Saturday, April 9, 2011

26 days until my diet no longer consists of grilled cheese and pasta!

Men, women and children of all ages! You read the title right I come home in 26 days. So roll out the carpets and sound the horns for my return, it's going to be epic. I keep on making all of these elaborate plans for when I return, but in all honesty I just want to be home again with my family and friends, and my families friends. The time here has flown by it is almost unreal, I promise it was yesterday that I said "a little less than 90 days until I go home" and now it is a little more than 3 weeks away. I have learned so much from being here about myself and others, and would not trade that for anything.

The following are the things I still have to do before I leave Europe.

1- gain 5 more pounds just from eating gelato
2- attend a soccer game
3- continue to annoy everyone at home by how much I try and talk to them
4- visit Germany/London with Ashlee
5- take part in the festivities for the Royal Wedding, (mom hows the Access Hollywood countdown                    coming???)

I am sure there are many more things that I want to do before I come home but these are the most important.

This past Thursday and Friday we took a school trip to Venice. I thought that after I visited Rome I found my favorite place in Italy, boy was I wrong. When you first walked out of the train station and down the steps you are placed upon a canal with boats screaming past each other. We boarded a "bus boat" and headed toward our hotel. I have been in some crazy modes of transportation since I have arrived here but that was by far the craziest. It stopped every 200 yards or so for the designated stops to let people off and gather more passengers on. We finally arrived at our stop outside of our hotel and went to drop off our bags because it was too early to check in. After the hotel we walked down the road a little to find somewhere to eat and picked a sandwich shop, which was really cheap and very tasty. After lunch we met back at the hotel and walked to the Accademia Gallery for a tour. There was a british professor who met us there to guide the tour, her field was Venetian Art. This lady although very knowledgeable in her area was totally lacking in the personalty department. I am not a huge fan of art to begin with so it made it even harder to pay attention to what she was saying and it was hard to appreciate the history that I was amongst. We walked through countless rooms filled with paintings hung from the wall as she described what she thought to be the most important. After this visit we went to a few other monumental places such as the Church of the Frari and Scuola di San Rocco. Both of the places were extremely historical and great places to say I have visited.

After the tours we had a few hours of free time before we all met up for dinner. Myself and a large part of the group decided to walk to San Marco square which is the place to be in Venice. However on the way we were stopped by two gondola owners and asked if we wanted rides. Usually we hate being accosted by people trying to sell us stuff, but this was an offer we could not pass up. There were 12 of us who wanted to go which was perfect considering each gondola held 6 people. It was the best 15 euro's I spent while in Venice. The ride lasted about 30 minuets and took us down the main canal and then looped back around to where we started. It was like a scene from a movie, the "driver" sang, let us take pictures, and tried to topple our boat over. We raced the other boat full of our friends and had a great time. If I ever return to Venice I will have to do this again, it was awesome!

When we met back at the hotel we were off to dinner that was prearranged by our school at a restaurant near by. These are always nice because the menu is planned out and you don't have to pay for the food which is always a bonus. The menu this time was very interesting considering our location, of course it was seafood. The appetizer was fantastic, it was fried vegetables that had zucchini, peppers, olives and eggplant. The first course was pasta with mussels and clams on top. It was fantastic at first but after a while it was a lot to take it. The seafood got to you. I preferred the clams to the mussels because they were smaller and easier to stomach. The second course was a very mild friend fish that was good, however at this point I was so full it was hard to enjoy it. After that we of course were served dessert, gelato! It was a mix of berry and lemon, it was so refreshing! When dinner was over we went back to the hotel for some much needed sleep before the next long day ahead of us.

The first stop on our second day of Venice was Basilica of San Marco. This church is in a close second to St. Peter's Basilica in Rome when it comes to beauty. It was all made of marble and gold, I could have spent all day inside looking at all it had to offer. It was once again amazing to be standing in such a big part of history. After the church we went to Palazzo Ducale which was a museum of Venetian history. This also was very interesting and we had a much more enthusiastic tour guide that was great to listen too. After the school sponsored visits we had about 4 hours of free time to explore before our train departed back to Florence. I was dead set on finding the Hard Rock I heard existed there too eat a BBQ pulled pork sandwich. We found it with no problem and it was like walking into heaven. I was able to eat at the Hard Rock in Rome with my family and this time was just as tasty. At a table of 6 people 5 of us ordered BBQ pulled pork sandwiches the only reason the 6th one didn't is because she is a vegetarian. After lunch we looked around Venice for a while and bought some souvenirs before returning back to the hotel for departure. After meeting up with everyone again we headed to the train station to come back to Florence.

It is always great to come "home" after being away for even a night. Florence is the city I know the best and love being in. I get so excited to walk up my two steep flights of killer, cement stairs to my room and bed. The rest of this weekend we are just hanging out and going to a soccer game Sunday night with everyone. It is nice to be able to hang out and not travel for a whole weekend. Next week is all the same thing, I have no where to go next weekend, just hanging out and getting to know Florence better.

Look for an update at the end of the week! CIAO!!


Thursday, March 31, 2011

It's all Greek to me!

