jeudi 31 juillet 2008

The End: Days 29 - 32

Day 29 –
This was one of the strangest days of my year abroad. I got back into Paris on a Sunday, which is always a dead day. It was pretty crazy. I got off the train at 7 and kind of wandered around looking for an internet café. I think I was expecting lodging to be easier to find in Paris, but I ended up going to a hostel. It was in a part of Paris that I had never spent too much time in, Porte Bagnolet, so it was kind of cool to do some more exploring. I ended up hanging out with some people at the hostel, which was fun. I was in a bit of shock because I had thought going back to Paris would be more like going home, but I didn’t really process the fact that I didn’t have a home there anymore. The cool thing, though, was that the next day was Bastille Day!
Day 30 –
I missed the parade, mostly because I was pretty out of the Bastille Day festivities loop, but I went to the carnival-y thing at the Tuilleries with a friend from my program. It was pretty cool. We went through a “Crazy House,” and it was hilarious and more fun than it sounds. I got some new luggage for the return and just hung out all after noon. We planned to meet up again for fireworks that night at Sacre Coeur. It wasn’t exactly spectacular and there were a million people. I am not sure what I would have done differently, though.
Day 31 –
So I picked up my stuff and lugged it around Paris in the morning and really started to end my Parisian life… I closed my bank account and terminated all of my monthly payments.
For my last night in Paris, I wanted to stay by the airport (for easy access the next day). I had met a girl in La Spezia at the train station who offered to let me stay with her at the airport, since she was getting a really good deal on a double room. I took her up on it for the last night. I really enjoyed my time with her and the fact that we stayed at the Sheraton in the airport, only added to the awesomeness! I think we were both a little skeptical of the situation, but I am happy that I went for it!
Day 32 –
The Departure! I was already at the airport, so I just went to the terminal and though it wasn’t my best flying experience, I made it home by that night (well at 11:30 California time).
I wanted to write a bit about Re-Entry, but I don’t really have much to say. I was ready to come back to the states and have “transitioned” relatively well. I have a part time baby-sitting job for the next few weeks (which I really enjoy) and then I will be going back to school! So I think that this will be the end off my blog. I am going to try and get a slideshow put together of my pictures, so if that happens I will post it here!
I hope you enjoyed these as much I as I enjoyed my time abroad!

jeudi 24 juillet 2008

The Five Lands: Days 26-28

Day 26 –
Another wasted day, I slept in, way in. I wasn’t feeling very well, so I decided to postpone my trip to Cinque Terre by a day and stay one more night in La Spezia (three total). I strolled around the town, which wasn’t that spectacular, but kind of cute and ultimately had a nice dinner. Pizza from the same place I had take-away the night before. The people there were really funny and totally Italian. It was fun trying to talk with them. I then went back to the hotel and crashed again.
Day 27 –
So I decided that I was spending too much and for my third night I checked into a different hotel. There was no hostel (that I knew about), so I just went to a cheaper hotel. It was really cute, a mother and son ran it and they seemed so typical.
I then headed to Monterosso for a bit of a late start on the 11K hike through the 5 villages. I wanted to start at the hardest part, so I went to the last town and did it “backwards.” It was amazing, kind of tough at times, but the views throughout the entire hike were great. The first leg had the greatest views and the most interesting trails. It was great to do it alone, but I kept thinking about how much I wanted everyone I knew to see it.
I got to the second town, Vernazza, and had some really delicious lunch, stuffed mussels and Caprice salad. It was really yummy, but I don’t think I left enough time before starting back on the trail, haha. It was beautiful as well, but not as well shaded and it was warm. This trail led up to Corniglia, which was the highest village of the five. It was really cool, but at this point I just wanted to make sure I finished before it got too dark. I didn’t explore Corniglia too much, but it had some pretty awesome views. From Corniglia, the trail continued along the water. It was really beautiful and the swimming was awesome. The fourth town was Manarola, which was really cute and was pretty much hanging off the cliffs. The final leg was really easy (it was even handicap accessible) and not all that pretty. The views were nice, but it was the only part that had a theme, “Via dell’amore,” a lovers’ lane of sorts. I am pretty sure that I saw a couple get engaged.
In the final city, Riomaggiore, I strolled for a bit, but was pretty exhausted. I waited for the train back to La Spezia, where I got some dinner and took it back to my hotel. I watched GREASE in Italian and fell asleep. I never really had too much of a night life, but really enjoyed myself.
Day 28 –
I spent the next day on trains again. I had to be in Nice by 9 pm for my night train, so I was a little nervous about time, but I made it. Another ride on the beautiful coast, the Ligurian coast to be exact. It was really pretty.
Ultimately I made it to Nice, with time to spare. I waited at the station for my train and when I finally got on, my train car had no electricity. We got moved and it was actually really nice. I had one of the best night’s sleep of my trip.
As for my last days in Paris, I will write about them in the next blog. Don’t worry though, there are only a few more days left! I hope everyone is well. Let me know if you have any questions or comments, I have about all the time in the world right now.

