My Second Favorite Place in the World

Favorite place in the world: Home.

Second favorite place in the world: Paris.

When I was probably seven or eight years old, my mom gave me a storybook called Bijou, Bon-Bon, and Beau as a gift after one of my dance recitals (she sat through at least one of these recitals every spring for ten years to watch me dance for 5 minutes out of a 3 hour recital – you rock, Mom!).  This story is about three kittens living in a ballet studio in Paris.  During the opening night of the new ballet, the kittens get on stage and become the adored stars of the show.  I loved this book, which is illustrated with paintings by the French Impressionism painter Edgar Degas.  Today, I have two adorable little kitties of my own named after the kittens from this book – Bijou and Beau (I’m still working on Mom for a Bon-Bon).  But I think this book and Degas’ paintings are what started my admiration of French Impressionism.

So, when I found out that DIS offered a course on French Impressionism that culminated in a study tour to Paris, I signed up ASAP.  It was fun learning about this art movement when we were in class in Copenhagen, but I will never forget these three days I got to spend in Paris.  I loved every moment of it.

We arrived Thursday late Thursday night, went to bed, and woke up early for a bus tour of the city.  Our teacher, Suzanne, is wonderful and has done this tour with students many times, so  she had set up a really great day for us.  We had one of her Swedish friends giving us a pretty intensive history lesson as we drove around for a few hours to see all the major sights in the city – the Opera, Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Louvre, government buildings, etc.

I was actually surprised at how huge the Eiffel Tower is.  I knew it was big, but once you get under the base of it, you just go “WOW!”

Class Photo

The building that houses Napoleon’s tomb.

That afternoon, we went with our tour guide to the Palace of Versailles.  There is nothing human about that place.  Not a single corner is left undecorated, and they used gold like it was paint.  What started as a hunting lodge became the largest – and probably the most extravagant – palace in the world when King Louis XIV turned it into his permanent residence in the 1670’s.  The palace is one thing, and then you get to the 1,000 acres of gardens and the amazement continues.  Here are some highlights:

The middle part of the palace.  Just the middle.

Hall of Mirrors – the room where good old America became an official country (in the eyes of Europeans) with the Treaty of Versailles.


Marie Antoinette’s bed & jewelry box

Out in the gardens – as you can tell, the threat of rain was pretty ominous all afternoon.  There was a 100% chance of rain that day, but the only sprinkles we saw came when we were on the tour bus!

We got back to the city in time for happy hour, and after that I went with my roommates to the restaurant next to our hotel where I had one of the most delicious and adventurous meals of my life.

Here’s our hotel on the right, and the restaurant on the left.  We stayed in an awesome location on the left bank of the Seine in the Latin Quarter of the city.  Saint Germian – a great shopping street – was right up the road.

Beef with bearnaise sauce, roasted green beans, salad, red wine, cheese & a baguette. Our dinner conversation was limited to chewing and a few utterances of variations of the phrases: “This is so good” and “I am so happy right now”.

And here it is.  Me eating a snail.  I loved it!

So, Friday was focused on becoming familiar with the setting of the French Impressionism movement, and Saturday was the day to actually see the result.  We went first thing in the morning to l’Orangarie, which houses the crowning jewel of Impressionism: Monet’s Water Lilies.   These paintings are the culmination of his life work, and are so beautiful.

There are two rooms of lilies, one of a day scene and another of a night scene – very typical of an Impressionism artist, as they were all obsessed with light.  Each room is oval-shaped, and you are surrounded everywhere by this water scene.  We had, of course, seen recreations of this masterpiece in class, but being in front of it was an entirely different experience.  It was wonderful.  I loved it.  I’m going back.

