There’s No Place Like Home

There’s No Place Like Home

There’s truly no place like home. After almost five months of the most incredible journey of my life, I was anxious to return home. I have always been dreaming of the day that I would leave Ohio and travel the world and found myself surprisingly excited to make the journey back to Ohio. While I … Read more

There’s truly no place like home. After almost five months of the most incredible journey of my life, I was anxious to return home. I have always been dreaming of the day that I would leave Ohio and travel the world and found myself surprisingly excited to make the journey back to Ohio. While I was hoping for an unforgettable adventure this semester, I could have never predicted how many unbelievable places I would travel to, the wonderful friends I would make and how much I would learn about myself and the world. Although I didn’t realize it while I was in Europe, I am now slowly realizing with each passing day how my perspective on things has changed. Who knew that in five short months you could learn so much?

boardingpass

One of the things I realized while I was away is that where you are doesn’t matter quite as much as who you are with. While I got the opportunity to travel to some of the most amazing places in the world, I found myself wishing I could share every incredible moment with my family. I wished mom was with me to aimlessly walk through the breathtaking tulip fields in Holland, my sisters could see the Eiffel Tower sparkle, my brother could experience the insane crowds cheering during European “football” games, dad could hike to the top of the volcano in beautiful Santorini, and grandma could enjoy a cannoli with me while strolling the streets of Sicily, where her parents came from. Family means everything to me and the past five months made me realize even more how truly blessed I am to have them in my life.

ciaobella

What I looked forward to most upon arriving in the United States:

  1. Seeing my family (a hug from mom was my first priority after landing)
  2. DRIVING (finally getting to go exactly where I want, when I want, without worry of delays, strikes or cancellations)
  3. Getting back into the Sunday morning church & brunch routine
  4. Hot dog shop (two chili cheese dogs and a chocolate shake please!)
  5. Summer (warm weather, fun concerts, ice cream runs with Laur, and the list goes on…)

welcomehome

What will I miss most about Europe?

  1. The relaxed, slow-paced, “let life happen” atmosphere
  2. The ability to spontaneously hop on a plane to another country
  3. Nutella gelato waffles & spaghetti with fresh tomatoes and basil
  4. The un-replicable views of the Italian countryside
  5. The cute, flower potted, colored-door side streets in Italy

I know I will be craving another adventure, feeling the urge to travel the world, soon enough, but for now I am so happy to be back at home sweet home.

Happiness in Holland

Happiness in Holland

“Fall asleep in London, wake up in Amsterdam!” read an online coach website. When having a hard time deciding between London and Holland for our girls’ trip, Nicole suggested we do both! The rest of us thought it would be out of the question because of how expensive it would be. After a long time … Read more

“Fall asleep in London, wake up in Amsterdam!” read an online coach website. When having a hard time deciding between London and Holland for our girls’ trip, Nicole suggested we do both! The rest of us thought it would be out of the question because of how expensive it would be. After a long time of searching though, we came across a website for an overnight coach that takes passengers from London to Amsterdam. It was less than half the cost of a flight, would save us money on a hostel that night and would save so much exploring time by traveling overnight! However, we ended up getting about an hour of sleep that night. “Go to sleep in London, wake up in Amsterdam” turned into: board coach at 9 p.m., drive for one hour, get off for boarder control, another hour on coach, switch to ferry for two hours, back to the coach for two hours, 45 minute gas station stop and remainder of the time on the coach. At the time, we were grumpy, tired and sore, all of us regretting the decision, but looking back we are so happy we did it because it allowed us to go to two amazing places!

amsterdam

Our first stop in Amsterdam was to the Pancake Bakery for brunch, to re-energize and reward ourselves after our tiring journey. I read online that you must try pancakes and waffles in Amsterdam, and the Pancake Bakery is one of the best spots to do so. They offered over 75 types of pancakes, from apple with cinnamon to chicken with pineapple. I ordered banana pancakes with strawberry sauce. They were delicious!

pancakes

Down the street from the Pancake Bakery is the Anne Frank House. The house is where her and her family hid and where she wrote her diary. I am not sure what to really say about the house. It made me very sad and angry at the same time. I will never understand how someone could be so cruel and hateful. Every room had quotes on the walls from Anne’s diary. My favorite quote I read was one where Anne said she dreamed to be a writer. Her goal was to publish a book called the “Secret Annex” one day. I wish she knew then that she would be a famous author and that her book would be published in 70 different languages.