It all started on Saturday morning at 3:50 AM. This is when we had to meet outside of the apartment and walk to the train station to get on the train that left at 4:30 AM. I hopefully never have to get up this early to travel again. It would not be bad if I could hop in my car and drive to my destination or sit in the backseat of someone else's car, but having to walk and then take 3 modes of transportation to get a destination is not ideal. However, I should not complain because this time my final destination was Rhodes, Greece. While back at home everyone was excited to go to Florida or another beach town for a week I was once again jet setting across countless European counties again realizing how lucky I truly am. When we landed in Greece it was a scene from a postcard. The airport was right on the shoreline where the crystal blue water met the white sandy beaches. I knew right away I was going to love every second of this "vacation". I put that in quotation marks because its funny getting a "spring break" when I travel almost every weekend, I feel like I am at summer camp. After riding in another taxi where I felt my life was in danger we arrived at our hotel. We stayed at Angela Suites. Best choice we could have made in my opinion, we stayed 7 nights and had breakfast every morning for a total of 75 Euro which is roughly 100$, I thought that was a great deal. After unpacking our items we left the hotel and decided to explore the city around us. We were starving and decided to eat at this cafe called Swedko. The cafe was located right on the beach where we watched dolphins swim while eating one of the best sandwiches I have ever had. Everything this meal consisted of was so fresh and I never wanted it to end. After we ate sandwiches and dessert (of course) we walked along the rocky beach outside of the cafe and stuck our toes in the water, never mind the frostbite we got from doing so, it was nice to see the water. We then headed back to the hotel to nap for a while before dinner. Once again a "vacation" filled with eating, my favorite! This is when I made the discovery of a lifetime. My mind is my worst enemy sometimes. I couldn't fall asleep at all so I just laid there thinking of home and everything/everyone that I miss so much. This was so hard everyone else slept until 8:30, so for 3 hours I just laid there thinking. I normally get that way when we travel to new places. The first few days we are there I think how nice it would be to have my family and friends there with me to experience it, but then it slowly gets better. After everyone woke up and we got ready we headed out to find somewhere to eat for dinner. We ended up right next door to where we ate lunch at this fancy restaurant. This was my favorite place we ate at all week. I ordered sushi which I have been craving since I left the states. It was the freshest crab I have ever tasted. There was a live band playing while we ate dinner so between talking, eating and listening we didn't leave dinner until 12:30. After dinner we went out to a bar that had a live band and everyone ended paying 10 euro for a drink so we didn't have to pay a cover charge. Then after being up for 24 hours I decided it was time for sleep and went back to the hotel to go to bed.

The next day we all slept until 1 PM. Again what a tough live I have living abroad. After waking up we decided to get lunch at another cafe down the street from the first one we tried. I liked this one better out of the two. When we were finished eating we sat on the dock overlooking the water and took in everything around us. It was really tempting to jump in the water but knowing that it was freezing stopped me. The best part about this beach in Rhodes is you can look 20 miles into the distance and see Turkey. It was amazing to me that a country so different to the one we were visiting was so close. We then decided to walk to the "Old Town" of Rhodes to get a different scene and check out the shops it had to offer. While walking there we stopped at the site where the Colossus of Rhodes once stood. It is amazing to me that this is the 5th ancient world wonder I have been since I have been in Europe. Then on to Old Town we went. This part of the city is literally surrounded by walls enclosing in to be its own little city. There were tons of shops carrying everything from t-shirts to soap. A lot of the stuff was homemade and specific to Greece itself. We walked around here until the sun went down and headed back to our hotel.

On Monday we decided to take taxis to the nearby beach town named Faliraki. We only had to pay 5 Euro each so I didn't think that was a bad deal at all. Once we arrived in the beach town we found out one thing. We were the only ones there. It was a ghost town! The only bad thing about going to this part of Greece in March is that it's the off season. Meaning a lot of attractions and places are closed down until they open again for the season which starts in April. We missed it by two weeks! After walking along the beach which was nice and sandy we decided to go back to Rhodes. The only problem was we had no idea how to get back. There we no busses running and no taxis located at the "taxi stop". We all just looked at each other and started laughing. I am pretty sure we could have stared in our own Scooby Doo episode, one of the scarier ones. We then had the bright idea to try and call a taxi to come pick us up, only problem out phones didn't work and we didn't have the taxi's number so that failed. Thankfully after standing on a street corner for a half an hour a taxi pulled up out of no where and asked if we needed a ride. There were 7 of us so we had a wait a few minuets for him to call another taxi to take us back to our hotel. On the way back to the hotel the driver offered to pick us up the next day and drive us around the east side of the island down to Lindos for 30 Euro a person the next day. This was a deal we couldn't pass up considering a taxi from Rhodes to Lindos was around 150 roundtrip. The taxi drivers name was Michael and he was fantastic. He stopped at a leather store, a gold factory and a ceramic shop on our way. I wanted to buy stuff at each one but didn't because they were really pricey. I got a few gifts from the ceramic shop you will just have to wait to see who they are for! After stopping here we finally made our way to Lindos. At the top of the city there is an Acropolis which is just the highest point of the city. We were supposed to be able to ride donkeys to the top but they were not there because of the off season so we walked. It was not bad at all and the view from the top was worth every step. After climbing around for a hour or so we headed back down and stopped at this mom and pop Gyro restaurant. They were fantastic it was hard to only eat one. After eating we got back into the taxis and headed back to the hotel. On the ride back he offered to pick us up again on thursday to take us to the other side of the island. And once again we said yes. Oh Michael you were such a great sales man.

On Wednesday we went back to Old Town. This time it was packed full of people and all of the stores were open for business. The only way to describe this place is to say its like Broadway at the Beach with a cobble stone road and better dressed people. We walked around here all day and ate lunch at a rooftop restaurant. This is when we decided we would all be brave and try the seafood selection. We ordered the crab risotto(rice), stuffed squid and octopus. The crab risotto was amazingly delicious. The octopus was okay, although it was in a weird vinegar sauce. Now to the stuffed squid. There are no words to describe this dish. We were thinking it would come fried to a certain point with cheese stuffed into the bites. Boy were we wrong. It came fresh out of the sea, no joke. This this still had the head and the tentacles attached to it. It was not even a different color from when it was caught. I will never order squid like that again in my life. It tasted like a rubber ball. Don't order it. After lunch we got dessert (surprise) I had a crepe with nutella and banana (another surprise). When we were finally done in Old Town we headed back to our hotel for an early night and some relaxing.

