My 23 Hour Trip

Phew! It’s been a busy couple of days! Sorry for being away this weekend, but I had a whirlwind trip that lasted a whole 23 hours.

I got to see this little face

Saturday morning I woke up bright and early to head to my parents’ house in Upstate New York. The reason for this quick trip?

Trading in this baby…

For this!!

Look who’s joining the 21st century!!!

I was super excited to finally get rid of the heavy, useless brick that was my Blackberry. I had it for a whole two years and hated it almost immediately. I got it in that little sweet spot time where the iPhone was available, but it wasn’t SUPER popular yet. The whole concept of playing games with people like Draw Something, or Word With Friends didn’t exist. I liked my Blackberry, but recently with my upgrade due, I knew that I wanted an iPhone 4S. My Blackberry sucked. It froze. It deleted things out of the blue. The battery life was a joke. Time to go.

I even ordered my iPhone case weeks ahead of time in preparation. Isn’t it adorable? I got it on Etsy from the Pretty Smitten shop. The case wasn’t cheap, but it is gorgeous! It’s a quality hard case, and it arrived quickly and easily. Working with Elizabeth was fabulous! I highly recommend her Etsy services.

I’m still trying to figure out my phone – I feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface of how to utilize it to its full potential!

I also did ‘home’ things. I got my highlights touched up and a much needed haircut. I haven’t been able to find a hairdresser in Boston that I LOVE, so I take advantage of getting my hair done at home. My hairdresser has been cutting my hair for over 10 years, and she’s amazing. I also got a pedicure. It was MUCH NEEDED! Saturday night I met up with an old friend who recently got engaged! Congrats, Amanda!

Sunday morning, I got up at 8am to head back to Boston. On the way back, I decided to stop at Ikea. As you read earlier, Bernie and I finished painting the final rooms of his condo, so it was time to start decorating. Bernie HATES Ikea, but I love it. So I took a solo trip and got a pretty good haul of stuff! I have some plans for the living room!

I got back to Boston around 3:30 in the afternoon. After a quick trip to Whole Foods for groceries and a shower, I reunited with Bernie for dinner. After making dinner, I finally got to sit down!

I’m tired just thinking about this weekend. Glad that I’m home!

Readers: How was your weekend? Do you have an iPhone? Any fun fitness/health apps I should download? Do you play Draw Something or Words with Friends? I do — username: BlondeBostonian

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Travel Tuesday: Monaco

Happy Tuesday everyone! This weekend was post-less because Bernie and I spent 9 hours Saturday and 9 hours Sunday doing this:

We primed and painted 3 rooms in his condo. The previous owner picked some pretty atrocious colors, so it was time to get rid of them. Goodbye royal blue kitchen! We’re completely exhausted, but recovering. We still have the big living room and a tiny hallway left. Of course, we leave the biggest and smallest areas left. Don’t ask why.

This week on Travel Tuesday, is our short pit stop in Monaco: the land of the rich and famous. After a day resting on the beach, we headed back to the hotel to get all dressed up to go to Monaco. On the way, we stopped by the side of the road to take pictures and pop some bottles of champagne!

Monaco is the second smallest country in the world and is governed under a monarchy by Prince Albert. He and wife Charlene Wittstock had just gotten married, so the whole town had both the Monaco flag and the South African flag (where Charlene is from). Our first stop was the church where Prince Albert got married, Saint Nicholas Cathedral. It was beautiful and peaceful — also where Grace Kelly is buried, along with other members of the family.

Then we walked to the royal palace. There was some sort of event going on — lots of expensive cars and royal guards.

The view from the palace area over the water and port was incredible. All of the yachts were in the port. There was so much money in Monaco, you could feel it!

After some pictures, we had an awesome dinner. Then it was on to the casino — the Monte Carlo.