mercredi 23 juillet 2008

To the Beach: Days 20-25

Day 20 –
So in the morning, I headed to the train station in Rome with the intention of ending m day in Sorrento. I got a ticket to Naples and was told to then get a ticket to Sorrento in the Naples train station. On the train I met some people and talked to them about accommodations in Sorrento. I realized that even though Sorrento is supposed to be beautiful, I really wanted to go to a town closer to the beach. So when I got to Naples I hopped on a train to Salerno, even though it wasn’t highly recommended by my book.
I am so happy that it did. Even though the trek from the train station to the hostel was pretty hot and not so pretty, I later found that the port town was absolutely breath taking. After cooling off at the amazingly chic hostel, I decided to walk along the water for a bit. The town has a beautifully paved promenade along the waters edge, where you can see the fishermen and the boats, and a sweeping view of the Amalfi coast. Salerno is the southernmost city on the apparently star-studded Amalfi coast. For the first few hours I was in Salerno, I heard no English spoken and it wasn’t until I got to a little restaurant on the promenade that I ran into an English speaking couple.
That meal was delicious; I tried one of the regional favorites, gnocchi Sorrentina. I completely fell in love and was pretty much ready to marry any fisherman that may have asked, wink. I walked back to the hostel through the boisterous Centro Storico (historic center) and had, you guessed it, some more gelato. I met some of the girls in my dormitory and chatted with an Australian named Ann for a while. I am happy to have met them after getting to see the city a bit by myself, you know, the lone explorer.
Day 21 –
The next morning I wanted to check out Salerno a bit, so I left the hostel and thought I had everything I needed. I ran into a beautiful piazza and at this point realized I had forgotten my camera at the hostel. Oops. I guess it was for the better, though. On returning to the hostel I laid down for what felt like a few minutes and I later came to understand it was a few hours. I think I was just exhausted. After Rome, all of my tourism gusto just petered out and I was ready to relax. I am the perfect example of overdosing on vacation! The initial plan was much more intense; two days in Salerno (one to be at the beach and one day trip to Pompeii) and then back up north to Siena, Perugia and finally, Cinque Terre. I decided the night before to stay five days in Salerno and two in the Cinque Terre region.
So after my power nap, I was pretty hungry, so Ann and I headed to a restaurant that was Lonely Planet recommended. It was the most awesome relatively inexpensive appetizer buffet ever. I had octopus, okra, and various other delicious little bits. We spent the afternoon browsing the shopping street. We walked the promenade again and at the local beach, there was a soccer game going on. It was pretty funny, Italy v. Croatia (all Italian players). The funny/scary part was that every so often a player would find a piece of glass on the pitch and throw it off. Yeah, I don’t even like playing when there might be dog poop, but pieces of glass, no thank you! It was cool how a lot of the locals were watching. I just really loved the community feel of Salerno. It was great.
Ann and I decided to hit the town, seeing as it was a Saturday night and the ratio of men to women was remarkable, probably close to 4 to 1. The drinking system was kind of strange too, none of the bars had people in them, but the streets were filled. Ann and I ultimately figured out that people get their drinks to go and then walk around with them. Very strange Italians. It was a really fun night out.
Day 22 –
I had another lazy morning (ok, I’ll admit is was a pretty lazy day)– using the internet and reading about things to do. I eventually got motivated and decided to brave the bus to one of the towns with a free beach, Atrani. I waited at the bus stop in anticipation and met a man who was an English speaking tour guide. He was super nice and talked to me about different things we were going by on the bus. About the bus ride, it was an extremely windy and small coastal street. The busses had to continuously honk to make sure that no one was coming in the other direction at most of the curves and we nearly got into a few accidents. It was an adventure for sure!
