Wednesday, June 15, 2011 as the Romans do. Never leave.

"Veni, vidi, vici." - Julius Caesar

My last two weeks in Rome were filled with lots of homework, lots of projects, lots of exams, and lots of tears. I don't think I mentioned this before, but back during my trip to Greece I had a terrible nightmare in Athens. I was dreaming that I was back home and it was summer time. I was in my bedroom at home and was so sad to be away from Rome. Then, in my dream I woke up and could not get rid of the sadness that I felt because I was missing the past semester. Finally, I woke up thinking that I was back at home. I looked around the room and was really confused at first as to where I was. I then realized that I was in Athens on spring break. I still had close to two more months left. It was an amazing relief.

The last two weeks in Rome I continued to have similar nightmares. I woke up every morning so happy to still be in Rome, and then got sad thinking about what I was going to feel when I finally woke up in my bedroom at home...

I had to make sure I made the most of my last two weeks in Rome. It was kind of hard considering I was completely out of money at this point. But I did get to make it to a few more places on my list of things to see in Rome. One Wednesday Dom and I went after class to go to this church that had rooms completely made out of monk bones. When we got there at around 1:30 p.m. we found out that the church was closed until 3 p.m. Typical Rome. So we had an hour and a half to kill. I remembered that down the street was the U.S. Embassy which Dom hadn't seen yet so we went over there to look at it and take pictures. It was wonderful seeing the American flag again. It was beautiful and made me start to miss home just a little bit. This trip definitely helped me to realized just how amazing our country is. I appreciate so much more about America. When we got to the U.S. Embassy we wanted to go in but unfortunately we didn't have our passports on us so we figured there was no way they would let us in. After walking around there for a while we went to the Hard Rock Cafe. At this point it had been months since either of us had eaten a really good burger, so I was totally craving one. I don't know whether or not it was because it had been so long since I'd eaten a great burger or what, but this burger was the best burger I had ever had. Tasted completely American. And there was free water served with it. And Heinz catchup. So tasty!

Right at 3 we went to the bone church. Inside were several small rooms all covered with human bones--monk bones. It was crazy. Here is link that will tell you all about the history of the church if you're interested:

The next day was Cinco de Mayo. No one had classes the next day because it was a Friday, so we got almost all of our friends from AUR to go to this Mexican bar in the city. The entire bar was packed with people I knew, all American students, a lot of them from Maryland, and it was one of the best nights I had in Rome. It was one of the "last hoo-rahs!" we were all able to have together. We all took pictures wearing ridiculously huge sombreros and had a great time laughing and dancing. We all wanted that night to last a long time. By the end of it I was actually in tears because I realized in a week I was going to have to be saying bye to all of these new friends and to the city I came to love and call my home. Rome was my home, and I'll never be able to forget it.

The last week went by very fast. I went back and visited as many places in Rome as I could while trying to find time to study for finals. The weather was great so I spent most of my time studying outside or at the park. (That's where most of my tan came from for those of you who keep complimenting me on it ;) good ole' Roman sunshine..haha. Thanks!)

On my last day in Rome I made sure that I said goodbye to my favorite thing in Rome. If you don't know this by now, then clearly you haven't been doing a good job following my blog because I know I've said it multiple times. Want to make a guess?? Yes, exactly--Fontana di Trevi. I could stare at the Trevi Fountain for hours. So that last Friday, Blair and I headed to the Trevi, making sure to stop at Giolitti on the way and get a big thing of gelato (banana e fragola), and we made our last wishes at the fountain. I'm sure one day my wish will come true, and once it does I'll try to remember to come back to this blog and let you all know! We sat in front of the Trevi for a little bit, took a few pictures, and then with a tear in my eye I blew a final kiss to the Trevi. I turned around without looking back and I swore to myself that that was not going to be the last time I saw the Trevi Fountain.

That night was our last night out in Rome and it was fun being with everyone one last time. What was even more exciting was getting to the airport the next day and surprisingly seeing almost all of my friends there! I flew home with a bunch of Maryland students so I was expecting to see all of them, but I got to see people who were flying to Michigan and Philly and New York also! It was a nice morning and I was happy to be with all my friends. It was great knowing people on the flight home, too. I made my friend Scott hold my hand during take off because I was crying so much because I was so sad to be leaving Rome. "It's okay Phife! We're going back to the US! How can you be upset?!" I finally calmed down but throughout the whole flight I would randomly tear up. It was a long flight.

When we finally all arrived in the U.S. I was really, really excited to be in America. I wanted to kiss the ground when I got off the plane, but I probably would've been trampled. Everyone was so excited to be home. We spotted the American Flag and everyone cheered. Amuurica!! It was a pretty great feeling. I loved the over head announcement welcoming us back home to the United States when we got in the line to check passports. It took a while to get through, but I finally made it out and met up with my parents. It was great to see them again. I hadn't seen my dad in months! I was so excited to share everything with him and my mom.

They say "All roads lead to Rome." I am certainly glad that my path lead me there so early on in my life. My Roman adventure was an experience I will never forget and will always cherish. I learned about a completely different culture and lifestyle. I learned another language. I made a lot of new friends. I traveled a lot. These were all of my goals going into the semester and I truly feel that I was able to surpass all of them.