Walking through the dark and dingy rooms where they had to hide made me feel ashamed for ever complaining about rainy or cold days. Another of Anne’s quotes on the wall stated “I long to ride a bike, dance, whistle, look at the world, feel young and know that I’m free…” She wasn’t even allowed to peek through a curtain to see the sunshine, yet I complain at the first sight of a rain cloud outside. We were all feeling a bit down after our visit to the Anne Frank House, but I am glad I got to learn more about the history of the Holocaust as well as more about Anne and her courage.

Amsterdam reminded me of Venice. Although the city does not rely on the waterways, there are canals and bridges everywhere you go. Instead of getting around by metro, what we were used to in Europe, we had to use trams. The roads were rather confusing as there were not only lines for cars and trams, but also for bicycles! Most of the citizens use bikes to get around in Amsterdam. We learned that there are actually more bikes than there are people and over 40,000 bikes get stolen every year!

garden

The language in Holland is so different than any language I have ever heard. It is very harsh and sounds a bit angry. I was looking forward to hearing pretty Italian again in Viterbo. While we were there, the Amsterdam football (American soccer) team won the final, so there was raging in the streets, beer cans and trash littering every inch of the city and police in every square. Some of the trams had to avoid certain routes because of how crazy it was! I have never felt very unsafe in Europe, but I felt a bit uneasy in the city that day. We weren’t there for much of the day though because our last day of girls’ trip was spent at the Keukenhof Garden!

garden2

The garden is outside of Amsterdam, in Southern Holland. At the entrance we got refreshing “swirls” ice cream (what I considered Holland’s version of DQ blizzards) to enjoy throughout the garden. The pictures I took of the garden do not do it justice whatsoever. I have never seen so many beautiful flowers in my life. The garden only blooms from the middle of April to the middle of May, so we came at the perfect time! It was a beautiful day. After wandering through the garden, we made a little walk to the tulip fields, where there were endless rows of purple, pink, white, orange and yellow tulips. It was just like the pictures I have seen, but 100 times better. I could have strolled through the tulip fields for hours. I was so happy we got to experience both the city of Amsterdam and the breathtaking country side of Holland.

tulips

I can’t believe this was my last trip of the semester, but our girls’ trip was the perfect way to end my study abroad experience. I remember leaving for Barcelona, telling Laur “Not the next flight, or the next flight, or the flight after that, or the one after that… but the one after THAT will be the one taking me home.” Now my NEXT flight will be the one that leads me back the United States!

London’s Calling

London’s Calling

I was so excited to be able to fit in one last trip before the end of the semester. For our girls’ trip, Nicole, Chrissy, Brittany and I first traveled to the United Kingdom. So we may not have seen Robert Pattinson, gotten inside the majestic gates of the Buckingham Palace or touched Kate Middleton’s baby … Read more

I was so excited to be able to fit in one last trip before the end of the semester. For our girls’ trip, Nicole, Chrissy, Brittany and I first traveled to the United Kingdom. So we may not have seen Robert Pattinson, gotten inside the majestic gates of the Buckingham Palace or touched Kate Middleton’s baby bump, but I loved London! Flowers were in full bloom for the springtime, we didn’t see a single rain cloud while we were there, and we had the best time perfecting our British accents and taking on the royal city.

doubledecker

My favorite day in London started off with a free walking tour of the city! We grabbed lattes for the tour and our first stop was the Buckingham Palace, right in time to see the Changing of the Guards. Outside of the Palace was beautiful as rows upon rows of blooming flowers were seen everywhere. Since the Royal Standard flag was not flying, we were told the Queen was not at home.

