Firenze

January 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

Dusk is coming and fiery rays from above illuminate the trees around me into a glowing puffs oranges and golds.

I continue to follow the crumbling signs pointing to ‘Piazza Michangelo‘ zig-zagging me up a hill further from the city center.  Friends told me to take a stroll up to the Piazza without further explanation so I have no idea what to expect when I reach the top.  I continue to trudge up the sloping hill in hopes of finding something magical above me.

The wind carries the melodies of a husky female voice signing from above me.  I can hear a crowd of people near.

My destination is close.

I follow the voices and find myself at the base of a staircase.  About a hundred people sit on the steps of the piazza overlooking the city, listening to the female performer belt out lyrics about wanting a Mercedes…or something like that.

I bypass the performance and ascend up the stairs.  After the short climb I am met by a bustling piazza full of tourists, souvenir vendors and gelato stands.

I catch my breath, peek over my shoulder and gasp at the stunning sight before me.

The final destination of my last travels was Florence (Firenze) for a relaxing stay with friends. Twenty five of my peers from Cal Poly are currently studying in the birthplace of Renaissance architecture.  After a whirlwind of sight-seeing in Rome, a quiet week in Florence with friends was just what I needed.

I spent my time strolling through Renaissance history, taking day-trips through Tuscany and bargaining with vendors at San Lorenzo leather market.  But most of my time was spent with friends.  Eating, drinking and being merry with these folks was such a treat.  It was so refreshing to see so many familiar faces in a foreign land.

Grazi to all who made my time in Firenze so memorable!

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watercolorWEDNESDAY XXI

January 25, 2012 § 2 Comments

Speaking of Rome, this week’s watercolorWEDNESDAY is from Villa Borghese, the ‘Central Park’ of Rome.

I took a long walk one afternoon through the park while in Rome and snapped this colorful shot.  Just as the sun was about the set, the trees were glowing and reflections on the lake were magnificent.  I have gotten so accustomed to bare trees in Scandinavia this winter, it was weird to see trees with golden leaves still!

Oh how beautiful you are Roma!

Roma

January 24, 2012 § 2 Comments

After leaving the Pantheon (yes, the real Pantheon) I am cold.

Need coffee.

My coffee radar goes on.

In search of fun café with Italian flair.  

I quickly find a café.  It so happens to be Taza d’Oro Café, a place I found on Spotted by Locals, a very Italian café claiming to be ‘el mejor del mundo’ (the best in the world).

Big claim, let’s see about that.

I enter and find a packed coffee house with rows of coffee cans lining the walls, screams of the espresso machine foaming up milk and a more Italian conversations going on than Italians inside.

I decide to go Italian and order a cappuccino.

I feel so Italian just saying cappuccino

At the counter the baristas and patrons are chatting, laughing and joking with each other.  Everyone is friends.  I hand over my receipt and receive a small glass of foamy goodness back.

It really is ‘el mejor del mundo.’

Typical Italy, there is no where to sit. You order your drink, down it and get on with your day.

I stand at the counter, slowly enjoying my glass of goodness and people watch.  In the short time I drink my cappacino, three Italians have already come next to me, ordered, drank their espressos and left.

As I stand there, the old man at the bar glares at me with his eyes yelling ‘intruder!’

Its okay, I admit I am turista and proud of it.

As an outsider I can appreciate this vibrant and unique culture.  I want to be ignored, to be a fly on the wall and just absorb all that is around me.  I did not come to disturb but the observe.

The more I see of Italy, the more I love.  The land of Renaissance, ruins, outspoken Italians and cheap (and delicious) espresso.

I begin to wonder, did I study abroad in the wrong country?

I spent a beautiful four extremely full days in Rome.  One could be a professional tourist for a lifetime in Rome and still not experience all Rome has to offer.

Rome…where to begin?

