An Italian Family Tradition

The last time I lived in Italy, four (!) years ago now, I traveled to Venice for Carnevale, the major Italian holiday, and to be honest it was a little disappointing. Sure, people were running around in masks, but I had more fun enjoying the sights of Venice itself than the bustle of carnevale. This past Sunday I was just planning to have a lazy day at home, the previous week having been pretty stressful, but couldn’t turn down the opportunity when a friend shared that the school she worked for had an extra seat on the bus and ticket for the festivities in Viareggio, probably the second most well-known Carnevale celebration after Venice.

Viareggio is about an hour’s bus ride from Florence and is easily accessible via the train, for less than 10 euros for a one-way ticket, so it’s an ideal day trip from Florence and one that is often made during the summer for the beach. It’s an extremely popular celebration for Carnevale, the big festival in Italy (and some other countries) that leads up to Lent, going into Easter. Italy’s a very Catholic country, so holidays like this one are still a big deal. Carnevale is all about indulging prior to Lent, and each area of Italy has their own take on it. Surprisingly, Florence really doesn’t mark Carnevale with any major celebration, but Viareggio is a popular place for Italian families to go if they want a piece of the action since it’s so close by.

Viareggio is known for its parade, which typically occurs sometime mid-afternoon on Sundays and on the actual Tuesday before Lent begins. The floats are insane, and they run for a few hours in a massive loop alongside the beach. The town actually charges admission to the fair because it’s the only way they can afford to put it on, and when you go you will understand why– it takes over an hour to see every float and they are all extremely elaborate and incorporate movement in one way or another. Most of the floats also have some sort of political statement that they are making… though for most of them I couldn’t have begun to guess what that statement was! My friend and I started the day off right by grabbing fresh doughnuts filled with warm, melted Nutella… and naturally made a mess! They were delicious, though!

Nutella Doughnut

After the doughnuts we grabbed ourselves a spot along the curb for prime parade viewing. When in Italy, though… suffice it to say that Italians do not stand orderly alongside the curb as they wait for the next float to approach. They are instead milling about between and alongside the floats, sometimes close enough to nearly get run over. Never a dull moment. The floats, like I mentioned before, were incredibly elaborate. My friend and I also enjoyed a good laugh over wondering who got the duty of hosing the Silly String off the floats at the end of the night. The spider float below was incredibly elaborate and moved around like a real spider.

carnevale float


This float breathed fire out its nostrils.


carnevale float 2


I don’t think it’s that difficult to decipher what message this float is sending…



Of course all the people riding on the floats and the people wandering in the streets were throwing confetti like there was no tomorrow… I’m still shaking it out of my clothes. The float below was probably my favorite… I loved the detail in the bookshelves.



There were so many floats I could share oodles of pictures, but if you have the opportunity you should go see for yourself! What really surprised me was how much of a family affair the whole event was… and how elaborate people went for their costumes! My favorite costumes were the couple that dressed up as Mary Poppins and Burt… BEST EVER!!!! I definitely want to go back with a costume next time. There were so many more costumes than just people in masks… it was a blast.

After more than an hour of parade watching we beat a path for the beach, unable to resist. It was a gorgeous day, slightly warm, slightly cool, but sunny. It was so surreal standing on the beach and looking into the distance to see the snowcapped mountains over the parade floats.

viareggio beach mountains


Surreal, and stunning. Perfect end to the day.

beach viareggio


Days 59-61: French Riviera

Otherwise entitled: Beachy keen.

Well. First apologies for the sucky title. I left my notes at home and am working off memory for the rest of the blog. Inefficient? Probably. What do you do?

After the incredibly boring town of Blois, I was THRILLED to be headed to the beach for some legit R&R. I finally made it to Paris, and then on to Nice, with about fifteen million other people heading down for… you guessed it… the triathlon. As you are all super smart, I am sure you can guess that I was NOT participating. But the bike bags on the train tried to convince me otherwise… Anyway. My time was spent in a combination of wandering, laying out, getting sunburned, and making travel buddies. One day in Nice, one in Monaco, one in Cannes.

Above, the infamous blue-and-white umbrellas in Nice. Below, a nice beach-y view.
Above, a street view in Monaco. The royal palace in Monaco is actually a small city with tons of shops (tourist shops in particular) and buildings enclosed within the palace walls. Below, night view from the Nice beach. I also spent a day laying out in Cannes, a sandy beach area.