palace

One of our guides told us a funny story about a man who got drunk one night, climbed the fence to the Palace and got inside! He set off so many alarms that security thought something was wrong with the system, so they shut it off. The man found his way to the wine cellar and helped himself to a bottle of the Queen’s wine, before visiting her in her quarters. The man was arrested when the Queen found a way to call security, but then soon released because there was no law set in place about trespassing in the Palace! The very next day a law was made.

city

On the way to Trafalgar Square, where many public events and demonstrations take place, we were taken down little side streets and were told stories behind special buildings we would have never noticed if we had toured London alone. It was so cool to hear the funny stories behind the city! In London you have to pay more money the more windows you have, so many windows are bricked up in order to avoid paying for them. Also, on the roads, the words “look left” and “look right” are written, in order to help confused travelers when crossing the street, since they drive on the opposite side of the road in the UK! Thank you London for saving my life multiple times during my visit.

The tour took us to Parliament Square, where we saw Big Ben! I always thought that Big Ben was the clock tower, which is actually quite small, but it is the name of the 13-ton bell inside of the tower! Westminster Abbey is also in Parliament Square, where I of course asked how much you had to pay to get married where members of the Royal Family have their weddings. Our two tour guides were stumped, but agreed that you would have to have quite a sum of money. I guess I will just have to marry royalty.

After the tour, we grabbed sandwiches (I tried a cranberry brie baguette for the first time ever and loved it!) and headed back to Parliament Square to enjoy lunch on the grass, in the bright, warm sun, with a view of Big Ben and the London Eye in the distance. Afterwards, we hopped into a red phone booth nearby and had a fun photo shoot session. On the tour, two different phone booth styles were  pointed out. We learned that the second version was made because men were complaining that they had to take their top hats off when going inside to make a call, so a second, taller version of the phone booth was created.

phonebooth

The rest of the afternoon we spent walking the guided tour route backwards, this time going at a slower pace to take pictures and soak it all in. We took pictures with the guards, walked through St.James Park and throughout the city.

That night Nicole and I decided to head out to see London all lit up. We were exhausted, but we were so glad that we went! We walked to the London Bridge and down the “Queen’s Walk.” We also went to the Tower Bridge and made our way to see the London Eye and Big Ben. Blue and white twinkling lights illuminated trees and walk ways, making the city quite a site at night. It was almost 2 a.m. and the metros were closed, so we hopped on a double decker bus to take us back to our hostel. It was a bit of a challenge figuring out which bus line would take us back, but we eventually figured it out and enjoyed the view of the city on the top level of the double decker.

londoneye

The next day we went to Camden Square, where there are open air markets and little shops. Then we made our way back to the city center for more shopping around Piccadilly and Bond Street.

I loved everything about London and already miss hearing “Cheers, love!” in cute British accents every day. I was sad to leave, but also excited to continue our girls’ trip in Holland! Cheers, London!

Check out my video from London here!

Hola, España!

Hola, España!

Hola, amigos! Flamenco, sangria and lots of tapas filled my days in Barcelona on a weekend trip with my friend Tyler (you can check out his blog here). Spain has always been on my “must see” list and I am so thankful that I got to take the trip. Although it rained every day we were … Read more

Hola, amigos! Flamenco, sangria and lots of tapas filled my days in Barcelona on a weekend trip with my friend Tyler (you can check out his blog here). Spain has always been on my “must see” list and I am so thankful that I got to take the trip. Although it rained every day we were there, it was easy to see past the gloomy, grey skies and realize how beautifully colorful Barcelona is.

