Friday, June 26, 2009

Venice and the end of school

Today is my last day of school! We have to write two essays and then I am done! This program flew by! It is insane. What an experience. I am off to Copenhagen on Saturday and then all around Europe

I wrote this a few days ago, but just posting it now... Enjoy. 
I can not believe that this is my last week in Florence. I have class today, but tomorrow is a Florentine holiday! Which means No school! I am really excited about this little holiday because there will be fireworks over the Arno river at night, which is especially exciting because I was a tad bit sad about missing Fourth of July in the States. So, now I get fireworks but in Italy. Everything seems to be a bit better abroad. For example, I ate pizza this weekend, which is something I do in the States but it is not even close to the same thing because I was in 

Yup, I went to Venice this weekend and it was amazing. It was everything I pictured when I think of Italy: the people, the birds, the buildings, the water, the shops, the sidewalks and everything. I really enjoyed everything about it. The train ride there was super long but enjoyable because I was with Elizabeth, Nicci and Ashley. We had some nice bonding time considering it was a long train ride. When we arrived at the train station we hopped on a water taxi type boat. I didn’t know where it was headed, but I honestly didn’t care because, well, I was in Venice.

Venice was romantic and simply lovely. The city was mesmerizing. The concept of the canals is still amazing to me even after walking around the city for hours. The bridges and narrow sidewalks are beautiful. The city was busy, but quite calm. I now want to find a town where cars do not exist. My day seemed better with cars zooming by. The gondolas were a tad different than I pictured. The chairs were over-the-top and a bit gaudy, in my opinion, but bring down the coolness factor of a gondola.

I love the movie ‘Italian Job’ but it doesn’t even begin to show the greatness of Venice. (The chase scene in that movie was nothing compared to the boat chase I saw while I was there. Yes, I am being sarcastic).

We spent the day walking around and shopping. I got some great little things in Venice. I did pick up some Venezian glass considering I was in Venice. However, Elizabeth and Ashley got beautiful paintings, and I am starting to wish I had done the same.

I took hundreds of pictures! Which is really exciting, but means I will not upload them until I return to the States, which is somewhere in the future. However, I am not sure exactly when that is.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

“When In Rome.”

I don’t even know what to say about my weekend in Rome because it was so amazing. I loved walking nine million miles all over the city. Anywhere else in the world, I would have complained to no end about how far we walked, how hungry I was, how hot it was, how humid it was, how bad my feet hurt, how sticky I felt, how much my back hurt, basically how much my whole body hurt. But nope, I didn’t feel any need (okay, obviously I am pretty sure Kate August and I complained to one another, but not that much. And as much as it sounds like I am complaining here in this blog, wrong. I am just saying how I didn’t complain. Haha.)

Rome was so neat. We walked all the way to Vatican. To those of you that do not know, the Vatican is a nice long walk from the train station, which is what our little hostel was near. Also, if you didn’t know, the Vatican is located in Vatican City, which is its own country. Yup, I went to a different country for the day. Hey, I thought that was neat.

Kate August, Elizabeth Christiano, Tyler Holmes, Mitch Kraemer and I paid the big bucks (not really) to have a tour of the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel and Saint Peter’s Basilica. It was amazing. I really cannot describe how blown away I was by everything I saw. It is nearly impossible to explain everything I saw and learned. Yup, I learned a lot on my trip. Maria, our cute little Mexican American tour guide was just simply full of knowledge.

I could talk for hours about all the neat things I learned and saw in Rome. It is nearly impossible to see Rome in a weekend, but we did a pretty good job. I hope to return sometime. Maybe I’ll be smart enough to know that the bus only cost one euro and not be too frugal to pay that one euro.

Sadly, this blog entry does not even begin to explain how great Rome was.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Cinque Terre's Funny Encounters

Two weekends ago I went to Cinque Terre, which means five islands, and yes, it is five islands or towns connected. They are so beautiful. Literally words cannot describe and pictures cannot show the beauty that these places encompass. I was blown away. In my opinion, the best comparison, which still does not even compare what so ever: Cinque Terre is like Santa Barbara, which is down right gorgeous, but anyway… Cinque Terre is like Santa Barbara on crack or steroids. So basically take the beauty of Santa Barbara and times it by about 500. That is the beauty of Cinque Terre. Now add in some hectic trains that are confusing and quite frustrating. A five-hour hike along the coastline, which sadly I did not do. I know, I know. I am extremely disappointed. I did make it to the amazing beaches, even the pebble beach that frustrated me to no end was gorgeous.