The Lourve was actually not a part of our study tour because it only houses art work that dates up to the beginning of the 19th century, and Impressionism really took form around 1860.  Thus, we went to the d’Orsay, which is a converted train station on the other side of the River Seine from the Louvre.  There, we had a personal tour from an American PhD student.  He showed us all of the paintings we had seen in recreation in our studies, and I think everyone enjoyed this museum the most.  It really is paradise for an Impressionism lover.  Degas, Monet, Sisley, Manet, Renoir, Pissaro everywhere you look.  Of course, I got super excited whenever I saw a Degas that had been used in the storybook I told you about earlier (they were usually a lot smaller than I expected).  But my favorite of all was Renoir’s Dance at le Moulin de la Gallete.  This one:

And it’s a huge painting. In person, it really does look like the light is sparkling down on the people through the trees.   The Impressionists were criticized immensely for this type of light-focused work, which lead them to use seemingly strange colors.  I think you can see this use of color best in the dancing woman’s dress on the left.  There are blues and oranges and greens all over her “white” dress.  Renoir painted it this way because this is what he saw – the light from her surroundings reflecting on her dress.  Same with the speckles on the black coat (actually, impressionists never used the color black, so that color is actually a layer of many others) of the man sitting in the foreground with his back turned.

Impressionism was considered to be “modern art” in the late 19th and early 20th centuries because the techniques were completely radical.  The artists did not use fine, detailed brush strokes, and instead employed a wide and imprecise technique that made people – especially the jury at the Salon – say that their works looked unfinished.  They also were the first to really focus on painting the common folk instead of religious figures, royalty, or mythological characters.  This change in subject suddenly allowed art to be enjoyed by everyone – not just those who were familiar with religion and mythology.

So the d’Orsay was awesome, and now that we had accomplished a lot of what Paris does best (museums), we went out to do the next best thing (shopping).

I got a new Longchamp bag at their Paris location – so fun 🙂

Next we toured the inside of the Opera House.  There’s me on the right!

Inside, it is so regal and overly-detailed that it made me look at the Danish Royal Theater and go pssshhhhhh.  Must watch Phantom of the Opera ASAP.

Then after getting crepes in the park Tuileries, I went to the Louvre.  My awesome Paris tour guide book got me in and out of that monstrous museum in 30 minutes!


There’s the museum and Mona.  Going on a Saturday afternoon meant that the place was PACKED, so I was glad I had just a few pieces I wanted to focus on and a plan to tackle them.

That night, our class went on a riverboat dinner cruise down the Seine.  Usually I am speculative about these types of cruises because they’re generally just a tourist trap, but this dinner was delicious and, even though it rain, we were able to see a lot out of the glass windows that encased us.


One of Paris’ three Statues of Liberty. Oh, and the Eiffel Tower.  So beautiful.

Finally, we had a good party of the day on Sunday to do a little bit more exploring.  We went to Notre Dame for a morning service, and then explored the Jewish Quarter on the right bank.

It’s really beautiful in front, but even more beautiful is the back, with it’s flying buttresses and classic gothic architecture – especially admirable when all lit up at night!

The Jewish Quarter and some of the areas surrounding it are really unique because they were left untouched with Napoleon III decided to re-face all of Paris.  He did this in collaboration with an architect name Haussmann, and it was their mission to make the city look like a castle everywhere you went.  Even though this area is different from the rest of Paris, it still has a lot of character.

OK, this post is getting really wordy, so I am going to wrap it up with some more pictures of the Jewish quarter and by saying that Paris is my favorite trip this semester, probably my last one, and I will be back in my favorite place in the world – home! – in less than two weeks.




OK, so, it’s not warm out yet (temperatures around 50) but the sun is out, and it is out for a loooong time every day.  It’s up with me in the morning by 7 and sets a little before 9.  What a difference from January when the sun would come up and set all while I was in class.  Spring also means that classes are wrapping up and final assignments are becoming due.  Still, I’ve been able to get out and enjoy some of the daylight.

My French Impressionism class went out for sandwiches last Friday afternoon at a restaurant in the yellow building.

I found this great path about a five minute walk from where I live.  Looks a bit like Minnesota, I think?

