Wednesday, April 22

coming to a close

Wednesday, April 22
Hello there!! Long time no blog. Here's the deal. I'm safely back in Maastricht for the next few days-- I have a lot of blogging to add on to since I wrote about Barcelona (mainly, the rest of Spain). Right now I'm working on a paper for one of my classes, editing and uploading photos, and packing and cleaning to head back home.

I returned to glorious, warm weather and flowers in Maastricht (quite a change from all the rain). I've just been washing clothes and catching up on the office and taking a shower with know, all that good, important stuff. I'll try my best to update soon, but just so you know, I'll be getting in to Dallas at 4:40 on Saturday afternoon! I need to see all of you, stat. So let me know when and where we can reunite! :)

Monday, April 20

the rain in spain falls mainly in the plain, and other hollywood lies

Monday, April 20
April 16

The way to Barcelona didn´t start out so swell. I think I wrote last time about Alvin´s singing permeating my sleep. But really, I couldn´t sleep at all on the train because I have a pretty bad sunburn on my legs and couldn´t get comfortable. I made the mistake of borrowing Rachel's shorts when we lounged on the beach in my entire legs are bright red. Then on the train to Barcelona, we were asked for our passport three the same stop.

I used some Spanish in the train station, but once we used the Metro we began to realize that no one told us the primary language in Barcelona is not Spanish. It´s Catalan, a mix between all the Spanish words I don´t know, and the French nuances I´ve never understood...Okay, I´m exaggerating, but it was a little frustrating as I had been looking forward to finally knowing a language.

And then, as we (6 of us now, because Brittany met her parents in Spain: Lexie, Rachel, Kathy, Amanda, Kaitlyn, and me) walked to our hostel, the skies, still sunny, parted to bombard us with eggs of hail. We scurried around trying to find the hostel and once we did, I took off my shoes and saw that my ankles had swollen to twice their size because of the sunburn plus all of the walking. [warning, gross picture follows....]

Not to be thwarted, we journeyed out to Parque Guell, which my tour book called a twisted Disney world.


It had some interesting, curved structures and we would have explored more but it started to rain again, horribly. So, next stop, Picasso Museum, which did a great job focusing on his earlier works though the museum wasn´t organized too clearly- we were confused about the order of the rooms, which probably should have been chronological. This is a view from outside since cameras weren't allowed inside. Oh, yes, and I was officially sun poisoned at this friends actually tried to get a wheelchair for my hugely swollen ankles!!

Food adventures were also quite interesting. For lunch we learned about tapas, appetizers that Spain is known for. You can make a meal with tapas, but I think a little more elegantly than we did that time. Oh well! For dinner, we had some tasty tapas and paella along La Rambla, Barcelona´s main walking and shopping street.

I feel like I may have written this in a slightly frustrated mood, but it´s the truth. So far, Spain has been completely different from my expectations. Barcelona is a cool city, with lots of curvy stone architecture, and mainly seafood based comida.

the rich life

April 15

We took an early train to Monaco this morning. It´s the second smallest country (I think), after the Vatican, known for the Grand Prix, Grace Kelly, yachts, and everything else that comes with being rich. Because I´m pretty sure everyone here is. Monte Carlo is basically every man´s paradise, starting with James Bond. It really is full of fancy expensive cars (there is a Ferrarri store right near the port) and boats, with lush plants (trees and flowers spill out of every balcony). Some of the city, including the casino, is on a cliff overlooking the ocean on the French coast.

We basically just walked around, admiring the city and taking celebrity-style pictures in front of the casino (which we couldn´t enter, being neither rich nor famous).

I had to remind myself that this is a rare lifestyle. And really, that´s true for the entire trip. Never again in my life will I have such time and opportunity plus youth and energy to travel basically every day like this. It´s hard not to be jealous of the people who live here and enjoy not only fine things but fine views. And yet, this somehow makes it easier to appreciate the beauty of my home and the opportunities that I have to experience such things.

We returned to Nice for lunch (delicious kebabs...I am officially addicted) and another stop by the beach. We also visited an amazing Russian-inspired church in town. I think it is one of the coolest buildings I have seen so far. After, we spent an afternoon walking down the Promenade along the beach and shopping. I scored some cute shorts and dressy tops since my few outfits have been WELL worn [out]. Plus I only really have cold-weather clothes and the weather is warming up. Also I can´t wear jeans because of my sunburn! I borrowed Rach's shorts to suntan outside. Ok, I´m really just trying to justify my purchases. Moving on...

