Photography by Brianne Lee

Photography by Brianne Lee

The Wonders of Interlaken

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

When in Interlaken; do as everybody else does… throw yourself off a cliff.
This seemed to be the theme of this weekend’s excursion to Interlaken, Switzerland; the mecca of extreme outdoor sports. From skydiving, paragliding and canyon jumping to skiing and snowboarding in the Alps, options for adrenaline junkies were endless.
As soon as I heard there was paragliding over the Swiss Alps, I knew I had to do it! The adventure began with a short but beautiful ride from Interlaken and up to the mountains.  From there, we grabbed all of our paragliding gear and walked a few minutes to our jump off point.  Once helmeted, strapped into the appropriate gear and parachute prepped, my tandem professional paragliding partner and I were ready to fly. I was given the instruction to literally just run down and off the side of the mountain we were on, while connected to various pieces of equipment and the parachute, of course. I found myself aloft in a matter of seconds, gliding above the hills, mountains and lakes below, while completely comfortable sitting in what felt like a lounge chair.
Connected to my tandem partner, who was seated behind me, controlling our ascents, descents, speed and overall elevation, I was left to absorb the breathtaking sights and witness an experience that I could have never dreamed of. The vision of the three highest peaks in all of the Alps – the stunning, snow-capped Jungfrau, Monch and Eiger – right in front of us, the spectacular aqua-blue waters of Lake Thun and Lake Brienz just below and jaw-dropping vistas in every direction we turned, I was in complete awe. Honestly, I cannot say enough. The adventure was one that I will never forget and I cannot recommend enough.
The rest of my weekend was spent exploring the quaint little town of Interlaken. Picturesque is too little a word to describe this idyllically located village nestled between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz.

 The beauty and majesty of the Swiss Alps is absolutely unreal. While hiking one day, I was struck by how glassy the lakes were. With a beautiful coral color, they were so clean and clear you could see right through to the rocks and pebbles. This made for stunning reflections of the vibrant green hills and rocky mountains towering above the peaceful scenery.

We wandered. Learned about the making of Swiss chocolate. Ate a lot of Swiss chocolate. Enjoyed a simple, but divine breakfast every morning consisting of coffee with homemade bread and jam. We relaxed and played a great deal of card games and pool in our hostel. Saw snow for the first time in a month. And relished in the incredible views of the mountains right outside our window. 

When people travel they hope to see wondrous sights, but Interlaken showed me much more. This small town resonates with peace and quiet. Here, you’ll find more bikes than cars, impeccably clean streets, organized pavements and a disciplined traffic scene. But most of all, you will find happy and content people.

Where's Wonka?!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

On Saturday morning, my friends and I were up before the sun to catch an early train to Perugia, an enchanting hilltop city 2 hours south of Florence.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am a chocoholic…so when we learned that we could tour the Perugina Chocolate Factory (home of Europe’s famous Baci chocolate); naturally that was our first stop!

One of the first things you notice when arriving at the factory is the distinct aroma-the smell of fresh chocolate envelops you like a warm blanket. It's hard not to feel like you are Charlie at the Wonka Factory! We took a tour to see how the Baci chocolates are manufactured. Baci (Italian for "kisses") is a hazelnut covered by sweet chocolate that is then wrapped in a love note.

 My favorite part of the tour was when we were placed in front of a long table filled with samples of all the chocolate they produce. We were literally able eat as much as we pleased and take as much as our purses and hands could hold. I was in a chocolate coma by the time this part of the tour was finished!

After gorging on way more chocolate than I’d even like to admit, we somehow managed to find room in our stomachs for some delicious wood-fired pizza at Pizzeria Mediterranea.

 Exploring of Perugia’s medieval buildings and streets were next on our agenda. I quickly found that my favorite part about this town was the fact that its high location allowed us to simultaneously see every angle of the countryside and the city.

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend!

Classes, Wandering and an Abundance of Gelato

Friday, February 14, 2014

(Long, slow exhale). I’ve officially been in Italy about 3 weeks now! 3 long, full, rich weeks of attempting, however laughably, to speak Italian; meandering around the ancient streets, trying to figure out the somewhat confusing layout; and, of course, gorging ourselves with embarrassing amounts of pizza, pasta, gelato, and everything in between that could possibly be edible (but let’s be real, it’s mostly gelato). We’ve had orientations, an excursion to Rome and multiple near head-on collisions with the dizzying amount of motorized vehicles found in Italy. And now, at long last, we can call ourselves citizens of Firenze. I wake up every morning amazed by this place I now call home.

I thought I would give you a glimpse into what I've been up to in my favorite and definitely most interesting class; fashion photography. Yesterday my professor had us wandering the streets and photographing a local model. We then moved to an indoor studio to shoot which was something I had never done before, but absolutely loved it!

 Enjoy the photos!

 Preview for this upcoming week:
Gelato eating.
Wine club.
Gelato eating.
Interlaken, Switzerland.
Probably more gelato eating. (:

When In Rome

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

This past weekend, I ventured from the Renaissance to the earliest times of the Romans; that is, Florence to Rome. Although most people I spoke to prior to leaving for told me that I would absolutely love Rome, there were a couple of people who told me that Rome just wasn’t their cup of travel tea. I quickly realized that I would have to make up my own mind about the city.

 Right away I noticed how vastly different, yet somewhat similar Rome and Florence are. Rome is nicknamed the "Eternal City" for a reason. Alongside the epic ruins of the Roman Empire lies a city with a pulse like none other. It's fast paced, diverse, and vibrant. And not to mention the massive amount of green space and trees! (Something Florence unfortunately doesn't have enough of)

The traffic jams and crowded tourist attractions overwhelmed me with exhaustion. Aside from the chaos of the city, Rome’s famous attractions were stunning. It was hard to comprehend the ancient history as I walked through the Roman ruins. 

The beauty and immense size of the Colosseum was captivating. 

I visited the Vatican, Sistine Chapel and St. Petersburg Basilica.


 I people-watched on the Spanish Steps and saw the Pantheon.

I tossed my coin and made my wish into the romantic Trevi Fountain.

I ate delicious Italian cuisine, explored sights I’ve dreamed about for so long and spent time with some pretty wonderful people.

 Rome is a mix of predictable and unexpected. A beautiful city caught in a mess of traffic and Vespas. Rome’s history is thousands of years old and I only got a small taste, but it was enough to make me want to return again someday. 

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