We had quite the hike to our hostel in Corniglia though. Note to anyone visiting to Cinque Terre: be ready for stairs. At our hostel we meet the greatest Canadian girl, Alanna. She is traveling by herself all over Europe. I feel a though she is in search of something wonderful and if she hasn’t found it yet, she will soon. I was really impressed by her attitude towards everything and everyone. She was super friendly and open to anything. She accompanied us back to Monterosso that night. We ran into this big soccer celebration. To anyone who has never been told this: Soccer is a BIG Deal in Europe. Enough Said. There was music, dancing, chanting and even fireworks! I love fireworks, especially when they are over the sea. They were beautiful and loud. Man, I loved it. The region where Cinque Terre is located is known for its pesto, so I bought two different jars of pesto. Yum. I tasted about 12 different kinds of spreads at this little shop in Monterosso. Pretty sure I was not supposed to do that, but I really glad I did.

Kate August and I rented a canoe/kayak for an hour. Best hour of my weekend, hands down. We kayaked into the Mediterranean Sea. We went past the booie, yup, we are rebels. Kate and I saw two Jellyfish (one alive, one dead), and yes, we played with the dead one with our ore. We had a near-death experience with the rocks. We crashed into them but because of my wonderful kayaking skills and Kate’s motivation we made it through.

Note to self: wear sunscreen. I have a killer sunburn, which will turn into the nicest tan in a few days, but for now it hurts. (Turns out it turned into a nice set of pealing shoulders. Not a good tan.)

Funny encounters:

At McDonalds in La Spezia, which is where the main train station is. I was in line for some French fries, not one of my proudest moments. Actually that was one of my weaker moments. Anyway, out of no where, I see this good looking young man in a bottom shirt and a St. Louis Cardinals hat coming towards me with a welcoming smile. Who do I embrace? Luke Mueller! What a great encounter! He was just about to hop on a train back to Rome, where he is studying abroad. How insane! It was great to see a familiar face in such a crazy place.

On the beach a pack of cute boys, speaking great English, swam by as we girls lay on the beach of Monterosso. When they returned, Kate was edging Elizabeth to go up to them say something along the lines of, “My friends think you are cute…” Blah Blah Blah. So, out of no where this burst of courage came upon me.

   I thought to myself, “Oh I will never see these boys again.”
   So, I approached them saying, something along the lines of, “My friends think you are cute…” Blah Blah Blah.
   We continue to have small talk, such as: “What are you doing tonight?...”
   Then they ask me, “Where are you from?”
   I answer with a smile and say, “Oh, Kansas City.”
   “Really? What school?” They ask inquisitively.
   “Actually, the University of Kansas.”
   “Oh, that’s funny, us, too,” They reply!
    Are you kidding me? So much for never seeing these boys again. They go to KU! Their study abroad program in Paderno had just ended and they happened to be vacationing in Cinque Terre for the weekend. Just happened to be at Monterosso. Just happened to swim by. And I just happened to have one moment of courage. A no-fear-I’ll-never-see-these-people-again-moment. Not so much. The boys were really sweet and the encounter was funny.

Also, Kayla Murdock’s friend from KU, who is studying abroad in Sienna (my future city of residence by the way), was at Cinque Terre with his group of eight friends. So we encountered them on the beach in Monterosso as well.

Four different University of Kansas sponsored study abroad programs all over Italy had groups of students at Cinque Terre on the same weekend in June completely by chance. So, for being as big as the world is, it is so small. So small. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Life Abroad: Cultured, of course

I have not been good about blogging. I apologize.

Life has been so great here. I have not wanted to be on the computer at all, and I have no internet at home.

School has us go to cultural places in Florence.

I went to the Giardino di Boboli (The Boboli Gardens) yesterday. It was so beautiful. I want to do some research to learn a lot more about them and the Medici Family. It is all so interesting. See Mom, I am learning and even wanting to learn more. Florence is great like that; it always has me wanting to research things. The city is so old and full of so much culture. (Also, its full of gelato, discotecas, pizzerias, shops and cute italians.)

I have made it to the Galleria degli Uffizi. The Uffizi is huge and nearly impossible to do in a day, so I am planning to return there this week to see even more. The problem there is that I am just looking at historic art without really knowing what I am looking at.  A view of the Duomo from the Uffizi:

I have made it to the Piazza della S.S. Annuziata (where the Hospital of the Innocent is). This was interesting because at the revolving door, which is now blocked off (see facebook pictures), back in the day, one could leave their unwanted baby in the doorway with no consequences. Here is the door:

I went to the Museo della Casa Fiorentina Antica, which is where the Davanzati family once lived. It is this great big house with beautiful ceilings and an assortment of wonderful architecture.

I have a few more cultural visits to make. Along the way, I have also found many shop, gelatorias and pizzarias I must return too. Man, I really should have signed up for the two-month program, which I knew I would say even when I signed up for one. Don’t worry family, I am coming home at some point. I promise. I will just have to return to Europe soon. Anyone want to join me? I want to bring all the people I love to Italy. It is way too beautiful and wonderful to experience without you all. Everyone deserves to see what I have seen. 

Monday, June 8, 2009

Photography Class Online

I was dumb and signed up for this digital photography class thinking, "Oh I can handle it even though I will be abroad." 

