Relaxing weekend at the villa

This past weekend the majority of us stayed home at the villa.  We all had a much needed week of relaxation. It was kinda rainy outside so we all watched movies and slept.  It was great to just be lazy for a weekend!  Actually, I ended up writing the majority of my two final papers for the semester, but somehow I still feel as if I did nothing all weekend.

The excitement of the weekend came Friday morning when we found out that there was a landslide in the countryside that disrupted the natural gas line that supplies the city of Genoa.  Because of this, the city was rationing their use of gas, meaning we had no heat and hot water, and had to use the stove sparingly.  So we were all a bunch of smelly, greasy people this weekend-nobody left the villa!

The one time we did leave the villa was Saturday night. We finally went to the restaurant at the end of the funicular line, Ristorante Montallegro al Righi. It was as great as everyone had made it out to be.  The menu was handwritten, as it changes all the time.  I had some kind of meat ravioli, which was wonderful.  For dessert I had a apple and pineapple tort, which was so good.  I really hope we have a chance to go back before the end of the semester!

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A perfect day for Como

Despite coming down Monday night with what I’m pretty sure is the flu, this Tuesday we spent the entire day looking at the works of Giuseppe Terragni a famous Italian architect. Terragni was involved in the futurist movement and was a founding member of Grouppo 7, and worked closely with the Fascist party.
While we were all distracted by the unusual 65 degree weather and the possibility of a George Clooney sighting, we saw seven different works in and around the town of Como. We visited two private residences: Villa Bianca and the Casa Bianchi.  We then saw the Monumento al Caduti next to Lake Como.  Next we visited two apartment projects: the Novocomum and the Giuliani-Frigerio Apartment Building.  Later in the day we went to Erba to see the Monumento al Caduti Erba Incino, which is a WWI memorial.  We then came back into Como to see the Casa del Fascio and the Asilo D’Infanzia Sant’Elia which is a nursery school. These were all buildings that we studied in Sevario’s class and will be writing about for our final papers. My building is the nursery school.  I’m excited, after visiting my building, to begin researching the design.  It seems like more thought than usual was put into the interaction between the children and the building, and I find that really interesting.

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Monumento al Caduti Erba Incino_

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St Patrick’s Day in Dublin

Within 5 minutes of being in the taxi on the way to our hostel, I remembered why I had fallen in love with the city almost three years ago.  There’s just something about Dublin. Every time I visit I just feel home. It’s as if I was right back in Shelby, St Mary’s, Dallas or Erie, surrounded by all my family and friends.

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But let’s back up a few hours to our afternoon before arriving in Dublin.  We arrived at the Milan airport 2+ hours before our flight left.  Something always goes wrong when we travel so we like to give ourselves plenty of time to get where we’re going. This trip quickly became no exception.  We took the train from Genoa to Milan and a bus from Milan train station to the airport with no issues. We arrived at Malpensa and went through security only to find out that our flight has been delayed 2 hours.  Earlier in the month, we had heard that there might be a strike at the Dublin airport today, but earlier in the week we had read that it had been resolved.  Aer Lingus never sent us an email saying that there would be a disturbance to our flight, so we thought “okay, we’re good.”

We later realized that Aer Lingus had made precautionary alterations and cancellations to almost all of their flights in and out of Dublin in case the strike did happen.  However, our flight wasn’t on this list of changes.  So here we are sitting in the airport for what turned into a 3 1/2 hour delay, buying whiskey from the duty-free store and drinking in the Milan airport while playing cards.  It was at this point I realized my life had hit a new low.

