It has been a long time since I have last updated my blog and I apologize greatly for that. I have so busy and caught up in the whirlwind that is school, traveling, figuring out my four-year-plan, and learning French! Since I last wrote I have traveled to quite a few places. After Milan and Dijon, I traveled to Avignon, Corsica (which is an island off of the South of France), Geneva, Interlaken (which is the extreme sports capital of Switzerland), Venice, Tuscany, Florence, and an adorable Swiss town called Gruyere. Let's start with Avignon.
AvignonWe stopped in Avignon on our way to Corsica, which was an unexpected pleasant surprise. Avignon is an interesting place that has an interesting history. During the the 15th Century, the Palace of the Popes went back in forth from Rome to Avignon and to Rome again. This was all happening because of the people's realization of the corruption of the church through papal authority and the selling of indulgences. As you probably know, in the 15th Century and before, the Pope was the ultimate ruler of the state. He decided everything from military action to the rights of the peoples. With religious ruling generally comes corruption. In attempt to overcome this, the church in Rome decided to move the Pope to Avignon, which is a small town in France. This is where the Pope lived for a short amount of time. We were able to see "The Palace of the Popes" which was very interesting and a delightful surprise. Anyway, because the Pope moved to Avignon this caused confusion. At this time three different people claimed that they were the Pope and this made the people very upset. Essentially, they wanted reform in the church but the church failed to reform themselves. This was known as the Great Schism. This then led to the Protestant Reformation. It was so interesting to see this Palace in Avignon because I had always studied the Great Schism and the Reformation but to actually see why this happened and where was extremely interesting. Not to mention, Avignon was beautiful and was an adorable town.
CorsicaCorsica was my schools 'Educational Field Trip' for the semester and it was breathtakingly beautiful. My school chose Corsica because it is French speaking and is a place that students would not normally venture to on their own. Corsica was interesting because it was an exotic island, full of sunshine, beaches, and good wine, yet we were on a field trip and were being herded around like cattle all day for five days with very little free time. To be honest, it was not very educational but I greatly appreciated the experience that I was given. Corsica is famous for being Napoleon Bonaparte's birthplace. We did see the apartment in which he was born, which was a very exciting experience. However, we later found out that Napoleon was very hated, especially by the French, and that the furniture in the Apartment in which he was born were all replicas. We felt quite cheated. We also ventured to a mountain town one of the days which was quite beautiful. Another day we took a four hour boat ride to this incredible 'best kept secret' island called Girolata. It was absolutely incredible and was worth all of the herding around and fake Napoleon sites. It was situated on a little cove in the Mediterranean Sea and only had 18 residents and two small restaurants. There were cows on the beach and the water was the most incredible blue I have ever seen. Of course, we thought it was very necessary to go skinny dipping in the Mediterranean Sea, so we did. It was an unforgettable memory that I will never forget. Overall Corsica was an awesome place, full of beauty, rich history, and interesting people. Maybe someday I will go back. I would love to live in Girolata.
GenevaMy "Enriching the International Experience" class took a field trip to the city Geneva, which is about 45 minutes away by train. My program director is an International Lawyer from Ireland and she is a spokeswoman for Amnesty International. With this said, she is an amazing woman with tons and tons of connections. She was able to arrange a field trip for us to the United Nations, which was amazing to see. We were able to go inside the building and see the major conference rooms that Presidents and Ambassadors from all over the world attend. We also saw a few smaller conferences but it was still amazing. It opened my eyes to the world even further and allowed me to realize that we have so much potential in our lives to make a difference. We also saw the Red Cross Museum which was amazing and inspiring. We also had the opportunity to see the Reformation Museum which was interesting because we were studying it at the time. I saw John Calvin's original signature as well as Martin Luther's. They were two of the most influential Reformation men in history. They were responsible for spreading the Reformation and Luther wrote the 95 Theses, which began to Reformation. It was a fabulous field trip.
InterlakenAfter non-stop traveling we decided to stay locally and explore Switzerland. We chose to go to Interlaken. This was Halloween weekend and seeing as though Halloween does not exist in Europe, Interlaken was the perfect escape! Interlaken is known as the extreme sports capital of Switzerland (maybe even Europe). People come from all over the world to sky dive, canyon jump, paraglide, etc. There is also incredible hiking, horseback riding, biking trails, and an adorabable town. This is the typical Swiss town. It is surrounded by gorgeous snow capped mountains and a beautiful lake that will literally take your breath away. We rented bikes and rode all around the city and explored. I would love to go back to Interlaken to hike in the mountains and explore further. It is so beautiful! Sadly, this was only a day trip and we did not have enough time to explore more of the town.
