tourism

Rabat Coast waves

The Highlights of Morocco

This past Spring Break I finally got the chance to travel to Morocco! My friends and I traveled to Marrakech, Rabat and Fes, spending two days in each city. Overall I would have to say Rabat was my favorite, besides being the only place we weren’t harrased, it has the coast an beautiful gardens! Every city we went we visited the Medina, although full of life with plenty to see, it was very tiring. We were lucky enough to tag a long with a study group for a tour of Fes’ Medina and that was one of the best times. I would reccommend getting a guide, it makes the medinas seem just a bit more relaxed. I never got the chance to take an excursion into the desert, but it is at the top of my list for next time!

In Marrakech: don’t miss the Ben Youssef Madrasa, it is confusing to walk to but absolutely stunning! All the mosques in Morocco are closed to non-muslims, but the Madrasa’s are open, usually for a price of 10dh (that is only about 1$).

Rabat: the Casbah gardens, and be sure to grab something at the cafe inside the gardens which look over the coast.

Fes: Try to find the Foondooq, where the weavers make scarves and tapestries. The word literally means hotel, but this is an open building where you can see massive looms set up and buy some beautiful cloth!

London, Further Adventures into the British Museum

Here is a fun fact: The British Museum only received about 12 million in donations 3 years ago, last year, that number was 44 million. There is what my thesis is based on, and why I traveled to finally visit the Museum I had always dreamed about. I will be honest, I was still picturing it a bit like the Museum in The Mummy, which it was not.  There is such an impressive collection, but nothing really follows a path, it seems to mixed, not leading a visitor down any chronological path (even the Cairo Museum does at least that). Maybe there is one, but it was not very clear (note: i didn’t bother to buy the guide to the museum so maybe I missed something). One of the most interesting rooms of the museum was The Enlightenment, this room leads you through the ideals and philosophies of the period of the Enlightenment, all in a long corridor like room which is decorated as a library and “Cabinet of Curiosities“, it really is amazing, but unfortunately also dark, so I have no pictures.

British Museum Roof Assyrian British Museum London Assyrian Religion London British Museum British Museum Asia 149

 

I only managed to visit one other museum which was The National Gallery. However, after hearing rumors they have attempted to cut their staff, they also closed more than half the halls due to “lack of staff”, as the staff has since gone on strike. I missed the impressionists, but at least caught the famous Van Eyck.

London, The First Day: Covenant Garden

It may be a little late, but if you didn’t know, last week I went to London. I never planned on going, I have never really wanted to. But I went for my thesis (which will be on the marketing and finances of the British Museum), and found out I actually really liked it! Love is too strong a word for someone who was raised by a politically active, Sinn Fein, Irish American mother, so lets stick with really like.

Covnant Garden Food

Althoughit was cold, I managed quite a bit of exploring, my favorite spot being Covenant Garden by far. I found I loved being in a city that functioned, unlike Rome, but of course after 3 days I did miss my old city.

London Telephone Booth Vespa in London Corner Double Decker Bus in London Golden Eagle overlooking London Eye

The first day was spent learning to understand the tube (why can’t you all just call it the metro, like everyone else) and finding Shake Shack, as our goal with trip was to try all the food we can never get in Italy. The only thing that was disappointing was the 6 pounds for a small burger… go ahead and put that into a conversion, it will make you cry.

Shake Shack then turned into all the amazing food in Covenant Garden, and a walk over to Big Ben, and an attempt at Westminster Abbey.

Big Ben London Big Ben and London Eye Westminster Abbey, London

I was most excited to see Westminster Abbey, as I find it hard to visit any country without going into any church, and well this is the church of London. Unfortunately it costs 20 pounds to see the inside. Yep, 20 pounds… I will convert that for you 30.80 USD, per person, for a church. For a country that gives access to free culture through museums, apparently churches didn’t make that deal. I may be a bit spoiled though, being in Rome, where all churches (and water) is free. The fact that I didn’t get to see this church was probably my biggest regret of the trip, but I am a student and was not about to hand that money over. The outside though is absolutely stunning.

Note on photos: I decided only to bring my 35mm lens and was so happy with the results, I shot entirely in Manual for the first trip ever and I have never been prouder of my photos!

