In the Deli Man's Hands

Although I had classes most of the day on Tuesday, March 13, I met Sean during my lunch break and took him to San Lorenzo's market. With us both being foodies, and avid famer’s market goers in the summer, this is one place I knew he would love. Sean was mesmerized by the food stands filled with fresh ingredients. Some had fish, some meat, some any cheese you could imagine, produce, dried fruit and even baked goods! We loved going up and down the rows looking at all the foods people had to offer and tasting samples when possible. We may or may not have tried ten different kinds of biscotti…

After surveying the rows, we decided to try some dried fruits we had never had before. I got passion fruit and kumquats, and Sean got raspberries and blackberries for sharing on the steps outside the market. All were yummy except the kumquats which were just strange and bitter. I don’t think I’ve had one before dried or otherwise. Although I had to run back to class, Sean was able head back to the market for a sandwich. He left all decisions in the deli man’s hands, asking for whatever is the best, and came out with a sandwich with two kinds of salami, pecorino cheese, sundried tomatoes, and balsamic vinegar. Salami and cheese used to be my favorite back in the day!

As we were looking into dinner options after my classes had finished, I got a call from my host mom inviting us to dinner - how nice of my host parents. And low and behold one of my favorite dinners yet, a huge Greek salad with too many vegetables to remember them all - never a bad thing in my book! As my host mother brought it out she informed me that she did not dress the salad with any oil, just for me. She had noticed, unlike most Italians, I never add olive oil to my salads. I like to keep it healthy and stick to balsamic vinegar. She knows me so well!

Healthy Partner in Crime

I am so happy to not be sitting alone at the Healthy Monday fruit table for once! Sean was happy to join me at school today and see what this Healthy Monday is all about. He has heard me talk non stop about the program since I started it, so I think he enjoyed being a part of it today for once – my health partner in crime. He even offered to help students pick out the best oranges!

When the fruit was gone we joined my friends Maria and Anna for lunch in the school’s courtyard. It was fun to introduce them all and show Sean who I’d been hanging out with in Florence and finally have them meet the boy they had heard so much about. After basking in the sun for a while, they darted off to class and Sean and I went for a run along the Arno River – keeping with the healthy theme of the day. Running is something we both love to do but don’t always get the chance to do together (although we did run our first half marathon together in 2010!) Plus, with the weather so beautiful and sunny we couldn't help but stay out doors.

 Half Marathon 2010
Upon returning to school, I had just enough time to plan tonight’s Move-it-Monday class of which I taught – an aerobic style Pilates class. I hope everyone enjoyed it!

After another successful Healthy Monday – this one with some company – it was dinner time. After telling my host mom I would not be home for dinner, Sean and I headed to apertivo for a glass of wine and snack foods. After reading my blog posts about the apertivos here in Italy he was eager to try one out. We went back to the cute little place that I pass on my way home from school that I went to a couple weeks ago with friends and of which I still don’t know the name. The cozy atmosphere was the perfect place to continue catching up and the perfect end to our day.

Il Mio Ragazzo

With Sean’s first full day in Florence, Sunday, March 11, we both wanted to hit some sites. I started by taking him to my favorite place in the city – the Arno River. We were lucky to have some gorgeous weather. It was just about 70o and sunny as could be! It made the Arno look even better with sun reflecting off the water. We sat on the wall running along side the river for a while catching up on our lives and all the tid bits we have missed out on this semester. With our different schedules and busy lives, communication between us has been scarce so there was a LOT to catch up on. What better place to chat than overlooking the river, soaking up the sun…in Florence?

Although we had lots more stories to tell, we were hungry. We made are way across the Ponte Vecchio to “Gusta Pizza”. This is a very popular pizzeria that I have wanted to try for a while. When we arrived our eyes immediately went to the pizza men flippin’ dough and turning out pizza after pizza. After we made our order, we watched them, mesmerized, until our pizza was ready. They must have made at least 30 pizzas in the ten minutes we stood watching them! They even did some fancy tricks with the pizza dough, knowing we were watching.

As the restaurant was full, we took our pizza to a large open area in front of the Palazzo Pitti where many others were having picnics of their own or just basking in the sun. We shared the classic “Gusta Pizza” with tomatoes, mozzarella, arugula, and parmesan shavings. ‘Twas the best pizza I’ve had yet! The crust was the best – the kind you can only get in Italy J

After our bellies were satisfied, we headed to make the hike up to Piazza Michelangelo as I told Sean it was by far the best view of the city. We got our exercise in and made the hike up to find the Piazza filled with people, vendors, and even musicians. Sean was astonished by the top-of-the-world view – I told him it was the best! After seeing the city from all angles, we joined the crowds on the steps of the Piazza to listen to the concert that was going on, as a woman had her guitar and microphone and was going to town. Looking around us, everyone was hanging out with friends or family, sharing bottles of wine and enjoying the music. It was the perfect atmosphere to watch the sun go down, nice and relaxing.

