London Likes…!

In this week’s post, ACCENT London’s Programs Coordinator Harry Isitt discusses his favorite place to enjoy a quick bite and its unique place in film history.

HIsitt

They say that once you have a favorite local spot, be it a pub, a café, or a restaurant, that nothing can top it. In my case, my favorite local London joint is Santa Maria Pizzeria in South Ealing. This Neapolitan-owned pizzeria has been serving West Londoners like me the best pizza outside of Naples over the last 7 years and has built a devoted following in the process.Picture1 Continue reading

Paris Picks…!

In this week’s Paris Picks…!, ACCENT Paris’ Housing Coordinator Jennifer Talevi describes the advantages of Paris’ bike-sharing system, Vélib. Jennifer shares with us the wonderful journeys Vélib allows her to take as she ride along the banks of the Seine and enjoys the culture and beauty of Paris.

JTaleviSince its creation in 2007, 286,000 people have joined the urban bike-sharing program Vélib. I recently joined and cannot imagine doing an activity in Paris now without a part of it spent pedaling. With 1,256 Vélib stations located in Paris, renting a bike is convenient and a great way to see the city. Annual membership is not mandatory; one can rent a bike for a day or even obtain a week-long membership! Continue reading

London Likes…!

Today’s post comes from Programs Coordinator Steph Bell, who tells us why the Wallace Collection is one of her favorite places to visit in London.
SB

In my free time, you’ll often find me at the Wallace Collection, one of the lesser-known museums in the heart of London—just a 10-minute walk from Oxford Street. Housed in a large townhouse on Manchester Square, the original owners of the museum bequeathed their Collection to the Nation in 1900 under the condition that none of its items were to ever be sold. Continue reading

London Likes…!

In this week’s post, ACCENT London’s Programs Coordinator Kadri Paju and Assistant Director Matt Maslin talk about their favorite local spots for quick snacks and delicious meals, both conveniently located near the ACCENT London Study Center!

KPaju

Kadri Paju likes…

Caffe Paradiso, 28 Store Street

Whenever I’m in Bloomsbury early in the morning, I treat myself to an almond croissant and a cappuccino at Caffe Paradiso on Store Street.

Continue reading

Florence Favs…!

The Torrigiani Gardens in Florence span nearly 17 acres and contain an impressive array of flowering plants and artistic marvels. The Gardens reached their height in popularity during the 19th century, when Marquis Pietro Torrigiani began to acquire adjoining properties, expanding the size of the garden and decorating it in the English Romantic style.

Perhaps the most impressive structure in the gardens is the astronomy tower. Rising up beyond the treetops, this tower, deliberately designed in the then-popular neo-Gothic style, contained a vast library and a fantastic collection of scientific instruments.   800px-Giardino_torrigiani,_torretta_13 wikimediacommons

Today, the Gardens are the chosen site of a number of special events. ACCENT Florence Study Center Director Michelangelo D’Elia discusses why the Torrigiani Gardens are one of his Florence Favs in this Live Like A Local post!

 

The Torrigiani Gardens are the largest privately owned gardens within the city walls. I like it for the history, the events and fashion shows held there, and the cultural value of the area.JPX0030torrigianisite

The Torrigiani Gardens have many different kinds of plants and trees so I find it really charming from a historical point of view; and I appreciate the way they set up events and organize fashion shows, using the space in a more modern way. Conveniently, it’s on my side of the River, so I always try to go when there is an event there. The Torrigiani Gardens are only open for special events, so it helps to be on the mailing list. Some of the events are open to the public so even if you don’t get the email, you can still go. It’s a nice part of Florence.

800px-Giardino_torrigiani,_edificio_04 wikimediacommons~ Michelangelo D’Elia, ACCENT Florence

Madrid Moments!

In this week’s Madrid Moments! post for our “Live Like A Local” series, staff at our ACCENT Madrid Study Center reveal two of Madrid’s hidden gems, places that only a local would think to suggest.

If a student or faculty were to ask us to recommend a place in Madrid that only a local would know about, we would suggest a visit to Casa de Campo, the most important public park in Madrid. Originally a private hunting ground used by the Spanish royal family, Casa de Campo was declared a Royal Forest by King Fernando VI. This park is comprised of 1,772 hectares of natural space (more than five times the size of Central Park!) and houses various facilities, including an amusement park, a zoo, and an aerial cable car.   Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 12.12.06 PMVisitors can spend a sunny day boating out on the lake, enjoying any of the outdoor restaurants surrounding it, running or biking around the endless paths tangled throughout the park, or just relaxing in the park’s beautiful surroundings.