The casino was so cool! As we walked to the casino, we saw expensive car after expensive car! Bentleys were everywhere, along with Mercedes, BMW, Ferrari, and Lamborghinis. The casino itself was beautiful. I wasn’t allowed to take photos inside, but it was full of gold leaf, glass, beautiful high ceilings, and carved walls. I felt like I was inside a museum. We only played the 5 Euro roulette table. Our choices were that or the 20 Euro blackjack tables or slots. Other than that, everything else was closed off to us (because we couldn’t afford it). I ended up winning 10 Euro, but then quickly lost it, breaking even. Bernie did worse — he lost 20 Euro. I guess I’m just better at gambling 😉

Until next time!

2011: A Year in Review

Wow, 2011 has come and gone in such a flash! Things have changed quite a bit in the last 12 months. Here are some of my highlights:

NYE 2011: Spent ringing in 2011 with some of my favorite people
Late January: Celebrated my 23rd birthday at The Harp
February: ALMOST saw my beloved Northeastern Huskies beat Boston College in the Beanpot ice hockey tournament on Valentines day. Unfortunately, I’ll have to wait until next year.
March: Celebrated St. Patrick’s day, Boston style

April: I studied by butt off and I finished my final class of my undergraduate career!
Early May: I graduated from Northeastern!
Late May: I spent Memorial Day weekend on the Cape with my favorite people
June: We celebrated the Boston Bruins winning the Stanley Cup with a ridiculous parade downtown. I had the best seat in the house!

June: I PR’d in the Freihofer’s Run for Women in Albany and was in the paper!
July: Celebrated Bernie’s 24th birthday dressed like a fool for pub golf around BostonJuly/August: Bernie and I traveled for two weeks to Italy, France, and Spain

August: I packed up my college apartment that I had for two years, and Bernie’s offer on a condo gets accepted after 6 months of searching!
September: I moved! And Bernie and I celebrated our official 1 year anniversary
Late September: I ran the Northeastern Alum big dog 5k for the second year in a row.
Early October: Bernie moved into his new condo, and demolished his bathroom — he’s a proud homeowner!

October: Bernie passed his series 6 exam and he began studying for his series 63
Early November: Bernie passed his series 63 exam!
Mid November: My friend Lauren and I held our second annual She’s the First fundraiser, Boston Gives Back, and raised almost $1,700!
December: I started my blog, Blonde Bostonian

Wow, quite a year. There have been so many changes this year – from graduating college and joining the working world, Bernie becoming a homeowner at 24, and traveling the world – I cannot wait to see what 2012 has to offer. There have been some pretty rough bumps along the way, but I’m going to try to focus on the positives in 2012. I’m slowly starting to figure out this whole post-graduate thing: it’s a work in progress.

Happy New Year!

And thank you for reading and joining me on my journey so far.

Travel Tuesday: Last Days of Florence

Hello friends! I hope everyone is enjoying their Tuesday. Only one more work day is between me and visiting my hometown for Christmas! Bernie and I are leaving tomorrow after work to head to NY for a couple days. I always enjoy making the 3-hour trip with someone else; buses are NOT my favorite way to travel home for sure, so I’m definitely thankful for that. Unfortunately, he will be leaving on Christmas eve to head back to MA to visit his family, and I will be stuck with Greyhound to head back to Boston alone. Joy.

Speaking of traveling, I thought I would continue to share my summer travels with a new weekly thing I’ll be doing called Travel Tuesday. These posts will include overviews of some current and past travels. I hope you guys enjoy! Check out the first two posts about my European Trip, part 1 and part 2.

After a long day of climbing the Duomo, touring the city, and trying out the local eats, the whole tour went out to dinner at a restaurant that looked over the beautiful Florence countryside. We drove for a good twenty minutes through some rolling hills that our tour bus barely fit on and finally arrived at the restaurant. There was some sangria and finger food waiting for us and we spent a little time eating and taking photos. Everyone was dressed to impress.