I spent a lot of this weekend writing my final paper for my Positive Psychology class, finally answering the question “What might be the reasons Danes are the happiest people in the world?”  I answered with a theory- and experienced-based response about the incredible amount of support in Danish society.  Denmark is a very homogenous culture. They greatly value the well-being of their fellow countrymen, and, on a micro scale, their families.  I think this inward-facing mentality is a big reason why their welfare model works as well as it does.  They’re all OK with paying as much as they do in taxes because it means that everyone is accounted for.  Another way the Danish government supports its citizens is through higher education.  The government not only pays for all of its citizens to receive a higher education, but also provides these students with a stipend for living expenses.  Similarly, Danes receive incredible amounts of paid parental leave after the birth of a child.  These reasons combined with other smaller factors, such as having low expectations about the future, all seem to contribute to their overall contentment.  Like I’ve said before, Danes aren’t outwardly joyful, smiling people.  They’re actually rather reserved, and this is why I think Danes are more “content” than “happy”.

I actually just wrote my term paper in my Sociology of the Family course about Danish parental leave, which is exceedingly different from what we find in the States.  New Danish mothers get up to a year of paid leave after the birth of their child, and fathers get up to 34 weeks.  Past this, most employers will add on additional paid leave.  Danish mothers are shocked  to hear that American women get around 6 weeks.  Denmark also provides a certain amount of institutional childcare for young children.  Recently, these institutions have become full, so the state now pays people to nanny 2-3 children at a time.  Our class visited  a state-sponsored mother/child play group last week, and we met a few of these nannies who are actually making what they said was a very substantial living off of these temporary positions.  We also got to play with Danish babies 🙂

My Positive Psych class recently got to take a tour of Parliament with one of the Liberal Party leaders.  After seeing the building, we had the opportunity to ask him a few questions relating to why he though Danes were so happy.  Like most Danes, he said he didn’t really understand why they have that title, but he agreed that the amount of support they receive from their government and the community are unique and encouraging.


I also have gotten to see two ballets at the Royal Theater in the last week, and I am going to PARIS on Thursday with my French Impressionism class.  So busy with so many great experiences.  And the sunshine is the cherry on top of this whole Danish sundae 🙂

Pizza, Pasta & Prettiness: Italy

We have now made our backward way to the first stop of my travel break trip: Italy!  And what’s even better than the amazing pizza and pasta that I ate all week is the fact that my family was able to meet me out there for this once-in-a-lifetime trip.  I was so ridiculously excited to meet them out there, but first I had to take an oral midterm for my Danish course.  I wasn’t going to waste any time though, and I brought my suitcase with me to my midterm and left for the airport after.

We had an eight day trop and three cities to conquer: Rome, Positano and Florence.

Our first stop was just up the street from our hotel at The Pantheon.  It was originally built by Marcus Agrippa as a temple to all of the Roman gods, and now houses the tombs of some Italian royalty.  Though it was built 2,000 years ago, the Pantheon still has the largest unreinforced dome in the world.  Next, we walked west across the river to Vatican City and visited the Vatican Museum, which included a stop in the Sistine Chapel.  This area was beautiful, and St. Peter’s Basilica was so grand.  I loved walking around that square, but didn’t think the museum was super great.


The next morning, we went back to St. Peter’s Square for a Palm Sunday service being held with the Pope.  We couldn’t understand anything going on, of course, but it was really interesting to be there and see a service with the leader of the Roman Catholic church.


We then went back to the east side of the river and toured the Roman Forum and Coliseum.    The Forum was a lot larger than I expected, and we spent a couple of hours walking around these ruins of the government buildings, shrines and temples.


We then walked right next door to the Coliseum (great tourist tip: buy joint tickets for the Forum and Coliseum AT the Forum to avoid the huge line at the Coliseum).


We learned a lot about the Gladiators from the little museum there, but mostly Mick.  The Gladiators were usually prosecuted criminals, and the battles were put on by politicians looking to gain favor from the citizens.  The events would start with a parade through town and the entire community would gather in the Coliseum to see these Gladiators fight to the death with exotic animals that would be shipped in from all over the world.

