Worth a Thousand Words

It took me long enough, but I finally realized that my photos won’t upload because the wifi in my apartment has been so persnickety lately. The amount of photos I’m trying to share is in the hundreds, so it’s really no wonder the wifi is fighting me on this. Even in smaller increments it refuses to work with me, so words are all I have at the moment.

Despite the title, this post will (hopefully) not be a book’s worth of words, but I do feel like I haven’t shared in a while. Allora, this post is my latest attempt at narrating the scenes I viewed, the foods I tasted, and the memories I made with friends.

Fall break was a whirlwind spent in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales with two of my friends from Chapman, Emily and Marina. We started in London, where we immediately descended on the first decent-looking Chinese restaurant we could find. Asian cuisine is available in Italy, but we had been told that London had a particular knack for making delicious chow mein and dumplings. London didn’t let us down int hat respect, however the Mexican food we found was much less impressive. It’s probably terrible for me to even try to compare European versions of Mexican food with the Californian equivalent, but I hadn’t had cilantro, sour cream, or cheddar cheese in months. I was getting desperate! Too desperate I guess, because our West Coast taste buds were met with ketchup instead of salsa and barely-wrapped burritos filled with what I can only describe as sloppy joe meat. It shouldn’t have been surprising, but it was still disappointing considering even the margaritas were watered down. What could make up for this blunder? An English pub, of course! We drank a new favorite cider called the Blind Pig, and we all enjoyed the pub grub that the city is so well-known for.

Food, good or bad, aside, it was fascinating to see so many London landmarks in person for the first time. We passed the London Tower, Big Ben, London Bridge, Westminster Abbey, and even became experts on the London Underground (sort of). Emily’s obsession with Britain’s most famous detective led us to tour the Sherlock Holmes Museum at 221b Baker Street. Hopefully when I get my pictures up I’ll remember to post the one of us all in his traditional deerstalker caps! My favorite part of London, though, was the National Gallery. Free entry, floors of masterpieces, and my inner art-lover descended into heaven. I never knew I could see Monets, van Goghs, da Vincis, Bellinis, Seurats, and van Eycks all in one place, let alone in one afternoon. It felt like some kind of miracle to see the original works that I had previously only read about in books.

From London we took a train up to Edinburgh, where we were immediately met with winter chills. Faces were hard to make out because everyone was so bundled against the wind in the city. Our first dinner was an odd mixture of hipster, Indian-Scottish cuisine, but it didn’t disappoint.  Would you try haggis curry, anyone? Delicious! I’ll readily admit my newfound love for haggis and black pudding, especially after our breakfast the next day. An egg scramble with fried black pudding balls was as far as we could have gotten from our normal Perugian espressos. Our time in Scotland was mostly spent on buses driving up and down the Scottish Highlands, and that’s where I believe the real beauty of the country lies. Rolling hills of towering trees and red rocks colored the roads below the cloudy skies that always threatened rain. We toured a distillery, took selfies with “hairy cows”, sang Loch Lomond while on the banks of the same lake, and even got a glimpse of Prince William while visiting Stirling Castle! Apparently he was there on official royal business that just happened to correspond with the timing of our tour, luckily for us. His enchanting smiles and waves had us grinning like fools for the rest of the day.

Dublin was exciting for me because so much of my heritage is rooted in Ireland. The Guiness Distillery and Irish pubs were just as I imagined, warm and wonderful. My Irish breakfast brought back memories from my early childhood because the plate of ham, cheese and eggs was just what my Grandpa Larry used to cook for me in his little house in Redlands. And the rye toast was just like what my dad orders every chance he gets. My feelings of homesickness abated briefly in Dublin. Unfortunately, we didn’t get outside the city to see the rest of the country, so naturally I can’t wait to go back and explore even more!

The weeks after fall break have been filled with school and weekend trips, the most recent being to Assisi, then to Florence and Milan, and later back again to Florence. Assisi is the birthplace of Saint Francis, the monk whose name follows the famously pious order of monks and cities like San Francisco. The church where he is buried is lovely, but ironically hypocritical. Saint Francis preached against gluttony, pride, and all representations of wealth, but the church named for him has frescos and stained glass adorned with gold.

In Florence, we visited the Uffizi where my classmates and I got to experience more da Vinci works, as well as Botticelli’s Primavera and The Birth of Venus. So many masterpieces! Afterward, as we walked through the Medici palace, I had the strangest sense of deja-vu. My roommate reminded me that I only recognized so many corners of the palace because we had been binge-watching Da Vinci’s Demons on Netflix!

Both Florence and Milan are beautiful in their own right, but for me, Milan had the most breath-taking views. The Last Supper is called Il Cenacolo by the Italians, and as our professor constantly reminded us, tickets are near impossible to get without a year or two of being on a waiting list. The work itself is enormous, and more colorful than I thought it would be. Da Vinci’s poor choices in painting materials along with the terrible placement of the fresco (it’s on the opposite side of what were the monastery’s kitchens) makes the details difficult to make out. That being said, the incredible balance and power of the piece is definitely something I won’t forget anytime soon. Much like Il Duomo di Milano, the tallest and most intricate Gothic cathedral I’ve seen so far. The columns travel up so high and hold so many figures carved into them that bending my back to see everything almost made me faint! Thousands of pews line the rows of the cathedral, and enormous stained glass windows paint each individual chapel. We were even lucky enough to hear the towering organ play the first few notes of Sunday mass before we had to leave.

Going back to Florence without scholastic pressure gave me the opportunity to slowly enjoy the Uffizi and to seek out other Florentine wonders. One of those being the magnificent Michelangelo’s David held in the Academia. I get the hype: the statue is colossal! There was so much to study, from his hair to his feet, and I spent the better part of a half an hour admiring as much as I could take in. (Side note: David’s butt is a work of art within itself, just saying!)

Alright, so maybe I did write half a book, but a month of missing pictures demands at least a thousand words! Again, as soon as I can figure out how, I will post the pictures I have of these latest travels. Thanks for reading!

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