sagradafamilia

To my surprise, there was a Starbucks right around the corner from our hostel, so I started off each morning perfectly with a chai tea latte. Our first day there, we tackled both my and Tyler’s number ones. Since our hostel was also a minute walk from Tyler’s number one, the Sagrada Familia, we started there. The Sagrada Familia, a church designed by Gaudi, has been in the works for over a hundred years and is planned to be completed in the year 2026. I am so glad we got to see it because it was absolutely beautiful! Colorful stained glass windows towered along white walls and lit up the whole building inside. I loved it and hope to come again when it is completely finished! After the Sagrada Familia, we made our way to Park Guell, my number one! I have seen so many pictures of Park Guell in the past and was so excited to see it for myself. It was very colorful and fun! A huge mosaic lizard in the park reminded me of my brother because he has a little lizard that looks just like it, that he painted during a family vacation to Jamaica when we were younger. The first day in Spain we also got our first taste of paella, a typical Spanish rice dish.

paella

The second day we ventured to many Gaudi sights in the city, including the famous Casa Batllo. It was so funny to see such a unique and colorful building in between “normal” buildings. Along with doing some shopping along the streets, and stumbling across Barcelona’s Arc de Triomf (what little copycats of the Arc di Triomphe in Paris!), we also ventured into the park, where we saw the Gaudi Fountain. Tyler immediately stated that the Gaudi Fountain is Barcelona’s own Trevi Fountain and I couldn’t agree more. I actually like this fountain over the Trevi Fountain! It is beautiful!

parkguell

Our next move was to take a funicular up to Mount Juic. Once there, we could take a cable car to the castle, but we opted for the walk, through the gardens, to get to the castle instead (which was much needed after our afternoon snack of sugar covered churros dipped in chocolate). After seeing a breathtaking panoramic view of the city from the castle, Tyler wanted to check out the Olympic stadium, where the 1992 games were held. Afterwards, we headed back down the mountain to the Magic Fountain! Every night there is a water show at the fountain. Fun pop music played while everyone gathered around and enjoyed the fountain spouting out water high into the sky in all directions.

Our last day in Barcelona we made sure to walk up and down the famous street “La Rambla.” There were many vendors selling gorgeous flower bouquets, jewelry and small trinkets. I fell in love with the hand painted fans I came across (like the ones Flamenco dancers use) and decided on buying a turquoise and white one for in my room! La Boqueria Market, an open air market, was also on La Rambla. This market was just like the others in that it had fresh fish and fruit, but it also had so much more. From fresh fruit popsicles to frozen fruit drinks on ice to empanadas, this market had it all. Of course when I came across a crepe vendor packed with customers lined up, I had to check it out. Although it wasn’t my intention, I ended up walking away with a strawberry banana crepe with white chocolate and milk chocolate chips, and a fresh kiwi banana coconut frozen fruit drink, for lunch.

The rest of the afternoon was spent slipping into little shops, in order to escape the rain and cold. I came across what are now my favorite souvenirs that I have purchased since arriving in January (although I can’t say what they are, in case some readers might be receiving the gifts).

We ended our trip to Barcelona the perfect way. The night started off with a flamenco show! It was so much fun to watch. I was really surprised to hear that there are actually more flamenco shows in Japan now than there are in Spain, because it is so widespread. The guitarists played such pretty songs and you could tell the dancers were so passionate. When I thought of flamenco I thought of girls in big poofy, red dresses, but there was actually one female and one male dancer.

After the show we were taken to a nearby restaurant/bar where we were served endless tapas and sangria! My favorite tapas (a variety of appetizers) were the patatas bravas and cheese and potato croquettes. We met many other travelers at the bar. From an Australian man traveling through Spain for a conference that included bungee jumping one day and rock climbing the next, to two sophomore students participating in a study abroad experience on a ship, who had to sleep in cots with hundreds of ants crawling all over them in India, we could have stayed there for hours exchanging stories. However, we had a 4:30 a.m. wake up call to catch our plane back to Italy. Adios Barcelona… until 2026 (I have to see the Sagrada Familia completed, don’t I?).