Once I got to the town, I descended the stairs to the beach and it was incredible. I was swimming in a bay and you could just look back and see the towns literally hanging from the cliffs. The water was refreshing, but still pretty warm. I was back on the Tyrrhenian Sea (in the west coast) which was just as warm as the Adriatic on the other side. The beach is just so cool!
I had some dinner in the town and it was mediocre at best, but I was hungry and pretty exhausted. I caught a bus back to Salerno and pretty much just passed out that evening. I am pretty sure that there is some kind of sleep drug in the water here.
Day 23 –
I was supposed to go to Pompeii, but in my patheticness couldn’t muster the strength and ended up going into the town of Amalfi and back to the beach. Ahh, the beach (that is ahh, like ooh’s and ahh’s, not ahh, like, Ahh, I am afraid! – in case you were confused). We decided to take a ferry, which was smooth, quick, and pretty. Getting to the ferry was a bit different. We ended up at what I would call a commercial port and had to flag down some people. They were very helpful. One guy lead us to the right spot on his Vespa. It was pretty funny, he had to keep stopping and waiting for us to catch up.
Once in Amalfi, Ann’s goal was to get some governmental stuff done, so I followed her around to some government offices and then we had lunch. Ann was pretty funny (I hope she gets my note to read this) she had a better, but still limited grasp on Italian and would try and really figure out what was on the menu. She asked the waiter a bunch of questions about each item and would finally make an educated choice. I would just kind of look at what was familiar and try it. The funniest part was that in two of our three meals together Ann had expected something different and not really liking what she got. Oh that Ann!
We then went down to the beach and people watched (yeah, we all know that is was more like man watched) for a bit. The most unexpected thing to me was the height of most Italian guys. They are strangely short.
We ferried back to the hostel, both very tired, and had a few beers. I got to talk to some very funny French guys. The coolest thing was that I went to the same school in Paris as one of their sisters. Small world, I went all the way to Italy to hang out with Frenchmen.
Day 24 –
The next morning I was going to Pompeii and Ann came with. We took the train to the city of Pompeii and had some lunch. When we finally got to the ruins, it was mesmerizing. I cannot believe the preservation. So the story of Pompeii goes like this. About 2000 years ago there was a town just going about its daily business when all of the sudden the volcano a few km away erupted and the town was, well buried in lava. In the last few hundred years it was rediscovered and has been a UNESCO preserved site ever since. The ruins are really crazy, there are frescos nearly perfectly in tact and structures, it is an entire city. The creepiest part is the bodies. I am not totally sure how this worked, but the people’s bodies made molds in the lava. I am not sure if they were petrified bodies or what, but there were Plexiglas boxes with bodies in them. You could actually see the pain in their faces and their contortions. One was a pregnant woman. It just makes it all so much more intense. I mean yeah, ancient Rome is there and you can imagine Julius Cesar walking around, but you can’t actually see him.
So Pompeii was pretty cool and I got back to my regular tourism, although I did make Ann do all the reading and mapping for the day. We had the same Lonely Planet, so that worked out pretty well. We made it back to the hostel where I once again lucked out in my dinner choice, while Ann had some trouble.
Day 25 –
Day 25 was devoted entirely to transport. I left Salerno in the morning, got to Naples and took a slow train to La Spezia, outside Cinque Terre. So on the train from Naples to La Spezia, I was the only person in my cabin until we got to Rome. It was pretty funny and a bit lonely, but the entire ride was along the coast. The water was crystal clear and blue. I ended up getting to La Spezia around 11 and all of the inexpensive hotels were booked, so I splurged for a few days. It was nice, but also a bit strange to not meet as many people (or any people for that matter). I got some pizza from around the corner and went to bed.

