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!!