Sunday, July 12, 2009

the 9th

At 12:30, we headed to the Trevi Fountain.  Today was definitely a walking day.  WE zig zagged through the windy streets of Rome, trying to get the the fountain.  WE passed the colosseum, Trajoan's market ruins, and the monument Victor Emanuele taking Via dei Fori Imperiali.  WE turned onto via del Corso roaming in and out of random ancient churches.  Finally using the map, we turned right and found the Trevi Fountain.

We sat on the lip of the fountain tossing our coins and making our wishes.  Then we moved to the marble benches to get a better view, and only to move 30 min. later to the side to lean up against the wall and read some more.  WE stayed as long as we could bear the heat, then decided to find our way to the Paneon.

This building wowed us because we felt as though we'd taken 20 steps and BAM! here is a fantastically huge historic building built in 128 AD and is the finest remaining example of ancient Roman architecture.  I loved the outside more than the inside interior.  Just the enormous script left me in curiosity for it wsant in a readable loanguage for me to understand.  

After shopping and walking through Plazas we walked straight back to the hostel only stopping twice for desert and more desert.  Back at the hostel Elizabeth and I ate our bread and cheese for dinner.  Taking a long shower I was ready bed.. 

Naples. the 8th

At 9am, we grabbed some breakfast at the train station and set off to Naples, the origin of Pizza and icecream.  Hello..Neapolitan icecream!  Because we weren't aware of the acquired reservation, the ticket man charged us 18€ each.  WE tried not letting it bother us because it was the nicest train we'd been on since Germany.

In Naples, we asked for directions for an hour at every shop until we found the infamous L'antica pizzeria "da Michele."  Now I heard about this restaurant through the book Eat Pray Love.  The pizzab was cheap and describable exactly as Liz would say, the pizza is "thin, doughy, strong, gummy, yummy, chewy, salty pizza paradise."  Even though the dough is the best thing I've ever had, the toppings just don't beat Luigi's pizza in Midland!  

The waiters took pride in the fact that I'd read the book and had heard of their place or work and life.  They showed us framed newspaper articles of Elizabeth Gilbert and her book, Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt eating there, and others.  What a treat to eat a pizza for only 5 euros in a place where such famous people had been.  I had wonderful Neapolitan icecream for desert.  I was so full and jo yous trying to eat my homemade cone dripping with this sugary mess. My hands were in the air as I waddled trying to dodge the chocolate drops that had escaped my mouth.  All the time my purse was unguarded.  Little did I know my happiness was short lived for when I got to the train station my iphone had been....pick-pocketed.

I didn't panic this time when I was in the train station and had discovered this.  I just sad down recalling the only opportunity a thief could possible have at taking what is left of mine.

Now that my car has been totaled, my little camera has been eaten by the ocean, Florence owns my canon, and Naples has possession of my last valuable, my phone, I just have nothing left to give to those who may want to take something.  

Here! Have the 20€ left in my wallet or the sweat stained shirt I'm wearing, or the tattered shorts that have survived hiking through Cinque Terra.  When I sat down I in the Naples train station all I could say was, "I do not understand." I am just not irresponsible nor have I been known to have bad luck.  The only explanation I could surface from the unfortunate events in the past 3 months is that I have been broken.  I literally have nothing left, material wise.  I haven't leaned yet the spiritual lesson yet, but hopefully I will soon know what God is trying to teach me through this.  

Distraught. Confused.  Still seeking the Lord despite this. 

The train ride was long and emotion as I listened to a song on Elizabeths ipod by Jon Foreman, your love is strong.  Then Kate let me listen to this podcast by Breakaway Ministries.  I love it.  Back in Rome, Kate and I walked around looking for an ATM, stopping at this bakery.  We bought sweets then we bought cheeses for our bread.  Back at the hostel, we played a few games of gin while listening to music just to relax. what a day.

sixth and seventh of July

In the afternoon we walked through the market once again to a specific shoe store where Kate bought these amazing berkinstocks (that I want! and will buy in a few months).  Then we literally walked through Florence as if it were a maze trying to find the Biblioteca Nazionale, but when we finally did find it and enter it, this lady said in Italian (roughly translated), "members only, no visitors, leave!"

We had walked so far. But in the mean time we had seen the David and walked up and down the tiny streets seeing the Italian life.  Even though we werent granted access to the Library, the lady told us of another public library.  We asked about a dozen people directions in order to find it, but we did eventually find the hidden thing.  We settled in this modern library each sitting on our own love seat couch comfortably to read and journal.  After a few hours we decided to leave.  Elizabeth went back to the hostel while Kate and I went back to the restaurant that wed eaten at 2 days ago.

She ordered Lasagna and I ordered this specialty plate, I dont even know how to is God saying " I love you" every time I take a bite!

At 7:30, I walked, alone, to Plazza della Signori, leaving Kate and Elizabeth at the hostel resting. I met up with Creede Newton and his Dad.  I just knew I was going to see someone I knew here in Europe. We caught up a little and then went to get some gelato. Creede paid for mine like a gentleman. Then we three walked across Ponte Vecchio, on e of Italy's most famous bridges, built in 1345.

