Weekend 11: Florence, Italia Part II!

I finally finished going through the several hundred photos I took in Florence between all the homework I’ve had, but more on that later. Finally, Florence!!

The first night I got there (Friday) I was pretty exhausted after 4 hours of sleep and a day in Pisa, so I went to sleep early. This allowed me to then wake up early the next morning and start wandering around for a little while. First I went right down the street to see the Ponte Vecchio on the river Arno, a Medieval bridge in Florence.

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The covered pathways alongside the river, called the Corridoio Vasariano, were made for the Medici family (like everything else in Florence) so they didn’t have to walk with everyone else from the Pitti Palace to the Ufizi. And that sculpture building? That’s the Ufizi!

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Okay back to the bridge. It’s known for the silver and gold shops on it, which are now all touristy.

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Next, I wandered to the Palazzo Vecchio, looked at the sculptures outside, and then got a ticket to go in later that day.

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Then I walked back down to the river, but went in the opposite direction of the Ponte Vecchio towards Sainte Croce.

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I considered going inside, but the line was already kind of long, so after looking around I headed back, towards the Duomo.

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Then I met up with my friend Leon who I was staying with and I borrowed another SACI student’s museum pass so I could skip lines and get in places for free. First, we went to the Bargello, a sculpture museum. It’s home to some amazing work, including Donatello’s famous David.

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Next we went to see some markets, and passed the Palazzo Medici Riccardi. It was closed thanks to the holiday on Friday. Also a dollar bill-ding which we don’t really know what its deal is.

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We stopped to have lunch near Santa Maria Novella, and I had some amazing pasta.


Then, we went inside, and I got to see Masaccio’s Holy Trinity, aka the birth of linear perspective! The cathedral is beautiful, too.

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We walked around and saw a few other things, like the oldest pharmacy in the city (it’s super fancy) and then I used my ticket for the Palazzo Vecchio.

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Sunday morning, my day started with the Ufizi! This was one of the things I was most excited to see in Florence. You can’t take photos inside, although there is a great view from the top where I took some photos. The art is, of course, incredible. I’ve seen Gothic art plenty of times before, but for some reason seeing it at the Ufizi was a completely different experience. And then there’s the Botticelli room. It really shocked me, not because the moment you walk in you are faced with Primavera and Birth of Venus, but because the Portinari Alterpiece was there, which I had no idea. I sat in front of it for a while, trying to figure out how many of me could fit in it. I’d say at least 15. I also almost had a panic attack because I realized I went through the entire Ufizi and missed the Venus of Urbino (I’m totally serious, I think I had a nightmare where that happened) and then I back-tracked through the museum against the flow of traffic until I found it unceremoniously placed in a hallway towards the end of the museum. Everyone was walking passed it, like it was nothing. I do not understand.

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After the Ufizi, I got a day pass for the Duomo.

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Except, since it was Sunday, the dome wasn’t open, and half the stuff the pass gets you into closed by 1:00. I had to make some decisions, so I decided to start off with climbing Giotto’s Tower, since the line was still short and I could get a great view of the city. It was super windy but the climb restored some faith in my deteriorating physical health. Going back down was actually way worse. Anyway, here are some amazing views!

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When I finally got back down, the cathedral was about to open and the line was already getting really long, so I decided to just join it since the museum and baptistery were about to close anyway.

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Similarly to the Pisa Cathedral, the Duomo (Santa Maria del Fiore) is incredibly decorated on the outside while being very minimal on the inside. Well, except for the dome of course. For those of you who are unfamiliar, the dome was designed by Brunelleschi and was a major architectural achievement, considered to be one of the first main events of the Renaissance. The inside of the dome is covered in a fresco started by Vasari (yeah that guy was all over everything in Florence).

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The baptistery was closed at this point, so I hung around outside for a bit, admiring Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise which always has a group of people in front of it. The real doors are in the museum, which was also closed. Also, that gigantic Medici crest is pretty impressive. I bet they’re all happily resting in their graves. Oh, I went to go see their tombs. I forgot to mention, it was something I did on Saturday. You aren’t allowed to take photographs in there so I forgot. See, this is why I am a photographer.

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After the Duomo, it was time for the one other thing I knew I absolutely HAD to do while in Florence… go to the Galleria Accademia and see Michelangelo’s David. You aren’t allowed to take photographs in there, but it was amazing. I honestly did not realize how big he is, even though the replica in front of the Palazzo Vecchio is the same size. He dominates the entire Galleria, and while the other works in the museum are nice, they don’t stand a chance. Sorry, guys.

After that, I had some more amazingly delicious cheap pizza. Seriously, the whole Italian pizza thing is no joke.


Then, I went back to Santa Croce, only this time I went inside. It was awesome!!! It’s basically a giant, beautiful, indoor graveyard for famous Italians. Some of its notable inhabitants are Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, and Rossini, plus a giant monument to Dante (but he couldn’t be buried there because he was banished from the city). Oh, and it has a wooden ceiling. I don’t know why but this really surprised me.