Then we all went inside and sat down for dinner. As like with other group dinners, we didn’t get much choice with food, but we did get one bottle of wine for every two people. Bernie isn’t much of a wine drinker, so often during these group dinners, I had to drink for two. Normally, this wasn’t a problem, as we often had to split one bottle for like 4 people. Lets just say the drink was flowing very freely.

The dinner included a pig leg that was brought out literally on fire.

The food this dinner was not the best. The pork was super dry and not very interesting. I guess that’s the price you pay for going as a group. Some of the tour group dinners were fantastic, this one wasn’t, but the alcohol was plentiful and everyone was in good spirits.

Our tour guide and bus driver singing

Then, things got a little crazy. Giuseppe brought out this alcohol for everyone to try. I forgot what it was called but it was literally like 90% alcohol. It was yellow and looked scary as the devil, and tasted about the same. I thought I was going to choke afterward. Soon, some of the guys started doing more shots of it.

Then the whole group took the tour bus to a local club, “Space”. The club scene in Europe is insanity. The drinks are very strong, the men are very pushy, and the music is loud and fast. Overall, we had an awesome time. I highly suggest trying the club scene in Italy. Between nights out in Rome and Florence, we had a great time.

we had some pre-club fun on the bus

Next week: We leave the comforts of the Italian language and Italy and head off to France.

Has anyone else experienced the Italian nightlife? What did you think? Also been to Florence? What were some of your highlights?

Italy – Part Two

I hope everyone’s Tuesday is going well. It was actually sunny in Boston today!

Last week, I shared part one of the two-week vacation my boyfriend and I took to Europe this summer. This week, I thought I would share part two, which includes our final stops in Italy.

After leaving Rome, we got on the bus to travel onward to Florence. During the bus ride, we stopped for a couple hours in a small medieval town called San Gimignano. As we drove up the hill to the town center, we passed thousands upon thousands of acres of olive and grape fields. That day was literally the only day that it rained the entire trip and the countryside looked pretty spectacular in the mist, so I could only imagine what it looked like during the day. Of course, all of our jackets and rain stuff was packed in our suitcases under the bus, so we had to make do with what we had, which were two hoodies. No worries.

Walking through the town, we felt like we were walking back in time. The architecture was incredible! After getting meat sandwiches and eating them under an awning to get out of the rain, we walked around, and eventually made our way up towards the top of the town.

The views were spectacular! Too bad it was raining so much, as I’m sure on a clear day we could see much more. After a couple hours we met back up with the bus and made our way to Florence!

Upon arriving in Florence, we checked into our hotel. This was my FAVORITE hotel of the entire trip! It looked like it was an old apartment building or house made into a hotel; there were probably 20 different staircases, and we all got lost trying to find our rooms. Every floor had a sitting area with different magazines and books. There was period furniture and decor — so Italian! Our room was the cutest thing in the world, including the tiny bathroom that Bernie did NOT fit in. This became a theme of the trip.

The first night there, we did a little walking tour of the city center. We saw some statues, and walked around a bit before heading off to a group dinner. Bernie FINALLY got his steak at dinner — the balsamic steak. Apparently, we ate it wrong, but he enjoyed it all the same.

Florence Day 2

We began day two in Florence with a leather shop tour. Florence is the leather capital of Italy so we went to a leather shop to learn how they treat leather, how to recognize real leather, and how they make items out of leather. It was short and sweet. I was a little disappointed because I thought we would be walking through a factory, but instead, we sat in a room and the woman explained everything to us in about 15 minutes. Then it was time to shop. I picked up a bunch of souvenirs from the shop and even watched them emboss letters on one of the souvenir items.

Then it was tour time! Since we were spoiled with Pietre, our incredible and funny tour guide from Rome, we had high expectations. Our guide in Florence was very nice and she had A LOT to fit into an hour walking tour. We saw the copy of the Statue of David, Piazza della Repubblica, some really awesome bridges, (including the only one that Hitler didn’t bomb in WWII — apparently he liked it) the baptistery, Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, and the bell tower.

