Thursday, April 26, 2012

14 Days, 21 Hours, 9 Minutes til AMERICA!

As our time in Florence comes to a close it's all starting to hit us that this fantasy world we've been living in these past 4 months will soon be over.  I'm starting to realize how much 4 months abroad can truly open your eyes to so many things.  I've learned so much about myself through this process of living abroad and I hope that I come back to the states a more knowledgable and cultured young woman.

Since we're trying to do as many things as possible before leaving Florence we decided to take advantage of our day off school and spend the day in Chianti wine country horseback riding and tasting the wonderful Chianti wines.

I can truly say that this trip has been by far my favorite and most memorable one while abroad!

Myself, Josephine, Brittany, and Adair set off to a camp ground in Chiant where the tour group FlorenceTown was stationed.  Here we were told that the horseback riding group was too big so we would split up into 2 groups.  We ended up having our own private tour...lucky us!!

Our tour guide Tom was a 24 year old student from London studying in Florence to become a sommelier. With a british accent, fluent in italian, and a wealth of knowledge for wine the girls and I were in heaven!

We spent the day roaming the streets of Tuscany with Tom visiting Machiavell's house, a small local deli to try new cheeses and meat, and ended at the Principe Vineyard.  The wine was fantastic and with our own personal sommelier with us we were able to learn so much about the different Chianti wines.

The winery is also known for its extra virgin olive oil.  With their most popular being their organic, double filtrated oil, we couldn't leave without buying some!

Mom- I had wine and olive oil from here shipped home so expect it to arrive in about 3 weeks :)

After lunch we were taken to the horse stables and geared up for a ride through the vineyards.  Since it was just us 4 girls on the tour our guide took us on a little "advanced" journey through the trails.  As we galloped and trotted around 2 guys on dirt bikes decided to fly by us causing my horse, Golia to freak out!  He went completely bonkers and I ended up being thrown off him and tumbled onto the ground.  Luckily Golia was a very small horse so it wasn't a big fall, however I broke my watch :(

I got up quickly and watched as our guide cussed out the dirbikers in italian..quite hilarious to see.

Other than the horse incident the day was so fun!  I enjoyed spending time with the girls and of course, hanging out with Tom. lol

Sad to have only 16 days left in Florence, but excited to be back home soon to see everyone! Ciao Tutti.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Relaying For Jenny!

Today's the Day! Virginia Tech's Relay For Life event will commence later today and last all throughout the night.  
Cancer doesn't sleep and neither do we!  
Hokie Bird!
Last Year's Virginia Tech Relay For Life Committee Members 
I Relay in memory of my Aunt Jenny Hancock.  Jenny was truly a wonderful person and is missed each and every day.  After losing her battle to breast cancer in April of 2009, I joined the Relay For Life team at Virginia Tech to raise money for the American Cancer Society.  No one should have to battle cancer and we will not stop fighting until we find a cure.
Jenny and I hanging in the hot tub
At my Sweet 16 Birthday Dinner
Hanging Poolside with Aunt Jenny

Last year I was able to raise $2,500 for Relay, but this year with the help of my wonderful friends and family I was able to raise $4,151 for the American Cancer Society!  Thank you to everyone who allowed me to raise the bar and fundraise over $1,000 more than last year!  I truly appreciate all the help and support and I'm glad to see everyone working together to help find a cure for this terrible disease.

At last year's VT Relay For Life
Also, special thanks to my mom and all the members at LaPlata Fitness Club who participated in Zumba For A Cure helping to raise over $800!  You ladies are awesome!

Since I couldn't be at the event today at Virginia Tech, my friends and I Relayed in Florence as a way to remember those we have lost to cancer.  I will never stop relaying until we find a cure.

Again, thanks to everyone who donated and together let's kick cancer's butt!
Ciao Ragazzi!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Buon Compleanno!

Unlike most 21st Birthdays celebrating back in the States, my 21st Birthday here in Florence consisted of a lovely birthday serenade by my wonderful girlfriends as well as 5 delightful days spent with my family.  

Here are a few pictures starting from my 16th birthday!

My Sweet 16 Birthday
17th Birthday Flower Cake
18th Flowers and Balloon
19th Celebration with Alpha Phi

20th Party at Mark and Kenny's
It's really an odd feeling to finally be 21 and it's an especially interesting celebrating it in a country where it's just another regular birthday.  I'm sure it will finally hit me once I'm back home.

I enjoyed my birthday here with friends in Florence on Tuesday was quite the wild experience, but luckily the night ended drama free and we had lots of laughs!  Let's just say myself and the Florentine group did our best to show the Italians how us Americans celebrate a 21st birthday.  Big thanks to Mina, Josie, Brit, Alyssa, Amy, Greg, Paul, and Stephen for celebrating with me!