I spent my fall break in Venice with my two best friends from Pepperdine, Carson and Azzurra. They are both studying abroad in the London program so we all met up for a romantic week in Venice together. It was absolutely amazing. I took my first 6 hour train ride alone to Venice and although it was long and awkward at times, I overcame my fear of traveling alone on trains! It took a lot of effort but it went smoothly. In Venice, we took a nice gondola ride through the beautiful canals while our rather attractive 'gondolier' man explained the city to us. We ate wonderful meals and went to fabulous museums. We went to the Peggy Guggenheim museum which is situated right on the Grand Canal and it was the best museum I've been to thus far. It was full of beautiful gardens and contemporary art. It was amazing. We also went to the Galleria Della Academia which was an emotional experience. Leonardo DaVinci's "Vitruvian Man" sketch was on display and we were able to see this in person. This sketch was his version of the 'ideal man' and can only be seen in a museum for three months every three years to prevent damage. We were lucky that it happened to be on display in Venice at the time. My best friend Azzurra is a dual US Citizen and Italian citizen and with this said she has tons of family all throughout Italy (mainly Rome, Venice, and Florence). In Venice we had two separate lunches with delightful people that Azzurra introduced us to. We had amazing authentic, home cooked five course lunches two days in a row with incredible Italian wine. It was an amazing experience. We also had the pleasure of seeing her families art collection in the "Palazzo Cini" which was her great-grandfathers collection that was donated to Venice by her grandmother Yana. Inside there were incredible pieces of art by the great Renaissance painters Giotto and Piero Della Francesca and other incredible antiques and gems. I had an absolutely incredible week with both Carson and Azzurra and it only made me realize more how lucky I am to have them in my life. They are two amazing girls that I know I will be lifelong friends with.
Without a doubt the best weekend yet. This weekend was organized to celebrate Carson's 20th birthday. We had a girls weekend in Tuscany and Florence which consisted of nine girls all brought together through love. This group of girls serves as my inspiration and the reason I love Pepperdine so much. Azzurra's cousin Stella owns a vineyard in Montalcino, the region famous for their "Brunello" red wine. Her cousin so kindly allowed all nine of the girls to stay at her home in the adorable medieval town of Montalcino in Tuscany. Not only did she provide us a place to stay, she insisted on providing us with the most incredible food I've ever eaten and the most incredible wine I've ever drank. I have never experienced so much hospitality until this weekend. We ate mouth watering Lasagna (I ate beef for the first time since my Happy Meal days), Olive Oil that was made the morning we ate it, Penne Pasta that was the most delicious thing I've literally ever eaten. Words cannot describe how good this food was. And not to mention the wine, oh my gosh. I do not even know where to start with the wine, all I can say is WOW. She also took us to her vineyard and gave us a tour. We got to run through the fall colored vineyards and take incredible pictures. We also climbed into a medieval fortress and were able to see the entire region of Tuscany. It was literally INCREDIBLE. We also went to a cathedral that was made entirely of alabaster marble that was transparent and we saw the monks perform their daily chants. My words cannot not do justice for this weekend but maybe my pictures can...
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Coming from Tuscany, Florence was a bit of a let down. The Duomo is absolutely breathtaking, the bridge is quite beautiful, and I really enjoyed the Flea Markets. That is about it...Overall I thought it was quite dirty and unattractive. Here are my favorite parts though.
Two of our friends from London came to visit (Scott and Claire) so we decided to go to the small Swiss town of Gruyere. It was absolutely beautiful. It was an excellent representation of a typical Swiss Town. Full of chalets, fondue, and adorable window boxes. This town is the homeland of Gruyere cheese, which is sold in America and is delicious, and is also the homeland of Callier Swiss Chocolate, yum! We went to the Gruyere cheese factory and we saw where the majority of Swiss Cheese is created. It was quite fascinating to see the giant machines and the storage rooms where they age the cheese. The town was very small but had an adorable castle that was decorated for Christmas, adorable souvenir shops, and wonderful fondue restaurants. Since living in Switzerland, I have consumed many-a-fondue and I can honestly say that this town had the best fondue I've ever had! It was so amazing. Delicious mouth-melting cheese. So so good! Here are some photos...
Sorry if this was an information overload but I felt it was necessary to update all of you! This coming weekend I'm going to Paris for the Christmas Markets and then I will be flying home. I miss you all so much. Thank you for your continued loved and support.