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!