Friday, April 24, 2009

Historical/Heritage Trip Gone Wrong...

March 27-29 (and then some...)

Since we took the previous weekend off from traveling, we decided it was time to go on our first BIG trip; so big, we left the country of Italy! Whoa!!!!!!!!!! We headed to the lovely country of our roots (for 2 of us atleast), and a country that at one time was home of a well known Nazi extermination camp; Poland.

We were departing in two seperate groups; Emily and 4 others left Friday (27th) in the early morning to catch their flight departing from Milan, and I headed out with Brad for a later flight that afternoon. Everything went swimmingly, and we all managed to arrive just fine to Krakow, Poland, and found our hostel (Mama's Hostel) without any problems. Want to know the best part of the trip?? Located right below our hostel was the magnificent creation known as Subway; Brad and I enjoyed a nice Sweet Onion Chicken Terakyi Footlong before heading off to bed that night.

Saturday was a full day of touring.

We got up fairly early and headed to meet up with our tour guide. Upon arrival, we loaded onto a tour bus with about 30 other's and headed out of Krakow towards Auschwitz I. We toured around Auschwitz I, the main camp, for a couple hours. This camp contained most of the workers who were almost 100% non-Jewish. It was a little iery walking along the same "roads" between brick buildings that only 70 years ago were inhabited by prisoner's of WWII. Obviously, we all have a fairly good idea of this time period, so one can't help but picture these people walking to and from work everyday to this hell hole. We went inside a few of the barracks, saw the displays of "beds," payed our respects on the firing wall, and also say the Block (barrack) were people were punished for not obeying the rules. In this Block, there were standing cells where up to 15 people were shoved into a 5 X 5 cement square, stood all night, and worked all day. These people were in these cells for breaking the Nazi camp rules, some of these rules included staying in the bathroom too long. Also, when Auschwitz I was taken by the Allies, they discovered one the cells (about 10 X 10) in this block, filled with 40 prisoners. While in Auschwitz I, we saw the only remaining cremetorium left from this Nazi reign. They took us inside, and told us about how they would a couple hundred people a day in this small building, until they created Auschwitz II (Birkenau). Lastly, we toured another Block that contained some belongings of the prisoner's. This included, prostetic legs, pots and pans, combs and toothbrushes, suitcases, and even the hair shaved off the heads of workers upon arrival. The Nazi's used everything and anything they could to make money. Quite disturbing...

After finishing up at Auschwitz I, our tour bus took us a few miles over to Auschwitz II-Birkenau. This camp was the actual Extermination Camp. Auschwitz I was more of the worker's camp. Birkenau is often the camp dipicted in WWII movies, where you see the men and women divided, along with hundreds of barracks filled with bunkbed's stacked 3 levels that held 30 people. (10 per each level) In this camp, train track ran right up the middle between the men and women's enclosure's. The train would stop just inside, unload its occupants, men then seperated from women and children; women and children would then be loaded back onto the train where most were taken straight to their crematorium (mainly only Jew's went straight there, other women were kept for work). The men (those not Jewish) would be looked through, and those that were fit to work were seperated from the old and feeble; the old and feeble headed off towards their fate with the crematorium.
The sight of this camp is overwhelming. There are no longer very many barracks, however, you can see the brick "fireplaces" that are left still standing in their places; they run miles back, and left and right, of the main entrance of camp. Birkenau is 20 times the size of Auschwitz I.

We finished these 2 tours and arrived back into Krakow by about 2, ate a light lunch, then got back on another tour bus and headed for the Salt Mines. There wasn't much to this tour, minus it is massive; there are hundreds of tunnels looping down and around for miles and miles. We actually only toured 1% of it, and that alone took about 2 hours. This sight is home to the largest underground Cathedral, were Pope John Paul II even visited and held mass. Besides that, this tour was more of a time passer. I guess it was cool...

That night, we went our for an Authentic Polack dinner. We stumbled upon this little resturant, and ate a lot of saurkraut and biego's (Holla Mama Zackary)... The waiter's were dressed up in interesting attire, I'm assuming it was traditional Polish dress. The food was absolutely delcious, and cheap! Probably the best part of visitng Poland, their currency (Zloty) is 1 Z to about 30 American cents. It was a nice change of pace since we've been losing money this whole trip using the Euro.