The beginning of the western world?  The birth of architecture?  The center of the Catholic faith?  The namesake of Roman numerals, Roman bricks, Roman Catholic, Roman calendar…(the list goes on)?  

I don’t know where to begin, so hopefully the pictures can do some explaining.

Thank you Rome, you are a treasure chest.

But don’t worry Denmark, I am still so happy with my decision to call you home for these nine months.

Barcelona

January 21, 2012 § 5 Comments

After four years of looking at a picture of Sagrada Família on the front of my beat up Spanish textbook, I found myself standing  in front of this iconic symbol in Barcelona.  I couldn’t believe I was finally there and witnessing the Cathedral for myself.

Designed by Antoní Gaudí beginning in 1883 the Cathedral is still under construction with plans to be complete by 2026 (…we shall see).  The intricate design is a mixture of Gothic and Art Nouveau styles and is the highlight (and tragic end) of Gaudí’s career.  One can’t visit Barcelona without visiting this world-famous cathedral.

Barcelona is bustling city that is always running…no, always strolling. At all hours of the day (and night) a parade of people flood the street, strolling down the wide boulevards window shopping and taking in the sights.

Their destination?

I have no clue, but they are always out and walking!

By far my favorite part of Barcelona was the inviting weather. I ditched sight-seeing one afternoon to take a nap on the beach and remember what sand between my toes and a sunburn feels like.

Day 1 in Barcelona my friends Mike and Kathy joined me in roaming around the city.  We found our way to an architect’s pilgrimage site– the Barcelona Pavillion. The Barcelona Pavilion is a small structure designed by world-renown architect, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe to represent Germany in the 1929 International Exposition.  The building’s use of exquisite materials, planes of glass and water make it an important design in the history of modernist architecture.

At dust we found our way to Barcelona Cathedral located in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarters.  We spent some time in the Cathedral taking in the eerie interior and gothic exterior.

As mentioned before, Gaudí’s work was the highlight of our architectural sites.  We had a ‘Gaudí’ day and checked out his most famous works– Casa Batlló, Casa Milá, Família Sagrada and Park Guell.  We were overwhelmed with his use of colors, nature and whimsical forms.

Our final day in Barcelona we took some time to wander around the large open air market.  We enjoyed tasting samples of fruits and nuts and chatting with vendors.  The rest of the day we spent at the beach soaking up some Vitamin D.

Thank you for a wonderful four days Barcelona.  I hope to be back again!

A Trip Worth Sharing

January 20, 2012 § 1 Comment

I promised I would be better at updating everyone on my travels. So as a girl of my word, I will be sharing my most recent trip with you all so get ready!

For the last 15 days I have been exploring (and eating) my way through Barcelona, Rome and Tuscany with my new leather boots, Rick Steves ‘Italy’ travel book and camera in tow.

 (talk about looking like a tourist…or should I say tourista)

God was so good to me and blessed me with amazing weather everywhere I ventured.  I anticipated a little sun in Southern Europe but I did not expect two perfect weeks of clear skies and warm rays.  Thank you Lord!  I forgot what it felt like to wear just one or two layers.  It’s going to take awhile to reacclimate to the Scandinavian cold.

Daily I ventured in exploration of gems these historical cities had to offer. Antoni Gaudí’s whimsical work in Barcelona, Ruins and Renaissance in Rome and quaint cobblestone streets throughout Tuscany, I attempted to scratch the surface of these magical places.

And of course, who can forget the food (and coffee)? I tasted my way through Spain and Italy thanks to tapas, sangrias, pizzas and cappuccinos.

In the coming week I will write a post on each of my three destinations, so check back soon for the full update!

But for now, enjoy a sneak peek:

Adiós!

A day in Lucca

January 18, 2012 § 3 Comments

I am currently traveling through Southern Europe and enjoying an extended stay with friends in Florence. Monday I took a day trip to the Tuscan town of Lucca.