For the nature-lover, it is an ideal place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city!

C. pic 3 pick 1

For further information on Casa de Campo, follow this link to the Spanish version of “Zoom” News
♦♦♦

 

C. pic 5 pick 2Another favorite hidden treasure in Madrid is the Cerralbo Museum, one of the most beautiful museums in the city. A walk through the museum offers visitors the opportunity to see how an aristocratic family lived in the late 19th century and to view the unique collection of more than 500,000 traditional pieces collected by Enrique de Aguilera y Gamboa, XVII Marquis of Cerralbo. Highlights of the museum include paintings, sculptures, drawings, coins, medals, weapons, armor, jewels, ceramics, and furniture created by European artists from the 1500s to the 1900s. And the architecture of the building alone is as impressive as the masterpieces contained within.

Located near Plaza de España and the Temple of Debod, the Cerralbo Museum is one of the greatest lesser known museums in Madrid.

C. pic 6 pick 2

For those of you hoping to practice your Spanish language skills and to learn more about the museum, check out the following links: Guía del Ocio / una Ventana desde Madrid

~ACCENT Madrid

Rome Raves…!

Need to get away from the busy streets of Rome for a day? In this week’s “Live Like A Local” post, one ACCENT Rome staff member describes the perfect retreat from the crowds of the city.

I might be biased, but I believe Rome to be the most beautiful city in the world. Even though I grew up here, I never get bored of its beauty. But this beauty is both a blessing and a curse—it attracts a massive amount of people, the one thing that makes me want to escape! To avoid going completely crazy, I’ve devised a plan of temporary respite.

Taking the 60 bus, I leave behind the white marble bulk of the Altare della Patria, the buzzing Via del Corso, and all of the tourists trying to snap their selfies, and I go to my happy place: Villa Torlonia.

villa-torloniaVilla Torlonia is a public park that once belonged to the rich Torlonia family. The construction of the Villa started in the early 1800s. It was initially commissioned by Giovanni, a banker, but the project was completed under the direction of his grandson, Giovanni Jr., after he had been crowned a prince. His eccentric taste in architecture brought us this gem.

Moorish GreenhouseWhen you arrive, I suggest taking a walk around the park. You’ll discover reproductions of ruins, a Moorish greenhouse, a medieval arena, and a theater. If you explore further, you’ll also find an underground shelter, utilized by Mussolini when he rented the villa in 1925.

My favorite building in the park is Casina delle Civette (aka, “The House of Owls”). As if from a storybook, it is a fantastical building in the middle of the park that was designed by Giovanni Jr. as his own personal residence. Rumor has it that Giovanni was a solitary man with a thing for myths and fables. I challenge you to find all of the mystical symbols hidden in the house. Undoubtedly, the most visible is the owl, omnipresent in the furniture decorations and stained glass.

Casina delle CivetteMore often than not, I’m struck with hunger pangs in the middle of my wanderings. If this happens to you, no worries. The former lemon grove in the park has been transformed into a cozy restaurant, La Limonaia. Whether you’re craving cake (vegan chocolate and coconut cake is a great choice) or pizza (focaccia bianca with prosciutto crudo, anyone?), you’ll leave the villa feeling satisfied.

~Alice Mangia, ACCENT Rome

Florence Favs…!

In our next “Live Like A Local” featured post, Daniela Grosso in Florence describes how the history of the city can still be felt in the streets and gardens of Florence today.

As a Florentine baptized in the Baptistery in Piazza Del Duomo, a square right in the middle of the city, I love to walk along the boulevards, through the mild hills of Florence where Michelangelo built our walls.

Duomo_and_Baptistery_from_Palazzo_Vecchio

If I were to take you on a stroll through this area today, first we would enter Porta Romana Square through the largest and best preserved gate of the city. Here, it is typical for Florentines to stop and eat a sandwich with lampredotto or trippa. Almost every mile you’ll find there is a “door”. During the medieval era, these “doors” were used as entries to the city. The avenues (viali) create a natural border between the Florence city center and the residential ring where the Florentines live.

Piazzale_di_porta_romana,_fi,_01

Just on the corner of Porta Romana, there are the Boboli Stables where the Medici family used to keep their horses. The Boboli Stables are within the city center, on the southern part.

Florence Map.jpg copy

Nowadays, you’ll find a beautiful high school with a wide garden where the stables once were. There, we can sit down and eat our sandwich while staring at students, teachers, and a bunch of dogs playing around.

Boboli Gardens use

Pitti Square and Porta Romana, the two entrances to the Boboli Gardens, are just a few meters from the city center. You can breathe easy there and feel how very Florentine they are!