Once we finally boarded the plane full of drunk, rowdy Italians we were off to Dublin, finally!  But wait, the drama doesn’t stop there!  Almost as soon as we were up in the air, the captain said we would be experiencing some turbulence and that we should stay in our seats.  Okay, fine-nothing I haven’t heard before. WRONG!  This was no casual turbulence.  I was sitting in my seat hands clenched to the armrest muttering the Rosary under my breath between gasps and screams every time the plane nearly fell out of the sky.  So when the turbulence seemed to stop and we were making our descent into Dublin, the flight attendants kindly reminded us to check where the nearest emergency exits were located.  I’m sorry, WHAT?!  THERE’S SOMETHING THEY’RE NOT TELLING US!?! (queue Bridesmaids quotes)

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Luckily we landed with no problems.  We booked it out of the airport and into a taxi.  By this time it was about 1:30.  We arrived at our hostel and checked in. Courtney and I went up to our room and opened the door, when we were started by a loud, terrifying sound.  It took us a while to realize that this was the sound of someone in our room, snoring.  But this was no ordinary snore.  It sounded like some snorting, snarling wild animal.  So after a solid 15 minutes laughing so hard we were crying out in the hallway of the hostel, we went downstairs to get earplugs from the desk and try to go back into the lair of the beast that was going to be our roommate for the next two nights.  After another 30 minutes of trying to make our beds in the dark between cracking up, we were ready for bed around 2:45.  We had decided earlier that we were going to meet up at 9:30 to go explore the city.

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After a night of little sleep thanks to the wild beast in our hostel room, we started our day by walking around Trinity College and then went to Dublin Castle, where we took a guided tour of the grounds.  Next we went to Christchurch and St. Patrick’s Cathedrals.  We stopped for lunch at a pub called The Hairy Lemon.  I had Irish Stew.  Everyone else had Dublin Coddle and fish and chips.  We all enjoyed our meals while watching the Italy vs. England Six Nations Rugby game.

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After lunch we met up with Brianne, and from there we went to do some souvenir shopping and bar hopping.  We ate dinner in the Temple Bar area and then we went from bar to bar listening to music.  Later in the night the bars were at capacity, so we ended up just hanging out in the streets, which was more fun than being in the packed bars.  We went back to the hostel for night two with the wild animal. He wasn’t there when we got back and he ended up checking out around 5 or 6 AM, so we got a little bit more sleep than the night before.

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Sunday we went to the Guinness Storehouse, which was pretty awesome.  In addition the all the cool stuff that a ticket usually includes, they were also having a St. Patrick’s Day festival. We got to hear live music, see Irish dancing, and they also had food pairings to go with all the beer samples. We spent the better part of the morning/early afternoon at Guinness.  We wandered back into the Temple Bar area and ended up near Dame Court where there was live music.  We listened to this awesome band called Amazing Apples, and afterwards we went to lunch at Trinity Bar.  This time I had bangers and mash.  We went back to the Dame Court area to listen to more music, but the next band wasn’t as good so we went back to the Temple Bar area to look for more live music.  The entire weekend we happened to come into every bar and pub just as the band was ending or taking a break.  Finally we found a bar called Buskers that had awesome live music, so we stayed there for the majority of the night.  I discovered a new affinity for Bulmer’s Cider, because at this point in the weekend I was way to full to drink any more actual beer!  We stayed out in the city until midnight so we could say we were there on actual St. Patrick’s Day.

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Monday morning we arrived at the airport around 5 for our 6:30 flight, only to print our tickets and realize our flight wasn’t until 7:30. Oops. So we had lots of time to get breakfast and do some more shopping.  Our flight back to Milan was uneventful.  I actually slept the entire flight from takeoff to landing, which never happens. We made it to the train station in time for our train back to Genoa, and made it to the Villa in time for our review of our 5th project of the semester.

another day in Genova

On Tuesday, we visited the largest cemetery in Genova. The was such a unique and creepy cool place!

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According to Giuditta there are millions of people buried here. There were normal rows of plots like you would expect in a traditional American cemetery, but there were also elaborate tombs, crypts and walls of cremated remains.

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This entire place was so well designed.  All of the different sections of the cemetery make it feel like a small city within a city.  The architectural styles of all the monuments were so eclectic.  Out of all the things we’ve seen in Genova so far, this is probably my favorite. 

two planes, a bus, a train and a taxi later…

…I’m back in Genoa!
As relaxing as my vacation was I’m glad to be back “home”.  Everyone else got back to the villa Sunday night or this afternoon, so it was very strange being here Saturday night and most of Sunday alone.  On the bright side, there was no line to use the washer and dryer for once!

