Archive for the ‘Traveling’ Category

New Job, House Hunting and Summerset Festival

So…finally some updates…but where to start?!

Well, first of all: MY JOB

On February 21 I started a new job, AND I LOVE IT. I work at NZ2011, a team created to project and coordinate programs to promote New Zealand during the Rugby World Cup.

The three major projects we work on are the Real NZ Festival, the Real NZ Showcase, and the Business Club. The first one is a nationwide festival, made of more than 100 events, taking place from September (and earlier) on throughout the country. The second one generates an opportunity for the main industries here to show their potential during the RWC, through a series key events (most of which also belong to the festival) that will display the progress of each industry and business opportunities both at a domestic and international level. It might be a boat show, or a demonstration of advanced agricultural technologies, or a visit to the studios of WETA Digital. This project, as well as the Business Club, has a strong focus on (but not exclusively) a “business audience”: people who are still coming for the games but that might be interested in meeting kiwis that work in the same field end take part to events that show how that sector has developed here in NZ. This is the main purpose if the Business Club: match like-minded people, international visitors on one side and kiwis on the other, according to the regions they are going to visit, on which days, and their interests. Kiwis become thus potential hosts, creating events in their vineyards or taking selected international visitors fishing on their boat. This is an opportunity to live unique experiences and at the same time open business opportunities for future collaboration.

I am mainly working on the Showcase, gathering information about the events that each sector plans on doing, as some of them may vary in time/place or be cancelled, depending on the budget of the different companies and associations. I am also working on relationships with foreign OTAs (Official Travel Agents). We provide them with tailored information both about the Business Club and the Festival, so that their clients will know what will be happening in each of the cities they’ll visit during their tours and won’t miss out on any opportunity. Considering that there will be more than 1000 events, both public and private, this is a huge help we provide, but OTAs don’t always understand what we are trying to do, and each of them needs a very special approach.

I can’t really explain more than this..if you are curious please visit the website http://www.nz2011.govt.nz and visit our website…it’ll provide you with deeper insight and a better understanding of what we do.

What I like the most about this office is that all people are driven by a real passion for their country and a strong will to make sure that New Zealand won’t stay just a spot next to Australia at an international aye but will show its real value, and do everything possible to achieve such goal. Alas! Not everybody is Kiwi (apart from me, a real foreigner, there’s a few Britons and Australians too), but we all (yes, me too) share this goal, we all want to achieve it, BECAUSE WE ALL LOVE NZ and know that this is its occasion to glee! Yes, it might sound a bit bold from my side, since I arrived here less than two months ago, but all I felt so far is positive vibe, and want to do everything possible to help out this young country, with an amazing potential, to spread its wings.

Last Week I even had my first drinks with colleagues after work! It is considered pretty normal in here, having a beer with colleagues on Friday afternoons, thing I find it quite amazing. It might be considered like our “office aperitivo”, but with a more relaxed, laid-back atmosphere! I have also been invited to the 20th wedding anniversary of a colleague of mine, even though I’ve known her only for a few weeks! Everybody is fully dedicated on their work, completely focused, but then also knows how to enjoy life. Another initiative we are taking up now is Friday mornings breakfast: an opportunity to talk to colleagues you normally don’t deal too much with in a less formal, more chatty way than that normally adopted in a meeting room. It’s a good way to exchange info and updatse among different teams within the office and have a good start of the day at the same time.

 

In the past week I made some new friends as well!

First, there’s Frank, graphic designer at Resn. I like his colored but yet fashionable clothes (especially his purple t-shirt). He’s interesting. We share the same little obsession for iPhone apps, good movies, love for art in general and we both study French. One of his idols is Michael Jackson. I kicked his ass at foosball 🙂

Sabrina is a very nice Italian girl who arrived here 4 weeks ago.

I met her at Giulia’s birthday party (OMG she got married last week!!), where there were 50ish people, 80% Italian. Lots of fun, and an excellent BBQ! The cutest thing was a cat-shaped cake. Well…the cat was all pink and looked a bit like a pig, to tell the truth, but still cute. It was pink inside too and the whole cutting scene reminded me a bit of Simpsons’ Grattachecca e Fichetto (Itchy & Scratchy) hehe.

