Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Paris, Amsterdam, and the final days of Florence!

The last few days here in Italy are flying by and I’ve been taking in as much of the city as I can before heading back home. Today, for the first time, I went to the Academia and saw the original David. I had seen the replica in Piazza della Signoria, but seeing the original in person was even more impressive and I’m so glad I got to before leaving. Finals are almost over and visiting the Christmas fair in Piazza Santa Croce was the perfect break from studying this afternoon. It’s gotten cold out recently, so I made a few stops to get some hot mulled wine and a delicious wurstel with craut while walking through the different international tents. It was bustling with tourists and locals eating, enjoying the beautiful Christmas decorations, and checking out the tents selling ornaments, food, winter gear, and music. Florence’s chilly weather has been nothing compared to the temperatures earlier this week during my trip to Paris and Amsterdam. Originally our flight was canceled because of all the snow they were getting, so we just hopped on an overnight train and woke up the next morning surrounded by a snow covered Paris. It was absolutely beautiful and we spent all of our time walking around and seeing the sights. Our first day there we walked from L’Arc de Triomphe to the Louvre, stopping along the way for delicious fresh crepes with sugar. Incredible! We spent hours wandering around the halls of the Louvre looking at the art and exploring Napoleon’s apartments which were ridiculously extravagant. It was awesome getting to see the Mona Lisa, beautiful statues like ‘Cupid and Psyche’ and the ‘Winged Victory’, and of course the huge glass pyramids above and below ground. That night we made our own Christmas feast back at the apartment before walking to see the Eiffel Tower all lit up at night.

On the second day of our trip we took a trip up to Holland to visit Amsterdam and it was so much fun. I didn’t realize there were so many canals throughout the city, and the Christmas lights, bridges, water, and architecture made it a really nice place to explore. Once we had our bearings we headed over to the Anne Frank house and it was an unforgettable experience being in the house, seeing the original wallpaper decorated with pictures Margot Frank had glued up, and walking through the rooms they hid in. Afterwards we went across town to de some exploring and see what the Red Light district was all about—quite an experience! Unfortunately our stay in Amsterdam went by way too quickly, but we still had one last day in Paris before flying back to our finals.

We started out our last day in Paris with a workout, and climbed to the top of the hill to see Sacre Coeur, a beautiful church with an amazing view of the city. Then I was off to see Notre-Dame! It’s interesting how different the architecture was in Paris compared to that of Florence, and I loved getting to see Notre-Dame up close and discover the huge stained glass windows inside. Before it got dark, Christina and I went back to the Eiffel Tower and began the climb—it kicked my butt but the views were definitely worth it. Once we got to the second floor (about 600 steps and 1 waffle with sugar later) we got to take a nice elevator ride up to the top, and just as we stepped outside the entire tower started sparkling, which it does for the first 5 minutes of every hour. The view from that high up of Paris at night was absolutely incredible, and the city was lit up beautifully. We stayed on top of the Eiffel Tower for a while and by the time we got back to the apartment it was dinnertime! For our last dinner there we all went to the Latin Quarter to a little restaurant with excellent food. I got escargot, which I love, and delicious duck fillet with potatoes—so good! Tonight after filling up on great Italian pizza—I really am trying to eat as much as possible before leaving Florence—I started the daunting task of packing. Much progress has been made, but without a doubt my bags are overweight and bursting at the seams. I seem to be a modern day Santa Clause, flying home for Christmas with my huge red suitcase full of presents for everyone. Some advice for anyone planning on studying abroad: pack light because you’ll certainly have accumulated a lot by the time you leave. Now that there are only 3 days left here in Florence this whole experience seems to have gone by so fast. I’m definitely looking forward to being back with family, but I know I’ll be missing Florence and its people, culture, and food in no time. Studying abroad is absolutely the best thing I could have done and I’m so lucky to have made such amazing friends throughout this semester!

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