A day at Ballarò

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The Ballarò Market of Palermo is quite a sight, filled with beautiful fruits and vegetables, but turn around and their are tables lined with squids and full fish.
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This food market has much to offer and was one of my favorite adventures in Palermo. Every vendor yells out in a deep voice what they are selling, sometimes the deep shout comes from a boy who looks no older than 13.
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We found the most delicious fresh strawberries, along with lemons, oranges and olives, all that were then wrapped up in newspaper for us to take as our lunch. The market neighbourhood reminded me a lot of Old Cairo it was just as if the mosques had been replaced with Churches, but it was very similar.
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All around were men shucking artichokes and keeping water on the fish, many would ask for a photo as I walked by (it’s hard to miss a large shiny red Nikon DSLR). It was hard not to buy all the food they had to offer as everything looked so much more fresh and cheap even then what we have up here in Rome.
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The market is all food, but even if you think you’ll be eating out while in Palermo, take a walk around and grab some wonderful fruit as a snack, it will balance out all the Cannollis!
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Chocolate, Coffee and Shoes are always a Good Idea: A trip to Terni

After three weeks of rain we finally had a weekend of sunshine and 60 degree temperatures, it also happened to be that, this weekend, the annual Cioccolentino, a chocolate festival, was held in Saint Valentines home town of Terni located in Umbria. The city of Terni is only an hour out of Rome so a few friends and I decided to hop the trip to experience divine chocolate, and see a mini carnivale/valentines tradition.  It was definitely one of the best decisions I have made being here!

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The festival was small, but had plenty of free samples, and not only included chocolate but also cheese, olives, meat, jewelry, and other artistic goodies (including soaps shaped as cupcakes!). The streets were also filled with images of carnivale, confetti thrown everywhere and little kids dressed up in colorful dresses or as superheroes. We quickly found an artiginale chocolate vendor, who sold dark and white chocolate with cranberries, a banana chocolate, lemon ginger chocolate, chocolate with peperoncino (the spicy hot pepper) coconut, pistachio, you name it! They even had chocolate covered orange rind, figs and lots of truffles. The stand was run by two girls who seemed to enjoy speaking with us in English and sharing their delicious chocolate samples with us.

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Another stand even had chocolate covered raisins, this as well as the cranberries were quite incredible to find in Italy so a friend had to grab some! Vendors also had the chocolate covered Castani (chestnuts)a  perfect seasonal treat. Many stands carried chocolate shaped like the classic espresso maker, an image typical of Italy.  But one even had chocolate shaped as shoes, Fiat 500s, and other goodies. I was able to buy a set of chocolate spoons here, which I knew would go perfectly with a cafè, that is a straight espresso. Well boy were we in luck!

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The company Kavè has sponsored a tent bar of their own, where all coffee was offered in a sunny piazza, completely for free!  I was able to enjoy my espresso with a dark chocolate spoon, it was perfection.

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But before our coffee we decided to follow our noses to the sweet fragrance of the Sicilian pastry vendor. It is a very different region, but it is nice to get some different cuisines every once and awhile. I couldn’t think of having more sugar, even though the cannoli, the cassetini and sugar covered cream filled donuts were very hard to resist.

Terni had much more to offer than we expected, outside of the festival we wandered the small cobbled streets seeing adorable picturesque houses, alleys with Fiats and Vespas, balconies overflowing with flowers (more photos to come, but today is about food). Terni also had no small amount of shopping, and it turned out to still be sale season here! We spent time looking in all the stores where I was able to buy made in Italy black oxfords, and where we all spent hours looking and getting real leather bags and makeup cases for very little!

On our way out we bought some beautiful hair bows from these two girls who made accessories and jewelry from wood, they were very kind and if you are in Italy you should check them out: Falegnameria Di Domenico. We continued on where we grabbed samples of the sweet olives of Umbria, and delicious fresh cheese.

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It was finally warm enough for gelato!

ImageTo finish the day, we did as any Italian would, we grabbed aperitivo with a nice glass of wine to counteract the sweets of the day. The festival is now finished but there is always next year! Cioccolentino occurs every year on Valentines weekend, if you are not in the country during that time, you should take a day trip to Terni, it is a beautiful relaxing town, absolutely beautiful.