Our time in Rome ended with a visit to the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain, where we each made a wish and threw in a coin.  In the morning we woke up and made our way to the train station and headed down to Naples where we transfered onto a smaller train to Sorento and finally took a bus to Positano.  It was a lot of traveling, but we quickly forgot the difficulties once we were greeted by this view:

We stayed at this great little hotel with only 15 rooms, run by a sweet, older woman named Maria and her sons.  This view from our balcony wasn’t too bad either….

We were so lucky to have warm weather during our stay in this town, and spent a lot of time at the beach and doing some great shopping.  This region of Italy is known for it’s lemons, and I have never savored such sweet lemons in my life.  They tasted like they were coated in sugar – you could almost bite into them.  We had great food down by the beach every night, and had fun playing with the neighborhood cats and dogs that were roaming around.  I finished the third and final installment of the Hunger Games series  (not at all impressed with the ending, by the way) while laying by the water on the last day, and bought a book called “Juliet” that was about a young American girl who finds out she’s related to Shakespeare’s Juliet and must travel to Florence to find the family treasure.  It was fun that I picked up this book when I did because the next day we left for Florence ourselves.

“Frienze”, as they call it in Italian, is a much, much smaller city than Rome, and there was artwork absolutely everywhere.  And in Florence, besides eating the world’s best gelato, looking at art is about all there is to do.  We started our art tour by going to the Uffuzi Gallery, which was right around the corner from our hotel.   We saw a lot of great paintings and sculptures, but the most remarkable part of the gallery was the room with all of the pieces by Botticelli – it stood out immediately from all of the others.  And later that day we went to the Academia where we saw Michelangelo’s “David”, which was absolutely magnificent and monumental in person.  It is monstrous, and being able to walk around it helped me appreciate it even more.

On our last full day in Italy, we went to visit the beautifully unique Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and Pitti Palace.  The exterior of the catherdral is made of green, pink and white marble, and doesn’t look like anything I’ve ever seen before.

When we got inside, I was surprised at how austere the decor was.  Clearly, the architects wanted the majority of the color on the outside.

In the Boboli Gardens behind the Pitti Palace, we got a great view of the city and took some time to relax.  I was pretty worn out at this point, but so glad that we were able to see as much as we did.  I had a great time with the fam, and can’t wait to be back with them in Minnesota in less than a month.  I found out this week that I will be interning with the marketing department at United Way doing event planning, and working at Caribou, too, of course.  Summer is so close!


London: My search for Prince Harry and Rupert Grint

After my week in Italy and prior to Barcelona, I was in London for 6 nights with my friends from high school, Hannah, Alexa and Alyssa.  And do you know what was so great?  Having everything around me be in English!  I know that’s not the most open-minded remark ever, but after three months of trying to decipher foreign languages everywhere I go, I was pretty excited.  What I was not used to, though, was having to look the other direction when crossing the street!  Thankfully they have arrows painted on the crosswalks telling tourists like me which way to look 🙂

I was so glad I had so much time there because London offers so much to do, but we were still able to have a relaxing week.  When I arrived on Saturday afternoon, I got my Oyster card and took the Tube into the city where we walked around Kensington Gardens and went to “Soundtrack Night” at a bar called Monarch in the neighborhood of Camden.

Here I am at Kensington Palace!  One day Will and Kate will live here, but right now Prince Harry does.  I was secretly hoping he was home and would come out into the gardens so that I could like propose to him or something….

Sunday was Easter and all the girls and I went to SoHo to have brunch at this really fun restaurant called The Breakfast Club.  For anyone familiar with Boston, it reminded me of a combination of The Friendly Toast and The Beehive.  We had to wait a while for a table, but it was so worth it!


And for dessert we went down the street to Hummingbird Bakery where I had THE BEST cupcake of my life.

It’s called the Blackbottom Cupcake and it’s a chocolate cupcake with cheesecake filling and cream cheese frosting.  YUM!  And the shop is really fun, as you can see.

