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Interesting things about Bogota and the Colombian culture

A city where millions of people live and everywhere you look you see people, all kinds of different people from various neighbourhoods. While I was in Colombia, I learned so much about the Colombian culture which I am very grateful for. Love sharing my perspective with you!

Pico y Placa

So, first of all, Bogota: a city of 12 million people and therefore an enormously amount of traffic all day long. For that reason they have “Pico y Placa” which is a restriction for specific cars (based on the last number of the number plate) during specific times of the day. For example; if your number plate is VDW 862 and Pico y Placa is that day for even numbers, you are not allowed to drive in Bogota from 6:00-9:00 and 15:00-20:00. This restrictions is for cars with a yellow number plate. Taxi companies and other service companies have white number plates. As you have read, did I only mention cars. Motors and scooters do not have Pico y Placa, therefore, you see them everywhere in the city. I think I have never seen so many motors on a high way. Oh another thing, all vehicles are allowed to pass from either the right and left side, so yes; chaos!

Public transport

Most of the time, in Bogota they wait in the queue for the public transport as in Santiago. Every time, I forgot to make a picture in Santiago, but now in Bogota I didn’t. It is so cute for me and polite! Something which we could learn from as Europeans.

Besides that, I found the city very clean and I felt save (maybe because I was always with a Colombian). Of course, in some neighborhoods it was less clean and you shouldn’t go alone there, but that is then also a thing you don’t do.

There is this thing, which I every time couldn’t stop getting annoyed and shocked of and that was black smoke from the cars and trucks. I didn’t know it would do so much to me to see and smell it (it was very disgusting also), but it apparently did.

Food rituals

Another point is that the Colombian people, like I think the rest of Latin-America, also eat big during lunch. Dani told me it is normal to have a housekeeper who cleans but also cooks the meals. Yeah mom, your life would be much easier haha. And and and, their food is all so delicious, but not the most healthy food with the maximum of vegetables though. Something typical is for example; Arepa with egg. Arepa is mix between bread and pita, and we ate it for breakfast but also sometimes for lunch.

Besides that, are the people all so extremely kind and lovely. So, heartwarming for me and sort of unbelievable at the same moment because I am not used to it. They help you and try to make sure you enjoy the time you have in their country. The touristic attractions aren’t also very busy. I think that people still have that sort of bad image of Colombia, but from what I have seen and experienced so far, they/we really shouldn’t, because those people and this country is something special! Everything is further by the way so cheap for us (compared to Euro’s), so yeah, there shouldn’t be any other excuse.

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Visit Valparaiso and Viña del Mar – a colourful experience

A weekend getaway from Santiago with my Swedish roommate Julie. We chose to visit Valparaiso and Viña del Mar. We had heard that Valparaiso was beautiful and that the walls would be full of graffiti. Viña del Mar, on the other hand, is great for the beach!

Colourful Valparaiso

We left Santiago on Saturday at around ten in the morning by bus. It took us one and a half hours to arrive in Valparaiso. Valparaiso is a harbour city and lots of neighbourhoods are located on the hills, which are called “Cerro” in Spanish.  The Airbnb we booked was also on a hill and it took us some stairs to get there, but it was great! Cute and clean, and in the middle between all the graffiti. Because that is mostly for what Valparaiso is famous for, its graffiti. However, I would more call it art, because it is not just something, it is extremely beautiful.

Furthermore, I will not have a lot to talk about, besides the fact that Valparaiso is poorer than Santiago, which can be mainly seen on the streets in the centre because of the homeless people and dogs. We liked it more to stay up in the hills and wander around over there.

Because all the sightseeing is on the hills, we walked 15 kilometres on the first day; Uphill, downhill, uphill, downhill. Not to forget to mention the sweat… We had loads of full and because in the end, it is actually only walking around and taking pictures, there was a lot of time to get to know each other and talk about our lives. Since Julia and I live together in one house, we still mainly saw each other in the morning during breakfast and talked a bit about our days. There wasn’t really time for sensational conversations, because I needed to go to work and Julia to school. Therefore, it was even nicer to really get to know her better. She is a beautiful girl with a great personality!

To the beach in Viña del Mar

On Sunday morning, when we finally had our breakfast after searching for 45 minutes for a restaurant that was open, we searched for the bus to go to Vina del Mar. We took the local bus and, although it was very cheap (420 pesos = 0.50 cent), we did not really know where to get off after we had been sitting for around twenty minutes. The bus driver only stopped when the other passengers told him to stop. So, when we arrived somewhere where was “live”, we told him to stop and eventually, we made a good choice because we were there.

It felt as if I have never left the beach in Hoek van Holland. I was so happy and glad that Julia and I decided to go to the beach because after I had come home from Colombia, I did not feel very good and when I am at the beach, as you maybe know, I can always empty my head. Julia also has the connection with the sea and the beach, so after we had been walking around for thirty minutes and had taken some pictures, we decided to sit down on the beach and just look at it and be quiet. The weather was by the way amazing and pretty warm, around twenty-four degrees. Lots of Chilean people were having the same idea as us. They only took their food, drink, and towels with them.