We walked along the street the crossed the river again by taking the Point S Trinita to take a nice picture of the famous bridge.  I walked them to the station, hugged and watched them depart just like a perfect farewell you see on the movies. 

I love seeing people I know.

Now on to the next day.  

by 10, we were showered, primped and packed.  WE checked out and walked in the direction of the train station.  WE stopped along the way for breakfast.  At 11:13, our train sped away to the ever famous Rome.  It took longer than expected because of the numerous stops we  made along the way, but we finally made it there after 3 hours.

After this long train ride we were all starving and irritable. Especially when we were confused about the direction to get to the hostel so it was taking a long time to get there with out unbearably heavy backpacks.

Honestly, I have learned a lot about myself having time to observe the reetitions of my actions, others actions and reactions,  and my frustrations, plus conversing with Kate and Elizabeth about my personality.  When it comes to directions I am good at reading maps and I have that "feeling" to know the right direction or street to take.  So when someone says to go straight, and I dont feel at about that decision I cant just be easy going and make the mistake of wondering around.  I always have to make my opinion known. "Thats not the right way...It just makes sense to go this way."  Stupid big mouth and intuition.  It is in a way my strong point and my greatest flaw.   However, when it does come to directions, I am usually right, but it causes tension!

around 2 we had already checked into our slightly disappointing but cheap hostel, unloaded, walking down the 4 flights of spiraling stairs and on to eating.   We walked for what felt like a mile to find this small pizzeria.  I got a slice of hot dog mushroom olive tomato and cheese pizza.  It was delicious!  Right on the middle of us all enjoying our meal, this lady, stick thin, came in hysterically flailing around, yelling and just making a fool of herself along with a scene.  She was entertaining, but disturbing so we scarfed our food down to leave.  WE could tell she probably had some serious mental illness. She was crazy!

We found the Colosseum with no problem, probably because its ginormous! We paid 12 painful euros for admission then climbed the ancient stairs to see the giant spectacle.  De ja vu kept hitting me remembering years ago when I had climbed on rocks with Tamren posing as statues for pictures and peeking through the holes of the crumbling walls with Kristen.  It was nice to revisit.

We walked/wondered to different churches exploring different streets and resting here and there.  From all the walking we were all dehydrated and delusional.  Everything made us laugh as if we were at a 6th grade sleepover and It was 3am and a hiccup would leave us in stitches.  

ON our way back to Hostel Beautiful (by the way on the door the "s" is peeled on so it says Ho tel Beautiful...there really isnt anything beautiful about it.).  In our room, we watched the Devil wears Prada, then had a dance party following the movie.  We danced as though we were elite free style dancers not caring just having a free spirit.  We laughed then talked for hours until we could sleep through the noisy streets of Rome.

Friday, July 10, 2009

july 5.

I woke and showered before the other girls and decided to look for my camera in the markets because they were all closed yesterday when i went back to look. I asked every man at every cart that I had even looked at their merchandise.  None had seen the camera. My heart was broken.

I saw Kate on my way back to our Plus hostel. We went and got coffee together, where I just sobbed.

Later Elizabeth gave me advil to get rid of the physical sickness I'd accumulated with this emotion.  We all got some food which helped a bit as an anecdote as well.

I knew it was going to be hard having a light spirit, but I didn't want to not see the beautiful Florence just because I didn't have a camera. At noon we wondered again through the thief market just to find ourselves standing at the feet of th emassive and towering Duoma, Campanille, and Baptistry of all baptistries.  These three historics combine to make the most eye opening green and white achitecture. 

We circled this then sat down for lunch.  Then we paraded through town to Santa Maria Novella. We paid 2€50 for admission.  I found an empty pew on the second row and sat admiring the church while Kate and Elizabeth explored every inch as if they might find Santa Maria herself.  

Although is was only 2:00 when we backtracked to our hostel, I was exhausted. The emotional drainage within the past 24 hours was really starting to take its toll.  We all hung out at the hostel for the rest of the night occupying our time by surfing the internet, sweating in the sona, breathing in the mint steam in the Turkish bath, and of course, back in our room playing around 50 games of gin.

The 4th of July

We already made arrangements with the manager to check out at 12; therefore, we had no intentions of waking up before 11.  At exactly 12:00, we were checked out and walking to the bus stop to take us to the train station.  Yea...all we really wanted out of Pisa was to see the leaning tow and a place to stay. Adios Pisa!

The train left not even 10 minutes later because a train runs from Pisa to Florence every 30 minutes.  Elizabeth and I took a spot across from eachother, as usual, in order to play each other at our favorite card game.  Kate sat in the set of seats behind me to have a quiet time borrowing my bible.