After the BBQ we went to the Newtown Festival (Newtown is an area in the outskirts of WLG), but arrived too late and there was nothing lest but a single stand with the last bands playing rock music. Still pretty cool, but a bit sad at the same time. We had a beer and then, at about 9pm, we went home (sharing a cab with a random super-funny Welsh guy and his friend cos the bus was nowhere to be seen).

 

DIET VS MEATPIES

A few drinks and continuous movement (I walk everywhere, up and down the city, every day) sometimes make you want a junky but yet tasty boost of proteins, and I found the cheapest and tastiest solution: meat pies, especially the minced meat and cheese ones. You find them in every supermarket and 24h shop. They’re warm, tasty, and cheap (about $2.40 each). It is just the next best thing, and it is new to me (thank God we don’t have them in Milan…or do we?) Anyway we don’t have 24h stores so it doesn’t make a difference since I normally have one on random nights btw 9pm and 6am…

Apart form those fat providers, I keep a rather healthy diet. Well, as healthy as possible, and with a good dose of movement.

At this point I made you either very hungry or completely sick…

 

HOUSE HUNTING

After visiting 10 houses in 3 days last week, I finally found my future home!

The whole house hunting experience has been quite interesting actually. I visited some places where only a pig (or an erasmus student) could live, and others in which the “room” (finger brackets) was actually a fairly large closet. The general answer was “we’ll let you know within the end of the week”, and the only actual positive responses that I had almost right away were those for the very crappy houses. On the fourth day, taking a break from the hunting, I received the third positive response and that one caused a real inner dilemma. It was quite a nice flat (the upper floor of a house) on Oriental Parade (very close to the beach) and the rooms (there were two available to choose from) were both quite big (you could fit a queen size bed and they all had an built-in wardrobe). The only other flat-mate was quite nice: a guy in his early-mid thirties, and a trainer in a gym. The thing is, the living room was very small and the kitchen almost non existent (a very small cooking corner within the living room). I am a social person by nature, so having only one other flat-mate (ok, 2 in the future) and a house in which I can’t really host anyone for coffee or dinner just doesn’t work for me. Whoever knows me a little understands what I mean. I didn’t feel at home, despite all the objectively positive points. Therefore, when I received the txt saying “if you want the room is yours”, I sort of panicked. After a Skype chat with my dad and consulting with 4 different friends here in NZ in the end I decided tut turn the offer down. It wasn’t an easy decision, but I never regretted it and felt relieved after texting the guy back. Well, I told him that I had found another place (a little lie that spares a long explanation) and he was cool with that. As a self-revealing prophecy, on Sunday evening I received a positive response by one of the coolest flats I had visited. I was sooooo happy, the news really made my day. The place is a 10 min walk to Courtenay Place (one of the main roads in the city center) and the flat is modern and very clean. My future flat-mates are a couple, both lawyers (and the guy is a Drum and Base / Dubstep dj as well!!), and a graphic designer, whose girlfriend is traveling throughout Europe. They are all about my age and seem very nice, laid-back people. The room is quite big (about as those of the other house, maybe slightly bigger), but the living room is huuuge, with a big  glass door that illuminates the whole area. The kitchen is still within the living room but quite big nonetheless. The house is sort of cream colored, which makes the whole place even brighter, with light gray moquette in all rooms (as most of the houses here..no fantasy at all). I can’t move in yet, because the current tenant is still in the process of moving out (he’s going to live with his girlfriend but they are still looking for a place), but as soon as I do you’ll see pics of the place! I bought a bed off a friend of a friend ($100 for bed and sheets..not bad!!), which is quite exciting cos it’s the first time that I get to pick furniture for my bedroom abroad (of course my favorite one is and will always be my bedroom in Milan, oriental style and purple walls).

 

WELLINGTON IS SMALL!!!

