This post has been in the queue for a bit – our friends were visiting (YAY!), so we haven’t the chance to finish it.
Friday, 2 June 2017:
One of our “recent” day trips consisted of going to a nearby lake named Lago d’Orta (Lake Orta). This lake is northeast of where we live, and is a fairly quick ride over.
It was previously named Lago di San Giulio after the 4th century patron saint of the region, Saint Julius, up until the 16th century.
We were a bit slow in getting up and about in the morning and we paid for it by having to search for a while for a parking spot. We ended up parking a bit away from the lake/town on the side of the road pretty much in a bush – it wasn’t the first time and definitely won’t be the last! 🙂 Continue reading “Orta San Guilio – Lago d’Orta”→
We recently went on a quick trip to Venezia (Venice) and Verona. It was a very pleasant experience and one that we fully enjoyed.
Before sharing the things we did and saw, I would like to recognize what a great job Venice’s law enforcement did recently. The day before we left for Venice (30 March 2017) was a terror scare. We learned that a few men had threatened to destroy the Rialto Bridge, which is the most popular bridge in Venice, because of the pride they felt after the London attack. Luckily, the police were able to intercede prior to anything happening, but I did question the intelligence of us going. However, as Nick said, this is probably the best time to go due to higher security that would be in place. We went along with our plans and everything turned out just fine. Continue reading “Venezia (Venice) and Verona”→
After we finished up with Amsterdam, Nick and I headed off to Paris. We landed pretty late into the night and stayed at a nice Intercontinental hotel. However, after determining that there wasn’t a pool (sorry Nick!), we decided to head off to bed in order to visit the Eiffel Tower early the next day!
Wednesday, 28 December 2016:
Before seeing the iconic tower, we of course had to get some pastries! We stopped by a place called La Petite Marquise. Let me tell you, they were simply amazing and pretty hopping! Each time we passed this pastry shop, there were people lining up even outside the door to get some fresh French pastries for breakfast. Continue reading “Paris, France”→
For Christmas this past year, we decided to head to a place where we haven’t been to before – Amsterdam. While it was tough being away from everyone for the holidays, we were still able to have a good time!
This post will be a bit of a compilation of places we visited on the weekend of 8-11 December. On 8 December, the Italy observed the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. In other words, Nick had a long weekend, so we decided to go the French Riviera (or Côte d’Azur) for a couple of days.
Thursday, 8 December 2016:
After a couple of hours driving, we entered France!
As some of you know, we spent a long weekend in Barcelona, Spain from 28-Oct to 31-Oct. Let me start off by saying, we had such an amazing time. The food, the language, and the sites were all beautiful and special to experience. I was able to practice my Spanish and I absolutely loved it!
This was out first real trip outside of Italy, and it makes us so excited to further our experiences as time goes by.
For Easter weekend, we decided to drive down to Pisa and Florence.
After much discussion, we also decided to try out AirBnB with a shared apartment. In case you aren’t sure what that means, here’s a little description: we rented a room and a private bathroom in an apartment where the hosts would be there. When first hearing this, it might sound a bit odd to be sharing an apartment with complete strangers. However, this young couple had very good reviews on the AirBnB website, and we decided to take a leap of faith and know that we have each other, regardless.
We decided, spur of the moment, to take a train ride to Genova for the day on Saturday. The train ride was inexpensive and pretty comfortable (for a 2-hour ride).
Our first stop was to get these lovelies. Yum, yum, yum. Can you guess which one I had? Cioccolato? Si!
While walking towards the Italian Riveria (coastal region with a subtropical climate), we saw this beautiful archway that leads to a garden/park.
This hill is called La Scalinata delle tre Caravelle (The Steps of the three Caravels, which are sailing ships). This flower garden shows the anchors and ships from Christopher Columbus’ fleet. Silly us, as we walked up, we kept track of the number of steps. We counted 106 steps to the top. We did eventually make it the Mediterranean Sea and walked this nice promenade where one can take a passeggiata (stroll).
