Sunday, December 11, 2011


So I know that I said I was finished writing, and I really should be since this thing called finals is coming up....but you know me, anything to avoid starting to study....but really, anything. Which brings us to now. I would give an account of my last few days, only they haven't happened yet or at least what I have done this week would not even fill a paragraph and I will prove it:

I caught up on all of my TV shows that I will never watch when I get back to W&L. I went gift shopping for almost 4 hours and bought everything which I have been procrastinating getting all at once, ensuring great deals. Then since no one wanted to go out to eat (and I was trying so hard to spend all of my money...I guess I will just have to keep some) I ate an entire pizza (to go), fudge, and port...and then had a crepe later. Not to mention that I more or less got proposed to that night, sweet, only I really don't think I speak enough Italian, and so that was my cue to leave. Ok so I guess my life can fill 1 paragraph...but really for being abroad that is sort of pathetic. Oh well, I threw a coin into the Trevi and that worked well for me last time, so I am sure that I will be back.

So what to fill the rest of this blog about Portugal! (since every other sentence I mention port...) Porto, Portugal was a unexpected pleasure. I booked it with two lovely friends early on, but I had not had a chance to see either of them since well before Fall Break and it was more their trip so I had no idea what to expect. What I got was a lovely weekend with the best food, port, churches, and company.

The trip started at the worst possible moment, once again early on we had thought cheap 6am flights were a good in wake up at 3:30 to get to the airport...hmmm. So we got there in the midst of pouring rain, exhausted. But the city looked beautifully mysterious in the midst of the rain. (Once again my camera was not so good, because I forgot a charger...but I am just going to take my friend, the photographer's photos..perfect fix). The churches in Portugal are covered in these beautiful tiles, a very different look from Baroque Rome. Ok so the days blur together somewhat (because we did a lot of the same things each day) so I will summarize them here:
- delicious food, such as melt i your mouth roles (better even than crescent roles!), and several other wonderful things that I do not know the names of
- again so many churches
-beautiful scenery, with one drawback....everything was a huge hill! It reminded me of San Francisco, but without the trolleys (things on a map always seem so much closer when they don't mention hills)
- cheap shopping! Also did I mention that they had a real mall complete with food court, H&M, a store that seemed to be a mix between urban/american eagle/something, and Christmas decorations??
- so many amazingly deep conversations about faith, beliefs, and desires from life

Things which stand out: Port tasting
So we crossed the windiest bridge ever which was designed by Monsieur Eiffel, before he built his tower.  Then we started what we thought was a simple task of finding a wine tour/tasting in English...and preferably for free. This was actually a really difficult assignment near the water, so we started hiking uphill. Only we misread the map and probably actually walked an extra mile, and after almost giving up at least five times (and after stating "I refuse to go uphill anymore" at least 4 times) we finally found "Taylor's" which was owned by an Englishman. The port was good, but not amazing, what was amazing was sitting down for 5 minutes....and the satisfaction of finally finding it! Then we walked downhill (because literally everything on that side of the river/sea was downhill from us at this point) and went to an adorable place where we each ordered a tasting of port with a certain type of food. I had the rouge with chocolate...or at least that is what I thought that I was getting. What actually came was so much better! It was little espresso beans covered in amazing chocolate, coated in cocoa. Heaven in your mouth. Unfortunately after this we had to walk back uphill to get to our hostel, but it was definitely worth it.

This was followed by a shopping spree (since my boots did break) and a nap at the hostel (oh and did I mention that this is the best hostel I have ever seen? It was a private room with drawers and doors that locked/unlocked using a computerized bracelet? I felt like a super cool spy all weekend. Further the hostel had only opened a week ago so it was uber clean, uber cheap, and the staff were all still really excited about working there. Not to mention the free wifi, computers, and breakfasts.

