The “farewell from Florence” festivities continued as Friday rolled around. It would not be a day reserved to reflect, but rather to be filled with lots of people, trying to make as many last minute memories as possible.
I made my way through the Mercato Centrale, where I first fell in love with local food and what it means for life and for the economy. It is a place where you are able to know where your food comes from and build meaningful relationships with the sellers. I gazed at the fresh pasta stand, which had been rolling out fresh fettuccini and forming gnocchi. I picked up fresh almonds from my favorite nut stand and I had a long conversation about cheese with a gentleman whose family had been running the stand for generations.
Oh how I would miss the beautiful wholeness and simplicity of the Italian way of life. I would miss my dried fruit lady who always made sure to put “a little extra” in my bag and encouraged me to try to new fruits. I would strangely miss the obnoxious leather salesman who thought that the best way to sell something to someone was to mistake them as a supermodel. I would miss that market that represented so much more than it actually had for sale.
I went home to complete my packing and when I arrived, the unforgettable memories started bombarding my thoughts.
- Like the time I climbed the Duomo at night and gazed at the world below.
- Like the day I asked everyone to say horrible things to me in order to help me NOT miss them as much.
- Like the day that Jessica and I stood in front of the Greek Acropolis and stood there with our mouths wide open.
- Like the day that Colleen consumed more salt than what is recommended for 17 normal days.
- Like the first time we drove up to Agriturismo San Leo.
- Like the day I learned how to make pizza.
- Like the time that I burnt granola because I didn’t remember to convert Fahrenheit to Celsius.
And after all of these experiences, prior aspirations, planning, and money, my study abroad experience has come to fruition. I am left with those memories, which will make me smile on April 14th when I’m at the office doing taxes until 3am. I’m left with the special personal moments of self-triumph. I’m left with lots of LOVE. I’m left with a completely different outlook on life. And the only place I really knew how to properly celebrate all of this memorable magic with was my Italian momma, Laura.
We had too much wine, too much incredible company, and an overwhelming amount of that love that I keep gushing about. And the food was (of course) brilliant. It was true Italian home cooking at its finest.
The antipasto was polenta with grilled salsicce and cheese. The texture, flavor, and spice of this dish was addicting and delicious.
The “primi” (first course) was an egg-noodle pasta with fresh parsley, white wine, olive oil, and a mushroom medly. Laura let us use a bit of her truffle oil to seal the deal with the flavor.
And I, miss Lauren Elsasser, went back for seconds. It was d to the licious.
Our entree was an Italian meatball that was seasoned perfectly and had visible bread chunks inside.
And if perfection wasn’t pleased with itself yet, it was accompanied by a deliciously dressed green salad.
And for dessert, was the traditional American Red Velvet cake, laced with Philadelphia frosting. We had ordered this from Fedora in advance so that we could enjoy it with Laura and Paul!
I slowly enjoyed every forkful to make sure that I was able to fully appreciate the soul of the food, and its significance to my journey here.
Another beautiful part of my last evening was the fact that I was able to share it with the two most incredible friends in the world plus two of the most welcoming people in the universe. And, I was finally able to meet Nel, Jessica’s long awaited boyfriend!
Saying goodbye for the last time, we thought, would be best done on a Florentine ice skating rink, at 12am, where we would all make fools of ourselves. There, we wore skates that were either way too big or extremely tight, listened to Italian pop music, and fell more than we skated.
It wasn’t always a graceful sight.
Knowing that this would be the last time that I saw Jessica for a long period of time, I dreaded the final separation. However, the inevitable goodbye quickly crept up and there was no way to prolong it. We slowly released ourselves from an overly long hug, and I attempted to slowly back away and convince myself that I would see her soon. It was one of the most difficult goodbyes that I have ever experienced. How do I leave someone that I have become so close to in 4 months?; someone that I’ve shared my heart with, experiences with, and a kitchen prison with.
And although the sadness involved in separation from many new friends was difficult, there was an added ray of happiness that surrounded the entire situation. This was not a goodbye forever, this was an incredible opportunity to become a global citizen, reaching and reuniting with friends from all over the world.
But after leaving Jessica, the goodbyes and “see you laters” seemed to continue as if they would never end. They left me sleepless, exhausted, and completely unprepared for the airport situation that was about to befall me.
Colleen, Susan, and I soberly drove away from Florence with a small taxi packed with 11 suitcases. Our time in Florence was officially complete. We were everything but prepared for the flight experience to Paris, a supposed “leap” to relaxation.
Our suitcases were ALL overweight. But due to our stress level, finals, and overall exhaustion, we were just ready to pay overage fees. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that easy. Frantically pacing, dealing with horrible Vueling employees, and articles of clothing and books from the past 4 months just thrown on the airport floor, were what befell us in those next several hours before our flight. We were desperate and tired. We were forced to throw away memories, gifts, and tangible representations of our 4-month journey. It was NOT an ideal way to leave.
In fact, it ended with Colleen and Susan paying a combined $1000 for extra baggage in addition to buckets of tears, almost missing the flight, and somehow strangely acquiring a sense of accomplishment.
Although Vueling customer service and policy kind of sucks, overcoming a dreadful situation on your own doesn’t For three young women, we were challenged with lugging heavy luggage, pleading, communicating, and using our common sense. It was encouraging. We are women and we can do important stuff too.
Once we arrived in Paris, we were sweating, tired, AND hungry.
And. It was raining.
And. We had a crap load of stuff.
And we were unable to find proper matching feet covers, so some of us resorted to this type of outfit. This style is all the rage in Laous.
But you know what?
We found baguettes.
We made due with a mini market dinner and enjoyed a French meal with some old fashioned table talk.
Now, before I go back to the USA, it’s time to forget the bad, cherish the good, and enjoy a new city.
Bonjour, de Paris!
Note to Self: Either learn to pack much lighter or start working out so I can lift 5 suitcases up stairs, through the woods, and too grandmothers house. Cause it NOT BE a pretty sight (or pleasant for anyone involved).