Now getting to the good part... Suday morning the first group that arrived to Poland (Emily and 4 others) headed out of the hostel about 5:30 am to get to the airport for their 8 am flight. Brad and I didn't have to be there until noon, so we did a little shopping around Krakow that morning. Emily, Joe, and I had planned on getting some Polish souviner's this trip. Well, we were doing some looking around, and at about 11 o'clock I hadn't been able to find the t-shirts we saw the day before. I was frantic, so I left Brad at the train station and ran back to the original t-shirt shop were I managed to only obtain 2 of 3 shirts. On my run back to the train station to catch the 11:30 train (to the airport), I discovered another shirt stand; luckily I found the 3 shirt. Feeling on cloud 9, I met up with Brad and ran to catch our train (it's 11:20 FYI); as we climb the stairs to the platform, we hit the last step just in time to watch the train go whizzing by... Awesome, huh?? Well, this train runs every half hour, so wishful thinking and finger's cross, we take the noon train to the airport. Our flight is supposed to be leaving at 1, the train ride is only 15 min, a short 5 min bus ride from train stop to airport and we're home free.. Ha, too easy...

Everything went accordingly, up until we stepped foot into the airport. We walked in the sliding front doors of Krakow Airport to see none of the check-in's open. Brad and I head towards information, its 12:23; the lady kindly informs us that RyanAir check-in for our flight headed to Milan is now closed and no longer taking passengers, and then she follows up with, "the plane hasn't actually arrived at the gate yet nor started boarding, but I still can't allow you to check-in." Fantastic... The next 3 1/2 hours are spent on pay phone's talking with our Professor back at the Villa in Florence, first: letting them know we won't be back for dinner, and second: trying to figure out how in the heck we're gonna even get back for dinner the next day!

After a lot of stressful planning, we end up finding the cheapest, most efficient way back. A 20 hours charter bus ride. I, personally, can't get away from these buses this year a feel; I'm destined to spend a couple hundred hours on these dang contraptions. Now, this being our only way back, we had to spend another night at Mama's Hostel in Krakow; the bus didn't leave until 11:20, Monday morning.

That morning, Brad and I got up extra early, and left with plenty of time to grab some breakfast and not risk missing our bus. Joke's on us... Our Hostel gave the direction's to our meeting point with the bus and even gave a slip for a free taxi ride. Now, our taxi driver spoke no English, and didn't understand the directions we handed him. So he took us to the general vicinity the receptionist at Mama's told us to report too. It's about 10:45 by the time he finally drops us off in front of a random hotel; we had order's to meet this bus at 11:20 at a Red Petrol Station called ARGE. Nobody seemed to know where or if this thing existed, also, no one spoke English. Brad and I walked up and down this busy road trying to find this non-existent Petrol Station. 11:20 rolls around, and Brad and I have officially hit rock bottom and are now ready to just buy plane tickets back to America... Sluggishy walking back towards our orginal drop off point, we see a little van with the same logo and name of our bus company; Brad waves them down, and lucky for us, they were looking for 2 (dumb) American's. You guessed, they were looking for us...

They took us one block further than we had orginally walked to where our bus was parked waiting; its about 11:40. No one on the bus spoke any English, not the bus driver or the lady in charge. The next 20 hours were spent watching 3 movies, 2 of which were American films with Polish voice overs, counting phesants, and reading. (I also may have spent some time banging my head against the window)

At about 5 am, Tuesday morning, Brad and I were waken by the bus driver, and he told us it was our time to go, more like he gestured it... We rushed off the bus, trying not to wake any of the other passengers, and after taken the last step off the bus, we discovered we had no idea where we were. They dropped us off at a truck stop on the side of the highway, about 15 KM south of Florence. (This trip just keeps getting better!) People inside the gas station told us we could pick up a city bus about 2 miles away that would take us into the Centro (downtown Florence). Off we walked, and soon enough we found our bus stop, its now about 6 am. The first bus doesn't come until about 6:30. There was sat, watched a man pull up and open his coffee shop, sat some more, ate a twix, sate some more, and then the man who had recently walked passed came outside and gave us a free shot of espresso; never been happier to be in Italy. Eventually our bus pulled up, and we got on headed for San Marco square where we could pick up our Bus 10 that would take us up to Settignano, a.k.a Home! Oh, but before I finish, the last real kicker of the trip: after boarding the city bus headed for the Centro, Brad and I were discussing our trip, and began talking about our iPod's; then it hit me, where exactly did I put my iPod?? Oh, that's right, its in the netted pocket on the charter bus, duh... Ha... Ha...

Don't worry, the other group ran into their own problems. Their flight was delayed about 8 hours, they finally boarded and landed in Milan about 8 pm. There were no trains to Florence, so they had to stay the night in Milan, and then catch a train Monday morning. Also, Emily managed to leave her iPod on the bus they took in Krakow from our hostel to the airport.

