Posted by: Ginevra | November 11, 2010

Riverside Sunset

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This is the place. Whenever I need to convince visiting friends that there is a lot more to New York city than the flashy lights of Times Square at night and the skyscraping heights of the Empire State Building, I take them here, right on the water front of Riverside Park.
When my mom drove my brother and I to the city when we were kids, I would always see the water front part of the park, as it borders the Westside Highway. When I moved to 98th and Broadway last year I was determined to find it, although every time I embarked, I ended up in the dead-end of the 96th st highway exit. At that area, the only way under the highway was with a car and it was going away from the River. I didn’t find the real entrance until a few months later and only by chance. As you enter the park on 96st, take a right when you see the children’s park, walk up the slope onto the main pathway, continue a few hundred feet and you’ll see a small sloping downward path to your left. If you see the recreational parks to your left while walking on the main path, you’ve gone too far.
I took my friend there a few weeks ago so he could run while I do some reading for school. What astounds me every time is that there is no fence guarding you from the rocks by the waterside. You can walk right on them, which I did. I enjoy being close to water, something I took advantage of in Italy when I was running. Across the water is New Jersey, and when you’re not seeing the state through it’s notorious TV show, it’s actually a pretty sight.
Runners, bikers, dog-walkers and friends were enjoying the park that day, though not so many as to make it congested. The talk and laughter joined the easy melody of the river’s water. I set up shop on a grassy bank by the path with a towel and laid my books down. After lying down a bit and taking in the breeze, my friend went off for a run and I was left with my public relations textbook. As it grew dark and I couldn’t read anymore, I didn’t mind. The sunset that day was spectacular That is the picture I’ve included hope you like it.
When my friend came back, I had given up trying to read using the flashlight app on my Droid. His verdict on the park? It’s even a more beautiful run than Central Park’s reservoir.

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Posted by: Ginevra | July 29, 2010

A New Direction

In May, I came back from Italy, to a new internship in the city, and lived at home… quite broke. But I did it. I made a dream come true, and I studied abroad. I realized, settling into the job during first few weeks, I no longer wistfully stared out the window, wondering what else was out there. I had a satisfying taste of it. An appetizer to the world. And for now, I could focus on forging my own path in an exciting new industry.

I didn’t write. There was no immediate traveling, because of work and lack of money. I wondered what to do with this blog. I didn’t want it to just sit… but that’s what ended up happening for a few months.

I realized though, as the days past, that this blog is essentially about exploration, which does not have to confined to new lands or cultures, but the exploration of one’s own homeland. Doing new things, looking over the essentials with new eyes, finding new meaning. In the “About” section, I wanted to find a place to call home, but while New York is still my home, I want to enjoy it, and you can be a part of it, for readers who know the city streets like a taxi driver to those who are just visiting. And of course, if new travels arise, I’ll include those too, because I’m generally never full after just an appetizer.

It’s a new outlook, a new direction, and I hope you’ll enjoy the journey.

Posted by: Ginevra | April 5, 2010

Arno River Run

BUZZ! BUZZ!

I groaned, turned over, and shut off my 7:15am cell phone alarm. I sat back in bed and heard the pitter patter of rainfall outside my window, which was my signal that I could go back to sleep.

Around 9:30 I was up again, and this time, the sunshine was starting to burst through the clouds. Well now I had no excuse, even though rolling over and back into sweet slumber was so tempting. I got out of bed and put on a sports tank top, stretch capris, socks, a cotton tee, and running sneakers. I pulled my hair back into a ponytail and secured with two rubber bands, grabbed my keys, put in my headphones to Jack Johnson’s “Girl I Wanna Lay you Down” and walked out the door.

I’ve never been much for running for exercise. Gimme a ball to hit with a tennis racquet or to catch with a baseball glove, or a frisbee to chase… I’ll take those kinds of sports any day. I really enjoy playing sports, especially for the exercise. I’ve been playing and competing in Tennis for 12 years now, and also like to play other sports. But running? It’s boring and monotonous and uninspiring.

When I came here to Florence, I left my tennis racquets at home, not only because it would be added baggage, but I also can’t play because of my high blood pressure. After a couple of weeks, I looked for possible gyms, and though some offered student discounts, they were still more than I wanted to pay. So what was I left to do? Run.

I walked the two short blocks from my apartment to the Arno River, passing by a few Florentines dressed still in parkas. Sometimes I wonder what they must think of me in my short-sleeve tee while they’re still in winter gear. Once I neared the riverside path, I stopped to stretch, my body welcoming the movement and the crisp air. After my legs, back and arms felt warm, I switched playlists, and off I went, enjoying the light spring in each step as I ran.