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By the time I exited the basilica, the sun was setting and making everything orange and beautiful. Outside the basilica was this row of casts made from sculptures based on Dante’s and Virgil’s depictions of hell. They were pretty cool, especially in this setting!

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We crossed the river after taking a ton of sunset photos, and then went grocery shopping. And I got gelato, duh.

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That night we had a potluck with other SACI students which was one of the best meals I’ve had all semester. Oh do I miss home cooked meals. Eventually, I had to go to sleep, and then wake up early to take the bus back to Pisa to take my flight back to Paris. As soon as  I touched down, I got to go out into the freezing rain. Oh, Paris.

So, Italy was an amazing, packed, delicious, beautiful break from Paris. It was definitely an unusual way to start November, in the heat eating ice cream and walking around in capris and a t shirt. It was also my last break, as I have been working hard in the cold since then. The end of the semester is nigh! But more on that in another post. It’s almost 2AM and I’m really, really tired. I just needed to finally get this post done so I can catch up with everything else…

Weekend 11: Pisa & Pizza, Italia Part I!

I left Paris cold and raining on Friday morning after only 4 hours of sleep, due to allowing myself a little bit of Halloween fun the previous night. Since I was flying on a small, budget airline, I had to take a bus outside of Paris to one of the smaller airports. It seemed as though the moment the plane touched down in Pisa I started sweating. A few days prior to leaving, I decided to spend the day in Pisa, because why not? I didn’t see the point in being there so early, with the city being so accessible from the airport, and not going to at least see the leaning tower for the afternoon before taking the bus to Florence. I took the bus from the airport to the city train station, where I left my bag at the luggage check and then headed in the direction of the Piazza del Duomo. I took my time, wandering where I wanted and enjoying the sun. I immediately regretted my last-minute decision to not bring my sunglasses. Everything about Italy is warm; the colors, the light, the people. It’s such a refreshing change from the coldness of Paris.

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After wandering, I realized how hungry I was. However, I also didn’t have enough cash on me to buy a meal, and I had passed up several ATMs. Just as I approached the Piazza, I decided I needed to backtrack to find an ATM fast because I was so hungry. This took up a good half hour at least, which combined with the heat was frustrating. Once I finally found a working ATM, I headed back to a place I saw with a view of the leaning tower and an amazing deal of pizza, fries, and a drink for 7 euros (unheard of in Paris). The pizza was delicious, and it was the first pizza I’ve had in Europe that I could actually eat with a fork and knife (there’s no such thing as finger food in Europe)!

My first Italian pizza!!

My first Italian pizza!!

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After eating, I walked around the Piazza for a while and then got a ticket to go into the cathedral and the baptistery. I initially wanted to climb the leaning tower, but then decided it was getting too late since the line was pretty long.

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Italian cathedrals are soooo very different from French cathedrals, or really any of the Northern European cathedrals that I’ve been in. I think I prefer the Northern ones, but of course these are impressive in their own right. For one, they are massive. This was by far the largest cathedral I’ve ever been in. They are also relatively plain inside compared to Northern Cathedrals, which spare no centimeter of wall, floor, or ceiling from decoration. Italian cathedrals also have much smaller stained glass windows. The outsides are decorated in colorful patterns, but the overall whiteness of it all is still very present. I think these photographs make it seem more decorative than it is, probably because that’s what I ended up being most interested in! Also, I don’t think any of these properly convey how massive it is. Just go there for yourself and see!


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A reliquary with a human skull!

A reliquary with a human skull!

I didn’t know what to expect in the baptistery, since I’d never been in one before. It’s pretty plain, but there were two things that made it worth it. One, if you go to the top level, one of the windows has part of the screen cut out so you can take a photograph looking directly at the cathedral, with the leaning tower in the background. And two, while I was in there, a woman stood in the middle on the lower level and started vocalizing, and you could hear it echo throughout the baptistery. It was haunting.

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After that, I headed back to the train station to get my bag and then take a bus to the airport to take a bus to Florence.


Why do they even have this sign?

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By the time I got to Florence, it was dark and I was pretty tired. I just settled in and had a relaxing night before going to sleep early. Stay tuned for Italia Part II: Firenze!

Week 7: Playing Tourist

Monday started off with my internship, which was spent finding quotes Annie used for the French publication of her book in their original English translations. This is not an easy task, but I’m motivated by the fact that this is for a really important book that is going to be published by Yale. It’s pretty intimidating!

For class that afternoon we met at the Pompidou to get library cards to the Kandinsky library and see the Roy Lichtenstein retrospective. The Kandinsky is a reference library that claims to have every art book ever published. I’m not sure if this is true, but I know I will be using it a lot this semester. I was conveniently able to look up a quote for my internship while I was there, too. We spent several hours looking through books full of amazing works that are difficult to find otherwise. Some of my favorites were a book of Claes Oldenburg’s sketches and a beautiful book of Andreas Gursky’s work. I’ve decided that he is a perfect photographer and one of my favorites. I really want to see his work in person.