Thursday morning our good old friend Michael picked us up again at 11 and we went to the other side of the island. It is amazing to see how different one part is from the other. On one side it is all beaches and sand, on the other side it is mountains and trees. he drove us up a mountain so high in altitude that my ears popped! The first stop we made was to see a church on the peak of the highest mountain on the island. When we pulled into the parking lot we were amazed to see numerous peacocks. The only time I have seen this animal is when it was enclosed at a zoo. These were out in the open and didn't seem to mind the people stopping at taking pictures at all. We saw a few of them lift up their feathers so they were fully expanded, this was an awesome thing to see in person. After walking down the peacock infested road we took a few pictures and hopped back into the taxi. The next stop on the list was Mussolini's Palace. This was where he lived when he lived in Greece. Now it is a creepy old building with broken floors and cric-crocky stairs. So of course we went in and walked up the stairs, what else would we have done. After this adventure we hopped back into the taxi and headed to the "Seven Springs". This is an area where 7 rivers come together at one point. Our taxi driver told us to walk down into the creek and walk through the tunnel and we would end up on the other side, so once again we did. We entered into this pitch black tunnel that was 6 feet high and 4 feet wide with water up to our knees. He said it was a 200 meter walk. Not being accustomed to the metric system I had no idea what this meant and went in anyway. One of the other girls led and the I followed behind Kate. This was one of the coolest things I have ever done. It was awesome to not know where you were going or if you taxi driver was leading you into your death. Oh the stories I will have for my grandchildren!

The last day we just kinda hung out around the Rhodes and packed up our things to get ready to leave the next day. We of course ate at the Cafe for lunch and then back to where we had dinner the first night for our departing meal. All in all it was a great trip.

Now another week is almost over I can't believe it. 35 days until I come home, some seem to fly by and then some seem to take forever to be over. Before I know it I will be boarding my last flight for a while back to the U.S. Next weekend we are taking a school trip to Venice Thursday and Friday. Then I am staying in Florence until April 22nd when I leave for Germany with Ashlee! Sorry it takes so long for me to update!

Ciao for now!!!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Family is the key to happiness!

Oh Mio Dio! I am getting really awful at this whole updating thing. At least this time I have an excuse for my delayed posts. La Mia Famiglia was here for the past week!

Let me back up a little bit first before we get into the exciting stuff. After we returned from Rome it was a pretty boring week I had a huge midterm that I had to study for so that took up most of my time. After my test was finally over we took a school trip to Milan on friday March 4th. I have to say I was not impressed with Milan at all. We visited an Italian newspaper the Corriere Della Sera (coor-E-er-A) ((That was fun to type out)). It was interesting except for the fact that I am not a journalism major so it was not my cup-o-tea and I felt towards the end they were hurrying us out of the building because they wanted us to leave. I understand being busy and having to get back to work but do it a little nicer. Anyway after that myself Kate, Laura and Isabelle went to the Graphic Art museum which was amazing. This is also not my major but much more exciting than a newspaper that is in Italian. After the museum we were starving so we decided to get lunch. This is always a daunting task when you are in a new city. You don't want to eat near anything monument or museum because you will pay an arm and a leg for nasty food. So we decided to walk around the back streets near the Duomo of Milan to find a place to nibble. We decided on this bar on the corner (bars in Italy are not places to get drunk, they sell coffee and sandwiches). I had the second worst meal in Italy; second to the microwave dinner I paid 14 Euro for in Rome. So after this awful meal we decided we needed gelato to cleanse our pallets of the awful taste that was still residing within our mouths. The gelato was fantastic you could pick two flavors (like most places) and then if you got it in a cone they filled the bottom of the cone with white/milk/dark chocolate which was a nice twist. After lunch we shopped at stores we couldn't afford and then headed back to the train station for Florence. 

I was barely able to sleep that night after being up since 5 in the morning, because my mom and grandpa were coming the next day. It was finally here, the day I had been waiting for since I arrived. I am sure my roommates and friends here wanted to kill me for the continues countdown I started the day we arrived for when I was able to see my mommy again. After waking up at 7:15 and stalking their flight all day online to see where they were on their journey, they were finally in the same timezone as me at 2:30 PM. This was fantastic! I rushed to the hotel they stayed in and saw my mom and grandpa standing outside. I ran to my mom (it was a scene straight from a disney movie) and hugged the stuffing out of her, then the same to my grandpa. After a few minuets of embrace outside my mom stepped in the door of her hotel (I thought she was grabbing her suitcase or something) and then out walked my brother Michael! I had no idea he was coming and this honestly was the best surprise they could have had for me. I am really close with my brother and was really really missing him. When I saw the 6'5 frame I call Mikey I jumped into his arms and screamed bloody murder. You may all think this is overkill but I assure you this is exactly what happened. After having a heart attack I went up to their room with them so they could shower and rest for a few minuets. That flight is one of the worse things you can do in a day. After they settled down for a while I showed them my apartment and we went to dinner at the "Cat & the Fox" which has become a custom. 

The next day (Sunday) I walked to their hotel to see what they wanted to do for the day. We were going to just explore Florence a little bit but decided since the weather was so nice we would go to Pisa for the day. After walking to the train station (which grandpa would say was 50 miles away) we bought our tickets and were on our way to Pisa. They were amazed at how easy it was to get around in this country. Sometimes the best trips are spontaneous ones. When we arrived in Pisa it was around 60 degrees and bright blue sunny skies. From the train station we stopped at got gelato (it took mom no time at all to fall in love with the sweet treat). Then we made our way to the tower, stopping to shop along the way of course. Once we arrived at the Leaning Tower we all took the typical tourist picture (again) of us holding us the tower and we shopped some more. After our visit we decided to head back to Florence. Once we got home mom and I went to the grocery store and bought items to make hamburgers, fries, salad, rice, and vegetables for dinner.

Monday and Tuesday we hung out around Florence and they got to know the city a little bit better. Tuesday the 8th was moms birthday so I spent the whole day with her shopping around and eating gelato (of course). For dinner we ate Mexican food and believe it or not MY mother ordered a peach margherita and liked it! I could not believe my eyes. I even put candles in her nachos and we all sang happy birthday to her!