So that was days 20-25 and as usual, I am behind schedule. I will try and write the last 5 or so days and a blog about “re-entry” as soon as possible (or as soon as motivation comes) and post them. I don’t want to overwhelm, so I will space them out a bit. OK, well I hope everyone is well. Oh yeah, I am back in Granite Bay, CA now, enjoying the relatively small amount of things to do.

dimanche 6 juillet 2008

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's amore: Days 16 - 19

Roma! So this installment will pertain to the four days I spent in Roma, one of the most amazing places I have ever been! I, er, am currently in Paris, getting ready to go back to the states tomorrow. I should be able to finish the last 10 or so days of my trip pretty quickly. I apologize for the lack of blogs. I pretty much just lost hope after being 5 days behind.
Also, recently I realized that I lost all of the post cards I had written, so, Elaine, I will have to beer you something else sometime. I do, however, have all the stamps I needed from Italy.

Day 16 -
So in leaving Lucca, I pulled a Becca and lost my sunglasses... silly me. At least it wasn't something really important. Don't worry mom, it wasn't the prescription pair, I didn't bring those just for this reason - I must be more responsible than I look! I also, for the first time on this trip tried to book a hostel in advance, but was unable to due to the 24 hours in advance rule that is so popular. I knew that I was going to Rome next, so that was good, but unfortunately the trains out of Lucca run pretty infrequently, so I was just in the sweltering station for about an hour. The train was not much of an escape, but it was worth getting to Rome.
Once I got there I encountered my first problems in finding a place to stay (the plot thickens) and had to go to three different hostels before finding a bed. Luckily they were all pretty close to each other and there seem to be about a million of them. They only had a bed available for one night, but they told me to go down the next morning to see what might be available... you will have to continue reading to find out how the story goes and no peaking!
I was really happy with the hostel that I ended up in, they had free pizza every night, a pretty relaxed bar, and a really nice staff. I am now thinking that I may want to work in a hostel for a summer or something... or potentially open one of my own, "las tres hermanas."
Strangely enough, that night when I went down for pizza, I heard someone call my name and I actually ended up running into some Californians - Santa Rosites, to be more specific - that I had met in Firenze. What a small world! So we chatted and had a good time over a few beers and some pizza. We met some guys from England and Australia and ended up heading out to a fountain and hanging out for a while. It was a beautiful first thing to see. I think that fountains just look better when they are lit up at night.

Day 17 -
As you may have noticed, my first evening in Roma was not very productive, but Day 17 is not at all the same! I got up early and because I was only able to book one night I had to pack up my stuff and wait around to see if there was another bed open. Surely enough there was. Each day that I was in Rome I had to change rooms. It was kind of annoying, but also pretty funny. So once I knew I had a place to lay my head, I headed to the Palatine.

The walk from the hostel was about an hour and wasn't that impressive. My first impressions of Roma were not the greatest. It is a big city and somewhat dirty in places. Going from the romantic places in Tuscany to full-on city was a bit of a shock, but it was ll worth it. The Palatine is basically the ruins of ancient Rome, next to the Colosseum. It is so impressive and very difficult to desrcibe. I had decided that Rome was the place to get audio tours, so I forked out the extra euro-bucks and walked around learning all about the different ruins and what they were used for and all that cool stuff. I am really happy to have done that. I have never been all that into the history of that time period, but to see it is really to believe it. All this year I have been amazed by the history in France, but I am just now discovering the more eastern history.

After hitting up the Palatine, I slowly walked over to the Colosseum... very slowly due to the heat... and was able to skip the line because I had bought the joint ticket at the Palatine. I have relatively good luck standing in lines here... or actually not standing in line. I have been surprised, but I guess June is still kind of considered to be the low season and even early July can be pretty slow. Anyway, the Colosseum was about 100 times bigger than I had ever imagined. Truly breathtaking. I got the audio guide there as well and it was freaking awesome! Hearing all the facts and cool trivial bits that I have mostly forgotten was really amazing! And even though I wa melting the whole time, I am really glad that I went to Rome. It is an inspiring place.