Day 12: Northern Spain and Finisterre

Otherwise entitled: At the end of the world.

Day twelve was spent with a lot of driving– but a lot of stops. The first stop: the beach! Let me tell you, little did I know, but packing a bikini was WORTHLESS! It was freezing the whole time, but we wandered the beach and I picked up some cool shells.

Madrid 2010… someone decided to have fun with writing in the sand. It did make for good photos though! Our next stop was at sand dunes. You used to be able to walk on them, but now you can only look at them from the boardwalk. Look, we’re in the Sahara, but it’s freezing!
Next we went to the Celtic village… my favorite place we visited. SO BEAUTIFUL!
Below are just closeups. We walked all the way to it, and then all around it. I was surprised it was allowed, but I think it’s not a very well known place. 
Next we were off to where the Spaniards used to think the world actually ended– before Columbus sailed the ocean blue and all that jazz. So cool! I can now officially say I have been to the end of the world and the mouth of hell.
Two more blogs about this trip, I think, then I’m off to Egypt. Hope you’re enjoying the massive posting… I couldn’t really keep up on the road but am going to try to be better this summer.

Ne Pasa Nada

The last two days of break were spent in Barcelona, where I switched currency for the fourth time over the week. Morgan and I flew into Girona airport and met up with Christina and then took the bus into the city, caught the Metro (much cheaper than the tube!) and checked into our hostel, and then grabbed some dinner. Next morning we headed out after breakfast to see the city. Below, a view of Barcelona from the waterfront.

Above: yay, beach! The weather was warm enough that we even went without our coats at some points. Although clearly not at this moment…
Afterwards we took the tram/ lift/ thing to the top of the hill. The view was incredible!
Above, the Sagrada Familia, an incredible piece of architecture. After that, we decided to go to the Gaudi park. The guidebook. described it as ‘metro and then an uphill walk.’ HA! Do not be deceived, dear friends. Welcome back to the hills! Never before have I taken an ESCALATOR to get up the hill, but here it began…
The park was cool, but what a walk! After a week of walking all day we were all glad to sit down to tapas, paella, and sangria. MM! The next morning we hit the Picasso museum. So cool! The museum was the only Picasso museum opened during his lifetime, and was opened by one of his good friends who donated his collection of art that Picasso had given him. Then Picasso donated another 1, 000 or so works to the museum. It’s arranged chronologically, so you really see his progression from classical training to his cubist work. 
Ne pasa nada is a Spanish phrase that essentially means, no worries. And that was spring break in a nutshell– other than making sure we got on our flights, we had a week’s worth of fun. I can’t believe that the semester is halfway over. I’m not quite ready to get back to real life just yet.

Australia Day 1: Arrival in Cairns

As promised, the blog about Australia. I’m going to do it day by day, and it will be a few days before the next one is posted since I have yet to drop off my underwater camera for developing. Sorry for the delay, but after I get it done the rest should come much faster! On to the post…


After months of gloom and rain, Karalyn and I finally headed off to Australia for a legit vacation. Sun, surf, glorious summer. It was nice and toasty when we arrived in Cairns (pronounced Cannes, for all you non-Aussies) and after dropping our stuff in our room at the hostel that our tour had arranged, we headed to town to explore.

Palm trees, summer, sand. Love it. Anyway, so we walked around for a bit and shopped at a few places, including some outdoor tents where we bought some sandalwood seed jewelry.

We continued to explore the area (Cairns is pretty small, and everything is pretty much walking distance) and found this sweet pool. Because of the crocs, you can’t swim in most of the beaches surrounding town, so there is this super cool pool that you can swim in that basically blends into the ocean when you are looking at it- so nifty.

We decided to walk back to the hostel along the boardwalk next to the beach, and saw a group of pelicans along the shore.

Unfortunately, they never took water into their bills, but they were still cool. What was even cooler was seeing and hearing all kinds of birds that are normally either “domestic” or in a zoo.

So that was our first day. Look forward to the next post about the reef!

South Island Adventure Day 1: Or, the CITY and the BEACH

For the first week of our two week break, I headed down to the South Island with Karalyn, Emma, Christina, and Kevin to explore more of New Zealand’s beauty. First stop was Christchurch, where we flew in and picked up our rental car… the affectionately named “Silver Bullet II.” Kevin had booked his flight incorrectly, so while we waited to pick him up we headed to a cafe for some breakfast. Below is the view of the South Island from the plane… already incredible!

