Truly Madly Deeply

 photo8(1)Ciao!

Well, my time in Italy has come to an end. As I reflect back on my time in Florence, I could not have dreamed of a better study abroad experience. For once in my life I lived in the moment. I never realized what effects traveling has on you until I lived in Florence. You get to know your true personality and characteristics that make you unique. I’m not saying that I was a complete stranger to myself, I had an idea of who I was. I guess in everyone’s life there comes a time where you see the person you are and the person you ought to be. The person that I ought to be is someone who takes in every moment, enjoys the little things, indulges in all things that make me happy and most importantly believe in myself. Now, I didn’t come to this reality by myself. Through my Italian self discovery I had some help along the way.

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The first person that helped me was Jen or J Block as I now call her. When I first met J I was stranded outside the apartment, jet lagged and pretty disoriented. So disoriented that I thought she was my roommate Maddie’s friend. That next morning she was the first one to get up, since I had been up since 7 I figured that maybe she would join me for breakfast. We ended up leaving at 11 or so which was so bizarre for a breakfast time for me. Then we ended up getting lost and eating at around 1. I kept thinking to myself, “does she know that we are in the ghetto right now? I’m going to get abducted.” Little did I know that I was no where near the ghetto. After surviving that, we ended up hanging out for the rest of the day. I would say a mile stone in our friendship was when we were sharing our life stories over a bottle of vino at La Giostra. After that, we became more like sisters than friends. Jen is a true blue.Throughout these six weeks I probably wouldn’t have made it without her. I think she and I both came here with the goal of pushing ourselves to get outside of our bubbles and really get back to our centers of who we are. Jen is someone who is a goof troop who loves to laugh. I can’t tell you how many belly laughs she and I shared. Jen also taught me about being more conscientious of what I’m eating and what the best fabrics are. I don’t know many people that would give up their own bedroom in a ground floor apartment to move to a third floor apartment with no AC. My favorite memory she and I shared was at the Jack Johnson concert. We were in the stands and Jack was doing his thing and we were just dancing like idiots. Just living, which is how it should be. I’m excited to see what other adventures Jen and I share throughout our lives.

IMG_1511The second person is Ashlee. She and I first met outside a glass shop as we were waiting for the appertivo with SAI. The next day we realized we were in the same class. We first bonded over our love of croissants and all things Italian food. I think another key note of our friendship is the fact that we are extremely sarcastic. She and I could just volley back and forth with sarcastic comments. I once tried to match her eating abilities but failed miserably and was put into a food coma. She’s another good egg. She is extremely humble and down to earth. Even though she finds enjoyment in making fun of my accent. It’s okay though because she’s from Wis-cauhn-son. She may have a more distinct accent than I do. Something that Ashlee taught me was to just be myself.

IMG_1335I can also say that my roommates from the first three weeks shaped my experience as well. Jamie, Meg and Maddie are girls that live in the moment. They took advantage of every opportunity and ran with it. They put themselves out there and made friends which pushed me to do the same.

photo2(17)I also have to say that my teachers in the kitchen and classroom also taught me a lot about myself. The first is Ciccilia, the first three weeks she taught me Food, Culture and Society. For the remaining three weeks she was a chef in the kitchen. Ciccilia is a true Florentine. She was born here and has lived here for her entire life. She taught me so much about the culture of Italy. She was the first to introduce the idea of moderation to me. Well, the Italian version of moderation. She also taught me about picking the best quality of ingredients for cooking. She was probably one of the most friendliest professors I have ever had. Any questions that I had she was always happy to answer usually with the response “verbene….”

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The second teacher or Chef was Victoria. She and I had a rocky start to say the least. During our first class I was in a terrible mood, which I shouldn’t have been, but she told me I needed to be nice. But you know when there is an extremely annoying girl in your class that you can’t stand and it’s just hard to push through it? Well, that was that day for me. So I left there with a bruised ego and not wanting to go back to that class for the life of me. However, I ended up going back because I had such a great first week experience with Sarroino. I am so glad that I did. I honestly think she taught me the most about the culinary arts. She taught me everything from the basics of cutting to nutritional value. She was actually a private chef on a yacht, but quit a few years ago to be around her grandchildren. She taught me to be open-minded about people. Our first impressions of each other were nothing pleasant. Now, it was hard to say our goodbyes. She also taught me to be mindful of what I put into my body. She believes sugar is a silent killer and it tears up your body, so every recipe she cuts the sugar by 2/3. I honestly felt like I was a sponge when I was around her, I soaked up everything I could.

