After all the hard work done at GSA, it was time to take a little mid term break with friends.
I had joined a group of GSA IES Abroad students who were planning to go to Verona, Venice, and Edinburgh. I hadn't been to Italy since I was about twelve years old and had never been to Scotland before in my life.
So, Italy and Scotland. What was I prepared for?
-Plates upon plates of spaghetti
-A gelato or two to taste along the way
-Waltzing down cobble stone streets
-Exploring the history of every nook and cranny, every gallery and gazebo, every church and tower
-Cool nights on river coastal, Italian waters
I was MORE than excited. I was ready to a new adventure outside of Dublin's lovely bubble.
Our first stop was Verona, which is known for being Shakespeare's home base for a number of his most famous plays (Romeo and Juliet being the most notable). Everywhere we turned, we saw another allusion to good ol' Bill Shakes; a bust of his head on a pedestal, a statue of the fair Juliet underneath her glorious balcony, and so forth.
How can I describe Verona and do it absolute justice...
Verona was a quiet city who's magic lay in it's way of charming visitors with it's scenic views of the river and it's delicious cafes settled near ancient arenas. Every step of the way, my friends and I stumbled upon rows of unique Italian boutiques or a pizza place in a hidden alley way. Every chance we could, we sat outside al fresco style, taking in the lovely air and gobbling down yet another plate of the pasta of our choice. Verona is a place that I feel more people need to visit. Not only is there a great deal of history to be seen, but it's not your typical bustling tourist destination. In fact, I would say that Verona is far from an overwhelming location to explore on your own. You can walk the whole city in a day and you end up discovering so many people locales on a whim. It was definitely really hard to let this city go after three days of staying there.
Up next, my friends and I traveled by train ride to Venice (Note: Train rides are just another exciting part of traveling from place to place in one country. I highly recommend it because it's easy and the scenery is to die for, as it zooms past your train window). We arrived right in the midst of it all; 10 o' clock or so at night, wheeling our luggage through bustling cocktails of tourists, locals, and street performers just to get a boat to Rialto Bridge. The pitch black mystery of the night captivated all of us the entire trip. From the boat ride in the dark waters to our Air BnB to the adventures navigating the silent city streets at 2am, Venice served all of it's romantic history and more to all of us American acting students. I feel like this dose of romanticism will definitely last us all of our life times. Venice had been inhabited, visited, and frequented by so many people before us... and we too made our mark on the city in our own little humbly adventurous ways. The days held so many exciting activities: stumbling upon glass jewelry shops, trying to navigate tiny alleys of streetways, and visiting small art galleries that we sook out at pizza luncheons at more-than-touristy plazas. Venice was loveliness in every single way.
We even spent Halloween in Venice! We had read somewhere that Halloween was big in Venice (that people dressed in masquerade masks at restaurants and so forth), but when we got there, much to our surprise, we realized that Halloween wasn't really a celebrated holiday. In fact, Halloween is just now making it's way into the Venetian scene (and the few people that were dressed up were dressed, funnily enough, as scary popes, nuns, and religious figures).
After spending a day or two in that famous city of canals and masks galore, we headed to our final stop: Edinburgh, Scotland. We were only there for a night and full day, but it was absolutely magical. We walked around the stone streets, taking in every Harry Potter shop that came our way and basking in the cloudy glow of the overcast sky. We ended up having breakfast at The Elephant House; the very place that J.K Rowling wrote the Harry Potter books. I had a gigantic marshmallow hot chocolate and a goat cheese & egg toast (which were both to die for). After that we explored a plethora of small shops up and down the Royal Mile and Prince's Street. Whether it was another tartan clad scarf shop or even a quaint book shop dedicated to only Scottish literature & cartology... We were entraced with just how much Edinburgh welcomed us into it's special culture, with open, haggis-loving arms.
This break was surely one for the books. So many wonderful locales in just one week was almost like walking into some European dream; a vacation with the best of friends that I will never forget. It was everything I could've wished for! However, by the end, I was happy to settle myself back into the life I had made in Dublin (and to get back in the swing of work at GSA)!
Here are some photos that I had taken, that I feel, captured my own individual experience traveling even more abroad on my abroad journey! I highly recommend all of these locations to IES Abroad students abroad, for a nice mid-term getaway.
This was taken at the Arena in Verona (which used to be a place for gladiator style fights, horse and chariot races, and even theatrical performances. It was quite lovely standing at the top and looking down on all the history this place once held. It's incredible how these monuments were even built, way back when.
A beautiful view from the top of the arena at the orange, red, and yellow painted buildings below. The simplicity of the architecture in the heart of Verona is gorgeous to see. So Italian.
A bust of William Shakespeare found in a square right nearby the arena. Right before this, we had eaten at a small cafe (tea, coffee, and pastries were the go-to that day), and were surprised that we had found this treasure on the walk to explore the city! It's probably a spot that a lot of people plan to go and visit, but we happened to stumble upon it (which was almost more lovely).
My friend Evan and I being silly and acting out the famous Romeo and Juliet balcony scene at the arena. You can't help but feel Shakespeare all around in this city (and Evan, especially, is an avid fan of his work)!
A beautiful little cafe in the midst of everything on a busier street in Verona (the streets are never very very busy, but this one was particularly bustling at lunch time). Right across the street is an amazing spot for a nice cup of gelato. Pro Tip (for many gelato places in Italy): A small holds about two or three scoops and you can usually mix and match. It was more than enough for us hungry acting students. But, I'll let you be the judge of that when you visit!