By the time the sun had set it was time to head to my home stay for dinner. Cristina was nice enough to invite Sean for dinner as I left the house that morning. It was lots of questions and stories from Marco tonight as they were excited to meet “il mio ragazzo”. Unfortunately Sean knows zero Italian! Marco was nice enough to break out his English tonight. My favorite part of dinner was when Cristina asked Sean and me how long we had been dating. I told her we have been dating for four years, since high school. With this information her eyes lit up, for she and Marco had started dating in high school as well. Marco them added, “I hope it works out as well for you, as it did for us.” My host parents are the cutest couple!

Leaning in the Direction of Florence

After our flight experience on the way here, we were incredibly nervous for our flight back today, Saturday, March 10. Luckily travel this morning, besides the 4am wake up call, went smoothly without delays. We even had time in the London airport to get some of our favorite Love Bars we enjoyed so much last time. Many thanks to Tiffany for making sure we were the first ones to board…

Because our flight itinerary had us arriving in Pisa so early in the day, with no rush to return to Florence, we planned to see Pisa for the day to conclude our trip. It was just a short 15 minute bus ride from the airport to the Leaning Tower of Pisa – the main attraction we wanted to see. Although we had planned to explore the city for the majority of the day, we were exhausted from our week in Ireland and were carrying all our baggage through Pisa. So we settled for only a little over an hour in Pisa, got our classic pictures with the famous tower and headed back to Florence. That’s really all I needed from Pisa.

After such a good week in Ireland, we were a little disappointed to be back in Italy, but as I returned to my home stay, it was nice to back to my own room and my own bed. But the festivities don’t stop here! For as I was traveling back to Florence, some one else was making his way here as well…Sean Kenney has arrived in Florence! He was nice enough to make the trip and spend his last spring break of college with me in Florence. What better way to welcome him than with gelato by the Duomo with friends Tiffany and Claire! Fun fact – Tiffany and Sean were friends before I met her. They lived on the same floor Sean’s sophomore year! I am so excited to show Sean my daily life here in Italy and the fabulous city of Florence for the entire next week!

Farewell Irish Jigs

When packing for spring break, I went back and forth on whether or not to bring my running gear. Good thing I did because I put it to use this morning as well as yesterday morning! My Thursday started out with a refreshing run along Dublin’s River Liffey which was beautiful with its many bridges. Today started out similarly with a run through St. Stephen’s green. Running is truly my favorite way to experience a new city. You can cover so much ground in a short amount of time and just take in the sites, sounds and essence of a city. The running shoes were a good idea! I came home to find the other two reading away in their beds. I guess it was a lovely relaxing morning for us all! We are soaking up our last day of vacation.

Without many plans today, we headed out to walk around the city, hitting Grafton Street, and doing some shopping at our new favorite store – Penny’s! (Similar to a target but much better since it’s in Ireland) We tried to fit in all the sites in our first two days in Dublin in order to make the end of our trip more relaxing and enjoyable. On that relaxing note, this afternoon we went to a restaurant called “Queen of Tarts” for some traditional afternoon tea and scones. The place was so adorable and the scones so delicious! – Blueberry scone for me.

For our last dinner in Ireland we went all out – a three course dinner and a show! We all thought it was necessary to see some Irish dancing while we were here so found a restaurant that was hosting this deal. Was great fun and felt so special. The courses I picked was a goat cheese salad to start, vegetable pot pie (the vegetarian option), and raspberry cheesecake for dessert. Although everything was good, the pot pie was a little too rich for my stomach to handle. The show was great fun, seeing live Irish music and Irish dancing. The dancing reminds me of the days I did a similar jig – I so wish I stuck with Irish dancing!

Although we are all sad to leave tomorrow, tonight was a great way to end our vacation in Ireland. We all absolutely loved Ireland and are already planning our reunion journey when we are 30. Not only did I fall in love with the country but I got to spend some quality time with my great friends Claire and Tiffany. We could not stop getting excited to live with each other next year! Now if only we could live in Ireland

Day Drinking...

Today our plans included two tours: The Guinness Factory and the Jameson Factory. You might as well hit them both in the same day right? First, at the Guinness Factory, we took full advantage of our ten Euro entrance fee as we not only learned the history of Guinness, found out how it is made, and poured our own pint of beer, but also attended a Guinness tasting and food pairing!

