15.01.2010 - 18.01.2010 45 °F
Well we are finally here at CIMBA University in Paderno Del Grappa, Italy. What an adventure it has been!
We got on the plane at OHare and it was so much bigger than I thought it would be. I cannot believe something that big can actually be up in the air. The seats were pretty comfortable and each person had their own individual TV screen in front of them that had a controller. You could watch tons of different movies, tv shows, games, and music they had programmed in. They also had a screen where you could watch where the plane was flying and track how far you had come, so you never had to wonder how much time was left on the flight. The flight attendants were SO nice, coming around every half hour with free drinks and boos (we had our fair share of Champaign.) Then they served dinner, Swiss chocolate, and breakfast. The food was very good and there was plenty of it. It was a comfortable flight and we slept most of the 8 hours.
Once we got to Venice it was very confusing. We had a bit of culture shock, trying to figure out where the bus was to get to the boat to get to the hotel... oy. But we amazingly got on the right bus, had the bus driver point us in the right direction of our hotel, and took a vaparetto to the hotel. The vaparetto is like a water taxi or like the Venice version of the L. It was called La Hesperia and was a very cute, quaint hotel. Our room was a shoe box and we had a hair dryer that resembled a vacuum cleaner haha. But it was very cozy and Colleen was a great person to travel with.
Once we got settled, we decided to wander. We just walked around Venice for a few hours, looking at tons of little shops with touristy souvenirs. There are Gelato shops with every flavor, sweet shops with 3 foot long licorice and the most decadent looking pastries, wine shops everywhere you look, and of course stands EVERYWHERE with beautiful masks. We were a little disappointed with how touristy Venice turned out to be. They really try to appeal to Americans and the Italian stereotypes, which made it hard to find anything authentic. But we had a wonderful time walking down the canal, looking at all of the amazing buildings and classy italians. We were so exhausted from jet lag and starving, so we grabbed calzones from a street vendor and called it an early night by 8pm.
The next day we got up early and got ready to go explore Venice. We found out that no matter how good the converter is, sometimes your hair straightener and blow dryer will still blow a fuse. We learned that the hard way, filling our room with smoke, a burning smell, and blowing all of the electricity in the room... oops. But after those disasters, we settled for pony tails and went on our way.
We were told by our hotel receptionist to visit the Rialto Bridge and San Marco. Easy enough... except we managed to get extremely lost and found ourselves in the beautiful alleys of Venice. We loved seeing the clothes out on clothes lines, grandma's in their fur coats carry groceries... we felt like it was the more honest lifestyle in Venice. It was almost like a Where’s Waldo, trying to find the signs in the chaotic streets of Venice. There were vendors selling masks, fresh fruit, veggies, fish, and then all of the shops lining the streets were open. The smells walking down those streets are incredible… both good and bad. We followed the signs but never seemed to find the Rialto bridge. We did find San Marco first, which is a HUGE tourist attraction with a palace, basilica, and bell tower. The buidlings were unbelievable. The art on the sides was so intricate and they were breath taking. We looked in the Basilica and the ceilings were unbelievable. It was exactly what you picture Italy to look like.
We then got some pizza, wine, and decided to go on a Gondola ride through the canals of Venice. The gondola ride was incredible, I cannot believe how good the drivers really are. They can maneuver around every corner SO well, like they are a half inch from other gondolas and they still do not hit. As we went down the canals, he had to duck to make it under the bridges, it was so neat. We headed back to the hotel afterwards... getting lost yet again, and missing Happy Hour at the club we wanted to try. So instead we decided to try the famous Venice drink, spritz. We went to this packed little pastry shop that had only standing room and it was soooo good. The spritz turned out to be red wine, mineral water, and liquor. I recommend it. Then we walked back towards our hotel and walked past a sangria stand which was like a boozed up jamba juice. They were handing out shots to everyone who walked past, and we decided on Hot sangria and it is my new favorite drink. They were blasting and singing "how does it feel" and drinking... very different than work in America. We then went to dinner, and Irish Pub, and then bed!
The next day we took the boat out to Murano and Burano. Murano is known for being a glass blowing museum with tons of art and interesting shops to look at. Unfortunately it really isn’t the tourist season, so most of the shops and demonstrations were closed. Murano did have some beautiful artwork and it was nice to walk around, but we found the shops to be extremely toursity and were not thrilled. We then took the boat to Burano and fell in love. The houses were all different, bright colors like red, pink, yellow, lime green, orange ect… it was so beautiful. This island also had more of a population, seeing that people had their laundry hanging out to dry on clothes lines and yards with gardens. It was so beautiful looking at all of the homes and how authentically Italian this town was. We also loved the shops there, selling unique scarves and lace items. The style is so different there and it was nice to see something unique to the region.
On our last night out in Venice we decided to splurge and have a good Italian meal. We looked up cheap Venice restaurants and found this restaurant called “Fred and Luca” which was a hole in the wall, small, authentic restaurant with decent prices. We were surrounded by locals and felt very at home. We each ordered spaghetti with clams, that came with fried calamari and shrimp, and French fries for 13.50E. We also ordered a ¼ liter of their house white wine that was very good.
Today we got to CIMBA, the university we will be studying at. The campus is STUNNING, at the foot of huge mountains. My roomate's name is Sarah and she is really sweet. We somehow got the biggest room available (about 4 times the size of my room at school), each have our own bathroom (which no one else has), and a balcony! We lucked out! Everyone is really jealous of our rooms. The people on the program are so sweet and still arriving. We are all going out tonight to a local bar. I will write more tomorrow after I start class.
Love and miss you all! xoxo