European Adventures: Spring Break Part 1

Four countries, five cities and two weeks later, I have finally returned to Tel Aviv after an unforgettable spring break in Europe. Because my journey and experiences were so memorable (and lengthy), this post will be split into two parts to ensure that I don’t miss a beat.

My trip began in the land of pizza and pasta, and let’s just say, Italy didn’t disappoint with its food. The first few days were spent in Florence with friends who are studying there for the semester. We hit the touristy spots including the David, Pitti Palace, Ponte Vecchio and the infamous leather market. We climbed the stairs of the famous bell tower opposite of the Duomo and watched the sunset over all of Florence at Piazzale Michelangelo. In between activities, my friends were sure to keep my stomach full with heart-shaped pizza and delicious gelato. I loved the quaint feeling that Florence had to offer coupled with its beauty and timeless history.
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After leaving my UF friends in Florence, my Tel Aviv friends and I headed south to Rome. Though I had been to Rome before, my experience was definitely different four years later traveling with friends instead of family. We spent the first day touring around and enjoying the unseasonably warm weather, while our second day was spent getting down and dirty in the kitchen.
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We booked a private cooking class with Chef Guido and his wife in their apartment outside of Rome. This was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. For about six hours we learned, prepped and cooked a four-course traditional Italian meal. Because Guido and his wife Elena spoke little English, a translator helped us communicate. Though it was challenging at times to understand one another, by the end we all became quite comfortable and were truly able to appreciate the art of cooking. After all, no matter what language you speak, everyone can appreciate a delicious meal.
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Our final masterpiece consisted of an antipasto appetizer, homemade bolognese (we even made a vegetarian version for me!) with handmade tagliatelle pasta, caprese salad, a veal and prosciutto dish, and finally, tiramisu for dessert. All of our hard work really paid off while we enjoyed our lunch on their outdoor terrace overlooking the countryside of Rome. What a day!
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After a wonderful five days in Italy, it was time to move on to our second country: France. From the moment we touched down, I was in such awe of how beautiful and classic the country was. The buildings and architecture looked like they were straight out of a movie, and each corner we turned was more breathtaking than the next. We truly did our share of walking, hitting the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, lovelock bridge and Napoleon’s tomb.
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My favorite part of Paris was visiting the infamous home of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette in Versailles. The decadence and detail put into each room and on every windowpane was unbelievable. The gardens were even more massive that it’s hard to believe only two people lived here for a period of time. I can now understand why the people of France were so resentful and angry at the king during the late 1700s. We finished our time at Versailles in true Parisian fashion at Angelina’s tea room sipping on hot cocoa and apple crumble. As Marie Antoinette would say: “Let them eat cake!”
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Though Paris was grand and glamorous, this was the first time that I truly encountered a large cultural difference while abroad. The people in Paris were not particularly kind or welcoming to us, and I constantly felt embarrassed for not knowing the language or customs. There were numerous times where customer service or simple manners fell short, and we concluded that being young American girls was probably why. Although this part of the trip was disheartening, Paris was a great place that I hope to return to one day when I’m older.

We kept our heads high and continued our adventures in Amsterdam for week two of the trip. Stay tuned!

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