After our informative tour, everyone was presented with a small taste of “the black stuff” (which we learned is actually a dark shade of ruby). The man giving us the taste saw three enthusiastic girls and offered us tickets to do a Guinness tasting that started in a few minutes. Who would say no to that? Upstairs we joined another group of girls (on Holiday from grad school at USC) in tasting three different types of Guinness: Guinness Draught, Guinness Extra Stout, and Guinness Foreign Extra Stout. We learned about each one, how they were different, and the correct way to taste them. I thought this was so cool! The draught was my favorite (if any one was curious) because it had the least carbonation and the most prominent notes of coffee – I can’t stand carbonated drinks!

After the tasting we hit up the next event which was a Guinness and food pairing. All the recipes were made with Guinness and paired with the appropriate variation of the beer. Our first bite was Guinness bread with whipped cream cheese and smoked salmon and then a Guinness infused chocolate truffle. Was so delish I wish there were more!

Before our Guinness experience was over we could not forget to get our free pint of beer that was included in the tour. Here we opted to learn the precise way to pour our very own pint. We even got a certificate!


I remember my brother telling me he sold his beer to a friend when he was here, but there was no way I was giving mine up! I guess I have more of my grandmother’s genes – what a champ!

Although we were sad to leave the Guinness factory after such a good time, we left in route to a similar type of factory – Jameson Irish Whisky! After our guided tour we were all presented with a mixed drink. I was hoping for an Irish coffee but they sadly didn’t offer it with the tour. I opted for the whiskey and ginger ale instead. At the end of the tour they asked for volunteers to be whiskey tasters. Our very own, brave Tiffany got picked!

She was able to try Jameson, Jack Daniels, and Scotch and taste the differences. Kind of glad I wasn’t picked – whiskey is definitely not my cup of tea and gagged at the smell of Tiffany’s tasters. I guess it’s all about the Guinness for me!

Seeing the Sites of Dublin!

With our first day in Dublin, we decided to hit all the sites! It was from one place to the next for us. Good thing they are all within a 10 minute walk from each other! Our first stop was Dublin Castle, which was only a few short blocks from our hotel. Honestly, I did not know much about this site before visiting it, which goes for most of the places we hit today. Upon arrival, we weren’t planning to take a tour as we like to save our money for more important things, like scones, but the Castle just so happened to offer free tours on the first Wednesday of the month! Good thing we planned to visit it on the first Wednesday of the month…

We learned so much about Dublin Castle and the past rulers and presidents who had been in there. So glad we got the tour! From here we headed over to St. Patrick’s Cathedral which is absolutely beautiful! The church is huge and equipped with a lovely garden in front. The whole site was magnificent!

Next on the list of today’s events was St. Stephen’s Green which is a gorgeously green park lush with trees, flowers and grass and equipped with quaint pathways, fountains and bridges. It was beautiful and quite possibly one of my favorite places in Dublin. The parked was littered with people walking with friends, sitting with loved ones, or out for a stroll with their families. The people watching was almost as good as the natural beauty of the park itself.

St. Stephen’s Green is right at the end of Grafton Street. This is one of the biggest streets in Dublin that is lined with nice shops and always crowded with people. While walking down the street we stopped to listen to a band that was promoting a new CD! There were street performers everywhere. It was definitely a fun place to walk, window shop, and people watch.

When we the end of Grafton Street, we went a few blocks further to Trinity College. This is a very old, very beautiful college in the heart of Dublin. It is weird to think that so many people visit it as a tourist attraction, when there are actual students attending classes there. The campus reminded me of something out of “Dead Poet’s Society” with ancient stone buildings and a calm, prestigious mood. Knowing how much we are loving Ireland, Claire, Tiffany, and I all agreed it would have been awesome to have studied abroad in Dublin and attend Trinity College. Maybe next time ;)

After four sites, we were all tired and in need of an afternoon reading break in our hotel. We are all loving our books! We read until dinner time, when we headed out and found a place called “Against the Grain” for dinner. I got a blended broccoli soup which was delicious and thankfully not too heavy, served with brown soda bread. Claire joined me in ordering soup while Tiffany enjoyed quite possibly her favorite meal in Ireland – Sheppard’s pie!

Tonight after dinner, we set out to find Whelan’s bar which was the bar used in the filming of the movie P.S. I Love You. Knowing how much we all like are obsessed with that movie, we had to check it out!

 Unfortunately the bar was a bit of a let down. The live music was a heavy metal band, and the crowd was much older. Where’s the cute Irish boy singing to us American girls with his acoustic guitar? I guess some things only happen in the movies.

Shout out to Lu-Li - Happy 17th Birthday sister!