Overall, it was a nice trip in the beginning... Emily and I, I believe, could have done with out the last part... But every trip can't go 100% perfect, in fact, why not have pretty much 85% of the trip go bad! Yup, that sounds like this trip in a nutshell...

But, we all managed to get back 100% A-Ok; tired and grumpy, but safe.
We did manage to get out of going to a couple classes, can't complain about that!

Anywho, hope that entry was entertaining, because it wasn't at the time!!!

Until next time, Ciao...

Monday, April 13, 2009

First Class Trip... What A Learning Experience...

Upon our return from Sicily, we had to pack up our rooms and head off to Assisi on a class trip... March 16th - 19th.

Monday the 16th our whole class loaded up on a train and headed out for Assisi and Perguia for a little learning excursion. One of our teacher's, Francesco, lives in Perguia and actually his primary job is giving tours of the area. So for the next couple days, he showed around and just may have taught us a thing or two...

Monday afternoon we went on a little walk through Assisi. This area of Italy is breathtaking, it's some beautiful countryside. In Assisi we saw a couple of the main churches of St. Francis and St. Clare. We have been studying St. Francis in another class, so it was nice to put everything we had learned to good use. After our tours, we had some free time so we ventured up the hilly town to a castle that was erected in early 19oo's for WWI. There was only parts of the castle left, but from this hill, we saw all of Assisi; every single field and house and yard; it was magnificent! We were able to watch the sunset over the far away hills and just relax.

The next day we took a short train ride to Perugia to visit the home town of Francesco. Perugia was more modern than Assisi, and there wasn't a whole lot of historical venues. Our tour was short, but we had a couple hours of free time to explore more on our own. Perugia is known for chocolate, so we indulged plenty and even took a nap in front of one the churches; also avoided some creepy wanna-be pick pockets... After that we just headed back to our hostel, and ate another amazing 3 course dinner. That week we ate some of the best food, hotel provided, ever!! But after dinner, we all decided it would be a good idea to go out and celebrate St. Patty's Day, I mean duh! There weren't any real irish pubs in Assisi, but we did manage to at least find a bar. About 20 of us went and just sat around and hung out, we were all pretty worn out so the night was pretty short...

On our third day, we loaded on to a charter bus to head for Norcia. It was about an hour long drive, nothing compared to the 60 + hrs some of us spent on one this fall. (Lady Raven's Soccer, HOLLA!) But we winded up some more hills and found ourselves in a small town to pay homage to good ole St. Benedictine. Norcia is his home town, so we saw the church he was born in, and where he worshiped. I don't know how many people get to see what/or who their school was named after, so it was pretty special; I guess.. Just kidding, it was great. We spent about 2 hrs walking around town, and ate our lunches in the center or town; just kicked back and hung out with Benny (his statue). After that, we headed back towards Assisi, but first we stopped at an old Benedictine monastary. We saw alot of our college heritage, and I think it all gave us a better understanding of how our school came about, and makes being a part of BC that much sweeter!

But that night, we just did some relaxing, and enjoyed not having actually class all week! The next day we just shopped around Assisi looking for more pointless knick-knacks, and then headed back to Florence...

That weekend, a group of us just stayed in Florence to actually see what all it had to offer, besides what we saw in tours. Also, we wanted to celebrate one of the girls' birthday. We went out to an irish pub, and she enjoyed the idea of being legal since she just turned 21. Then, on Friday, we all went out to eat and had sushi. Can't say that was very good, they swore to me that I should get the California roll and how amazing it was... LIES, ALL LIES!!! First, the top of it was covered in yellow, Nemo looking fish eggs, THEN it had like green plants sprouting out of the rice... It was pretty much awful... But the idea of us all out to eat, just hanging out was nice, even if my sushi sucked...

Staying around Florence the rest of the weekend was nice, a good change from traveling and rushing around. We spent Saturday just walking around looking at shops and enjoying the sites. That evening we went to an English mass in the Duomo; first English mass any of us had been to since we've been here. Talk about awesome, it was crazy to actually understand what was going on...

The following week, we did some presentations for our Art and History class and then took our final that Wednesday.... After that week, it's been smooth sailing, only 2 classes left to dominate!!

Don't worry, there's still plenty more too come... It's been a long process, and I'm trying to get all caught back up. Hope everyone enjoys my rambling... It's not very entertaining, but at least you kids know what were up!!!

Until the next post! CIAO

Better Late Than Never...

So I know it's been awhile, getting Emily to sit down and write is a pain in the butt! Now, I sit here and write by myself, finally getting done though.

Ok, well the weekend after Cinque Terra, our group decided to head to Sicily; March 13th - 15th. Sicily is the little "ball" at the bottom of the "boot." In Sicily we stayed in Palermo.