It looks like this is the end of my story. Thank you so much for following me through this journey! Just like how "Rome wasn't built in a day," well neither was this blog. I spent a lot of time making it so I hope you enjoyed it. Ciao ragazzi! In bocca al lupo!

Tutto il mio amore,

...stay in Rome for Easter Weekend

Every year people pour into Rome from all over the world for Easter Weekend. Rome's population actually doubles this time of year because of all the visitors. This year the weekend after Easter was Pope John Paul II's beatification. So that entire week was extremely busy in Rome. This also was the same week my mom chose to visit Italy. Perfect.

My mom and sister arrived in Rome on Thursday so after my classes I headed into the city to meet her at the Victor Emmanuel. I got there a little early so I figured I'd go walk down towards the Colosseum because it had been a while since I had last visited it. While I was walking, checking out the ruins that line the street leading to the Colosseum, I ran into one of my roommates. All of my other roommates had just left to go to Greece for the long Easter weekend. So I ran into Dani who was with her friend from home that was visiting, then together we headed back to meet up with my mom and sister. We all talked for a little bit and then my mom, Munchkin (my sister Alex), and I headed to meet Blair and Dom for dinner at Tony's.

We had a delicious meal and it was really nice being able to spend time with my mom and sister. We, of course, has to order my favorite dishes: the chicken parm and the penne alla vodka. The BEST chicken parmesan ever! (Although I will say that Killian made a pretty great chicken parmesan for me one night for dinner. I'm not sure if my chicken pesto pasta that I made him for dinner in return was just as good...but I enjoyed it!) After dinner I headed back with them to their hotel room that was completely on the other side of the city. It took forever to get to and looked like it was in the middle of no where, but it was nice and I was able to spend time with them. I spent the night there and on Friday we got to hang out and go around the city. She and Alex then left Sunday morning to go on a tour through the rest of Italy for a week.

That Friday night, Good Friday, I went with a bunch of friends to go hear the Pope speak at the Colosseum for the stations of the cross. We were all given candles to hold during the service. The entire thing was in Italian, so naturally we didn't understand any of it, but it was a really amazing experience to witness. I got to listen to the Pope speak in Rome!

On Easter Sunday, I got up early and met up with a few of my girl friends--Megan, Maria, and Taylor. The four of us headed to Trastevere for a 10:30 a.m. mass at Santa Maria -- one of the oldest churches in Rome. It was beautiful. I had never been inside it before, but had passed it many times before. Again, the entire service was in Italian, but we enjoyed it and were able to follow along to a lot of it. We sang songs in Italian and even got to witness a baptismal. The baby looked so cute in her white, fancy clothes! Everyone was so excited to celebrate. After church we met up with our friend Ariel and her family. We all went across the piazza to sit and have some champagne that her father generously bought for us. He got two bottles and spent a lot of money on us. It was so nice to sit with a family outside on such a beautiful spring day. We finished up our champagne and Megan, Maria, and I decided that Easter Sunday in Rome would not be complete unless we made a visit to St. Peter's Square. So we headed on to the Vatican.

Luckily by the time we got there the crowd that had been there for the Easter service was gone and we could walk around easily and take pictures. We went through the stations of the cross, and I really felt truly blessed to be spending my Easter in such a wonderful city.

The next few days went by quickly with lots of homework assignments, an exam, and projects due. On Wednesday, I was having one of the worst days in Rome. However, it finally got better once I met up with my friend Baker (Daniel Baker, but everyone calls him Baker) who was visiting me for a few days! He is one of my friends from the Journalism school at Maryland and had been studying abroad in London this semester, so he came to Rome for the last few days of his spring break. It was great having him as a guest! I toured him around the city all day Wednesday, with a stop to get gelato at Giolitti in between, and Thursday while I was in class and working on projects he was able to do a couple tours on his own. Friday we spent the day at the park with Blair and Diane playing cards (As*hole, of course. Our favorite game.) and drinking wine. Springtime in Rome is so beautiful. The weather was perfect. That night I had to take Baker to eat at Tony's. We had another great meal followed with chocolate shots from the chocolate shot bar down the street from Tony's. After that we met up with friends and had a great evening. We were going to call it night later on around midnight after we had been hanging out in Blair's apartment, but neither of us really wanted to call it a night. So I figured it was early enough, why not head to Giolitti before it closed and get gelato one last time before he flew out the next morning?? So we headed to Giolitti! If you ever go to Rome this is a MUST GO TO SPOT. It's right near the Pantheon and has the BEST gelato ever. I'm serious. many agree with me. I was lucky enough to have found out about this place early enough from Killian so that I could go there all semester.

Unfortunately for Baker...we didn't make it in time. We got there at 1:15 a.m. and they closed at 1. It was quite a buzz kill, but I figured since we were over there we might as well go to the Trevi Fountain--my favorite place in Rome. You can't be sad at the Trevi. It is so beautiful, and at night when it's not crowded, you can really enjoy it and all of its beauty.

