Two Saturdays ago (3/16) I went to Terni with two other friends. Terni is a town about 1-1.5 hours south of Perugia by train. We got there no problem, but once we were there it took us awhile to find the right bus for our destination – Cascata delle Marmore or Maremore’s Falls! This is a man-made waterfall made by ancient Romans. Once we finally made it to the waterfall area (which they “turn on” for around 7 hours a day) it cost 8 euro to enter the park with the falls. From there we hiked all around – including a steep trail (aka stairs) to a beautiful view of the falls! This post is mostly pictures – I hope you enjoy them! I certainly did.
This past Thursday when I returned from my Italian class my roommate told me, “So Zach emailed us asking if we want to be interviewed by Diane Sawyer.” I honestly thought she was just lying to me because it caught me so off guard. So once I realized she was actually being serious I checked my email and there was actually an email from my Sustainability of Food/Business of Wine professor asking if I wanted to be interviewed by Diane Sawyer. I, of course, said I would be available! My roommate guessed that it had to do with the Amanda Knox trial and, sure enough, she was right. Four other students and I met up with four Umbra staff and we all went to the central fountain by the big stairs in front of the main church (so basically right outside of my apartment).
We waited maybe 10 minutes or so and then my professor, along with the camera crew, producer, and Diane Sawyer walked into the square. We split up into two small groups and she interviewed my group first. As my roommate had guessed, she asked about living in Perugia through the lens of the Amanda Knox trial. While I’m not sure we gave her the answers she was looking for, it was a really cool experience! I’ve loved some of her news stories in the past and being a (although small) part of one now was neat.
The story airs April 30!
I attempted to take some pictures of Diane Sawyer and the interviews with the other group, although it was hard to get a good shot.
Last weekend my friend Gabby from Babson (not roommate Gabby) came to Perugia! We stayed in Perugia on Thursday, went to Florence on Friday (into Saturday morning), and took a train from Florence to San Gimignano on Saturday for the day.
In Florence we didn’t see that much that was new, especially just in one day, and unfortunately the rain streak continued. However, it was still nice to see a familiar place and when we went inside the Duomo I was just as impressed as ever. The highlights of the day, at least for me, mostly related to the food we ate. You could say it was a Brussels like experience where we likely ate more than we should have, but it was fabulous at the same time. The main food highlights were gelato, pizza (personal size), and late night pastries. We really couldn’t have made that day healthier if we tried. Regarding the late night pastries, don’t underestimate the value of a freshly made pastry when you least expect it. They are so fresh (since I’m generally not awake when they’d be freshest in the morning or, more often than not, I make my own breakfast) it’s amazing! I got a croissant with fresh cream inside – so delicious. There is a place similar in Perugia where we have gone a couple of times, it’s just as good.
Here are a few pictures from Florence:
Saturday we went to San Gimignano which is a medieval town with 14 towers of all different sizes. It’s a really interesting place to just walk around – there aren’t too many “big name” sights to see. While it rained lightly a few times for the most part the clouds held off. A big highlight was going to a gelateria which has won the title “World Champion Gelato” – and I have to say, it really was that good.
Here are some pictures from the day:
We decided to go to Brussels for one day (instead of 3 days in Dublin) because there was a convenient flight directly from Brussels to Perugia’s small airport (otherwise we’d fly into Rome, then take a train from Rome to Perugia). After flying back into the right time zone I was a little unimpressed with my first experiences in Brussels. First of all, there was only one real way to get from the Brussels Charleroi Airport to the city center – and it cost 22 euro roundtrip! That was WAY more than any of the other cities we went to. Not only that, but they only accepted exact change cash and not the kind of credit card I have. Sigh. I suppose I should be thankful to be there in the first place but it was a bit frustrating. Two of my roommates had already purchased their tickets and gotten on the bus. By the time my other roommate and I purchased our tickets the bus was full, so we ended up meeting them after the next bus came. While waiting in the airport (sitting on the floor with my bag next to me), a guy kicked my bag while walking by. Let me just say there was plenty of room for him to walk. But, as karma sometimes works, after he put some bags down, about to go into a mini food mart, he tripped hardcore and cursed at his bag. Perhaps he just doesn’t look where he’s walking?
Once in the city center, my roommates and I got lost trying to find the hotel we were going to stay at for the night (Royotel – 25 euro per person for the night). After walking for awhile in the wrong direction, we decided to just start over and return to the main train station (where the bus dropped us off). Only being there for a day, we decided to take a taxi to our hotel – a very good decision because it would have been a long walk! We arrived at our hotel, after some failed conversations in French with the taxi driver, and settled in.