After walking around, we decided to climb the Duomo with Clinton and Holly, two Contiki friends. The tour guide said that it would take about half an hour to climb all 400ish steps to the top. We decided we were up for the challenge! As we climbed, we noticed how small the staircases were. Bernie could barely fit in a lot of them.

He must have hit his head about 4 times going up and down. If you were over my height (5’4″) you were going to have problems. At one point, the staircases go from two to just one staircase to go up and down. There were some traffic jams, but people were mostly friendly and courteous. Then we got to the dome section.

Holy cow! We didn’t realize that the inside of the duomo was painted with such detail. The fresco on the inside is called “The Last Judgement” which features the seven layers of hell. We were in awe! Talk about worth it!

Before we knew it, we made it to the top. The view from the top of the Duomo is worth every painful step and every bumped head. I just wanted to shout “I’m the king of the world!” at the top of my lungs. It was a gorgeous clear day and we could see for miles and miles. We took a million pictures and spent a good 20 minutes up there scouting out houses that looked cool. We found one with a pool on top!

After making our way carefully down, we worked up an appetite and found a tiny sandwich shop that our tour guide had suggested. When I say tiny, I mean TINY! It was literally maybe 50 square feet and had a counter and wall shelves with drinks and other items. It was also 200 feet away from the pizza place that the Jersey Shore kids worked in – go figure. I got a delicious meat, cheese, and arugula sandwich while Bernie went off with Clinton to go get one of Florence’s delicacies, Lampredotto, aka: the fourth stomach of the cow. Immediately upon hearing what it was, I was not interested. When he came back with it, it looked like meat in some sort of spicy broth. Sounds promising.

I will kid you not, it was good. There were some parts of it that were a little too gelatinized for my liking. But overall it was good. The tripe (that’s basically what it is) was tender and the broth was to DIE for! Spicy and full of flavor. Apparently it didn’t always look this good however. Bernie said to me, “If you saw what it looked like when they were making it, you wouldn’t be eating it.” I guess they pulled the lampredotto from a big vat and just slapped it on the flattop in it’s full glory before cutting it up and mixing it with the broth. Yum.

Once we were done, we headed back to the hotel for a clubbing night out in Florence. A summary of our drunken dinner and trip to “Space” is coming next week, kiddos!

Summer, summer, summertime!

SIKE! I wish it was still summertime! Unfortunately, the trees have dropped their leaves and winter is almost upon us. We put the Christmas tree is up in my boyfriend’s (B) condo over the weekend, so that must mean that Christmas is REALLY coming.

"Oh Christmas tree!"

If you live in New England, you know how harsh the winters can be. Snow? Rain? Sleet? Frozen temps? We get them all, and usually within a 24 hour period.

In an attempt to not think about the impending weather, I keep thinking about summer. And when I think about this past summer, I think of the amazing trip that I took to Europe!

B and I took a 2 week trip through Italy, France, and Spain via Contiki, a tour group that caters to 18-35 year olds. It was the trip of a lifetime, and I thought I would share with you guys some highlights from our trip!

 

Rome, Italy (days 1-3):

B and I arrived to Rome, Italy after traveling for what seemed like forever. It was 11am European time and we were exhausted, but we decided that we had to go out and experience Italy before it was time to meet up with our tour group. After settling into our hotel outside of Rome, we walked – yes, walked – the 1 hour trek to the Colosseum. Aside from getting lost once and feeling a bit dehydrated from our flight, the walk wasn’t horrible. Before we knew it, we came up over a hill, and there it was!

We found it!

