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!