And the afternoon got even better when we went to St. Paul’s for Easter Evensong.  I wish I could have taken photos inside the cathedral because it was the most beautiful one I have been in.  Even though it was pretty plain on the outside, there was so much gold everywhere inside that the whole place sparkled.  It was a really different but incredibly special Easter Sunday.

On Monday while all of my friends were in class, I decided to start checking off some of the more tourist-y activities from my to-do list.  My cousin Amara was supposed to come out to London for the week and do all of these things with me, but something came up at work so she had to cancel her trip 😦  I still had a lot of fun, though, and it worked out well that I could do all of the things my friends there have already done while they were busy during the day.  My first stop was Tower of London.


The guy in the funny outfit is a Yeoman Warden and was the tour guide for what they call the Beefeater Tour.  He told a lot of jokes and give a quick tour around the grounds so we actually knew what we were looking at.  After the tour ended, I booked it over to the building with the Crown Jewels.  I couldn’t believe those gems.  The Queen’s crown weights 5 lbs and has a 530 karat diamond…. FIVE-HUNDRED, THRITY!!!  To see it, you have to go by on a conveyer belt, and I went back down this belt three times.  Conclusion: I like sparkly things and would look good in a princess crown.

To end the day, I did what any good London tourist does and I went to King’s Cross Station to take a picture at Platform 9 3/4.  Unfortunately, this was the closest I got to Rupert Grint (aka not close at all) but, hey, it was fun pretending to go to Hogwarts!

Here I go!  We tried to take pictures by Big Ben after this stop, but, as you can see, the weather would not cooperate.  Clearly, I was getting the true London experience with all that rain and wind.

Photo credit to Hannah for this great candid shot.  I got some better pictures of the tower later in the week, thankfully 🙂

Tuesday was museum day!  I started off at the British Museum where I saw a whole lot of stuff, including the Rosetta Stone, Cleopatra’s mummy, and some 2012 Olympic gold medals.  I’d say this was my favorite tourist stop in London.  However, the next museum I went to ended up being my least favorite spot: Tate Modern.  I feel bad that I can’t appreciate modern art, but please tell me how a stuffed crow pinned to a wall, representing freedom, is art?  I don’t think it was helped that I was fresh off a trip to Italy where I saw works by the likes of Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Botticelli.  That was art.  Tate Modern, not so much.

I ended the day by stopping at Buckingham Palace and walking through St. James’s Park on my way to Westminster Abbey for an Evensong service.  I got to sit in the choir pews and see Sir Isaac Newton’s burial spot!

In front of Buckingham Palace.  I’d say it suits me pretty well 🙂

An engraving by the door of Westminster Abbey that I liked.

Wednesday was shopping day.  I started the day at Camden Market and then made my way to Harrods, which was incredible and sooo luxurious.  I felt the need to buy myself something so I went with a milk chocolate macaroon at the sweets shop, even though the designer handbags appealed to me quite a bit more 😉

That night we went to the London Ice Bar, which involves putting on a giant, smelly blue parka and having a cocktail in a glass made of ice, in a room made of ice.  Basically, you pay for the photo opp.  So here it is:

After half an hour we shed the smelly parkas and went somewhere much warmer to listen to live music for the rest of the night.

Thursday was my last day in the city and I was pretty worn out, so Hannah and I went and found Abbey Road Studios and Primrose Hill.  The photo of me crossing Abbey Road in true Beetle’s fashion is on Hannah’s camera, so I’ll have to post it later once she finally uploads her photos to Facebook (hint, Hannah, hint).  But here is a great view of London from the top of Primrose Hill:

I felt as if I was looking over all of my conquered territory when I was up there.  I saw so much of London in that week, but could have easily filled up another week with more museums, parks, and tea times.  I will definitely be back one day!