Last week my family came to Florence.   Hanging with Mom, Brad, Aunt Kelly, Liz, and Doug was so much fun!  I truly enjoyed spending time with my family, especially the late night kabob run and cracking up in the hotel when my soda exploded on me. LOL

Missing my friends and family back home and can't wait to celebrate my first official night of being 21 when I get home!  28 days until we'll be back!

Monday, March 26, 2012


It's the Luck of the Irish!  Our last day of spring break was spent in the lovely Dublin, Ireland

This trip was very short, but we got to see all the main things in Dublin.  We went to the Guinness Storehouse for the famous tour and got to see how a traditional Guinness beer is made.  Luckily for Mina and I our previous beer tour in Brussels had already taught us the process so we felt like pros knowing all the answers during the tour!

When you got the floor 4 out of 7 in the storehouse you had the chance to enter into the Guinness Academy to learn how to properly pour a Guinness.

After the tour we took a horse and carriage ride back into the main part of Dublin.  Our horse, Jack was so cute and we had a fun time strolling through the streets of Dublin!

We were shopping around when Mina and I spotted Dr. Fish Pedicures.  We checked it out and everything looked nice and sanitary so we went for it.  The best and most entertaining part of Dublin!  We laughed the entire 30 minutes.  Mina freaked out so bad in the beginning that she immediately latched on to this random little 8 year old Italian girl who was sitting with us.  I'm pretty sure Mina was freaking out way more than the little girl was.  See for yourself and check out the video!

That about sums up my spring break!  I left out a lot of details, but with the slow italian internet taking me hours to complete these blog posts I decided to only post the important stuff.  Next week My mom, Brad and Aunt Kel are coming to visit me!  I'm so excited to see everyone and get to spend time with them in my new home city, Florence. Until next time, Ciao! 


By Wednesday we were finally in London, the city I was the most excited for.

Luckily, Mina's sorority sister Emma is currently studying in London so she took us around the city, showing us the famous Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, and the Houses of Parliament.

Casually on the lookout for Prince Harry

We learned how to ride the Tube which was extremely easy and took you everywhere throughout the city!  
After doing the touristy sight seeing we tried out Indian Food for dinner.  It was pretty good!  The spices were very interesting and made the flavors pretty vibrant, but I still like Chinese and Thai food the best.  

On Thursday we went to the Victoria and Albert museum which had some really neat pieces of art and history.  My favorite section was the vintage musical performance section which showed old costumes from famous broadway productions and even had a little "try-on" section where we got to try on some costumes!  

The best part of being in London was seeing the incredible broadway show Les Miserables!  The show was by far my favorite thing about spring break.  The music was breathtaking and the cast was the best I've ever heard.  During the show the lady behind me was sobbing the entire time.  At first I found it to be a bit annoying, but soon joined her in the sob-fest.  I was literally tearing up during almost every scene. The music was that good.  If I recommend doing anything in London, it's seeing Les Mis!

More pictures via my facebook album!  


The lovely Paris part of spring break started on Sunday.  After literally running to catch our flight, we finally made it.  We checked in to our hotel and were surprised to find an old vintage hotel with a tall spiral staircase and no elevator.  I lugged our 40lb bright pink luggage all the way up to the top, and opened the door to a tiny room the size of my freshmen dorm room, maybe even smaller.  At first we were a little shocked with how old and antiquated the place was, but the longer we stayed the more comfortable we got.  The location was absolutely perfect so we really couldn't complain.

We did so many things in Paris I'm not sure if I can remember them all!  We visited the Museum d'Orsay and the Louvre, the Versailles Palace, Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower, and of course shopping on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées.  

My favorite part of shopping was finding the Allison Boutique!  I was so happy to see a boutique sharing my name and they had a lot of cute clothes too.

The best memory of this trip will definitely be when Mina ordered the Beef Tartar for dinner.  When a slab of pure raw meat came out I nearly choked on the piece of bread I was currently chowing down on.  She claimed it tasted really good, but I just took her word for it.  From that moment on every time we ate I spotted people ordering the popular dish.  I think we can all admit that when the waiter set the plate down all 3 of us had shocking facial expressions!

Our last night in Paris we went on a dinner cruise on the river.  The boat cruised us along the river allowing us to spot famous sights such as the Eiffel Tower and the small Statute of Liberty which was given to the United States by the French.  It was a nice and relaxing dinner and we even made friends with the American family sitting next to us!  The older Dad from San Francisco was visiting his daughter who had married a French man and since moved to Paris.  Their family was funny and delightful to chat with. 