Finally, this is where the day turned around for the better! We mapped out where we wanted to go and started walking. We saw some historical sites then stopped in a square to eat lunch and buy Belgian waffles! They’re as good as they sound – I could have eaten just the waffle itself, it had such a good flavor. Considering the amount of time we had in Brussels, we really made it a point to eat… a lot. It was just a part of the cultural experience, right? Right? Anyway, after more sightseeing we walked down this one road completely taken over by very similar style restaurants. They all seemed to have 12 euro or 18 euro three-course meals with similar menus. In addition to this, they each seemed to have someone outside trying to convince you to come into their restaurant over those of their similar neighbors. One guy convinced us, and we ate at his restaurant (called the Lobster House). It was a very pleasant atmosphere – we sat next to a small fire and the lighting was nice. We each got the 12 euro, 3 course meal. I ordered the butter and garlic shrimp, sea bass with potatoes and salad, then another waffle for dessert – it was a really great dinner! After eating, we walked back towards our hotel and I actually think I fell asleep as soon as my head touched the pillow. The following morning, we again took a taxi (the receptionist at the hotel called for us the night before) to the station, took the bus to the airport, and boarded a 9 something flight back to Perugia!
It was an amazing spring break and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity. I was able to check four more countries off my list of countries to see!
Here are my pictures from Saturday in Brussels:
The third city I visited over spring break was Dublin, Ireland! Luckily, the flight from London to Dublin was NOT at 6:30 in the morning, instead it was around 10 AM. It was misty when we arrived (what’s new?) and we took a city bus to Camden Street which is the area where our hostel was located. We stayed at the Times Hostel (average 21.25 euro a night per person) which I would recommend. It has a great atmosphere with nice staff and accommodations. We stayed in a private room with a bathroom in our room instead of a shared bathroom, like many hostels I have seen. Once we were settled in, we ate lunch at a local pub called Devitts. I got the sandwich and soup combo for 6.50 euro: a hot stuffing and chicken sandwich, mushroom soup, and coleslaw. It was a delicious meal! We then set out for the day to explore the city. We walked around, did some shopping, and ate dinner at a cafe. This was not a “local” style meal – I got breakfast for dinner (again, what’s new?) – but hey, it was the first time I had pancakes in months! That night we went back to Devitts because they had some live music and it was a very convenient location for us.
Here are some pictures from Thursday:
Friday morning we ate breakfast at the hostel (breakfast is included in the price, although we had to pay for towels). At 11 AM we went on a walking tour of Dublin to see the major historical and cultural sites. After the tour we were hungry and ate lunch at a pub to have some beef stew. The stew had slow cooked beef and Guinness – it was so delicious! To make the experience better, we ate lunch with a Brazilian we met on the tour named Fabbiano and there was a live band playing classic Irish music. It was a two person band – one guy singing and playing the guitar, and one guy playing the accordion. Afterwards, we split up and two roommates and I set off for the Guinness Storehouse. We walked along the river, a little too far I might add, and after a few correctional turns finally made it to the storehouse. We walked through the storehouse-turned-museum and settled in at the top level where you get a “free” pint of Guinness and are able to see a panoramic view of Dublin. I can’t say I enjoyed the beer since I don’t really like beer, but it was an experience none the less, and the view was cool! On the walk back we picked up some groceries for dinner and made a simple meal of linguine with tomato sauce, garlic bread, and carrots and green beans. After dinner, we went on a walking ghost tour of the north side of Dublin. Although it was not quite what I expected, I still really enjoyed it! There was one building in particular (an abandoned industrial type building) that was really creepy – lots of glass windows. I will say it was really cold on the walk (which lasted about 2 hours). Unfortunately, I think that caused me to get sick for the next week or so (nothing too serious, just cold-like symptoms for a bit and a cough), but it was worth it.
Here are some pictures from Friday:
We woke up early to catch an 8:30 AM flight to Brussels. We ate breakfast at the hostel, which they might have put out especially early because of our early departure (it was very nice!). Similar to the previous morning we had toast (with butter or jam), cereal, coffee/tea, but this day we were early enough to also have fruit and some cheese and ham. We also randomly had bought a breakfast loaf the night before which was a glorified yule log (yes, a yule log). We consumed most of it, but it was too sweet to eat in the morning in my opinion. Unfortunately, we had to eat very quickly to be on the shuttle in time (the hostel called it for us) to get to the airport.