Last story to end on (which is the reason why I love port). The three of us did some sightseeing Sunday before we had to leave. We were considering taking a train along the coastline to see it, when it suddenly started raining. We walked down along the wharf until it started pouring and so we ducked into an adorable restaurant to wait for the rain to die down. They probably hated us but we just ordered port and appetizers. We tried the 'tawny' flavor which was suppose to be a deeper, wood flavor (I just had assumed that I would prefer the sweet dessert ports) As we peered out at the sea from our warm, second story window and had a life chat with our port in hand, I fell head over heels in love with port. And so when I found that exact make in the airport, I immediately bought it. And it has become a wonderful reward system for me. When I finish a big assignment, I get to have a glass with dinner or while I watch a movie....I am definitely going to miss being able to legally drink (although I looked into importing this import, and it would cost around 120 euros to maybe its best that I just enjoy here....)

And that is how the relatively unknown city of Porto became one of my favorite trips of the entire term.

Ciao for now

P.S. there might be a few more posts, depending on how deep my procrastination runs, and if I run out of tv shows to catch up on....

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

La Mia Esperienza

Ok so let’s be real. I am not going to blog about all of the places that I visited. I completely intended to….but there is not really any point now since soon I will be home to tell the stories in person. So this is rather a rapping up of sorts. Today I had my last class and took my Italian final. It was an entirely surreal experience….I feel like I should be going home now. Instead, I have a 6 day weekend and four finals and packing. I can’t decide if I love this weekend since there are a lot of things that I still want to do and I certainly still need to get the rest of my gifts which I have been avoiding for the last 3 months, but I am actually ready to go home (Yes, ME).

I have had evaluations for just about every aspect of being abroad, and they have certainly made me think about the experience. During my final, I had to write about what I liked and disliked in Rome (in Italian…). And honestly I am afraid that I am going to be bored to tears. I am currently completely exhausted and the idea of traveling to one more hotel/hostel makes me never want to leave my bed, and yet I am sure that the moment I am fully rested and sitting in Nac or Lex I am not going to know what to do with my time. And obviously the work at W&L is going to be so much more time consuming than here (especially since I am overloading with research). Yet the idea of spending all of my time studying or just going to frat houses is bleak indeed.  (Though I am excited for Southern guys, and I am so ready to go back to smiling at guys without getting catcalls.) But just walking home from school, I walk along the Tiber and pass several important things: Castel San Angelo, Farnese Palace, and several ancient bridges and fountains. 

Further, here every weekend is a completely new adventure. I have been forced to figure out how to get around, and in countries where I do not speak a word of the native language. This is, as I said, exhausting, but it also forces you to grow as a person. I know more about what I like, what I dislike, and especially what I need. I am also at least a bit more assertive now, which I think is definitely a good thing. And while I am so ready for all of the amenities of home, there is something satisfying about feeling like you are getting by on the minimum….learning to deal without an oven, dryer, or coffee maker for example….oh right and long, hot showers.

The thing that I have perhaps dwelt upon the most of late, however, is the question as to which culture has it more right.   In my “Rome as a Living Museum’ class the Italian professor introduced us to some very famous Thomas Cole paintings to compare with the mindset of Rome: ‘The Course of Empire’. These are fascinating. Cole is an American naturalists/naturists who conceived the idea for this series while studying the ruins in Rome. The first painting shows a very early settlement at dawn. This represents the beginning of a civilization. Then there is a morning painting of a pastoral  scene where humans and nature are at one and you see the figures starting to draw out equations and other scientific discoveries/occupations. At noon it shows a culture in its ‘peak’ filled to overflowing with great marble monuments (many taken from Rome). The afternoon scene is this same civilization being destroyed by fire. Finally at sunset, you see the land retaking civilization with only a single column visible to show the world what once was. This seemed truly inspired….and so the question is: What is the highest point a culture can reach? Perhaps when a culture is richest is not actually the apex. This also made me dwell on just how many people truly were privileged during the apex of Roman culture, and the list is not very long. So should the aim of civilization actually be humble simplicity and happiness as Cole suggests? I don’t know, but I am certainly rethinking success on a personal as well as global level. Must every civilization go through these phases? When is God most honored?

