Wednesday, December 12, 2012

My Tips for Eating the Best Gelato

Ok. So I love gelato. Is that news? No. I have seen a lot of tourists eating gelato and I have noticed some common mistakes in picking and consuming the correct gelato. I hope that this post will clear all of that up. Not be pretentious or anything...

Tip #1: Be in Italy. I know that there is gelato elsewhere and I know that sometimes you're going to indulge because you miss it, but really gelato is best in its homeland. So go. Eat. Enjoy.

Tip #2: If at all possible go to San Gimignano. The gelato there won the world championship. Seriously  . It is so good.

Tip #3: Avoid gelato shops that have giant mounds of gelato. If it is piled a foot high in the container it means it's not fresh. Trust me. Don't eat it. There is better out there.

Tip #4: Avoid gelato shops that overly decorate their gelato. The strawberry does not need to be covered in strawberries. If it's good gelato it will stand on its own and doesn't need extra attention.

Tip #5: For flavor go with a cone. The cones provide a lovely crunch and savory flavor to balance out the gelato.

Tip #6: For quantity go with the cup. They tend to have more in them.

Tip #7: Eat it with a spoon. You'll eat slower and enjoy it more. I understand though that sometimes it is just so dang good that you want to shove it in your mouth as fast as possible. Don't feel guilty if you can't hold back.

Tip #8: Try it in hot chocolate. Life changing!

Tip #9: When in doubt Grom it out. If you can't find a local shop that looks appealing Grom is always good and it is in a lot of cities. (They even have one in Malibu. Road trip?)

Tip #10: While in Italy eat whenever you get the chance. You'll miss it. I guarantee.

Tip #11: Don't worry about the weight you'll gain. It is healthier than ice cream after all!

This is what you should look like while eating the right gelato.

I hope this fills you with the joy that can only come from gelato.
Buon appetito.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The One Where I Finally Wrote About London

I've been putting writing this post off. Maybe it's because I really don't want to be done blogging about my European adventures because that would mean admitting they're over. Or maybe I am just lazy. You choose.

Anyways! I went London and it was AWESOME! Like really awesome. I have dreamed of going to England my entire life. I have always loved everything about it. Italy was a new dream and it was wonderful, but London was a lifetime of anticipation. It definitely lived up to the hype!

We landed in London after a short two hour flight from Venice. However, the journey to the airport Italy forced us to get up at 6 so the journey still seemed long. After getting our bags we all drained our bank accounts of a few pounds and got a taxi. The poor taxi driver didn't know what he was in for. 5 girls. 3 months of luggage. I'd say that is a hefty load. Luckily it all fit and we made it to our apartment in Greenwich. It was SUPER windy. I was actually worried that I might blow away and that was considering the extra 20 pounds (no joke) I put on in Italy. After settling into our place (which was super cute) we headed into the city.

Eating my first Mexican in months on the plane over.

We took a train into Waterloo Station to get on the tube. Let me just say that Waterloo Station is packed at 5:00 in the evening. Everyone was rushing everywhere. Things were so fast and I was shocked. It's safe to say that we were NOT in Italy anymore. Then we boarded the tube and got off at some station that I don't remember. And of course we minded the gap as we got on and off!

I think we fell in love with London the minute we stepped off the tube. Ok, maybe the falling had started after getting off the plane, but at this point I was head over heels for the city. It is just so alive and old and new and fashionable and just plain awesome. Also, the people are REALLY nice. I don't know why everyone says they are stuffy and cold. Everyone we talked to was so helpful and kind.

We made a bee line for the London Eye. It was kind of pricy (we're talking almost $40), but the view was awesome. I am so glad we did it at night because it was so fun to see all of the lights. If I were doing London on a budget again I would probably spend the money elsewhere, but it was still really great. Then we headed to a pub for some fish and chips. We had a little bit of confusion about silverware (note: Brits say "cutlery" and will not understand you if you say silverware). However, after we sorted that business out ("you know forks and knives?") we were served some delicious food. The fish was HUGE! It took up my entire plate. The fries were great too and surprisingly the mashed peas were also most excellent. After that we wandered to Trafalgar Square and then called it a night.