To get there, we had to take our first RyanAir flight. It wasn't too bad, small plane, pretty packed, but it got us from point A to point B. When we landed, we had to take a 50 min train to Palermo. Once again, more public transportation... Fantastic... Anywho, Sicily looked amazing from the train, and as we were passing through towns, they were beautiful, but then slowly as the mintues and miles passed, everything started to look a little rough. Finally, we went around a hillside, it had been about 50 min; we looked up and saw all run down buildings, walls broken down, moss growing on the outside's. It wasn't very pretty looking... As we went further into town, it didn't get much better... We got off the train and headed out of station to see such an amazing sight, construction and run down buildings, Yay... We headed for our hostel, stepping over piles of trash, walking around empty dumpsters, avoiding dog poop and creepy people... When we found what looked to be our hostel, we walked into a small courtyard, if that's what you wanna call it; but the ground was littered with trash, had a couple broke down looking cars, and one little homemade paper sign with our hostel's name on it. I was ready to turn around and leave... Don't worry, we went up the stairs like good little kids looking for their rooms.

The stairs were quite sketchy, and we had to climb all the way up to like the 5th/last floor; knocked on the last door with another a homemade sign, and to our surprise, a younger man answered door and seemed very happy to see us and was very welcoming. He owned the hostel, and had recently been doing renovations, but the place was really clean and well organized. His name was Giuseppe, and after we set our bags down he had us all sit down and he gave us a map and highlighted all the important sights, places to eat, told us what buses to take, and what beach to go too. So what I'm getting at is: He was awesome! Also, after telling us a good place to grab a bite to eat for lunch, (it was like 1:30 when we arrived in Palermo) he invited us to go to dinner at a buffet/wine bar with him, his girlfriend, and some fellow hostel mates; of course we agreed!

That afternoon though, we left the hostel on a mission to get some Arachiad's (the food he recommended). When he described them to us, he said it was like rice and other stuff (choice of spinach, cheese, or ham) in like bowl. Well, after walking about half an hour, we found the shop he told us to go to, and when we looked into the cooler we saw these large fried ostrich egg looking things. Turns out those ostrich eggs were what we were ordering. It was Friday, and lent, so we got the one with cheese. They looked like they were going to be light and kind of hollow, but when the waiter guy dropped them into our hands, it was like catching a brick... We took our lovely "eggs" to this park that overlooked the sea, and sat down to indulge ourselves. I don't think any of us have ever eaten anything sooo greasy and packed full of rice; Chipotle doesn't even compare. Also, the center was like a cream filled chocolate, except with cheese; it just kind of poured out. It's one of those foods that was nice to try, but probably never going to ever eat one again... Oh, but the sea we were looking out over was fantastic looking. For being in town that was replusive, the sea made up for it; it was crystal blue, and so clean. We spent the rest of the afternoon just walking around, and eventually headed back to the hostel.

That night we went to the dinner with Giuseppe and his crowd; dinner wasn't til about 9 pm, gotta love the Italian's... But the wine bar was amazing, we paid 8 Euro's for all you can buffet and all you can drink wine; also they had live entertainment, the overall environment couldn't have been better. The live entertainment was quite hilarious, it was an Italian man that didn't actually speak a lick of English, however, he sang, in English, American Oldies and had a pretty good voice without an accent. We all had a really good night, and Joe and Reese actually had a little dance off with an older Italian couple. It wasn't so pretty...

The next day we set out pretty early to see all the sites that Giuseppe had highlighted as important. We went to a couple churches, and then made our way for the Catecombs. Now, I had no idea what the Catecombs would actually consist of, so I was pretty excited... Bad Idea... They were under an old monstary, and we payed 1 Euro 50 to some monks to get in. We walked down this slightly narrow tunnel that slowly headed down underground, and we made a left at the end to be greeted by a Skelton strung up on the wall at about head height with a goofy expression on his face; if that makes any sense. These Catecombs were pretty much tons of skeltons, I'm talking about hundreds, all dressed up ranging from monks to soldiers to peasants, and they were all hung up by like thin wire. It wasn't very modest or respectful; rather repulsive... So we spent about, oh... 5 min. We all felt pretty disgusted after leaving, and decided it would be best to just head straight for the beach.

Upon arriving at the beach, we found it to be covered by 14 year olds; it was packed. Oh, and not only were they immature 14 year olds, they were also very affectionate immature 14 year olds; they were very friendly with the opposite sex... We found a good spot on the beach that wasn't too close to any groups of kids, and spent the next 4 hrs just laying there trying not to stare... It was nice to relax though and just lay in the sun, especially after seeing hundreds of boney bodies. We went to mass that evening, and then ate a delicious, well desevered hamburger... If you didn't know, we miss American food a great deal...