As one of Florence’s most popular tourist attractions, the Ponte Vecchio is a few minutes from Pitti Square, and will connect us back to Piazza del Duomo. Pitti Square is a very big square full of visitors all day long—it’s not very relaxing there, compared to the Boboli Gardens (a park that requires a paid ticket to enter).

If you’re looking for a relaxing escape on a warm spring day, we recommend you take a stroll through Piazza Del Duomo, head south to Porta Romana Square, and then make your way into the beautiful Boboli Gardens to indulge in a lampredotto or trippa sandwich!

~Daniela Grosso, ACCENT Florence

Paris Picks…!

Scott Rothwell worked with ACCENT in 2015 as Programs Assistant in Paris. He was also a part of ACCENT’s social media team, managing the posts on our ACCENT Paris Facebook page. Though Scott has recently moved on in his career, we were delighted to have him as part of the team this past year and would love to share with you his personal “Paris Pick!”

A Day in the Marais

As a local in Paris, a typical day will commence with a walk to the local boulangerie to buy breakfast. Just off the Place de la Bastille in the quartier of the MaraisParis Picks - Scott Pic 2 and a short walk from the Saint Paul Metro station, the service at the “Boulangerie du Coin” is not only quick but also friendly. Croissants, Pain au Chocolate, or Croissants au Amandes, pick your choice of the dozens of pastries that are each as mouth-watering as the next.

On a nice day, the ideal way to enjoy this breakfast would be to sit on a bench in one of the capital’s parks, like the Place des Vosges that is less than a five-minutes walk from the Bastille. Passing by the Rue des Tournelles in the morning hours, you will probably spot a number of small, private art galleries opening their doors for business. Take the first left off this street and you will end up in the Place des Vosges, which is a classic square to visit with imposing architecture and residences bordering each side of the square and a peaceful, decorative French park and fountain in the center. While visiting Place des Vosges, it is also worth seeking out the house where renowned French author Victor Hugo resided for over sixteen years.

Moving deeper within the Marais, the Carnavalet Museum is a gold mine for everything related to the city’s history. With objects and famous paintings dating from the 18th century Revolution, the museum contains many must-see attractions of the capital. And just ten minutes away by foot is the oldest covered market in Paris; the Marche des Enfants Rouges is the perfect place to get your grocery shopping done and enjoy a nice meal. From Italian to Lebanese to traditional crepes from Brittany, this market really capture how diverse and cosmopolitan the city of Paris has become.

Paris Picks - Scott Pic 3

Finally, a visit to the theatre in the Marais will complete your immersion in this lively and artistic corner of Paris. The Theatre des Blanc Manteaux is famous for spotting up and coming comedians. With two rooms that can fit a maximum of 80 people in the audience, the theatre has kept its original atmosphere and feel from its opening back in 1972. One of the venue’s great features is a small bar attached to it that allows the audience to meet the artists and to chat with the cast both before and after the performance. It helps give a unique experience to the theatre and is truly a great way to finish a day discovering the district of the Marais.

~ACCENT Paris

Madrid Moments!

What other places in Madrid does our ACCENT team love? Tania Gonzalez in our Madrid Study Center shares a few of her favorites in this “Live Like A Local” post.

EL Jardín del Angel – Calle De Las Huertas, 2

Imagine a secret green space surrounded by tall buildings in the center of a bustling city full of tourists. That is “The Angel’s Garden” in Madrid. Though it looks like a garden, it is actually a florist’s shop that was founded in 1889. The vintage atmosphere of this place is charming. In the midst of the small hidden garden decorated with wooden furniture, there is a sweet little greenhouse, and plants everywhere. This is definitely a beautiful place to stop by for a bit of relaxation in the middle of a long day.

The history of this place is also very interesting. According to their website, for 300 or more years, the place was the site of a cemetery where famous writers like Lope de Vega and Cervantes were buried – that would have been right beneath where the greenhouse is today! The cemetery was closed around 1889 and the San Sebastian church near by decided to rent the land to the Martín family. The family opened a flower shop and have since passed the shop down through the generations for over 100 years!

Cuesta de los ciegos

There is a slope of steps that starts at the Calle de Segovia and goes until the Calle de la Morería. It lasts 254 steps and makes a winding path through one of the most historic parts of Madrid. It is Cuesta de los ciegos or, “The Hill of the Blind.” It’s a peculiar but fascinating place that’s prompted legends even as far back as the 13th century, one of which involves St. Francis of Assisi helping to give sight to two blind beggars through a miracle involving olive oil. Sounds mysterious, no? Look it up and practice your Spanish reading skills by clicking on the following links!: Secretos de Madrid and Arte en Madrid.