San Pellegrino Flower Festival

San Pellegrino Flower Festival

Today was such a great spring day in Viterbo. The weather got up to 80 degrees outside! I woke up, had breakfast and headed to my last Travel Writing class to hand in my portfolio and take my final exam. After class I met Henal and we went to the San Pellegrino Flower Festival, which … Read more

Today was such a great spring day in Viterbo. The weather got up to 80 degrees outside! I woke up, had breakfast and headed to my last Travel Writing class to hand in my portfolio and take my final exam. After class I met Henal and we went to the San Pellegrino Flower Festival, which is to celebrate the start of the season! It was absolutely beautiful and made me so happy! Every piazza and street we entered was filled with hundreds of different, colorful flowers. Whenever the wind blew you could smell the fresh flowers. Lauren’s favorite, hydrangeas, were everywhere! She would have loved it. I wish she could have came to the festival!

flowerfestival

After the festival I went to the new gelataria that I have been wanting to go to. It opened a few weeks back and I always kept telling myself “Oh, I’ll have to go soon!” However, I realized that “soon” I will be going home!!! I don’t know where the time went. It flew by so quickly. I can’t believe I only have three full days left in Viterbo. There are so many little spots left to explore and cute little restaurants to try and gelato flavors left to taste! While I have been missing my family so much at home, I all of a sudden wish I could stay for a few more months! Today I don’t want to leave at all.

flowerfestival2

At the gelateria, called Crema and Cioccolata, I ordered a crepe with cookie and mint flavored gelato. I was expecting a nutella crepe with a scoop of gelato on top, but instead they made the crepe and put the scoops of gelato inside and folded it up. While the gelato melted everywhere and was a big puddle, it was still delicious and refreshing after walking around in the hot sun!

crepes

After my yummy crepe I walked back to the apartment to pack for my trip to London and Amsterdam tomorrow! Then I grabbed my final projects that I have been working on and headed to art class to hand them in and show my teacher my portfolio.

I wish time would slow down and that the next 10 days would go by slowly, but at the same time I am anxious to be with my family and friends at home. This experience has been so amazing and I can’t wait to make even more memories and experience the world further within the next few days. I better go since I have an early wake-up call tomorrow to catch a train to the airport. London’s calling! Maybe we will see the Queen!

Field Trip Fun

Field Trip Fun

The past two weekends the program set up field trips for us! Our first field trip was to Cascata delle Marmore, Marmore Waterfalls. These are man-made waterfalls, created by the ancient Romans. It is the tallest man-made waterfall in the world, coming in at 541-feet tall. As it turned to spring literally overnight in Viterbo, … Read more

waterfall

The past two weekends the program set up field trips for us! Our first field trip was to Cascata delle Marmore, Marmore Waterfalls. These are man-made waterfalls, created by the ancient Romans. It is the tallest man-made waterfall in the world, coming in at 541-feet tall. As it turned to spring literally overnight in Viterbo, we had perfect weather. That morning was the most peaceful one I’ve had in Italy. It was so nice to be outside, enjoying the sun. After the waterfalls we went to Lago di Piediluco, Piediluco Lake. We had lunch by the water and relaxed on the docks in the sunshine for the rest of the afternoon.

waterfall2

It was mom’s birthday that day and although I had a great day, I was anxious to get back to Viterbo and call her. I really miss mom and the first thing I’m doing when arriving back in the States is giving her the biggest hug possible.

This past weekend we went to a city called Capalbio. We first checked out the town and then we went to the beach for the afternoon! I underestimated the Italian sun and am now a burnt little lobster, but I had a lot of fun laying out on the beach and relaxing. After the beach we went to the Tarot Garden! The garden, which has 22 sculptures based on tarot cards, was built by Niki de Saint de Phalle. Her goal was to create a “small Eden” and she was inspired by Park Guell in Barcelona (which is where I will be going later on this week!). She actually lived in the garden while she was building it!

tarotgarden

I am so happy we have been having such beautiful weather. I have been spending most days in the park, going for runs, reading and working on drawings for art class. Flowers are blooming everywhere. I love springtime in Italy!

Shaffer Girls Take Italy

Check out my video of my unforgettable week, traveling with my sisters, here!


Check out my video of my unforgettable week, traveling with my sisters, here!

