Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Longest Day EVER--literally!

Last day in Italy, Last day in Europe :(  It was a sad one.  We packed up our things, and left them at the hotel to set off on our final day.  It also happend to be the same day as Britain's Royal Wedding between William and Kate.  We were just ambling about the city when we happened upon an English Pub that was playing the wedding so of course we made our way inside and celebrated with the other English tourists who discovered this little place.  I ordered tea and sipped it whilst feeling a little bit of national pride for GB.  Afterwards, we walked around and found our way across the island where we sat on the edge of the water and literally watched the boats go by all afternoon.  It was an awesome end.  The sun was shining, the salt water was lapping up and hitting our feet, and the view was something I could have only imagined.  Eventually we headed back to grab some pizza one last time and grab our stuff for the flight back to London.  We left at 11pm Italy time and got back to London at about 1am England time.  We went ahead and went as close to the gate as we could get at that time of night where we all opened our suitcases and redistributed stuff so that we could meet the weight requiirements.  We spread out some blankets and watched the british flick "Love Actually" while we waited for the night to pass.  At about 7am we headed up to the terminal and grabbed some food while we waited to be able to check our bags.  At 9am we made it through security and then sat with our carry ons inside and waited for the gate to be opened.  My flight left at 12pm England time and arrived in Chicago at 9pm my time (or 3pm US time).  We said our final goodbyes and headed out with our parents.  I then got in the car and took the 6 hour drive down to southern Illinois.  It was an intense day!  We arrived home at 10pm US time and I stayed up until midnight which would be 6am my time.  Essentially I was awake for about 48 hours.  Needless to say I slept well that night and the next day I began trying to remember what it was like to live in the US. 

Venice :)

First day in Venice was really awesome!  I think it probably turned out to be my favourite in Italy :)  Only bad part was to travel to any of the different islands we had to buy Vaparetto (water bus) tickets which were really expensive for public transportation.  Then we had to wait to get on the water buses for ever so that part was really annoying.  Eventually we were off to the island of Murano which is famous for glassblowing.  We walked around a perused the shops enjoying the beautiful day.  Some of the shopkeepers were really rude so I waited to purchase my Venetian glass from the main island.  We bought some food from the grocery store and the next thing on the agenda was to ride the water bus to the island of Lido which is where the beach is.  It took forever for us to find a vaparetto that would take us there, and finally we were helped by some friendly canadian women.  When we finally arrived on Lido we stopped to get gelato and then headed straight to the beach.  Unfortunately, that day it was super windy and sand was blowing everywhere.  When we tried to lay down the sand was blowing into our eyes and it was kind of miserable.  I walked along the shore because the sand wasn't blowing there.  The body of water at Lido is the Adriatic Sea.  We eventually picked up and made our long water bus journey back to the hotel.  That evening, we went to try to bargain for a cheap gondala ride but the best we could do was 25 euros each.  That is a lot of money so we decided to skip it and sit on a dock and watch the boats sail by instead.  It was pretty awesome.


Wednesday morning we got up and left early to travel to Venice.  Venice is a city that is literally built on water so the only way to get around is to walk or take boats.  It was beautiful upon arrival and I immediately fell in love with its uniqueness.  We arrived around 2pm and after leaving our stuff at the hotel, Amanda, Christina, and I headed ot the train station to spend the day in Verona.  Verona is the setting for Romeo and Juliet and a lovely little city.  When we got off the train we tried to find the related tourist sites but we had a little bit of trouble.  We went to the tomb of Juliet first, which was a bust.  The tomb was just an empty box with a bunch of graffiti on it.  So we asked the museum lady where the 'other' Juliet stuff was and she directed us to the city center.  We got to see a lot of the stuff that was in the movie "Letters to Juliet".  It was so cool seeing the infamous balcony and we even took our pictures posing with the statue of Juliet.  We also found the "Letters to Juliet" club place in an upstairs room by the balcony.  We got to read real letters that people across the world sent to Juliet and also write our own.  Eventually, we found a nice pizza parlour for dinner and enjoyed a relaxing evening before catching a late train back to Venice.