The third teacher that made an impact on me was Mossimo. He taught me so much about wine that I could go on for days talking about it. He taught me more than just wine though. He taught me about living and thinking outside of the box. Each class he posed questions to the class about our thoughts on happiness, success and the difference in food and wine in the States and Italy. In sum, he doesn’t understand why Americans believe that they always have to be working more than they have to. Instead, he believes that you do what you have to and then take time to enjoy life with your family. He also thinks the types of wine a person drinks is a good way to read people. It tells a little something about their life. Mossimo also gave me hope in the idea that there are still men out there that know how to court women. He said that he remembered his first dinner party he hosted at 16. He remembers the menu and who he invited. He also told us about how he used to plan every aspect of the date he was going on. Whether it was the ambiance of a restaurant or a wine pairing for his meal he was preparing. He still practices this today and he is 55. He was telling us that he plans an activity for his wife to do every day so she doesn’t get bored. He was shocked when the class told him that guys in America really don’t know anything about wine, or put that much effort into planning a date.

All in all, I cannot wait to go back to Italy. I’m also looking forward to my future travels. Right now I’m going through a butter detox, but when I get done I will be practicing my recipes I learned. If you would like to keep up with my cooking or wine tasting, feel free to keep following!

photo6(7)Cheers to Italia!

 

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The last day in Santorini

IMG_1680Ciao!

Well, Jen and I spent our last day lounging on a catamaran. We went to three different beaches and watched the sunset on the boat. There was a red, black and white beach. The water was so beautiful and clear. When we were swimming around we could see all of the fish underneath our feet. Pretty neat. We also did a little sun tanning while we were on the boat. Would y’all believe me if I told you I had a little tan? Well, I do. That night we had dinner on the boat. They made meatballs, grilled shrimp, greek salad, eggplant dip, taziki, chicken and corn. I’m tellin’ ya, it was a feast.

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Captain/Chef? what a catch.

After we ate dinner, it was time to watch the sunset and head back in. This time I didn’t have to deal with tour groups shoving me around. Let me just say it was perfect! When Jen and I got back to Fira we hit the Greek 24 hour bakery. I don’t know if I have mentioned this but majority of the stores stay open until midnight or 11 o’clock during the season. The goal is to get as much revenue as possible. So once we went to the bakery and picked up a few things we walked back to the hotel. Santorini is very safe. I never once felt like I was going to get pick-pocketed while I was there.

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How Jen sunbathes

Jen and I caught an early morning flight and witnessed the most beautiful sunrise I have ever seen. I think I may be a sunrise type of girl, or maybe just a Santorini sunrise/sunset person. Once we arrived in Rome, we got on the train to go back to the train station. We decided to grab lunch because we hadn’t eaten yet and it was about 1:30 at the time. Hangry was an understatement.

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You remember how I said Jen and I had become train masters? Well, I’m about to eat my words. We planned on the 1:50 train so at about 1:45 we were scrambling to get our tickets. All of a sudden its 1:50 and we are sprinting for the train, trying to get to our car, and the train starts to leave. Do you know 1) how embarrassing it is to run past people waiting for the next train and 2) running towards a train that you can’t even catch. Well, that was rough. So we had to go to the help desk and get on the next train. I could tell the guy wanted to laugh at us. I’m sure he saw my excellent running skills.

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We finally made it back to Florence and decided to grab dinner at Aqua al 2. This whole week is a YOLO week for Jen and I. So we got the pasta sampler and then we tried the strawberry risotto. Y’all, WOAH. It was so delicious. I’m still thinking about it. Then we had our blueberry and balsamic filets. I’m really going to miss that place.

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Anyways, if you haven’t noticed I’ve been a little slow on my blog posts. Partially because I don’t want the experience to end and actually that may be the entire reason. A friend of mine told me that I have to eat at least two croissants a day plus gelato whenever I can before I get home. So, I’ve been busy I guess you could say.

 

 

Light as a Feather

photo5(6)Ciao lovelies!

So where was I? Ahh, day two of Santorini. As you can see life was tough hangin’ poolside. The day began with some breakfast in preparation for our wine tour and cooking class. If you did not know, Greeks were the first ones to produce wine. Our tour guide, George or Georgie, as I later called him picked us up and another couple. The other couple was from Belgium and they were on their honeymoon. I asked Georgie what the differences in wine production in Greece compared to Italy. He said they only water the plants when they are very young, the soil(volcanic rocks), and harvest time. Right now they are harvesting grapes when Italians usually do that mid October.

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Once we arrived at the vineyard, we tried five different types of wine. Two whites one with a full body and one that was more weak with less flavor. We tried a red and two desert wines. I have decided that I prefer Italian wine to Greek wines. The quality of production is just so much better.

