend was kind of a disaster, saved only by the quiet Sunday afternoon I spent searching out espresso and gelato with my roommates, when we finally managed to escape the mad crowd.

10. San Gimignano. This quaint Tuscan town is situated south of Florence, in the hills associated with some of Italy's finest and most popular wines. We went for an afternoon of fun and to enjoy the medeival scenery, but mostly because we had heard that the world championship gelateria was located there...and we couldn't resist.
Verdict: The fact that the gelateria we specifically went for definitely put a dent in my assessment of this city. However, it was redeemed by some delicious and cheap wine, handpainted goods, and fabulous scenery. San Gimignano, we will be back for that gelato. Just you wait.

It's kind of nuts that we have only been to 10 cities so far (well, plus Pisa, but that hardly counts). Of course, it seems like this next month and a half is more travel-heavy than the previous two have been. Before May 25, I will be travelling to:
Cinque Terre
Rome (again)
The Amalfi Coast
And, as of today, Alicante (Spain)

Holy crap. This means that by the time I have left Europe, I will have been to at least 23 different cities in 6 different countries. I'd say my life is pretty freakin' awesome.

The Lucca trip is actually scheduled to take place this Saturday! The city iself is located only about an hour from Florence. We will travel there with API for an olive oil tasting (yummy) before being set free to explore the city ourselves for awhile. When we return, we will actually be heading almost straight to the Fiorentina soccer game. The next morning, two of my roommates and I will be going to Cinque Terre for the day with a local student travel agency called Florence for Fun. Cinque Terre is largely recognized as one of the most beautiful places in Italy (if not on Earth). It is a series of 5 towns, situated on what I believe are a few separate islands, and we will be hiking through all of time. Wish us luck.

1 comment:

  1. Gelato will not evade us next time! San Gimignano or bust!