Overall, I really enjoyed Dublin and wish I had more time to see the rest of Ireland, including the amazing Cliffs of Moyer.
As soon as we landed in London we heard the classic Ryanair recording that starts with some startling (if you’re still sleeping that is, or slightly out of it) trumpets followed by “You’ve arrived in yet another on time Ryanair flight! La da da.” As we exited the plane I was surprised at how cold it seemed outside and inside the airport, although it likely wasn’t that cold in reality compared to many places. I slept pretty much the whole plane ride but was still tired after not getting a full night’s sleep the night before. From Stansted airport we took a bus to Liverpool station – the ride was over an hour, so again, we all pretty much passed out for the ride. As soon as we got off the bus we stumbled upon a free yogurt stand which was a very pleasant surprise! We each got a free blueberry and strawberry yogurt so it was a good way to start off in London. My mood went from very positive to somewhat crushed when I almost lost an earring (I have a strange sadness when I lose things). My dad will remember this as the same earring I almost lost at home and texted him about (which he found!). A few hours later, after being situated, the earring appeared again on the apartment floor… it must have been caught in a tangle in my scarf or something because I really don’t know how I got it back! Our apartment was located in the White Chapel area of London and was very nice with two bedrooms (with large, comfy beds), a living room that also had a dining area, a kitchen, and a bathroom. Our landlord for the weekend provided us with some helpful information and maps, which was very nice of her. After putting our stuff down and settling in a bit, we ventured out for the day!
The weather was chilly and damp, but it was still exciting to be in London. We took a lot of trains while in London (specifically the underground) and were easily able to navigate. I was surprised at how fast paced people are in London when compared to Italy. Usually I am a pretty fast walker, but I felt slow when compared to the locals! We saw a few big name sites on Monday including Buckingham Palace and Piccadilly Circus but there were smaller sites I enjoyed as well. Something very simple was just seeing the red double-decker buses that are a constant reminder you’re in London. Also, it was interesting to go grocery shopping and see the foods offered in London that I wouldn’t normally see like digestives. While there, I bought some cheddar cheese since they don’t have it in Italy and I certainly missed it!
It’s always nice to return to a comfortable place after a long day of walking and being underground (on trains, of course). We settled in, made delicious pizza, and relaxed for the night. Unfortunately the only thing remotely interesting on TV was Bitchin’ Kitchen (really, Food Network?) which was amusing albeit bizarre. By 11 PM we were almost delusional from lack of sleep, so we went to bed early!
Here are some pictures from Monday:
In the morning I almost made the mistake of waking up an hour early (there’s a 1 hour time difference between London and Perugia) but luckily I realized it and went back to sleep. One of my roommates wasn’t so lucky! It was a misty morning weather-wise but it certainly cleared up in the afternoon. We first went to the National Gallery area where (right in front of the gallery) there is Trafalgar Square! I was way too excited to see this place, but it was in one of my Tony Hawk games from way back when so it felt like I had been there before! We went inside the National Gallery (which is free) to see some paintings – I was most interested in the impressionist works. Afterward, we went to King’s Cross Station to take pictures with the famous Platform 9 3/4 from Harry Potter and eat lunch. For the rest of the afternoon we went to the National History Museum (also free!). I really liked this museum because it had a lot of different but interesting exhibits. It had dinosaur exhibits (my favorite part) along with several other interesting rooms like one focusing on homo sapiens vs. neanderthals and their interactions. Around 5:30 PM we headed back to our apartment for a quick snack and to change because at 7:30 PM we went to a broadway show at the Prince Edward Theatre in London! Ironically we saw Jersey Boys, but it was a great show and a lot of fun. The woman in front of us was having an especially fun time, dancing in her seat to most of the songs – it was great.
Of course there’s always some awkward moments on these trips and London was no different. There was a couple sitting a few rows down from us and we had about 15 minutes before the show started. The man of the couple, perhaps in his 50s or 60s, turned around and stared at us – actually stared at us – for about 30 seconds with disdain. Yes we were talking, but it was well before the start of the show and we were not being especially loud or anything, alas it was a very awkward moment!
We headed back to the apartment after the show to make dinner at 11 PM (I guess we were still on Spanish time!). On the train we attempted to solve some crossword puzzles, but apparently our knowledge of British slang is minimal so we were quite unsuccessful in our efforts. Once we arrived back at our apartment we got in with relative ease (relative is a loose term here). The first night we struggled hardcore getting in (there were 4 locks: 2 outside door, 2 inside door), but there was a definite learning curve.