~Tania Gonzalez, ACCENT Madrid

London Likes…!

SDennisWhat would Senior Programs Coordinator Sara Dennis do with a free hour in London? Find out in this week’s “Live Like A Local” post!

As a local with an extra free hour in London, there are quite a few places I could while away some time…

Liberty

My first choice would be to go to the department store, Liberty (Gt. Marlborough Street, off Regent Street). It’s just a beautiful shop that is a delight to wander through, whether you are looking to buy something, or no. If you are planning to shop, it’s a very good place to find souvenirs and presents for your friends and family. The shop was established in 1875, but the main mock-Tudor building was built in 1924 and remains an icon among London stores. It was built using timber from two ships, in the half-timbered style of the Elizabethan age. I imagine many overseas visitors think it is a much older building.

National GalleryMy second choice would be to go to the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. What can I say? It has possibly the world’s finest collection of (mainly old) masters, and it’s free! You can walk in and spend an hour in front of one painting, or 100.

Foundling-MuseumMy final choice would be the Foundling Museum in Brunswick Square. This is on the site of Thomas Coram’s Foundling Hospital, set up in 1740 as a home for London’s unwanted babies and children. It became one of the first charities, supported by Handel and Hogarth, among many others. It was an extremely fashionable venue, visited by the great and the wealthy. Now, as a museum, the exhibits there range from many fine paintings by English masters such as Gainsborough and Reynolds, to the pitiful “treasures” that were left by the children’s mothers as mementos of their families.

~Sara Dennis, ACCENT London

Paris Picks…!

AFOur “Live Like A Local” post series continues with this tale from Programs Coordinator and Academic Liaison Adrien Fropos on one of his own very interesting adventures in Paris.

For many people, the idea of Paris conjures up images of Amélie skipping stones on the Canal St Martin, high-speed chases as seen in “The Da Vinci Code” movie, or famous kisses immortalized by photographs like Robert Doisneau’s “Le Baiser de l’Hôtel de Ville.” At the mention of “Paris,” people will think of the Eiffel Tower sparkling at night and the Mona Lisa on display at the Musée du Louvre. They will think about the last time they sat watching Parisians on the terrace of a café on a sunny day. Yes, Paris is indeed all of that, but to us native Parisians who have been in the city for so long and tend to not always recognize its beauty, the city we seek beckons constant reinvention in order to keep us from becoming what we “Frenchies” are so notorious for being: blasé.

le manoirConsequently, I often like to look for odd and unusual museums, shows, and restaurants. One of my latest discoveries was “The Paris Mansion,” or, “Le Manoir de Paris,” a show that brings to life the darkest legends of this enchanted city. As I walked through the impressive gothic gates of a building located in the 10th arrondissement, I found myself immersed in a completely different world. Throughout the performance, famous Parisian myths, like the Phantom of the Opera, the Man in the Iron Mask and the Ghost of the Tuileries Gardens, to name a few, were brought to life by over 30 professional actors. It was a great experience and I can’t wait to go back with more friends!The Odyssey

To top off my very engaging afternoon of theatrical entertainment, I continued on in my exploration of the lesser-seen landmarks of Paris. With some luck, I thought I might travel across galaxies to a faraway planet, but since I didn’t have the keys to Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon, I decided to take the métro. The scene was set during the bumpy ride that made it feel like I was powering through an asteroid belt near the Tatooine planet. I landed in a strange place called “The Odyssey,” a Star Wars-themed restaurant. No Aric tongue, Crispic, or Danaru were available for consumption there, but rather delicious crêpes (I was still in France, after all) served in a place where the decor seems to have been imported directly from the set of Star Wars. The crêpes had names inspired by the Star Wars mythology and were served by Monsieur Gregory, a die-hard fan of the saga. He even had the menu translated in Aurebes, the written language of the Star Wars universe! Regretfully, I didn’t see any stormtroopers in the kitchen, and the Force wasn’t strong enough within me to persuade the waiter to let me go without paying the check.Star Wars Decor

As you can see, Paris is full of hidden treasures – some of them are quite traditional, and others much less so!

Que la Force soit avec vous, or, “May the Force be with you!”

~Adrien Fropos, ACCENT Paris

Florence Favs…!

LacieNext in our “Live Like A Local” series, check out what Florence local Lacie Raymond recommends if you have a free day in Tuscany!

