What I Learned After a Year in Vancouver

So it looks like I’ve officially been in Vancouver for a year now and man what a year it has been. Now this isn’t the first time I’ve moved away from home, but this past year marked the first time I’ve been more than a two-hour drive away from my family. I feel like being so far away made me feel like more of an adult for some weird reason. I guess perhaps because I couldn’t just take my laundry to my parents or call asking them to come help me fix something I have been forced into unchartered waters of ~adulthood~. I have learned a lot this past year and I thought I would share some of my wisdom with you all so bear with me.

First of all I learned that when something says “Hand Wash” HAND WASH IT. Viscose will shrink and you will cry when your favourite little outfit is ruined. Actually I’ve learned a lot about laundry that you’d have thought I would have just learned in university. Not being a student shockingly changes how much you care about the quality of your clothes. SHOCKINGLY your boss might not find you rolling into work in sweats at 8:30am as cute as your prof/classmates might have. Learn to love washing in cold and laying out to dry. Your clothes will love you and your hydro bill will shrink (your clothes won’t though).

Secondly, Vancouver you are clique-y. I was warned about this before I got here and thought nothing of it. I’m fun, kind, and loud who wouldn’t wanna be my best friend?! A lot you actually. I learned that you can’t go into relationships at 100kms an hour: relationships take time and you can’t force all your weird on people right away because it can be a lot to handle. Learning this made me a better person. It made me understand that people have boundaries and it made me take a deep long look inward at my own boundaries. The nice thing about Vancouver being clique-y is that once you’re in, you’re in for life.

Thirdly, forget about owning anything ever. Vancouver’s market bubble is too high and renting is cool. Possessions tie you down anyway, and you’re a free spirit. Who needs credit, or equity, or anything.

Fourth, when in doubt complain about the weather! Vancouver has the weirdest weather and everyone here is always unhappy with it.

“It’s raining!”

“It’s hot and everything is on fire”

“There are cherry blossoms everywhere URG”

Trust me, it’s an easy topic of conversation if you ever get stuck and don’t know what to say.

Finally, I’ve learned that once you get a taste for seeing the mountains you can’t get away. They are captivating in every way. The west coast is stunning and there is so much to explore. Also everything I considered steep before I moved feels like a mole hill now in comparison.

It’s been a pretty crazy year out here, but I can honestly say I feel like I made the right choice. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.

with love,

Lea

7 Things You Must See in Florence, Italy

As I have just returned from my glorious tour around Italy I felt it prudent that I create a few round-up posts for all of you telling you all what I loved and what I would recommend others to see and do. Florence is a beautiful city, but it’s a city of interiors. By that I mean, there is more to see on the inside than on the outside. Florence has numerous splendid galleries full of Renaissance beauties such as the Uffizi, the Palatine  Gallery, the Bargello, and the Gallerie dell’Accademie.

1. The Uffizi

If you’re going to Florence to see art then YOU MUST go to the Uffizi. In its’ two floors this gallery houses an impressive collection of priceless works of art. They have everything from Botticelli to Carracci and everyone in between. If  you can get line skip (available with the Firenze Card) you can show up whenever, if not I recommend either getting there right as it opens, or go after 3pm when the gallery starts to slow down.

2. The Palatine Gallery

The Palatine Gallery is located within the Palazzo Pitti (which itself has 5 galleries of different nature to see) and is the second best place to see some good paintings in Florence. Although both it and the Uffizi are old buildings that once were used for different purposes than just galleries, they are both presented in very different ways. The Uffizi is dressed like your standard gallery: each room contains paintings paired together based by artists, time period, or location of origin. But the Palatine Gallery is located in the old ducal and royal rooms of the palace and therefore are displayed betwixt lavish wall coverings and in rooms dressed in their imperial glory. You really get a feel of what it was like to be ridiculously rich and a Medici or a Bonaparte in this gallery (Think Louvre’s Napoleon III rooms but with Raphael and Perugino on the walls).

3. The Bargello and the Accademie

To me these two can be interchangeable depending on what your priorities are. If you are coming to Florence to see the most famous works, then you will probably opt for the Galleria dell’Accademia to see Michelangelo’s David. Now there is more to see there, but David truly takes the cake and it is a small museum and very crowded and can easily overwhelm even the most crowd friendly person. The Bargello on the other hand is much less busy, but houses an older master (and my personal favourite bronze caster) Donatello. This gallery also houses some great Michelangelo work too, but it does not have the David. I guess this one is really up to you and what you’re more inclined to see. Both galleries are laid out similarly and house similar artists, the only difference is that one has the famous David and the other has less crowds and Donatello.

Another amazing thing to do in Florence is to go to churches. Seeing as it is close to the papacy in Rome and also was home to one of the most rich and most famous powerhouse families, the Medici, expect Florence to have numerous lavish and crazy gorgeous churches and cathedrals such as Santa Maria del Fiore, San Miniato al Monte, Santa Croce, and San Lorenzo Basilica.