So after editing an enormous amount of pictures, doing laundry, and finishing up my blogs while catching up on my long list of American TV shows that I’m addicted to, its nice to get back into the swing of things.  I cant believe that the semester is already halfway over!  Time has really flown by and I’m just trying to squeeze every last bit of fun and travel into my time left here.

This weekend I’m going to Dublin for the true St. Patrick’s Day experience, so hopefully I will come back alive/in one piece. The following week my roommate Sarah will be coming to visit, which is really exciting because i really miss all my friends from home!  So get ready to have a fun two days in exciting Genoa, Sarah! (shout outs now that I know you read this  haha!)

soaking up some Santorini sunshine

We’re spending the last part of our vacation on the island of Santorini in Greece.

I’ve all but decided i’m spending my honeymoon here so if you’re out there future husband, you’re gonna have to deal with that!

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Santorini still life

Our arrival to the island was nothing short of eventful.  There was a slight issue with the hotel we had booked a month in advance and already paid for…it was closed for the season!  So after an extended taxi ride with a very helpful driver and some choice four letter words screamed over the phone (at ridiculous international rates) to the people at Expedia, they booked us in a gorgeous hotel on a much nicer part of the island.  So after the dust settled and the Zanax kicked in, we actually made out much better.

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It was dark when we arrived on the island, so we hadn’t been able to see the view from our hotel.  So we woke up to the sun shining and an amazing view of the sea and the volcanic islands of Santorini in front of us.  After a much needed good nights sleep, we ventured into the capital of the island, Thira.  We stopped for lunch, and naturally I ended up getting a gyro-which was delicious, go figure.  This was Laurie’s last day with us before she went on to visit Rome by herself for a few days.  So after lunch and exploring the city, we grabbed a few bottles of local wine and caught a taxi back to the hotel to spend the afternoon relaxing outside in the sun.

20140306-114803.jpg20140306-114750.jpgAfter relaxing and enjoying the company of our new feline friend who we named Rocky, we got ready to go into the town of Oia to watch the sunset and have dinner.  The sunset was beautiful but after it went down, it got very cold so we hurried to a nearby restaurant to warm up and have dinner.  We ended up at this lovely place called Lotza.  It was just a small family-owned restaurant that had delicious food!

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For the next two days, mom and I enjoyed the last of our time together for a while by drinking way too much wine out on the porch in the Aegean sunshine, eating some delicious food and spoiling our little stray cat friend.  Anyone who knows me well enough knows how much I despise cats.  This little guy had the spirit of a dog, i swear- and he didn’t even make me sneeze or give me a rash.

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Afternoon atop the Acropolis

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We dedicated our second day in Athens to the Acropolis, and rightfully so.  I could have spent all day exploring the area.  It was so amazing!  I just wish everything wasn’t being restored and covered in scaffolding, but what can you do.

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After visiting the actual Acropolis, we went to see the collection at the Acropolis Museum. Before visiting the museum, we grabbed lunch at the cafe on the roof. I had this really amazing chic pea salad with sun dried tomatoes.  and of course, I had a mid-afternoon cappuccino to push through the rest of the day.

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I love, love, loved this museum.  It was designed by Bernard Tschumi and I was just so impressed with how closely the building and the collection were tied together.  The entire top floor houses the Parthenon frieze, and is laid out exactly as it would have been if it were still atop the Acropolis.

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After the museum we returned to the area of our hotel to do some shopping before we headed to the airport to fly to Santorini.

Overall I was really impressed with Athens.  I had low expectations of the city from friends who had visited in the past, but I have nothing bad to say about the city.  We had a lovely time there- I only wish we had a few more days.

καλημέρα Αθήνα – Good morning Athens

We arrived in Athens around midday today. We checked in to our lovely hotel, Electra Palace, located at the base of the Acropolis.