We ended our beach day at a delicious Italian restaurant. I ate a great vegetarian Cannoli and we watched a football match between the two rivals of Chile. Both getaways from Santiago were nice! I cannot decide which one I would love more. To visit Valparaiso and Viña del Mar is for sure a recommendation!

A father-daughter weekend

Ohhhh I looked so forward to this father-daughter weekend. A weekend full of wine, Italian food (well, that will not surprise you) and I let my dad taste the beest ice cream in town.

My dad arrived on Friday at the end of the morning and we went straight to my favourite bakery. We both had a cappuccino and shared some pastries (yes, we love that, too, ha-ha). The weather wasn´t that good and it was raining a lot. However, for us, it would be better if it would rain that Friday instead of the weekend. So, while it was raining very hard we had lunch again at one of my favourite restaurants: Zá Zá.

I also showed dad the Mercato Nazionale and after we went home to have some rest and sleep a little bit. Dad woke up at four that morning, so he could use some. Not that we kept the night short, because after we had an amazing dinner with lots of wine (yes, we left the restaurant a little tipsy) at Vetreria, we went to the Red Garter. The bar, my friends and I usually go to before we go to the club. I introduced dad to the Long Island Ice Tea. The favourite drink of several friends of mine and at that time, the favourite drink of my dad. For the ones not knowing, Long Island Ice Tea is an (obviously alcoholic) drink with four different alcohols and Coco cola. I know, it is called Long Island ICE TEA, but yeah, they put Coco cola in it. A mind f*ck.

On Saturday the roadtrip started and we continued our father-daughter weekend. Again, we used again Car2go, only now for two days. Because yes!! We did a road trip for two days, all in the Chianti region. We really wanted to do a wine tour together at a Castello and that we could also sleep in the Castello and eat there, and of course, I found one!

Wine tour at Castello di Fonterutoli

After we arrived at the Castello di Fonterutoli, we had to hurry a little bit to be one time for the wine tour at five o’clock. The place where we stayed was beautiful and super romantic. The wine tour was, by the way, also very nice. This was especially when the man started to talk about the history of the winery. It had taken them seven years to renovate (the winery is from 1435, the family Mazzei). This was because of different obstacles with the water system and hydration for the wine

Pitstop in Siena

On Sunday, we took it easy and after breakfast, we headed to Siena. A city which I would not spend the whole day, because there is not much to do, but it is very nice for some hours. And since we had the time, why not? ha-ha. We mainly relaxed on a terras in the sun and face-timed with mom. Because yes, the whole weekend was sunny and not raining at all. Lucky us!

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After we arrived back in Florence from our roadtrip to Greve in Chianti, I let experience dad the most delicious ice-cream in my opinion at Gelateria Dei Neri. Oh, and yes, he loved it! We finished the amazing weekend off with dinner at another favourite restaurant of mine (yes, actually all the restaurants where I come are my favourite ha-ha). This one is called: Napoleone. This father-daughter weekend was just lovely!

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Life in Santiago, Chile – The activities

After my first blog about settling down in Santiago (if you have not read it yet you really missed something) it is now time for some extra fun and get to know the surroundings and show you me life in Santiago. Santiago has more neigbourhoods than Las Condes (where I live) and Vitacura (where I work). I have the activities I did listed for you and I hope that you get as excited as I am when I am rereading this text.

Skiing in El Colorado

Yes, you read that well! I went for skiing, on a Saturday to be exact, with my supervisor from work (Christian) and two friends of him. On Friday we went to the ski rental because on Saturday morning 7:15 Christian picked me up. It took us around one hour and 15 minutes + 41 harpen bends. They warned me already and asked if I have a weak stomach; and yes oh I really do have one. Gladly, I survived without getting sick. The drive to the top of the mountain was so extremely beautiful with the dawn. I really wanted to make pictures to show you, but I also really needed to think about myself (at those moments I can get sick from looking on my phone for one sec).

Don’t worry, I will make it up to you, because I took some amazing shots on the top of the mountain. But first the area. There are like three or four different area’s there. We went to El Colorado, because it is the less busy one, and indeed it was. I think that until 11:00 we were the only one on the slopes which is quite a big difference for me compared to Austria and Italy.

This picture you see here below, I just really wanted to show you. I was smiling when I saw this, because in Austria and/or Italy I have never seen that before. However,  I could really use one from time to time. I think it is very nice that they provide this for us.

Further, I just found it so nice and magical to be there. Although, it was also sort of weird because I expected totally something else than in Austria and Italy. Besides the smaller area, tissues provided and a beautiful view, it was all the same. The kids’ classes, the lifts (although they were a bit old), the restaurants plus singer, and the whole atmosphere. I had an amazing day!

A night out

Although I am working and sort of getting into that lifestyle, I am still 21 and super young. Jep, I went out. On a Wednesday night to a student party called: Miercoles Po.

With who?