After the Coloseum, I headed to the Piazza venezia where there is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The whole section of the piazza is made of white marble and it is really pretty. Marble, marble, marble... On the side of the hill there are some stairs that were designed by Michaelangelo that lead up to a beautiful vista point for the Palatine.

On the opposite side of the piazza lies the Basillica San Marco which was really cool. There was a mosaic in the apse that was really neat and I got to put to use my recent Christian Art History class!. The whole church seemed to be decorated in marble. It was crazy! There was also a crypt that was pretty cool, I saw a staircase that noone was going down and figured I'd give it a try. I am happy I did because it was one of the coolest (in two ways) part of the church... so small and marble-y and dark. It was a bit scary... yeah, I know I am a wimp.
After that I got some gelato (yes, the gelato stories are back Philippe) and managed to spill it all over myself... I get it in cups to avoid thism but is has been so hot that the melt has become one of my biggest adversaries. I strolled back to the hostel and met the guys in my new room. They were funny Canadians and we all headed down for the free pizza and hung out a bit.

Day 18 -
So I dedicated this as my lazy walk around and see the free stuff day and it turned out quite well. I got some picnic supplies and headed to the Trevi fountain (and found the most amazing street full of hot guys in uniform along the way). I don't know what I was thinking, but as I descended upon the fountain I was shocked by the number of people there. I guess it is a huge attraction. I found a bit of shade to eat under and met some cool people and even threw in my wishing coin.
Some guys that I met suggested I check out the Pantheon, which was on my list of things to do and it was awesome. It is the best preserved building from ancient rome and is absolutely breath-taking. At the top of the dome, there is nothing, so the light comes through and really gives meaining to the word illuminate.
I was really craving gelato on the way home, so I found some and sat at the piazza Navarro where I did a bit of souvenir shopping... and bargaining!
I then headed back to the hostel - getting a bit lost along the way, of course - for my usual siesta time and was planning to hook back up with Kara (from the Bologna train station) and hang out for a while.
The funny thing about Rome is the kind of people you meet in the hostel. There are many different types of travellers, people who do whirlwind trips and see "all of Europe" in 3 weeks, people who spend months and years travelling the world, and everyone in between. In towns likw Rome I found a lot more whirlwind travellers than anywhere else. It gives an entirely different experience and it was fun.
Speaking of people, I feel it is about time I put in my bit about travelling Europe as an American. The responses are so different; some people have their ideas of the States and its people and stick to them and others are open to new experiences, but everyone has at least one "stupid American" story. I love to hear about these, but I also get offended at times. I am very happy to have grown up where and how I did and I think some people just have an idea and stick to it. I can't remember if I told this story, but when I was in Nice, I had a conversation about world affairs with a guy and after he told me that I was the "only intelligent American girl he had ever met," which I guess is a compliment, but I took it very poorly. He was not the only person to make a comment like that and I don't know what, but I feel that I need to do something to raise awareness of intelligent Americans. Ok, that turned into a rant, so I will stop before I put my foot in my mouth (or potentially put it further in my mouth).

Day 19 -
So the next day I got up early to go to the Vatican museums and Saint Peter's Basilica. I assumed there would be a huge line for both, but once again Rome caught me off guard.
I started at the Basilica and it was probably the biggest church I have ever been in. Truly amazing. Michaelangelo's ability to represent the human figure is awesome.
At the Vatican museums I got the audio guide and spent about 6 hours there. Many parts of the museum were totally empty and it was an extremely tranquil place and it doesn't hurt that just about every one of the security guys was cute... Of my time in Italy, Rome was the most "attractive." I went to every room on my tour except one (it was closed) and felt very accomplished after. The exception to the tranquility was of course, the Sistine Chapel, which was amazing. I think I was able to better appreciate it with the audio guide. It explained each of the panels and the history and the styles and everything you could want to know about a place. And it was packed, I could barely walk around. I finished by sitting in the courtyard and eating a snack. The place was practically empty.
On the way home, I stumbled upon some sort of changing of the guard, which was a nice little break in the walk. It was pretty cool. The music that was played by the band was very different, not very military.