In the beginning, the most difficult part was just getting out of bed and doing it. But it also didn’t get much easier once I hit the road. In my initial short 2 miles, I often had to stop to walk a bit to catch my breath and start again. I think the only motivation I had was being also to see beauty of the city and Tuscan countryside while the sun was shining, making the river sparkle during my whole route. And after a few weeks, I started to pick out which sidewalks I was less likely to twist my ankle, and where it was just better to run on the road because there were too many awe-struck tourists, and which street vendors to ignore as they mocked my exercise through mimicking. Gradually, breaks were fewer and the distance got longer, and my lips started to smile.

When I came back to my start point today after doing 3 miles, with only one quick walk, I checked my time: 25min. Not bad. When I got into my apartment, the girls were still sleeping so I took my sneakers off, switched back to my slow grooves playlist, and stretched out on the kitchen floor, nice and slow. My hamstrings felt strong, my abs were tight, and my whole outlook just felt so refreshed. It felt so good. Looking forward to doing it again tomorrow morning.

I just hope when I get back home, the Tuscan motivation with the Arno River translates into Hudson River runs on the West Side in New York… because I don’t want to lose this newfound appreciation for running.

Posted by: Ginevra | April 1, 2010

The Rumba on La Rambla

It was the afternoon on our first day in Barcelona, and Vinny and I had already exhausted many of the main streets around the tourist sites. So as we walked along the pier we decided to take a roundabout route to go to la Sagrada Familia. We chose to take La Rambla avenue.

The avenue already started with a bit of craziness. If you’ve ever been to Times Square in New York city, then I’m sure you’ve seen people dressed in costume, like Spiderman or the “Naked Cowboy,” for tourists to take pictures. La Rambla avenue has the same but they take it to a whole other level. These costumes are incredible. Some people are covered in flowers to look like a walking garden. Another man was painted in all white, skin and clothes, and was seated upon a toilet on a platform with his trousers down to the ankles. Don’t worry, a newspaper not only provided the man with reading material, but also censorship for an important appendage. Some people were impressive gargoyles, dressed in metallic black, standing on stilts hidden under their pants, and had horns on their head and giant wings attached on their back. Another man was a genie, seated upon a magic carpet. The carpet was anchored by a pole on the left side and a weighted plank on the floor, kept hidden by a small piece of carpet.

The next source of entertainment came from a fourth story balcony of an apartment building lining La Rambla. A Spaniard and his life-size female puppet were putting on skits and interacting with the crowd below. The puppet had a large mouth that could open and close and arms manipulated by a sturdy wire. She strangled him, he pretended to throw her off the balcony. She kissed him, he danced and sang. She scoped out passerby, and he made jokes with them. Though I didn’t understand any of it because he was speaking all in Spanish, I was absolutely cracking up, and so was much of the crowd.

As we walked futher, we noticed to the left, a bit of a passageway, canopied with an emblem and tarp. It was a market, selling chocolate, sweets, lunch and seafood, all for very cheap. Vinny inhaled a kilo of strawberries and I contently nibbled on a chocolate bunny lollipop. And because Vinny hyped up this rare fish snack that his mother enjoys, I had to try some, even though I’m not too keen on fish. The fish meat was breaded into small bite size balls and warmed. They were delicious!

But, it was another area of seafood that held a surprise. One vending area sold whole pieces of various seafood. I walked close, my curious eyes inspecting the various intricacies of each critter, until I saw something move from the corner of my eyes. I jumped backwards with a yelp, colliding with a group of women who also cried out with my surprise. The lobster was still alive and moving!  They’re always dead in the states, or if they are alive, they are in a tank. Vinny was laughing so hard at my fright, while I stood there trying to catch my breath. Once I calmed my heartbeat, we watched the sea creatures again. The shrimp and crabs was also moving: the arms, the mouths, and legs. Vinny told me to stand next to the lobster that initially scared me, so he could take a picture, and though I was still quite squeamish and whimpering, I stood there long enough to for quick pose and smile.

The market wasn’t the only place with crazy items for sale. When we left the market, and continued our walk north on La Rambla, vending carts lined the avenue with pet animals for sale. Sure, they had the normal stuff, fish, hamsters, small turtles and birds. But the more we walked, the crazier the selection became. There were chickens and roosters, chipmunks and squirrels, baby chicks and little duckies, large and teeny turtles, and many more. If it hadn’t started drizzling, we probably would have gawked a little longer at all the different animals. But instead, we jogged to the subway, barely missing the downpour, and crossed our fingers that it would stop when we exited at la Sagrada Familia.