Here are some pictures from Tuesday:
Each place that we go we like to have a “local” (to the best that we can) food or specialty – something that the people eat there. So in the morning on Wednesday we went to a diner called Poppie’s Diner and ate a full English breakfast. This consisted of (at least the one I got) an egg, sausage, bacon, beans, tomato (cooked), toast, and coffee – although I realize to be more English I should have gotten tea. It was delicious! We needed a good breakfast because today would be pretty much all walking (whereas the previous two days we took the train a lot, buying the 1 day zone 1 and 2 travel day pass). So we walked down to the Thames river and proceeded to see sight after sight with a lot of walking in between. It was cloudy but as the day went on it got sunny – although still chilly. We each brought a bagged lunch (mine was a sandwich, chips, and an apple) which we ate on the side of the river facing the London Eye (we found a spot in the sun!).
What would the day be without a strange event – so here goes. We were in a park and I noted the signs saying not to feed the birds/animals etc. (not that I really would anyway). About 10 feet away, of course, a mother and what I assume was her daughter were feeding the animals. Okay, you might say, that happens a fair amount probably. Well, those animals must have been hungry because pigeons were flocking ONTO the girl’s arm where the food was and a squirrel casually walked onto her mom’s arm! It’s not everyday you see that, luckily I was armed with a camera.
Our walk concluded at none other than my favorite place, Trafalgar Square, where we again went into the National History museum. This time though, we didn’t look at any art but instead went to the bottom floor where there are bathrooms, a gift shop, and best of all… couches! We actually stayed there for quite sometime, maybe 2 hours or so. While we weren’t being the perfect tourists, we didn’t seem to be bothering anyone – we were just so exhausted! Around 6 PM, we finally got up and started our walking journey back towards White Chapel. Earlier in the day we had found a promising pub where we would not pay a ridiculous amount for fish & chips so we made our way over there for dinner (12.75 euros for a fish & chips and a beer). We each ordered the fish & chips – 2 of my roommates got a side salad, and 2 of us got the “mushy peas.” While I really didn’t enjoy the minty taste of the mushy peas, I figured I had to try them! One of my roommates loves spicy things so she asked for some sort of hot sauce, which she got, and I made the mistake of trying. She warned me at its spiciness and dipped the end (very minimal dipping) of a french fry for me to try. I temporarily turned into a fire breathing dragon, so needless to say I won’t be trying that “hottest sauce in the world” again! They really did claim that title on the bottle.
After our yummy meal, we walked back along the Thames. Seeing London at night was beautiful! The bridges light up with lovely colors and seeing the buildings at night was also beautiful. Our last stop, at the recommendation of our landlord, was The George Tavern. This pub apparently marks a spot where Amy Winehouse made her debut and Justin Timberlake shot a music video. The place had a nice atmosphere with candles (in old alcohol bottles – which was pretty cool) and music. A band was setting up, but being that it was a (not so) hopping Wednesday night, they weren’t the, how I should I say it, Grade A band. Once they started playing it was honestly more of an art performance than music. The had a slideshow projected onto the wall and were essentially playing interpretive music to the abstract images shown. At one point I thought the Mothman from Mothman Prophecies would show his ugly self – really, some of the instrument sounds resembled creepy satanic whispers. So while we weren’t necessarily the best crowd to be in that bar, at least on that night, it was certainly an experience. At the end of the night, we headed back to our apartment (no Bitchin’ Kitchen tonight) and packed for our morning flight to Dublin!
Here are some pictures from Wednesday:
Last week was my spring break and 3 of my roommates and I decided we would try to pack a lot (reasonably) into our 10 day break. The first stop was 3 nights in Madrid! Our flight was at 6:30 AM on Friday 2/22 from Rome so we took a train down from Perugia to Rome the night before. Our flight left from Rome’s Ciampino airport (smaller than Fiumicino) because we flew Ryanair. We stayed in a lovely, quite comfortable place overnight: a corner of the arrivals (open 24 hours) section of the airport. We had luxurious accommodations such as a clean floor (I’m actually really impressed with how clean it was), and well, that was about it. I tried falling asleep using my coat as my mattress, blanket, and pillow around 11:00 PM and slept very lightly until about 4:40 AM when we headed over to the check in area. I would wake up and random parts of my body would have pins and needles – but hey, it was free! What can I say, it was an experience. There were many others who were more prepared than us with sleeping bags or blankets, but still there were many such as ourselves who only had their luggage or the clothes on their bodies.