This is just one of the spectacular views that you can get whilst exploring the Castelvecchio Bridge in Verona. You can even climb up on stairs to get higher, more adventurous views on the bridge. The river flowing through Verona is absolutely breathtaking. We had to walk right alongside it to get back to our Air BnB every day. And, if you can see in the distance, there are mountainous regions afar, lined with proud Italian trees and decadent villas.
Moving on to Venice! We have the famous San Marco's Square, complete with Saint Mark's Basilica and the San Marco Capanile (The Clock Tower). I remember visiting Venice when I was just 12 years old on a family's grand European vacation. I always wanted to come back to Venice when I could appreciate it even more than I did then... and coming back and seeing everything with more awareness was just the best. The skies were so blue the two days that we were there and the atmosphere so carefree & beautiful. Of course, there were a lot of people around the tourist attractions, but even then, it didn't seem too overwhelming. Everything was just very grand & graceful in a lot of ways.
One thing about Venice... There was an infinite amount of amazing food opportunities. Not that it was any different in Verona or even Edinburgh! But, Venice served up some amazing dishes more than a couple of times. This was a simple spaghetti with marinara dish that I had, with a grenadine and soda to drink. A little fresh cheese and basil sprinkled on top of a plate of traditional spaghetti can go a longggg way.
A closer look at Saint Mark's Basilica in San Marco's Square. The detailing was, is, and will always be absolutely stunning.
A photo of me at a cafe the second day we were in Venice. My friend Reilly and I had woke up and decided to go morning exploring around the city, but ended up falling for yet another amazing opportunity to sit down, have some pizza, and bask in the Venetian sunlight, as we talked about our time abroad thus far. Simple memories... But one's I'll never, ever forget the feeling of.
A snapshot of a popular gondola service right off of San Marco's Square. Men lined the shoreline, hoping for another sale of another boat ride for yet another tourist family/group. Gondola services are a hefty business in Venetia, but one that serves as a great experience to see the city in a really unique way. We wanted to take a gondola ride, but the price was just too much. We wanted to spend it on food and other memories!
Some beautiful posters down a random alley way in Venice. The streets are all random alley ways, which makes the adventure of exploring the city all the more exciting (especially at night).
Evan having a laugh at a cafe the last day of our Venice adventure. Fun times, indeed.
Ah, yes. Rialto Bridge! Where we first got dropped off on our journey after the water taxi and the place we ended up catching a boat back to the airport by. It's a big tourist attraction and an even BIGGER bridge. It's gorgeous in all it's glory.
And, finally, onto Edinburgh! This is just one of the beautiful views we saw walking up and down the streets of the city. The architecture is uniquely Scottish and the Cathedral in the picture is absolutely gar-geous *Insert Scottish accent here*.
The colors of the shops, restaurants, and random walls of the city were just so vibrant. There was a lot of character to Edinburgh, which I hadn't really encountered in any city through Europe before in the same way.
This is the famous Edinburgh Castle, which we did not end up visiting, but did take pictures of once we got to the top of the hill where it sat. It's pretty awesome to see up close and even cooler to see when you're down below looking up at such a vast, imposing monument.
As I said, there is a lot of Harry Potter shops and references around (because Edinburgh was a big influence for many aspects within J.K Rowling's famous series: Diagon Alley was based off of Prince's Street, many names of famous characters were found in the famous cemetary, Greyfriar's Kirkyard, and so much more. This was a shop that we found on Prince's Street, which had basically any Harry Potter memorabilia imaginable.
The marshmallow hot cocoa that I had at The Elephant House. Again, it was so delicious.
Speaking of food, I caught a glimpse of these delicious pastries whilst walking down Prince's Street. Sadly, we didn't stop in for any, but we did end up going to a cake shop/restaurant called Lovecrumbs. I highly recommend if you want a cozy spot with simple, but inventive cake choices!
One of the main attractions that we had seen in Edinburgh was the famous Camera Obscura/Illusion Museum. The camera obscura was made long ago and projects scenes found in the city below with a special mirror-based camera method. It kind of freaked people out in the 1900's, since no one had seen moving picture projections before (people were confused why they could see miniature versions of people, horse and carraiges, and buildings projected onto a flat surface before them). I highly recommend making a stop at this museum if you have the time!
A photo of me before we entered our special Camera Obscura show at the top of the museum! The views from above in this city were breathtakingly beautiful.
Playing with reflections in a light tunnel in the Illusion Museum. There are some really cool optical illusions and fun light tricks in this place.
Giving a little peep at these optical illusion people.
A funny illusion that made me look giant and Reilly look absolutely tiny. Nevertheless, we are serving Vogue vibes here.
The next day, we made our way to The National Gallery of Scotland. This place is a must-see if you're in the city. They have everything from fashion, artifacts, and skeletons of interesting animals indigenous to Scotland all in one place (as you can see by that antlered animal in the shot). The architecture of this place is beautiful too (very early 1900's Victorian).
There is an entire room in The National Gallery dedicated to animals, which was really cool to see! Various whales, dolphins, and porpoises swim high above you, while all the mammals stand proudly on the ground, waiting to be read and studied about.
The plane ride leaving Edinbugh. You could not make up those skies and that green grass if you tried.
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<p>Hello all! My name is Francesca Mouery, but a lot of people call me 'Franny'. I am a rising Junior at Denison University, which is located in a quaint, historic town called Granville, OH. Though I go to school in a very Midwestern area, known for it's farmland and pleasantly cloudy days, I am originally from sunny Orlando, FL. Now, I am ready to journey on my next adventure to Dublin, Ireland to seek out an amazing education in conservatory-style performance and theatre making.</p>