Posted by: Ginevra | March 28, 2010

Barcelona’s Turquoise Waters

“Jenn, that water you’d be able to see through the bottom.”

“How can you tell?”

“I don’t know. Just can.”

“There isn’t any characteristics of the water that you can pick out that would tell you that?”

“I’ve been around a lot of bodies of water. I can just tell.”

It was morning and our last day in Barcelona. Vinny and I were perched against the railing of the concrete boardwalk, overlooking the beach.  Though it was an overcast and cloudy day, we could still see some sailboats in the distance and various shades of the water, deep blue close to shore, turquoise, and then gray blue. Vinny knew that I’ve never been in water where I could still see my feet once I waded in, so he instantaneously peaked my interest.

“Do you want to take a closer look?” He asked me. “No, no, it’s ok. I just needed to be on a beach. I miss the water.” But he could tell I was only saying this to save time. We had a day of sight-seeing ahead of us and had a bit of late start.

“Are you sure?” I thought about it a bit. “Well ok, we can go down.” So we scampered down the ramp behind us and walked onto the sand.

“This is the first time I walk onto a beach with sneakers on,” Vinny said. I laughed. I live in New York and have walked on beaches with sneakers on, but his Brazilian feet probably never have.

We stop only a few feet away from where the water creeps onto the sand, and just stood there, looking around. He looks at me as I’m taking in the sea sights and scents, “Do you want to go in?”

I hesitated, “But my feet will get wet, which will make my socks and my sneakers all gross and soggy for the rest of the day.”

“You can wash them off.”

“Where?”

He points behind us, “There are showers right there.”

I turn and squint a bit, looking in the direction he pointed, “I don’t see them.”

He comes over to me, puts his arms around me and tries to level his eyes to mine. “Right there,” he points again.

“Oh!” And sure enough, there were two metal shower heads behind us. That was all the reason I needed.

I took off my sneakers, carefully placed my socks in them so they wouldn’t get sandy, and then walked shyly to the water. It was cold, but I didn’t care. Rolling up my jeans tightly around my knees so they wouldn’t fall, I giggled and walked closer to where the water became turquoise.

Ginevra In Barcelona Water

“Vinny! You’re right! I can see through the water around my feet and even ahead of me! It’s so pretty!” I hopped around a little in delight. When I turned around to face him, he had my camera in hand. Click!

I walked out, still laughing a bit, and grabbed my sneakers and socks. At the shower, I paused a bit, wondering how I was going to do this without toppling over or getting everything wet. Vinny smiled, “You’ve never done this before, have you?” I smiled back, and answered a quick, “Nope!” He guided me through the whole process. With his help, and using my sleep tank as a towel, I managed to not get anything sandy or wet.

Once we got back onto the boardwalk, I turned around and looked at the ocean contently. It was the first time I had been in waters clear enough to see through, something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time.

“Vinny?”

“Yeah?”

“Thank you.”

Posted by: Ginevra | March 22, 2010

The Italian Countryside

The Italian countryside… yes it is just what you see in pictures or what the image is when the word “Tuscany” comes to mind. The fields and pastures in the lows of the valleys, with clusters of little puffy white sheep and the old brick farms. On the rollings hills and mountains beyond lie the little villages, each red-roofed house taller than the one before as the eyes gaze upwards, with the occasional castle at the peak. Some of these hills are accessed by bridges held up by arches with long legs. Others, it’s a spiral road, weaving through the building, back and forth, as if made by a giant sea side crab. On the hills untouched, the numbers trees provide the hillside with shade, so dense that even the leafless branches still provide cover. Even though spring has yet to arrive, there is still so much green, making the whole picture outside the window of my Rome-bound train so beautiful. And every time we exit a tunnel, the journey provides a new scene. One of my favorites is a soft hilltop, lined at the very top with one one row of trees, with all the greenery alive at the top of the branches, and they are spaced so that in between each trunk, you can see the dark gray of the mountain far in the distance. They are majestic, these mountains, some even capped with snow. I’m glad we took the slow train to Rome; it gave me the view, a look at the Italian countryside I could have only imagined before.