Wednesday was an adventure to say the least. We decided to go to Cinque Terre for the day. This is a region of 5 towns on the sea northwest of Florence. It was about a 3 hour train ride to get there. Only so long because we had to take the Intercity train which stops at every city from here to La Spezia where we had to switch trains to get to Cinque Terre. We really didn't have a game plan as to what towns we wanted to visit so we decided to start in the first town Riomaggiore. The highlight of this small small village was walking down into a harbor to see the multi colored houses lining the mountain and the brightly colored boats in the dock. After realizing there was not much else to do in this town we decided to hop on the train to the next town to see what it had to offer. After waiting 30 minuets for the train to depart we start moving and it didn't stop at second town or the third or the fourth for that matter. So beyond our control we went straight to the fifth and final town of Monterosso al Mare. Right as you exit the train station you were let off onto a beach with crystal blue water and white sand, it was paradise. If you turned one way you were looking at the beach and when you turned around you were looking into the mountains, it was breathtaking. 

Thursday we were off to Rome for the weekend. We finally got a chance to take the fast trains with better seating and quicker arrival times. We got to Rome around 4 PM and took a taxi to our hotel. The taxis in this country still amaze me the way the whip in and out of traffic like they are invincible. Mom and I decided that my dad would so not be allowed to drive in this country. When we got to the hotel we hung out for a bit and then went to the Hard Rock Cafe for dinner. It was so nice to have American food and free refills with dinner. Oh the things I take for granted at home. After dinner we all made our way to the Spanish Steps to see them at night and then turned in early because of the long weekend ahead of us. 

Friday I took mom, grandpa and Michael to the Roman Forum and the Colosseum. I tried to be the best tour guide but couldn't remember everything so thankfully I had a book about Rome to help me along. Word of advice to those of you who will ever travel to Rome. The Forum and the Colosseum are accessed by the same ticket. To beat the lines buy your ticket at the Forum and then walk down the street to the Colosseum. You will not have to wait in the horrendous line that forms so you get in a long faster! After these sites we made our way back to the hotel stopping at the Trevi Fountain along the way. I am pretty sure there were 1000's more people in Rome last weekend than when I went 2 weeks ago. After the fountain Mikey and grandpa ate dinner at Burger King and we went back to the hotel. Once we got there mom and I wanted to do a little shopping. Well our "shopping" trip landed us back at the Hard Rock Cafe where we had drinks and shared an appetizer. Thankfully we had a different waitress, we had been there the night before too. 

Saturday we woke up and they looked to me with an expression that read "what is on the agenda today", I should start charging a fee for the tours that I gave these people, sheesh! Today we were going to visit the Vatican Museum and the Pantheon. Again when we arrived at the Vatican there were thousands more people than we there before. We waited in this line that looked never ending but ended up going really fast to get into Saint Peter's Basilica. Once we entered the church I think I even saw a little bit of awe in my brother's eye. I could visit this masterpiece everyday and still not catch every detail that went into building it. Once again I tried to recall what I had been taught about the church to my family so they too could appreciate the history behind it. After the Vatican we rode a few buses back across the river to the Pantheon. This is a structure dedicated to the Roman Gods, and one of the only original pieces of architecture still fully standing in Rome, so that in itself is pretty impressive. After all of the sightseeing we were hungry for dinner so we ate at, wait I am going to let you guess... you are right the Hard Rock Cafe, again! Although I am not complaining I got my fix of American food for a while. This was the last night with my family and I could not believe that the week was over already and they were going home the next day. It took all I had to not fly home on that plane with them. I was doing really well with the homesickness up until they came and I was fine the day they left. However, after a few days have gone by it is bad again and I keep thinking about how much I miss everyone! (Especially my club president Mrs. Jones!) But after talking to my mom she reassured me that the next month and a half would fly by and I have tons of travels to look forward too, which made me feel a lot better. I would not be able to be here and make it this long without the love and support from everyone of you back home. 

I am leaving for Greece for spring break on Saturday so I will update in about a week and a half when I get home! Thanks for reading.

TaTa for now!!  

Monday, February 28, 2011

When in Rome...

This is the fastest I think I have ever updated my blog back to back since I have been here! Yay me! It is because this week is going to be crazy after today, I have a midterm in a class that makes me want to poop my pants when I say the name of it. Then at the end of the week my mom and grandpa come! AHH I am so excited I cannot even explain how excited I am for them to get here. I wish Michael could come too but it will make seeing him in May that much better!

This past weekend I went to Rome for a school field trip. I have to say this was the best school sponsored field trip I have ever been on. They should take kids these kind of places instead of the local bread factory or wherever else they go on field trips. We met our advisors at the train station at 7:45 on Friday morning to catch the train to Rome. This is not that early in the morning but how early we had to wake up in order to get 3 girls ready and walk the 25 minuets to the train station, its early. So after dragging ourselves to the train station we boarded at 8:10. When we arrived in Rome I could not believe how gigantic the train station was. It seriously looked like an airport. There were roped off lines for the ticket booths, restaurants, and stores. I could have stayed there for a good three hours just shopping around. After we all gathered in the train station we piled onto a bus with dozens of other people and made our way to the hotel. It was a little too early to check in so we put our bags in a storage room and were on our way to discover the ancient city. The first stop was the Colosseum. The walk alone to get there was breath taking. Yes, there are some Roman tracings around Florence but nothing like the actual city of Rome. Too see the individuals who lived there walking around the city was amazing, I felt like they had no idea what they were passing. The didn't even look up (or down) to take in the scenery. The Colosseum was stunning. To see something in front of you that had that much history and legacy behind it is amazing. I still have to pinch myself sometimes to remember that I am here and it is not a dream that I can't wake up from. The weather was perfect as well, 55 and clear blue skies. Of course everything is better when the sun is out, but I would have liked the Colosseum just as much if was raining. After we visited the Colosseum we had some free time to grab some lunch. The group of 20 split off into the normal groups we hang out with and searched for somewhere to eat. We ended up eating at this Trattoria down the road from the monument. We all ordered pizza that was the equivalent of a medium size pizza from home, however we always manage to eat the whole thing without any second guesses. The pizza was fantastic. After we ate lunch we of course had to stop for Gelato on the corner, because we have to follow every meal with dessert no matter what city/county we are in, it has just become a way of life. We then had to meet back up with the advisors at 2:30 to tour the Roman Forum. This was amazing too, it had a ton of historical and important memorabilia associated along with it. It is hard to describe because of all the history that would have to be described with it. There are tons of pictures from their on my Facebook though so feel free to look at those! After we were done with the Forum we walked to the Pantheon. This was extremely unique because of the giant circular hole that was carved out of the ceiling of the building. This is the only time in my life I wished for rain, because when it rains the gapping hole in the ceiling does no get covered, the rain shoots down in a round sheet into drains on the floor. That has to look awesome when it happens. We were then allowed to go back to the hotels and get situated in our rooms with a free night ahead of us. We all decided we wanted to see the Trevi fountain at night so we unfolded our maps and made our way there. Either we are given dummy proof maps or we are really smart because I have yet to get lost in a city (knock on wood). It also helps that the main places tourists visit are marked on street signs with arrows pointing you in the right direction. This was another one of the monuments in Rome that just made you stop and stare without wanting to blink. It was illuminated with lights that seared through the crystal blue water. Absolutely breathtaking. Once again being the tourists that we are we had to throw coins into the fountain and make a wish. It is custom to do so in hopes that you will return to Rome one day, but since I know I am going back there in two weeks I made another wish! After the fountain visit we grabbed some dinner and made our way back to the hotel for an early night.