After that, we just headed back to the hostel to catch a couple Z's, had an early morning. We left pretty early and got back to our villa about 1 that afternoon. We all decided, that everyone has to have one bad trip, and so far, Sicily had taken the award with out any doubts. I recommend, if traveling to Sicily, DON'T GO TO PALERMO!!!! SPARE YOURSELF, ITS NOT THAT GREAT!!! PLEASE DON'T GO THERE, EVER!!!!

But I hope y'all can laugh at that trip, we didn't... I think we're even still a little scarred from it, it's a touchy subject...


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cinque Terre = Best Trip EvA!

Sorry its taken so long to get on and blog. Its been a crazy week preparing for midterms and working on projects. But we figured we'd blog about last weekend, right before we leave for another Italian adventure.


Last Friday, March 6th, we left Florence via Train at 830ish head for Cinque Terre. What is Cinque Terre you ask?? Well, its 5 Villages on the located on the west coast. When visiting, travelers can take paths from one village to the next, all the way from one end to the next. But when we were there, they had recently had a couple landslides thus forcing them to close off all the trails except for one. The towns are: Riomaggiore, Manrola, Corniglia, Vernazza, Monterossa. (in that order) Plus, La Spezia, which is an actual town, that has things in it besides buildings. (its not included in the 5, but its a sweet place)

Anywho, we arrived in Riomaggiore at about 1030 and headed for our hostel, but we got side tracked getting off the train by the lovely view of the ocean. Eventually we made our way into "town" to find our hostel. The hostel was closed, but a nice man told us we could reach our hostel manager via telefono and he would be more than willing to come set us up. In the mean time we met Cinque and Zimmer (the local stray cats). Zimmer sat on Kates lap literally for 5 min and Emily fed Cinque CHEESE!!!!! They were great Friends!!!!! When our hostel manager arrived, we followed him to our hostle "building." It was a two story narrow yellow building that had "personality." He gave us the whole top two floors between 8 of us, it slept 9, had a kitchen, and had two bathrooms. It sounds luxorious but both the curtins and comforters were made from the same materials...Literally!!! One room had pink curtincomforters with random flowers hanging from the ceiling while the other had forest green curtincomforters with a baby rocky photo. SICK!!!! The kitchen consisted of a small sink and two burners with a small fridge. It sure was pretty (no towels, and we might have contracted some dieases)!!!!!

After unpacking, we headed out to the see the sights. First on the list, was to hit up the trails, or so we thought. We didn't know all the trails were going to A) cost money and B) be closed. We ended up taking a train to the opposite end of the 5 villages, Monterosso. It was like a 5 min train ride through the hillsides. Upon arriving, we headed straight for the beach... Or more like the a stone/rock beach. It was really beautiful. We came across a large rocky "mountain" just a few yards into the water. Emily thought it would be a good idea to "climb it." NOT! Emily and I got undress, aka took of our shoes and socks, and headed up for a "great" adventure. Lets just say, the rock was too friendly; its was little pointy, and had some rough edges. However, we all ended up climbing and managed to reach the peak for a some prime photos. We walked along the beach a little longer and headed into town to see what it had to offer. Pretty much, just like Riomaggiore and all the other villages, its had a church a lot of cramped pink and yellow buildings, and some boats, oh and a boat dock... They were all very simple and plain, but they had a lot of class, and AMAZING ocean views.

After spending a whole half hour walking around town, we decided to try and find the path that we were supposed to take to the next down. Ran into a couple fellow trail blazers who showed us the way. What we thought was going to be an easy and short hike turned into a 2 hour, uphill fight. We saw a lot of the countryside, and again unbelieveable views of the ocean/coastline. Eventually, we managed to come upon the next village, Vernazza.

By the time we arrived in Vernazza we were exhaused!!!! The town lacked a decent ocean view, and had less to offer then the previous town needless to say we lasted about 20 min thier and took the train back to our hostel. When we got to the hostel we attempted to clean up a bit and head for the rocks that are located in the mitst of the ocean to watch the sun set while splitting a bottle of wine between the 8 of us. The night was a bit overcast, the view was priceless but had no comparrison to Saturdays sunset. After the sun went down we headed to La Spezia the town right outside cinque Terre for dinner. We came across a great Pizza place that was very resonable priced and great service. After dinner we headed back to the villa for a nights rest.