Posted by: Ginevra | February 27, 2010

Parisian Ambitions

Paris is beautiful. The buildings are beautiful and I really enjoy the city itself. It was nice to get out of the small town of Florence and be in a big city. I could definitely see myself living here if I didn’t have such a dislike for the language, :P. Maybe it’ll be the next language I could try and learn after Portuguese.
I really was such a little girl when I finally saw the tower. Hehe, I jumped ans skipped around and laughed to myself, thinking “wow, I can’t believe I’m actually here.” I ended up seeing the tower again at night with the girls, and for five minutes it sparkled as if a million cameramen were situated all over the tower and flashing pictures of the city at night. It was the girls’ turn to be giddy this time, while I just stood there and smiled, taking it all in. To top it off, Danielle sang a Paris-themed song while it sparkled.
It’s incredible how the more I see and the more do, my personal “To-Do” List just gets longer. I really disliked the idea of the French and Paris, until I came here and the city stole my breath away. And my childhood dream of seeing Europe is slowly but finally coming true. In a way it makes me more ambitious, not only to see and experience more of the world, but like if I can travel to different countries on my own, there shouldn’t be any challenge I can’t handle, can’t overcome. Traveling, in a way, gives me a lot of confidence in myself for the everyday. And New York won’t be the only city I know, which is really neat. Also, I feel like I want to do more for myself, as in have an incredible career, hopefully something I enjoy that pays well enough to allow me to do this again, because I want to come back here, and see even more of Europe, and see Brazil, and Africa, hehe, and so many other places. I really do hope that many of the trips I take in the future will be with you.

Posted by: Ginevra | February 24, 2010

Thoughts of Paris

It’s the day before I leave for my weekend trip to Paris. I have so many things to do before I get on that bus to the airport in Pisa, that my head is in kind of a whirlwind. It’s not only packing (which on its own, I need to run a few errands before I can begin), but getting a few papers done for tomorrow morning classes, and finalizing my resume and creating a cover letter for a fellowship position I would like to apply to for when I get back to New York. I just got a mug of chocolate milk to help settle my thoughts and I shall prioritize my tasks for today.

Because you see, it’s not like this is just a short weekend visit to Florida to visit friends. That was easy. It took me all of 20min to throw the minimal amount of things into a duffel and then just hop onto a plane. No, this is different. This is Paris. I’ve never been to Paris before, and I don’t want to make the same mistake I did during the weekend trip to Venice. Don’t get me wrong, Venice was great, but of the two days I went, the first was spent just trying to get my bearings and the second day I did very little walking on my aching feet (rain boots are not the shoe of choice when doing a lot of walking, dancing, or getting lost). I feel like I missed a lot of the beautiful landmarks because I didn’t know what they were or where to look for them. So now with Paris, I don’t want to make the same mistake.

And Paris… well I feel like Paris, especially for those who have never been, is one of those cities where you just dreamily tilt your head to one side, gaze your eyes upwards, and let out a soft whispered sigh, “Paris.” From afar, the city is one of enchantment, global commerce, dreams, high fashion, and of fabled love. And I don’t want to overlook any of the wonders it may hold.

Am I excited? Yes of course, but at the moment it’s more of a muted anticipation, focused more on the preparation than on the trip at hand. I’ll leave the excitement for when I get my first glimpse of the Paris sights from my airplane window, and squirm in my seat with glee!

Posted by: Ginevra | February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine’s Day

Just to say first off, Happy Valentine’s Day! Lots of love to the people who come to read this blog and enjoy my antics of traveling and being in Florence. I also send my love across the ocean to the states and other countries who are home to my family and friends. And to those to don’t have a sweetie of their own, cherish and love the ones you’re with and your Valentine’s Day will just as wonderful, which is exactly what my roommate, Danielle, and I did.

We had our first Italian dinner out of the apartment at a restaurant on our block. Interestingly enough, while I was looking at the menu posted on the glass window, the gentleman smoking outside told us that the restaurant was serving a free glass of wine too. I was already sold on the pasta with seafood dish, but the free wine convinced Danielle. When we walked in, the gentleman outside called to the waiter about the wine and they brought it to us as we sat down. Though, after a little observation, we realized that we were the only ones with the glasses of red wine.

And the wine was delicious. I had a little sip just to taste, and then handed the rest of the glass to Danielle once she was done with hers. I will soon devote another post to my state of health, but at the moment, I’m still on high blood pressure medication, and don’t want alcohol to mix with the medication, so yes, my wine I handed over to Danielle. The food was also delicious too. We both sampled each other’s dish, pasta with seafood and hers was spinach and ricotta tortellini with veggies. Dessert was great too. I have no idea what mine was to be completely honest and it doesn’t help that I don’t remember the name, but it jiggled like jello but it was white and opaque and covered in chocolate syrup. Danielle had a slice of soft creamy cake with a light crust sandwiching it together, with powered sugar to top it off. Overall, dinner was quite good.