The next morning we woke up around 7 and had free breakfast at the hotel. I am not sure if it actually was really good or if it just tasted good because we didn't have to pay for it, probably the latter. When we finished breakfast we walked to the Vatican City to tour the museum and St. Peter's Basilica. I have heard that St. Peter's Square was massive but had no idea how big it actually was. Or the fact that Vatican was actually a city of its own. Once again my lack of knowledge of religion becomes evident. Another great aspect of traveling with school is that we did not have to wait in any lines all weekend to enter places. We had reservation times and just showed up when we had too and walked right in. The first on the agenda was tour the Vatican Museum. This would have been just another walk through rooms filled with ancient painting and sculptures if it was not for the art history teacher Rocky who teaches at KSU Florence. I am not taking this class but really wish I did after being with him for an afternoon. Not only is he attractive, he is filled with knowledge that you would not believe. This man literally knew everything there was to know about the places we visited on Saturday. It was amazing, and I never wanted to leave his side. I was going to ask if I could bring him back to Rome with my mom and grandpa so he could give them the same experience but he might have found that a little strange. I am going to try and regurgitate the main points he told us to my mom and grandpa so they understand what they are looking at as well. At the end of the Vatican Museum tour we ended up in the Sistine Chapel. Now, when we first walked in I did not even know we were in the Sistine Chapel. It was nothing like I expected. I have never seen pictures of it but I was still expecting something totally different. After looking at the ceiling with an open mind and the extensive background given by Rocky I appreciated it a lot more. the detail that went into this painting it is just amazing I cannot describe it in words. Another place that you must visit sometime in your life. After thinking I could not be impressed anymore in one day we went to St. Peter's Basilica. This church was immaculate. More grand than anything I have ever witnessed in my entire life. There is a bronze frame above where St. Peter is buried that alone is 10 stories high, keep in mind that is inside of a building. I could have stayed in there for days just looking at every detail that went into creating this masterpiece. Once again after the school sponsored activities we had the afternoon free to ourselves. We were all starving at this point and decided to find somewhere to eat lunch. We settled on a restaurant down the road from the Vatican. Biggest. Mistake. Ever. First of all never eat somewhere where the worker comes out to the street and harasses you to eat at their restaurant. At first it sounded extremely appealing. The food looked fantastic and the prices were not that bad for being so close to the Vatican. After we ordered we sat at the table waiting for it to be done. This is when we realized we picked the wrong place to eat. While sitting there we noticed that our "homemade meals" we being put into a microwave because they were FROZEN. Yes, I went to Rome, Italy and ate a Lean Cuisine for lunch. Now this would not be too bad because I like frozen dinners but not when it tastes awful and costs me 13 Euro. Let me remind you that 13 Euro is around 18 U.S Dollars. Hardly worth it. After consuming this awful meal we decided we needed treats to cleanse our pallets. This is when we stumbled upon a bakery where I had a fig/raison/nut bar. It was pretty much heaven in the form of a pastry. This was of course was on our way to the Piazza Di Spanga where the Spanish Steps are located. This again was something I had pictured in my head and it was totally different from what I expected it to be. They were smaller than I thought and quite dirty. It was a beautiful day so of course it was extremely crowded as well. So we all sat on the steps and enjoyed the sun before it was lost behind a building. After sun bathing we made our way back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. Once again a weekend trip that 99.99% of the time I am eating. One thing about being in this country, you will never go hungry, ever. This meal however was paid for on our school fees so we did not have to pay out of the pocket when we ate which was nice (thanks mom and dad)! We ate like true Italians with the courses. The first course was pasta with pesto, second was pasta with meat & tomato sauce, third was a salad, fourth was veil and potatoes, and finally tiramisu with espresso for dessert. I was so full I almost needed to be rolled back to the hotel. After dinner we went out to a bar by the hotel and grabbed drinks and hung out for a while then went to sleep.

The last day in Rome (Sunday) we woke up and had free breakfast again and got our stuff ready so the rooms could be cleaned. After gathering at the boys hotel a few blocks away we got on a bus and headed for the Galleria Borghese. This was not the highlight of the trip for me. I am not sure if it was because I was so tired or just really uninterested. I feel like most of the art in Italy is very similar in style and repeats itself quite often. However, it is awesome to say that I have been there. After this we ate lunch and headed back to Florence. Of course it rained on Sunday. I have come to the conclusion that it rains every Sunday no matter what city or country you are in. We have just become used to it by now.