Some weird coincidences often happen here in WLG, to which I’m slowly getting used to. They are all connected to the fact that Wellington is a SMALL city and, secondly, that New Zealand itself has a total of 4 million people. Result = rather than 6 degrees of separation, in WLG there are max 2 or 3. After visiting the place on Oriental Parade, while heading to the last flat of the day, I bumped into a girl that works at the Embassy if Argentina, whom I had met for the first time in a meeting that very afternoon. No, this is not the coincidence. We started chatting (I’m going to send you that email abt bla bla, etc) and I told her I was house hunting and that I had just visited a house on Oriental Parade. Turns out that it was HER house and she was one of the 2 girls moving out. HOW WEIRD IS THAT?! Still shocked by the coincidence, I headed to the last house and, just by slightly turning my head to the right, I saw Sarah talking to a friend at the entrance of a building. We had a brief chat, and with even greater shock I finally arrived to the third and last house of the day. I’m not surprised by daily encounters with people I know now. I went to a festival yesterday and the first person I saw at the queue for toilets was a kiwi girl I had met through Giulia, and then, in the queue for the bar, Sarah and I ran into a couple of guys that we had seen at the beach the Sunday before, and then we ended up being next to them also for a the majority of the concert. We didn’t really talk, but they were very nice and offered to take us on their shoulders to see better, as we had ordered also for them at the counter (we kindly refused – me as wearing skirt).

 

Well, since I was talking about the festival..I have to say, it was AWESOME! The festival is called Summerset and it took place in a cricket place right next to my future home. 3 stages + Silent Disco, featuring Dizzee Rascal (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eSnllZjJLro), Dead Prez, and Dubstep DJs such as Chasing Shadows and Bass Nectar (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4VCO_M4jKI4). The festival started at 2 pm but we arrived there at about 6, skipping minor bands and saving energy for the big ones. We danced until 11.30 pm and had HEAPS of fun! I hadn’t danced Dubstep and Drum & Bass in a while and it was very “liberating”, pure energy and rhythm! Bouncing and bouncing, my green hoodie on (inherited from Melanie, a Canadian girl, very good friend of mine, met in Finland..thanks again Mel!), gangsta style.

Last Sunday deserves a to be mentioned as a great day as well. Veeery nice sunny weather, not too windy, perfect for going to the beach with friends (needed rest after a Latin American style birthday party hehe). We saw a group of 6 or 7 killer whales and another one of stingrays! Ai first, people were freaking out because they thought the fins belonged to sharks, then to dolphins, and then we realized that they were black and white..a bunch of Free Willies! Yaayyy! I had never seen them so near to the seashore! In fact it is not common at all, but I was told that, in their migration, this is the period in which they swim in this area.

After the beach I went on a date: dinner out in an Italian restaurant and movies. We watched “True Grit”, which, despite all the nominations and prizes it won, I considered quite average. I have to admit that actors has such a thick southern accent that, despite my year in Texas, I could get hold of half of the things they were saying, so wasn’t really able to appreciate all the deep dialogues that might have taken place. During the move I received a call by my future flat-mates, saying that the room was mine, and that was the cherry on top of a wonderful day!!!

Last Wednesday and Friday were cool too! On Wed I went to a French Movies Trash Night at the office of a friend of mine. The place is amazing, complete with foosball and pool table, huge flat screen and beer from tap. All colleagues and friends were very nice and we watched “Sheitan” and “13-Tzameti” eating pizza and having beer. I had also brought some home made lasagna, which was highly appreciated (despite the lack of real ingredients like ragù, replaced by bolognese sauce and minced meat).

On Friday I went to an office warming party and met a lot of interesting people, mostly designers. One of them (an extraordinary woman) and I are planning an Italian dinner for one of these weeks, a real event! Very much looking forward to it!

What else has happened in the last weeks? A bit of everything I must say…

AH! I received my first business cards! They say Benedetta C. Rossi, Advisor – Business Engagement. Yes, big deal you might say, but..well…IT IS TO ME!!!

I also went to Palmerston North to assist to a presentation of the Business Club, one of our products. My first real business trip (even though it was only 2 hours away by car). Yet again, easily excited, but whattahell, I’m just happy for this new job!

I should talk about St. Patrick’s Day at Molly Malone’s, probably the biggest Irish pub here in WLG, with live band and lots of arm-in-arm dancing (girandole a braccetto..?). Pics are pretty self explanatory though, so take a look at them on fb (Sarah took’em, I was tagged).

Well, it’s Sunday, there’s still some sun out, and I want to soak it as much as I can…park, here I come!

– I edited the text and published it after day out…very sunny and relaxing indeed! –

Peace.