I´m writing this on a Spain! These cute kids are sitting in front of us but earlier an explosion of French Alvin and the Chipmunks busted through the train. They are cute but oh dear they are loud. Anyways, our last dinner as a group was tonight as Caroline took a train to the UK and we split for Spain. We had dinner at a patisserie where we made a ruckus laughing as usual but this time we were unfortunately approached by a creepy wino as we ate outside. He crept up behind me and asked us, "why are we all wet?" because it had started to rain. While our neighboring French diners laughed at our discomfort, our nice waiter came to the rescue and fended the creeper off. Thank goodness.

Saturday, April 18

spain update!

Saturday, April 18
Hola! Just a quick update...I know I have a lot to update but don´t worry, I have it all written down. Things have been a little crazy but exciting. I am in Madrid right now until Monday morning, when Kathy and I are journeying all day and half of the next day to get back to Maastricht. Then I have a few days to clean, pack, upload a zillion photos, and say goodbye because we leave for the USA on Saturday morning and get in on Saturday evening (TX time). I can´t wait to see you all!

Tuesday, April 14


Tuesday, April 14
April 14

Today was fantastic. It is our last full day together (the group of us eight girls). We basically spent the day lounging on the beach in Nice-- it was sooo great. The water is bright blue and the weather is perfect. Nice is really...nice. Haha. It is a cute, sophisticated but not pretentious town. It's beautiful, but not fast-paced like a lot of other cities we have been to.

I did get a tomato red sunburn on my legs but hey the truth is that they haven't seen the light of day in naturally it was a little overwhelming.

Anyway we spent the afternoon on the beach and then Kathy and I decided to take a 30 minute ride to Cannes while everyone else chilled.

It was really cool!

It is also along the coast and has palm trees, and actually reminded us a lot of California. We saw the red carpet and the film festival building and enjoyed a quick trip over there.

Interestingly we encountered an Irish couple on the train back as well as a younger guy who was clearly interested in Kathy. He moved seats to sit directly in front of her in our compartment! He also spontaneously jumped out of his seat and squealed as we passed a city he had lived in before. Later the dude asked us if we wanted to come over when we got back to Nice...thanks but no thanks buddy.

I know we're in France but we had Asian cuisine for dinner which was delicious. Now some of us are doing laundry while others are blogging. :) I am heading to bed and then tomorrow we are going to visit Monaco and then enjoy an afternoon in Nice before our night train to Barcelona. Sadly Caroline is splitting off tomorrow night for the UK and Brittany will be meeting her parents in Spain, so our number is decreasing!

Believe it or not, this is in Nice!

happy time with nature

April 13

Sadly, our last day in Italy arrived. We woke up super early to tackle the hiking trail along more of Cinque Terre. It was glorious! We hiked right alongside the ocean.

I enjoyed some incredible nature time there though the terrain was a little difficult. We walked by mountains, ocean, vineyards, small waterfalls and cute small towns along the path.

I am so proud of this's along the Via dell'Amore and I realized it would be the perfect spot for everyone to sit in a window along the coast! Unlike the day before, it was very busy! We bumped into Jazzy and her parents along the trail. We had a delicious lunch at one of the towns where we ordered fresh fruit juice...mmm pear.

I absolutely loved Cinque Terre and would recommend it to anyone who likes outdoorsy things. Again it is a tragedy that I can't upload pictures yet. It's a great side of Europe that is totally different from anything else and popular but not crazy busy.

We did hit a bit of a rush on the way back-- delayed trains with another to catch to Nice, France. Everyone barely made it on before the train started to move!

an easter to remember

April 12

We attended an Easter church service at St. James in Florence, which is the church Chris went to when he lived there. It was in English and in a pretty church with a small, nice congregation. I have been missing church so it was definitely good to be in one for an actual service for once.

We saw some friends in the train station on the way to Cinque Terre. It was hilarious because we were leaving for Cinque Terre as they arrived in Florence, but they were SO tired they didn't even recognize us at first. They had stayed up for the whole night instead of paying for a hostel room! Basically everyone in the Baylor group was passing through Florence at the halfway point of our month of travel-- we ran into three groups of students! That is one of the coolest things- bumping into people you know in a country where you don't even speak the language.