This entry was a little long, but I do like the details. Stay tuned for the next entry!!

TaTa for Now!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

If my life depended on updating this blog I would be dead by now...


I am not sure why I can't keep up with this blog like I thought I was going too. Everyone keeps asking for the next update so here it is! I guess I don't feel the need to update unless I travel but everyday is a new adventure!

After I returned from Paris it was a week full of school and nothing too exciting. I had an Italian test that I got a B on. This language is impossible to get anything higher than a B in, well at least for me. The weeks are still flying by. Monday comes around and I am complaining that I have to go to class for four days and then before I know it it's Thursday again and I am getting ready to leave Florence.

The majority of my friends went to Switzerland this last weekend I however stayed in Florence because Ashlee came to visit! It was so nice to have a piece of home here for a weekend and someone who knows me inside and out. If only Leslie could have been here too, then the standard three would once again be united! She of course wanted to do all the touristy stuff. Visit the Ufizzi and the Academia where David is. Then she tells me she wants to climb the Duomo. Now you may all remember my post about climbing the Duomo from earlier in the semester. If you don't let me refresh your memory. This is the church where you have to pay 8 euro to climb 463 stairs to heaven, well maybe not that far but still. Literally this is the most grueling, agonizing, dreadful thing I have ever done. Even worse than high school gym class because this time I had to pay to do it. Once again after I dragged myself to the top I remembered how beautiful the scene really was and how it was worth every sweat dripping step. We stayed up there for about 20 minuets and then headed back down all 463 steps to the bottom. I am not sure which is worse, lugging my butt up the stairs or feeling like I am drunk going down the 463 winding staircases. Either way I think this might be the last time I visit the top of the Duomo.

The weekend was fantastic, we went out to the bars, went shopping, ate everything in sight and just hung out. It was something I needed after having been away from home for so long. Now I have 8 days until my mom and grandpa come to see me! I really wish the whole family could just win the lottery; quit their jobs and come to Italy and live with me for the 70 days I have remaining in this journey. That would be the most fantastic thing ever. I also need to learn to not play sappy country songs on my iTunes or type in "Garth Brooks" into Pandora because it makes me too sad. Both of my parents today told me too "turn on happy songs". They are so cute, where would I be without them?

Tomorrow I am leaving for Rome for the weekend. I am so excited to see this city! All of the history I have been learning about in class is going to be right in front of me to witness! Of course there will be a blog entry to follow this trip which will be amazing and stress free since we are visiting with the school!

TaTa For Now!!!

p.s: everyone get ready for the fantastic presents I keep buying for you. its going to be great!

p.s.s: I miss you all!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Planes, Trains, & Automobiles.

