Monday, July 28, 2008

Previous Week, Venice & Vienna!

Ciao!! Sorry it has been so long, I have been busy busy busy!! These last weeks are flying by. It's a whirlwind!
So.. last week was just school. Boring! But, we did have one big event! Aleksa, Carlyn and I went to a place called Teatro del Sale. It translates into "theatre of the salt." It is this really cool place owned by the creator of Cibreo, another really good restaurant in Firenze. So, first you pay a membership fee (5euro) and apply and it allows you into the "circle." I guess the whole concept behind the place is a group of people who love to eat, drink, and have a good time(aka me), and once you are a member you are supposed to go and share your knowledge of all that plus traveling. So, we became members of the Circle, and then went inside. For dinner, the fee is 30 euro, so we paid and went in. They also have breakfast and lunch though. There was an area full of all kinds of salts and specialty food items to buy and then a little sitting area. It was full of books including traveling books! We sat around there for a while and you could help yourself to water and wine. And then the curtains go up! You walk in and sit wherever you like. It was so cute, all of the tables and chairs were different but the theme was red and wood and they had candles, a very nice atmosphere. So you sit down and they set out all the cold antipasti. Then you go help yourself buffet style. That was amazing as is, but THEN they open up these blinds and you see into these big glass windows into the kitchen!! It was an amazing kitchen, big and open with food roasting over an open flame!!! Then this plump old chef with long curly white hair sticks his head out of a window and starts YELLING in Italian! It was so hilarious. So he would pop his head out and yell, and that meant that the next hot food was ready. There was probably 7 courses... lets see if I can remember them all :) First was a meatball with capers, yummy! 2nd was a roasted tomato and onion, 3rd was some crazy eggplant thing, 4th was a pesto pasta, 5th was a veal with tomato sauce, 6th was pork with potatoes (what was roasting over the fire all night) and 7th was coffee gelato!! Wow, I can't believe I remember! Anyway, all the while the cold food was still out. It was absolutely fabulous! The food was incredible and I was SO FULL!! So the whole time you had to go grab the food yourself (when the guy yelled) and bring up your plates to a dish counter. Then after the food, they took away all the tables and you turned your chairs around for the show. First the chef came out and talked though.. He rambled for quite a while and I tried to pick up one what he was saying.. He came out with his son who has down syndrome and it was so adorable. They were hugging the whole time and you could tell that they loved each other and made each other so happy! Anyway, he talked about his son and how he loved too cook and cooking made him so happy. I thought it was so nice. Anyway, the night we went there was a small band playing. It was a drummer, a bassist, and a singer. They played French music, tango, and jazz. They even played a Chick Corea song! It was very quirky.. but still fun to watch!!

So.. then we left on Friday morning early for Venice. We took the train and of course slept the whole time.. from the train station we took a huge water taxi with just our group to a main port. We journeyed into Saint Mark's square where Nero gave us an incredibly long description/explanation and then went into the church. The church was very interesting because it was all mosaics. It was impossible to use frescoes inside the church because the amount of moisture in the air would ruin them, so every single picture in the church is mosaics!! It was amazing. Also, the floor was WAVY because of all the movement below the ground. It was unreal!
After that it was get lunch on your own. Our lunch was pretty lame. Then we went on a tour of the Guggenheim! It was very cool, we got see Picasso and some other Cubism artwork. Very nice! Anyway, then our trip was over. It was pretty cool but it wasn't really long enough. I didn't really like Venice though.. Maybe I wasn't there long enough? It was just really crowded and.. boring? Anyway, we had a quick dinner and then we got on our train ride for Vienna. We were SHOCKED when we saw the sleeper train, hahahah! For those of you who don't know its six people shoved in this shoebox room with 3 beds on each side. Anyway, once we finally got adjusted and got over the shock, we were fine. We were sharing the room with a mother and her 2 young daughters, so it wasn't too bad. The sleep was okay. I got as good of a sleep as you can on a train... We got woken up about 6 am and then got off the train. We went to our hostel and checked into our room. It was pretty crappy but.. it was only for one night. We left and went to the famous Schonbrunn Palace which is where the emperor Leopold lived with his family. The palace was enormous, supposedly with 1441 rooms, but we didn't go inside because we had so much we wanted to do! We went to this cute little cafe, which was very Viennese, and had a cute little traditional lunch. Then we went and saw an Apfelstreudel demonstration which was hilarious. They picked Carlyn to go up and help and it was so funny! Then we went into the back "garden" which was ENORMOUS and hiked up the hill to these huge stone arcs. Apparently Leopold had them built for his wife. The view from the top was amazing, it was the Palace and all of Vienna laid out behind it! Then we hiked back down and went to the zoo. It was wonderful, the best zoo I've ever been to. They had elk, polar bears, seals, marine life, bears, monkeys, lions, koalas, seriously anything you can imagine. And they had pandas and the baby panda (born last year) is the first panda born in captivity in Europe since 1982! It was incredible and all of the settings were very natural and not caged in. We spent hours there! Then we went home to our lovely hostel, showered, and went to dinner at some boring place. After dinner we took the U to a little theme park. They had tons of rides and we acted like little kids, running around and riding them all! There was a huge Ferris Wheel which is ancient and has been there for ages, but we decided not to ride it because it was 8euro a person and we are cheapies. After that we just went to a quaint little bar by our hostel and had a few drinks. Sunday morning we woke up and had a delicious breakfast (ham and eggs!!! and fresh squeezed orange juice) and then went to the museum quartier which is just an area FILLED with museums. First we went to the Natural History museum which was incredible! We spent way too long in there, but they had everything! All these rocks and meteorites and taxidermed animals! After that we went to a museum called the Albertini which is famous for its artwork. We got to see one of Monet's "lily pad" paintings and some Picasso. The gallery was amazing because it was all a couple's private collection that they donated. Then we had no time left and had to leave. We took the U to the train station and had another lovely overnight ride. This time though, the lady who was supposed to ride with us FREAKED OUT over claustrophobia and wouldn't get on the train so we got it all alone to the 3 of us! Needless to say, it was much more comfortable. So, we arrived back in Florence at about 6:30 this morning. Although I was exhausted, it was so good to be back! For my first class this morning we went and hiked the duomo. Amazing I have been here this long and it was my first time hiking it! But, the view was amazing of course and I learned some cool stuff about it from my friend who is in Art History.
So, that is everything that's new. I'm going to Cortemilia this weekend and possibly London. We are trying to plan a trip now but its a bit last minute so we'll see how it works out!! LOVE YOU ALL AND MISS YOU! Just think.. less than 2 weeks till I'm home!!

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