One thing I had told Baker that I really wanted to do before I left Rome was figure out a way to go swimming in the Trevi. He really liked this idea, and decide that he was going to get in the Trevi Fountain. So, I sat on the stairs right in front of the Trevi and watched as he headed to the right side of the fountain and slowly took off his flip-flops, dipped his toe into the fountain, and then stepped into it. He looked around, starred at the fountain, and then slowly stepped out of it. About two seconds later there were carabinieri coming from all over heading towards him. I sat on the steps watching thinking great...whelp, now I have to go save Baker. I went over to the cop car where they took Baker and tried to translate as much as could. After a little bit of arguing and a 160 euro ticket later, Baker walked out of it. He loves that story and really enjoys being able to say that he has been in the Trevi Fountain. I'm kind of jealous.

Saturday night my mom returned to Rome so Blair and I decided to head to her apartment to meet her and my sister and have dinner with them. We had to take a couple buses which was pretty easy. Once we get off on our final stop I knew we were going to have to walk a bit to the hotel. Little did I know how much walking we were about to do...

We headed in the right direction at first through some neighborhood, then somewhere along the way we got lost. Of course, it starts to rain. Why does it always rain when you're already in a bad situation?? Luckily I had a raincoat on and was prepared; I had to lend Blair my umbrella and a hoody later on. So we are walking in the rain and finally see two guys and ask them how to get to the hotel and they point us in the right direction. We walked for about another 20min and at this point we don't know what to do. My mom wasn't answering her phone and by now we were completely lost. We come across a random gas station and ask this old Italian man if he knew how to get to the hotel. He was so incredibly friendly and told us how to get there and also showed us where we could pick up a bus to take us, even though he said it would be about a ten minute walk from where we were. We go back down the street to the bus stop and find out that the bus either wasn't running or that it was going to take a really long time to come. So we figured we would just walk it. We go back passed the gas station and as we're walking by we hear the little old Italian man shooting, "Signora! Signora! Scussi signora!" We turn around and he's hurrying over towards us. We stop and wait to see what he wants. He quickly goes behind a shed and comes back with a big umbrella and hands it over to me. He tells me to take it and keep it. I was so surprised and it really helped raise my spirits. Here I was walking in the rain for an hour trying to find the hotel my mom was staying in, I was in a terrible mood, and this sweet old man completely brightened up my day! He was so nice!

We eventually arrived at my mom's hotel and ended up having a great evening. We got dinner at this great little Italian restaurant outside of Rome and ate some amazing calzones. We talked a lot and I was so happy to spend time with my mom. Later that night we said our goodbyes and took a cab home. It was May 1st. Only two more weeks left in Rome...

The Amalfi Coast: Sorrento, Capri, Positano, and Pompeii

The Amalfi Coast:

The second week of April we took our last trip of the semester to the Amalfi Coast. We went with Bus2Alps and the trip included visits to Sorrento, Capri, Positano, and Pompeii. We stayed in the same hostel the entire weekend in Sorrento. We got there on Thursday night close to midnight. It was a big room with ten beds. The bathroom was right down the hall and it was really clean and so everything looked nice. But we were pretty confused as to why there were so many bunk beds in our room. We were all pretty tired from the trip so the five of us--Me, Blair, Dom, Jenny, and Melissa--all got ready for bed and went to sleep.

Around 3 a.m. we hear someone at the door trying to get into the room. There is this guy yelling down the hall asking one of his friends for the room key..."ROBBY!! Where's the key! Yo man come on! Do you have the key?? Eh, Robby!". About four or five guys come into the room making so much noise. They realize we are all in the room trying to sleep so they tried to be quiet...but we soon realized that they were hammered and so they kept us up while they were trying to get situated. Yeah we pretty much couldn't stand them at first. We were all supposed to be waking up at 7 a.m. to go catch our ferry that would take us to Capri.

Alarms go off the next morning, and all the guys are passed out in the bunk beds next to us. A little while after we wake up, one of the guys' alarms goes off, and Spanish house music starts playing--it was five American guys from Barcelona where they were studying. They were part of the Bus2Alps group that came for part of their Spring Break trip. They were so obnoxious...but still kind of funny.

We all hurried to go grab breakfast and sign in to go on the boat to Capri. The weather was overcast and a little cooler than we had hoped. The walk down the coast was pretty long, but eventually we made it to the boat. We took a tour around Capri before we got to it, and we also got to go to the famous Blue Grotto. So awesome!

Four at time we had to get into a little tiny boat with this guy and he lead us to the grotto. We all had to lay down in the boat to get inside of it.

Inside was gorgeous. The water was so blue! And clear! The natural light from outside illuminated the water so that it was a really vibrant light blue color.

We were only inside for a few minutes, and it was hard to get a perfect picture, but it was really awesome.

We spent the rest of the day on the island of Capri. It is BEAUTIFUL in Capri. We walked through the stores, tasted lots of limoncello, and took a chair lift to the top of the island. It was a great view, although it was a little cold all the way on the top. We hung out for a while and then rode the rinky-dink chair lift that looked like it was a 100 years old, back down to the town.

The following day, Saturday, we went to Positano where we were all excited to go cliff jumping! It was a beautiful day! The weather could not have been nicer when we woke up and so we saw all of this as a great sign. We got to Positano and had to ride the bus all the way down the mountain side to the beach. I have no idea how these big buses can do it, but we made it. The views of the coast on the way down were so gorgeous. The water was so clear and blue! And I loved all of the colorful small houses that were stacked on top of each other up the mountain side. (I don't know if it was really a mountain...but I don't know what else to call it. It was a lot bigger than a hill, that's for sure.)

We finally got as far down as we could and then we had to walk the rest of the way. It was a really pretty walk through streets lined with flowers of all colors, amazing paintings and pictures being sold, cute tiny shops, and vines all over the place. I ended up not really minding the walk because it was so pretty. We got to the beach and as we were walking to the sand, we ran into something that I will never forget:

He was so cute!! I saw him and I HAD to go see him. One of the cutest puppies I have ever seen. The man he was with was so great too. He let me play with the puppy for so long and gave me his leash and said, "I'm going to head over there for a little bit, you hang out with him for as long as you like!" So the man left me his cute puppy to play with while he talked and ate food with his friend. SO AWESOME! I would've kept the puppy...but I knew that Jack would be jealous when I brought home these ridiculously cute puppy. Jack loves attention. He is the best doggie in the whole wide world, so I didn't want to make him feel bad.

We spent the day hanging out on the beach in Positano because we weren't allowed to go cliff jumping due to the wave currents or something. Such a bummer. But we enjoyed the beautiful views and soaked in some rays. We also had to watch about 50 kids from Barcelona celebrating their Spring Break American style. At one point Blair and I went to go get something to drink and left Melissa to watch our stuff. When we got back, there was a random guy passed out on Blair's towel. We ask Melissa who this guy is, and she turns around and has no idea why he is there. So Blair goes over to the guy, "hello? Hey! Wake up! Hellooo."
Random girl sitting with a group near us: "Hey, just leave him, he's fine."
Blair: "Um, no. He's not."
Random girl: "Hey just leave him! He'll be fine!"
Blair to the passed out gut: "Dude get up! Hiii. Come on!"
Random girl: "He's fine! Just let him lay down."
Blair to the girl: "No...this is my towel. He is on my stuff."
Random girl: "OH! Jamie wake up! Hey come on! Get up!"

So we finally woke up this random man and moved him off of Blair's stuff. But of course...we had to get a picture of it all first:

That was kind of funny haha.

The next day we checked out of our hostel and got on the bus to go to Pompeii. It was a long tour, but we learned a lot. It was sad to see the bodies of people who buried alive. Their bodies were so well intact though, it was amazing. There were still walls left with original art work. Homes were still standing that you could walk through and see what a real home back in those days was like. It was really interesting. The weirdest part was at the end though were you walked through their Red Light District, which is basically the same idea as the one we saw in Amsterdam. It was an old brothel. There were pornographic pictures painted on the walls of the rooms. It was really weird to see that, I had no idea that existed back in those days.

By the end of the trip we were all tired and ready to go back to Rome. It was our last trip so it was sad to know that our semester was almost over, but I was excited to spend the last few weeks in Rome. And, my mom and my sister would be coming soon to visit!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Amsterdam--where anything goes

Amsterdam was one of the craziest cities I visited. It wasn't crazy like Barcelona where people stayed out until 6 a.m. dancing and listening to house music. Amsterdam was "all about business." So, if you could make a business out of something and it would profit the Netherlands economy, then it was pretty much fair game. It was like anything went in Amsterdam. It was weird.

I headed to the airport early on Friday morning with Blair. We were both flying out of Fiuminco, but she was heading to Paris to meet her sister and I, obviously, was heading to Amsterdam where I would be meeting my friend Mark (who you've read about now from my trip to Barcelona) and his two friends Diane and Ceci. This trip was by far my most expensive trip.

Dam Square

I met up with Mark in Dam Square and we walked to our hostel that was really close by. Luckily it was in the perfect location, so we were close to everything. The first day we decided to take a walking tour around the city. We walked down the streets and a lot of it reminded me of Venice. The canals between the buildings and the little bridges were all so pretty to look at. Then right next to the bridge would be a public urinal. Weird. During the tour we headed to the infamous Red Light District. One thing I thought was cool was this one sculpture that was left right before the Red Light District starts. It's a square that at first looks like another stone on the ground, but then you see that it is bronze. It is a sculpture of a hand caressing a breast. It was placed there years ago in the middle of the night to represent the women of the Red Light District. At first the government had it removed, but so many people wanted the sculpture to stay that they had it put back into the ground. It remains there today as a sign and statue to the women of the Red Light District.

Later that night the four of us went on a pubcrawl. It was so much fun! They took us to at least five, maybe seven, different pubs/bars and each one was different than the last. My favorite was one of the first bars we went to where I tried Sambuca for the first time. The bartender was hilarious. We got there and asked for whatever they were serving as the free shot we got on our pubcrawl, and the bartender starts to talk to us and asks us where we are from. "Oh, well I'm studying in Rome for the semester and they are all studying in Barcelona."
Bartender: "Ahh, Roma! So you like Sambuca!?"
Me: "Umm...scussi? What?"
Bartender: "Sambuca!"
Me: "I don't think I've had that yet..."
Bartender: "No?! No Sambuca!" calls over to one of the other bartenders "Ey! This girl is from Italy and she hasn't had Sambuca!"
Other bartender: "Well, give her some!"

So we all got free shots of Sambuca. The lit some on fire in a glass and let me balance it on my hand. It was so cool and the bartenders were great. We had a lot of fun with them. Mark and I really enjoyed ourselves and ended up staying out later than the other girls. We had a nice stroll throughout the city. It was very busy into the late hours of the night, and all the buildings were lit. Things that looked like regular stores during the day, turned out to be popular clubs or bars at night. It was all really neat to experience.

The next day we slept in and then got up to get breakfast. We ended up having a terrible meal and so we had to find a McDonald's to make up for it. Good ole' American Mickey Dees. Luckily the fries taste the same no matter what country you're in. However, we also had to get fries from Amsterdam because apparently that's where the best fries are served. We tried some and they were pretty tasty. Later that day we went to take a tour of Anne Frank's house. This tour was very well done and put together in such an interesting way, but it was very, very sad. It took us a while to get through the whole house, and many parts of it I was close to tears. It was amazing to see what Anne's family went through and so sad to see just how close she was to being freed from her concentration camp. She died just weeks before her camp was freed. Her father, Otto Frank, was the only one in his family to survive.

After getting the tour of Anne Frank's house, we all were pretty tired so we went to a big park and took a nap. Amsterdam has so many flowers and Holland is famous for their tulips--which we got to see first hand the following day at the Tulip Garden!

The Tulip Gardenw as probably my favorite thing about Holland. The park/garden is only open three months out of the year, so I'm so glad that we were there at the right time! There were so many different types of flowers and there were colors everywhere. At one point you can look out and see fields of tulips growing, with windmills in the background. It was gorgeous. We spent most of the day Sunday going around seeing all the flowers and sitting by different ponds and creeks. We even crossed over these cool, giant stepping stones that looked like lily pads. Towards the end of our day at the park we got a late lunch and then took a nap near a creek surrounded by flowers. It was so relaxing. We could've probably slept through our flight if it wasn't for this man that came up yelling at us to "get off the grass!" We all jumped up so fast, looked at the time, and realized we really needed to head to the airport. We headed out of the park, only to find that there was an extremely long bus line. It would've taken over an hour to wait for a bus. There was no way we were going to get to our flights in time. We went and checked out cab prices--way too expensive. So...I made my way to the front of the line, got up right to the bus driver, sounded as desperate as I could (looking like I was about to cry), and said, "Excuse sir, I am so sorry but we are all freaking out because we have to be at the airport in 30min so that we can catch our flight! We don't know what to do. Can you please, please help us out!" I stood there ready to release waterworks if I had to. "Alright, you four get on. But you're going to have to stand and let everyone else have the seats." Mark loved it. He tells me he loves how I always can get my way and really enjoys how assertive I am. I take after my mom.

Side story...When we were in Barcelona we were at this one club and Mark and I went to go get drinks at the bar. The bartender was a girl so I told Mark that he should stand and ask for the drinks because he would probably be served before I was. Apparently the girl wanted nothing to do with him, so I stepped up and tried to get her attention. She helped out the man to my right, then the man to my left, then went down the other end of the bar. I stood there patiently trying to get her attention. Finally she comes back and starts to get the order from the man that has just appeared next to me. So I go, "Hey, hey, hey! Hold on a minute lady. I've been waiting here way before this man here, it is my turn, not his." She gave me a dirty look, took my order, and we got our drinks without leaving a tip. Mark thought it was great haha.

So we make it to the airport with a little time to spare, we said our goodbyes, and I told Mark I'd see him state-side in a little over a month. I got back to the airport and met up with Blair who had landed about an hour before me and we took the a cab home, swapping stories about our weekends. It would've been cool to go to Paris...but I guess now I have an excuse to go back to Europe!

Monday, May 2, 2011

..."don't you wanna Malta, Malta!"

MALTA - Best weekend ever.

After a week of class coming back from Spring Break, we realized we needed a vacation. So Blair, Dom, and I decided to take the guys' advice and enjoy the beaches of Malta. To be honest, I had never even heard of Malta until our very handsome friend AJ told us about it. He is half Maltese ("like the dog!" I said). But he doesn't look like a Maltese dog...he actually looks exactly like Chuck Bass...

Anyway, so we headed off to Malta! None of us really knew what to expect, and little did we know what we were in for with our hostel situation. So we arrive in Malta early Friday morning and take a taxi to our hotel. It took us a second to realize that we were driving on the left side of the road. That was weird. But it made sense once we found out that Malta used to be part of the British Empire after the Treaty of Paris. Small history lesson for you there. So naturally, everyone had British accents in Malta. At least they all spoke English! That was a huge plus for the weekend.

So we got to our hostel...which ended up not exactly being a hostel. Blair had found this place off of so we assumed it would be similar to all the other hostels we had stayed at. However, this was a lady's house. Carla was her name. Carla was quite the character, too. She was extremely welcoming! She had a lovely house that was nicely kept and clean. Even though it wasn't what we expected, we had heard of this happening to friends before, so we went with it and thought it would be an experience. And trust me, it was quite the experience.

So Blair and I got our own room and Dom had one for himself. There was a main bathroom that everyone shared right next to Carla's room. (Yeah...flashback to Psycho.) The kitchen was great and stocked with food. After a quick tour of the house, we headed off to find the beach! About an hour and a crazy bus ride later, we found it. And it was beautiful.

Our goal for the weekend was to spend as much time laying out on the beach as possible. So after spending the rest of the day on the beach on Friday, we went home for the evening to freshen up and walk around in St. Julian's where we were staying. It was a pretty relaxing night and the three of us just ended up sitting on the beach for a few hours talking.

Saturday, we got up early, ate a delicious breakfast prepared for us by Carla (which included American cereal that was AWESOME. For those who don't know, I could live off of cereal, and I hadn't had a bowl of cereal in months), and headed to the beach. We got to spend the entire day on the beach and it was AMAZING. The sand was perfect, the water was kind of cold, but you could get used to it after a little while. We ate lunch at this really good place that had burgers. So awesome to taste burgers--something we definitely hadn't had in Italy. After a nice, relaxing day on the beach we went back to get ready to go out that night in Paceville.

While getting ready to go out...Carla decides to single me out and I hear here calling my name in her British accent from down the hallway. "Oh look, dear! There's an American on the tele!" Cool? What do I say to that? Well this is what I said: "Oh yeah! Neat." And there I was stuck for for 45min talking to this lady about her "bloody, hell of a life." Turns out her husband died years ago, she inherited a ton of money, her kids want the money so a few years back they tried to poison her, "she hasn't made love to a man in 8 years" (which for some reason she kept on bringing up), and I basically heard her whole life story. The lady was crazy. Is crazy, actually. However, one thing we did pick up from Carla was how she always used the phrase "the blah, blah." For example: "okay you two girls can take one bedroom and you Damien can take the other room. Unless of course two of you are doing the blah blah." First off, she kept calling Dom, Damien. Secondly, the "blah blah" ranged from a whole sort of things...who knows what she actually ever meant by it. Anyway, after listening to her talk for 45min, I was released and went back into the room with Dom and Blair where they consoled me after being alone with that nut job for so long. Still can't believe they didn't come get me...oh well. Off we went to Paceville!

Paceville is an area in St. Julian's that is the center for night life. I have no idea how many bars and clubs there were on that street, but it was a ton! We probably went in to at least ten different places that night and there were many others we could have gone in. One of the ones we went into was really fun and we saw these guys and girls all break dancing. That place stuck out too because for a while we really could not find the exit. So we formed a chain and the three of us joined hands in order not to get lost and finally found this staircase that led us out. It was a weird staircase with a bunch of gears, like the inside of a clock, on the wall. Kind of cool.

So we headed to the next place which was so nice. Every drink in the place was like 15 euro and it was so obvious that we did not fit in there. But, naturally, we acted like we owned the place and Blair and I ordered our normal round of tequila shots. A few bars and clubs later, we got to one that we knew Dom would enjoy, so Blair and I, being the awesome friends we are, bought him a present for being so good to us on the trip and doing well hanging out with the girls. I can't say what the gift was, but he loved it. It was funny too because right after treating him for hanging out with us girls, we walked outside to go to another club, and there were our guy friends! Five of our close guy friends (Zach and Anthony from UMD and AJ, Wade, and Clint from MSU) studying with us in Rome were in Malta for the weekend, too. We knew that they were there, but it had been really hard to get in touch with them. So that was a lovely little surprise. We spent the rest of the night with them and had a lot of fun. Sadly for them they had an early flight the next morning. Surprised they made it, too. Luckily for us, we decided to save on air fare and come back Monday night. (at least we thought we saved on airfare...)

So on Sunday we took an adventure to the Blue Grotto. That was a very long bus ride. Three bus rides actually. But so worth it. The views were amazing.

We climbed down to the water and got tickets to get a boat ride to the Blue Grotto. Honestly, the clearest water I have ever seen. It looked like you were looking into a deep, crystal clear swimming pool--but prettier. The caves were so cool, too. That was an awesome boat ride.

After that we ate lunch and went to lay out and nap on the side of the cliffs. The view was just breath taking. We jammed out to my iPod for a while, and finally headed back around 5 to catch the last bus. Turns out the last bus left at 4:45. Perfect. So we got to walk all the way into town where we could get a bus that would take us back to St. Julian's. Once we finally arrived at the bus stop in the town (which was so completely deserted it was creepy), we met three Italian guys that were our age. Their names were Matteo, Matteo, and Leonardo. They were so awesome! Leonardo spoke perfect English and the other two Matteo's were pretty good as well. They were on a trip for the weekend like we were, but they came to rock climb on the cliffs. They were very adventurous type dudes. We rode the next couple buses back with them to Paceville which took a couple hours, so we got to talk to them a lot.

On our last day in Malta, we got up early to go to the beach. We stayed for a few hours and then headed to the airport for our evening flight back to Rome. We go to check in and the lady makes me weigh my bags, and it turns out that mine was too heavy to take as a carry-on. Luckily I was allowed one free 20lb bag to check. So I give the lady my passport for her to print out my ticket and sign me in or whatever she has to do, and she tells me that she can't find my name on the passenger list. So I show the lady my printed out itinerary I got from my confirmation e-mail. "Oh, yes see here?" she says. I look at the ticket. "You're return flight is for next Monday." Jaw drops. In my mind I'm thinking, no way can I spend another week with Carla. Get me to ROME! Blair felt really bad for booking the wrong return flight for me, so she ended up paying for a new ticket so I could go back with them. I felt terrible. 108 extra euro just so I could get back home that day.

Despite the mess up with the flight, it was probably one of my favorite trips I've ever taken. (That and Disneyworld in 3rd grade was pretty life changing.)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Spring Break trip to Greece!


This year for Spring Break I had the lovely opportunity of going to Greece for a week. It was such a great time that it was so hard to come back and have to go to school. However, by the end of the break we were all looking forward to going back home to Rome. We've all grown so used to our lovely Italian homes! It's a nice feeling coming back from a trip and finally getting back to Rome. I'm definitely going to miss it...this has been the greatest semester ever.

Back to Spring Break. So our first part of the Greece trip was to Corfu. It's a lovely little island with cool mountains and beautiful water and beaches. The trip to get there however was not as lovely. First we had to take a bus from Rome to get to the ferry boat/cruise ship that would take us to Corfu. The bus ride was about 5hrs or so, and the ferry ride was 14hrs. Blair, Dom, and I did not pay the extra for the cabin upgrade. Big mistake. The other four guys we were traveling with did though and so they got a lovely night's sleep. Despite the lack of beds, we had a great time on the boat. There was a dance club area to go to in the evening, and nice places to eat for dinner. We were able to watch a beautiful sunset as well.

Once we landed in Greece we had to walk for what felt like miles in the rain with our luggage for 15min to get to another ferry boat that would take us to Corfu. That was terrible walking there. But that ferry boat was only an hour and a half. So finally after close to a full day of traveling we got to Corfu and arrived at the Pink Palace -- hot spot for college students on Spring Break.

The first day in Corfu, five of us rented ATVs so that we could easily explore the rest of the island. The group was led by Tour Guide Wade (not a real tour guide, just one of the Michigan State kids studying in Rome) who ended up getting us lost more than once. Three of us -- Clint, Wade, and I -- all got the bigger ATVs that were a LOT faster than Blair and Diane's little baby ones that slowed us down very often...lame. (haha)

On our little private excursion, we got to check out some amazing views and meet some friendly people, including the cutest old man I have ever seen. He was 95 years old and had no problem climbing up the same mountain as us.

We headed to Corfutown to grab lunch and see the major city of the island. On the way there we had a little bit of minor accident though...

So Wade decided to pull the group over and stop to make sure we were going the right way. Behind him, Clint made a turn and stopped a little too abruptly for Blair...who ended up crashing into the back of Clint's ATV and taking off his rear blinker light. Watching the whole thing happen was probably one of the funniest things ever. The back light flew into the air! And luckily Blair's ATV didn't flip, but the whole thing was just so funny to watch. Shocker...Blair crashed an ATV.

While in Corfu we got to go to a Pink Toga party which was a lot of fun and everyone looked great, including the guys in their pink togas (that they basically wore as capes).

After Corfu we headed to Athens. After barely getting any sleep on that ferry ride, we took a nap for a few hours then went on a walking tour of the city. We saw a bunch of things including the Olympic Stadium, the Temple of Zeus, and the Acropolis. Seeing the Parthenon was unreal, and standing up at the top and looking out onto the city, you really felt like you were on top of the world. We were all really happy that we forced ourselves to get up from our naps and take the walking tour.

While staying in Athens, we took a day trip to Aegina. It is a beautiful island off of Greece. There we rented scooters for the day...which was awesome! This time Dom was able to join us (AJ was sick so she couldn't come and Drew "has two ATVs back at home" so he wasn't going to rent one) so it was the same five who rented the ATVs and Dom. He was kind of lucky that the owner of the scooter store really did not care that he didn't have his drivers license with him. Don't worry Mom and Dad, it was a completely safe trip...for the most part. We'll get to that part later...(don't scroll ahead. Clearly we're all still alive)

So we started off nice and easy (for some reason it took me a lot longer to get the hang of it). The boys were naturals which was really annoying at first. Diane took it nice it always. Blair...well Blair is Blair. What do you think happened?

We had been driving along for only a little while, checking out the scenery and stopping here and there to take some pictures, and we decided to head a little farther out. So we turn onto one street, and all of a sudden you hear a loud cry out behind us and I see Clint and Wade's faces behind me just gasp, so I look behind and Blair is sprawled out in the middle of the road yelling, "oooo I'm okay! Gahhh wow I'm fine!" Many of you I'm sure are reading this thinking oh no she could be really seriously hurt! Yeah...well I started dieing laughing. It was clear that she wasn't seriously hurt and it just looked so funny seeing her bike on the ground and she's just laying in the road. Typical Blair. Besides a sweet scar and a bruised up knee, she really was fine...just a little sore for the rest of the trip. But as she likes to point out "at least [her] leggings didn't rip!" Haha...she's awesome.

So Aegina was a great day trip. We got lost for a while...shocker...but made it back to the ferry with enough time to get some delicious fruit smoothies. Something I had been craving for a while. They don't sell smoothies in Rome. Probably because if you get a strawberry and banana gelato, it tastes like you're eating a smoothie. So delicious.

Once we were back in Athens, we got ready and had an amazing dinner. We went to this cute restaurant, with great food, and endless wine. Always a plus! :) We all had a great night, to say the least.

I almost forgot one main part about Greece, something we remember most, our new favorite game: As*hole. (Sorry Mom and Dad for the language...but that's just the name of the game, I didn't create it.) What a great game it is, too. However, the first night that all seven of us in our group played together on the boat, we had a pretty epic fight. Let's just say...Dom was not my favorite person at the time. It was a pretty intense fight, one that we all remember from time to time...and I always get nervous when Dom and I play that game together. He can be difficult to say the least. (Love you Dom!) Despite the arguing, we finally made up...and then fought again...and it was a pretty unforgettable night. Afterward, Blair and I only allowed AJ and Wade to hang out with us for the rest of the night because the caused the least amount of drama. But the next morning we all hugged and made up. Yay! Alls well that ends well.

And our Greece trip did end very well. So we arrived back in Rome with a few days left to enjoy before going back to bene!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

...don't go to Florence and buy fake gelato. Just buy leather.

Alright sorry's been quite a while. The second to last trip we took was with the school to the Tuscany region. We went for three days and visited three different places: Pisa, Florence, and Trequanda.

So Friday morning we got up early, went to school, and took a bus to Pisa. Surprisingly I was able to sleep most of the way there so it didn't feel like that long of a ride. (Thanks Zach for being my pillow!) When we arrived in Pisa we were immediately preyed on by a whole bunch of men trying to sell us jewelry and sunglasses. In case you didn't know...sunglasses are my weakness. As soon as they pulled out the Ray Bans I started bargaining. Luckily I got them down to a great price of 10euro for a really nice pair. (Sadly I lost these day one of my Greece some, lose some. Lost a lot in Greece.)

So I'm rocking my new shades and we head to the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa. That literally is the only interesting thing in Pisa. The city takes about five minutes to see. (Not really, but it is tiny.) So we had a delicious lunch in Pisa, drank some wine, ate great food, and headed back to the Tower to take some awesome pictures! For example:

classic picture of me saving Pisa :)

So Pisa was a LOT of fun. Day two (Saturday) we headed to Florence, where I proceeded to spend lots and lots of money on leather. Shocker.

Florence was so pretty! We took a tour of the city and saw some beautiful churches including the Duomo:

Afterward we got some good Pisa and were all craving gelato! We had walked by this place earlier that looked delicious and have gelato and waffles with Nutella. So we head to there and we each order our gelato with waffles and Nutella. As I'm ordering I ask the lady how much it's going to be and she just responds "every one is different." So I'm like oh okay, well right I guess she's just going to weigh it or something. She didn't give me an option for sizes and I didn't see any on display. So I get to the register...20euro for this dessert. I almost threw the gelato at the lady. It was absurd! And then after spending that much, it wasn't even good gelato! The banana flavor tasted like a Laffy Taffy! So nasty. And the waffles with Nutella was not as delicious as it sounds. So depressing. Such a let down.

After being extremely upset and bitter about my dessert, we headed to the leather market in hopes of finding lots of goodies. Which we did. Lots of them.

First purchase: leather belt. Very nice and very necessary. After that I bought some AMAZING leather gloves that were so well priced AND with cashmere lining. Then I bought a cute T-shirt and a scarf. Then the big purchase: adorable leather bag that smells so good.

From there we headed to the famous bridge in Florence -- Ponte Vecchio. There we took pictures by the Arno River. Along the river there are changes with locks all over them, very similar to ones we saw in Prague. These locks have been left by people who use the lock as a symbol of their love. Together a couple with lock the lock onto the chain and throw away the key into the river so that their love is in a way permanently bound. So beautiful :)

Once we got to the Ponte Vecchio I was in search of finding a piece of jewelry that I would always remember as something I bought from Italy. I found a really gorgeous ring and spent quite a bit of money one, but I love it and wear it pretty much every day. That was one of my favorite buys thus far.

After spending the day in Florence we said good bye and headed back to our awesome hotel. There we received a delicious five course meal! Both nights the dinner was delicious and included great pasta and salad and wine and different meats. I was very, very please with the hotel we stayed in. The school did a wonderful job choosing a place to stay. And it was really fun being with a lot of our friends from school.

The last day we went to Trequanda for our wine tasting tour and it was BEAUTIFUL. We got there and everyone just went, "so...why didn't we just come here all weekend?" The view was to die for and I honestly could have spent so long just sitting down and looking out at the Tuscany region.

Unfortunately by this day my camera battery died so I couldn't take as many pictures as I wanted. However, go on my Facebook and check out the views and pictures I'm tagged in because they are so pretty! Trequanda was a great last day. I had the most delicious meal there and some amazing chicken and pasta. It was heavenly. And we also learned how to make pasta! Unfortunately...I forgot how to. But it was really fun making some!

Within the next few days I plan to blog about Greece, but that one is going to be a long post and might take a while because we went a few places, it was spring break so there is a lot to talk about, and I want to upload a LOT of pictures to that.

So long for now!

Ciao Ragazzi!