Ciao a tutti!
Once again apologies for the delay on Blog #5, as you may have read in my email update my time management skills need some work. Nonetheless here we are!
This week I said farewell to Rome, my home for the last month. This experience is one I will never forget, and cherish forever. I'll spare you the sappiness for now, that comes later. In last week's blog I left out Sunday, so that's where we'll begin this week. Additionally, this week's blog transitions from Italy to the South of France featuring my family!
Happy reading, à plus tard :)
Sunday, Abby, Marin, and I took the train to Florence for the day. We were there from about noon to 5 PM giving us a good amount of time to see all the major tourist attractions. We started with La Menagere, a boutique style restaurant that made me feel like I was eating in Anthropology. We planned the day's agenda while eating over-priced food, and began our quick adventure. The Duomo, Ponte Vecchio, the leather markets, Fontana del Porcellino, Mercato Centrale, and vintage shops along the way were our main priority.
It's important to mention that it was well over 100 degrees and packed with tourists the day we decided to visit. This heavily influenced my impression of the city - Rome was winning by a long shot.
After browsing jewelry stores on the bridge of Ponte Vecchio I decided to make a purchase. A delicate gold bracelet decorated with Italian horns, which are a symbol of protection against "Malocchio" or the evil eye, now sits beautifully on my wrist. I love the meaning behind it, as well as the memories it will remind me of.
We stopped for refreshments and a snack at Caffè Gilli before catching the train back to Rome. This was definitely a bougie experiment with delightful cocktails, charcuterie, and air conditioning.
Last Monday in Rome! Today was spent working on final projects and studying for my Italian final exam. After class in the morning, we hunkered down with our laptops in the comfort of our air conditioned apartment escaping the 100° weather. It was actually so hot that day that it started a brush fire somewhere in the distance. The air filled with smoke and ash flew about like a huge bonfire - even more reason to stay inside.
After making progress on our assignments it was time to break for dinner. We finally tried a student favorite restaurant, Pimms. I can tell why students like this place, the waitstaff speaks perfect English and the menu has burgers. Nonetheless, it was delicious! The night wouldn’t be complete without a cup of gelato in a near by piazza. We set up shop in Piazza di Santa Maria and chatted about how fast this month had flown by.
Tuesday we had our oral exam in Italian which was a rehearsed 10 minute conversation with a classmate. The exam went very well and even made Signora Rosamond crack a smile with our added Italian ad libs. Class ended early leaving time for a cappuccino and chocolate cornetto, and enough time to get changed for our Vatican tour.
The tour was of the Vatican museum and Sistine Chapel. The artwork was phenomenal, but I’m personally always blown away by sculptures - and there was no shortage of those. We walked around for hours with our heads tilted to the sky admiring all of the painted ceilings. The museum resembled a crowded sauna, but that’s besides the point. I think I broke my neck in the Sistine Chapel staring at the Michelangelo. The painting I used to see every time I walked down the stairs to my basement, was now looking down on me from the center of the chapel’s ceiling. Remarkable.
We found an air conditioned spot for dinner and enjoyed some Aperol spritz and seafood pasta. Dinner had a surprise ending. The waiter decided to tell us it was cash only right as I slurped up my last noodle of spaghetti. Panicking we dug into our purses scrapping together every euro we could find. 20 euro short, sweat was forming on my brow (and not from the blazing heat). Luckily, the kind woman behind us was American and used Venmo. She spotted us 20 euro and we got the hell out of there.
The night ended with a walk along the Tiber river exploring “Lungo il Tevere Roma.” I couldn’t help myself around all the little knick knacks tents, so I bought some wall decor for my future bedroom in East Lansing. After margaritas and nachos (very Italian) we took the tram back to call it a night.
Wednesday was a Roman holiday so class was canceled for the day. We didn’t want to waste a single moment of our last week, which meant no sleeping in. The morning started off strong with 3 cornetto and 3 granita al caffè con panne for only 5 euro. Not sure how that’s possible, but best not to question it!
My roommates and I did some last minute souvenir shopping around Rome, and revisited our favorite spots. We stopped at the Trevi Fountain for one last wish which was very bittersweet. Side note, not sure how many wishes you’re allowed to make but I’ve made a lot this month - oops! After our shopping spree and taste test of the Piazza di Spagna McDonalds we needed to find our way to Galleria Borghese.
Since we had the day off from school, the university planned a trip to the gardens and museum for interested students. It was about an hour on foot to Galleria Borghese from Trastevere, which was an automatic no from the masses. We hopped into our air conditioned Uber and made it to the Gallery in 20 minutes. I must also mentioned that I was able to hold a conversation in Italian with our Uber driver for a majority of the ride. I felt very accomplished.
The beauty of Galleria Borghese was absolutely stunning. The little museum was filled with romantic murals and sculptures. Greek mythological, and every shade of pink, scattered the walls and ceilings in the most mesmerizing fashion. I dare say I enjoyed this tour more than the Vatican. I will attach a plethora of photos below, let me know what you think!
After leaving the museum with hearts in my eyes, we decided to rent a peddle-powered golf cart to explore the gardens. Lily Megan and I had a blast racing through the gravel roads trying not to hit pedestrians. Although hard to steer, I can assure you that only curbs were hit during our joy ride.
Given that it was our last Wednesday in Rome, it was the perfect excuse to splurge for dinner. We enjoyed a phenomenal rooftop meal and cocktails at Hotel 87 while reminiscing about our Italian summer. Once again we finished the night on the Tiber river walking along all the water bustling with people. We stopped to listen to an Italian stand up comedian performing under the bridge. Lily and I did not comprehend a single word, but that didn’t stop us from laughing all night long.