So, back in the time when I was younger we (my parents, brother and sis) used to go to the camping for some years in Spain with different families from our village and with one of the families we also used to go on wintersport every year. One of the sons, Jesse, studies here in Santiago until November and we decided it would be nice to meet. We first just thought about a drink, but then Jesse asked if I wanted to come with them to the party (he is here with three friends from school) and had dinner at their place. The plan was made!

Until now, I have not really thought about missing home, because I found my place here and everything is good. However, I liked it so much to have some Dutchies around me and especially Jesse then of course. At home, we do not see each other or talk a lot because we have our owns lives now you know, but I just find it so incredible that when you meet, it is like nothing ever changed.

Before we went to the party, we did a pre-drink at a house of their friends. Lots of new people, lots of new names, don’t know any of theirs anymore of course, but they were all very nice and I felt welcome! After a while, the Latino’s grabbed a guitar and started to play and sing. Yeah, can you imagine. It was magical. For them like almost the most normal thing to do, but for us, not.  Those moments that you will keep with you forever, this is one of them.

The party was also nice. I liked the music and place itself. Woman get in for free in nightclubs here and men sometimes. Besides that, did Jesse tell me that I should take care of my belongings because there usually are a lot of pickpockets. So, for the first time in my life I put my phone in my bra and all my cards in another part of my bag. Gladly, nothing happened and everything went well!

And yes, I needed to work the other day (slept 3 hours) and yes, I needed until Saturday to recover. But, all worth it people, all worth it, only not for every week haha.

The neighbourhood Santiago (Centre)

Santiago has totally 33 neighbourhoods and even in those neighbourhood there are different parts. Some are very big (like Las Condes), but some also very small.

Bella Vista 

This last weekend I went twice to Bella Vista which was between 30/40 minutes by Uber. Lots of people told me that it is very “a life” over there and I cannot say they were not right about that. I went twice for dinner (Friday and Saturday) and on Saturday we (Jesse, his friends, and me) also went to a karaoke bar. We laughed a lot!

The reason why I like it so much, is because everything is so close to each other with many restaurants, bars, and little shops. There is a place, called “Patio” (totally called Patio Bella Vista) where those three come more together. On Saturday, there was even a small dance show going on in the middle of the Patio. It was such a very nice and calm atmosphere and the food I ate was delicious, too!

On Saturday, before we went to the karaoke bar, we already had a drink together and later went to a restaurant where we had a special guest. See Cees with his eyes closed on the picture below. Cees is 72 years old (with wife and children/grandchildren at home!!) and Jesse knows him from his work in the Netherlands. He always worked on a ship and travelled around the world. Because it is such a passion of him, he still does it sometimes and helps a bit with the navigation.

This time the ship went from Rotterdam-Hamburg-Antwerp to Cartagena-Panama-Lima to Valparaiso. In Valparaiso he took the bus to Santiago and stayed here for a few days before he was heading back home (by airplane). He even also went to Patagonia, all by himself. It was such a nice dinner to share with everyone and Cees is really inspiring. I hope that he is able to continue to do this as long as he wants to.

Barrio Lastarria

On a Monday evening I went to Barrio Lastarria, the bohemian/hippie part of Santiago. I cycled home very fast and immediately took the Uber to the metro station Santa Lucia where Belen and I were meeting. I wanted to have a look for some new rings and earrings and because we have the same taste, she showed me lots of different stores.

After we did a bit of shopping (bought in total one tiny ring haha), we took a walk through the neighbourhood and Belen, as historical lover, told me lots of things about the buildings etc. Very interesting and funny to know. A great tour guide!

Are you ready for the sort of Monday cheat day and something which is probably going to amaze you? Yeah great, read further!

We had not eaten much that day and didn’t have dinner yet, so when Belen saw Buffalo Wafels she asked me whether I wanted to try. I had tried the typical sweet waffels with Nutella and strawberries some time, but waffels with vegetables, chicken, serrano ham and cheese not. I was/is still so weird for me to eat something like that. Still, I thought why not, I should try it once. So, I took the “Vegetarino” with tomato, lettuce, goat cheese and pepper. Besides that, do all the waffels have fries chips as topping. Really had to think of my dad, he loves them! And believe it or not, it was quite nice! Still weird (“Muy raro” in Spanish), but nice.

Playing paddle with Sebastian

Lots of people who read this blog know that I have been playing tennis throughout almost my whole life. So, when Sebastian asked me whether I wanted to play paddle with him I could not reject of course. Besides that, we paddle at home, on the beach, only call it beach tennis then haha.

How to play paddle?

I am not sure if I am giving you the exact, right explanation. However, for me, it is a combination between tennis and squash. The court is much smaller than a tennis court and you are able to use the blue walls (see on the picture). Although, the ball must first touch the ground. The counting system is the same as with tennis. The serve with paddle is not as with tennis, you first must bounce the ball on the ground and then you have to beat it cross to the other side of the field and the rally starts. Besides that, you always have to be on the same line as your partner. So, when you serve, you always have to come to the net and when the other serve you both stand on the baseline.

Another thing, it is impossible to use spin with paddle. Everything is in the volley grip. Because paddle rackets are much smaller than the one from tennis, it happened to me (too often) that I totally missed the ball because I thought he was longer haha….