I really do mean to update this more often however everyday here flies by like you would not believe. I dread getting out of my warm, cozy bed and going to class like every other college student and all of a sudden I am back in my bed to sleep for the night. It is unreal sometimes.
Last weekend (Feb 4-6th) I visited Monfalcone, Italy with Tessa to stay with her aunt and uncle. We took a train from Florence to Monfalcone in about 4 hours. Her uncle and cousin picked us up from the train station and took us to her aunts house where she had lunch waiting for us. When I say lunch I really mean a 4 course dinner that makes you not want to eat for days following. Tessa's aunt Silvana is one of the most generous people I have ever met, she is right up there with my grandma Judy. This women did not start eating until everyone had their food and anything else they could have wanted. She then scarfed down her food to be done first so that she could clear the table and bring you a fresh dish for the next course. Once again I ate my body mass in food in a matter of 3 days. This is becoming a trend, maybe I should not eat during the week and just eat on the weekends and A: I will save money, B: I will not gain 4857 pounds! =]
When I say I visited her family in Italy I mean they are full on Italian, none of them spoke much English. However, that was half of the fun. I could tell what they were talking about most of the time by hearing a few key words that I have learned. The times where I did not understand what they were saying I just turned to the T.V that was always on and realized great this is in Italian too, I'm screwed. It was a good experience and it was like I was doing Italian homework and studying all weekend just by being there. The rest of the weekend we hung out with her family, we visited the Mediterranean Sea on Friday and then on Saturday her uncle took us to Trieste, a beautiful costal town in the North East tip of Italy. It was a very relaxing weekend and a nice change of scenery from the city of Florence.
The week following was very chill, nothing too exciting happened during the week, I went to class and studied for a test I had. However, there was a chocolate fest that ran from Sunday-Saturday, so naturally we stopped there almost everyday on the way to class. I normally got cappuccino on the way to class, and the last day we were here while it was going on I had the best chocolate covered strawberries and bananas on a stick. It was pretty much like eating heaven. Being the wonderful/caring/nice daughter I am, I purchased a few truffles for my mother (who comes in 18 days) and they are waiting in the fridge for her arrival. Now the question will be, how many will actually remain?
This brings me to Thursday, the day that started the most amazing weekend of my life. All week it was so hard waiting for this moment to come. A place that I have had a picture on my wall of since I was in middle school. The place they call the "city of love" and the "city of lights", it was both of those and much much more. Paris is my new favorite city of anywhere I have ever been. If you know me you are aware of my obsession with New York City, and I am afraid to say I think I liked Paris even more. While we were there I just felt this sense of belonging and pride that I have not experienced before.
A group of 7 of us left on Thursday, Feb 10 at 3 p.m from Florence train station. This is where the blog title comes into play. We took a train from Florence to Pisa, another train from Pisa central to Pisa Airport, a plane to the outskirts of Paris, an hour bus ride into the city, and 3 subways before we reached our hostel. We arrived at 12:30 a.m after 9 hours of traveling. It was worse that coming from the US to Italy in January. We were all so hungry when we arrived that we ate at the first place we saw, which was a burger stand. I know you are all thinking, "she is in Paris, France how can she be eating a burger?!" I will tell you, that was the best burger and fries I have ever had. I am not sure if it was because my level of hunger or if was just really good, we will never know. We stated at a hostel called OOPS! and it exceeded my expectations by far when I thought of the word hostel. There were 7 girls in my group so we had 3 bunk beds and one extra mattress on the floor. The beds were not the most comfortable mattresses to sleep on but I was so tired every night that it did not phase me in the least bit. Another nice thing about having our own room was that we could leave our stuff there during the day and not have to lug our backpacks around. Again for those of you know who know me, yes I Meghan Elizabeth Hawsman packed in a backpack to PARIS for 3 days! You all would be so proud of me. This is coming from the person packs for a weekend in a suitcase and still does not have enough room. I think I am turning a new leaf. Another great thing about the hostel was the free breakfast every morning. There were croissants, cereal, coffee and juice. I am sure I paid for in the 88 euro I paid for the 3 nights but it was nice not to shell out any extra cash in the morning.
The first day we were there we went to Pere Lachaise Cemetery. This place was absolutely enormous. It extended for a good mile back and at least a 1/2 mile wide. There are individuals such as Oscar Wilde, James Morrison, and the composer Chopin buried there. It was amazing to see all of the old tombstones and to see how intricate some of the designs were. The weather was gorgeous, it was 62 and sunny blue skies. I walked around the for most of the day with my coat off which was fantastic. It was one of those spring days where even the worst frown could be turned upside down! After we went to the cemetery we stopped at a bakery and I had the best raison croissant of my entire life, okay it was the first time I have ever had one but the buttery crust literally melted in your mouth as you ate it. We then decided to head toward the Arc De Triomphe. This famous Peresian landmark like many of the others looked a lot closed on the map then it actually was. I think we ended up walking a little over a mile to get there. We walked a lot all weekend, which was good to counteract all that I was eating. Once we arrived we took photos of course and just relished in the moment. We then walked under the street to go inside of the arc. From this point you could see the tip of the Eiffel Tower so naturally we walked there next. Once again it looked a lot closer than it actually was. The walk there was totally worth every step. Every street we walked on we got closer and closer to the tower. You were able to see it pretty far away but once I got closer to it, it really hit me that I was in Paris. The Eiffel Tower is nothing like I imagined it to be. It was a lot bigger than I pictured. It was almost intimidating being that close to such an iconic symbol. I don't think I have ever taken as many pictures of something as I did of the tower. It would have been impossible to not take any pictures. At one point I had to put my camera away just so I could live in the moment and take every feeling in. After the Eiffel Tower we ate lunch at this little sandwich shop down the street that was very tasty. We then hoped on the subway (which was very convenient and easy to navigate) towards the Louvre. After 6 p.m students under the age of 25 for in for free so we were a little early and spent time looking in a few shops in the area. We then made our way to the museum. I am not a huge fan of art but it was pretty cool to see the Mona Lisa in person, she is a lot smaller than I thought she would be, and be a part of the history that corresponds with the art that is housed in the Louvre. The outside of the building was awesome with the glass triangles as the main architectural focus. After the museum we made it outside just in time to see the Eiffel Tower light up and sparkle. And I didn't think it could look any prettier, well it did. We walked down this set of cement stairs not knowing where it led and ended up right on the Siene river, which we sat down and dangled our feet over the water's edge watching all the dinner boats go by and staring in awe at the tower from a few miles away. After that we were all hungry again (go figure) so we hopped on the subway back towards our hostel and ate at a Spanish restaurant right down the street. **Dad don't read this** I had the best beer ever at dinner, they made it in the restaurant so naturally I had to try some! After dinner we had to try the famous crepes we saw on every corner. We didn't want any typical crepe so we asked the receptionist at the hostel were the best one in the area was and he gave us directions to one that was about a 15 minuet walk away. I would have walked 4 hours for this crepe place it was amazing. I have a Nutella and banana crepe and it was so good! I could eat those every hour on the hour for the rest of my life.
On Saturday morning we woke up and headed for Notre Dame. I was a little upset I did not see Quasimoto swinging from the bell tower. The church was beautiful inside and out. For sure one of those places that you have to go to once in your lifetime. After the church we went to the Pompidou Modern Art museum. This is more my style of art. The pictures that don't make sense to everyone and that are up for interpretation for each individual. It was also amazing to stand inches in front of something painted by Picasso. After this museum we went shopping in this really dingy, crowded, hot underground mall. That lasted all of an hour before we were so irritated that we wanted to leave. Then the next mission was to the Longchamp store. This was my mission the whole trip of Paris, I was going to buy another Longchamp bag because they are made in Paris and thought it would be really cool to have one from there. We realized that we were pretty far from the store but decided to walk there anyway. When I say far we were at address 20 and the address of the store was 404, that is a lot of city blocks. After stopping at a store to buy my brother the best present in the whole entire world (you will have to wait until May to find out what it is) we started to haul ass to the store. Kate and I got pretty far ahead of the group because it was getting late and I wanted to make sure I got there before it closed. We finally reached the store and it was gleaming with radiant light around the bags in the window that of course said "BUY ME BUY ME", that seems so happen to me a lot in Europe. This is where I would like to end this story with I bought the cutest bag of my entire life. Nope, as soon as I went to open the door then man behind the glass locked the door and waved his hand in a cruel "we are closed" motion. This broke my heart. I waited all weekend to go to this store and and was within reach and they were closed. The workers were walking out and I asked "what time do you open tomorrow" and she said "we open at 10:30 a.m on MONDAY", this was not going to work seeing that we left Sunday to return to Florence. So like a two year old a shed a few tears, not because I didn't get the bag, but because the only thing that I wanted to do in Paris was a fail. After a second of defeat I remembered where I was and all was good again. It was totally cured by riding the ferris wheel at night and overlooking the whole entire city of lights. That was spectacular, and the best 10 euro I have ever spent! 
Sunday was the saddest day, I had to wake up and leave my new favorite city. It was rainy and gloomy outside which was a perfect fit for the mood I was in. Again I realized that I was going home to Italy and not Ohio so my mood was once again lifted. We hung out for a while got another crepe (the man recognized me from the two previous days I visited his stand and knew what I wanted before I ordered). We then made our way to the subway so we could ride the bus to the airport to be able to catch the two trains we needed to be on in order to return to Florence. Another full day of traveling. All in all it was 100% worth the 9 hours I spent sitting on my behind. 
After reading this I think it is safe to say I am in love with Paris, I know 3 words in French and am determined to live there one day. 
For all of those that my mom has not texted/called/e-mailed/facebooked this too, I am going to the Royal Wedding in April with Ashlee!! More details to come later, but I wanted to tell everyone because a little part of me died when she asked me to go. My two goals when I came to Europe: attend the Royal Wedding and meet George Clooney. I can check one of the list, now it is time to check the other off as well. 