Shaffer Girls Take Italy: Rome

Shaffer Girls Take Italy: Rome

Wednesday: The last two days of our sister travels were spent in Rome. When we first got there, we checked into our hotel and headed to lunch. Laur and I shared pizza for lunch. The girls quickly realized that there were mainly two options in Italy: pizza or pasta. They were each on a rotating … Read more

Wednesday:
The last two days of our sister travels were spent in Rome. When we first got there, we checked into our hotel and headed to lunch. Laur and I shared pizza for lunch. The girls quickly realized that there were mainly two options in Italy: pizza or pasta. They were each on a rotating schedule, pizza one night, pasta the next, pizza the night after that… and so on. However, as mentioned before, we also broke up the pizza and pasta spree with nutella covered waffles and gelato for lunch on some days. One night I asked the girls if we could order bruschetta and Laur was iffy on whether or not she would like it since she doesn’t like tomatoes. However, after having it in Florence for the first time, she then ordered it two more times after that! I was so happy that she loved it!

The first afternoon in Rome was spent window shopping and walking around the city. We also made sure to visit the Trevi Fountain so that the girls could make their wishes and toss their coins in, ensuring them a return trip to Rome one day.

me

Our last day we went to the Colosseum! Although I have been there twice before, I never went inside since I wanted to experience it with my sisters. We all loved it! It was really interesting to walk around inside, especially knowing that there were actual fights to the death inside. After the Colosseum we headed to the Pantheon, doing some shopping along the way, and then made our way to the Sistine Chapel. Since I had already visited St.Peter’s Basilica, Linds suggested we see the Sistine Chapel instead. While we were all exhausted from walking around so much the past few days, it felt like it took years to finally reach the Sistine Chapel. However, it was worth seeing! The colors on the ceiling were so bright and it left me wondering how it could still be vibrant after all these years.

lindsnme

For our last meal together, it was a pasta night all around. After taking our time with dinner, we then headed to a gelateria that Linds and Val discovered by the Pantheon, called La Palma. It offers 150 flavors of gelato! As everyone knows how indecisive I am, it probably is no shock that it took me over 20 minutes to decide which flavor I wanted. I ended up with Kit Kat and Mars, a chocolate and caramel mixture. We cuddled up together on a bench inside the gelateria since it was cold out, enjoyed our last gelato together and each stated what our favorite part of our trip together was. Linds’ favorite was the duomo in Florence while Laur’s was the Colosseum, which is so funny considering Linds didn’t originally care to go to Florence and Laur didn’t have much interest in Rome. Val’s favorite was Cinque Terre and mine was the gondola ride in Venice. I love that each of our favorite memories happened in different places along our trip.

laurnme

I will never forget the week spent with my sisters and Val. While I am having the trip of a lifetime in Italy, every beautiful or amazing thing I see, I always wish that my family were there to experience it with me and that they had the opportunity to see it as well. I was so happy that my sisters were experiencing Italy right along with me. Laur and Linds are my best friends and this trip with them will forever be one of my favorite memories.

Shaffer Girls Take Italy: Cinque Terre

Shaffer Girls Take Italy: Cinque Terre

Sunday: Sunday we planned on taking the earliest train to Manarola, one of the five towns included in “Cinque Terre.” With luggage in tow, us four girls rolled our way to the train station, right up to the big screens displaying the train numbers, times and bins. Happy that I located our train on the … Read more

Sunday:

manarola

Sunday we planned on taking the earliest train to Manarola, one of the five towns included in “Cinque Terre.” With luggage in tow, us four girls rolled our way to the train station, right up to the big screens displaying the train numbers, times and bins. Happy that I located our train on the board, I continued scanning to the right to find which bin number to head towards. “Cancellato” I read. “What does that mean?” Laur and Linds both asked. This was news to me. I had never seen “cancellato” next to any train number before. I rolled my way to the ticket desk where I was informed that there was a strike in the Tuscan region and no one was sure when it would be over. Panic began to set in. We had planned for only one day in Cinque Terre. We needed time to get there to hike along the towns. We already bought our train tickets. We already booked our hotel for that night. Where else could we go? I normally would not have been so upset, but since Linds, Laur and Val were only here for less than a week, I was pretty flustered. I knew that I could go on one of my free weekends in April, but what if they never got a chance to see it?