Once we were in Madrid the next challenge was finding out the best transportation to our apartment. Luckily one of my roommates is fluent in Spanish and another one of my roommates is a master navigator – I’d say we did well for ourselves! Using airbnb.com, which I highly recommend, we had found an apartment in the center of Madrid with a bedroom (double bed), living room (corner sofa turns into double bed) with a small dining area, bathroom, and kitchen – all for only 14 euro a night per person. The apartment was very clean and cozy with a really great location. We unloaded our things then ate a delicious lunch at a local corner cafe/restaurant. Spain food is quite amazing I have to say, it was very hard to choose between all the options (that is, after I had my roommates translate what they actually meant for me)!
After lunch we set out to explore the city. During check-in, the apartment owner gave us a map and circled and explained all the best places to see in Madrid. He gave us great advice and the map really came in handy!
While exploring during the day, we stumbled upon a very small outdoor market. A man offered us samples of some sort of food which we ate. I was holding a coffee at this time and he spoke something to me in Spanish. I asked my friend what he had said and she responded hesitantly, and a little confused, that he had asked for some of my coffee. He repeated himself and she again translated saying that he was asking for some of my coffee since he had given me a sample. The bizarre thing was… he was serious! He considered it an exchange I suppose. He had a completely serious face and as I mumbled something unintelligibly because I don’t speak Spanish, and then walked away, my roommate said that he called me cheap! I didn’t ask for the sample, he just gave it to me! But anyway, either different cultural behaviors or he was downright strange.
Friday continued with more site-seeing and, unfortunately, rain. Luckily most of our plans were for the next two days. We bought groceries for our stay (preparing most of our own meals saved a lot of money!), a benefit of having an apartment with a kitchen, and prepared dinner (linguine with tomato sauce, garlic bread, broccoli and carrots). It was incredible to sleep in a real bed again, let me tell you!
Here are some pictures of Friday:
This was a big walking day. We saw a lot of sites! In the late morning we ate churros with hot chocolate (so delicious!). Later, after more walking, we ate our bagged lunches in the Parque del Retiro. It was quite nice to be surrounded by trees again and although it was chilly, it still felt like spring with the sun shining. Walking, more walking, more walking and finally we headed back to our apartment. The apartment owner invited us to the vinoteca (wine bar) where he works so we went there for some wine and tapas – again, delicious! On the way to the vinoteca I had another odd sort of incident. It all lasted about 10 seconds, but it was memorable! We were turning a corner and a woman, out of nowhere, approached me (not anyone else in my group who all might look more Spanish than me) and asked for directions in Spanish. She was speaking so fast that my hands just shot up in the air, similar to the “hands up!” signal (except not that dramatic and hands only to about my shoulders), and again I uttered unintelligible sounds trying to convey that I had NO idea what she was saying! Alas, the troubles of a traveler. Finally, we sought out to eat dinner at a normal Spanish time…10:30 PM. We found the perfect place though, and ate paella de marisco (a traditional rice and seafood based dish). I would try to recreate that dish if I could! I highly recommend it.
Below are some pictures from Saturday:
In the morning we walked to the biggest flea market in Europe called El Rastro. It was quite impressive, spanning many streets – although I wasn’t so much a fan of it being on a hill. We were actually early to the flea market so they were still setting up when we got there. It was interesting to see that people were actually flocking to certain tables, trying to find treasures among piles of old objects. There were many items on sale at the market once it was up and running. These ranged from clothes to DVDs to antiques to household items to jewelry and more (typical flea market style). We ate lunch with friends of one of my roommate’s parents who are living in Madrid. They were so sweet! Lunch consisted of a variety of small plates that we all shared – a kind of Spanish ham (similar to Italian prosciutto), cheese, chorizo (one of my favorites), olives, and more. Afterward we went to a pastry shop and ate pastries with hot chocolate or coffee. Afterward we were feeling full and tired, so we took a bit of a siesta. One movie and a half later, we left to go to a flamenco dance show. This was one of my favorite parts of the whole trip and probably my favorite part of Madrid. There was a singer, a guitar player, and three dancers. I was right next to the stage and I could feel every time they stomped their feet on the stage – it was a great experience! That night we had dinner (rice, chicken, and an assortment of leftovers) at around 11 pm. I can’t say that we really went to bed that night so much as took a nap because we had to be out at 3 AM to catch a bus to the airport for our 6:30 AM flight to London! It was gorgeous in the morning because the moon was almost (or actually) full and combined with overlooking the city from the plane – just beautiful.
Unfortunately I still don’t know where and when it is appropriate to tip at restaurants or bars.