If you’re studying abroad a Firenze, you should definitely visit the Medici Villas that lie on the outskirts of the city. Getting there is relatively simple: with the purchase of a €1.50 ticket, a bus will drop you off within a reasonable walking distance of a few important Florentine villas, and my favorite, the Villa Petraia. With its well-maintained gardens and spectacular view, it is a stunning example of Italian Renaissance architecture. While there, you can go on a free volunteer-led guided tour of the internal space. MediciVilla

While in the Florentine countryside, if you’re there in the Spring and Summer, you may encounter what Italians call a sagra. During these seasons, it is common for small Italian towns to host a sagra, which is a sort of Italian food festival usually held in a community center. The menus for these events focus on an ingredient (often the meat of a particular animal) that is cultivated in the area. Sagras are usually far off the tourist path, which makes them less accessible by public transportation, but if you find yourself near one, you will definitely get a cultural experience packed with locals.

Sagre
~Lacie Raymond, ACCENT Florence

Madrid Moments!

TMartinezThis week, we’re bringing you the first of many in our Madrid “Live Like A Local” series, “Madrid Moments!” from our ACCENT Madrid Study Center staff member Triana Martinez.

Taberna Según Emma / Restaurante Emma Cocina – Plaza de San Miguel / Plaza del Conde Miranda, 4.

One of my favorite places in town is undoubtedly Taberna Según Emma. It is a small bar located behind the well known Mercado de San Miguel where you can try delicious Spanish cuisine such as salmorejo, which is cold tomato cream with boiled egg and ham, or their tostas, a piece of toasted bread filled with ham or vegetables.A. Pic 1 pick 1

Their dishes are prepared with love and care. The restaurant has a pleasant atmosphere and is located right next to Plaza Mayor and Barrio de los Austrias. No one will regret going to this wonderful place full of charm!

A. Pic 2 pick 1

Museo Sorolla – Paeso del General Martinez Campos, 37.

My favorite hidden treasure in Madrid is the Museo Sorolla. The museum itself is the family house of the Spanish painter Joaquín Sorolla, and has been preserved over time as an exhibit for his paintings and personal belongings. Sorolla painted in several styles, although he is best known for his beautifully lit Mediterranean beach scenes. His paintings tend to be calm and serene, and feature subjects like the sea, children, and women.Museo Sorolla

I love walking through the gardens that surround the building. They were designed by the painter himself and take me to another time: an oasis in the midst of a busy city. Extra perk: Museo Sorolla is conveniently located nearby the ACCENT Madrid Study Center, so if you’re seeking refuge from your studies, respite is not far away!A. Pic 3 pick 2

~Triana Martinez, ACCENT Madrid

Paris Picks…!

Continuing our new “Live Like A Local” series, which kicked off with our first “London Likes…!post, we bring you our first “Paris Picks…!” post from our ACCENT Paris Study Center staff member, Katherine Holt.

Keep an eye out on the ACCENT Blog for more “London Likes,” “Paris Picks,” and, coming soon, “Florence Favs,” and more! These posts will give you a glimpse of what it’s like to live like a local while you’re in Europe, and will offer great recommendations from the ACCENT staff on where to go and what to do in each ACCENT city.

Making a Splash in Paris

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b1/Piscine-Keller-decouverte.JPG

When you live and work in a fabulous city like Paris, where there is such a wealth of places to visit, exhibitions to see, concerts to attend, and sights to take in, sometimes a little “down time” is called for. The buzz of the street and the crowds in the metro can be exhilarating, for sure, but in order to appreciate them, it’s sometimes necessary to capture a moment for oneself, and to take a little time to breathe.

Having been a water baby from just a few months old, my first port of call when it comes to taking some time for myself is the swimming pool. Here in Paris, we are spoiled for choice when it comes to piscines municipales of which there are 39 within the city walls, not to mention the many and varied “aquatic centers” in the neighboring suburbs. Entry is cheap, with those under 26 years of age paying only €1.70 per session, €14 for a 10-entry pass, or €19 for a three-month pass (usable in all municipal pools within the city).

As I plunge into the cool blue of the piscine Boiteux – ex Reuilly just three metro stops from the ACCENT Paris Study Center, the noise and bustle of the city is lost in the water; I swim under, over, and around other Parisiens as they splash away the worries of the day.

The advantage of the swimming pool over the gym is that there are no phones. Nobody is connected, nobody is interrupted. Instead, everyone is there alone with their thoughts and their goals, together in this basin of water which mutes noise, impact, contact, and even time. Not one swimmer is looking at a watch, not one person is in a hurry to leave. For all the movement and flurry of physical activity, the piscines municipales might just be some of the calmest places in the city.

~Katherine Holt – ACCENT Paris