Though we made sure to avoid Rome for Easter, we forgot that other places would have different schedules that day as well. So, when we arrived in La Spezia, a town outside of the "five cities" of Cinque Terre hiking area, we waited, waited, waited for a bus. We camped out at the bus stop for hours. Long story short, our hostel hosts had to come pick us up. Our hostel was among the mountains and thus too far for a walk.

We were determined to get some hiking in, so we took a train to Cinque Terre and hiked the Via dell'Amore as the sun set. On the train, we passed through mountains so every few minutes a gap would emerge where we could look out and see the pure ocean. I loved everyone's reaction to the gorgeous clear water so I took their pictures instead...

The entire national park has a hiking trail directly on the side of the mountains, along the coast.

The views are stunning! We all met up with Kathy, who was still resting up, at a Rick Steves' recommended restaurant for our last night :( in Italy.

It did not disappoint. Cinque Terre is known as the birthplace of pesto. I'm not a pesto fan so I had some delicious spaghetti with vegetables...perfect! The funny thing was that Rick Steves' picture was posted outside the entrance, and after we talked with the super nice hostess who was helping to accommodate our large group, we walked back outside and she noticed that the picture had somehow disappeared. "Rick Steves! He's gone!" she exclaimed. After dinner we settled along the quiet port and enjoyed the peaceful sound of ocean waves.
Hey! I know I haven't updated in a while but I haven't had much computer access. I am in Nice, Southern France, right now and we are about to head to the beach. Before that we enjoyed some beautiful hikes along the Italian coast of Cinque Terre. I can't wait to write more about it but right now I am soooo hungry for breakfast!

More later,


Saturday, April 11

pisa- more to offer than just a leaning tower!

Saturday, April 11
So I realized wayyyy after getting back that I missed posting about Pisa, and the second half of Florence for some reason! Sadly, Kathy had fallen ill and was on mandatory bed rest as the rest of us girls headed to Pisa for the afternoon. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the city was absolutely charming! It kind of reminded me of Maastricht a little- there is a main shopping area along the street, and of course plenty of market-like stalls, and a river that kind of bisects the town.

Then there is the obvious combination of older architecture with modern components and accommodations. I really wish we had more time to spend in Pisa, but mostly we found the famous leaning tower, which seriously does lean, enjoyed a relaxing time just chilling in front of the architecture.

I had to laugh at all of the people posing for pictures as if they were holding the tower up...

...outside of the context they (and we) looked pretty silly!! We also bumped into some Baylor girls who had the same idea for the day! All in all it was a fun quick trip.

Friday, April 10

beauty and art

Friday, April 10
April 10

Finally, I have a chance to update on the same day! We arrived in Florence this afternoon.

We decided to tackle one of the great museums here and what better work to begin with than Michelangelo's David at the Galleria dell'Accademia? The line wasn't too long and the museum is full of beautiful and interesting large religious paintings and triptychs. I turned the corner after the first room and way down the hallway was the magnificent David. We all gasped. The statue is enormous. I had expected a person-size figure but he towers over the room. This is one case where something is even better in person...and I think this will be a theme for Florence as you'll see.
Exiting the museum, we saw a little peek of a dome down the street. When we arrived at the Duomo, one of the famous landmarks of Florence, it was instantly one of my favorite buildings I have seen this entire trip. It's also known as the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. The dome part is pretty, and recognizable, but the front of the building is to me the most beautiful.

The entire building is off-white, light pink and a muted forest green. It was ornate and just stunning. It was so big I couldn't get a good picture of the whole front at all. But the sky was bright blue so it was even prettier.

I should be honest here. Something is wrong with my toe and I have been limping pathetically all day. I'm a little worried that I may not be able to hike at Cinque Terre on Sunday because it has been hurting like crazy for the last two days!

Anyways, we ate at a Rick Steves recommended place that Caroline suggested...we called it the Luby's of Florence, only way more delicious and cheaper. We feasted like queens and had salad, pasta, and fruit (which I have been missing)! Afterward, gelato. (What else?) I finally tried pistacchio which I have been meaning to do- it was good, a little less sweet than other flavors. After that we checked out the Duomo and then have been wandering and exploring. Tomorrow is an afternoon picnic at Pisa and then Uffizi art museum! Can't wait.

famous landmarks

April 9

Finally, we got to see the Rome that everyone talks about. And yes, it is amazing.