So that was my last full day in Roma. It was a really nice way to finish things. My next post will be about Salerno and its surroundings. Looking forward to seeing and hearing from you!

Finishing Firenze and Luminous Lucca: Days 13-15

So a quick update on where I actually am... I am in Salerno, a port city on the Amalfi coast and it is amazing. More to come on that later though.

Day 13 -
So, after a late night in Florence, I decided to sleep in a bit and it was awesome. I did not have anything too farmal planned for that day in Florence, so I hung out with some girls from the hostel and went to see some of the architecture around Florence.
At lunch time, we decided to eat (so surprising) and we came upon this little trattoria with a ton on awesome looking food crammed int he window. We went in and sat down and the people were really nice. Right across from our table there were about 6 tables pused toghether for at least 15 men. They were all laughing and drinking and eating and having a good time; it was so cute and totally the Mafia! I swear. The actual meal was pretty funny. In Italy they don't wait for all of the food to be done to bring it out, it just comes when it is ready, meaning that since the pesto that I oredered had to be made, my plate came out after both of the girls had completely finished. It was pretty funny, but I was getting really hungry. Ultimately it was worth the wait. Pesto is so great here. Strangely, in the States I wasn't a huge fan, so maybe it is just the awe-factor of being in Italy.
After that we split up and I went to see some more marble churches. Everything in Northern Italy is made of marble, the churches, the streets, I wouldn't be surprised to find a marble computer somewhere. I eventually wondered into a tour group for a bit of a stroll around the Chiesa San Creco which was kind of cool. After being found out, I started to head back towards the hostel, as the heat began to get to me and I went to a piazza in the uiversity district and it was so calm and very comforting. I have enjoyed finding tranquility in all of the cities I have been in. It is a necessity for me. Ultimately I wound my way back to the hostel after seeing everything that I could find that was free.
If you are wondering what happened to Kara, she decided to do a day trip to Cinque Terre and I was so jealous of her. That evening I just hung out in the hostel and talked with some people... leading the crazy life I lead, eh?

Day 14 -
The next day, all I had to do was pack up and head to the train station (oh, and figure out where I wanted to go), so it was a bit of a slow start. I hung out with Kara for a bit in the morning and then we headed our separate ways. It is always a little sad to leave people you have been hanging out with. It is funny, but in two or three days you can become pretty close, thank goodness for facebook!
I got to the station and decided between Siena and Lucca. Lucca won, because it didn't seem like Siena had much budget accomodation and Lucca is much smaller. I can't handle big cities for too long, they are exhausting.
On the train to Lucca, there was no air conditioning, so all I did was sweat the entire way. Luckily, trains put me right to sleep, so at least I wasn't too aware of the heat. At one point, I was the only person in my train car and it stopped in the middle of nowhere and I totally thought that I had forgotten to get off. I stood up and looked around and as I was going to scheck the next car we start moving again. Thank goodness!
Finally, I arrived in Lucca and had to cross into the city, through the city walls. Lucca is completely surrounded by medeival walls. On the way through town, I got kind of lost and by the time I acutally made it to the hostel I was really hot and kind of grumpy, but the hostel itself was very nice. Overall, I have had very good luck with hostels. I got to the room, took a shower and a nap and was revitalized for the evening. I have fallen in love with the idea of siestas.
After getting my energy back, I started to walk through the city and it was so cute. I got to the other side of the city and went up the wall. There is a beautiful promenade full of peple walking around. I really loved just strolling around. I saw a grandpa with his twin sons and families out together. Sometimes I really felt alone because most people were with someone, but it wasn't lonely, it was just an awareness of my being alone, if that makes sense. At one point I decided to sit on a bench and do a little journaling and a woman came over and sat next to me. We were able to communicate and it was a real accomplishment for me. She was Ukrainian, but had been working in Lucca for several years. We discussed her children and my family. It was really cool!
That was about it for that day, I grabbed a slice of pizza and went back to the hostel for a very nice sleep.

