Next, we went to Florence; a city to which I had been before so I kind of knew my way around, at least in the city centre that is. We went and climbed the Duomo and got this amazing view (see picture attached). Again, lot's of stairs were included but the view was well worth it. We bought lots of leather and I even got to see my favorite leather salesman, Simone, again. I may have had/still do have a little Italian crush on him... that's an affirmative on the "still do", no maybes included here. There was a little hiccup along the way but after two days we were already on our way to Venice.
Ahh Venice. It was my favorite city we went to last year and has remained so. Although the weather remained quite foggy, I was able to get one very clear shot of the sun around the canal. I don't know if it is the food or the water or all the beautiful glass shops (or all of the above) but Venice has always had my heart. It is definitely not a place that I could see myself living, as it is mostly the home of fisherman and tourists, but it is one that I can see myself coming back to again if I have the chance. Watching the sun rise over the water and the ebb and flow of gondolas and vaporettos always seems to bring a calm to me. Again, we only spent a few days here but it was wonderful none the less.
Now, an entirely different change of scenery was Athens, Greece. This is the palace where we actually spent Christmas. If you don't know, Athens is the home of the Acropolis and it is just as amazing, if not more, than you can imagine. It was gorgeous and the most beautiful clear day for it as well. I even got to do a little meditation up there! As it was the day of, before, and after Christmas, there were not near as many 'tourists' as usual and I am very thankful for that, as it made my experience even more personal and meaningful. I had never been to Greece before, and was not prepared for how much I was going to fall in love with it. The food is amazing, the history is rich, and the people (that we met anyway) are very kind! I have been to Venice twice now so I guess if I had the choice I might choose Athens again just to even the playing field in order to choose a fair favorite.
Next was Turkey! I really had no idea what to expect in Turkey. It was mentioned in our planning and I agreed because, why not, but I didn't know much about it. I was very pleasantly surprised at what I did find however. The highlight would probably be our time in the Turkish Bathes. Basically we had a full on spa treatment, but it was done in the same manner as they would bathe in ancient times. Pictures not included sorry! It was about two hours of pure relaxation, I felt like a queen, especially when we got our full body clay mask, but then I felt like an Amazon worrier queen! Pictured, however, is a beautiful picture of the Blue Mosque at night. This was the first time I had even seen the inside of a Mosque before and I am glad to say that I have now done so. I believe it is so important for people to reach out and really try to understand the people and cultures that surround them. This was a pretty big step in doing so for me.
Now, unfortunately, I wish I could tell you about our time in India as that was the next country on our itinerary. However, due to very unexpected and extremely rare snow in Istanbul, Turkey we were not able to make it to India. To say my heart was broken is an understatement. It has been a month and I still find myself longing for what mother nature took away from me... for now. I do believe I will get to India someday, that day just couldn't be today. Instead, we returned back to Nottingham and were able to have a few extra days to study for finals, which I JUST now got done taking.
This was not necessarily the easiest Christmas holiday of my life, but it was by far the most memorable. It is something that will stick with me forever and I am so thankful to have had this opportunity. Many more memories are to come but this month was filled with some pretty big ones!!