A Weekend in Milan

Last weekend was our first weekend to travel outside of Switzerland. Hannah, Natalie, her roommate Amanda, and I spent what seemed like forever deciding where to go. When we finally decided on Milan, it took us even longer to find a hotel that was available! We were getting pretty grumpy because I’m not sure that we realized just how stressful planning a trip on short notice can be (on top of school and trying to get some sleep). We thought something has to be going on that weekend for every hotel to be booked. Well, there was something…FASHION WEEK. Okay, now we really had to find a hotel. So, we stayed up until we finally found a hotel around 1 o’clock in the morning.

Well, the problem with the hotel didn’t stop there. When we arrived in Milan around 2 in the afternoon, we asked the lady at the information desk inside the train station to give us directions to our hotel. She told us to take the yellow metro two stops, get off, and take the purple metro four stops and our hotel will be there. We do exactly what she said and when we get off at our last stop we looked around for our hotel, but couldn’t find it. So, we stopped the sweetest 60 year old man on the street for some help. He didn’t speak a word of English, but he called his daughter, who spoke English on his cellphone to translate for us. She told us to take tram number 7. So, we did. The tram driver told us that we were right in needing to take tram 7, but in the opposite direction of the way we were currently going. So, we got off that tram and hopped on the other one. That tram driver didn’t know where we should get off at, so he suggested getting off at the university because we were bound to run into someone who spoke English. We did, but he couldn’t find our hotel. He stopped another student passing by to help us. She didn’t know where our hotel was either. We were beginning to question whether our hotel even existed! But, luckily another student who saw all of us struggling came up and suggested that we take a taxi. We had no idea how far we were from our hotel or how much the taxi would cost us…but we had no other choice. After only a 6-euro cab ride…we had finally arrived at our hotel!! We had been so close…yet so far.

We collapsed on the beds in our hotel room for about two minutes before we realized we needed a drink after all that chaos and some food. So, we decided to go back to the city. We strolled through the streets and picked one of the hundreds of Italian restaurants in the city. We ordered up mojitos and lots of pasta! Even though the food was delicious, we were eating at a “touristy” restaurant and we were dying to know where the locals ate. We asked our waiter, Philipo, where his favorite place to eat was. He told us that anywhere outside of the city will do, but his favorite place is called Nabucco. He also told us that if we went there we had to ask for his friend Signore Pietro.


^^Philipo and Natalie



We thanked Philipo for his suggestions and with full tummies we headed back to our hotel (this time with no hiccups…yay!) for a good night sleep.

The next day, we got up bright and early because we had places to be and people to see! We started out with visiting the Duomo, which is the second largest cathedral in the world. The outside alone was enough for me to deem it the most breathtaking cathedral I have ever seen.



Then, we walked right next door to a museum called Novecento. The concept was really neat because the museum began with artwork from the beginning of the 1900s and ended with artwork from the very end of the 1900s. It was pretty interesting to see the progression.



Next up was the Sforza Castle, built in the 1400s by the Duke of Milan. It was really impressive how well kept it was for being hundreds of years old. We wandered through the open courtyards and admired the architecture until we got to the other side of the castle, which opened up into a huge park.



We decided to take a walk through the park to see what was on the other side and to hopefully find some lunch.


As we rounded a corner, we saw the tippy top of the Arco della Pace (Arch of Peace) and decided to head that way.


Little did we know, that we were going to run straight into the Roberto Cavalli Fashion Week Show. There was a huge tent set up right next to the arch and thousands of photographers and attendees were crowded in the plaza in front of it.



Unfortunately, we’re not quite cool enough to get the invite…so, we did the next best thing: choose a restaurant nearby, sit at a table outside for a front row view, and order lots of pizza.


Let me tell you something…I thought the airport and Disneyland were the best places for people watching. Wrong. Fashion week events are the best place for people watching. Some of the outfits were pretty entertaining and some of the outfits were so cute I could have died. We barely spoke at lunch because we were all captivated by what was going on right in front of our eyes. Maybe just maybe, one day, I’ll receive an invitation to Fashion Week. Hey, a girl can dream, right?!

After the show was over and we satisfied our hunger pangs, we had to satisfy our dessert pangs. I mean we were in Italy for goodness sakes. If you go to Italy and don’t eat gelato at least once (maybe even twice – guilty) a day, then you’re doing it all wrong. Hannah and I went all out and got three heaping scoops. And we didn’t have an ounce of regret.


Now that our hunger pangs and dessert pangs were satisfied, it was off to the Santa Maria delle Grazie church, where Da Vinci’s Last Supper was painted. We were told that we couldn’t leave Milan without seeing it. But, we left Milan without seeing it. Who knew you would need to make a reservation? (Helpful Tip for future Milan tourists: You need to make a reservation to see Da Vinci’s Last Supper!) We got to the church and were able to walk around inside.





However, when we walked over to the room where the painting was located, we were told that they were sold out for the next four days. Awesome. Now, we had crossed everything else off of our list except shopping, which was a must in the world’s fashion capital!


For those of you that know me pretty well, you know I’m not too crazy about shopping. But, what I am crazy about is food. So, my favorite shop we went into was Laduree. These macaroons were to die for. No exaggeration. There is a Laduree right around the corner from us in Lausanne, but we had never been in. After going in Milan, I think it’s safe to say that we will be going to the one right around the corner from us about a hundred (or two hundred) times during our year here.