I have also been thinking a lot recently about relationships, and maturity. I really like a lot of people who I have met here, but I feel that most of these friendships developed more for conveniences’ sake. And I honestly do not see me going out of my way to visit anyone, and I am sure no one else will be heading to Lex anytime soon. And perhaps this is the inevitable when you go somewhere for only 3.5 months and know that you will never see any of these people again and yet it feels very sad. It definitely made me appreciate the deep friendships I have developed at home and at school. I am apparently very picky about friendships, but perhaps I need to become more open-minded about who I consider a friend, but maybe not….maybe this is just growing up.

Ok so now I think I have written a novel as it is so I am going to abbreviate the last of it. " Here are a few of my favorite things"... I have a new appreciation for Port and it will probably be culture shock not to order wine with dinner. I am going to miss walking along the Tiber, though I guess the beauty of the Appalachians will have to suffice. I would say that I will miss randomly bursting out in song, but I am pretty sure that my friends at home do that too haha. I will definitely miss trying to dissect a new cultural approach, and yet I think this experience is going to make more perceptive to what exactly American culture is.

So again I apologize for not telling more stories of travels but I will say that I absolutely loved every city I visited, just in different ways. Barcelona is fun, Munich is efficient, Santorini is gorgeous, Athens is rugged and historic, Istanbul is exotic, Amalfi is relaxing, Vienna is elegant, Salzburg is quaint, Milan is fashionable, Venice is mysterious, Florence is renaissance, London is classy and more like home, and Rome…? Rome is truly a living museum, but one that seems to me to have stopped growing for the most part since the end of WWII. And now though there are so many more places that I want to go to (and places I want to return, Turkey this summer anyone??), I am ready to go home. In 9 days I will be back in Texas and I could not be more excited!!

P.S. I am about to get ready for an american style Christmas party (aka tacky christmas sweaters and giant wrapping bows) and even though I am sort of over being abroad I am excited to be american for at least a night, silly though it is

P.P. S. Since a picture is worth a million words, here are some pictures which I think epitomize my term.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Hills are Alive

Oct. 13-16
So this lovely trip was sandwiched between Barcelona and Fall Break, aka midterms week. In fact I organized the day trip of sorts to Salzburg when I was supposed to be studying for my Italian midterm, thank goodness all is well that ends well. But to properly tell this story there are a few beginning details: I lost my debit card 20 minutes before we were supposed to leave for the airport, I realized our hostel only took cash, and I had been attempting to coordinating seeing a family friend who lived there for quite a while.
            So yes as I was running home to grab my backpack and get to the airport, I attempted to take cash out for the trip. The ATM was out of cash and somewhere between this attempt and setting down my purse, I lost my debit card, it was not in my wallet! I searched in literally almost everything multiple times but had not found it when Morgan insisted we go. Ironically we were early….but to be fair we had no idea yet how long it would take to get to Fiumcino airport. No worries, Morgan was going to loan my money the next day. So I spend normally Thursday night, and pay for the room, buy food, etc. Friday we were supposed to meet up with two friends from Rome and another of their friends that afternoon. We got a jump on the day however and started wandering around Vienna to get a sense of it. It was definitely the coldest place yet, the weather going from the 40s-50s. I did actually bring a real coat, but had forgotten what that weather felt like and therefore wore tights – not warm at all! For the fun of it (and to stay warm) I think we stopped in no less than 3 cafes and I got something with Morgan at all of them. We walked my Mozart’s house, several cute Viennese stores, and the giant museum complex where we entered the private rooms of Empress Elizabeth. We are all very different personalities, and yes we all loved that exhibit and immediately attempted to look her up back at our hostel. Morgan and I even searched for a book on her, but the only good one was note yet on kindle….so that will just have to wait for the states I suppose.
            Around this time our friends finally answered their phones and we attempted the long process of finding them so that we could get the key to our room from them (same hostel, switched rooms).
(You should also know that by this time I am panicking, because Morgan’s card isn’t working….and no one else apparently brought a debit card, only credit and a quickly dwindling supply of cash since the hostel, and all of Europe, only took cash.) I will attempt to leave out all of the rest of the drama with money, but suffice it to say that as fun as Vienna was, it was also one of the most stressful experiences of my life in some senses and that I hope to always be more considerate to those in even temporary need. I felt impoverished and ate only bread and soup all weekend once I realized that I had no money. It was also extremely isolating, which I am sure is more just my personality, hating (with a passion!) to impose at all, and yet I was forced to continually. So….

