Saturday, June 9, 2007

Rome Part I: Overtaken

Rome overtook me.

I should have known from the moment I arrived that it would be the city that really took me away. Kate and Steph were staying in a different hostel from Dani and I so after getting off our train around 5 p.m. we made plans to meet at Trevi Fountain at 7 p.m. The simple walk to meet them had me in complete awe and it took all the self control I had not to start clicking away on my camera. Had I taken all the pictures I had the urge for I could have provided you with a flip book of the entire walk there!
Our hostel was a next door neighbor to the Vatican City and a five minute walk from St. Peter's Square. The immediate site of this was one thing in itself. Then we crossed the bridges, lined with statues and seeing building after building constructed partially by stone remains had me thrilled. Our hostel had provided us with a detailed map of the city with all of the major buildings and sites pointed out and from the looks of it, I had a lot to look forward to.

I'm going to tell you straight up. I could go on and on about Rome, because something happened in the three days we were there that changed me and changed my perspective on the entire trip. I do not know if it was Rome itself, the fact I was exploring it with three others, or that it was my last stop in Italy in a ten day tour. Even the first night, after finding Kate and Steph at the Trevi Fountain and doing the touristic duty of throwing a coin into the fountain (backwards over your right should and make a wish!), we also hiked over to the Spanish Steps before scouting out some pizza.
Let me go ahead and give a little rant on pizza. We were slightly hesitant to purchase any in Rome initially due to the fact every streetside shop we walked into did not have priced and sliced pizza. Instead there was a price per gram on the pizza, which mad it difficult for us to estimate whether or not it was a good deal or not. However, in the end our hunger won out and we settled for one of these places. What did we learn? Completely worth it!! I got a six by six inch slice of mozerella, basil and tomato along with a four by six inch slice of cheese for FOUR euros! (For us this was CHEAP for that much food--because believe me, it was enough to stuff us!) I fell in love with style of serving pizza fresh from the store front! I am positive I had it at least once a day, and pizza was most definitely something I NEVER came close to getting tired of as it has a completely different taste to it than anything you find in America. What I would give to be able to walk into a store and point at a piece of pizza through a glass window, have them heat it up for me and have it taste THAT good in the states... it most definitely does not happen.
Anyway, we enjoyed our pizza sitting next to Trevi Fountain as the night came in and the fountain was completely lit up. The area was always crowded with people and we were constantly amused by tourists (particularly the older group of Canadians and their guide who was extremely loud.) I think taking moments to stop and just enjoying BEING was a key part of my love for Rome. It had been a long day of travel (five hours on a train) and all of us knew that we had a week or less left abroad.

Friday, June 8, 2007

...More Set Backs...

I know, I know...Still no blog updates... someone does not want my Roman adventures to be told for whatever reason! Anyway, I arrived home late Wednesday night and instead of being able to go straight from the airport to Bellarmine where I was already late for beginning my Governor's Scholars job, I had to go home to get my car first. Due to wanting to talk all too much about my trip to the family, I ended up sleeping at the house that night and waking up super early to drive back to Louisville to be on campus by 8 a.m. on Thursday morning. Needless to say, having to go straight to work with jet lag has been more than exhausting and I am still trying to adjust back to this world. To add to my delay in blogging, I finally hooked up my laptop last night to be able to use in my room only to find out something has gone haywire with my hard drive and it won't come on! Yikes! I am just grateful it is happening now and now during the school year when my life depends on my laptop. ("Sweet Cheeks McGee" for those who don't know him by name.--I do a lot of naming of inatimate objects when I become really attached to them. My camera rightfully earned a name this year, "Arthur Garfunkel." And of course I had to give my suitcase a name by the end of this trip, considering the companion he has been to me... so he has become "Tat the Traveler." I will explain the name Tat eventually.) But I plan to have blogs posted about Rome by the end of the weekend, and of course Paris will follow!

Monday, June 4, 2007

Blogging Delays In Paris

So sorry about another delay in postings!! Paris has jacked up internet prices (Ten cents a minute at our hostel)... I will actually be getting home soon but even then I plan to finish out my blog posts just for the record. I have so much I want to share about Rome which was definitely the hardest place for me to leave. So even though my blogs will not be coming authentically from the other side of the world, I hope you all still find time to read and enjoy them!