Once our feet started to hurt (after an entire day of non-stop walking), we decided it was time for dinner. Nabucco, here we come! The restaurant Philipo suggested to us led us just a couple steps outside of the city and down the cutest, quaintest Italian street. When we arrived at Nabucco, we asked for Signore Pietro just like Philipo told us to. And we couldn’t even get his entire name out before we were led upstairs to one of Pietro’s table. Pietro heard that Philipo sent us and immedietly treated us to a glass of champagne. We then enjoyed a delicious meal of spaghetti (you can never get enough pasta!).  And finally finished off our meal with yet another treat from Pietro…limoncello and biscotti. Tutto benne!


^^With our new friend, Pietro!





We had such a wonderful meal that we decided to go back and thank Philipo for his wonderful suggestion. And guess what? Philipo decided to give us a few treats too (mojitos and desserts). We felt so spoiled.


Who would have thought that after the way we began our trip in Milan, we would be ending it with two new friends (Philipo and Pietro) and lots of free drinks and desserts? It definitely was a trip we will never forget.


Fine Print: Just a reminder that in Europe the drinking age is 18 years old and sometimes even 16 years old! And I am 19 years old…so I’m all legal here :)


The day after our 14-mile hike, 18 of us got up early to make the 5:40 am train to Interlaken, Switzerland because we were going CANYONING! When one of the guys asked us if we wanted to go, I had no idea what canyoning was. But, Natalie told Hannah and me to just say yes before watching the youtube video on canyoning. So, with her encouragement, we said yes. And I think we are all SO glad we did. It was probably one of the coolest things I have done so far in my entire life. Canyoning, for those of you who don’t know, is basically a natural water park instead of a manmade one. It includes jumping off cliffs (10ft – 30 ft) into the river, sliding down waterfalls, zip lining, repelling and more!

When we first arrived, we had to sign the release forms and get suited up in our wetsuits, water boots, two jackets (Yes, I said two jackets because the water was about 50°F. The day we went was actually the closing day for the summer activities because it was getting way too cold. But, it was totally worth it!) and helmets. Each helmet had names stickered on them and that was what the guides would call us throughout the day. We were told to choose our names carefully (although I didn’t seem to hear that part). I first found a helmet that fit my head with the name “Octopussy” on it. Luckily, my friend, Dom, brought that to my attention and I was able to switch to something much better…LOVE! Hannah chose Miss Piggy. And Natalie chose Dumbo.

Once we got all of our gear, we piled into the van and headed up to the Grimsel Canyon. The drive up there alone would have been worth it even if we did nothing else. It was so beautiful; I just couldn’t get over it. And then after about an hour drive, it was time to canyon!







Our guides were able to film our whole adventure with the go-pro camera clipped onto their helmets…so, I was able to put together a little video! Take a look!

*The song is “Ça plane pour moi” by Plastic Bertrand. Ça plane pour moi is a French idiomatic expression, which means “Everything is going well for me” and I thought it was pretty fitting to my experience living abroad and getting to participate in amazing adventures like this! Also, we speak French in Switzerland…so I thought the French lyrics were pretty fitting too!




We had such a blast and I am so thankful for our guides at Outdoor Interlaken (shout out to Stan, Tim and Mustard) who were so much fun and made us feel incredibly safe! If you ever get an opportunity to go canyoning, I highly recommend it!

Hiking the Swiss Alps

So, last weekend, I hiked about 14 miles to the peak of a mountain in the Swiss Alps along with Hannah, Natalie, many of our classmates, and our directors leading the way. We were warned that it would take all day and that by the time we got towards the top of the peak, we would need to use all fours. But, that didn’t scare us away. I mean hiking the Swiss Alps is not an opportunity that comes knocking on my door all the time. So, I had to go! Needless to say, I was so excited.  And I was not let down. The view surrounding us from the beginning of the hike until we reached the tippy top of the peak was absolutely breathtaking. And that isn’t an exaggeration in even the slightest bit.








^^Our directors and their six year old daughter leading the way!



^^Sascha was pretty excited to make it over half-way to the peak, where we stop for lunch! This is where she stopped last year…the question is will she make it to the peak this year?


 ^^Not a bad lunch-spot view, huh??


^^This right here doesn’t look like much. A fresh baguette, cheese, and turkey. No condiments. But, I kid you not when I say that this was one of the most delicious sandwiches I have ever had. The bread in Switzerland and of course the cheese is literally to die for.


^^With full tummies and therefore a burst of energy, we were ready to climb the last chunk of the hike to the tippy top of the peak!


^^Up we go!


^^You can begin to see here how steep it is! This picture was taken right before I had to use both hands to help me get up the mountain, so I couldn’t take any more pictures until…


^^…I made it to the top!!!




^^Our directors, Todd and Sarah. We would all be so lost without them!


^^She made it to the top this year!! Don’t let the fact that a six year old making it to the top make you think that this was an easy climb. It wasn’t. All of us were so proud of her and honestly amazed she could do it! She is one tough cookie!


^^Girls will be girls…


^^…and boys will be boys!



^^And down we go. Can you tell how steep it is now??



^^And when we all reached the bottom, safe and sound, 14 miles later, Sarah and Todd treated all of us to some hot chocolate. Aren’t they the best?!

Oh and one last thing, I took a total of 298 pictures on this hike!! I can’t tell you how tough it was to narrow them down to 25. But, I think that just goes to show how beautiful it really was. I wish everyone in the world could experience this.