We found them but decided that it would be a waste of time to go back. Instead we took a delightful ride in a carriage and found a great little restaurant where we were literally given our own tiny, personal room for dinner. It was great company (minus the whole money stress thing, which no one seemed to get…). The next day we did the most amazing thing ever: Sound of Music tour in Salzburg! The Sound of Music is a historical tale, and the family was really from Salzburg, Austria. We got to go around many of the real sights, as well as though used for the movie. This included a sojourn up into a little Victorian, mountain town, where we had toaster strudel and danced around the green fields singing (Rome makes you forget that green exists…). Again, marvelous!
That night I was able to meet up with a lovely girl who I met through my best friend in the world at W&L. Small world? I had just missed her in Munich and was so glad to get to have dinner with her in Salzburg. Sunday we had several hours to go explore….however not only were we really tired, but almost everything in Vienna is closed Sunday morning/early afternoon not to mention that we were ALL out of cash…so McDonalds all day it was. Who knew that McDonalds is the same in just about country, no matter where you are they take credit cards….good thing. I also got to meet up with another family friend who lives in Vienna. She was slightly horrified that we were eating at McDonalds (but then again so was I…), however, food is food and it was freezing outside!! We finally left for home, one poor friend had to start studying for two finals when we got back at midnight.
The story does have a happy ending though, that very night I found my debit card…in the trashcan. No wonder I could find it in any normal place I hurriedly rummaged through. And once I paid everyone back, all was good again….

Sunday, November 27, 2011


I am going to start with Barcelona because that is the trip that I have the fewest things to say about. It all boils down to this: Barcelona is not a real place. The people there go out until 6 am (and don’t start until midnight) and then wake up at 8 for class, take a nap and do it all again…exhausted just hearing about it… It is the home of Sangria which is delightful and rather like Barcelona itself. I just had the thought that the alcohol of choice in each city is rather reminiscent of the city itself. Italy is all about wine and elegance (or at least propriety). Munich is more stoic with its beer, and Barcelona/Spain is very old world (wine) and yet more unexpected and fun…thus sangria. 
In Barcelona you have to go with the flow, so if a downpour catches you unawares in a park, you just run through the rain and laugh at yourself. (Note the photo in front of the pond, about 5 minuets before said downpour...)
While here I ran into girls from my school not once, but twice! I knew they were coming, and was so kindly invited to join them but the idea of finding my way by myself to their hotel and then finding my roommate Alyssa for our flight back sounded like the worst idea ever, which makes the concept of running into them randomly twice in a huge city that much more ridiculous …. I saw all of the bizarre architectural works of Gaddi, ate at the best local sandwich shop, had a drink which was on fire (sort of…), strolled along the Mediterranean at night, and went to a giant concert. It was a lot of fun, but utterly exhausting and I honestly don’t feel the need to ever go back though I certainly enjoyed the experience. The one major negative was the flight back….when you think that a flight at 6am isn’t that bad for an uber cheap price, keep in mind that that means leaving for the airport around 4am…lesson learned.
Like I said not a lot to say…you just have to experience it yourself.