I did really enjoy it. Although, using the wall was still very difficult and every time I forgot that is it possible. It is a very dynamic game and if you get the game, you can use lots of strategic tricks to make it more difficult for the other.

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What to do in and around Bogota, Colombia?

Finally, finally, finally. Another reunion after 2,5 years, but now only in Bogota, Colombia! It was the time that Daniel and I would meet again. Before I already went to Chile, I bought my ticket to Bogota (where he lives) for six days. I will tel you everything about what to do in and around Bogota?

Where should I start?

So, yes.. where to start? I think with the flight, because that was something. Back in the time while buying the ticket for Bogota. It was all a bit stressful, because I wanted to find the cheapest but most efficient flights, to make sure that I was in Bogota as long as possible. I searched on (literally) the whole internet.

The reason by the way, why I could (what I thought only) go six days was because of National Holiday in Chile. Although, I should not forget to mention that my supervisor one week before told me that he thought that I was going for 10 days to Bogota…… I was a little bit sad in the beginning, but yeah, a miscommunication and you all know that changing a ticket also has a price, so I let it this way and those things happen.

Okay, back to the flight. So, I bought my ticket while being at the beach house on a sunny Friday afternoon. The ticket was still expensive but the times where good, although LATAM (airplane company) changed the departure time twice. Eventually I left 1:05 Friday morning and as of my own surprise, a week before my departure my eye fell on the word “Business Class”. I checked everything and yes, I booked Business Class for my way to Bogota. Do not ask me how, because I still have no idea haha. By then, I understood why my ticket was so expensive (I leave out the price in this story), but yeah, I thought now I have Business Class I can better enjoy it to the fullest because this is probably not going to happen many more times (if I don’t make the same “mistake” again haha…).

The reunion with Daniel

I arrived in Bogota at 5:20 in the morning (the time difference is two hours with Santiago). The flight was all good, but still didn’t sleep a lot. However, because I was full of adrenaline I didn’t feel it. Dani picked me up from the Airport and we went to his house which was like 20 minutes away.

Although Dani and I, most of the time, have weekly contact, share a lot and FaceTime sometimes, it was still a nervous moment to see someone again after 2,5 years. No worries at all, because the bound was still as strong as it has always been.

After a sleepy morning/afternoon and meeting Dani’s family, Dani and I went up to Monserrate to have an amazing view of Bogota and visited the old house of Quinta.

Weekend road trip

On Friday night we left Bogota and with “we” I mean; Dani, Angelica (Dani’s sister), Nicolas (Angelica’s boyfriend), and me. Boys in the front, girls in the back, Latin music and goooo. We rent an Airbnb in Villa de Leyva for the weekend. Villa de Leyva is a historical village with actually only white houses and during the night you usual see lots of stars (unfortunately we had lots of clouds).

Horse riding

Haha yes, you read that well; horse riding. Never liked horses and obviously I had never ride a horse. I must say, I was afraid. The first five minutes on the horse were not one of my favorite moments in life, however, that changed very very fast. I never expected it, but my gosh, I loved it so much! The horse wasn’t always listening that well, because when I wanted to go faster he didn’t. Later on, Dani told me that the horse had a total different name than I called him, so maybe that is the reason haha..

In total the horse riding was one hour, although I would have loved to ride longer. By the way, Villa de Leyva is full of horses and people who offer those tours. It is more usual to have a horse than a car, let’s put it this way. So, when you want to ride a horse, you just search for a cowboy (we all know how a cowboy look like right?) and that’s it!

On the way back Dani’s horse fell and therefore Dani also fell of the horse. I was just a little bit behind him galloping too, and it didn’t look really good. He rolled like around three times over the ground, but gladly he was “fine”. I was very worried about his head because he fell quiet hard. Gladly, his head was fine, but he still had a wound on his elbow and knee + jean broken.

The horse was also wounded, but the people took great care of him and Dani, too. Because after the tour, we went to their office and they helped cleaning the wound. Although, a few days later Dani still had pain, we all in general (again) enjoyed the horse riding very much!

Riding squads

We went for squad riding after the horse riding, which you can see when you look at Dani’s jean… I still don’t know which one of the two I loved the most, but I definitely enjoyed this one too!

So, yeah the experience. What should I say? I just loved to be a bit extreme and drift all around in the mud. All did Dani told me, he was a bit in a shock in the beginning because he didn’t expect that I would be the second Torreto (Fast&Furious actor). This is also a side of me, it is just that I do not get to show it very often, but it doesn’t say it is not there you know.

And yes, lots of mud and speed, so dirty legs, trousers and shoes. I can tell, the shower after was great!

Relaxing time

The Airbnb provided a guitar which we first didn’t know. Dani plays guitar and sings. So, while he practiced some songs, I just had another moment to be grateful to be alive and have such amazing, inspiring people around me.

Besides all the cute white houses, the traditional shops and nice restaurants, there is another thing which really catched my eye. During the evening, lots of people gather together at the Plaza and take their drinks to chat and dance with their friends or meeting new people. Something which I had never seen before. Those people, their culture, and this was just day two!