It was so peaceful here that we could easily spend hours, wasting the day away, just watching the sea. A little geography: Nick and I were talking about the difference between a sea and an ocean, and we could kind of guess, but couldn’t really figure it out. In case you aren’t sure either, a sea is a smaller body of water and usually located where the land and ocean meet.
We decided to head back into the city after some time walking along the riviera. We quickly learned that Genova is a very hilly city. I’m not exactly sure how many paved hills we went up and down, but boy were my legs getting tired!
Did you know that Genova is filled with small cobblestone alleys? Walking up and down these alleys, you could probably fit three people across. Any more than that would be nearly impossible.
2. Along with these alleys (that I would definitely never walk by myself or want to live in), there are some buildings with extremely tiny doors (that are part of extremely GIANT doors). See where I marked in red? We someone practically climb out of this door. If you’re not careful, you can take out your head, an elbow, or even an ankle.
We refueled by grabbing some focaccia bread (which is a specialty of Genova) and gazed upon the Genoa Cathedral, which you can tell by the picture below is very tall! After we ate, we visited inside the church, which was breathtaking. You would think after seeing a few different magnificent churches that maybe we would become a little less impressed. However, that is not the case at all. Each church we have been to so far has its own unique beauty that it’s an adventure each time.
Continuing on our journey, we made it to the fountain that I have been wanting to see ever since finding it in one our travel books, the Piazza De Ferrari Fountain. It is placed in the center of the city. Again, a peaceful place to relax and hear the soothing sounds of the water.
Being in Italy, we, of course, had to grab some gelato. We read about this particular gelateria called Purfumo di Rosa. Here, they have homemade gelato. So delicious! My favorite, hands down, is fondente. Think of fudge in ice cream form and that is what fondente is like.
*Fun Fact* Did you know that Genova is also known for making gelato with actual flowers? Nick got the flavor and I tried it. There is no other way to describe the flavor except as it tastes exactly how a rose smells (if that makes any sense).
Afterward, we went back to the sea side to go up this 360 panoramic outdoor elevator that overlooks Genoa and part of the Mediterranean Sea. It’s called Il Bigo. If you look at the picture below, the Il Bigo is circled in red.
The picture above has a couple more angles of Il Bigo. It was pretty cool. It did not revolve like advertised, but at least we were able to move around a bit in the elevator at the top.
We also saw this biosphere that is more or less like a sphere-shaped greenhouse.
Lastly, we went to have some delicious Genovese pesto because like focaccia, Genova is also know for its pesto.
No other words except – wow! So yummy!
We went home exhausted and I slept well into Sunday. Not much happened on Sunday. We went to a couple of open markets and relaxed more than anything else.
So this week has been a little crazy, our air shipment has finally arrived. However, when you have your clothing in boxes for over a month and a half, guess what they smell like? That’s right, cardboard! You have probably guessed what’s been keeping me entertained this week – laundry.
Doing laundry without a dryer is a very interesting process. It’s a good thing that we have several closets that we can hang clothing, otherwise washing would be an even longer process. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s going fast by any means. I can’t even begin to tell you how many loads of laundry I’ve done so and I’m not even done yet! Oh well! Here is what we did last weekend. 🙂
Saturday, 12 March 2016:
Nick found a couple of beautiful spots to visit and enjoy on this beautiful day. We first drove around Avigliana in northern Turin, which holds the ruins of the Avigliana Castle. After being taken over twice and rebuilt in the 17th century, this castle was never to be rebuilt again. Now it lies in ruins in this small town and makes for an interesting attraction.
We made the mistake of walking down a path that we thought led up to the castle, but was stopped by a local and we were told there is no entrance to the castle. We were actually walking up his private property, which we had no idea about…oops! He was kind though, and it turned out fine.
