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!

Sunsets, Sailboats & Santorini

Sunsets, Sailboats & Santorini

This is the first year as far back as I can remember that I did not go to grandma’s with Laur to color Easter eggs. It has always been one of my favorite traditions… along with getting dressed up in pretty, spring dresses for the Easter church service and eating far too many Reese’s eggs … Read more

This is the first year as far back as I can remember that I did not go to grandma’s with Laur to color Easter eggs. It has always been one of my favorite traditions… along with getting dressed up in pretty, spring dresses for the Easter church service and eating far too many Reese’s eggs for a girl to count. Although I wish I was there with my family to celebrate, I can’t say that I’m hating laying out by the pool in the 70 degree weather in Santorini, Greece.

The past few days have been nothing but amazing. Best. Spring break. EVER! And we still have two more days ahead of us. I flew to Greece with my friend Olivia and we were greeted at the airport by Nikos, the hotel manager. He drove us to the hotel, giving us many restaurant and day trip recommendations and Greek 101 lessons along the way. After showing us around, he informed us that he was going to upgrade us to a superior suite! Needless to say, we loved Nikos from day one. After resting at the hotel for a bit, we got ready and went out for our first Greek dinner. We went to a restaurant called Naoussa, where I ordered dolmades, grapevine leaves stuffed with rice. They were… interesting. Not something I would ever order again, but I am glad I tried it. For dessert, we stopped at a bakery where I got milopita, a Greek version of apple pie with cinnamon. Definitely made up for the grape leaves!

sunset

The next day we got the full Greek experience. First, we had breakfast by the pool. Greek yogurt with honey, a Greek cake with jam and orange juice! I now love Greek yogurt with honey and look forward to it every morning. We then made our way to the city center, only about a five minute walk from the hotel. Most of the houses and buildings are all white cave houses with pastel blue, pink or orange domes and doors. The colors and houses make me so happy; they are the cutest in the world. We then took a cable car down to the port, where we got on a sail boat for a boat cruise to the volcano. We got off at the volcano and had over an hour to hike to the top and enjoy the amazing view. I loved this volcano hike much more than Mt. Vesuvius as it was so warm out and instead of snow on the volcano, there were gorgeous pink flowers and large straw umbrella awnings and benches to sit on along the way in case you got tired.

boatcruise

After the volcano, we got back on the boat to go to the hot springs. Once there, people began to strip down and jump in. Now you would think that when I saw everyone’s faces turning pale white when they jumped in and heard their gasps, I would have known better than to get in the water… but it appears that I didn’t pick up on those clues. A lady at the front of the boat saw me hesitating and promised that if I didn’t do it, I would regret it forever. So with that, I stripped down to my bikini and plunged into the Aegean Sea. I can’t even describe the first few minutes in the water. I literally could not breathe. All air was sucked out of me and I was left coughing for air and laughing from shock at the same time. It was the coldest water I have ever felt in my entire life. I was then informed that I had to swim 15 meters to get to the hot springs. So, after urging Olivia to hurry into the water, I began to swim like a fish. Olivia had to turn around and get back on the boat because it was that intolerable, but I was so determined. If only I knew that when arriving at the “hot springs,” the water would be only about five degrees warmer. “Where is it hot?!” I gasped when I arrived near the other jumpers. “Nowhere!” they all replied through chattering teeth. So, ten seconds later they all began to swim back to the boat. Not wanting to get stuck in the arctic cold water waiting in line at the boat’s ladder, I waited for five minutes and tried to build my courage to start back. God was probably a bit confused as to why I was so worried about the small swim, considering how He’s carried me through this entire study abroad experience so far, but I prayed the entire way back that I would have enough breath to make it back to the boat. HOT springs?!?! Yea no. Worthwhile experience? Absolutely. (We were then informed that there were storms and heavy rains for the past three days before we arrived and that may be why the water was so cold. Thanks for the late notice buddies).