The day was spent wandering around the city and exploring the architecture and little shops. I bought some wool and possum fur-lined slippers at the Cathedral shop- so beautiful! Below are the Cathedral and the Christchurch trolley in front of it… such a quaint little town!

The inside of the Cathedral was beautiful as well- old stained glass, wall mosaics, remembrances.

The rest of the day was pretty laid back; a bit of walking, a bit of talking, and a bit of beach.

^^A little bit of streetwalking.

And posing for the camera…

And of course pretending we’re on America’s Next Top Model…

One of the things that I love about New Zealand is their commitment to their past. As such, there are war memorials in almost every town. Considering the fact that no one acknowledges that New Zealand took part in these wars, I think they have every right to commemorate them. One of the largest and most well known is the Bridge of Remembrance in Christchurch.

After this we headed to Sumner Beach to watch the sunset. It was a beautiful beach, and we got to see a wedding party taking pictures on it.

And then had dinner at a small cafe. I had the most amazing cauliflower-cream soup of my life.

Yum. I texted my dad to tell him about it… we always share our “foodie” adventures. MM! After dinner we drove back to the city to bed down for the night.

Quote of the Day: “What, I have to make my bed?” -Karalyn

Disclaimer: With the exception of people pictures, all photos that I post on this blog are mine and mine alone. You are welcome to keep them for personal use, but I may use some of them as artwork in the future, so please leave them be.

Comment: If you are reading this, let me know. It’s always nice to get comments on the blog, because then you know all the time you spent putting it together was worth it. This was just the first day of the trip.

And a note to the ladies– I LOVE that phonebooth pic! We’re pretty amazing.

A little film… a little Mexican food… a little street festival

On the first weekend after classes started, so much was going on! The New Zealand International Film Festival came to Wellington for two weeks, so Emma and I decided to grab tickets for a showing of “The September Issue,” a documentary about the making of Vogue’s famous September issue. We headed off for the Embassy Theatre and got some popcorn before settling in to watch the movie. It was good- very interesting, and fun to watch, and reminded me of how much I love working on a publication, and what deadline’s like, although with college yearbook we have a bit more flexibility than when a magazine or newspaper is going to press. Below is a picture of the Embassy Theatre’s interior… the curtain rolls back to display the screen.

After our film festival excursion (the theatre was packed- a sold out show), we walked back to a restaurant called the Flying Burrito Brothers. It’s a Mexican restaurant, and ended up being more like traditional Mexican than Tex-Mex. The ingredients were very fresh. I had a mojito and a chicken quesadilla- very good.

On Saturday, Karalyn had found this cool little festival in Petone that she invited Christina, Emma and I to come to. We hopped on a bus off of Manners St. and headed that way– Petone is on the other side of Wellington harbor; still technically Wellington, but too far to walk. This side of the harbor had a tiny stretch of beach (not something you would swim in; particularly since newspaper articles keep covering the pollution levels) and one main street through the town that we bypassed in order to get to the beach and the festival, which was something like a small street festival- a few rides for kids, food stalls, etc. We roamed around the beach for a bit- it was pretty.

We walked down the festival together, laughing at the man in the toilet and the bizarre “shop of wonders” type display, and eventually headed back to town to explore the streets there. The town actually has a fresh water source, and people were filling up jugs to take home when we passed. We finally ended up back at the carnival, grabbing slices of fresh-made pizza before getting real fruit ice cream. It was fantastic!

On the far left is Karalyn, followed by Christina, me, and Emma.

We grabbed glow necklaces for once it got dark, and then walked around eating our ice cream waiting for the fire sculptures to start. Earlier, big wooden sculptures had been set up on the beach, and they were going to be lit, as a form of artwork. After we were sufficiently freezing (remember, it’s winter here) and dark, around 745, the fire sculptures started.

This is the fire sculpture at full flame… at which point, we decided we were too cold to stay outside any longer, and headed up to a restaurant to drink hot chocolate until the fireworks began. We put on our glow necklaces, watched the fireworks, and eventually headed back on the bus to Wellington. A fun weekend!

I’m almost up to present day! Much love, always.