Colosseum: HUGE! I really want to see Gladiator now. It was pretty amazing. Our guide told us about the elevator systems and methods and exotic animals brought in when the arena was used. I can't believe this enormous structure is still standing and able to hold people.

Roman Forum: One of the most beautiful settings for ruins on a hill in the city surrounded by flowers and fields and trees. Pillars and statues resisting weather and time stand defiantly among magnificently crumbling walls. I loved seeing this part of Rome that exists within the confines of an old yet modern city. Amanda, Kathy and I bought some sweet old school sunglasses in stoplight colors...look forward to an excellent photo shoot.

Wedding Cake: I need to find its real name...but I loved this building. One word...epic. (Actually that applies to everything on this list.)

Pantheon: Enormous and a very popular tourist spot. However I thought it was more impressive outside than in. The pillars in front were imposing.

Piazza Navona: A bustling square filled with artists selling their work, including a man frozen like he was running and an amazing spray paint artist. The 8 of us girls enjoyed a famous dessert at a restaurant along the square called "death by chocolate," a tartuffo of chocolate gelato covered in flakes of hard chocolate, filled with fudge all around a cherry...lived up to the name. After another glance at the awesome Colosseum lit up at night we headed back to end our last night in Rome!

Thursday, April 9

when in rome...

Thursday, April 9
April 8

As we were staying in a Bed and Breakfast we woke up Wednesday morning to pastries and a delicious cappuccino. Seriously I am going to look like a European snob when I get back home because I am going to drink cappuccinos all the time.

Our plan for the day was to basically scope out the pope. His Holiness would speak at 11 in Vatican City so we joined the huge crowd and basically turned to mush on the metro from being squished by so many people. Following the crowd to the Vatican we entered the huge square. While there were a TON of people I actually was surprised that it wasn't completely full. We scored a seat near the back of the audience and joined in the cheering when the pope drove through the crowds in a car. He spoke in Italian but translated some messages and a blessing in English, Spanish, German, French, and I think Russian. Enormous groups of students were there from Spain and they were so excited it made the pope smile. He blessed us and our families and sent us on our way.

Next stop, St. Peter's, the massive church of the Vatican. Somehow we got in line way before everyone else and were able to enter when the pope was done blessing various "religious artifacts" brought by pilgrims. It was pretty enormous, and overwhelming. I can't say I would consider it to be the most ornate or beautiful church I have seen but it did have the most statues, including the Pieta, and was by far the largest.

After this we entered the Vatican Museum which houses the Sistine Chapel. Let me tell you, it is a BEAST. To get to the Sistine Chapel you have to literally walk through a labyrinth of rooms for hours and it is at the very end, right after a display of modern religious art that disconnected the chapel from the themes and styles of the rest of the works in the museum. We saw some amazing statues and intricate ceiling artwork, but it was a little distracting since we wanted to go to the Chapel first and then enjoy the rest without worrying about crowds. However this was impossible so I am sad that we had to rush through some of the museum. When we finally got to the Chapel, it was honestly a little anticlimactic. The ceiling is towering, and difficult to see when you are smushed up against a ton of other people bumping into you and being noisy because they are squinting upward and can't see where they are walking. That being said, since I feel like I am complaining, it was a beautiful work of art. I am really glad I got to see it, but I think the masses of people made the whole museum a little...less than spiritually focused.

After this we did a little souvenir shopping (signed pictures of the pope, rosaries, cheap sunglasses, anyone?) and grabbed some sandwiches to head to the Spanish Steps. After tales of torturous climbs I was relieved to see that they weren't as massive as feared. We all relaxed at the top for a while inside the church and then headed over to Trevi Fountain to see it in the daylight. We grabbed some dinner (I tried spicy penne all'arrabbiata, yum, and Kaitlyn and Amanda tried the traditional veal saltimbocca) and then headed back to our favorite gelato place where yet again I had the best gelato of my life. No really this time it was my favorite: amaretto flavor. It tasted like the way I make ice cream at home...vanilla with cherry juice and chocolate sauce, mixed together, only better. Ahhhhh yes. Anyway we took our gelato back over to Trevi and enjoyed the night sounds and sights.

You may be wondering why I am writing this in the afternoon when we were planning on tackling all of the major sights in Rome today. Well, we are having some trouble booking tickets from Spain to Maastricht at the end of our trip (apparently they are all full) so we are looking up train schedules and alternate routes. I'm sure it will all work out but we are just trying to figure it out first and then we are heading first to the Colosseum! Ciao!