It was amazing! Seeing it in person got us all excited for our trip ahead of us. It was incredible to see this thing that we had read about and seen photos of, sitting right in front of us. After we walked around the Colosseum and took some pictures, we decided to go get some food. After an AMAZING meal at a small cafe nearby, we walked back to the hotel to meet up with our tour group. After some paperwork and introductions, we all ventured out into the city for the first time. Giuseppe, our tour guide, was from Milan, Italy and was super helpful when it came to describing Italian history and culture. Our first group meal was at a restaurant where they showed us how to make authentic pizza dough. They explained the differences between Roman pizza and pizzas in other parts of Italy. The restaurant was wonderfully tacky with an “under the sea” theme, complete with a boat-bar and weird bubbles around the room. There also was an old man serenading us in Italian the whole time. At one point, he pulled me up on stage and began singing to me.

Feel the emotion!

All of a sudden, I saw my boyfriend stand up and rush over to us, looking somewhat mad. I was a little confused because I had no idea what this guy was singing to me or why B was all angry. Then I figured it out — it was all for show. B then began to “sing” to me, by lip dubbing the old man’s words. He tried really hard with the italian, and it was hilarious. Definitely a highlight. After dinner, we took a walking tour of the city where we saw the Roman Forum all lit up at night, the Trevi Fountain, and had the best. gelato. ever. at Giolitti. This cafe near the Trevi Fountain was the spot that every single person that had been to Rome before told me to go. I had pistachio, Nutella, and champagne gelato. B had frutti di bosco, which he continued to have at every gelato place in Europe. Amazing. I didn’t want my cone to end.

A must-go!

The next day, we visited the Colosseum again for a guided tour. Our tour guide, Pietre, led us around and told us all about the Colosseum history, structure, and how it was used. Did you know that they used to fill the Colosseum with water to do ship battles as part of the games they would do?! How cool! B kept saying that he wanted to watch the Gladiator after we visited. After the Colosseum, we toured the Roman Forum next door. It was incredible to see our history books play out in front of us.

Incredible!

Next stop — the Vatican. We toured the Vatican museum, which literally is the most massive art museum ever. We had to basically run through it because we had so much to cover in one day, but I wish we had more time. There was a room made up of only animal statues of varying sizes and shapes. We then saw the Sistine Chapel. It was much smaller than I thought it would be, and security was TIGHT! They were kicking people out left and right for taking photos of the ceiling. It was beautiful and awesome to see another text book photo come to life.

After the Sistine Chapel, we moved on to St. Peter’s Basilica. It was MASSIVE! Everything about the architecture was incredible. The amount of detail in every single area was awe inspiring. We learned all about the Pope selection and the white smoke vs. the black smoke. I felt like I was getting an entire semester of an Italian history class in one day. By the time we were done at St. Peter’s Basilica, our feet hurt and our stomachs were growling. We walked out into St. Peter’s Square, which is also massive. I felt like a lot of things were on a much grander scale in Rome than anything I had ever seen. At the end of St. Peter’s Square, is the Vatican City/Italian lines. Vatican City is the second smallest country in the world, second to Monaco (which we also went to on our trip). So you could cross the street from St. Peter’s Square and suddenly no longer be in Vatican City.

I'm in two countries at once!

After recovering at the hotel for a bit, a group of us traveled to the Spanish Steps. They were so crowded with a mixture of locals and tourists and there was a dance group performing. Then the whole tour group went to dinner at a local spot. Then we all went out for our first night at a Roman club. We found that the drinks in Europe were overall really strong, cheap, and plentiful. Everyone in the group debriefed on their days out and everything that they saw. Our tour consisted of a lot of Americans, Canadians, Australians, Londoners, and some New Zealanders. Everyone was young (between ages 18-30) and super nice. I would highly suggest Contiki to anyone who has never traveled in Europe before and wants to do it with other young, like-minded people.

So there’s the Rome recap! I plan on doing a recap of the trip once a week so that we can all relive the warmer months together as we deal with the pain that is winter (especially those in Boston with me!).

What was your favorite vacation? Have you ever traveled to Europe before? What was your favorite vaca this past summer?