I will write soon!!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Romeo take me somewhere we can be alone!

Buon giorno!

My Italian is slowly improving everyday, I like to think it is anyway. I have Italian 4 times a week and everyday is a new load of useful phrases and words to use. It is nice to actually learn things that we are going to be using outside of the classroom, I feel more motivated to learn that way. I keep saying everyday that I am going to blog however before I know it I am back in my bed asleep for the night. Tessa (my roommate) and I always talk before we go to sleep, and we always say "I can't believe another day has went by and we are going to sleep yet again." Just like I can't believe I looked at my last entry before starting this one and the first sentence was "I can't believe I have been here for two weeks." It is now been a month since I arrived in Italy and perhaps the fastest month of my entire life. This majestic, historical city surprises me everyday with something new I have not seen yet. Wether it be a new sculpture in a building or passing a new restaurant we want to eat at. Speaking of eating, I still cannot decide if it is cheaper to eat out or cook dinner. We go to the grocery store everyday sunday or monday and stock up for the week ahead. However you cannot by things for meals because it will spoil unless you eat it that night. The main items I buy is cereal, orange juice, and milk. Those are what I eat at least once a day. Oh and apples, I am officially obsessed with apples here! They are so much better than the ones at home, they taste as if they have just been plucked off the apple tree!

After we went to Pisa last Saturday we visited Siena on Sunday. For all of you country lovers Siena is the place to go. For me it was not my favorite place, we walked around saw a few main piazzas(squares) and then ate lunch. It was very cold when we went so a few of us went back early on the bus. It was a nice get away from Florence, but somewhere that if you only visit once that is enough.

Last week we just hung out in Florence every night and studied for the quizzes that were at the end of the week. Sometimes it is hard to remember that I am still going to class here and this is not just a vacation. I have to really sit down and read my homework and make sure it gets done. Then on Thursday  night we went to a school sponsored cooking class at this place called "In Tavola". It was the cutest little cooking studio across the Arno from our school. Here we learned how to make traditional Italian dishes such as Vegetable Millefoglie which is a fancy name for stuffed eggplant. Then we make Potato Gnocchi, I am still not sure if I am a fan of this Italian favorite. It might take some time to get used to, just like the wine and the espresso. For the gnocchi we made two different sauces. The first was a Tomato, Basil and Garlic Pasta Sauce and the second one (my favorite) was called Meat Sauce Bolognese. If anyone wants these recipes before I get home send me an e-mail and I will give them to you!  Finally for desert we made Tiramusu'. This was so good! If you are not a coffee fan (mom) I am sure you wouldn't have to dip the cookies in coffee and make it still the same way. It is not a strong coffee taste but you can tell it is in there for sure. This cooking class was such a great experience, it was so nice to learn how to make traditional meals of the culture you are living in. However non of these will be repeated here because I have no idea how to read the ingredients in Italian, good lord I would end up buying wild boar instead of beef. We are going to another cooking class in March to learn how to make Pizza and Gelato, that should be fantastic.

Now for our day trip to Verona! On sunday (Jan 30) we went on a organized trip to Verona with one of the travel companies here. For 60 Euro we got transportation in a private bus, two tour guides and a map of the city with some background info included as well. This city was my favorite place so far in Italy. It was where Romeo and Juliet was staged and where Letter's to Juliet was filmed. This city looked totally different from Florence, it was so much more modern and the feel was so different. It is a very rich city, the cost of living there is outrageous. It is weird to think that the play I had to read in high school (and I admit falling asleep during) was the place we spent a day at. I kept thinking that the whole time while we were there. When I was a freshman in high school I never would have thought in a million years to actually pay attention because one day I was going to be seeing where this all took place in Shakespeare's mind. It was also really cool to see where Letter's to Juliet was filmed. We saw the alley where she went in the first few scenes of arriving in Verona to find the letters. Located underneath "Juliet's balcony" is a bronze statue of her. It is good luck to touch her right breast. So like every other sappy women tourist I stood under the bronze statue and violated it just as thousands have done before me. And of course I have the picture to prove it. On the way home from Verona we stopped at Lake Garda which is about 45 minuets outside of Verona. It was dusk by the time we arrived there but it was still beautiful and majestic. There was fog setting in over the lake and you could see the mountains all around it with their snow capped tops. The water was crystal clear and looked like it could reach the other side of the world. If I did not know better I would have thought it was an ocean it was that vast in size. The town around the lake was adorable as well. We stopped in this cafe' to get wine before the 3 hour bus ride home. Me being me ordered hot chocolate. It was fantastic, there were about 20 different kinds to choose from, and again me being me I ordered milk chocolate. I don't want to get too crazy while I am here!

This weekend I am going with Tessa to visit her family in Monfalcone which is at the northeast tip of Italy. We are leaving by train on Friday morning and will return Sunday night around 4pm. This will be the first time I don't talk to my family for 3 days we will see how this goes, should be interesting. I am super excited to get some family time even though it is not my own. We will get home cooked meals and a house to wake up in which will be a nice change.

As for the lovely weather all of Ohio is experiencing. I just wanted to let you know that currently it is 58 degrees here I am wearing capris and all of the windows in our apartment are open! Sorry I had to say it!

And Mrs. Jones: don't worry I am still part of the "club" and have found many more members to join!!

Ciao for now!!