The next morning we took it all a bit slowly. Breakfast was actually served until ten, but I think we came around eleven or even later. Very kind though, that they still served it for us. I bought Pisco (typical Chilean and Peruvian alcohol- 40%) for Dani as thank for everything and the guys bought Aquadiente (typical Colombian alcohol- 29%). We drunk at the Airbnb that night, played games and danced, but it went all a bit too fast and was too strong. Gladly, a hangover wasn’t included.

Colorful Raquira & the Independence Monument

After the breakfast we headed to Raquira which was around an hour in the car, but in the direction of Bogota. It felt like we were doing a formule 1 race, because beside the roads where waiters waving with red flags in sense of; “Come and have lunch here”. Furthermore, Raquira is a small town with colorful buildings and traditional shops.

After Dani had parked the car, we walked a bit around. Although, I almost love everything they sell like the bags and hammocks, the clothes, the souvenirs, I didn’t buy anything, just because I can buy everything then haha…

The weather was good that day, also in Raquira it was quiet warm. Therefore, I was finally able to wear my favorite dress. So yeah, as you can expect we made some pictures, also together. We laughed a lot and again, I felt so grateful to have such an amazing time with those people.

Before we had lunch at an Italian restaurant, we passed the place of the Independence of Colombia. The little white bridge you can see on the picture, is where it all finished. Dani and Angelica told me it was a small bridge, however, I didn’t expect it would be that small haha.

Wandering around in Bogota

On Monday, we went into the city centre by bus. Dani wanted to show me the Plaza (which is nice but looks like every square in the world) and Chorro, which is an area with lots of graffiti. However, that is not the biggest reason for the specialty of Chorro, because Chorro is where Bogota began.

So, Chorro is the beginning of Bogota, although Bogota was first called; Bacatá. There were only twelve houses and one church (which you see on the picture below). The houses are all very low and small by the way.

After we walked a bit around, Dani said that I should try another typical drink, Canelazo with alcohol. We went to the oldest bar, called Santa Marta Café, and ordered. Canelazo is something sweet and looks like sugar, and is together with spices. The drink is hot and you drink it like coffee together with an alcohol of your choice. I had tequila with passion fruit and Dani had vodka. It was much stronger than I expected and wasn’t able to finish. I was already tipsy after 5 sips haha…

Laguna de Guatavita and Catedral de Sal

On Tuesday, we took the car again and left Bogota after lunch to Laguna de Guatavita. Even though, it was raining cats and dogs, it was a very nice trek of around 45 minutes through the woods with as result the Laguna. The tour was in Spanish, therefore, Dani was still the whole time whispering the translation in my ear, still I am not able to tell you the whole story again (I forgot, sorry Dani…). I know people, not the first time I write something which I actually doesn’t know about, but yeah that’s me. At that moment, I loved it and understood the whole story. However, because I receive so much information, I cannot save everything in my little cutie brain you know.

And now!! Here it comes, one of my favorites; Catedral de Sal. I think it is good to know that I don’t believe in God or anything, but that I am very open to learn more about it and see other people’s perspective.

The reason why the Catedral de Sal is one of my favorites is, because it is 180 meters under the ground and takes one kilometer before you are there, and because it was just insane beautiful and magical. Everything is made from salt (that’s why “Sal”) and took in total 70 years. All the work is done by miners, who still work in there today to make it bigger with more levels.

It is difficult to show and explain how touchy this place is. So yes, if you are ever close to Bogota you MUST go there, you MUST!

Oh and we even helped the miners a bit with their work. I know, it looks very pussy, but it was hard and heavy people. Yes, lots of respect for the miners!!

To finish, as you have seen and read, I did really have six fantastic, amazing, lovely days. They couldn’t have been any better and yes it was difficult to say good bye, but great things are waiting for me in Chile! I am just a very grateful woman and cannot thank Dani and his family enough.

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Visit Girona in one day from Barcelona

Travelling alone is what I decided to do. Because after I booked my flight for Barcelona, I thought why not stay in Spain and travel further alone and do a city trip to Girona? So, I went to Girona by train from Barcelona which lasted a little more than an hour and could visit Girona in one day. A very effective day trip.

Let’s start in Girona

In Girona, I booked a hostel, Bed in Girona to be precise. Besides the fact that this was my first vacation alone, was it also my first time in a hostel. I wanted to experience something less luxury than a hotel or apartment and therefore booked this hostel. It may sound weird, because why would I book something less nice if I also have money for something better. The point is that I think when you live your life like that, you are going to take those certain things for granted, and I want to teach myself not to. To appreciate it.

Now talking about it, when I arrived the first funny experience already occurred. The manager came to me to tell me that there was no hot water anymore on our floor. Therefore, we (37 guests) all needed to shower on the first floor where there were two showers. We could only shower every second day and not longer than 2 minutes to also save water for the others.

Furthermore, everyone in the hostel was pretty on themselves, which was fine by me. There was only one woman, 37 years old from California, who also wanted to watch the sunset and therefore we decided to go together. After that, we even went out for dinner together. It was nice to talk to someone, but honestly, it also felt a bit weird. I was so in my own zone/circle that I did not mind when being alone again. 