“Go another day,” the lady at the train station told me. After seeing my face probably close to tears from disappointment, she then suggested taking a train to Pisa, followed by a train to La Spezia Centrale, and finally another to Manarola, but she wasn’t sure this would work either because of the strike. However, we all agreed to make the attempt. So, we made an unexpected stop in Pisa! Once there, we found that we had one hour until the next train to La Spezia Centrale, so I told the girls to go check out the Leaning Tower. I had already seen the Tower when I took a weekend trip to Siena, and I wanted to make sure they had their chance. So, I stayed at the train station with all of the luggage while the girls literally ran across Pisa to the Leaning Tower and back. They made it back with five minutes to spare and we hopped on the train and were on our way.

While getting on the train, there were two men that began helping us lug our luggage on board. We said “no grazie” repeatedly, but they continued to help anyways. I thought that the men were being nice, but as soon as we were seated, they came up to us with their hands out. The girls all looked at me confused, and from my time here the past few months I knew immediately that the men wanted money. “Two euro each,” one of the men said. I was frustrated and upset because this was not the first time that someone had helped me in Italy and I fell for it. I am so naive, always believing that they are just being nice. Each time though, they end up following me, demanding money for their help. I gave the man two euro so that he would walk away, but he kept repeating “Each. Two euro each.” It was already a rough morning so I said “No! We thought you were being nice,” and looked out the window so that the men would go away.

hiking

By 12:30 p.m. we successfully arrived in Manarola and were already exhausted from the morning’s activities! However, we were SO happy that we made it to Cinque Terre. Laur picked out the absolute cutest hotel. Although the hike up the steep hill to the hotel with all our luggage was quite humorous, as we were all gasping for air at the end, it was well worth it. As if the ocean view outside of our window wasn’t enough, we also had a pink-painted room with flower petals scattered across the bed.

vernazza

Although some of the trails were closed due to a mudslide, we didn’t let that stop us from making it a perfect day. We did some hiking, took tons of Pinterest-worthy pictures and hopped on a train to Vernazza, another of the five towns. Once there, we grabbed some gelato and relaxed on the rocks overlooking the town and the ocean. Vernazza and Manarola were the cutest of the five towns and I loved experiencing both. I fell in love with Cinque Terre and had the best time with my sisters and Val. Last stop for the Shaffer girls: Rome!

Shaffer Girls Take Italy: Florence

Shaffer Girls Take Italy: Florence

Saturday night: We had the perfect sunny day in Florence. Once we got there, we checked in to our hotel and set out for lunch. We got a little sidetracked along the way as we passed the duomo and Linds fell in love. She didn’t want to leave! We passed a gelateria on the way, … Read more

Saturday night:

sister

We had the perfect sunny day in Florence. Once we got there, we checked in to our hotel and set out for lunch. We got a little sidetracked along the way as we passed the duomo and Linds fell in love. She didn’t want to leave! We passed a gelateria on the way, called Bellamia, where we were persuaded into waffles… with nutella… and gelato… two scoops, for lunch. OK so we may not have needed that much persuading. They were so good and worth the sugar coma for the next few hours.

waffles

After lunch we made our way to Ponte Vecchio and explored around the Pitti Palace. Although I already visited Florence once before, this time it was so much different due to the weather, and of course who I was with. Every experience means so much more to me when I have the opportunity to share it with my family. The rest of the afternoon we walked around Florence to the shops and different sites. We then waited in line to climb to the top of the duomo. 463 steps and the work out of a lifetime later we made it to the top. Even the view from the top seemed different this time. Looking out onto the city, everything looked so much greener and livelier.

view

After the duomo we made our way through the streets and came across a cute restaurant for dinner, where we were thankful to take our time and rest our tired feet from our adventurous day. We then went back to our hotel to get some sleep before our 6:30 a.m. wake up call to catch the train to our next destination, Manarola. Here we come Cinque Terre!