July 20, 2015

My Trip to Europe

On a pretty side street in Aix en Provence.

On Wednesday,  I got back from my six and a half week trip abroad.  I had such a great experience while traveling in Italy, France and Spain.  I studied for five of the weeks in Italy with my school, taking two classes (Mythology and Architecture).  We were based in Orvieto, a small Etruscan town about two hours north of Rome.  This town was seriously the most picturesque place I've been to.   When you think of Italian countryside, this is what you get.  The town was set up on a big cliff so when you walk to the edge of town you get indescribable views of the surrounding area.  If I didn't go on the trip, I really don't think I would've ever gone to a place like this in Italy.

The views in Orvieto were incredible.  My friends and I sat and took pictures on the edge of town one night.
During the program we went on some seriously amazing field trips.  Before initially arriving to Orvieto we first took a trip to Pompeii.  I really had no expectations for Pompeii but was looking forward to the trip.  The roman settlement uncovered after Mount Vesuvius erupted is really cool, but I can't imagine ever going on my own.  The teachers on our trip were experts at everything Pompeii and were able to give us tours with information regarding our studies.

One of my favorite things about being on the trip with school was that the teachers were essentially our tour guides.  At the Coliseum and the Pantheon in Rome the teachers took turns sharing their knowledge with us about the famous monuments.  It's amazing basically having class about these things while standing right in front of them.

My roommate and I in front of the coliseum.  
Later in the trip we went to Siena, Venice, and Florence.  Florence was by far my favorite city (we also spent one of our free weekends there).  Venice was also so amazing but I wish we got to spend more time there! My friends and I really wanted to get to Murano, the extremely colorful island where they make all the glass, but we just didn't have time.  One of the best trips we went on during the program was to the Vatican.  At the Vatican Museum, we had a completely private tour.  It was so incredible to be in the Museum without the crowds but it was even more amazing to be in the Sistine Chapel (!!!!!) completely alone for 45 minutes! This experience really was something I will never experience again and I will cherish it forever.

Sistine Chapel

We had two free weekends on the trip, which were unplanned going into the trip.  However, we quickly decided that the first free weekend would be spent along the Amalfi Coast in Positano.  You can read my post about that weekend here! The second we went to Florence and had the most amazing time.  We stayed at the Grand Hotel Minerva (I really recommend it if you're going to Florence).  The hotel was located in the square infant of the Basilica di Santa Maria Novella, which is really close to the train station and just about everything else.  The hotel also had a really great rooftop pool and restaurant.  You can practically walk everywhere in Florence, which was so nice because we got to be outside and save some money while not taking cabs.  If you go to florence anytime soon be sure to go to Caffe Gilli and get a iced cappuccino (it's amazing!!).
The views in Positano were absolutely breathtaking. 

After my program ended, myself and two friends traveled for about eleven days.  We first went to Nice, a beach town along the southern shore of France.  I really loved spending time here (the beach restaurants/cabanas are so relaxing and fun), however it didn't really live up to my expectations.  Next, we took a train about three hours to Aix en Provence.  I didn't really know what to expect here, and honestly there wasn't much to discover.  For this, I really enjoyed the town.  It was very relaxing and the food was incredible.  (if you ever go, check out Lavault for dinner)

A beach club in Nice. 
After Aix en Provence, our time in France was up, so we took another train to Barcelona to begin our Spanish adventures! I have to say, traveling by train with our luggage (we probably had too much to be honest) was extremely stressful.  Each time we thought that we wouldn't have enough time to get our luggage on the train or that there would be no room aboard for our suitcases.  Though each time we got to our destination successfully, we opted for a short plane ride on our last leg of the trip (it was actually cheaper).

I really loved Barcelona.  Everything Gaudí is just insane.  The Sagrada Familia is hands down the most beautiful church I saw on my entire trip (St Peter's comes in a close second).  My friends and I had a lot of fun discovering the city, though it is the pic pocketing capital of the world, which made us a little nervous.  Last, we went to Madrid, which I was slightly unimpressed with.  I'm not sure if it was because I was excited to get home already or if I just didn't love the city.  But I did have some amazing paella, tapas, and cava sangria while in Madrid!

The stained glass windows in the Sagrada Familia give the side aisles the most beautiful rainbow glow that looks fake. 
My roommate and I went to the Vatican on one of our free days and were surprised to see the Pope speaking from this window! 


A house in Venice along the Grand Canal

The main street in Aix en Provence.  

Overall, my six weeks abroad were just magical.  There's simply nothing like being able to study in a foreign country.  If you ever have the opportunity to study abroad or even just travel abroad you must go! It's incredible to get to discover places that are so unfamiliar.  I could go on forever explaining everything I did on my trip, but I think that would take more than one post (maybe a whole book).

I'm definitely going to be posting more about my trip so if you're interested, be sure to check back soon!

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