Goodbye Harlaxton :(

Last British Studies Final.  Last Day at Harlaxton.  Last goodbyes before heading to Italy.  Today was a day equal to an emotional rollercoaster.  It truly was bittersweet.  We all rushed through our exams and probably didn’t try hard enough on explicating ‘British National Identity.’  We had our final lunch in the refectory with friends and then spent the remainder of the afternoon packing and saying goodbye to groups of friends who were leaving for home/independent trips.  I took one last walk down the lane by myself and enjoyed more English spring.  I trekked out to the Harlaxton church (not exactly sure what kind of church, I just followed the steeple) and I got to enjoy the pristine solitude of a beautiful spring day.  My last walk up the manner was sad as well, it truly was hard to say goodbye.  Even now, I feel like after Italy I will be going back up to school like usual.  So surreal how fast the time flew.  The Italy trip students got to stick around the manner until Thursday at 2am so we ate our final meal together (fish and chips-I thought that was rather fitting) and then took a walk into the woods behind the manor to see the bunker that the troops who stayed at the manor in WWII used to practice.  I got some more lovely stinging nettle on my legs and feet so that was fun and I also scratched up my leg on a branch (I didn’t anticipate that it would be so far back in the woods!).  Pretty much just wasted the rest of the evening away before heading out early for Heathrow Airport.  I will never forget my last few glimpses of Harlaxton Manor as the coach made its way down the drive way and down the A607.  This place changed my life, and I was sad to see it go.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


This morning we woke up early again to head out on the town.  On our way to our destination, we did some more perusing of the street markets and then headed out to the Accademia Galleria to see Michealango’s famous statue of David.  After standing in a pretty long line, we finally got in and it was magnificent, and much bigger than we expected.  We looked at the other pieces in the museum and then set out to find a place to eat.  We decided to cross the river and look for a less touristy area.  We didn’t find the restaurant we were searching for, but we did find a giant hill to climb and at the top there was an awesome view over the entire city of Florence.  It was really cool to see how far we had walked and all the places like the Duomo that we had visited.  We grabbed some lunch and then walked back to our hotel .  We ambled around for a bit and heard some music playing outside so we went to investigate and found ourselves in the midst of a communism/marxism rally.  Needless to say, we made our way our quickly and explored a local church instead.  On our way back to the hotel, we also picked up some gelato that turned out to be 10 euros, so that will go down as the most expensive ice cream I ever have—15 american dollars.  We made it back to the hotel and took a nice long nap to relax.  Around 7pm, I set off to take a walk around town and then I ran into Marie and Jessica on the way out.  They invited me to go with them to dinner at a spagetteria they found that was far from the hotel.  We walked there and I had delicious fettuccini and mushrooms, and then some tiramisu.  It was really nice, I had a very nice time.  We walked back and our room decided to have a showing of Pocahontas as we packed for Venice in the morning.

The Leaning Tower and Florence

Today was our first real day in Florence, and first thing we went to Pisa to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  We got up early and walked to the train station to buy tickets after eating a really nice breakfast at the hotel.  We found 12 euro tickets roundtrip and left at about 9:30am.  Pretty much slept the entire way to Pisa and when I woke up we were there.  We got off the train and got lost on our way to find the tower, but we did pick up some lovely gelato—I got a Lion flavoured cone.  We spotted the leaning tower from a distance and it was just what I expected.  We took our iconic photos holding up the tower and I almost face-planted trying to get out of the way of a photo(not a fun part of the trip).  It really was cool to see this in person.  We walked around their duomo and saw the baptistery and then we did some shopping at the tourist shops along the way.  We then grabbed some lunch at a cafĂ© (I had a calzone) before heading back to the train station.  Our train left at 1:30pm and we got back to Florence at 2:30pm.  From here we set off to find the Duomo—very gorgeous—and waited in line to get inside.  The outside was magnificent compared to the inside, but it was still cool.  Next we found the Ponto Vecchio which is the iconic Florence bridge that holds lots of jewelry and leather shops.  Seeing as none of us have very much money to spend, we just walked through and a little further into the city to explore.  We randomly heard some music around a corner so we went to find out why there was a random band playing on the street.  We don’t read Italian, but we knew enough to realize that we had walked into a communist/fascist rally.  Obviously, we got out of there quick, and wandered into another free church that was nearby.  This church wasn’t as beautiful on the outside, but the inside was much more ornate.  Our day was wrapping up so we headed back to our hotel and stopped at a grocery store on the way back.  We picked up some food and rested after a long day of travel.  Amanda and I got in our swimming suits and made the lovely jet-bath in our room as a Jacuzzi.  Overall, it was a great day J

A very different Easter Sunday

Today was sort of low key because it was full of traveling and waiting around.  It was also sad because this was my first Easter Sunday that I missed church and also I didn’t get to spend the day with my family.  Anyway, the uneventfulness of the day  was kind of a good thing because I’m getting over another cold, but it was also a little disappointing.  We slept in this morning and packed up our things to wait for the coach.  We went to grab some food and then just chilled because the coach came about 45 minutes late.   We took the bus through the gorgeous Italian countryside to Florence.  Upon arrival we checked into the hotel (big improvement on our last hotel) and we found it pretty modern and spacious.  We have a shower and a big jet bathtub.  We decided to splurge and head downstairs to the restaurant for dinner.  Here I had my first Italian pasta.  It was ravioli that was potato filled with a meat sauce—very delicious!  We headed upstairs to plan our night and relax.