Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Three beautiful places in three days

Saturday we went to Siena as a group. Siena was the first place in Italy I've seen that seems untouched. Although it's a popular tourist destination it has still kept its little town feel.

Sunday Tara and I left the hotel by 7 am to take two trains for two hours to go to Cinque Terre in the Italian Riviera. It was honestly the most beautiful place I've ever seen. We hiked for about six hours traveling to each of the five towns. I took tons of pictures, although they don't do it justice. But here are some of the pictures anyway.

Doing a cartwheel on Monterosso beach for good luck before we head out.

Monterosso in the background.

Both pictures are of Vernazza, the second town we stopped at. It was my favorite. It seemed to be the smallest. There were only about three restaurants opened because it was a Sunday, so we ended up just getting gelato.

Corniglia. This was about the time we started feeling the pain. Tara's feet were killing her because she was just wearing a pair of Converse.


The sunset at Riomaggiore, the fifth and final town. We hung around here for a litle bit waiting for the train to take us back to Florence. Unfortuntaly, there was a train strike on Sunday. It didn't affect us going to Cinque Terre, but it did going back. We got stuck in the Pisa train station for three hours. We finally got back to Florence around 10 pm and stopped at our favorite pizza place near the hotel.

Of course I had to get another Coca Cola Light after hiking for six hours.

Monday the whole group went to Pisa after class. It was cool seeing the Leaning Tower, but I'm glad we were only there for a few hours.

Tomorrow we head to Venice for the weekend. It should be interesting because Carnivale will be going on.

Friday, January 25, 2008

I guess there are some drawbacks...

So I've encountered two major problems traveling with such a large group to a foreign country. First, someone brought over a cold from the States, and now it is slowly spreading through the group. I thought I might be able to dodge it, but unfortunately I was not that lucky. Tara and both my roommates got it earlier in the week, and now I am experiencing it. I skipped my first class today, a momentous occasion that I hope won't become a regular occurence.

The other problem is a little more serious. We're staying in a four star hotel while in Florence for three weeks, but a group of 150 students from the U.S. just screams easy targets. We all found that out the hard way the other night. We have dinner every night from about 8 pm to 930 pm downstairs in the hotel restaurant. Professionals have been canvassing the hotel learning our schedule. As we went back to our rooms the other nigth after dinner, several students discovered their rooms had been broken into and valuables stolen. Cameras, jewelry, clothes, etc. were all stolen. Thankfully my room was not one of the 10 broken into. It turns out it was an inside job. Someone at the hotel copied a master key and now can get into every room. The key system is also flawed because they only have one key per hotel room so you have to leave it at the front desk everytime you go out and pick it up when you need to get back to to the room. But the hotel workers do not ask for ID, so I could go up and ask for any room key and they wouldn't know it wasn't my room. A little worrisome, but I have started locking my things in our safe or carrying them with me. My laptop is too big for the safe, though.

Tara, my roommate Annalis and I hung out with some Italian guys last night that Annalis had met earlier in the week. It was very interesting. The guy that Annalis liked spoke about 10 words in English, and Annalis knows about 10 words in Italian. Made for an interesting night.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A juggler outside of my school.

Yesterday we walked up the Hills of Florence at dusk. These are some of the pictures.

Some of the steps we walked up.

A typical lunch

I can't believe it's been a week. It seems so short yet so long. We do so much during the day and walk so much that by the time dinner is over (around 9:30), all I want to do is go to sleep. This weekend we are going to Siena on Saturday, and I think Tara and I are going to take a bike tour through the hills of Tuscany on Sunday.

Monday, January 21, 2008


I have to upload pictures at the school, and the Internet is very slow. I'm only going to be able to upload two from London since the school closes soon. Hopefully I'll be able to post some more soon or once I get to Rome in three weeks.

Eating fish and chips

London Natural History Musuem

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Wow is all I can say

What a whirlwind of a week. This is the first time I have had a chance to get on the computer, and I am not able to post pics yet. We dont have free Internet in our hotel so I am at an Internet cafe with Tara and another friend, Matt.

I spent Wednesday and Thursday in London. It was crazy. There are about 150 people in the program (guy to girl ratio, 1 to 15). While in London I ate my first meal of fish and chips (I will post a pic asap), toured all the major sights and saw the musical Wicked. I am glad I got to see and experience all that in London, but it was all very, very tiring.

Friday we took a flight to Rome and then a four hour bus ride to Florence. Luckily, the plane incident at Heathrow airport the day before didnt cause any problems for my flight, but another group had their flight cancelled and had to stay another night in London. My group got in about midnight Friday night.

Yesterday we had an art tour and saw the duomo and all of the major sights. We all had dinner together and then I walked around town with some of the people here. I got hit on by my first Italian guy as I sat outside the hotel with a friend I had just made. Of course the Italian guy was really a 40ish transplant from Egypt who was very disappointed when I told him I was 22. He was sad I was not younger. Creepy, but funny.

Today we took another walking tour to see where our school for the next three weeks is and where we can go shopping, etc. We then had lunch and orientation. Its been nice having the meals with all of the people in the program. Theyve been sitting us down and giving us three course meals over 1 or 2 hours. Its definitely different than in the US.

My time is almost up, but I will post again soon. Hope everyone is having fun in America!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Can you say smushed?

I fit the next four months of my life in these bags

Sunday, January 13, 2008

It's almost here!

In less than 24 hours I will be on a plane to Chicago and then London. I'm busy packing, trying to fit four months worth of clothes and necessities into one bag.

I hope to use this blog to posts pictures and write about my adventures as I navigate my way through Italy and western Europe. Please feel free to write comments!