However, the best part of the cruise was watching a Korean Dad and his young daughter out on a little date.  It was the most precious thing to watch, and after the cruise ended Mina was able to speak to them in Korean and took their picture by the Eiffel Tower.  Too Cute!  

How precious is this??  Dad, I hope you're reading this...hint hint :) 
Check out the rest of my album below! Next up is London!


We started off our Spring Break in Berlin, Germany.  The only thing I could say in German was "Hallo" which simply means "hello."  Learning Italian is already challenging enough, my brain couldn't take trying to take on German too.  

Me, Mina, and Josie flew into Schoenfeld Airport Friday afternoon and our Berlin adventures then began!  We checked into St. Christopher's Hostel which was a really neat and clean hostel.  For those of you that don't know a hostel is sort of like a dorm style living place where bedrooms are normally bunk-bed style and then at the end of the hallway are communal bathrooms and showers.  It sounds worse than what it seems, but if you stay at a good hostel you'll find that for the cheap price it's definitely worth it.  

At St. Christophers we had the pleasure of having a 4th roommate because all rooms are mostly 4 person bunks and with their only being 3 of us we got stuck with a rando.  With this being my first experience in a hostel I immediately panicked when I opened the door to see long leather platform boots with laces the entire way up and fire dragon luggage.......  

Our 4th roomie ended up being a 27 year old tattoo artist from Brooklyn, New York.  She had been in Amsterdam for a tattoo convention, then decided to travel to Berlin on her own for a few days before heading back to the states.  She was quite the interesting character to say the least, but luckily she was nice and respectful with sharing the room.  You can best believe that I ran downstairs to purchase a lock for our locker immediately that way she couldn't steal anything from us.  Hey, you can never be too careful, especially when you're traveling abroad.  

We had a full day of sight seeing in Berlin.  We rented bikes and road to each sight seeing spot throughout the city.  I was nervous at first because I hadn't biked years, but the saying is true to it's meaning, "It's like riding a bike, you never forget!"  

Biking through Berlin was so much fun and such a wonderful way to tour the city!  The weather was fantastic which made for an even better time.  We biked to GoodTime, a Thai restaurant for lunch and had the best Thai food ever. 

We also visited the Holocaust Memorial and Museum as well as Checkpoint Charlie and a few historical buildings.  

Our dinners consisted of German and American food.  Josie's brother is fluent in German and has traveled to Berlin before so he gave us a great recommendation to Das Edelweiss.  Then the second night we went to this bar called White Trash which had pretty much all American food and live music.  It was a fun time and their homemade lemonade and smirnoff was tasty! 

On Sunday we headed to the train station bright and early to catch our flight to Paris.  Everything was fine until we missed the first train and realized the next one didn't come for another 45 minutes!  Panicking we caught the 2nd train and when we arrived at the airport stop we literally sprinted to the airport terminal.  Sprinting while dragging a 40lb heavy piece of luggage is quite the workout!  When we finally made it to our gate I was literally sweating.  It looked like I had just finished a kickboxing class!  We ended up making our flight with no other problems and I got to take a nice little nap on the plane :) 

Check out the link below to see all my pictures!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Spring Break 2012

Hello Blogspot followers!

As most of you know, I spent the past week the 4 fabulous cities Berlin, Paris, London, and Dublin!  Since we got to experience so much in each city I'm going to make 4 separate posts each talking about them individually.


Monday, March 12, 2012

Mi Piacciono I Vini in Chianti!

This weekend our friend Stephen invited us out to a small town about 45 minutes outside of Florence for a wine tasting at La Poggerina Vineyard.  Stephen's landlord was such a doll and set up the entire trip for us! She told us exactly which train to get on and when we arrived she picked us up and drove us to the vineyard.

Our tour was very interesting especially since both the men talking to us couldn't speak english!  Luckily JoAnna was able to translate for us, but I found myself intently listening trying to comprehend at least the basics of what was being said.

The winery was originally a monastery years ago before being closed and then later restored.  We were guided by an older Italian man who we were told to call "Padre."  I'm not quite sure if he was a priest or not...I didn't know how to ask him in italian!

We got to see the oak barrels inside the winery and how they're kept for a certain amount of years depending on the type of wine.  Right now the vines are resting so this isn't the best time to see beautiful vines with grapes on them, however it was still neat to see what an actual vineyard looks like!

The best part of the day was mainly the weather!  The sun was shining and a slight breeze made our day delightful.  Of course we left carrying a famous Chianti Classico bottle of wine as well as a bottle of Olive Oil all made at the vineyard.