Benny

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Italian community in Wellington

On Wednesday evening I had a drink with Sarah Ag., another friend of Fran’s. We went to The Library again and we had a very light cocktail which tasted like lemon tart, no, lemon bars..anyway sooo delicious! We had a great time too: she is so sweet and nice, just like the other Sarah!

Thursday, Feb 3

Those three days had been so intense that I needed to charge a bit so I decided to take it easy. In the morning I had a meeting with the account of an advertising agency (I’d rather not write names, but it’s a local one that works a lot with the government). It wasn’t really an interview, but at least I got a real chance to talk about myself, my studies, and my perspectives on the marketing sector. They wanted to see something I had written in English so the following day I went there with the PDF file of my Bachelor’s thesis. They should get in touch with me on monday or tuesday…fingers crossed! In the afternoon I saw a crazy parade for The 7s: car-driven carts all decorated carried the team members, surrounded by “hostess/groupies”, throwing necklaces and candies from their wagons. Italy wasn’t there, and it’s not like I really care about rugby, but the energy and enthusiasm of real fans on the streets affected me and I found myself yelling “Vive la France” to the French team and jumping at the sight of the American team. It was cool (see pics on fb)!

In the evening I did my first shift at Estadio. All colleagues were super nice and I think it went well (and the food looked extremely yummy!). Nonetheless, they would not be able to guarantee a minimum amount of hours, so I still kept looking, and will have another trial shift at a Mediterranean restaurant called Osteria del Toro, managed by an Italian friend of Bruce.

Friday, Feb 4

I finally went out for a run, which went pretty well. The weather wasn’t super-hot and the track not so crowded, but I realized that I really need to buy a pair of running shoes.. mine have a super-slim sole that will eventually break my feet!

Anyway, the whole day went smoothly: I left my resume in 5 advertising agencies and then managed to get the wi-fi work on my computer (no more internet cafés yay!), thanks to the help of a well prepared guy at Telecom call-center.

In the afternoon I went to Osteria del Toro and talked to the manager, setting my trial shift. There, I met Giulia, who was dropping by the restaurant to say hi. She has lived in Wellington with her boyfriend for FIVE YEARS! I asked her about their experience in NZ and we started chatting. She and her bf have just received their residency, will soon get married and are about to buy a house of their own (as opposite to renting one): they have realized their dream! After a while Giulia said “hey, I have a birthday party tonight, and there will be a bunch of Italians! Wanna come?” – “Sure”. I jumped with her on a bus to her house and met her bf and a friend of theirs, who arrived in NZ a little over an year and had been living all around the world. After more chatting, we went to the party, where I met a real Italian community, 20 people or so all speaking Italian! Most of the guys work for WETA, an important visual effects company (they worked with Peter Jackson on The Lord of The Rings, on Avatar, etc). Even though most of them had a job already, they all found a way to stay, which was very encouraging for me!

I had some nice chats (in Italian!) with quite a few people there and hope to meet them again!

That’s all for now. We’ll see how this crazy week-end will be, with the 7s and everything!

First days in New Zealand!

Jan 28

On Jan 26th I left dear and cold Italy for the other side of the world, and I MEAN the other side. New Zealand, land of Kiwis, meaning the fruit, the bird, and the people!

The first plane took off at 5.45pm of Jan 26th, and after flight changes in Frankfurt, Singapore and Sydney, the very last one landed in Wellington at about 2pm on Jan 28. Changing constantly the time on my watch, I felt like a time traveler, in a timeless and spaceless dimension called plane, sort of like the DeLorean car of Back to the Future, and suddenly puff, it’s 2 days later. The flight went well: I got to sleep, watched loads of movies, and read The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest, by Stieg Larsson.

Bruce, my contact and temporary host here, picked me up at the airport, which is a 20 min drive from the city. The sun, the fresh air, the green mountains and the clear blue sea were breathtaking, and I felt in paradise. After a quick stop at his house and a shower, Bruce and I walked around the city, first along the waterfront and then up to Courtney Place, where we stopped for a glass of wine. The city center is very compact, walking from one side to the other takes less than an hour, and streets are full of nice cafés, restaurants, and all sort of shops. Starbucks: yes, Gloria Jeans Coffee: yes, 24 hours shops: yes, cheap miso soup (takeaway): yes. I’m all set!