What we both didn’t understand was the service. The waiters never once stopped at our table to ask us how our meal was, or when we were done with the main dish, they didn’t come by to offer us dessert, we had to ask for the menu to look at our choices. It was odd. Danielle and I had to kind of chase after them for service. This is my first time to a sit-down restaurant in Italy, so I’m not really sure if it’s typical of all restaurants, or just this one. I’ll find out soon though, and let you know!

Posted by: Ginevra | February 12, 2010

My First Dose of Florence Nightlife

Last night, as “I can make your bedrock,” played from the newly made D & J’s Groove playlist on my computer, Danielle and I were getting dressed to go out. It was my first night out in Florence, and after knowing the nightlife in New York, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But I dressed in my New York attire anyways: a short black halter dress ruffling out from an empire waist, flower-cutout stockings, and high heels. Danielle was also dressed to the nines. It took us awhile to track down some friends to meet, but around 12am we set out, with me clutching Danielle’s arm, in fear of falling on the very uneven Florence cobblestone roads.

Once again my Blackberry guided us in the streets, but we knew the basic direction, so we weren’t depending on it too much. Maybe five minutes into walking, a Polizia car slowed down next to us (no sirens though, so we weren’t in trouble :P). The policeman in the passenger seat rolled down the window and asked us, “Tutto bene?” (everything’s ok?). I replied, “Si, grazie.” Seems like he was satisfied with that, as he smiled, rolled his window back up and they slowly drove away. Danielle and I cracked up with that one. Maybe he stopped because I looked drunk while I was trying to avoid falling with my shoes, walking around like a dancer from Thriller,hehe (thanks Greg for the analogy), but we’re not sure. But it’s good to know the Florence police are alive and well, keeping Florentines – and teetering Americans – safe at night.

We had another quick stop, this time talking to a few Italians. My philosophy as an American in Florence is starting up a conversation with anyone and see where it takes me, as I definitely would like to meet native Italians. This conversation was with a brother and sister, and their friend. The brother, Alex, I believe initially started the conversation by asking D and I where we were going in Italian. We continued talking for a while, through broken Italian and English phrases (it helped that Francesqa knew a bit of English, as Alex spoke Italian very fast, which was difficult for me to pick up). We concluded by exchanging numbers, Alex inviting Danielle and I for dinner while he’s here in Florence on business, as he is a great cook, and D and I telling Francesqa we’d definitely call her whenever we go to Rome.

So onwards to Red Garter. D and I walked in, with no bouncer to check IDs. I only take note of this because it’s different in the states, especially in New York City where bouncers are very strict with IDs. According to Wikipedia, there is no drinking age in Italy, but one needs to be at least 16 to purchase alcohol in a public space. Red Garter is basically a typical sports bar we might have at home. It’s divided into two parts, the bar in the front and a stage in the back, with a kind of balcony for additional seating. Tonight, there was Dave Matthews cover band, and they were very good and had fun interacting with the nearly all-American crowd, many of whom were dancing. I refrained from dancing, but joyfully sang along with the band, sitting down on the bench with most of the same crew Danielle and I hung out with in Venice.

But to be honest, I felt a little out of place… well no, I didn’t feel out of place, but my outfit did. It wasn’t made for a really chill awesome bar. I wore it for the club, so my outfit was happy when around 2am, we all left to Twice, a club two blocks north from Red Garter. Twice reminded me of home: the steel fencing to contain a crowded line to the sidewalk, the bouncer at the door (though this one also didn’t check IDs), the dimmed lighting with highlights of neon in corners, and the pumping music. All of it made me smile. The bouncer was very nice too. He invited me inside with smile. Shortly I came back out to ask him where the coat check was, “right before the dance floor, make a right” and then ten minutes later, he took me from the middle of the coat check line, and brought me to the front, letting the girl know I don’t have to pay for mine. Nice service, hehe.

And wow, the place was crowded. For some reason, the jostling and shoving was much worse here than at home. I gave up the spot next to my group of friends as it was just too busy, and walked around a bit, running into the same trio of Italians Danielle and I met on the street. They had a bit of room so I stayed with them. The friend of the brother/sister was quiet and didn’t engage in conversation on the street, but I guess that’s only cause he lets his feet do all the talking. Boy, he could move! And the music was really awesome, just like Marquee at home.

I danced the rest of the night away, either with the Italians or my school friends, going home at around 4:00am. I’m glad things stay open that late. Danielle and I decided that we ever just really needed to go out and our feet just needed to dance, Twice would definitely be a great back up plan. And I think tonight’s going to be Glamour, so I’ll let you know how that goes too…

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