We slept in until about 9ish and headed to a local breakfast cafe that had AMERICAN COFFEE FOR ONLY 1EURO!!!!!! They also some amazing chocolate filled crossaints. We had stopped and picked up some fruit at a local grocery store, so we managed a well-rounded breakfast. We didn't have any plans until noon, so we decided to go sit by the ocean side and just relax. Emily and Jen sat on some rocks and read/journaled while Brad, Joe, and I did some exploring. After a while, we decided it was a good idea to climb up a rocky hillside to a path. It was one of the paths that was closed because of the landslides, but we continued to walk it anyways.

At noon, we all got together and decided to take the "Path of Love" to Manarola which is the town right next to Rimaggiore. The path was completely paved and well taken care, unlike the other path. It was really nice, just more view of the ocean side; but the weather was a lot warmer which made it ten times better! When we got to Manarola, there wasn't much to see, except the the boating dock had a really nice area to sit down and relax. We spent about an hour and a half just sitting around talking and hanging out which was really nice to do and not have to worry about a thing!

We had one town left to see, and we had to take the train because of the closed trails. The last town was, Cornglia. This town had the least to offer; we got off the train, hiked up the road into "town" where there was pretty much nothing. You couldn't even get close to the ocean, nor was there a very good view. We probably spent the most time actually in the town than in any of the otheres, about a whole 10 min. We were tired, and had already agreed to cook dinner that night so we had to head back to get groceries.

That night we drank wine by the sunset after getting groceries, then headed back to our sweet hostel to make dinner. We cooked pasta with red sauce that had peppers in it, and then we toasted bread over the burner and attempted to melt cheese on it. After we finished dinner, we decided to head back to La Spezia once again for a quick desert. Normally, we would get gelato, however we ended running across a yogurt stand. It turned out to be quite delicious, you had a choice of dark choc/white choc/or nutella, then yougurt and 2 toppings ranging from fruits to candies. After that we headed back to the hostel, where we discovered Brad had befriend our building mates who turned out to be Australian world travelers. Some of us chit-chatted for a while, and eventually headed to bed.

We got up and left the hostel at about 8 and headed toward the GREAT Cafe AGAIN!!!!!! We enjoyed the exact same breakfast total of 3 coffees, crossaints, and fruit!!!!! We went down to the marina again and sat on our favorite rock beach to watch the waves roll in. After about 3 hrs of sunbathing and relaxiation time we headed off to mass at a local church. It was all in Italian...Go figure but still had a lot of meaning. Our train was originally supposed to leave at 6pm, we decided we had enough of Cinque Terre and took a train home around noon. But had to stop of in La Spezia, where we discovered Alla Kabobs (Lamb Sandwiches). The Greatest Thing EVER!!!!!! We rushed back to the train station to catch our train home. We ended our trip back at the Villa around 4ish.

We had a GREAT WEEKEND and took lots of photos. The rest of the night we spent far away from each other trying to regain sanity. Hence, the reason the blog is just now coming together.

This weekend we are off to Sicily for a couple days, hopefully the weather will cooperate and we'll be able to possibly get in some ocean activities/get a tan.

We'll attempt to get back a little sooner this next week, but we are going on a class trip to Assisi/Perugia Monday until Thursday.

Hope all is well back in Stati Uniti, and Happy St. Patty's Day!!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Pisa & Venice!!!!!!

Two weekends ago when Kate went to Venice I was in Pisa...I'm not going to lie it wasn't the greatest, The leaning tower of Pisa was pretty cool...we also went to visit the Mediterranean Sea that was VERY VERY Awesome!!!! I traveled with Jen, Reese, Joe, Claire and Leanna. I was sick on Saturday so that same group went to Siena which I heard was awesome, but I stayed home and slept all was needed.

This past weekend I traveled to Venice with Jen, Claire, Reese, and Joe. We left Saturday Morning and made it to Venice around 2:30. We had made plans to stay at a Chinese hostel...we arrived to the hostel but they wouldn't answer the bell so we had to resort to finding a hotel. We paid for a hotel room with one queen bed and one twin bed for 80£. Me, Claire, Reese, and Jen all shared the queen bed we slept sideways on the bed...don't worry I called the wall side of the bed so I could face the wall and not look at anyone. I slept next to Jen...we lived together for a semester so she knows not to touch me so all was good!!! Venice was beautiful about 100 times better then Pisa, however, it was a lot dirtier then I expected but still really nice.

