6.27.2015

La Vita È Bella

Time for the second installment in my Europe recap! The country we'll be recapping today is ITALY. This wasn't my first time in this beautiful country, as Rome, Florence and Venice were high on my priority list the last time I was in Europe. That time though, I was saddened to only have a matter of hours in Venice, a city one of my travel companions perfectly deemed as "exquisite." But I remedied that this time around as I was able to have two days in Venice since we went on a Mediterranean cruise that began and ended there. Luckily though that wasn't the only taste of Italy I got this time around as we also got to spend a day in Bari, a beautiful city on the coast of Italy. So let's recap each beautiful day in Italy shall we?


So the first day in Venice I had probably the least amount of time to do my usual exploring.


My mother was anxious for the boat not to leave us while I was anxious to let my eyes reabsorb as much of this beautiful city as I possibly had time to see.


What I hadn't expected though that ended up to be a wonderful surprise was the fact that our room was upgraded to a room with a balcony. So as we set sail for our journey, we were treated to a STUNNING view of Venice as we sailed away.


Our first day ashore was in Bari, but my main interest was to venture to another city not too far called Polignano a Mare.


Walking down under this bridge will lead you to quite the stunner.



This has to be one of the most gorgeous beaches I've ever seen in my life (though ones in Ireland would quickly rival it.)




My favorite part was stumbling onto this secret little cave and coming out to find a fantastic view of the city.


But besides the beach, the old town above it was also delightful. The square was beautiful and the first gelato shop I saw called my name.



After that, we still ended up with time leftover to see the city of Bari...so we opted for a rickshaw tour!

The information provided on this tour by our beyond charming and movie star handsome host gave my mom the culture and history lesson she craved. I only wish I'd gotten a picture of that gentleman!



His descriptions of the old city and its culture were fascinating from the mopping of the outside floors that the people deemed their living rooms, to the shelling of pasta in the street... Bari certainly had its own story to tell.



So then after our many stops at all the other ports (to be detailed in future posts...) we wound up once again in Venice once the cruise was over. Since we had so much time, we opted to take a few trips to the nearby islands off of Venice: Burano, Murano, and Torcello.



The first island was Murano, where Venetian glass is made. We got to see an awesome demonstration of it, followed by a stroll through their glass art gallery. Unfortunately no pictures were allowed in the gallery, and I didn't think I had a good enough angle to get any pictures or video of the glass blowing demonstration... still it was awesome. This wasn't the prettiest of the islands since it was so industrial, but it was still way cool to visit.


The second island was the most colorful...literally haha. 



The island of Burano (famous for Venetian lace,) was my favorite because of how bold the colors were.



The third island, Torcello is home to an abandoned monastery. 



Minus some tourists...there was something about this one that seemed like the Sunday afternoon picnic spot for Italians and their speedboats... a little-known paradise.



These little sculpture gardens in Torcello only added to the charm. 



After returning back to Venice from our little island excursion, we ended the night in Venice the only way one could end a night in Venice: on a gondola.


There's something so calming and peaceful about a gondola ride because it gets you away from the hustle and bustle caused by the tourists

Italy was beyond gorgeous...but I wasn't too sorrowful to say goodbye to some of the impatient locals who constantly had to deal with us incompetent visitors. That's it for this edition. If you missed my London recap you can find it HERE. Up next: Greece!

6.21.2015

I See London

CAUTION: INSANELY LONG PICTURE HEAVY POST AHEAD!

More often than not I end up regretting not doing a recap of my traveling adventures. When I did a study abroad five years ago in Paris, I only wrote two posts to cover my three months! Now back from my second big trip to Europe, I've decided not to make the same mistake twice. This trip was a more compact version of adventures five years ago, but still in three weeks I managed to visit six different countries. Instead of doing a post per day I was gone (though I easily could) and tying up my blog for the next three weeks straight, I've decided to dedicate a post to each country I visited. First up is Great Britain where I spent three non-consecutive days in the city of London.

First stop in London?  



 I'm somewhat ashamed to admit that I heard about a big Star Wars exhibit at Madame Tussauds that I was pulled to just like a magnet....or should I say tractor beam?


Yes even in Europe I found a way to be distracted by Star Wars


I absolutely wasted way too much of my precious time in London here, but having the pictures now is almost worth all the frustration the endless waiting in lines caused me. 

I think I hit it off pretty well with Han Solo.


The droids were on their best behavior too.

Stopped by for some life advice from Master Yoda.

And learned an unfortunate revelation from Darth Vader.

After ALLLLLL that, I took my mom to all the "big spots," London has to offer.


From Big Ben

Tower of London  

Tower Bridge 



Buckingham Palace 


and St. James Park. 

That was it for my first day, but I returned again toward the end of my trip for two more days...this time with my sister. 


On my first day with Laurie, we visited the Kensington Gardens in Hyde Park


Stopped by Harrod's for lunch and died over the dessert cases



Took a trip to the National Portrait Gallery to see if the Kate Middleton portrait was as hideous in person as it looked online


Decided NOT to feed the birds at Saint Paul's


Ate some very scary food on a Japanese conveyor belt 


stopped by Platform 9 3/4. 

My favorite thing from this day though, that I didn't get pictures of: the archives of the British Library. Here there was EVERYTHING from a copy of one of the first Gutenberg bibles, original handwritten music by Mozart, Handel, Bach and Beethoven, original manuscripts by Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy and Emily Bronte. But perhaps best of all... was handwritten lyrics by the Beatles! Help, Ticket to Ride, Yesterday and Michelle...all in their first drafts with various lyrics scribbled out and rewritten. Gave me chills to see so much inspiration in one room.


The second day, we hit up Portobello Market


 The market features in a memorable montage in the film Notting Hill


Coming near the end of the trip, it killed me not to have ANY space for all the wonderful souvenirs I could have bought there! But also at that point I was pretty spent out. 


After the market, we trekked on over to the Kew Gardens. 



This place was insanely beautiful... 



I could have spent a whole day or even two there wandering the grounds very easily. 




But since we had more on our agenda than that, we returned to downtown London to survey the modern art found in the Tate Modern.

This guy was my favorite...



But Andy Warhol's stuff was pretty good too.


Shakespeare's famous Globe theater (well the reconstructed one anyway,) happened to be right next door so I could kill two birds with one stone.



That's it for Jolly Old England, a charmingly beautiful city that I hope to visit once again someday. Up next, I'll share my adventures in Italy... so stay tuned!