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Children dressed up for Carnivale, throwing confetti on the ground, they were just too cute!

Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain

Figuring out how to get a moving water effect, and I must say I am pretty proud!

 

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Fruit, Gelato and God.

Fruit, Gelato and God.

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A small piazza around the corner from the Trevi, where a food cart waits for tourists and a church stands alone.

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In love with the Nikon D5300, and Italian Breakfast

In love with the Nikon D5300, and Italian Breakfast

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As well as this coffee.
I just got the new Nikon D5300 for Christmas (in RED!) and it is my favorite thing in the world. I have finally figured out manual shooting which also opened a whole new world for me. ( If you are looking more into manual, or need more help with it, this website is the best: http://clickitupanotch.com/best-of/) I am so excited to be back and Rome and start getting some much better quality photos!

This delicious breakfast you see is cafe ginseng and cornetto with cream, because all you need for breakfast here is a shot of caffeine and sugar high. But truly if your hotel or host family has been giving you juice and bread with jam, you need to get out and experience this. If your new to this Italian breakfast ordering situation, which can be intimidating at first, I suggest starting with just a cappuccino, or espresso and point to whatever pastry in the window looks good. Also though the chocolate ones may look the best, you will crash of a sugar high in about 5 minutes.

 

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Italian Christmas Traditions

Italian Christmas Traditions

Since there hasn’t been much to tell you about this semester, I figured I would tell you a bit about Italian Christmas. I haven’t been able to spend a full Christmas here, but hopefully next year!

Even though Rome is the site of the Vatican, there is surprisingly little in the way of Christmas decoration and events, or at least less than one would presume. Nativity’s are set up in every church, with a large one at the Spanish Steps. Christmas trees are decorated by large companies such as Louis Vuitton and Fendi. There is even one in Milan decorated completely with dildos…. Lights are put up, but not as excessive as America, there are a few decorations but I would expect more. It could be that I am not staying with a very Italian family, or it could really be they aren’t as excited as the rest of the world.

Food: At this time, oranges and clementines are the number one fruit. I have heard Oranges used to be a christmas present because they were so rare. Apparently this has stuck on in Italy. But there are no smells of cinnamon, gingerbread, apple or pine. In fact real Christmas trees are rare and expensive. They don’t really bake Christmas cookies, but there is the traditional Italian Christmas Cake: Pannetone. I finally bought one of these, I was worried it would be dry and boring like all other Italian attempts at a cake, but it turned out to be very good! All it is really is a large muffin, in look and taste, you can get fruit or chocolate ones. Of course there is also lots and lots of chocolate, mainly with nuts. Candied nuts and figs are also big at this time, at least in the grocery stores….yet I never see anyone eat them.

Traditions: Now, let me explain why there is a witch as this photo, rather than reindeer or Santa Claus etc. Well, Italians have two Christmas Characters, Babbo Natale (Santa Claus) and Befana, the witch who brings presents.

Befana comes on the Feast of the Epiphany, being the Night of January 5th. She comes and fills children’s stockings with sweets and presents, unless they have been bad, then coal and sticks. She also sweeps the house as she visits, sweeping away the problems of the past year. Sticking with the Italian mindset, rather than leaving milk and cookies, families leave wine and small food, sometimes figs and dates.

Befana was the old lady who sheltered the Magi on their way to visit Jesus, she declined to go with them, then later changed her mind and tried to find him, as she never could , she continues to search for Baby Jesus leaving gifts for all the children she encounters.
Her name really just comes from the Italian accent on the word Epifania.

And of course she is also connected to Pre Christian beliefs, she is connected to the Festival of Strenia and Iannus, as at the beginning of each new year, Romans gave presents to one another.

Babbo Natale used to be simply the character of christmas, however due to large commercialization, he is beginning to be the one bringing presents, rather than Befana.

Shooting with Old Lenses.

Shooting with Old Lenses.

I took some of my Dad’s old lenses while I was home and this is one of the few good results. Turns out my eyes do not know how to focus, so while something looked great through the viewfinder, it was a blurry mess once loaded.

Here is a balcony in Piazza Navona, and my attempt to capture this photogenic man. I also have finally decided to sell postcards of my photos and will probably start doing so in the Summer.