Reese and I woke up on Sunday feeling sick with the stomach flu. We weren't supposed to leave until 6pm but we wouldn't have arrived to our Villa until about 11:30. Reese and I decide to take our tickets to the train station around 1pm and look for a different train to catch. We found a train quickly from Venice to Bolgna but when we arrived in Bolgna we had to trade our tickets in for different ones in order to make it to Florence was a stressful process but Reese and I managed just fine. We took a crowed EuroStar(fast train) to Florence but I did not have a seat assigned to me which meant I got to sit on the floor between two trains along with 3 other people non of which spoke English it was VERY VERY awkard but another (becoming normal) european experience!!! We eventually arrived to Florence around 6pm so all and all the Venice trip was a success!!! We had a great time and made it home early.

This next weekend a group of us are going to Cinque Tera...Kate is also going which is GREAT for me because to be honest I had computers and Blogging and Kate can blog for the both of us Next Week!!!!

Kidding...sort of!!!

Monday, February 23, 2009

1st Major Vacation (Kate's Way)

Well, this blog is just about the last weekend I had. Emily and I went our seperate ways so she'll be adding her 2 cents worth soon enough.

But this last Friday I left for Venice. The trip there was kind of long, but well worth it; it was nice to get out of Florence!

When we got off the train and walked out of the station, its was pretty much awesome. Right in front of us was a canal and tons of boats. Also, it's been Carnivale for the last week and a half, so there were lots of people, most of which were dressed up in costumes. Before we wanted to take in the town, we decided to rest so we headed straight for our hotel.

Lets just say, public transportaion SUCKS! The bus driver said he would tell us which stop to get off at, well he was off by about 1 1/2 miles... Dont' worry though, we're smart kids and found our way. (a couple wrong directions and 30 min later) Our hotel was only for 4 people. Well we had 5, and planned on working the system. Our room was on the ground floor, but unfortunately there was only 2 ways in and both lead straight to the lobby where the "Man" was watching like a hawk. Luckily, again, we were on the first floor and had a window with no screen. So Rachel, one of the girls I traveled with, willing climbed in and out of the window for the remainder of the trip.

We spent the evening walking around Venice, which is very easy to get lost in. There aren't as many canals as one would assume, just lots of little, narrow walk ways. Its like being in a very large maze. So the night was just a lot of walking around in circles, and a lot of stairs. It was pretty, and nice not to have any particular destination. We did enjoy some very awesome pizza!! P.s. We were in bed by 1030. (we're getting old)

Saturday morning we left the hotel by 930. We got to the bus stop which was crawling with people. Our bus pulled up, absolutely packed with people, of course everyone attempted to shove on while we watched. Go figure, only like 5 people managed to fit. We waited another half hour for the next bus, no suprise though, also jam-packed... Well we attempted to squeeze on, and we all made it but one, therefore we all got off for sake of the group. So we went for another walk to a different stop where we did finally get on a bus. This is justification why public transportation is horrible and we should appreciate having our own vehicles!

When we finally got to Venice, (or hotel was right outside town) we just spent the afternoon taking in the sites. There were puppet shows, street performers, and lots of breathtaking architechture. Eventually making our way to the far side of Venice, we looked over the Adriactic sea. Talk about a beautiful sight. That was pretty much the best part of the whole trip. After that, we were all pretty tired and just headed back to the train station, where we sat on the steps in front for 2 hours watching a Native American "Band."

The trip was a great experience, even if the town was a lot different than how its portrayed in movies or stories. However, Venice is a must see while in Italy.

This is only the beginning of a long semester, and I hope your all ready to experience the trip vicariously. Miss you guys, and take care!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

**A New Addition**

I just made a website to put all of our pictures on! Now you guys can not only here about everything, but see it too!!
Here's the link:

(I'm in the process of putting up picture, its a long procedure. We've already taken soo many!)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Yes, We're Still Alive

We haven't got too lost yet!

Well so far the trip has been amazing!! We've had a couple packed full days between sight seeing as a class, and going out alone in groups; we've pretty much seen a good portion of Florence/Settignano (where our villa is).

Our first two days of classes were INTENSE! We are in a crash course of Italian. We've got 2 teachers, and we're split into 2 classes of 13. My teacher doesn't/won't speak English, so its going to be a very interesting semester. Emily got lucky with her teacher, he can actually explain to the class what he's talking about, in my class its like a Play, he has to act out everything while we guess! They had us do a competition yesterday between classes, we had to carry on a conversation asking about your name, where do you live, etc. It wasn't pretty...

Our history class is pretty interesting, a little different. He took us on a tour Wednesday night, and then the next day taught about it all which was really cool. However, a lot of the stuff in his presentations isn't all that important or useful. So who knows how its actually going to turn out.

The tour our teacher took us on on Wednesday was a lot of fun. He took us all around the Centro, or the center of Florence where all the old Churches, and Palaces are built (pretty much everything thats important). We got to see the Dumo, its massive; The Baptisery which has gold doors; a Castle that was built within the city; and two palaces of the Medici Family. We saw a lot more than that, thats just all the big buildings.