Anyway, after our pit stop we went to the supermarket, where I bought shampoo, shower gel, and lotion. Heading back home, we met up with a friend of Bruce, Olivia, a girl about my age. She spent 3 years in Milan but, due to visa issues, she had to go back to NZ and will soon be heading to Sydney. We had dinner together (amazing soup), but at 8.30 I had to say goodnight and crashed on my bed.

Sat, Jan 29

I woke up at 8 and decided to go for a run. I put my running suit on, bought a king size bottle of water, and started running, headphones playing my workout play list. Useless to say that after 10 minutes I was exhausted! My muscles hadn’t moved for more than 2 days and were completely atrophied. A bit frustrated, after several attempts I decided to give my lungs a break and started walking instead. T

he view at the riverfront is breathtaking: colonial and rustic style houses, most of which are restaurants or cafés, ad ships of all sizes docked at the port. Beaches in Wellington are not that great and very small, but good enough go and lay under the summer sun, something I’ll soon be doing, before the season’ s over. The thing is that W. is extremely windy, which makes the weather unpredictable. What I have experienced so far is a very warm and sunny morning and a slightly colder afternoon, cloudy or not. Evenings are always cool, it’s worth bringing a jacket.

Back to Saturday, after the run Bruce and I took some friends of his to the airport, stopping at a café on the seaside for a quick lunch. There, I had my first “Flat White”, the most common type of coffee drink for kiwis. It’s like a cappuccino, but with less foam, and I would say a little less milk. It’s generally served in cappuccino-like cups, but you can order a “bowl” of it as well! Bruce’s friends are a very interesting couple. They’ve lived in London for a few years, and traveled all over the world, including smth like 5 months in South America, a month in Italy, and a few months in India. The reason why they came back to NZ is that they’ll soon be having a baby, the beginning of their greatest adventure. I’d looove to find a guy that is willing to undertake that lifestyle, which is exactly how I intend to live my life in the upcoming years (provided that I find a job first and finally start earning some money). Anyway, they live in Auckland and had come to W for a wedding. After dropping them at the airport Bruce and I went to a liquor store, where I bought a bottle of wine for the evening (further explanation later).

I sort of napped for the rest of the afternoon and then went out for dinner with a friend of Fran’s, a Neozealandese girl I had met in Montpellier. Fran was so nice to give the ctcs of some friends of hers, and voilat, here I was having dinner with one of them. Sarah brought also another friend, this hilarious guy who looks 29 even though he’s 36. We had dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant, where I hade the best noodle soup ever. And here we come to the bottle story: in some restaurants, generally the cheaper ones, you can choose to bring your own beverage, including wine or beer. It’s totally cool, and you get only charged something like $4 per bottle. We drank Sarah’s red wine though, so my bottle is still sitting at home, waiting for the next party or dinner out. After dinner they showed me around a bit and we went to a couple of bars: The Good Luck Bar and The Library. In the first one, I had one of the best cocktails ever, which tasted like apple tart! Sooo delicious! Moreover, the waiter there was super cute and I totally have a crash on him. I just need to drag more people to the bar, wait and see! It was a great night, my friends are super nice and funny…there were moments in which we simply couldn’t stop laughing (especially when organizing the “hit on the cute guy” plan, which still has to come into action..it’s just a matter of time).

Sunday 30

Bruce took Olivia and me to a trip in Marinborough, an area famous for its extension of vineyards and green fields. We had to drive for an hour or so but the trip itself was astonishing, with panoramas that alternated sea and green mountains. Our first stop was Ata Rangi, where I had my very first wine tasting experience. I have to admit, I don’t know much about wine, but after watching Sideways with Bruce, I got very excited at the idea of getting a taste of different wines, with the sole purpose of feeling the differences among them, and understanding which go better with my palate. Turns out my favorites are the Pinot, especially the Pinot Gris.

