Spring Break Part II: Learning the age of Michelangelo

We’ve just finished out first day in Florence after a lovely last day in Venice yesterday. The weather god’s answered our prayers and we were blessed with lovely blue skies and sun as we made our way through the island and continued with a blue skied day here in Florence.

Yesterday was a day of wandering, wrong turns and seeing what we could discover down random little alley ways. We walked through the Jewish Ghetto, which was of the more beautiful palazzos we had walked through in all of Venice. I still continue to be amazed by the whole concept of using boats for all transport but I guess it works for them. 20120415-214433.jpg

After another pizza for lunch, we found a gelato place that had celery ice cream. It was so delicious! You might think it would have no taste given that celery doesn’t really taste like anything, but I kid you not,it taste just how celery should taste if frozen form – deliciouso!

As for museum stops, we went to Ca d’Oro, which was a former palace right on the Grand Canal full of lots of renaissance artwork and sculptures. The marble architecture of the building was so beautiful. We also went to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection which is a lovely little modern art collection that Peggy collected throughout her life. She lived in Venice until her death and donated the house as a gallery in her will. As expected, she was quite the socialite and was said to have had affairs with Samuel Becketti and Max Ernst. Like the Ca d’Oro, the house had an amazing view onto the Grand Canal. 20120415-214714.jpg

I would have to say that Venice was a wonderful and memorable way to start our trip. I loved getting to the north of the island, away from all the tourists and seeing what residential life is actually like on the island. I can’t really imagine living on the island full time, but I guess someone has to cater to all the tourists 😉

After only 8 hours in Florence, I feel like we’ve more than we will see this entire trip. Honestly, anything after the David seems almost sad in comparison. I think that the David has been one of the most impressive things I have seen since being in Europe. You see the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, etc… yet somehow the almost always manage to underwhelm. Not so with the David. It lived up to every expectation that I had and beyond. Truly a highlight. In addition, we learned that Michelangelo was a mere 26 years old when he carved this master piece – feel inadequate much? 20120415-220721.jpg

In addition to the David, we passed the Duomo, but didn’t go in yet as it was about to close. We also went inside the Basilica di Santa Croce, where Michelangelo and Galileo to name a few are buried. I’m still constantly impressed by the basilicas here which are so beautiful and so different from the cathedrals in France. 20120415-220714.jpg

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The day ended with some more strolling around and scoring some free wine at a restaurant that caters to students. It was really a wonderful first day in Florence and I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.20120415-214748.jpg

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Chantilly

If you’re at all the food connoisseur like I am, I imagine the first think you think of when you think of Chantilly is whipped cream, right? Well, I did anyway 😉 After seeing that Chantilly was only a half hour away from Paris by train, my friends and I thought this would be the perfect place to go for a day trip over the weekend. My original idea had been to go and sample whipped cream all day long, but I soon realized that while whipped cream might have been a reason to go all the way there, the true attraction was the Château de Chantilly.

After quite the adventure of figuring out which tickets we needed for the train (somehow we made it much more complicated than it needed to be) and a 30 minute walk through the mist from the train station, we arrived at our destination. Château de Chantilly has been built and rebuilt many times throughout history. Originally built in 1484, the château as it stands right now after being torn down torn down a few times and even destroyed in the French Revolution dates from the 1800’s. Like any historical site in France, this beautiful château has huge amount of history within its walls. The Montmarcy Family were the primary residents during the Renaissance, and the CondĂŠ family proceeded them from the mid-1600’s to 1830, after which it was passed down to a handful of people until the Institute de France took hold of it in 1871. 

Not only is it a beautiful castle over looking thousands of acres of gardens, but it houses one of the best and largest fine art galleries in all of France after the Louvre, something I did not even know about until we arrived. They have paintings by Raphael and portraits of hundreds of nobles and monarchs of France. Supposedly there were some sketches by Michael Angelo, but I didn’t happen to see those. Although the weather outside was rainy, it was a wonderful day to go as there were only about 30 other people in the entire gallery, so you could spend as much or as little time in front of a piece as you wanted.

There are countless sculptures and paintings dedicated to dogs and animals – I think the residents of the château were big animal people – along with a beautiful library that contains manuscripts that date from the 11th century. It was amazing to be in a room surrounded by so many old things. Ya, I guess that happens a lot when you go to museums, but there was something about all these books and the knowledge that they contained that had an awe-inspiring factor to them. 

The gardens were designed by the same guy who designed the ones at the little palace called Versailles. We didn’t get to explore the gardens too much because of the rain, but there are huge stables which are almost bigger than the château themselves. In the summer, they have big horse expos and shows. As we walked away, I said this would be the type of place where I’d want to have my wedding on a sunny summer day 😉 

After a few hours in the château, we walked back into town where we had some delicious crepes in a Cuban inspired restaurant. 

While I didn’t find the bowls of whipped cream that I had been anticipating, I didn’t end the afternoon with this little piece of deliciousness.

Some more pictures from the afternoon in Chantilly: