Friday, April 30, 2010

Welcome Aboard!


We're at Sea!!!  ...Almost
So turns out you have to be 21 to board the ship, or have an adult with you. Thank you Royal Caribbean for alerting us of that detail, afterrr we bought the tickets, afterrr we got to Venice, afterrr we arrived at port.
Security was very confused and after some time ended up calling headquarters and had the captain talk to us. He informed us while we were technically 'not fit to travel,' he would let us on the boat. 
The catch was we'd need our parents to fax: a copy of id, write a waiver, and sign it for us. On top of that we couldn't drink, go to the disco, and if we drank at port we'd be 'disembarked.' 
He could have shortened his speech to: you're 5 (you need an elementary school waiver form to ride the bus) and allowed no fun. 
My annoyance grew heavily out of my need for independence and their lack of apologetic demeanor for inconveniencing, not only us, but our parents.
I got into one of my moods that initially could only be solved by Starbucks, but when I realized I couldn't leave the gymnasium-like port to cool off, I sat down into a yoga pose on the side waiting and focused on breathing.

Eventually we were let on, and decided to explore the boat. What we discovered was an occurring riot. An Indian Family was leading the riot along with an Aussie couple and an Ecuadorian. Apparently they had cancelled the port stop in Turkey because they wanted to give other passengers time to get to the ship. (The volcano understandably had caused a bit of delay/standstill in travel). The argument stood that some had paid 1000's of dollars to get to the boat on time (taxi, train, lost luggage) and it was unfair that the ship's destinations had changed. The Aussie couple voicing what was running through my head "No Turkey? I could have paid 300 dollars less for this same cruise schedule with another line then!"

At dinner we were sat next to the Ecuadorian couple, a school teacher from Maine and her husband who once served for the US. Talk quickly changed to Politics, and *nothing* bores me more than a random self proclaimed know it all trying to discuss politics. The husband reminded me of Father Polmroy who would always end mass with: 
"well, something to think about." 
The Ecuadorian couple were really cool, probably two of my favorite people we met on the ship. He even jokingly offered to be our 'uncle' so we could drink.
There began one crazy incredible week!



Venice!

This city reminds me of it's a small world in Disneyland. It is one of the weirdest places I have ever been to, and the second time around only magnifies that. Everyone gets around by boat or by walking. The city is connected by a maze of little foot bridges that are absolutely horrid to maneuver with suitcases!  
Max ended up playing superhero 'Dad' and carried both his and Ericka's bags almost the entire time. The rest of the time Ericka and him switched bags, both were big, but Ericka's of course was a bit bigger and a bit bulkier.

We had quite the time trying to find our hostel, it was literally a whole in the wall, no wonder we couldn't find it! One of the locals, (this is a kindly little taxi man) we asked for directions. We had to have gone back and forth over two little bridges twice before we realized where it was. The little corner on the white building with a window just above the little section of black, the entrance. Needless to say Ericka and I took one look at it and then looked at each other wondering how much the deposit was and where else we could stay. The picture does no justice of how sketch the place actually looked.

We went in and talked to the lady at the front desk. She handed us our key and pulled out a map and started explaining places to go to eat, what to see, etc. Then she says, "from here, you 1 bridge, 2 bridge, 3 bridge, 4 bridge, 5 bridge, and there..? your room." I think all three of us got the wind knocked out of us as she said it alone, after asking about taxi, bus, boat, gondola, and her laughing at us, we finally gave in to the idea of dragging our suitcases up and over the bajillion step bridges. kerclunk. clickity clack.
 
We got there and had trouble opening the door (we had more trouble trying to get back out) but we were pleasantly surprised to find a very large room, single beds, our own bathroom, and very clean living space. We had two others living with us (both of whom had problems with flights due to the Volcano). This situation really would be ideal if traveling with a large group of friends because you'd have your own space to party in literally. 6 beds, so ideal, more like an apartment! Had a fridge and everything.
The city is so cute, I love it. It is crazy touristy, but there is something about it that remains genuine. It feels like the heart beat of the city is becoming more cosmopolitan, but the old man in the liquor store where we bought fragola, and the crazy man who sat across from us on our last morning drinking a coffee, serves as a reminder that people do live and manage to exist in this wonderful world. 
St. Mark's Square! Rebecca, listen carefully for the song in the video!

Oh, the places a pair of Sperry's can take you!
We completely failed in finding a good gelato on the island, they had Grom though which everyone seems to love except me. Ericka said it best, that it was like Coldstone; however, at least coldstone has great flavors and a plethora of mixes. Who doesn't love mixing cake mix, with apples, cinnamon, and grahm to make it taste like an apple strudel?! No this was like level of breyers in my mind. I was not impressed. The fragola (strawberry) tasted like kid lip gloss, the grapefruit too tart, the nut flavors were great; however, I think part of it was that it lost its authenticity for me, and some of its charm, by being a chain. However, this is where we had the best Italian Pastry. The only thing I can equate it to look wise is a large profiterole, taste wise, an Eclaire with its creamier chocolate filling.
I did not want to leave Italy a second time, but it was time to get on the boat!
Arrivederci! I'll be back soon!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Firenze


In Rome we stayed at Hostel Yellow. It wasn't bad, kind of a bit far from the heart of the city. There was a kid from NJ who worked there, it was nice to have someone from home there to help you get orientated! We also had free Wifi in the Rooms! Wow!  Howeverrr, the Yellow was nothing like the Plus Hostel in Florence!! Highly recommended! It had a gym, sauna, queen sized beds, balcony with a view (try for a top floor!) outdoor bar balcony, pool tables etc. It was gorgeous.
The next day we went to a Leather Market. Both Kaity and Ericka got adorable Leather Jackets and Purses! We then stopped by my favorite Bridge in this world. Bridge of Gold. on our way to the Uffizi Gallery. We hung out in line for awhile waiting before Kaity and I decided we wanted Gelato. So we left to get some. We walked behind the Uffizi to where there is another David and I had the worst Flashback I have ever received in my life. That song in Anastasia "bears painted wings, things I almost remember" was ringing in my ears. It was the most bizarre thing. It was like I had been transported directly back in time to my father searching for a camera store where he could make a CD to save then clear his memory card of pictures, my sisters demanding candy, and my mother and I whispering how cute a little boy looked in a royal blue rain coat by the greened copper water fountain. I felt nauseous. I expected the feeling to continue when I actually made my way into the Uffizi Gallery; however, it only felt like a long lost dream. I searched hard for the painting the Italian tour guide spent so long on saying "eh" on, but I couldn't find it agian, maybe they moved it. Not like I loved it anyways...
We then met up with two kids we met at RHUL from the states to walk to the copper statue of David on the Hill. Prime spot to watch the sunset. Florence makes you feel as if you have walked into a picture book. 
We got Icecream on the hill and continued our way up (btw this is my third favorite gelato. Not nearly as many flavors, but simply so creamy and delicious!) ...You can tell its good because everyone is just so content walking by themselves licking their little cones off in their own worlds!
From the top? So good. Little piece of Rainbow and all.
The heart rock is for you mom!
We had a long walk back, but with the sunset, I wish we could have gone slower!

That night we went out to eat with some of our friend's friend's who were studying in Florence... we had quite a little pack of kids traveling with us. Of course we had to try some Italian wine...
  
We then found a Secret Pastry Place... Its not really a secret, but it is against the law technically for them to sell to anyone but the bakeries. Literally you follow your nose usually around 4-6 am while the Pastries are being made and purchase them cheap at wholesale! We luckily had a local, poor thing, who showed us the way!
Let it be known although Florence is tragically touristy, I still love it. Lauren equated it to Boston when I saw her in Rome, and I can see why... Today it exists as a college kid's small city dream. I love Florence.

Roses in Roma

We first went to my second favorite fountain, the Trevi Fountain, and made wishes. We then went to get the absolute best Gelato in the world at Gioletti's. (Trust me it's the best, I stopped in at least 6 Gelato places a day and sampled at least 4 flavors if not more at each stop... That being said you want to try the Kiwi. It's crazy, the flavor is so rich, it is as if you are actually eating a Kiwi. So good.) If you want to be a "Real Italian" ? Def stick with a Pistacio Mix... However, personally I like the Nochoccio/Bacio Mix.

We then hit up the Spanish Steps... It was such a luxury to have them (and the rose men) all to ourselves! Max in trying to get away from them yelled as a joke over his shoulder "Gah, I'm Allergic to Roses!"The next night we randomly met up with two of our other Bentley friends who just happened to be in Italy. We got food which was alright, but the highlight of the restaurant was a bowl filled to the top with grated cheese!
We found ourselves in a Gay club called My Bar. We then decided we wanted to Rage the Colo.
 
Poor Italy.

We woke up early in the morning ready to go again. Like the day before I wandered around while the kids did touristy things like go to the Vatican and take a tour of the Colo. The first day I was hassled a little by old men who grabbed me and said things like "you kiss me. you likeee." Thank god this time I found myself with Lauren and Nicole exploring town and eating Gelato!

We stopped at a Market to get some food and then Nicole led us off to a cute little park.
(photo cred: Lauren Wisniewski)

It was eventually time to leave the beautiful city. I literally was running to meet up with Ericka, Max, and Kaity! The few days in Rome literally flew by!

Barcelona




It was literally just myself and one other girl from the US left on Campus for Easter Break, so we both decided to leave campus and head towards sunnier weather, what a great spur of the  moment trip!



Barcelona is such a great little city. Tons of History, Great People, and a Fabulous Night Life. We stayed just off of the busiest street La Rambla at the Silken Hotel. The first thing we did was search for Fat Bike Tours as suggested by one of my Frisbee teammates. It was run by a couple of younger kids, one with dreadlocks, one from South Africa, and another with a cute Irish Accent. They led us around the city and helped us get orientated!


  This is my favorite fountain in the world.
At the End of the Bike tour they took us to the beach to enjoy some Sangria. Yum




The next day we went to find Gaudi's Home. It was simply breathtaking... So was the walk up there. 


Literally. There were like 6 of escalators up the hill, yet it still was quite the hike up!
But it was well worth the trip, the tile work was GORGEOUS


We then went to find a funicular, because it sounded like fun. 
 The view was amazing, and at the top was a little fortress from where we watched the industrial side of Barcelona hard at work. It reminded me of real life tetris, all the colors and noise! 

 
We ran into other Bentley kids that night missing Font Magica by seconds (womp). We also met up with a Aussie that we had met in Scotland for dinner and drinks! I lost the heart piece of the 'key and heart' keychain that Tracy got me while walking around the city, after searching for quite some time, I left disheartened. 
The following day we went to Sitges (which I can pronounce in a million incorrect ways). It was a quaint little beach town about 45 mins by train away from Barcelona.

We were sad to leave Spain, but we enjoyed exploring La Ramblas on our last day.
Eating Cactus Fruit and talking to the birds


I'm glad I lost my heart to this beautiful city.

Friday, April 2, 2010

"We're in Ireland!"

I don't think I can properly describe or depict my love for this country or its inhabitants. 

Amberway Bread and Breakfast ran by a 20 year old 

We went for a stroll on the ole long walk

It rained

Loved Galway


In a land where woolly mammoths are the only explanation for soaked beds, where guys throw baby Guinness, Smithwicks, beamish, Guinness, red bull and vodkas, jaggerbombs, little irish men, accompanied with the phrase: Merry Christmas or Welcome to Ireland, where you can wear over sized clothing and put no time into looking good, head to a bar and guys find you more attractive than girls who tried and are wearing close to nothing, where you can sit in a pub for an afternoon and meet people with the most interesting networks, like an old college professor who's daughter is 'friendly' with your cousin, or the eternal student who just had dinner with a member of parliament, all while listening to musicians who have stumbled into the pubs off the streets solely to share a song and to ensure a good time. 

Enjoyed drinks along the way with fellow pubbers

On our way to the Cliffs of Moher

Went to see the fairies

Portal Tomb

I may want to live here


We went to the Guinness factory and had a pint

Dublin's fair city


Dear Ireland,

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

May God be with you and bless you:
May you see your children's children.
May you be poor in misfortune,
Rich in blessings.
May you know nothing but happiness
From this day forward.

May the road rise up to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the warm rays of sun fall upon your home
And may the hand of a friend always be near.

May green be the grass you walk on,
May blue be the skies above you,
May pure be the joys that surround you,
May true be the hearts that love you.

<3 until we meet again