Days like these are one of the reasons I chose to study in Florence.  Great weather, good wine, and adventuring out with wonderful friends!

Yesterday marked exactly 2 months left until we come home!  It's still weird to me that I've been living in another country, away from home, for almost half a semester.  My time abroad will be the longest I've ever been away from home!

These next few days are going to be rough with midterms, but luckily Friday starts SPRING BREAK!  Mina, Josie, and I will be adventuring to the fabulous cities of Berlin, Paris, London, and Dublin!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Quando a Roma!

This past weekend all of us api students traveled to Rome!  Trips like this are the best because api does all the organizing and planning so all we have to do is show up, relax, and enjoy the trip!

We left Florence Friday morning and arrived in Rome around 11am.  We immediately began our typical tourist site-seeing accompanied by our own private tour guide.  We walked through the city's historical center and visited the famous Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, Piazza di Spagna, and Piazza Navona.
On the Spanish Steps 
Treve Fountain!

This coin myth better be true!
The famous legend is that if you throw a coin over your left shoulder you will return to Rome.  However, throughout the years other myths have been added to the "legend."  If you throw 2 coins you will get a fiance, 3 coins you will get married, and 4 get divorced.  Let's pray the Treve Fountain is good to me and brings me my husband!

We spent the morning and early afternoon visiting these sites with our group and tour guide.  Unfortunately we got stuck with api's worst group of girls!  Some of them were still hungover from the night before, they talked while the tour guide was talking, and when they were paying attention they would ask the dumbest questions!  Since I was actually interested in what the tour guide had to say I butted up right next to her during the entire tour that way I could hear everything she said and I could tone out the dumb girls skipping behind me.  

Outside the Pantheon

Piazza Navona
After we checked in at the hotel, we freshened up and were back out on the streets of Rome to roam around!  Mina, Josie and I visited the famous Roman Ruins, two historical churches, and saved the best for last...Gelato!  We went to the oldest gelato shop in all of Rome and got Ciccolato with Tiramisu flavored gelato...YUM. The shop was PACKED with tourist all bunched up in front of the counter.  You literally had to fight your way through to the front and pray the gelato boy would grab your receipt first so he could make yours.  It raised my stress level quite a bit, but once I got my gelato I was a happy gal!

Well worth the chaotic process

For dinner we went to La Carbonara and naturally got the carbonara which was delicious!  They had fantastic house wine too!  Afterwards we joined some of our friends at Mr. Browns, an older pub across the river.  We ended the night early so we could rest up for day 2.

Saturday morning we met our tour guide at the historic Castel Saint' Angelo.  We got these cool headsets to wear so we could hear our tour guide as she spoke through a mic. Luckily it matched my outfit.

Ready for the tour with my headset!
The tour was a bit boring, but when you reached the top you got an amazing view of Rome which made for a great picture shot!
Josie, Mina and I
Greg and I
Beautiful View
We then headed to St. Peter's Basilica which was my favorite part of the entire trip!  St. Peter's square and church is absolutely beautiful.  We spent over an hour inside the church learning about different sculptures and art within the church.
Outside in St. Peter's Square waiting to get in the church
Marble piece by the famous Michelangelo
Front of St. Peters
The structure behind us is equivalent to a 10 story building in height! 
Famous door that is only opened every 25 years by the pope
Next on the list was to visit the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel.  Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed in the chapel, but it as by far the best art I've ever seen.  Michelangelo was truly a genius.  To paint on a ceiling and get that perspective is purely incredible.  We stared at the ceiling for a good 30 minutes, just admiring the art.

After the museum we came back to the hotel and literally crashed.  We napped for a few hours then got ready for our dinner at Ditirambo.  Great food and phenomenal dessert!

We spent our last night in Rome at the Ice Bar.  It was literally an "ice" bar, with a temperature of -5 degrees you wore parkas inside and drank frozen drinks from an ice cup.  It was a fun experience, but quite the cold one!
My roommates Gabby, Erica, and Mina
Sunday morning we loaded up the buses and headed to the historic Colosseum.  I'm not sure if I was just tired and cranky, but this tour was probably the biggest disappointment.  The actual structure has been restored so much over time that it's lost its original feel.  It was cool to take pictures in, but it was super crowded with tourists which made it difficult to get good shots.  One of the dumb girls in our group asked the tour guide "how does the gladiator win?"  Isn't it common sense that the champion gladiator was the one who lived and the loser was the one was killed by the winner...duhh!  

We're headed to Venice and Venice Islands this coming weekend!  I just need to get through this boring schoolwork until then.  Missing everyone at home! Ciao Tutti!