Our next stop on this beautiful day was…
.Il Lago Piccolo (The Small Lake)
We packed a lunch beforehand and ate near this little lake. Once we were done, we decided to walk on a little nature trail. When we started our walk, we both heard something. I stopped, and Nick wanted to continue. I asked Nick, ‘what is that sound?’ Just like a scene from the movie, we both looked up to see…
…a swarm of bees!! There was a tree that was filled (when I say filled, I mean filled!) of bees! At least a hundred of them buzzing about.
I panicked, and jetted out of there as soon as I could without looking too ridiculous (it’s a public place after all!). Now, some of you may know I have a bee phobia. Pretty bad too. Nick has actually had a couple of talks with me about running away from bees and being near a road… 🙂 . Obviously, I wouldn’t intentionally run into the road, but I can see why he would need to say that. Anyway…back to Italy!
We walked on this pretty, albeit a bit muddy, path for a bit and decided to turn around. Nick grabbed the video above at this time while I watched from a distance. I was surprised of how many people were just walking underneath this tree oblivious to the swarm of bees above. However, they probably didn’t even care because in reality the bees were having a grand old time getting all that pollen out of those little flowers. Next we went off to…
Il Lago Grande (The Big Lake)
It lives up to its name pretty well. On this lake, the enormous Alps can easily be spotted and are amazing to look at. Whenever I look at them, I become a little intimated. I keep thinking how small I am compared to the gigantic mountains.
When we want to go kayaking, this is the lake that we will definitely use. The water is peaceful and so very blue. You will hear some crazy Italian ducks quacking about, but they stay pretty close to the edge of the water. They’re probably waiting for someone to throw some bread over. Since they were hanging around near a restaurant, I bet they get delicious bread, at least compared to what the U.S. ducks get ;). We could have walked longer, the sun felt so nice, but we had one more stop to go before calling it a day. Do you see the little red circle at the top of the hill in the picture below? That’s where we headed to next – Sacra di San Michele.
Sacra di San Michele
The drive up to this church was just like driving up a mountain in a national park – curvy, steep, and extremely narrow. I question if the road is actually two lanes but everyone squeezed two cars through. At least the views off the side were beautiful. When we finally reached the top, we were both a little confused. Yes, we were closer to this beautiful 1000 year old church, but somehow it still seemed farther away than what we thought it would be.
We quickly figured out that we had to climb up a hill to reach the church. After this climb, we came to realize that our workout wasn’t done! Inside this beautiful and big church, there were many, many stairs to climb. At one point it was kind of laughable because our legs were actually becoming tried!
Beautiful inside and out!
Here we are at the top of Sacra di San Michele with the Alps behind us – those mountains are everywhere 😉
Sunday, 13 March 2016:
Sunday was more of an organizing type of day during the morning. Then, we Skyped with some friends, which is always nice :). A few girlfriends and I have a little book club that we started last year. What could be better than friends, reading, and having discussions about books? This time we read The Time Traveler’s Wife and had a very interesting discussion.
Afterward, we had to update our cell phone plans and Nick searched the city for a store open on Sunday to do it.
*Fun Fact* Did you know that when you want change your phone plan or update information, you need to present your passport (at least us foreigners do)? Some places ask for a specific ID card that we are in the process of getting here, but some places specifically ask for your passports.
As we walked around a little (since it wasn’t too cold of a night) we noticed music and lights coming from a certain direction. We learned that there’s a place where food trucks and other food vendors come together in one area and sell all kinds of yummies. It reminded of the Food Trucks at the SoWa Markets in South Boston.
The second picture above is actually a food truck for dogs! It’s so nice that the dogs can eat here too if they want (and well, if their owner wants them to) 🙂 . If you look at the fourth picture, there is a food vendor inside an egg-shaped contraption, crazy. It really shouldn’t amaze me that there’s a place like this here, but it kind of does.
We ended up buying these little grilled (but really fried) cheese sandwiches made with fresh mozzarella. Whatever they were, they tasted delicious!
Wow, it’s been a bit since I’ve posted something, sorry about that! I will be better this week!
Saturday, 5 March 2016:
Believe it or not, it snowed a bit in the morning and early afternoon on Saturday! It looked like a Winter Wonderland was forming!