Upon arrival I don’t know if I was even in the right place. There are NO signs indicating what station I am actually at. Its time we were supposed to be in Lucca, so I get off with a crowd of others.

I ask a girl with hand motions and said ‘Lucca?’ she responded in perfect English, ‘i think so’ …American. And just as confused as I am. Great.

When in doubt, follow the crowd. I exit the station, still praying I am in Lucca.

Then I see it, the wall.

Lucca’s claim to fame is its fully intact fortified wall that cradles the city center. From Ancient Rome to Medieval Times to the Renaissance, this town has kept within its ring.

I see the wall and breathe a sigh of relief ‘si, it’s lucca!’ the next step is to get into the fortified town city.

Once through the wall, (what a threshold!) I find a charming little Tuscan town of twisting cobblestone paths and bright rustic buildings. I take note of the brick buildings in Lucca. Other Italian cities I have visited the walls are plastered over and the only visible bricks seen are those buildings that have fallen to neglect. But Lucca proudly exposes her bricks creating a wonderful palette of rustic rose and amber.

Throughout the day I wander with no destination in mind. I feel like a pinball within the walls of Lucca. From one end to other I bounce back and forth through the soon familiar streets and piazzas. I exit the walls and walk around the perimeter, I sit on the grassy knolls along the fortress and soak up sun.

Lucca is nicknamed the town of 100 churches. A town so small, yet a church around ever corner. I take note of the exteriors of the churches, but after a full week in Rome I can’t manage to go into another church. They are all blurring together in my mind.

I find a cafe (naturally) in the main square and take a seat. While slowly sipping my macchiato I sit behind the glass window of the cafe and people watch. From my hidden position I observe Italians meandering past the large church infront of me. Most are elderly- an old man sporting a plaid baret and scarf riding a bicycle, a plump couple walking hand in hand with matching sunglasses and one Fabio looking fellow with pointy shoes having a loud conversation on his mobile. From my undercover position, I start to sketch these interesting people. Once my sketching frustrates me enough, I pack up and continue to pinball through the town.

Unfortunately most stores are closed on this Monday morning, leaving me to window shop. Probably for the best, my budget went out the window day 2 in Rome.

I continue my exploration of this charming town until my feet tire and the sun begins its descent. I slowly find my way back to the train station but before I do, I stop at a bakery along the way. All day I have seen a certain loaf of raisin bread in bakery windows and wondered about this Lucca delicacy. Upon further research I find it is ‘buccelato’ a Lucca sweet bread invented by a Lucchese baker in 1881. I grab a loaf to bring back to my friends in Florence and head to the train station.

Once at the train station I try my luck at the automatic ticket machines, sometimes they work other times…not so much. Thankfully it works and I grab my ticket.

A train heading to Florence is waiting on the far tack even through it is 15 minutes overdue. Just as I approach it the train decides to speed off, leaving me behind in the dust with an earache from the screeching rails. Thankfully the next train is just 30 minutes behind. After using the trains so frequently in Copenhagen, I am accustomed to waiting. I make it to track 4 and sit next to two elderly women and wait. And continue to wait. And continue to wait. The track platform begins to crowd with others waiting. The arrival time comes and goes, still no sign of a train. Continue waiting. The elderly women next to me are getting restless and are having a frustrated conversation in Italian.

Finally, 25 minutes later than anticipated and over an hour since I arrived at the station the train arrives. Just part of the Italian experience I suppose. I board, warm up and watch the Tuscan landscape blur into a fabric of greens, yellows and reds.

What a day in Lucca.

watercolorWEDNESDAY XX

January 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

Whoa folks!  We have reached 20 weeks of watercolorWEDNESDAY!  I hope you are enjoying it as much as I am.

Here is a taste of a Danish Winter – bare trees, cool skies and a sliver of sunlight.  This was captured while visiting the world famous Louisiana Modern Art Museum in Northern Denmark overlooking the Øresund.

Hope you are staying warm this winter!

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