Hello, hello, hello!  I have just returned from an 18 day travel break through Europe, and I feel like the luckiest person in the world for all of the great experiences I had.  The first week was spent with my family in Rome, Positano and Florence.  The rest of the time was in London and Barcelona with girlfriends from high school.  I don’t think I could pick a favorite city, as they were all incredible and unique.  I’m excited to write about all of these places, and think I will start with the last stop and work my way backward.  That brings us to Barcelona 🙂

Last Friday, my friend Hannah and I left her flat in London at 5 am to make our way for the airport.  Now, we didn’t realize it at the time, but we were traveling on Friday the 13th.  After nearly missing the bus to the airport, standing for an hour in the wrong baggage drop line, and getting held up in security for 45 minutes, we managed to make our 8 am flight – probably helped by the fact that it was delayed half an hour.  We started laughing at the ridiculousness of our morning once when we finally were seated on the plane, and put some Juanes on our iPod’s to get us in the Spanish mood.

Our first stop after getting settled into our hostel (which was really nice – Hostel One Centro – for anyone who cares to know) was La Sagrada Familia, the phenomenal and (relatively) contemporary cathedral by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi.  This Roman Catholic church was commenced in 1888 and is still under construction, but there was still enough of it completed to gawk at.


A photo of the exterior, stolen from Wikipedia because it was covered in scaffolding when I was there.  Already, it stands out from anything else I’ve ever seen.


Isn’t that incredible?  Gaudi was influenced by the natural world, and designed the interior to look like tree trunks, branches and leaves.  That first photo in this sequence is of the ceiling, which Hannah and I sat down and just stared at for a while because it’s so mesmerizing.

Then we went up on the roof where I, once again, confirmed my fear of heights but got a great view of the city.


It wasn’t quite as remarkable as the top of the cathedral in Milan, but we saw some other examples of Gaudi’s nature influence.  At this point it started raining so we made our way back to the hostel and took a little siesta before rallying up for dinner.  We ended up finding this place with a really great dinner deal: 3 course meal and wine for 9 euro!  Of course, I took pictures of my food….


My gazpacho and flan.  And I had to include the picture of Hannah and her sugar yogurt.  Our waiter spoke no English and we didn’t know what a lot of the dishes on the menu were, so Hannah ended up with yogurt for dessert.  Gotta love language barriers.

The next day we woke up and walked the shoppers street, La Rambla, down to the beach.



It was pretty warm out – maybe 65-70 degrees – and it was really fun to be by the water.  After our walk, we went out on a search for this sandwich shop called Bo de B’s, which we were told was “life changing” from friends who had been to Barcelona before.


Finally, we found it up the beach a ways.


And I don’t know if I would call it life changing, but it was really really really really good.  We worked off our monster lunch by walking around Gaudi’s park called Park Guell.  Again, we were amazed by Gaudi’s unique design and spent a few hours just roaming around looking at the architecture and the amazing views of the city.


For dinner, we went back to the beach with our hostel roommates for some paella.  And then I had to get up in the morning to journey back to chilly Copenhagen.  It feels good to be back somewhere homey and catching up on sleep!

Gorgeous, Gorgeous Prague

I think after two months in Denmark my skin forgot what it felt like to be touched by the sun, which is why I got a little sunburned after spending two days in sunny, glorious PRAGUE!  We could not have asked for better weather to explore this gorgeous city.  My friend Paige, who is a fellow Minnesotan and student at Gustavus, and I very spontaneously booked tickets a few weeks ago during lunch for this weekend trip to the Czech Republic, and it came up really quickly.  We got in late Friday night and had all day Saturday and Sunday to explore the little city.

I was surprised, first, by how many tourists there were in Prague.  There were different languages being spoken all over the place, and I think I saw 5 times as many foreigners as Czech people.  I also didn’t realize how proud the Czech Republic was of its medieval heritage and influence.  Our first trip was to the Astronomical Tower, and all of the workers there were dressed up in cheesy – but awesome – medieval guard attire.  The view from the top of this tower was amazing, and we made it down just in time to see the clock show.