Visit Girona in one day

Something I really did not expect, is that Girona is actually quite small and therefore you can see the city already in one day. Staying there three whole days, was indeed, a bit too much. But because I did not sleep a lot, due to a snoring neighbour (yeah, that is something you have to deal with when sleeping in a hostel) and I was still very tired from the long nights in Barcelona, I went back to bed during the afternoons.

The streets are very narrow and because the city centre is on a hill, it is up and down, up and down. In addition, because I like to walk, I went hiking up the wall of Girona. It was built many many years ago to protect Girona. Besides the feeling of finally doing something sportive again, it also had an amazing view of the whole city.

Although Girona may be smaller than I expected, the number of restaurants and the quality of the restaurants exceeded my expectations. When travelling alone, I had the freedom to really pick the restaurants I am in the mood for. Beneath, I have listed my favourite ones with a link to either their website or Google Maps.

  1. König – Speciality Hamburgers > Lunch, Dinner
  2. The Unicorner  – Slow street food > Lunch, Dinner
  3. Mos & Art – Bakery > Breakfast, Lunch
  4. Nibble – Slow fast food > Lunch, Dinner (my 100% favourite!!)

How did I celebrate Christmas alone in Chile with 34 degrees?

A totally different Christmas than that I have ever experienced before. With my flip flops wondering around in the supermarket searching for coolness because of the 30 degree temperature outside. This was a serious change of life. This was celebrating Christmas in Chile with 34 degrees.

I didn’t have any plans for Christmas with other people, so gladly it was really warm (34 degrees) and I was able to lay in the sun and stay close to the swimming pool which we have. I hear you think.. You celebrated Christmas alone. Well, yes. I did and you probably find it sad for me. Yeah, it was. However, on the other hand, it felt more weird than that I found myself sad. Still I was celebrating Christmas in Chile with 34 degrees, whereas, in the Netherlands it was raining and around 7.

Celebrating Christmas in Chile

So yeah, my Christmas was very relax and besides laying in the sun, reading my book, listening to music and some cookings during the evening, I didn’t do much. And actually, I didn’t really mind about it. The way the Chilean people celebrate Christmas here is different than how we do it in the Netherlands; atmosphere, decorations, etc. When I was in the supermarket on Christmas Eve and wished the employee a very merry Christmas, she looked at me like: “Why are you saying that?”, which is strange and uncomfortable for me because it is so normal for me. Besides that, didn’t I see one house decorated from the outside and are public places only decorated when it has the aim to sell something. Yeah, not really the happy Christmas vibe.

On the first day of Christmas I spoke with my family on WhatsApp video. They apparently still had some very nice presents for me. What a surprise! But that is what I also had for them. For the most of them, because my mom already knew it. However, now I can also tell you that I am coming home earlier than I planned. I would first arrive in the Netherlands on the 4th of February, but that is now changed into the 24th of January. On the 12th of January I will write another blog about what I thought about my five months in Chile, but if I should give a reason for coming home earlier it is just that I really want to go home. To my family, friends, just back in the Netherlands.

New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve was for me something much important to experience than Christmas. Like I said, I didn’t really have that Christmas feeling so I didn’t care about being alone, although many others told me how sad it was ha-ha. For me, being alone with New Year’s Eve would have been much more sad. It would be like, me wishing myself a happy new year with a glass of champagne in my hand. Yeah, I didn’t want that and gladly that didn’t happen.

My old housemate, Maria, who started to live together with her boyfriend invited me for a party with food together with some other friends. So, we first were at their apartment, the swimming pool on the roof and later, the men started to prepare the bbq and some other very delicious dishes.

The time past by very fast that night. At around eleven we decided that it would be time to go on the streets. We were in total with five people. In Santiago there were two places where the National fireworks was and luckily one place was like 800 meters from Maria’s apartment.

There were many many people, children, grandparents, adults, teenagers. Everyone waiting and looking at the screen until it starts to count off from ten.

Diez, nueve, ocho, siete, seis, cinco, cuatro, tres, dos, uno… Feliz año nuevoooooo !!!

The fireworks last for around twenty minutes and was really amazing! The vibe was very good and there was music until two from a band. All the people dancing and being happy (First time I saw Chilean people happy). Of course, I found it difficult that I wasn’t at home during this moment, but I am very glad that Maria invited me and made me feel so welcome. I really helped and I enjoyed!

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Cultural differences between the Netherlands and Italy

Yes, this was it. My adventure in Italy. My study abroad in Florence. I dreamed about this for years. And now, is the time to look back at everything. Was it what I expected together with the study? Was I shocked by the cultural differences? How was this period compared to England and Chile? You will read it all!

Studying in Italy

I thought maybe good to start off with the reason why I went to Florence in the first place; to study. At the beginning of my Florence adventure, I wrote a blog about; Study as an exchange student in Florence, Italy. There you can read about my first weeks and the odd things that had already happened.