Day 15 -
So the night before I had only walked about half way around the walls, but really liked it. The next day I decided to finish it and actually ended up going around almost three times. Sunday morning was the prime stroling time in Lucca. There were a ton of families just hanging out and having fun. It was really adorable. For me, Lucca was very relaxing. It sounds like all I have been doing on this trip is relaxing, but travel can really take it out of me.
After the walls, I went to the botanical garden and saw a Sequoia tree and a ton of other plants. it was really serene, and actually quite small. Small town, small botanical garden I guess. I then continued to see all of the churches in town, I think there were four, maybe five. They were all ridiculously gorgeous, with amazing marble facades. In front of the last one I got my strawberry and lemon gelato and relaxed until the shade moved. It was really comforting.
That night was the Euro Cup final... Germany v. Spain. The goal that was scored was really beautiful, but the game itself was kind of boring (and no, soccer isn't always boring!). Spain ended up winning. I was rooting for them, but neither team played particularly well, so it was a bit of a let down. I was a bit nervous about the cup ending because it was a huge social tool for me. Grab a beer and watch the game with other foreigners who have been watching it all over Europe. Not to spoil the story, but I have been doing fine without it.

So that was lovely lazy Lucca. I think I just finished day 21 or something, so I have so more work to do, but I think that this was a long enough installment for you! I look forward to hearing from you all and if you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask -

mardi 1 juillet 2008

Playing Catch-up - Days 8-12

Ok, so here is the latest... kind of.

Day 8 - To conclude that cliffhanger ending... I went to meet with the woman who had invited me to her friend's place and told her that I wasn't going to go. She didn't mind and luckily she was meeting someone else at the same time, so I didn't just leave her hanging. I ended up hanging out with Rachel and Bec at an Irish pub watching the Spain v Italy match. There were so many people that we weren't even able to buy a beer (awesome money saving). It was a great game. I was pretty much rooting for Spain, but I tried to keep it on the DL for the most part, since those Italians can get pretty rowdy. The match went into overtime and ultimately into PKs, so as the tension mounted I began to show my colors a bit more. I kept getting dirty looks that said, "why are you here, and not in Barcelona where you belong?" It was pretty funny. Sadly enough for the Italians, Spain won! We made it back to the dirty hostel and slept really well.

Day 9 - The next day was all about the awesomeness of travelling solo. I had intended to start my voyage through Tuscany, but had been hearing so much about beaches, so when I got the station I saw that there was a train to Rimini. I ended up sleeping the entire way because it was just so hot. Rimini is where all the Italian tourists go on holiday. It was pretty cool to be surrounded by Italian rather than English.
Once I found a place to stay - which was pretty easy - I took a nap, the heat really takes it out of me. I have come to enjoy my siesta time. Once I woke up and started to function I hung out for a bit around the area. That evening I did the really creepy solo traveller thing and pretty much invited myself to hang out with a group of students from the UK. They were a crack up. I love the accents! We went to get dinner - pizza - and I found out that I actually kind of like anchovies on pizza. Yep, that's right, anchovies. We set off to see the ocean in the evening with a few beers and it was heaps of fun. The sunset was so beautiful. I love the ocean... the Adriatic Sea to be more specific. We hung out for a bit longer and then headed back to the hostel. The hostel in Rimini was really cute... retro wall paper and all.

Day 10 - I woke up and finally met the girls in my dorm. They were really sweet and friendly. I went to the beach and it was so beautiful. I was sort of taking a vacation from vacation. I didn't see any of the sights and didn't carry my Lonely Planet around like I usually do. It was AWESOME. That afternoon I hoofed it to the grocery store and picked up some supplies for dinner - salad and sandwich. Only one word describes this part of my day - hot.
That night was a good example of the downsides of traveling alone. There weren't too many people at the hostel and so I went to their sister hostel which was equally dull. I was pretty lonely, but it is in these times that I find silly ways to amuse myself. Meanwhile I was develloping an incresingly strange sunburn. Strange in that it was only on one arm and patchy. I am really bad at sunscrean applliaction. Oh well, I am working on it.

