It was coming up to the end of our Erasmus year, and what had been one of the most incredible experiences I’d had to date. I had been living in Italy for around 5 months at that point, and there was a fortnight left for me to savour all things Italian – culture, language, the good expresso morning routine, and of course, (mainly) FOOD. You’ve no idea how much I miss the food. I don’t know how Italians manage it when they stay abroad. Suddenly it all makes sense when they turn their noses up at anything supposedly ‘authentically Italian’ produced outside of their country. (Although I must say that hasn’t changed my love for Pizza Express garlic doughballs, sorrynotsorry). But being honest, there’s just no comparing it, food is not just food (a principle I’ve always stood by) and pasta is not just limited to spaghetti, macaroni, farfalle (bow-tie) and fuselli (the swirly one). I remember walking into a supermarket and finding myself completely baffled at the sight of 4 aisles (I don’t even think I’m exaggerating) dedicated solely to pasta. It’s kind of a big deal. As is all food in Italy really. They just put everything into it, and everything is about food and food is everything and oh my god I loved it so much! So much so that I’ve set my mind to writing
a various posts about it. But I digress..
So. It’s late July, exams were well and truly over (can I get an Amen?…and a Spritz maybe?) and I was nowhere near ready to face the fact that Sangria nights and Calzone Fridays were soon to be replaced by 2-for-1 dinners at the local Spoons and Wet Winter Evenings by the TV (and also laptop, because, you know, ‘studying’). It was too much to bear. My dear Dobby, or ‘Carys’ as the world knows her, was also suffering from the same reluctance to leave the Erasmus bubble, however, was on the lookout for a bit of a change of scenery. So seeing this as an opportunity, we arranged for her to spend the last bit of her Erasmus with us in Italy, it would be perfect; the gang back together again. We would go to the beach, do a little sightseeing, find a new kebaby, eat breakfast pizza and GO TO THE BUFFET, you know, all the important stuff.
And that’s what we did. It was a wonderful 2 weeks, and aside from seeing Modena in a new light, and visiting the neighbouring sites, it was so much fun just to be back together again and reminiscing about the time we’d spent as a dynamic (more like disastrous) duo causing havoc in Granada, and what both of us had been up to in the second semester.
It’s also somewhat comforting to hear someone else’s experience of a similar situation. Obviously we had been in different places, and had done different things, but the case remained the same; there was a sense of mixed feeling. Erasmus had brought us so much in terms of experience, awareness, friendships, and many a tale to tell, nevertheless, it made looking at the same place in a different light near impossible. Granada for us would always be the place we loved before term started; the place we hated during those depressing November blues; the place we struggled to find ourselves in at first and of course the place we never wanted to let go of when the time came to part ways.
I went back to Granada a year or so after leaving, and the vibe was not as before, it’s true – me not being a student anymore had changed my perspective a little. Yet the yearning desire to stay and just be in the city was something I still felt very deeply. It brought up many fond memories, being there, and the less joyous ones had not by any means tainted my love for la vida andaluza, which we wanted to hold onto for a little while longer. In fact leaving there again provoked that sensation of FOMO, would you believe (I just can’t leave Granada alone!)?
ANYWAY. Rewind to my story. So we’re in Italy, Erasmus is about to end, we are both very much in denial about having to go back to reality and well, most of all dreading our final year of university and also British weather because ew gross/why/when will I ever see the sun again?
“I’ve never been to Venice before.”
Suitcases are half empty (or half full, depending on your perception of life); Carys and I much like others in our situation have a case (or two! **laughs at own pun**) of not knowing whether we’re coming or going **laughs at unintended rhyme**. Odd socks and bras and Primark leggings are strewn across the tiled floor, a pot of Nutella and a bare packet of mini toasted bread (ALL the rage in the Med) sits amongst all our lovely mess, next to a slightly deflated air mattress. Windows are wide open and the voices of Italians getting on with their day can be heard from the street one floor below.
”Let’s go then; let’s go early tomorrow and spend the whole day there. It will be great, we’ll have a tourist day out and we can take pictures and eat food and take more pictures and eat even more food – you see where I’m going with this..?”
Aside from our days spent in the sun, (WHY AM I STILL PASTY IT’S BEEN A YEAR) we had a few moments where we just reverted back to our cave-like ways. And I loved it. Still in pijamas at 3pm, and listening to people’s conversations below, we drank our teas and planned for what would be a great day ahead.
I can’t remember exactly what time we got up, but I remember it being early; as in the thought crosses your mind when the alarm goes off: ‘Maybe we can just not go’. But we decided that as Uni + Dissertation + grey clouds + bad tv was soon on the cards, it was best to make the most of our final days as foreign exchange students. So we ambled quickly to the train station. That’s an outright lie; I’m pretty sure we ended up running (pastry in hand) and I’m almost certain I didn’t catch my breath until the next stop. But point being, we made it; we were on our way.
One transfer and a few hours later, we found ourselves stumbling out of Venezia-Santa Lucia train station. People were basking in the mid-morning sun conveniently (not so much) sat on the steps outside, staring at the bustling mobs below, tourists and locals alike, just EVERYWHERE. The place was moving, individuals weaving in and out of crowds, nearby restaurants at full capacity, tour boats making their way across the river, the view across from which was impressive in itself. As is what happens sometimes when one first arrives at a tourist attraction, after a bit of a journey and even less sleep, everything seems all a bit much. We both stood for a moment trying to take it all in.
”Where do we start”
Excited to see the city (I had been a couple times before but Venice had a way of bringing the excited explorer out in you), we braved the crowds and got out our recently acquired map. And selfie stick. And dictionary.
Look if you’re going to play tourist, you may as well go all out.
No socks and sandals combo though. Sorry.