From the middle of November, student life really began. I followed five topics and since I never really paid attention during the lectures because most of them were too difficult and I was distracted by all the nice things we were doing besides university, I had to start from the beginning and needed to teach myself all the materials. I was actually very motivated and ready to do something. So, it all started. Five days a week we were in the library, most of the time, from nine in the morning to seven in the afternoon. To be there with everybody was quite fun, too. We always had a coffee break at eleven and then lunch break at two.

Another important thing to mention is of courseeeee the amount of intake of coffee. Well, I have never been a huge coffee lover, but I knew to be able to integrate a little I should at least try to drink cappucino. So, I started drinking it a few months before I went to Florence and apparently I liked it. So, every morning and afternoons, all coffee shops and bakeries are full, literally full! Espresso’s are the most famous one, but that one I still cannot drink. Far too strong. 🙂

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So, after a month of studying, my first exam was on Friday the 13th of December and the last one was the 17th. Most of those nights I only slept five to six hours in order to make sure that I was the best prepared. Because, although, I did not do something in the first two months, I am dedicated enough to change my mentality and work hard.

First of all, I would like to say that I passed all my exams at one time, with good grades. But now, I would like to tell you some other very odd things about how the exams were taken at UNIFI. Because, although, I passed all my exams and I am very happy about that, did not it all go in a fairway. During several exams, professors gave us the answers, people were able to use their phones and it was even at one exam we were able to talk with each other and discussed the whole exam (I got a 30/30 there… Not really a surprise ha-ha). However, what surprised me the most is that those professors did not even care and let us communicate. Whereas, on the other hand, other professors were super strict. In the end, I passed everything, studied very hard, and am very proud of myself.

General differences

To be honest, was I surprised by the number of cultural differences. Some were annoying, others were funny. Throughout the four months, I wrote everything down. So, below a long list of the things that caught my eyes. I do want to say that this is all from my experience and perspective. By that, I mean that people may not agree which is okay of course and it is not that it would count for all citizens in Florence or Italy. Let’s start!

  • When cars are waiting in front of the traffic light and an ambulance is coming, they don’t drive through “red” to let the ambulance pass. They wait until the “green” light and then they make space for the ambulance to pass them. (Yes, this is the most annoying one. I thought we can better start with it.)
  • The pavements in Florence are pretty small. In the beginning, I felt very offended when people were the whole time bumping into me. I would stop, and let the other person pass, but in Florence, they just go both at the same time and do not mind that other people are in their personal space.
  • The people are extremely friendly and helpful.
  • All people do care very much about their looks. For example, never saw a woman leaving the gym without having showered and wearing make-up.
  • Drivers don’t stop for you when you want to cross the street and use the “zebra path”. It even happened to me, that the drivers got mad at me because I thought that I had “priority” with crossing the street. So, be careful. Don’t expect that they will stop for you because they won’t.
  • Life is outside your door.
  • You always have to take your receipt with you after buying something. From just one coffee to clothes, bus ticket, anything. There is this law that the police can ask for your receipt. If you don’t have it, the shop where you bought the product and you will both get a fine. In the beginning, especially when we bought coffee’s for only 1,50 we never took the receipts. The people got annoyed and sometimes we received the receipt boldly in our hands, and after we asked why they found it so important, we were like; “ahh okay, that’s why ha-ha”.
  • Italians like to wear glasses, even when the sun is not shining. They have their right though. They shine themselves ha-ha.
  • I have never seen so much rain in my life. We had weeks of rain, 24/7, especially in November. It was insane. Also lots of thunderstorms during the day, something that I never experienced in the Netherlands.
  • December is more of an “I am on winter sport” month. It is chilly, 13 degrees, the sun was always shining and most of the time a beautiful blue sky. I loved it!
  • Italians like to race on the street.
  • You can only get a taxi at three different fixed places around the city. This is to ensure safety for passengers. It is possible though to call a taxi and get picked up from your place. Calling a taxi from the street is a real no go!
  • People use plastic bags for everything and pretend like there is nothing wrong with that.
  • The green traffic light for pedestrians is very short, whereas, the orange one is super long.
  • The people tend to walk on the left side of the pavement. Hello, we are not in England, right?
  • The food, this won’t come as a surprise, is absolutely the best of the best. I have tried many restaurants, lunchrooms, ice creams, everything, and none of all, was able to disappoint me. I miss it most of everything.
  • Oh yeah the last one, besides bumping into each other on the street, do they also like to bump each other’s cars, especially while parking. Most Italians don’t tend to care about ant scratches on their car.

My first week in Florence, Italy

It was finally time to go to the country of my dreams; Italy. Not that I am obsessed with it but I would describe it as a sort of desire that I have had to life here. By the way, welcome back lovely readers. Ready for this four-month reading adventure about Florence and Tuscany? Cause I am super excited to write about it.

Arrival in Italy

I arrived last Thursday at my apartment together with my amazingly heavy two suitcases and backpack. I definitely did not look like a tourist or at least I hope not. It is sort of my goal for those four months to not look like a tourist. It may be hard to accomplish with light blue eyes, but you know, worth giving it a try ha-ha.