Luckily, though, it didn’t stick. When it cleared up a bit, we stuck with our original plan to go and see Il Museo Egizio (The Egyptian Museum). It is actually one of the largest museums that holds Egyptian art and artifacts. It comes second after the museum in Cairo, Egypt.
First, we stopped and bought these:
These annual museum passes allow us to visit and explore several (actually, a ton of) museums, palaces, etc. in the Piedmont region for free. We were lucky to get them at a pretty good discount, too! The good thing for when guests come here is that there are also options for discounted passes that last a few days. If we go to enough museums, then it’ll definitely worth buying!
*Fun Fact* Did you know that in Italy, women rarely take their husband’s last name when they get married? When getting our museum passes, the person helping us thought we were siblings because we had the same last name!
We took some pictures inside the museum, but not a lot. We wanted to make sure that we enjoyed ourselves. Also, we don’t want to spoil the museum for when you come to visit, so we’ll only show you a few. 🙂
One of the first things we saw was a mummy. I learned that towards the beginning of preserving a body for the afterlife, the Egyptians laid the bodies on their left side usually in the fetal position like the one in the picture. Here we see a natural mummy of an adult man and his funeral equipment (sandals, reed baskets, and arrows). Notice how there is still some skin on his body?
He was from the Predynastic Period, which was roughly 3500 BC! Can you believe that?
This natural mummy was preserved by purely the sand he was buried in (i.e. the ground). The makeup of the sand and the environment would naturally preserve the body. That makes the condition of the mummy after over 5500 years even more amazing!
I will admit I was left with an unsettling feeling for a few moments after this particular mummy. I really didn’t know how to take the fact that someone’s body is used as an exhibit. I was a little disturbed. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fascinating that the Egyptians treated their deceased like this, I was just troubled for a bit.
Afterwards, we also saw some wrapped up mummies like this one:
When the Egyptians began using caskets/tombs, they started using an artificial mummification process since the bodies were no longer buried in the sand. I’m not sure if you know the process of mummification, so I won’t go into too many details in case you do. However, here are some in case you’re not sure. If you’re not interested, feel free to skip the steps, since some are a bit graphic.
First, the Egyptians would purify the body with water from the Nile River.
Then, they would take some organs out (the brain would come out first, through the body’s nose, since this was seen as less important) and put to the side to be dried with natron (a type of salt that was used to dry out the body and organs during mummification). They would leave the heart in the body because they believed that this was the vital part of man, and he would need it for the afterlife.
Next, the rest of the body would be dried out with natron. The dried out organs would then be wrapped up and returned to the body.
After, the body is washed, then covered in oils.
Finally, the body is wrapped in several layers linens for the final stages of mummification.
The Egyptians also began to draw a face on the mummy wrappings, making them the most interesting type in this museum. The reasoning behind this is unclear to us (or at least, I couldn’t find anything about it online), but it might have to do with making the person more lifelike and ready for the afterlife. You can see the face in the wrapped mummy above.
We explored a little more, but believe it or not, we did not even make it halfway through the museum! There’s so much to explore and so much to learn that we will definitely have to go back!
Sunday, 6 March 2016:
On Sunday, we went to explore the Basilica di Superga, on Superga Hill, another beautiful church. Here it is on the outside:
The inside is just as gorgeous. It still amazes me that the public is able to enter churches and take pictures of their beauty.
Here we have different versions/interpretations of the Holy Mary and Baby Jesus.
The Holy Mary and Baby Jesus statue on the bottom is a very special one. This is where people feel comfortable praying for their loved ones. Notice the various rosaries Mary and Baby Jesus are holding? It is common for people to place their rosaries in their hands or around them as an offering. So beautiful.
There is a chance to go up to the top of the church that would provide amazing views of the Alps. Unfortunately, this day was a bit hazy and we had a hard time seeing the Alps from where we were, so we are saving this trip to the top for a clearer day!
We ended our weekend with some relaxation and preparation for our Cultural Training we had the next day (Monday)!