Our second stop was in another vineyard, where we had lunch. Sublime cooked salmon over ratatouille, topped with a bit of lemon creamy sauce…simply amazing. They also served us fresh bread with olive oil dipping (which tastes a bit different from ours but still delicious) and a mix of seeds: you’re supposed to dip the bread in the oil first, so that the seeds will stick to the soggy bread….mhhh all so yummy! We had a table in the balcony and the view was simply breathtaking. After lunch we went to Greytown for a walk. We walked up and down the main street, full of little cafés and antique shops. I had an interesting conversation with a woman working in an Indian clothing store. We talked about traveling, cultural differences, and even though the conversation was delightful she did underline the fact that I should lose my American accent. Her attitude towards it was a bit annoying, but apart from that I really enjoyed my 10 minutes in the shop 🙂 After the digestive walk we drove home and I fell asleep.

Monday 31

When I woke up the wind was blowing so hard that I though it would take the rooftop away, but nothing alike happened so it was all good 🙂

First thing I went to Bruce’s office and got my resume printed out, a longer one to leave in agencies and a shorter one for waitressing positions. Then I went to the New Zealand Bank and set up my account. It was so easy, really! A guy named Kyle did it all for me and the whole process took about 10 minutes. Paperwork? 2 sheets total, and the assistant told me I could contact him any time via phone or email for any question. I was astonished, this is like the opposite of what would happen in Italy! After that was sorted out, I walked around the city, leaving my resumes in Saatchi & Saatchi, Clemenger BBDO, and in 4 restaurants: 2 Italian ones, an Indian one (where Bruce’s brother-in-law works) and a South American one.

And here is another demonstration of how talking to random people sometimes help. Exiting Clemenger BBDO building, I ran into a Mexican 60ish years old dude. I mean, I heard somebody speaking Spanish so I just started talking to him. I told him that I was looking for a waitressing position and he suggested I left my resume in a South American restaurant called Estadio. Well I did and guess what? They’ve been the first ones to call me back and I have a tryout shift this afternoon (Thursday)! Yayyy!

Then I went to the Tai Papa Museum, the cultural symbol of Wellington. It’s like a natural history museum, that provides a view of NZ flora and fauna, and hosts the body of the biggest squid ever found! It’s free but very well kept and modern, with a lot of interactive points and activities for kids. 2nd random meeting of the day: 2 French guys, doing an internship at the French Chamber of Commerce. One of them was about to go back to Europe, but I exchanged numbers with he other one, nice move Benny! They’re really nice guys and Tuesday night we met up with a bunch of other people and went to a Jam session in a bar called Fringe. More info later on.

Going back to Monday, after Tai Papa I met up with Emily, a colleague of Bruce’s that had previously worked in an advertising agency. We went for coffee on the waterfront and she gave me some pretty good tips on agencies or design studios I could contact, and gave me a general overview of the advertising sector in New Zealand. Basically most business in Wellington revolves around government, which is also the biggest client for advertising agencies here. Auckland is bigger and might have better opportunities, but the situation is more competitive there, so it’s good that I started the hunting over here. We had a very nice chat, cos both of us share the same passion for traveling and above all interest in the communication and marketing sector. It was like talking to a mentor, but one who’s actually younger that me. From what I see, people start their career after their bachelor’s degree, doing their masters later on. I left Emily on the waterfront and went home, but not before having a chat with the funniest Indian guy ever, who works in a food store not far from home. I bought some groceries and then spent the night watching Love Actually.

Tuesday 1

The day started in total randomness. I went running (for real this time), then back home, showered, used the internet..that sort of stuff. I went to an internet café to upload my files cos Bruce’s home computer didn’t read anything, but the moment I sat in front of the PC I received a message from the Mac Store, where I had to give my dear Mr White cos it wouldn’t charge.. I just left the internet café, went to the Mac store, and found out that I had to buy new batteries! More than $ 200 burnt just like this…oh well it’s not like I had a choice…I also received a call from Estadio, the South American restaurant, and went there for an interview. As written above, I have a trial shift later in the afternoon. Both the place and people sent me good vibes and I trust it’ll go well! Fingers crossed!

Montpellier, week 1

Montpellier, my new hometown.

Time ran so fast that I haven’t even realized a week has past already. 7 days to find a house, and I hope it won’t take longer to find a job!

So…I arrived last Friday, leaving at 7am from Milan Central train station. After an 11 hour ride and 4 trains, I finally arrived in Montpellier!

The first things on my eyesight were the tram tracks (just like those in Sevilla, my last “home abroad”!), and as soon as I walked out of the train station a spring-time breeze invested me, rays of light and a lay-back, “university-like” atmosphere!