donkeyride

Instead of taking the cable car back up to the city center, we opted for donkey rides!!! It was a bit scary as the old, Greek men were a bit rough and pushy and the donkeys literally ran up all 600 some steep steps, but it was one of the coolest things I have ever done. We then did some souvenir shopping and then I ordered my first gyro for lunch! It was so good! I can’t believe I would never try them before at the fair. We then went back to the hotel and relaxed by the pool for the rest of the afternoon before getting ready for dinner. We ended up at the cutest little outside restaurant where we ordered waffles. Waffles are apparently a big deal in Greece! Who knew? I ordered a waffle with fresh fruit and honey. It was delicious! The entire day felt like it was straight out a movie. I had the perfect day in Greece.

gyro

The next day we went to the Red Beach, apparently the only Red Beach in the world. It was cool to see. Along the way we stopped at a little house where a lady was selling homemade wines, honey and other small products. She let us taste the wine and figs, which reminded me of fig newtons from home. That night we ended up at another waffle place for a late dinner/dessert. This time I ordered a waffle with caramel baked apples, cinnamon and honey… with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. SO good! When we got back, Nikos said “Why are you girls here?! Why are you not out? Have fun! I take you out!” So, we agreed to go out the next night for dinner.

That night we got all dressed up and went with Nikos, and his friend George, to Naoussa. He made reservations for 10 p.m. and told us it usually gets very crowded around then since Greeks eat dinner around 9:30 p.m. every night! And I thought 8 p.m. was late for dinner in Italy! He recommended that I try a traditional Greek dish called moussaka, a sort of casserole with ground meat, eggplant and potatoes. I never thought I liked eggplant and I am definitely not a fan of any meat besides chicken, but when will I ever get to come back to Greece? So, I ordered moussaka and loved it! It is my favorite dish I have had here. It reminded me of lasagna, but it was even better.

We sat and talked for over two hours and learned so much about Greek culture. We learned that without donkeys, Santorini would not be the same as it is today. When building cave houses, the Greeks would have to hang by harnesses. There was no way to put rocks on a truck or cart so high up, so the donkeys would carry the rocks up and down the narrow paths. Without them, the architecture would be completely different. Also, most of the buildings have arcs and domes because of an earthquake that previously shook Santorini. The construction of the arcs allowed for more stable buildings.

I asked Nikos if he plans on staying in Santorini for a while and he said he doesn’t make plans anymore. “When you make plans, the gods are laughing,” he said. After much insisting that we were way too full, Nikos and George still ordered two traditional Greek desserts for our table to share. When I tried to give Nikos money for our meal, he said it was an insult and that they covered the bill. George drove us back to the hotel and said goodnight, followed by “be my Facebook friend!”

Waffles or Pancakes?

Waffles or Pancakes?

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The age-old question must be answered. This is a very simple question. Which do you prefer, waffles or pancakes? I am a morning person, which means I love breakfast and everything about it. I love eating cereal, eggs, ham, bacon, yogurt and fruit, but when it comes to waffles or pancakes, I am not sure which I prefer sometimes.

My best friends and I cannot be better friends simply because we cannot agree on the biggest dilemma of them all. One day over the summer, we decided to go onto chatroulette.com and surveyed everyone to find out if they prefer waffles or pancakes. One rule of quick advice: go on that website during the day, it’s simply safer for your viewing. After around four hours of polling strangers, we came across a pretty even battle. It was like flipping a coin; you have the same chances every time. There are simple reasons why people like one or the other – sometimes the taste, sometimes it is easier to spread the butter or sometimes the pool of syrup or other fruit fits just perfect in those little pockets of the waffle. No matter what it is, people have a simple reason that forces them to choose one over the other.

We had to get more creative with this. We came up with a few other possible scenarios.

  • Best pancakes you’ve ever eaten VS. best waffles you’ve ever eaten
  • Frozen waffles VS. frozen pancakes
  • Kresge Court waffle maker VS. chef-made pancakes
  • Mother-made waffles VS. Mother-made pancakes
  • Gross waffles VS gross pancakes
  • Which one taste better at dinner?
  • Why isn’t French toast in this poll?
  • Why can’t I make two waffles with a pancake in the middle?
  • Well… why wouldn’t you make two pancakes with a waffle in the middle?

The list goes on, so much that you eventually get back to the same question, waffles or pancakes? I have to know everyone’s opinion on this important matter. Sometimes I can’t go to sleep simply because I can’t believe how even sided it is! There has to be a definitive one-sided winner.

Let me know what you prefer. Overall, I prefer pancakes.