4. Santa Maria del Fiore


Or as the locals have lovingly dubbed it, Duomo (means dome). This cathedral, protected by UNESCO, is free to enter, but if you want to do the extra stuff you have to go to the special ticket office and grab a ticket that lets you climb to the cupola (top of the dome), the bell tower, to enter the opera gallery, Santa Reparata crypt, and to enter the Baptistery. This easily can be a whole day of fun. I would recommend going first into the cathedral and tour around the nave and then when you’re on the way to the exit go down into Santa Reparata which is the remains of the ancient remains of the old church that used to be on the same site. After this go line up for the Cupola and wait and wait and wait (if you have the Firenze card you can go into a shorter line, but it’s still like a 45 minute wait). Similar to climbing any tall monument, you need to do it once, but probably only once. With the dome you get to see Brunelleschi’s genius. HISTORY LESSON: the technique of making domes had been lost since antiquity, but Brunelleschi figured out how to make them again in the 1400s. He used a hollow herringbone technique to make the dome strong but light and you get to climb inside the hollow walls, spiraling up to the lantern where you will get a unique view of the city. After the dome go to the Baptistery and marvel at the mosaics and frescoes inside then tour around outside and gaze at the bronze doors depicting the old testament and new testament stories. And if you still have energy go up Giotto’s bell tower and see the opera museum (these last two I did not do, but they are available with the ticket).
5. San Miniato al Monte


To get here you have to go on a crazy gorgeous walk through some of the lesser busy areas of Florence. You pass through the old city wall, climb up by a lavish rose garden, go past a turn off for the Forte Belvedere (which is a cool walk and is a free place to look at Florence), and up more stairs to the Piazza Michelangelo where you see a bronze copy of the David with yet another view of Florence, but don’t stop here climb more stairs up to the glorious San Miniato al Monte! This old church is decorated with beautiful frescoes and has lovely, glittering mosaics above the portals.This is an active monastery and there are monks walking around everywhere. They also have a store where they sell liquor and sweets AND MONK MADE HONEY (tip: they are all weird honeys with strong flavours, be very careful which honey you pick). In the back and sides of the church is a beautiful cemetery which you can walk around and see lovely tombs and crypts that is equal parts macabre and spell-bounding.
6. Santa Croce

Now, you will not be walking through the safest looking area to get here if you are coming from the city center (i.e. Piazza Vecchio) but have no fear, you’ll be fine it is only like a 10 minute walk from Santa Maria del Fiore. This church is home to many famous tombs, so many that it might surprise you. Among the most famous people resting here are Galileo and Michelangelo. It is a lovely church an equally lovely courtyard that gives viewers a happy, uplifting feeling.

7. San Lorenzo Basilica

Medici fans raise your hands! It’s hard to miss the Medici balls which are all over the city of Florence, and they are no more present than here in their favourite church of San Lorenzo. This church is made up of 4 different museums, which means 4 different tickets SO FRIENDS BUY THE FIRENZE CARD, IT WILL BE WORTH IT. Once inside you can see the Library, the old and new sacristy, the Medici Chapel, the crypt and the museum. Honestly, this church is so lavishly decorated (purple porphyry is everywhere, this is an extremely expensive marble like rock only found in Egypt which I’m pretty sure is all used up now) and is home to some of the greatest architectural names, i.e. hey Brunelleschi nice old sacristy! It really helps visitors to understand just how much money those dang Medicis had. I mean, come on. It’s so so so so so so so beautifully decorated that beautiful does not even begin to explain it.

 

My final recommendation, which I have been saying endlessly, is if you’re only in Florence for a short amount of time it is really worth it to buy the Firenze card. It is 72 Euros for 72 hours of fun for over 70 different monuments. I saw everything above and more with the card and was able to skip lines and skip queues. It is worth it!

Let me know what you loved in Florence if you have been there and if you have any different recommendations for me for the next time I visit!

Love,

Lea

When in Rome…

After what feels like the longest and most painful few days of travel I have finally made it to Italy and my first stop which is Rome. So far my family and I have done the classic Roman tourist “traps”: trevi fountain, Pantheon, Coliseum, Forum, and tomorrow we are going to the Vatican. But, despite the fact that these are the sites that everyone sees and learns about, I have found that what really made them special was having a private tour guide. My dad found this wonderful lady, Francesca, who has lived in Rome her whole life and has a tour guide company. She is an archeologist and walking around Rome with her was amazing. She saw everything differently: she showed us the different ages seen in buildings, how the Empire was built into the Middle Ages and then into the Renaissance. Her colleague Manuela took us through the Coliseum and gains sus access to the underground and to the arena and roof of the amphitheatre, which you cannot do without advanced tickets and a guide. Both women were so knowledgable and so fun and made Rome so much more special with their insider knowledge. If you’re ever in a city for the first time and you really want to see a lot and learn a lot I recommend finding a good guide, funds provided, to take you around. It isn’t the cheapest or most budget-wise venture, but they can show you a different side to the city. 


If you’ve been to Italy what have you really enjoyed? Please let me know I’m the comments!

Love,

Lea

Trying to pack for Italy 

As some of you know and some of you don’t, I am going to Italy for a few weeks on Thursday and am pretty friken excited about it. The only problem is that I have zero idea what to wear and have too many clothes and not a very big suitcase so I can’t really bring that much so I really need to be strategic. I have a lot of clothes I want to bring so now I just need to narrow it down to what I really need which I think is:

3 pairs of pants

2 pairs of shorts

2 skirts

One nice dress

2 blouses

5 shirts

2 sweaters

A cardigan or cover up shirt

One jacket

Raincoat

A swimsuit

A pair of running shoes, a pair of walking shoes, loafers, sandals, heels

I think that’s everything… I don’t know if I should cut back and narrow it down or keep what I have. Guys help me! What do you recommend?

Please help! I’m stressing so hard. 

Love,

Lea