Thursday, our last day in Rome. The day started with a written Italian exam then transitioned into Advertising and PR final presentations. I left campus with a bittersweet feeling - grateful for the experience but saddened to leave. We said goodbye to our favorite workers at the cafe across the street, and began climbing down the hill full of stairs one last time.
After packing our bags and cleaning the apartment it was time to pop Prosecco. More reminiscing took place as we sipped our corner-store bubbly. This month abroad has not only given me new wonderful friends, but friends I am excited to continue to see in East Lansing this coming year. We’ve already made plans to drink Aperol spritz on MAC Avenue and ask for amaretto sours at Harpers to confuse the bartenders.
Our last meal was a group dinner with the program professors, TAs, and students. We laughed and chatted over pounds of pasta, bruschetta, and pizza. Extremely full, we then wattled to get gelato. Not wanting to go back to our apartments, we extended the night by grabbing drinks at Bum Bum a nearby bar with fun cocktails. Our conversation and giggles filled the tiny Italian alleyway. As the night winded down we said our final goodbyes while waiting for the tram. Although no tears were shed, the moment was truly sob worthy.
Friday morning I woke up at 5 AM to pack my remaining belongings, and give one more goodbye hug to my amazing roommates. Since I wasn’t flying back to Detroit on the group flight, I took the 6 AM train to the airport myself. Although the last 24 hours were filled with farewells, I was excited to be reunited with my family in the south of France. My hour and 15 minute flight from Rome to Nice was surprisingly easy and worry free, not to mention the timing was perfect. My mom, dad, and Mia had gotten off their flight just an hour before me making our airport reunion seamless.
After embracing each other with massive bear hugs outside of baggage claim we picked up our rental car and got situated. 2 hours later we arrived in Aix en Provence. Shoutout to my mom for finding the most posh, boutique style apartment located directly next to the quaint city’s downtown. The long travel day started to take its toll on all 4 of us which meant a nap was in order.
Well rested, we explored the streets of Aix en Provence and tried one of the restaurants our Airbnb host recommended. Getting advice from a local was a game changer. Grenache, the restaurant, was remarkably. I’ve decided once my time abroad is complete, I will be writing follow up food blogs. Grenache being the first one. I won’t go into detail but check out the photos below - it will make your mouth water.
After our delectable dinner we wondered around the cobble stone streets. To make the night even better an Opera performance with a full orchestra was playing in the main square. We stopped to listen to the outdoor concert with the rest of Aix en Provence and marveled at the performers. A memorable first night.
Saturday we were on the hunt for the fruit, food, clothing, and antique markets my parents had researched the night before. We ate petit-déjeuner on the outskirts of the food market scoping out the venders as we ate. Fresh fish, loads of fruit, lavender goodies, dried sausage, vegetables, and so much more filled the lively square. While munching on ripe apricots we walked to the clothing section where the Opera was held the night before. I found a lovely pink dress, and Mia found one as well.
Following lunch we bought tickets to see Musée Granet which housed many Pablo Picasso paintings, as well as Vincent Van Gogh. The museum had another building a few minutes down the road with modern art, which we also checked out. Since our Airbnb host’s recommendation was so amazing the night before, we decided to follow her advice once again. Hidden in the narrow streets of Aix en Provence you will find Drôle d’Endroit. It’s cozy atmosphere, kind staff, and deliciously complex food made our experience incredible. Like I mentioned before I will be writing a more in-depth food blog later about these unforgettable meals!
Drained from the day’s adventures, and heat, we took a short walk around the city’s largest fountain to digest. It was then time to hit the hay and get ready for Sunday’s road trip.
Sunday we took a road trip all across the Provence countryside looking for lavender and little historic towns. While on the hunt for the fragrant flower a blur of purple scattered across the fields outside our car window. We immediately pulled over and frolicked around the lavender field taking photos and soaking in the idyllic view with mountains in the distance. We continued our journey through winding cliffside roads to Sault, the lavender capital of France. The town was quaint and lavender themed with a beautiful panoramic view of the purple countryside.
Next stop was L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue for lunch along the river. Unfortunately our timing was off by an hour, and most restaurants were closed to prep for dinner later in the day. We found one restaurant serving massive charcuterie boards and other entrees that was still accepting customers, and eagerly sat down. Let's blame it on the language barrier, but we ordered so. much. food. Whether it be on accident, or not, we still ate it all.
Lastly we stopped in Avignon. Following our guidebook by Rick Steves, my dad read us the history of the city in a shaded area outside of Palais de Papes. We toured the stone palace with a confusing iPad self guided tour then decided to call it quits for the day. The 100 degree heat was killer and our road trip was approaching 9 hours. Satisfied by our successful attempt to visit all three cities, we drove back through the scenic hills to Aix en Provence.
Once again the meals of this week need their own blog, but Sunday's dinner was one of the best I'd ever had. I will never forget each and every course from Licandro Le Bistro. A smile was plastered on my face the entirety of dinner. Each dish was more unique, and delicious, than the next. A mind blowing, and indulgent experience.
Not sure how these blogs keep getting longer... but if you're still reading, thanks for sticking around! Next week is my last blog of this European diary series. Time sure does fly by when you're having fun and exploring new things.
Talk to you soon, in the meantime don't forget to LIV in Style :)