What was I thinking? I have been on the computer for a little over two hours working on my first photo project. However, I feel pretty good about this, so here is the original and the final project! Thanks Libby Johnson for being such a good subject! 

Thursday, June 4, 2009

RyanAir Experience

On Saturday we flew from Dublin to Pisa on RyanAir. The ticket was pretty economical and the times worked out. We needed to get to Italy, so it was going to get the job done. The four of us, Mitch, Tyler, Hannah and I got to the airport no problem using our awesome traveler skills. We went to check our bags and of course the boys' bags were underweight and us girls' bags were over. Makes sense right? Well here was the kicker. My bag was 13kl over and Hannah's was 6 over. RyanAir wanted to charge me 198 euro and Hannah 95! We were like heck no. But we were only allowed one carryon and only one checked in bag.

What is a girl to do? So, we opened our bags stuffed some things into the nice boys' bags, which helped, but not enough. Hannah and I started to layer and when I say layer, I mean layer. I had about 9 shirts on, my jacket. My carryon was stuffed full. We looked like idiots. Oh and this dressing and repacking was all taking place in the middle of the Dublin airport. Funny, yes. Sad, yes. True. We return to the checkin counter and the women who had helped us before had left and a lovely Irish man with beautiful eyes replaced them. We ask him if he has our boarding tickets and he jokingly tells us no at first, which was not fun flirting at the time we wanted it. Also, Hannah was basically oblivious to his flirting. Hannah's bag was still around 4kl over, if I remember correctly. However, instead of charging us the 15euro PER Killo over like the mean ladies wanted to, he noded in approval and checked her bag free of charge! Yes!! Yah for Hannah. Then the real trick was my bag. It was still 6 or 7kl over. But instead of charging me 195euro, he rolled his beautiful eyes at me and checked my bag! Mission Complete!

We now have a love/hate relationship with RyanAir. Once we got through security we stripped our 9 layers off at the gate and once again looked like idiots. All in all a complete success. We made it to Pisa safe and sound, free of extra bagage charge.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Finalamente, in Firenze

Ciao! I made it. Si, mamma dont call again. I am fine.

Where to begin...
Thursday morning we arrived in Dublin around 8 a.m. and we were smart enough to find a bus to take us to the West coast (opposite coast of Dublin) to the town of Galway. Galway was amazing and fun. There were tons of people in this little town because of the Volvo Ocean Race. This is a sailing race across the world. Everyone should check it out. I now want to sail. Basically, this is my problem: everytime I see something cool or extreme, I am like "Oh, I want to do that now." Haha. We shall see what I get into. Our first night we were back at our hostel, The Galway Hostel, before 9p.m. because we were so jet lag and tired.

The man that we saw playing guitar and the drums on the street was sleeping in our dorm at the hostel. At 8a.m. he walked in with a 6pack and cracked open a beer. Gross. Hannah saw him in his tighty whities. Double Gross.

The hostel was interesting but probably one of my favorite places we stayed thus far. We met these fabulous red heads, Jorie and Laura from U of Vermont. They told us where to stay in Dublin which was great.

Friday we jumped on a bus to Dublin pretty early in the morning. I had an hour and a half of aweful sleep on that bus. When we arrived in Dublin, we found Litton Lane Hostel. Thanks to Jorie's recomendations and a nice Irish man's directions. At Litton Lane, we got an appartment for the four of us, which was cool. We walked a nice long walk to the Guiness Factory for a tour, which was informative and interesting. It ended with a free Guiness in the Gravity Bar, which is a 360 glass bar at the top of the factory that over looks all of Dublin. What a gorious place. I was so impressed by the view. Guiness, not so much. Kidding.

After a nice long walk back to the appartment we all crashed unintentionally for an hour or so. Then we got ready to go out on the town. We first hit up the Temple Bar. Right when we walked in within minutes, we were being called over by a group of men, who by chance were ITALIAN! I think we underestimated the blonde hair. They were all about 30 or so and were visiting their Irish friend, Bryan. The night was great. We stuck with them all night long because they were so funny and kind. We left the Temple Bar to find an authentic Irish bar. Bryan took us to some fancy bar. I got in with Tyler, no problem. Turned around to see a small uproar at the door. The Italian men did not have nice enough shoes to enter, so we had to leave. It was super fancy and Bryan said some famous Irish people are seen there. We went to a 'real' Irish bar for a which was fun, but nothing special.

On our way back to the Temple Bar, music caught our attention and we went into this leget Irish pub. As we all dance around the bar to "His Kiss," we were told to go upstairs. To our surprise, there was a live Irish folk bank playing and tons of people. This was about midnight if not 1a.m. Thus everyone was fun! We had a great time dancing and singing to the songs we didnt know. I have a video of them playing "Galway Girl" by Sharon Shannon. Yes, this is the song from P.S. I LOVE YOU. True.

Well that brings us to Saturday, which we spent at an art museum with Jorie, our new best pal. Then there was the Ryan Air Experience. Yes, flying Ryan Air is getting is own entry...