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After the tasting it was time for our cooking class. On our way to the cooking class, Georgie got in his first wreck of the season. In Santorini, the roads look like one ways but are actually two ways. Anyways, a tourist was driving down and didn’t understand the rules of waiting so Georgie had to back up. When he did there was a motorcycle there and he backed into his tire. Luckily no one was hurt but I couldn’t help but laugh at the situation. Lord knows what that guy said to poor Georgie. When he got back in the car he was continually trying to reassure himself that it wasn’t entirely his fault. Although we all know that it was…

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One wreck later, we arrived at our lesson and was greeted by a very nice chef and the owner of the restaurant. The cooking class took place outside overlooking the sea. Each one of us volunteered for a specific task. Jen made the Taziki sauce and I made the fried tomatoes. Is anyone else seeing a trend with the Southern girl doing the fried things? Well, our contributions turned out perfectly. The guy from the couple made the pork dish that was sauteed with cinnamon and bell peppers. It was really good surprisingly! The woman made her vegetarian dish that consisted of stuffed tomatoes and a bell pepper.

IMG_1664After a few cocktails and a smoke break, Georgie rejoined the group. We ate our lunch and chatted for a while with the chef. The most important fact that I took with me was the testing of EVOO. Sometimes places mix the extra virgin olive oil with regular oil. To test this, grab a few table spoons of EVOO and a drop of hydrogen peroxide. When you combine the two and your olive oil changes color–its mixed. Just a food for thought!

Once we got home, we went and got our suites on and hung out poolside. Jen conned me into getting in the pool but when I realized I left my hair clip it was too late. Rapunzel got her hair wet and then I figured what the heck so I just went for a little swim.

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Prior to the hike.. How naive I was.

We took the shuttle to Oia but we were going to walk to a small marina to have some great fish. Well the driver said it’s a short walk, 10 minutes tops. All of a sudden I find myself hiking down a mountain. I kept repeating to Jen and myself “it’s a short walk they said…10 minutes tops they said…” Thirty minutes plus a body cramp later we made it down to the bottom. I told Jen that I will not be walking back up the mountain. I would have rather set up camp with the fish than do that. The food was great though. I guess I would say that the hike was worth it. I know I sound like a baby, but look at the picture below, see those people that look like ants that’s where we started out. I’m sure you can relate a little better now.

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See the castle/ruins up at the very top–thats where we started.

Once we finished dinner, our shuttle came and picked us up from marina. WHAT A RELIEF. My prayers were answered that night. After that hike it was a shower and an early bed time for me. Alls I can say is the hills beat me again.

 

Hook

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Ciao!

Long time no see, right? Well, I just got back from Santorini and can I say that it was amazing?! It was definitely worth getting up at 4 a.m. to catch a flight for. Jen and I scrambled to get our stuff together and out the door on Thursday to catch a train by 4. Well I don’t know if you know this, but Jen and I have become train masters, pretty much conductors at this point. We arrive in Roma and have to take a train to the airport. Yet again, there was another gypsy there waiting at the validation stand. It’s not so much a safety risk more of an annoyance. We dodge her and hop on the train to the airport.

We wanted to go back into Roma for the Frida exhibit but we didn’t have enough time. Instead we went into this little town that is close to the seaside/airport to have dinner. At this restaurant we indulged in some great food. Actually when we first got there there was only one table–us. So I was a little sketched out plus the fact that the restaurant was in an ally was a little sketchy too. After dinner we headed back to the hotel and crashed for about four hours.

If any of you have ever traveled through or to Rome airport then I think you can join me when I say that that airport is pure CHAOS. Checking into that mess was some kind of deal. The way you find your check in gate is by a departure board and then you get in line wherever it tells you to go. After that you get in the line for security, where you don’t even have to take off your shoes, fyi. Fortunately for us there was a bar open at 5 so we grabbed a quick coffee and headed to our gate. That was probably the first airport that I’ve seen a Gucci in casually. Forget magazines, I’ll take a handbag for my flight.

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Everyone waiting to see the sunset.

Once we arrived to Santorini, we grabbed a quick breakfast at our hotel The Majestic Hotel. For any of you who plan on going it is an awesome hotel and very accommodating! Plus it’s maybe 50 ft outside of Fira which is the capital of the island. There are also two swimming pools one for adults and the other for kids. Which means no splashing Wesley while she attempts to sunbathe. Anyways, our view of the island was majestic. There’s really no other word to describe it but majestic.

IMG_1632After we got settled, we caught the shuttle to Oia to watch the sunset. Everyone on the island migrates to Oia for this occasion. Anywhere you can find a seat you take it. I found a seat around the edge but after the second round of tour groups, we could no longer see the sun. So Jen went to scope out the seating situation, all of a sudden I hear my name, and she had ended up on a totally different level from me. After much debate, we packed up and move to a new spot right in the nick of time. Needless to say the pushing and shoving was worth it.

IMG_1642Once we escaped the packs of tour groups, we had dinner at a restaurant called Floga. The view was amazing and the food was delicious. We had tomato dumplings which to me were the equivalent of fried green tomatoes. At first I thought to myself, I came to Greece for a southern staple? Then with a little Taziki it was a different ball game. For our entrees, Jen had salmon with a lavender sauce I want to say and I had the beef tenderloin. All of which was great. After we ate we had to make a bee line straight for the shuttle. Day one of Santorini–CHECK!photo6(4)