Ludo, my host from couchsurfing, welcomed me at the station with his friend, artist-photographer Julien, and we went to his house to drop my bags. Three hours later we were making sangria and eating home made cassoulet (a beans and meat based regional dish, typical of Languedoc)! Not bad as a start, not at all!

Later at night we took a walk along the Esplanade, where a sort of festival was taking place, and all around the city center. The streets were full of young people, full of pubs and bars, and the buildings looked very charming and “magic”.

The week-end was quite relaxing. We walked around the city, went to the botanic garden, and I prepared myself to the first day of school and to the big house hunting. On Sunday I went to a faire nearby to see if there was some useful information regarding accommodation. Well…the fir was HUUGE! At least 700 stands, one for each organization, hobby and activity one could do in Montpellier! Of course there was NOT a stand dedicated to ads for accommodation (only very general info) but thanks to a piece of paper  attached to my bag saying “cherche une chambre” I got the number of a couple of women who had a room for rent. Overall, I learnt that there are 3 main forms of accommodation: flat/room in a flat, student residence, or a room “chez l’habitant”, which is more or less like staying with a host family. This last option of course is better for short periods, but during the week I struggled so much to find a place to stay (literally called at least 30 numbers) that I seriously took that into consideration. Well, after 40€ of calls and visits to 5 houses, yesterday (friday) I finally found one! I’ll move in tomorrow so don’t want to jinx it by writing about it.

The school is great, I am learning a lot and teachers are wonderful! I have class every morning from 9 to 12.20 and 2 afternoons a week from 13.30 to 15.45. My classmates are very nice as well and yesterday night we all went out together. We had a few beer in the city center and went dancing to a place called Panamà, with FREE ENTRANCE! They come from all over the world and we manage to speak french most of the time (even though at night it can be a bit difficult).

This is the week end “du patrimoine”, and a lot of buildings and monuments that normally are close will open their doors to visitors. I will take a good tour of the city tomorrow and make sure I see most of them!

Time for my first run now!

New Year’s Eve in London: The Night

Here I’m just gonna skip the whole day walking (which was amazing, London’s just magic!) and go straight to New Year’s Eve!

Mirko and I met up with Kefa and some friends of his at Piccadilly Circus. We headed off to The Duke of Argyll, a pub in Soho, meeting some more friends of Kefa (and friends of friends) 🙂 It was an interesting mixture of ethnicities and nationalities: Italian, Chilean, Austrian, Chinese, KOrean, Malaysian.. and we all got along very well! After a few glasses of wine and a vane attempt to flirt with a bartender we headed outside to see the fireworks. Even tho we didn’t make it to the riverside we could see them clearly and, what can I say, they were amazing. The anticipation and excitement was palpable: hundreds of people waiting for those final seconds, a chance to turn page, start over, and leave another year behind. The expectation for a brighter year, and the fireworks definitely gave it a great start! After the fireworks and tons of pictures, while  heading back to the pub, it started snowing. It was just a few flakes, nit even enough to whiten the streets, but it gave a touch of perfection to that already great night, and it definitely meant a lot to my friend Mirko, who had never seen the snow (he comes from Chile and lives in Southern Spain). He was so excited, and I was about to cry for happiness (yeah I’m a bit soppy). Were were we..ah, the pub. They put an entrance fee, so after unsuccessful attempts to go to some other pub and a disgusting Falafel (we had bento for dinner: nice, but not so filling), we separated, with hugs and kisses, like ol’pals, and facebook addresses exchange. Kefa, Mirko and I went then to Cafè de Paris, the club where my friend Matt works. We got in for free and, man, did we have fun! I can’t recall the whole night. I just remember the taste of my screwdriver, the amazing place, and lots of dancing.

The whole night was a great success: there was a good chemistry with one another, even though most of us were didn’t know one another, and a series of lucky coincidences made that night a perfect New Year’s Eve 🙂

Mirko and I woke up at Kefa’s house, and headed back to Matt’s in late morning. Poor guy, working all night long, in such a crazy event, but oh well, I guess he enjoys it 🙂

So Thank You guys for the LEGENDARY New Year’s Eve!!!