Friday, June 1, 2007

Venice: Masks, Water and Boats

Thank goodness for the sunny mornings and afternoons in Venice, because the cold rainy evenings would not have made for a pleasant stroll through the streets. img_6337

Now, when people would refer to Venice as a "city on the water," and I would see the pictures of the beautiful bridges, I always knew that Venice had the canal running through it and there were the gandole rides and such, but I did not realize that the water runs everywhere through the city and there are NO roads.

We would take a bus to the station on the very edge of the city but that is where you stopped seeing vehicles. You crossed over your first bridge and from there you did not see cars, trucks, motorcycles, scooters, bicycles--nothing! There is the main canal that runs through the city, but off of that are a million and one small branches and you find yourself crossing one bridge after another. I am telling you, it makes it very easy to lose your bearings and sense of direction! One day during our wanderings we found ourselves just across from the train station (near where we had begun) when we could have sworn that we were on the completely opposite side of the city!

Another thing I noted about wandering the streets of Venice were the countless number of masks! While in Brussels you could look in one store window after another at the deliciously inviting chocolate displays. In Venice, every other window you looked in had a million faces staring straight back at you! It was unbelievable the variety of these masquerade faces you could find! They had the simplest white with slight color to the beautifully painted ones with glitter and feather. Some covered the entire face, others just the eyes. Some were gold or silver or some other metallic color. Some had the long beak-like noses. Some were representative of animals. It was very intriguing to look in these stores, yet almost haunting at the same time as EVERY inch of ever wall was covered in masks staring you down.

Dani and I spent both days with friends. Stephanie (from London) joined us the first day for a stroll to San Marco square. The plaza was HUGE and I almost wanted to refer to it as "Pigeon Square" for the rest of the trip. I have never seen so many pigeons covering the ground in my life! It was mainly due to the fact there was vendor after vendor selling little bags of feed and tourist right and left were trying to become friends with the birds. I passed on that opportunity. I have fed chickens many times and it did not seem all too different.
San Marco itself was BEAUTIFUL! While all of the palaces and cathedrals are, this one was different in the amount of color on the outside. Along with sculptures and wonderful architecture, vibrant colored artwork was also incorporated into the building's design.
From there we were not in a huge rush to do anything in particular (a gandole ride would have been ideal, but 100 euros for three just wasn't in the budget.) San Marco was near the opening of the canal so we simply went to the waters edge and enjoyed the view for quite awhile as we got to know our new friend a little more. We enjoyed a cheap but tastey meal afterwards, during which I learned that bruchette is now on my favorite foods list. Bruchette is toasted bread with fresh sliced tomatoes on top, usually seasoned with oils and basil and maybe garlic. (Apparantly Kate has mastered a recipe for it during her semester here in Italy and she shared and I definitely plan on putting that to use!)

This was the night when Steph and Kate arrived, so the next day we all met up at noon. This time our friend Allison also came along (Stephanie did not as she was buying her train ticket for later that night.) We took a trip to the Rialto Bridge and then enjoyed some pizza and galeto (aka ice cream) which are the two things you are sure to find on absolutely every street corner!

With no specifics to do or see, yet not ready to leave, we finally made the wise decision to pay six euro for a pass onto the water bus. (Yes, they still had public transportation, but instead of the metro or bus...of course they used boats!) Thanks to the advise of the couple we had met on the train, we took the number one boat route which took us through the entire canal and even out into the open water. Much of the boat is covered and has inside seating, but we made our way to the back that was open. It was crowded at first so we had to stand, which was not bad at all--still a good view for picture taking. Eventually people cleared out and we were able to take seats. We were on the boat for nearly an hour and it was definitely worth it. It was great to see the city from this view and so relaxing!
The weather gods worked well with us this day. The sun had been toasty warm, but as the boat was headed back to the start we saw the dark clouds coming and all found ourselves slipping back into our long sleeves. We exited the boat and made it back to the bus station just as the rain began to fall. It is insane how cold it suddenly got (which took relaxing at the pool off the agenda for that night), but it did not ruin our evening. We used our coupons from the hostel to eat at their restaurant and then spent several hours hanging out in Steph and Kate's cabin enjoying some cheap wine and beer. It was sad to say goodbye to our new friends Allison and Stephanie, but at least we still had Rome to look forward to with Steph and Kate.
Ah--and a side story: Small World Part II! While browsing through a free display on the works of Vilvadi I turned to find Dani and when I spotted her speaking to a woman in a white tank and straw hat I smiled to myself. It was none other than our friend Monica whom we had shared our room with in Castelfiorentino! We knew that she had come to Venice as well, but never expected to run into her!