Wednesday, April 8

to roma

Wednesday, April 8
April 6

Back in Athens, we heard about the horrible earthquake in central Italy over breakfast as we prepared to leave. We did some quick emailing and internet research and decided to go ahead as planned. We did some quick shopping downtown and then journeyed back to Patras to take the 15 hour (turned 19 hour with delays and confusion around 3 am) ferry. Then it was a few hours on a busy train to Rome.

April 7

We didn't do much sightseeing our first night (the train arrived at night) but Lexie was waiting for us at the station and so a glorious reunion of the girls of our travel family, aka "the nine" ensued. She had been traveling with her mom in Berlin and Prague. Chris was on a different train to Rome and met up with us the next morning. (That's Amanda, Brittany, Caroline, Chris, Joanna, Kaitlyn, Kathy, Lexie, and Rachel.) Our first night consisted of extreme laundry action...having worn only the clothes in my backpack for the whole travel time this far!! The people at the laundromat did our laundry for us while we ate ravioli and chilled in a nearby nice.

Smelling fresh and clean we headed to the Trevi fountain to see it at night...I had no idea it was part of a building! It's massive and surrounded by people and sellers but was a pretty huge, grand sight. We grabbed some gelato from a really nice man and it was basically the BEST we've had. I had banana and it was heavenly. We promised to come back...we did the next night. We took the metro there (our hostel was right near the main train station) but had to take a bus back as it was past midnight. On the way, our bus packed with passengers blew a tire with extreme force (luckily we were almost to our stop) and was tilted over on one side, I have a picture. Then it was off to bed to rest and prepare to tackle Vatican City the next morning!

togas and tricksters

April 5

I was afraid the rain was an omen of another horrible ferry waiting for us...but praise Jesus the ferry from Santorini to Athens was almost empty! The ride seemed like an hour as opposed to eight. Wonderful.

Once we arrived in Athens we spent another night there, this time actually planning to explore the Acropolis and other places. We did find out about a scam if you ever go to Athens...there is this guy who works at a restaurant on the path that leads to the Acropolis, and he seems nice and wants you to come in for dinner. When you say you are going to see the Acropolis he will tell you, oh no, it's closed! And you say oh right I'll just check it out. And when the first gate you see is closed you will think he's right and regret your timing and go back and pay for a nice, yummy dinner. And never realize...he LIED TO YOU. Luckily we didn't fall for it: the entrance to the ruins is around the path beyond that first gate. We're not sure about the first time because we did eat there thinking it was closed, but we made it this time. The view from above (it is up on a hill) is awe inspiring.

You may know that my friends and I have an unwavering passion for...creatively staged photos. I'll put it bluntly: we got in trouble for taking a jumping photo in front of the Parthenon. Citing disrespect, a whistle-brandishing lady demanded that we delete our photos. However, some day you may just see proof of our transgressions. Just saying!

We also tried to find the Temple of Zeus to no avail but ended up exploring some gorgeous park areas and scoping out some archaeological dig sites. We ate the best meal of our time in Greece at a tasty restaurant with shared platters of make-your-own gyros, kebabs, tsatziki and pita bread...DELICIOUS.

Tuesday, April 7

ridin like a pro

Tuesday, April 7
April 4

What a rush! After a stop at a local bakery, the 8 of us rented ATVs and cruised around the entire island. It was 2 to a vehicle and Iàd consider it to be one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. Kathy and I took turns driving and taking pictures and videos. The scenery was just amazing- definitely the most beautiful views yet.

Our caravan of 4 vehicles followed each other to the beach and along mountains as we looked cool in our sunglasses and helmets. Now I understand the allure of motorcycles. The sea was a deep blue, coupled with the white flat houses lined with classic Santorini blue and yellow flowers among the grass. This made the ferry from hell seem like a hazy forgotten nightmare. I got a sweet sunburn on my nose, and Kathy and I bought some Grecian-style dresses in Athens which made the pictures even better. The island is small enough that we covered both ends, Oia, Red Beach, and Fira in the middle, in half a day.

Continuing the tradition of delicious cuisine was not a problem. We stopped in the main town of Fira, where we were staying, for tasty gyros and ice cream. For dinner, amazing kebabs. Eating in Greece is surprisingly more like home than anywhere else. You are encouraged to share, water is relatively inexpensive, and bread is an appetizer.