Milano e Venezia

Mommy could not have come at a better time, because I am utterly homesick. I still love being abroad but I am rather over traveling (who would have thought that possible??) and am missing friends and family.  Further the day I was supposed to pick her up was terribly rainy and busier than normal. In fact I was 35 minutes late to a one hour class because we had an impromptu fieldstudy far away…I actually managed to find my phoneless mom rather easily at the train station and after a hug we were off to catch up with her friend. (my parents really do have friends in every country, one benefit to ministry….) She was sweet and has the most amazing apartment, complete with dryer, microwave, oven with temperatures, and a dog! I might be visiting again….
            The next day I dragged my mom across Rome. I thought we were taking it easy but I guess I have forgotten my own strength (in walking and stairs at least…) We went to a café for breakfast, walked to school, climbed Castel San Angelo for a great view of the city, and a look at the pomposity of some of the Popes of the medieval and Baroque eras.  We then talked throughout my Living Museum class (oops…) and walked to something else for some presentation (which I had already heard in another class and probably should have skipped but I thought we were going into the museum, which had a Audrey Hepburn exhibit…) Then my plans were dashed with rain….on a day when predicted 0% chance of rain (0?!?). So we lunched at another café and I allowed us to take a bus to Palazzo Venezia to see the Caravaggio exhibit. (And don’t get me started about this exhibit, I am actually very mad at it because it took all of the Caravaggios out of the other nearby museums that I have been going to, and was not able to see the pieces in their traditional locations….so meh.) But it was lovely and I gave my mom and unasked for tour through all of the art of that time, she says others were trying to listen to me but I didn’t notice them…My biggest folly was in trying to make her climb giant stairs to get an overview of the city and forum, only to realize that they way to the Forum was closed off for some reason…she literally couldn’t walk the next day…sorry!

            I will skim over the pitfalls of the hotel she stayed in to be near me, and of attempting to get back in through a jammed door, and skip ahead to Milan.  I have not been in an american hotel in a very long time…there are just so many wonderful things that you expect in America that do not exist in Europe. (Or at least not in college student priced Europe). We walk in, and they speak English! Further we got upgraded! We walked into our room, and my eyes got really big. Sitting in our giant room were bathrobes and a giant bathtub, complete with blowdryer (and wifi…). Before going to sleep (since we got up at 5 something….) we got free snacks and drinks at the executive lounge, boy does my mommy take care of me!  A few hours into the relaxing I started to really hungry and grumpy so we went off on an adventure to find food and round a few museums too (Cezanne was interesting, but really not my thing I realized). The food was quite expensive but afforded a great opportunity to people watch.  We then failed at finding a good American movie but did watch some things on my laptop before sleeping. It was a wonderful day but definitely probably the oddest Thanksgiving that I will ever have…because of course it did not feel a thing like Thanksgiving.
            Friday we got up early, had a wonderful breakfast, and set off to shop. Things were even more expensive that I had expected, and so after going to all the stores our guidebook suggested we sat down at a random creperie I saw, which turned out to be a popular local eating place…which explained the terrible (by American standard) service and yet excellent food. The choice then stood between coffee, or nap at the hotel. We gave in, went back, and only returned to the city center just in time  to see the ‘Last Supper’ (after a free cappuccino at the hotel lounge).  We then walked into a castle, wandered through a park, and actually found some stores we really liked….because as much as I try to branch out I keep coming back to the same stores: Zara and Mango…and as always they did not disappoint. I am now sitting wearing my fur vest that might be a Christmas present (my nod to Mil fashion, which is so much more evident than in Rome…though to be fair there are too many cobblestones in Rome for anyone to be too stylish…) We came back and once again got snacks, cappuccinos, and even wine at the lounge…new favorite place ever. And again watched TV on my computer, since my mom introduced me to the new series “Once Upon a Time” which I am enjoying so far.
            Now today we slept in, ate a fabulous meal complete with real pancakes (!!!) and our favorite mocha cappuccinos. And without much fanfare we found our train and set off for Venice, which we are now 15 minutes from reaching!  (I will continue this post when I have wifi…and something else to add).

so Venice….All of the travel guides made this city sound like one that people either love or hate, but really I felt rather in the middle about it. There was a lot to see and loots of fun shopping, and yet the exorbitant pricing of mediocre food and the never ending crowds were not my favorite. There probably were not even that many people, but because of the narrow nature of Venice you never feel like you have room to breathe. The hostel was fabulous, and made the perfect backdrop for Mommy and I’s photoshoot, but after our lounge access in Milan it seemed a bit lacking in comparison. So I guess as a city I liked it more that Milan, and yet as a vacation spot with my mom, Milan wins by far!