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We had a light lunch and wine in the hotel lobby before heading to the Archeological Museum, the only tourist spot open on ‘Clean Monday’- which is apparently the kickoff to the Greek Easter season.
The National Archeological Museum was amazing, but they closed early for the holiday and we did not have enough time to finish seeing the collection.
Being the small world that it is, we managed to run into my classmates Kat, Emily, Lisa, Ally, Colleen and Sarah in the museum.
We found a cute place in Plaka, our neighborhood, for dinner. We just ordered a few appetizers and a bottle of wine, that way we got to try a little bit of everything. We had dolmas, fried feta, and spetsofai which was a spicy sags age mixed with peppers and tomato sauce. It was all delicious!

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20140306-112012.jpg We also had a traditional Greek desert the waiter recommended, which was like cold cream of wheat with cinnamon and nutmeg on top. No one else liked it, but I grew up eating cream of wheat with cinnamon for breakfast so I loved it! After dinner we did a little souviner shopping and walked around the very nice area of Plaka. Later we went to a cafe to get some baklava and ouzo.

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Good food and good times in Istanbul

Today we woke up early and had breakfast at or hotel before heading over to the Blue Mosque. With our head scarfs on and shoes off we went inside. The ceiling is absolutely beautiful- I don’t think my camera moved from the upward position the entire time we were inside.

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20140310-165048.jpg next we went to the Hagia Sophia, which was also beautiful.IMG_9313
Then we went to the Basilica Cistern-this was my favorite thing we saw all day. It was so interesting and cool. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before!20140306-113510.jpg20140306-113446.jpg Later we went to the spice market. This was such an experience. I wish I could buy just about everything in there. There was spices, candies, teas, soaps, trinkets, souviners, etc.
next we made a quick stop for tea and coffee. Aunt Laurie tried some Turkish coffee, mom had tea and I had lemonade with mint. The Turkish coffee was interesting to say the least. It pretty much tasted and looked like mud. My lemonade was delicious though.IMG_9591

Next we met up with a former coworker friend of my aunt Laurie named Ezra who is Turkish and lives in the city. She was so sweet and offered to take us around and show us the Bosphora area of the city. We walked around and she suggested we try some street food so we got these things that are essentially loaded baked potatoes. They were piled high with cheese, corn, olives, peas, bulgar wheat salad, and meat. It was so different but so yummy. After we went and had some Turkish wine and sat by the water. Then we went and walked around looking at all the street vendors. Visiting this area really gives you a different opinion of Istanbul. On this side of the city it feels much more modern.

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Merhaba Türkiye – our first evening in Istanbul

I think I was born in the wrong country. Even before landing in Istanbul I was being courted by the young, god-looking Turkish man sitting beside me. He spent the majority of the flight telling me I am very beautiful and he can make me very very happy. Being the awkward person I am, I would just smile, said thank you and go back to sleeping or watching my movie. You know, just breaking some foreign hearts-all in a days work.
After landing we arrived at our hotel in the Beyszit area near the Grand Bazaar where we met up with my Aunt Laurie. We all ventured out and ended up eating at a restaurant called Sar’s, which the man at the front desk recommended. When we sat down we asked the waiter what he recommended and we ended up with an entire table full of food to share. We had hummus and a spicy tomato dip with fresh pita bread to start. Next we had some kind of meat and potato pie, iskender kebab, and some kind of cheesy bread that looked like a boat. Everything was absolutely amazing! I may have to take my creepy man friend from the airplane up on his offer of love so I can stay here forever -and just eat!

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After eating way too much delicious food, we walked around the area near the bazaar and tried (and bought) our first Turkish Delight. It was absolutely delicious and I’m sure we will have no trouble finishing the box before we leave.

20140302-215209.jpg We then went to a cute bar near our hotel called the harem, where mom and Laurie had raki, the traditional Turkish liquor. I however was content with my apple tea, since I don’t like licorice flavored anything.

20140302-215250.jpg Tomorrow is our only full day to explore the city-so I’m hoping to hit the ground running and see all I can see.