I loved being able to explore an entire island in the open air, and I'm glad our time here wasn't too long...because that means I will just have to come back. :)

Saturday, April 4


Saturday, April 4
So, my last post was a little...depressing. But let me just say that every moment in Santorini from the moment we landed has made up for the torturous ride here. When the hour finally came to depart the ferry, it was a ravenous stampede to the exit. I didn't take a video but some of my travel buddies did. Put yourself into Simba's paws in the stampede scene from The Lion King when Mufasa is trampled...and you will know what it was like.

Everyone yelled sweet victory as the ramp descended and we rushed out onto the warm sunny island. Our host from the hostel met us and took us to our place for the next two nights. Except for my water bottle exploding on some of the other guests' suitcases (whoops) everything went smoothly. We scooted over to an internet cafe to sign up for classes and then met up with Brittany and Rachel, who were already in Santorini. Surprise! Bri, Jazzy, and Taylor were there too! So we all went out for a nice Greek dinner- 11 girls and 1 guy. One of the waiters called Chris the boss and applauded his presence among 11 ladies. "You are a prince!" he said. Not for the first time our bill was lower than expected, and we got something for free. If I haven't said this already, I love Greece!!

More on the beautiful island and riding an ATV when I get internet again! Tomorrow morning we head back to Athens!

Friday, April 3

all aboard

Friday, April 3
April 3

Hell has a geographical location. It is the 7:25 AM Blue Star Ferry #878455 from Piraeus to Fira.

Talk about a complete 180. Oh, the views are still spectacular but the company has increased in size and loudness. The 8 hour ferry from the main island to Santorini was GROSSLY overbooked. Literally hundreds of Greek high schoolers and middle schoolers are scampering around, yelling, screaming, making a ruckus and filling the walkways. When we first got on, there was nowhere to sit except some random places on the deck. It was 7 in the morning, and yet hoardes of people were smoking outside. We soon realized our deck was smoker paradise and couldn't take it anymore.

We were desperate, and wandered around to find even a spot along a hallway. Turns out everyone was grabbing chairs and lining hallways, doorways, floors...anywhere to sit. The boat was packed. We found a spot near the deck exit. Kids ran in and out while we tried unsuccessfully to gain more than the 3 hours of sleep we had last night. Absolutely not.

The levels of this ferry are the levels of Dante's Inferno. I am literally waiting for the three-headed beast to jump out of the gorgeous blue water and put me out of my misery. This is beyond ridiculous.

For seven straight hours the kids have been LOUD and rude and just insane, like this is some sort of mobile McDonald's playground. No it is not. I've already decided to kiss the ground when we dock.

it's all greek to me

April 2: On the bus from Patras to Athens

I think the Garden of Eden may actually have been in Greece. Even the industrial port city of Patras is breathtakingly beautiful. On one side, the crisp blue sea; the other, green tree-crusted mountains. We're on a bus to Athens, and the entire ride has been right along the sea.

Also, the phrase "it's all Greek to me" has taken on a very literal meaning. I can't even guess what signs say anymore. But it's worth it. Every two minutes, one of us says "oh my gosh" and we all fumble for our cameras, turn and gasp at the beauty of this influential and amazing country.

Once in Athens, we explored the area near our hostel as the sun set, including a flea market and the Acropolis. Just the ruins we have seen from a distance are spectacular. Every shopkeeper and waiter has been very welcoming and friendly. We ate at a nice restaurant where we were allowed to split entrees (rare for Europe) and had some free homemade dessert. Yum!

Thursday, April 2


Thursday, April 2
April 1

On the train from Naples to Bari

Crazy people abound. They are making a ruckus on the train but it is hilarious. All these Irishmen have traveled to a soccer game apparently and when we arrived at the train station they sang and danced. Good times.

When the five of us girls arrived in Bari, communication with Chris, who we were supposed to meet upon arrival, had been difficult (infrequent internet and his phone wasn´t working). He was coming from Milan to meet us to go to Greece. So, we decided to initiate Operation:Padre and stake out his arriving train- one of us for each platform section, A through E. We waited (the train was 30 minutes late) and waited (all the passengers rushed off) and waited (no sign of Chris). After splitting up to scour the train station we decided to just wait for him at the port. Finally he showed up- he had been at the station all along, moseying and eating a snack and booking train tickets, but who knows how we missed him!