Now Mom and I are preparing to head back to Rome, and from there to the US/school. And it’s awful. I just want to sleep, but instead I have to say goodbye to my mother and write an art history paper…which is why traveling is getting a bit old, it is just exhausting! I am going to miss her dearly, but it was a lovely, if occasionally tension-filled precious week together…

The Never Ending Adventure

Ok so it has been a long time since I last blogged, and I am going to blame excessive traveling.  I am not even going to try to write about all of my adventures right now, though eventually I guess I should talk about Florence, Munich, Barcelona, Vienna, Istanbul, Santorini, Athens, and soon to be Porto Portugal, respectively. Since the last three were the most recent trip, Fall Break (Oct. 21-November 1), I suppose I will try to summarize those into a blog post first....I will defeat distraction!!

Though to be honest my most recent distraction was attempting to watch Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants online, because that takes place in Santorini, in fact we even found Lena's house on the island! But I'll get back to Santorini. First let's start at the beginning, which would be Istanbul, or rather midterms.

The week leading up to fall break was midterms week, aka the first week we have really had to do anything for classes. So that was a very long, rather sleep deprived week, which in short lead to frantic half asleep packing Thursday night/Friday early morning. The result of this was that I did not bring my camera, but since I am learning to take things as they come I didn't even cry about it. I just determined to steal all of my friends' photos and to attempt to enjoy seeing things, rather than only taking pictures of them....sometimes this approach worked and sometimes it was just depressing to feel left out when everyone else got to have their artistic expressions, but back to Istanbul.

Turkish airlines might be my favorite airline so far. They fed up delicious food on our 2.5 hour flight. Further, while I had forgotten my camera and for cautions sake had left my computer, I did bring my Kindle...and thank goodness! I think I read no fewer than 8 books over the course of this trip, but the first one was "As the sun rises" by Ernest Hemingway. My roommate and I (while not packing....) decided to start a book club and that is the book we chose because it is on her list of most monumental American novels of the nineteenth century (there are one hundred, and she intends on reading them all). It was certainly an interesting book, though rather depressing. In a sense though we hoped to model our entire trip on their example: hop from one cafe to the next the entire time.... the downside to this of course being that it is rather expensive. But anyway we arrived in Istanbul, and were informed that we needed a visa to enter, but never worry you could get one immediately for 15 euro. We then traded out Euro for Lyra and for once the exchange rate was in our favor, 2.2 lyra to 1 euro! This difference would continue to confuse us for the next 4 days. 

We then attempted to find the way to our hotel. We asked several airport tourism people and were shown to the metro. There we were helped by a Turkish official whom we didn't even ask for help. He just assumed, correctly I suppose, that we did. He showed us the way, and how to work the Turkish metro, and then spent a good 5 minutes laughing with his colleague that my friend Alyssa was taller than him. He seamed utterly amazed. Once we got to the area, we tried calling but realized that the hotel staff did not really speak English…so we decided to go looking, with only an address, on our own. Sadly, the streets were as confusing as Trastevere and thus street signs were of very little help. After dragging suitcases for half an hour and being no closer to finding our hotel, we finally gave in to the crowds of men in front of their stores and restaurants asking if we needed help.  We were pointed in the right direction and possibly asked out on a date. We got to ‘our’ hotel and to my dismay it seemed to be a little sketchy. It was located over a hookah bar. Again since I booked the hotel I was made to talk to the front desk, where I promptly showed him my reservation….and was told that I was at the wrong hotel, which was actually a relief. He pointed us in the correct direction of Sultan’s Eye Hotel (not hostel…) and we actually found it. Even better, it was exactly how I pictured. Small but quaint, and completely safe and clean feeling! Even better it had a TV with one English channel! (or more accurately English tv with subtitles).  

But Istanbul…I loved it and would go back to Istanbul or even Izmir, Ephesus, or Troy in a heartbeat if I had the opportunity. The first night we went out to a traditional Turkish dinner and had Mediterranean cuisine so bread, hummus, kebabs, rice, and vegetables. We stopped drinking wine with our meals, however, because it was outrageously expensive.  So much so that I am curious to look up if this is because of an alcohol tax in a muslim country… The next day we went to the Grand Bazaar, which was such a shock to the senses. There were so many colors, and smells, and voices all at once. We spent several hours just wondering the 4thousand shops, feeling like we never actually saw the exact same thing twice. We were looking for two things: scarves and jewelry, and the latter mostly because my roommate makes jewelry, and wants to do that for a living one day. None of us were disappointed, and with a bit of haggling I think I am coming home with two of the most beautiful scarves and an assortment of various other small things.

Later we visited the Blue Mosque, but could not enter right away because actual prayers were going on. Instead we attended an information session on the mosque, and it turns out, moreso Islam itself.  Nothing I heard was particularly new to me, though it was interesting hearing someone try to put Islam in liberal Western sounding terms. Neither of my friends had heard much about Islam, and interestingly enough they were both fascinated by the thought of direct communion with God, which neither of them in their catholic or agnostic upbringings had encountered before…odd being the only protestant…For dinner we pulled a true Ernest Hemmingway and started a café for dinner, before going to a rooftop restaurant for drinks, and then continuing to a more traditional looking Turkish bar where we were invited in by middle age Norwegians and Swedes singing a classic American song. We ended there and met two Americans from Colorado who we bonded over Sweet Caroline with.

So…that was a lot of writing I will just bullet point my other highlights.
-Being called Charlie’s Angels or Spice Girls depending on if vendors thought we were from the US or the UK….
-Being proposed to…multiple times
-Taking a cruise around the Bosporus and crossing into Asia
-seeing the mosaics in the Haggia Sophia and sitting in the garden of the ancient Sultans

-having traditional Turkish tea overlooking the Bosporus

-realizing that I preferred the historic, more expensive parts of Istanbul to the up and coming modern quarter…who knew
-And finally, realizing how much I appreciate English TV shows
-Playing in a kids park in Asia

Ok so Santorini…
After a rather peaceful 7 hour ferry ride on what felt like a luxury cruise ship (complete with movies and our favorite Caesar salads), we had the most memorable and horrifying adventure yet.
            So we arrive at a rather empty ‘city center’ as people are getting on buses with their groceries, which slightly concerned us…there would be food near our beachside hotel, right?? We were a little concerned when we got off at what appeared to be a gravel road in the middle of nowhere…but this was our bus stop. Then the ‘just walk 600meters’ was confusing (since there was no straight…) but we final got the hotel concierge (or so we assumed) to send a car for us…which ended up being a man driving his private car with beer bottles on the floor. Ok, so we don’t judge… Then we get to the sketchiest little motel looking building in the middle of absolutely nowhere: no beach in sight, no real roads, no restaurants, and gave each other that all knowing look of survival (did I mention that this had a 87% rating online?!?) Worse the men who showed us into our room (which was perfectly inside) stayed there too, and therefore all had a key to our room. After what would have been a very funny game of charades to figure out where the ‘front desk’ was in order to cancel, we gave up and locked ourselves in our room while Morgan immediately called her mom for help on her dying phone.  I was volunteered to go to room number 2, which was supposedly the front desk,  and attempt to cancel our reservation (since my other friend was hyperventilating). Guess what room2 was? A normal room where the three men who worked at the hotel lived…along with the maintenance man….aka not a front desk. They told us we needed to talk to the ‘boss’ who had conveniently just left but would be back in 15 minutes.  We reconvened in our room (where I might have accidentally tested out my pepper spray…oops) and realized that if we did not leave in 20 minutes we would not have time to walk back to the last bus leaving before dark. Since the boss was still not back (if there even was a boss…) we handed the befuddled maintenance man our key (or rather set it beside him since he refused)and literally ran down the road. No one followed, except for a dog who literally started walking with us hear our ‘hotel’ and did not leave us until we got onto the bus. He literally sat calmly with us at our stop. I think he was a gift from God, my friend thought her grandmother sent him…all I know is that he was a great comfort, sort of like Aslan/the cat in the Horse and His boy…

