Where to begin? I realize that I have been a less than faithful blogger lately, so this will be an attempt to catch up. Since my last post I have traveled to Amsterdam (March 2-4), Venice (March 16-18), some tuscan Hilltowns surrounding Florence (March 23), Athens, and the Greek Isles for Spring Break (March 24-April 1).
Amsterdam: A great change of pace from Florence, lots of new buildings, wide streets, and most people spoke English. Highlights included a boat tour of the canals, the Van Gogh Museum, the Ann Frank House, the Heineken Museum, as well as a visit to the infamous Red Light District. An exhausting trip, but worth it.
Venice: We were fortunate to have sunny skies and fairly warm weather in Venice, although at night it got chilly as the wind blew in from the water. A city of beauty comparable to Florence, Venice posses the added charm of bridges and canals. We saw a great collection of art at the Patty Guggenheim Museum- works by Dali, Calder, and Picasso just to name a few. We were also able to take a ferry out to the island of Murano, which is famous for its glass factories. The live demonstration was very cool, and it was hard to choose a souvenir since all the glass jewelry is so beautiful. Another high point of the trip was a visit to St. Mark's square, where we fed the pigeons-- it is an experience to say the least!
Hilltowns: Our class trip to the tuscan hilltowns was a sun-filled day of exploring churches, olive groves, and quaint streets and shops. We ate gelato, tasted wine, and enjoyed the slower pace that the small towns offer.
Spring Break: I would have to say that this was my favorite trip so far. Not only was the weather gorgeous, and the sky and sea bluer than you can imagine, the food and lodging were cheap, and the people extremely friendly! Getting to Athens was somewhat of an adventure: we had to leave the night before to take a 5 hour train to Milan central station, from there we took a bus to the Airport, once we arrived in Athens we had to take a train to Pireas, the port, where we had to wait for 7 hrs because the ferry to Santorini was delayed. We finally made it, dropped our stuff off at the hostel and headed to the port to make a boat tour of the volcanic island and hot springs off the coast. The rest of our time at Santorini was spent at a more relaxed pace- we ate well, watched the sun set, and layed out on a red sand beach.
But after two days it was time to continue on our adventure to the next island: Paros. Here we stayed at a quaint hostel close to the port, where we were the first guests of the season. Again, amazing food: my first Greek salad in Greece and, of course, baklava. Since we were also the first tourists of the season at the restaurant the owners gave us free wine.
We rented cars here to explore the coast and country side, traveling to the small town of Naussa to spend the day. The last day we found a small beach which we had all to ourselves!
The final island of our trip was Mycanos, and it was magnificent! Here the beach we found was called "Super Paradise" and I don't think it could have been given a more fitting title. Again, we had the whole beach to ourselves. The water was a little too cold for swimming, but I took the plunge a few times. In the evenings we relaxed, ate some gyros, and walked around the quaint streets -everything freshly painted in bright white and blue as the locals prepared for tourist season.
We spent only one full day in Mycanos so that we could have time to explore Athens. We saw the Acropolis and spent some time shopping. We flew back to Milan in the evening, hoping to catch a 10:00 train back to Florence, but unfortunately discovered that the trains stopped after 8pm. We spent a very interesting last night in a hostel, but at 10 euros a night we couldn't complain. The 7am Eurostar train got us back to Florence in time for class at 11am. Honestly, I was not especially happy to be back- Greece was amazing!