Then, we went to the Lichtenstein retrospective. This was probably one of the most complete exhibitions I’ve ever seen. I don’t quite know how to explain, it, but it was like reading a book. By the time I had gone through the whole thing, I felt completely satisfied. I can honestly say I’ve seen every Lichtenstein work of art that you would ever want to see, and I learned so much about him as an artist that I didn’t previously know. He was incredibly inter-disciplinary and art historically-aware. I’ve always appreciated him stylistically, but I really had no idea where he started as an artist and where his work went after his most well-known pieces. Considering how thorough this exhibition was, I am really excited that I will be in Paris for the Pompidou’s next exhibition on Dali. If it’s as good as this one, they will be two of the best exhibitions I’ve ever seen.

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Tuesday morning I had my internship after French, where I went through every chapter of Annie’s book and copied all the quotes I need to find translations for. I will now get to spend some quality time at the American Library in Paris, because she will be out of the country for the next few weeks. Tuesday I also had a major scare with my computer. It glitched during an update and looked like my computer had completely restarted and I lost all of my information. After freaking out for a while, I restarted my computer and everything was back to normal like nothing ever happened.

After that stressful, short amount of time, I decided that even though I had a good amount of work to do, I really needed to do something fun and relax. One of the things I’ve been realizing is that even though I’ve been in Paris for practically a month and a half, I haven’t fully let myself be a tourist, and I think this has been causing me a lot of unnecessary pressure. I decided to dedicate the afternoon to letting myself be a tourist. First, however, I made a stop to do what I has originally intended to do last Sunday: get second ear piercings. This is something I’ve been wanting to do forever but just never did for no particular reason, and decided to just do it since the place I went to was actually pretty inexpensive.

Right across from the jewelry store is the Saint-Jacques Tower, which is all that remains of a cathedral that once stood here. Nicolas Flamel was a patron of the church and is actually buried here!


I kept walking down the street to the Paris Hotel de Ville.

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And then walked across the bridge over to Notre Dame.

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Finally, I was actually at Notre Dame during the day!

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And then I went inside…


The way the cathedral is lit on the inside, it looks like an HDR photograph in real life. It’s crazy.

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After Notre Dame, I wandered down the Seine and through the rest of the island, which was pretty empty.

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I then crossed the Pont des Arts, one of the several lock bridges in Paris.


After that I walked down along the Louvre and Tuileries until I got to the Metro stop on my line and headed home.

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Oh, and if you ever wondered how they move things into tiny little Parisian apartments with 2 person elevators, this is it:


I have so many more photos, so I’ll be putting them all on Facebook as well!

The rest of my week was pretty uneventful; just schoolwork. I did go to Chipotle for lunch on Thursday because I can only go so long without guacamole. I’m not even a big Chipotle fan but man, it was so good.

Day 4: Arles, Part I

Our hotel lobby in the morning.

Our hotel lobby in the morning.IMG_20130822_223915We started the day early with breakfast at the hotel, then headed across the river into town.

Crossing the bridge again.

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We followed our maps and our noses through the streets.

The old buildings are so amazing. It’s crazy to me that these are part of people’s every day lives, and they’re older than most structures in the US!

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There are also a ton of incredible doors.

There are also a ton of incredible doors.


We then arrived at the Place de la Republique, which joins the Obelisque d’Arles, Arles town hall, Chapelle Sainte-Anne, and St. Trophime.

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We then entered St. Trophime, which was absolutely amazing. I think I have a thing for cathedrals, seeing as one of my favorite things I saw in Germany was the Kölner Dom.


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After St. Trophime, we went across the Place to Chapelle Saint-Anne, inside of which was part of the current-running photography festival. This yearly festival turns the entire city into a gallery. Each space features a different photographer. Since we were only there for one day, we decided to just go into this exhibition. It was an excellent show featuring Chilean photographer Sergio Larrain. We also bought some merchandise for the festival; I got two posters.


The exhibition space.

One of the posters I got.

One of the posters I got.

We then headed outside across the Place again, this time to the St. Trophime Cloister. You have to buy a ticket to see it, but it’s worth it because the proceeds go towards the intense restoration they are currently doing!

This guy was out on the Place playing stereotypical French songs on the accordion for quite a while!

This guy was out on the Place playing stereotypical French songs on the accordion for quite a while!

Passed while entering the cloister.

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Now I realize this is an incredibly long, image-heavy post, but I’m only half way through our day! So, I’m going to split it into two posts. Yeah, it was a really long day. I also didn’t put all of my photos up on here, so I think I’ll put them on Facebook, too! Arles, Part II will be coming soon.