After that all was well, we got safely on the bus right after dark, made it to a nice, rather expensive, very safe hotel located on the edge of the cliffs over the Mediterranean. It was difficult to find with suitcases in the dark, but the view, safety, and friendly service more than made up for it. We were all mentally exhausted and laid down silently alternately reading and watching TV until the next day. It was unfortunately much colder than would have been ideal (and extremely windy…I guess that is how cliffs on top of islands would be expected to be though) but I still thoroughly enjoyed it.

                                                                                 I sat outside on our terrace, reading, journaling, and sipping my cappuccino most mornings. It was heavenly! We also rode donkeys down the Cliffside road…terrifying. We gave up on being adventurous and ate a lot of Italian food (I found most Greek food not particularly my favorite…especially the completely uncooked chicken kabob….). We toured a volcano, hot springs, and adorable village all by boat, which sounds amazing but was actually just unbelievably windy, extremely cold, and rather rough in general (refer to uncooked chicken). Other friends met up with us eventually and we lots of fun touristy things (like nap…). The last day we went to a northern village on the island and watched the sunset. It was spectacular. (This is where we found the houses used for filming Sisterhood of the Traveling pants). I would definitely go back…in the summer.

('Lena's' house)

Athens was not particularly special. I have already been and I saw everything again, but really didn’t need to. We were also all just extremely tired of being travelers and tourists by this point and honestly were all rather tired of each other. So we took things very easily, sat on our porch with a view of the Acropolis. We also just wanted to be wary of Athens in general, since God was gracious enough to allow them to not be scheduled while we were there, they certainly happened all around us. Highlights of these 3 days: getting up to eat my free, deliciously simple breakfast with my kindle overlooking the city. I did this everyday, and on the last 2, was accompanied by my other friend who is also obsessed with reading. It was the epitome of peaceful, and I loved my lemon poundcake and bottomless coffee. Other highlight was meeting up with a CRU stinter and hearing about Greece. And to show how low key this leg of the trip was, my actual highlight was definitively finding our hotel (and room) from the Acropolis hill, exciting stuff!Least favorite moment would definitely be when these three rather well dressed and cute little girls came up to us and asked for money as we were finishing eating (ages 3, 5, and 7 maybe).  They came back and the youngest just reached onto our plate and ate the leftovers with her hands, went away, cam back and picked up our water glasses…. At this point we picked up our stuff and ran inside to pay there instead. I feel terribly sorry for these girls and yet we are quite sure that they targeted us because they knew we wouldn’t say anything, we were after all American girls…it was just the oddest thing I have ever seen up close…all they had to do was ask for the food.

So that was fall break, and it took the two weeks until Portugal to recover enough to be able to leave Rome again. It was definitely amazing, but there is something about traveling that much that makes you terribly homesick, and so yes, I felt my first real bout of homesickness ever…and it is not enjoyable and still with me. Luckily as I am finally finishing writing this, I am sitting beside my mommy on a train to Venice. But that story I will write after we get to the hotel…and perhaps after I finish my paper due in 2 days…meh, probably not.

Ciao belli,
mi dispiace que io sono multi tarde a scrittore
(because once you get behind it is terribly difficult to get the motivation to catch up…)