The 12 Adventures of Christmas

12) On the 12th adventure of Christmas, my true love gave to me – a delicious carbonara in the heart of Bologna, Italy.

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11) On the 11th adventure of Christmas my true love gave to me – an evening walk through the twinkling streets of Mantova, Italy.

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10) On the 10th adventure of Christmas, my true love gave to me – handmade gnocchi from a bustling Christmas market.

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9) On the 9th adventure of Christmas, my true love gave to me – crowds of Christmas shoppers in Madrid’s main square.

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8) On the 8th adventure of Christmas my true love gave to me, a sunset above the clouds.

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7) On the 7th adventure of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a Spanish dessert on an empty stomach.

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6) On the 6th adventure of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a late night conversation in an open cafe.

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5) On the 6th adventure of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a fuzzy kind of feeling.

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4) On the 4th adventure of Christmas, my true love gave to me – improv decorations.

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3) On the 3rd adventure of Christmas, my true love gave to me – a mouth-watering lunch in Valladolid, Spain.

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2) On the 2nd adventure of Christmas, my true love gave to me – flying Christmas presents.

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1) On the first adventure of Christmas my true love gave to me, an accidentally heart-shaped walnut.

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A Storybook breakfast

After having a drink at the beautiful Le Stanze bar in Bologna, I was in search of a nice place to have breakfast on a Sunday morning. I love places that offer something different- whether it be the style, the menu, or surrounding atmosphere. Les Pupitres, in Bologna, Italy, is probably the most adorable little coffee shop you could imagine.

The prices are great (cappuccino €1.20, croissant €1.00) not to mention a series of delectable baked goods for under €5.00. They also serve lunch and alcoholic drinks.

The location is perfect (near the famous Due Torri) and they play Lucio Dalla in the background during breakfast.

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Don’t climb the Colosseum!

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Rome, Italy

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Barcelona, Spain

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Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain

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Rome, Italy

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Athens, Greece

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London, England

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Juliet’s house, Romeo and Juliet’s meeting place, Verona, Italy

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“If you’re drinking to forget, pay first.”
Mallorca, Spain

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Vatican City

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Bologna, Italy

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The one where you accidentally meet.

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We took the same bus on that humid Thursday afternoon. I wasn’t supposed to be on it, but I got distracted by a phone call and hopped on, didn’t think twice. I’d seen you around before, you’re what’s-his-name’s friend, right? The one from Naples? I don’t know, it doesn’t matter.

Our eyes met for a second. I gave you a hesitant closed-lipped smile, the “I-know-you-but-not-really” kind. You didn’t return it. You continued staring. I got painfully awkward and ran my tongue across my lips. Do I have lipstick on my teeth? Is there something on my face? It’s my hair, isn’t it? I can’t get it to look normal in this heat.

I’m sure if I looked in your bathroom, I’d find lipstick in the cabinet. Red lipstick, belonging to “her” of course. I can’t pull off red lipstick, it always ends up looking a bit out of place on my face. I don’t know who “she” is, but she must melt every time you look at her like that. Little pangs of jealousy found there way into my insides, hugging them without wanting to let go.

You weren’t particularly tall, or muscular, or any other quality that’s usually on a woman’s checklist, but you were..captivating. Your eyes were dark, almost black – with a lighter brown in the middle. It was as if two countries had a battle over your eyes, and neither really won.

I didn’t think about you after that.

I’m looking at you right now, sitting across from me, and mouthing the words to a cheesy 80s song that’s on the radio. We’re waiting for my train to come, (late as usual) inside a typical Italian cafe. The old man at the bar has a warm smile on his face, and an oil stain on his t-shirt. You slide my half of the pizza towards me, the one you divided unevenly – giving me the bigger half. You look up at me, smirk, and continue singing.

I melt.

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Working in Spain or Italy: Legally vs Illegally

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If you’ve decided to teach English and live la vita bella or la vida loca in Spain or Italy, you have to be ready for the onslaught of paperwork that will head your way (especially if you’re North American).
If you are planning on staying in either of these countries for more than three months, and you are not a European citizen, you must apply for a work or student visa in your country of origin.

Before I renewed my European passport, I was forced to go through this process which involved buying private health insurance, and printing out my bank statements in order to prove I had enough money to survive in case all hell broke loose.

The people you will deal with at the embassy or consulate in your country of origin will definitely be very mean to you. I’m pretty sure when they hire people, they ask them to sell their souls. I don’t know what it is about consulate workers, but they aren’t happy balls of sunshine.

-TIP: Photocopy- Make several copies of documentation. If the office misplaces something, you can immediately fax or send whatever may be missing ASAP.

When you receive your visa and head to your destination, you must go to the police station in order to receive a card either called permesso di soggiorno, or certificado de registro (see picture above).

-TIP: If you don’t speak the language, bring someone with you who does. The police officers probably don’t speak English, and the receptionists aren’t much better, so if you have someone next to you who can fully explain what’s going on, you’ll save yourself a headache.

Working illegally: Many Americans and Canadians choose to travel and stay in Spain or Italy without a visa. After the three months are up, they continue working and living at their destination. This is 100% possible and fairly easy to do. You arrive, you stay, and no one checks. It may save you the initial headache by avoiding paperwork and visa costs, but you run into several problems:

– You don’t have a real work contract. You have no rights as an employee, because you aren’t “really there”. They can “forget” to pay you, and you can’t do anything about it. Moreover, you don’t have access to free healthcare, which is automatic if the contract is real, and you pay taxes.

-You can’t travel. Sure, weekend trips to neighbouring countries might not be a problem, but if you go to the U.K, or have an officer look through your passport during a domestic flight, you’re screwed. (I forgot my residence card at home, and had a lot of explaining to do at the London airport customs office)

-Deportation. In the unlikely event you get caught at an airport without a visa and an expired passport stamp (you have an entrance stamp over three months old), you can get a huge fine, face deportation, and be prohibited from entering the E.U for “x” amount of years.

I’ve met people who work both illegally and legally in Spain or Italy. In the end, I highly recommend you follow legal procedures and do things the right way. A bit of stress at the beginning will save you a lot of worry in the long run. If you have any questions about travel/preparation, don’t hesitate to contact me!