Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Crossing the Pond

“There is no moment of delight in any pilgrimage like the beginning of it.” – Charles Warner

This marks my first blog post after an amazing time in Europe so far. I write to you from the Santa Chiara Study Center in Castiglion, Fiorentino, Italy. The Tuscany region couldn't be more beautiful! Rolling hills of lush greenery, red tile roofs and blossoming flowers paint the landscape with rich colors during the summer months.

While Italy has been more than incredible, my blog would incomplete without the inclusion of my experience prior to settling in this sleepy Italian village.

Ten days before the program began in Italy, my friend Macy and I boarded a plane to Paris. We spent three days in France, three days in Switzerland, and three days in Austria.

The class that we are taking at Santa Chiara is called International Horticulture. According to Wikipedia, a trusted source by most college students, Horticulture is defined as… " The wing of agriculture that deals with the art, science, technology, and business involved in plant cultivation."

When I reflect on my 10 days of independent travel, I realize that horticulture played a large part in my enjoyment of each country. The landscape, gardens, and local cuisine were unique in each country that we visited due to the differences in horticulture from region to region.

As a vegetarian (technically pescatarian), I especially noticed differences in the local cuisine of each place that I visited. Meat is basically the same everywhere you go. You can almost always find chicken or steak on the menu in a restaurant, but plants vary noticeably from place to place. The availability of certain fruits and vegetables vary greatly due to differences in seasons, soils, climates, and culture.

Beautiful gardens were abundant in each country as well. Each country's gardens and landscapes were uniquely beautiful, often displaying a wide array of native flowers and trees with a distinct style.

We spent the first three days of our trip in France. We saw the sights in Paris, spent a day at Versailles, and explored the beautiful small town of Beaune.

Children playing tag in the Versailles Gardens
Dinner in Beaune, France
Rose Garden in Beaune, France
Strolling through the vineyards in Beaune, France
Vineyards in Beaune, France

Next we went to Switzerland. We saw Interlaken, Keintal, and Bern.

Bike tour through the Valley of 72 Waterfalls in Interlaken, Switzerland
Farmer's Market in Bern, Switzerland
Picnic by the River in Bern, Switzerland
Flower Market in Bern, Switzerland
With Missy and Chicho in Keintal, Switzerland
The Valley of 72 Waterfalls, Switzerland
Chocolate is HUGE in Switzerland
Bern, Switzerland
Brie and Bread is Heaven on Earth
Flower Market in Bern, Switzerland

Salzburg and Vienna, Austria were the last two stops before Italy.

The Sound of Music Tour in Salzburg, Austria 
Macy tries the traditioal Apple Strudel in Salzburg, Austria
The gardens in Salzburg were gorgeous! 

This trip was certainly a great way to kick off my study abroad experience! I learned so much about the world without even stepping foot into a classroom. Taking what I have learned in International Horticulture, I am able to better appreciate and recognize details of the gardens and cuisine in the countries that I visited.

More to come, Ciao!

- Jules

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