The London Eye

The view from the top. It was STUNNING.

Just a view from along the river. I love London.

Eating my fish and chips.

Trafalgar Square. The National Gallery is in the background.

Ok. I am starting to realize that I can't be too detailed because I did a LOT in London. So I think I will let the pictures do the rest of the talking. Also, I need to give a huge thanks to the people we stayed with in West Ham. My friend, Cora, knew a family going to school there and they were kind enough to find places for all of us. Brittany and I stayed with a woman named Gloria. She was SO nice and we had so much fun with her and her granddaughter, Penny. I owe it to them for teaching me that bangs are actually fringe and the proper way to pronounce aluminum.

M&M World= 4 stories of bite size chocolate delight.

The only royal guard I saw in London.

This chocolate themed rock band has plans to release their first album in the next few months.

Obligatory phone booth photo.

The National Gallery. It has the most comprehensive collection I have seen. 
From Michelangelo to Monet it's all there. GO! It is art heaven.

Trafalgar Square in the daylight. 

We dreamed the dream and the dream was so good. I am converted to the Les Mis fan club.

Big Ben.

Westminster Abbey. It costs $40 to go in so this is about as much as I saw.

Cora and me in front of Westminster.

Buckingham Palace! Note: Changing of the guard is only every other day.

Fall in St. Jame's Park. The leaves were gorgeous in London.

On top of a double decker bus!

I wrote lyrics from Penny Lane on the wall at Abbey Road.

Imitating the Beatles at Abbey Road. What they don't tell you is that the cars don't stop.

At the British National Museum. SO many historic things it
was overwhelming. The Rosetta stone was the highlight for me.

Fist pounding an ancient Egyptian statue.
It was probably against the rules.

Thanksgiving Dinner at Pret a Manger. I love that place!

The Tower of London.

The beautiful Tower Bridge.

The Globe. My English Major dream come true.

You know what this is.

I was in Harry Potter heaven.

Until the portal closed.

We went to a Christmas Fair in Hyde Park.

We braved this sketchy German roller coaster. Not sure it was up to regulation.
Are there regulations on those sort of things in the UK?

The Natural History Museum. Lots of cool dinosaurs.

Hyde Park.

A swan there. There were so many. It was a nice change to pigeons.

Looking back at the carnival.

Someday I will go back when I am not broke!

Well I guess this is my official goodbye to Europe :( NOOOOOOOOO! I've been home for a few weeks and I already want to go back. Sometimes I wake up in a panic because I realize that I am not going back in the foreseeable future. I wish I could go on another study abroad in January! Just kidding... Sort of... I do need to get to work on my actual life. 

Ciao Europa! Mi manca!

Friday, November 30, 2012

The One in the City of Many Rivers

My final days in Italy were spent in Venezia (aka Venice). After a bus ride from Ravenna we arrived at the docks on the main land. We had reserved a boat ahead of time so we didn't think getting to the island would be any problem. That was before we saw the boat. I should explain that we were a group of 24 girls, 2 adults, and 3 months of luggage per person. That is quite a hefty load. We thought that the boat company would plan accordingly, but the boat we approached was worrisomely smaller. However, with impressive skill our ship captain (that was fun to say) loaded all of us and our luggage. So space wasn't a problem, but we were still slightly worried that Titanic 2 might occur that day. We even sang "My Heart Will Go On" as we rode to Venice. Fortunately nothing went wrong and we made it safely to the city.

On the boat.

View from the boat.

We landed on a dock along the beautiful Grand Canal. Then came a challenge fit for an Olympic champion. We had to drag all of our luggage over bridges, through crowds, and down tiny side streets in order to get to our hotel. And the gold medal goes to..... (drumroll) the Siena Study Abroad 2012. We did it! We made it to the hotel. Our hotel turned out to be absolutely adorable! At this point I was high on love for Venice. It was gorgeous and our hotel was nice! Life was good.