New Year’s Eve in London-Part One

Here’s a summary of my trip to London, for New Year’s Eve.

A bit late maybe, but better sooner than never.

It’s been such a good time, spent with friends I hadn’t seen in a long time (and who all leave abroad, I mean, outside Italy).

The trip itself has been pretty amazing: bus ride! I left on Dec 28 at about 9 pm. The whole trip took about 21 hours, with a “bus change” in Paris coach station. It was a pleasant trip, especially when the bus parked inside the boat and we walked along the dock while crossing the English Channel. D. (a French girl met on the bus) and I met a very interesting British man, R., who told us about his years spent traveling around the world while in the Navy. He told us about his desire to visit the US and how he finally made it, even tho it was just for a few hours (the time to load/unload the cargo). Those hours were the highlight of the trip!

Anyway, I arrived around 6 p and met my friend Mirko at Victoria Station. We took the metro to Matt’s home, another friend of ours. Now, let’s spend a few words on the story of our friendship. Mirko was a colleague of mine in the Tapas Bar Levìes, in Sevilla, while Matt was working in another bar across the road, where we all used to go get beers and sing after work. Good times! Thanks to facebook, we all kinda kept in touch and had this small reunion at Matt’s. Back to NY’s, we spent that first night at home..we had some pretty intense days ahead of us!

Dec 30

Mirko and I went to Camden Town and spent the whole morning in the market. So amazing! I felt “at home”. The peculiar easy going environment, peculiar stands, a mix of vintage, gipsy, emo styles, asian food (and more), all those colors, sensations..wow

We walked our way up to the British Museum but it was packed, so we only saw parts of it. It took my breath away..no matter how many times you visit that museum, it will leave you breathless!

We then walked back and forth Oxford Street and went down to Piccadilly Circus, where I bought a ticket of the musical We Will Rock You (£25 instead of £60, yesss!). The show really blew my mind! The actors were so amazing, and terrific singers as well. The Queen themselves would have been proud of them. Was surprised by the plot, (pardon my ignorance, I didn’t know it was set in a future where real music had been banned), didn’t expect that at all!

After the show I met up with Kefa, an Austrian friend of mine who lives in London. Our friendship is also pretty peculiar. We first met in Finland (where I was doing and exchange). He was visiting Melanie (who was also doing an exchange there), a Canadian girl met in New Zealand. If that doesn’t sound confusing enough, we all met up again in Canada a few summers later, and that’s when Kefa and I actually became friends. So there we were, drinking beer like ol’ pals. Kefa’s fun! He kinda reminds me of Barney Stinson (but with dark hair and dark eyes and less monotonous topics). We chatted a bit, then I went back to Matt’s.

Finland 2007, Part 1<

Finland

I still remember the night I got there..and the day before: New Year’s Eve 2006/2007.

Let’s go back to that day. December 31, 2006. I was in the mountains, close to Bergamo, with some friends of mine. We used to spend every New Year’s eve together in this little village, where we all go on vacation.

We had dinner at my friend’s house, and then disco time! It was so much fun, dancing and laughing all together. At 2.30 am of Jan 1 I said goodbye to everybody, left in the middle of the party and drove back to Milan (luckily, there were to friends of mine coming with me on the drive back).

Once in Milan, I had 1h to shower and finish up packing, and then straight to the airport, destination: Suomi.

I took 3 flights, to Stockholm, Helsinki and Jyvaskyla, reaching my final destination at about 10pm. A cab took me to the hotel where I was supposed to spend my first night. My Tutor Inka was waiting for me at the entrance. She’s an angel and prooved to be a real tutor from the first night. In fact, the online booking hadn’t worked and the hotel had no reservation. Luckily, Inka had the keys of my apartment, and her boyfriend drove us there right away. The neighborhood is called Kortepohja and it is located in the north-eastern part of the city.

Inka took me to my new house, and gave me the “survival kit”, crappy but useful, which consists of: bedlinen, a pot, a pan, silverware, a glass, a dish, a bowl, BUT NO TOILET PAPER! Inka’s boyfriend found one at a friend’s house nearby, and I was all set.

Freezing cold, clean air, amazing people, crappy blankets, naked walls, big window, orange, light blu, christmas….these are the memories of that last night. A great start for my Finnish experience!