On the ferry from Bari, Italy to Patras, Greece

I would say that the ferry was actually a mini cruise ship. But, I haven´t been on a cruise ship so that isn´t saying much. We upgraded our free tickets to sit away from the hazy smoke and creepers, spreading out in the empty airline style seats. Basically we ate some Caesar dressing-less Caesar salad at the cafeteria and tried some baclava. Then we sat on the floor and played ¨telephone pictionary¨which is a gloriously good game. We stifled our laughter because some people were already sleeping.

When Caroline, Chris and I had eaten and the others (Amanda, Kaitlyn, and Kathy) were away getting food, we heard a commotion from around the corner...¨oooooh likey-likey! likey-likey!¨ Then this crazy Greek man rushed up to us, squatted on the floor and began a hilarious conversation. ¨Where you from?!¨ Texas, we said, and he was extremely excited to have us confirm that we had, indeed, seen horses before. He then christened us with our very own Greek names. Chris was Christos, I was Vanna, and well, he didn´t have a name for Caroline!

Likey-likey grabbed both Chris' and my knees as we chatted. We promised him we would meet in the disco on board later ("Christos, come dance!") and he left, patting Chris on the shoulder and pinching my nose.....icky! We pretty much cried laughing after that.

Later, as we explored the ferry, we poked our heads into the club, only to hear a familiar song, this time to a pumping beat and groups of teenagers chanting. What were they chanting??

Oooooh, likey-likey, likey-likey!!

What?? No sight of our crazy friend but how hilarious that he was actually singing a real song. Because there weren't a lot of people in our section, and the chairs did not have moveable armrests, we pulled out our sleep sheets and slept for the rest of the 15 hour journey. Not too bad for the longest boat ride of my life!

Wednesday, April 1


Wednesday, April 1
March 31:

I climbed a volcano today! We (Kathy, Caroline, Amanda, Kaitlyn, and me) started out on the way to Vesuvius and one of the hostel hosts was leaving at the same time. David took the time to walk us to our metro stop and waited until we got on our train...soo nice.

We ended up taking a bus to the volcano with a nice guy from New York who grew up in Russia. He had been waiting since early morning to find enough people so the bus could finally take him. In a nutshell, it was the craziest bus ride I have ever had! The driver was insanely fast. And really, all driving in Naples is insane. You are more likely to get run over here than in New York- especially by one of thousands of motorcycles. Naples is very industrialized and busy, and also a very old town.

Anyway, we (barely) survived the bus and had to hike about 20 minutes up to the opening of the crater once we arrived. As we hiked, the path seemed longer and longer and we thought once or twice about despairing. However, being passed by a group of energetic elderly people made us realize we should be able to make it.

There were masses of French schoolchildren on some lucky field trip but that didn't detract from the amazingness. The view was incredible. Mount Vesuvius is right on the coast and it wasn't too foggy. It did rain a little.

After another crazy bus ride back, we took a confusing journey to Pompeii itself- the ruins of a past community destroyed by a volcanic eruption. I had been waiting to see this city since I first read about it. My high expectations were not disappointed.

I can't even express how stunningly well-preserved the city is. The layout of the city is clear and many walls, pillars, and pots are still there.

I don't know how all this survived. I wish I could show you pictures!!! (Later edit: now I can!) Pompeii was incredible.

It rained off and on but eventually the clouds parted to reveal a blue sky. We took shelter in a bath that was being renovated.

Some of the skeletons preserved with plaster were displayed...they were a poignant and terrifying sight. I don't know how I feel about the fact that these people are frozen in the positions instinct or faith motivated them to move as they encountered death- some cowering, some hugging the floor, some sitting and praying.

I am still amazed at what I was able to see and explore. Far from roped off, the ruins were almost completely open.

Tragically, Caroline twisted her ankle and so we headed back to the hostel. On the way, two very sweet Italian women made conversation on the metro with as much English as they knew. One was from Venice and the other Milan. I used some Spanish knowledge to make out some of what they were saying. Public transportation is one of the best ways to get to know locals!

The rest of us went out to see a castle on the coast and then bought some pasta and veggies at a nearby market to make dinner. We got ready for our next trip (a ferry to Greece).

Some of the other guests at the hostel (college kids like us) were playing Twister so I joined in for a little while-- so fun!! And now I am actually writing this about to leave for warmer weather. Ciao!