Just a side canal

The Grand Canal from Rialto Bridge

Another canal

After checking into our hotel we ventured out to find lunch. That was when I realized that food in Venice was costly and touristy and not that good. But hey, it was still Italian food so it was still pretty darn good. After lunch we met up in St. Mark's Piazza and headed to the Doges' Palace. It is the building that used to house the government of Venice. It was SO beautiful. I have been in a lot of beautiful buildings in Italy, but normally they are filled with art so you don't really appreciate the architecture and design, but this building focused on it. It was a lot of fun, even if the security guards were very strict. When I attempted to dance in one of the assembly halls I was told that it was not a room for dance. I wasn't doing any harm! In the Doges' Palace we also got to go over the famed Bridge of Sighs. The Bridge of Sighs connects to the prison and was the prisoners' last view of freedom. Fortunately I was allowed out. In the armory Anne and I picked our weapons of choice and planned out our new lives as a lady knight and squire. I'm the knight of course (sorry Anne).

In the courtyard at the Doges' Palace

The Bridge of Sighs is the one in the back.

Then came the really exciting part of our day. We went on a gondola ride!!! So cool. We went at dusk and were accompanied by a boat with musicians. It was seriously SO cool. There is just nothing like riding in a boat down small canals and listening to O Sole Mio. How did my life ever get that cool? Also, I may or may not have freaked everyone out by mentioning that the boats could tip. Or maybe I just freaked myself out. I don't know. Luckily we made it and I'll never get to swim in the less than clean waters running through Venice.

On a gondola!

The final activity of our day was a group dinner. Some of the girls were heading out that night so it was our last time together as a group. Gah! I miss those girls. The food was pretty good and it was nice to spend one last meal all together.

The next day was Sunday and we had planned to go to church in the local branch. However, we learned that it was a long boat ride away on the mainland and so we decided to go to mass instead. We went to mass in St. Mark's Basilica. Well I'd say that was a pretty great place to go for my first mass. I actually really liked mass. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I understood. We spent the rest of the day just wandering around Venice and sitting in our room talking and enjoying each others' company. That night we went out for dinner at a restaurant recommended by Rick Steve. I had a full round pizza for the first time since Rome and it was SO good. I guess that was my last pizza as well. Sad day. After dinner we headed out in search of Grom and some hot chocolate. We never found it, but we did learn about how sketchy Venice is at night. The streets are almost completely abandoned and it's spooky. I think that might be because the streets are so small that they all feel like alleys and there are absolutely no cars. Quiet and empty. Not my favorite.

St. Mark's!

Grand Canal at night

Anne and I

The next day was my last full day in Italy :( Take me back! We started the day by feeding pigeons in front of St. Mark's. Now when I say feeding I don't mean throwing the food to them. I mean putting it out in our hands and having pigeons land all over us. Some of us were really enthusiastic (Anne and Libby). Actually, I am pretty sure that was the happiest Anne has ever been. Others were a little hesitant (Jenessa and me). And one was totally freaked out (Janelle). Janelle actually batted all of the pigeons away from her with an umbrella. 

My initial reaction

It got better

We then went shopping! Are you really surprised? I bought some glass earrings and new shoes... Yeah... I probably shouldn't have, but they're SO pretty. On this shopping trip we also went to Grom where I ate my last gelato (there are far too many lasts in this post). It tasted so good and life will be a little bit harder without it. That night we went out for dinner again. We sat around and told each other all about our favorite memories. 

With my earrings

The last gelato!!

The last dinner :(

After getting back to the hotel we started our goodbyes and then headed up to our room. We had a compliment circle and shared our memories. Then I had to say good bye to those girls. Then the next morning I had to say goodbye to Anne. That was definitely the hardest goodbye. I had so much fun with Anne. We were pretty much inseparable. We were literally always together. We never spent a night in Italy apart. Anne, you'll always be my Italian sister.

And then I had to say goodbye to Italia. My experience in Italy was one of the best (if not THE best) experiences of my life. I grew so much, saw so much, ate TOO much, and made so many new friends that are so special to me. I will never forget it. Italy has made me who I am now and Italy will always have a very special place in my heart. Italy, thanks for teaching me the important things in the dolce vita. 

Ci Vediamo, Italia.