Today we actually went for a hike to a castle just up the road, more like an hour up hill the whole way, and its was really cool. It was built in about the 13th Century, they still had a couple "books" that were in mint-condtion; but the fortress itself and the view of the city was fantastic!

Lastly, Emily and I found a soccer "field" not too far from our villa, so have no fear, we're getting in our own "spring training!"

But I think that catches up on all the big stuff we've been doing, leaving out the night life stories... For another time...
Hope all is well back in the states!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Trip Straight Out Of Hades

Well to start off on a positive note, we did finally make it to the villa at about 1:30 local time (about 6:30 Kansas time, Italy is 8hrs ahead). But Chelsea, Emily, and I all got moved in ok and are attempting to stay awake all afternoon in hope of a good night sleep tonight.

Now its time for the story of our lovely trip here, plenty of ups and downs!

When we got to KCI yesterday morning, we had a pleasant surprise waiting; Whitney and Ellen were waiting just inside the doors! It was really nice seeing them one last time, plus they helped carry bags in. But everything went smoothly all day, between changing flights and getting in on time, its was perfect! When we boarded our last flight destined for Rome, there was surprisingly not very many people so we all ended up with plenty of room to stretch out and enjoy the 8 hour flight. The flight was pretty good, little turbulence and we all just relaxed and read a book thats supposed to be finished by tomorrow (not gonna happen). We landed at about 730 am, once again local time, and made it to our baggage just fine, found it easiest to just follow everyone else that was on our plane.

In Rome we made plans to meet up with a fellow study aboard student Clare who's flight came in shortly after ours. After we waited, and waited, Clare eventually emerged and we were finally able to get out of the airport! Granted, on our way out we had no idea where to go and just started following pictures signs in hopes of finding the train. Eventually a nice gentleman came to our rescue and offered to drive of us to the EuroStar train station, on the other side of town. Lets just say that people here in Italy are crazy drivers, and definitely have a lead foot!! Even I thought driving here would not be fun.

At the station, we quickly found the automated ticket booth and managed to get our tickets just fine, on our own! Well, besides the weird poor guys that felt that he had to help us, then asked for 1 Euro to get coffee. After we all got our tickets and headed out to find our terminal, we realized we had no idea what terminal we were in. Luckily the police here are nice and were willing to answer my dumb American question. While standing waiting for the train to arrive and young man felt obligated to help to where we were supposed to get on. Then also asked for 2 Euro's from each one of us, lets just say that was and will be the last time we let someone help.

Train ride was about an hour and a half, but the country side was quite beautiful to see. Granted, all of us took a little nap at some point. When we got to train station in Florence, we had FINALLY had actual directions on what we were supposed to do, and how, except we still got it all mixed up. After asking multiple people and them turning down our pleas for help, we found a young lady that was able to point us in the right direction and we were able to get on the right bus that took us straight to the villa. Or so we thought...

The bus did take us to the right road, but the bus stop is at the bottom of a long "driveway." The four us ended up hiking about a mile, each with 3 bags of luggage. We got in our work out for the day, oh and it was raining.

Now were at the villa, got moved into our room that was thought to be 2 to a room and a bathroom to share. Ha, of course not. There are actually four of us in a little room, one armoĆ¹r that has about 10 hangers and only two little drawers. However, there is a plus, the bathroom is nice...

So to say the least, this will be one hell of an experience, and we learn alot about ourselves and each other. Hope all is well back in the states, and hope this blog shined a little light on your day.

Until another day... Ciao

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Night Before Take Off

Well everyone, the fateful night has arrived. (it's about time if you ask me!) But its the night before take off, and I think I can speak for myself, Emily, and Chelsea that we are ready to finally leave. We're all packed up, granted it took Emily 3 or 4 times to finally get it together, and headed to bed shortly in hopes that tomorrow morning will come a little faster. Tomorrow is going to be a very long day.
We depart from KCI at about 10 am, fly to Chicago where we have about a 2 hour lay over, then fly to New York, have an hour lay over and finally at 5:30 we're destined for Rome, Italy. (8 1/2 hours after take off of course)
Its going to be a long day, but totally worth it. Landing in Rome and gathering our luggage will be quite interesting, hopefully we'll find someone to point to us in the right direction. (please keep your fingers crossed for us)

We plan on keeping everyone here in the States posted via this blog. We'll put up pictures and give all the insights into our trip, the goods and the bads. As my mom said, "just remeber, no matter how frusrated you get, its all an adventure."

Farwell until we arrive at the villa in Florence!