Friday, June 28, 2013

Take Me Back: Florence, Italy

You arrive in a new city and your heart starts to beat differently. An overwhelming sense of calm washes over you and you just know you were meant to be in this place. You see things you've never seen before, but they look so familiar. Has this ever happened to you before? Every so often this happens in certain moments, but to have deja vu for an entire place?

In Italy this happened to me. I felt so home - like I could stay there forever and be perfectly content. Everything about Italy seemed familiar - the laid-back life, the smells, the dolce vita. Even communicating with people in broken Italian seemed effortless. I haven't been back, so I'm not sure if it was a "perfect moment in a perfect time with the perfect people" thing or if it was something more. Living in Tuscany for 6 weeks was an absolute dream and it just felt...right. I still honestly believe that the only reason I came home was because I missed the people and not the US. Here we are, 7 years later, and I miss Italy more than ever.

Florence was the closest big city to our Tuscan town of Castiglion Fiorentino. We had the chance to visit here a lot during our 6 week study abroad as it was only an hour train ride away. If I had to pick my favorite place in all of Italy, I would have to go with Florence. If you are planning a trip here, here are a few of my "Must Do's":
San Lorenzo Market - In between the train station (Santa Maria Novella) and the famous Duomo of Florence, this sprawling market is a must. Pick up your leather goods, souvenir t-shirts, any type of scarf imaginable, or a slew of silk ties for a couple of euro a piece. It's more than okay to haggle here...I was able to get my leather purse for less than 1/2 price! Spend a few hours wandering around the stalls.

The Accademia - Go here to see the famous statue, the David, by Michelango. It is super impressive just how tall this statue is. There are also other works here by Michaelango and important pieces by Botticelli and Giotto.

Climb the Duomo - It's 463 steps to the top, but you couldn't ask for a better view of Florence and the Arno valley. You also get an up close and personal look at the paintings inside of the dome itself.

Piazzale Michaengelo - I would make the hike up here for a drink at the end of your day. The sunset views are great from here, but the restaurants are a little expensive. It might be best to grab a glass of bubbly and a few antipasti to enjoy instead of a full meal.

Day Trip (or more) to Tuscany - Like I said, Florence was only 1 hour by train. Cortona was one stop past Castiglion Fiorentino and Arrezo was one stop before. Both of these are good places to experience a perfect day under the Tuscan sun. If you can, go to an agriturismo and sample cheese, olive oil and wine and take a peek in a some of the old churches.

There are many more things to do in Florence. You can walk along the Ponte Vecchio and look at jewelry, explore the Medici Chapels, visit the Uffizi Gallery and Bargello Museums and eat lots of pasta and gelato (of course). There is a "Firenze Pass" that works at many museums and for public transportation which would definitely be the way to go! I would love to make a trip back here in the next few years so I can show Jason - we'll see if that works out!

Note: We're going to keep doing this "Take Me Back" series so we can remember some of our favorite places we're traveled before Southwest Airlines came in the picture. Expect some posts about Hawaii and maybe a few more from Italy!


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Oklahoma City, OK

Since college, we've done an annual girl's trip to help everyone keep in touch within our group since we live all across the US (and now Canada!). We've made trips to Dallas, Minneapolis and this year, we went to Oklahoma City. Last year, 2 of us moved up to OKC, so we figured this would be a good chance to see where they lived! I went up last year to visit, but it was nice to make the trip back up again this year.

Our trip last year, we went to the OKC Bombing Memorial. It was a really beautiful tribute to all of the people who lost their lives here. It was boiling hot last time we went, so it was a brief trip, but it was still nice to see. The OKC Marathon starts and ends at this memorial and this year it was held a week after the Boston Marathon. They invited all of those who weren't able to finish in Boston to come finish in OKC. The Boston runners were able to run with the support of a city that really understands overcoming tragedies. Kind of cool I thought.


This trip, I was able to meet up with the girls after they visited the memorial. The boys grilled and we had a lovely meal cooked for us by Rebekah and Brittany. The next day, we ate a yummy brunch and then went to hang out in Bricktown. We took the water taxi that showed us around the area.

After this, we explored downtown a little and then headed to the Paseo district. We looked around some art galleries here and grabbed a bite to eat. That night, we went to an awesome jazz show at the University of Central Oklahoma's jazz lab. We ended our trip the next day with brunch at Whiskey Cake and a trip to Pops along Route 66. This place is so cute - they have thousands of different kinds of soda in hundreds of flavors. They have the usuals like root beer and cream soda, but also the weirdos like bacon and apple crumble.
It was a great weekend filled with great friends, bad pop music and many laughs. For our girls' trip next year, we're hoping to go visit Emily in Toronto! Thanks again ladies for a great weekend.
I will be going to Orlando, FL in a month for a work conference...the longest non-traveling break we've had all year! I'm planning on going a little before the conference starts and visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Disney - I can't wait!