Tyn Church from the top of the Tower

Old Town Square from the top of the Tower

More of Old Town Square


We were right outside the clock at the top of the hour so we could enjoy the clock show.  This clock was originally build in the 1400’s, and legend has it that its creator was blinded so that he wouldn’t repeat his work.  I don’t understand everything it can do, so I won’t be doing it justice, but it can tell the position of the moon, sun and zodiac signs along with the time. At the top of the hour, a little song plays, a skeleton strikes a bell to tell the hour, and the doors around the faces open and some figures come out to parade around.  I wish I could figure out how to insert the video I took of it because it was very cool, and there was a huge mob of tourists standing around watching, then we all cheered at the end 🙂

We then spent the afternoon on the castle grounds.  There was so much to see, but I think my favorite part was our lunch on a castle terrace, overlooking the city.  

On our way back, we crossed the Charle’s Bridge, which was for many years the only connection between the castle and Old Town over the Vltava River, and walked through the Jewish Quarter, one of the oldest settlements in Europe.

Looking across the river over toward the castle.

Something you’re supposed to touch when you go over the bridge.  I can’t find any information on it but my host mom told me I had to do it, so this pic was for her! 

A pic of the bridge from our lunch/boat cruise on Sunday.


Some cool buildings in the Jewish quarter.

We also did a lot of great shopping and dining and were completely worn out by the time our flight left on Sunday.

And I swear I’m still going to school in between all this traveling!  I was at the ballet again last week, we had a really interesting guest speaker in my Sociology of the Family class talk about gay marriage in Denmark, and I started my art history course on French impressionism, which includes a weekend trip to Paris in May.  This weekend I’m going to go see the new Hunger Games movie and sleep in – something I haven’t done in a while!


Milan pt. 2

I spent the whole entire first part of this week studying for my Applied Psych midterm that took place this afternoon, and the test was word-for-word the same as the study guide.  This is another reason why I love study abroad!

Back to Milan…

Wednesday brought us to Polo University where we were lucky enough to get to listen to a very prominent psychologist, Antonella delle Fave, and her research team talk about cultural differences in positivity and happiness.  The word “happiness” in different languages has many different meanings when you consider the root of the word.  For example, in English it goes back to roots relating to “chance” and “luck”.  In the romance languages, happiness is “faith” and “flourishing”.  In the eastern perspective, it is often understood that happiness cannot come without unhappiness (yin/yang).

Della Fave’s colleague Lawrence Nathan gave an interesting lecture on altruism, and we had a conversation about whether or not true altruism can really exist.  Research shows that people who commit “selfless” acts of altruism have increased physical well-being and longevity in life, a positive self-image, overall good life satisfaction, etc.

And again, the afternoon was left to us to explore the city.  DIS had us on a wait list for tickets to see da Vinici’s “The Last Supper” and just before we left, we got the tickets!

The church attached to the little building where the painting is.

I took this photo of the building’s courtyard while I was waiting in the sealed holding chamber right before we went into the room with the painting.  Once we were in the main room, you weren’t even allowed to have your camera out of your bag.  One woman did and the guard asked her to show him her last picture!

So I had no idea that “The Last Supper” was actually painted on a wall and that it’s pretty large.  Our group of about 25 who went in were given 15 minutes to observe before we were herded out.  It was a pretty spectacular experience.  Having those figures be so big in front of you, you could see really well their facial expressions and how they are telling the story of the moment when Jesus proclaimed that one of them (his disciples) would betray him.  The painting was a lot more faded than I expected, and apparently a lot of restoration has been done on it so it’s hard to know now what exactly da Vinci did himself.

After the the exhibit, we ended this already-awesome day with a group wine tasting!  We got to try three different wines while we nibbled on bread, cheese and salami.

Had to get a picture of the Wellesley and Smith girls all sitting together 🙂

And because I don’t want to bore on with more positive psych lecture notes, I’ll skip to our last cultural visit, which took place on Saturday – Lake Como!


Home to some of my main men like George Clooney and Versace, this gorgeous lake is about an hour outside of the city.  We had a really warm, sunny morning to spend time walking around there and through the shops in the town.  It was a really nice conclusion to the trip!

Future travel plans:

Prague this weekend!!!!!

Southern Italy, London & Barcelona during our travel break in the first two weeks of April

I’m one lucky girl!