Day 11 - Well, I finally made it out of Rimini and back on schedule. That morning I headed once again to a train station and got the train to Florence. On the platform during my layover I braved a conversation with a stranger, Kara. Turns out we were both heading to Florence, so I followed her to her hostel and we hung out for the next few days. The hostel in Florence was pretty much a sauna. It was a converted convent, so it was really neat-looking, but man was the room hot.
I have already been to Florence, but wasn't all that impressed, but I decided to give it a second try and I am really happy that I did. A lot of my time there seemed kind of like deja vu, but it was really cool. I liked how small it was, most things were in walking distance. Of course, Florence is supposedly where gelato was invented, so we had to get some and it was pretty good. I am not really sure how much bad gelato exists, though. I realized recently that the only thing I can do in Italian is order ice cream. It would be nice if that was a joke, but in all seriousness, that is all I know how to do.
So after wandering around a bit that evening (and rubbing the snout of a statue of a boar), Kara and I went back to the hostel and I watched the match between Germany and Turkey. It was pretty frustrating, the screen kept going black and I actually missed one of the goals! Ultimately Germany won, which was cool. I am not quite sure how I would have felt if Turkey was the European cup holder... only because the idea of the european continent is pretty obscure.

Day 12 - So the next morning we got up early, Kara earlier than me, but whatever. We had both planned on going to the Uffizi Gallery and luckily for me, she let me cut in line with her. The museum was extraordinary. There were paintings by pretty much every renaissance artist I have ever heard of... not that that means much. In Florence museums are pretty expensive, so I only went to that one. I am happy to have made that choice.
After the Uffizi, we headed to the duomo and we snuck in with a group to avoid the line. Ah, travelling adventures. It was so awe inspiring. The whole church is made of green and white marble and it is enormous. After that, we went to "leather town" or more commonly known as San Lorenzo. It was all so soft and so pretty. Being there made me realize how much I really want to be a professor, just so I can justify buying a cute leather briefcase.
We walked back and admired Florence's bridges and beauty and of course got some more gelato. I was finally able to resist hazelnut and got cheesecake and cookie... not your standard gelato flavors. Back at the hostel, where we were escaping the heat, we both pondered our future travel plans.
After cooling off a bit, we headed up to the Piazza Michaelangelo where we had heard it would be possible to hear some chanting monks. And as you all know, where the monks chant, I must go. Not all of us made it to the top, but I did and it was absolutely breathtaking (the adjectives are just flying out today). The church itself was beautiful and the view over the city from the top of the hill was great and free, so I skipped the climb up the duomo.
After that, Kara and I decided to check out a pizza place that her friend had recommended. It was so great. The pizza maker was right next to the table and he was really funny. He kept looking over at us and giving big smiles and waves. I have found that Italian peopole are generally very hospitible. The experience was awesome. A few days ago I had ordered a pizza and accidentally got anchovies - and loved it! Yeah, that's right, I like anchovies, what are you going to do about it?
We went back to the hostel and I had a beer and watched the Spain v Russia game, that Spain won 3-1. You guys are totally watching the cup vicariously through me... unless maybe you already know who won ;)
That night after the game I went out with a few people from the hostel and had a really nice time. I love meeting travellers from all over the world - everyone had such a different perspective. That night, the hostel was like a sauna at night. It was ridiculous.

OK, so that was days 8 through 12. I will be working on the last few days here pretty quickly, probably by tomorrow evening (at least that is my goal since the internet is pretty cheap here).

lundi 30 juin 2008

A is for air conditioning

Hey guys,
I am not going to write a full-on blog right now because the internet point I am using has no chair... and I am pretty lazy. I just wanted to let all my fans know that I am alive and well and heading to Rome. Since my last post, I have been to: Rimini, a lovely Italian beach full of Italian tourism; Florence, which lived up to the hype and more; and finally Lucca, probably my favorite destination thus far. I really hope I punctuated that correctly, those commas can be such a hassle.
Today I am headed to Rome and will be there for a few days. I am hoping there will be relatively inexpensive internet there, so we can fully catch up. I think I am going to split the last few days into two blogs, that way it will not be so overwhelming, what do you think? (she asks the voices in her head). Umm, OK, I think the morning heat may be getting to me, so more to come in the somewhat near future.
As always, I hope everyone is doing well.