Friday was the introduction day of school. I will be studying at the Universita of Degli di Firenze, probably until Christmas. The University is a 30minute walk and I think I will keep it that way, so no bike or tram card. It is a nice walk, although, for now, I still have to get used to the warm climate. Wherever I go I arrive as if I just came from my spinning classes, not very convenient but also the way I am – not a slow walker.

I was looking forward to the introduction day, exciting as I would call it because who was I am going to meet? When I arrived we had to sign ourselves up and put a sticker with your name and country on your chest. I had already seen some Dutch people and, in the end, I was right about that. The management made groups for the day and I was in the group together with seven other Dutch people. It was fun, nice and comfortable to spend the day with them and to get to know them. The thing, I only found a little weird is that the management put all the people from the same country in the same group. Probably easier for them, but since everything was very international I would mix it up…

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Friday night, we went out for dinner together – The Dutchies “three boys, three girls” – but went back home early in the evening because Saturday we went to a beach party from ESN (Exchange Student Network – organisation that organises activities and trips for students) and had to be somewhere at 9:15. It was one and a half hour driving and we were with around 100 students. The beach was relaxed and lovely, although, according to the others, the sea was very cold ha-ha. Because 80% of the people at the beach party was Spanish they dominated the music genre, which was no problem for me, because, what many of you probably know is, that I love Spanish music and communicating in Spanish. So, the day went by, more people got drunk and/or sunburned, and at 18:30 we went back to Florence, although, the party day was not over for us yet. Everyone went back to their apartments and dressed up for a night out in Florence. For me, it was the first time and I was super exciting/sort of could not wait ha-ha. It was already so nice to see the people on the streets. Like the real mediterranean lifestyle.

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We went to two nightclubs; Babylon and Bamboo. I went with four other Dutchies, by the way, the three guys and Frederique. One night club was better than the other, just because of the number of people compared to the amount of space. By the way, the beach party was not the only party where the Spanish dominated. In both night clubs, there was a lot of Spanish music and, therefore, I was of course totally in my element. Here, in Italy, I am living my dream.

After a relaxing Sunday afternoon, Frederique and I met at, already one of our favourite restaurant called La Menagere before we went up to the Piazzale Michelangelo. It was again a sweaty walk, but more than worth it. Here some pictures below.

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Weekend away around Florence

Pizza and Gelato cooking tour

Oh guys this was so fun. Really, if you are ever around Florence and are interested in a tour like this, take this one. We also got it from a friend of my mother and booked it via Viator with the company Walkaboutflorence and it is called the “pizza and gelato cooking tour”. We did the evening one, from five o’clock and lasted for another four to five hours. In the beginning, we thought; “okay that is a little long”, but, in the end, you do need all that time to prepare, make and eat the food ha-ha.

There were three men teaching us everything, one who talked about the ice-cream and two about the pizza. Together, Christian, Luigi, and Luca. Luca was the funniest one and for the Dutch people reading this, whenever he was talking it felt like we were in Chateau Meiland and I guess by that you know what I mean. We laughed a lot with each other and learned how to make a pizza in an easy and understandable way. Making pizza and ice cream is not very difficult though, you should only make no mistakes in the grams you use for each component.

Lucca for a day

Although mom thought that the train to Lucca would only be 20 minutes, it was one hour and 45 minutes. After we got ourselves some breakfast from a local bakery we jumped into the train and relaxed. We all, besides Fabiënne because she was in mom’s belly at that time, had been to Lucca. However, my brother and I were young, so did not really remember anything. We were all so surprised by how quiet the city was and that there were not so many tourists walking around compared to Siena for example. We mainly walked around, did some shopping (yes shopping is great in Lucca, in my opinion, better than in Florence) and had a nice lunch at a cute restaurant.

Palazzo Pitti, Boboli Garden & Piazzale Michelangelo

Although the others hoped that this was going to be a relaxing day after the hike in Cinque Terre, it was not really going to be like that. After we had a great brunch at Santarosa Bistrot, we went to the Palazzo Pitti and the Boboli Garden. We liked it, walked around for some time and looked at all the wall paintings inside of Palazzo Pitti, however, in the end, it would be just a once in a lifetime thing for us. 

After that, I took them to Piazalle Michelangelo. One of my favourite spots in Florence. You have to walk up a “little” hill and then when we arrive, you have a very nice view over the whole city. There are also stairs, so what my friends and I usually do is just sit there, play cards, talk or just be quiet and enjoy the view. During the night the sunset can be really beautiful!

Roadtrip to Val D’orcia

Our last full day together. My parents rent a car before and after picking up our Fiat 500 XL we were ready to go. We decided to visit the Val D’orcia. It is a region in the south of Tuscany, a two hours drive from Florence. It was raining a lot that day, therefore, we were happy that we were in the car that day and not walking all around in the city. Since I have been already several times to Greve in Chianti, it was nice to go to another part of Tuscany.

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In the evening, after some serious traffic on the road, we arrived back from our trip around Florence and since it was already late, it was time for dinner. We went straight to the restaurant where I booked a reservation, Fuoco Matto. One of the best pizzas in town!