40 minutes later as Elizabeth and I continued playing our card game, we heard Kate say, "I'm sorry, I won't do it again...No! I'm not going to pay that.."  Apparantly, the ticket man was fining Kate 7€ 66 cents for simply putting her feet up on the seat in front of her.  We stood up in protest saying, "there is no sign! That is ridiculous! She won't do it again!" Instead of reason, the ticket man disregarded all of our outrage and even Kate's teary eyes.  When she still refused to pay the fee, the cold hearted man personally escorted us off the train at the next stop, Signa.

We waited 45 minutes and finally found a train to take us to Florence. Once in Florence we found our hostel after stopping for gelato.  Later we walked towards the flea market and the best place to bargain shop.  We stopped in a few stores, a clothing store, where I tried on a dress, then a shoe store, where I took my last picture with my canon camera.  ..I'll explain in a this moment I had no idea it would be my last.

We shopped in the overwhelming market that had everything you could ever think to buy out of Italian leather.  We walked up and down bargaining as if the few euros we were saving were going to feed 5 orphans and their dog.

In celebration for the 4th of July, we went to a nice sit down restaurant and each ordered a fattening Italian plate.  After our amazing dinner, we walked back to our hostel. I immediately plopped down on my bed, pulled up Kate's computer to download all of my pictures, and update my blog. I opened my purse in search of my camera. 
No camera. 
I looked under all my sheet and pillows.
No camera.
In my luggage, through all my clothes. Still..
No camera.

I panicked. I was short of breath and couldn't even breathe. I frantically tore the empty room apart, flew down the staircase just to find no camera had been turned in at the front desk.  Kate and Elizabeth followed me as I raced to the restaurant. 
No camera.
I can't even describe the emotion to the fullest that came over me.  I felt as if I hadn't been on this 2 month long trip at all.  As if someone was snickering in my ear whispering "you bought no souvenirs now you have no proof you were in any of those places."  I just felt like a part of my soul was erased, as melo-dramatic as that seems.

I walked back to the hostel quickly and silently with Kate and Elizabeth keeping their distance several paces behind me out of respect.  With lips pierced, my tears were dry and I was beyond sorrow.

In our room, I requested some alone time and spent the rest of the night finished the book Eat Pray Love, that I recommend all you ladies read immediately!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

july 3 Patience Pisa...freakin old lady.

We checked out at 10:00 (more like 10:30) ate breakfast and headed through the long blue tunnel to the train station.  We waited 30 minutes (always passing the time with a game or 2 of gin) and took the train to Monterosso. 

We found a nice spot in the middle of the most crowded touristy beach and tanned.  Elizabeth and Kate swam two different times, but I stayed out and continued tanning.  I ran around in my bathing suit and chacos like the typical tourist trying to find some stamps...finally I found some in the train station .  I went back down to the beach.  We all packed up, and dressed ourselves and walked up the stairs.  

We each bought a slice of pizza, I mailed some postcards and we made it to platform 4 just to wait for yet another train. Is the train waiting getting monotonous yet?  20 minutes later we were in La Spiza waiting for another ..can you guess it? a train to Pisa. The people working for the station were shuffling all the awaiting passengers from platform to platform, back and forth. Finally as soon as we went to the final platform and boarded the train, it left 2 minutes later.  

At the train station we sat down in McDonalds trying to get some wifi to book a hostel, but no such luck. Just as we were about to leave, this little old lady reminded me of a bird the way she spoke in short choppy sentences so quiet.  At first when she tried to ask me something I asked her if she knew English because her thick England accent didn't sound American English at all. She asked us to watch a few of her bags while she went to check in at her hotel. "Only half an hour, oh thank you! I'll be sure to make it a quick trip," is what I gathered from her chirps.

I laughed at how hard she was to understand, but just waited for her to return.  Her name was Wendy from Porkshire (something or other), England.  She had white wispy hair and pomegranate colored lipstick smudged on her petite lips.  

When she came back, she immediately slapped a map on the table and asked exactly where we had booked our hostel.  We told her we didn't know the location, but we had directions on how to get there. I really don't even think she listened to this statement because she told us to follow her as she loaded her red and white bag on to her blue and white striped baby stroller. She strolled out of the station and Mc Donalds to where all the buses were pulling in and out.  We all knew this is where we had to get on the bus #6, but she walked across the street passed the bus stops to the plaza.  She asked literally everyone that passed if they knew the Italian street our hostel was located.  

At this point my patience was gone. I wanted to tell this lady that we had been on our own for almost 2 months and she was clueless! But instead I kept my mouth shut because she was sweet, old, and just trying to take care of a couple of young I let her. When we stopped at a gelato shop, she asked if anyone had glasses or a magnifying glass...I laughed and said no. But I did tell her I could read the map without glasses or a magnifying glass, but she refused to lax her help she was trying to provide. She kept looking with no success. Finally, I lied and said, "oh! I know exactly where to go! Come on girls! Thanks Wendy! Have a nice stay and thank you again for your help," walking away and pushing Kate and Elizabeth with me.  

Hey it worked and I was polite. I mean...We've been on our own for this long and we didn't need anyones help in this circumstance. We were in Pisa and had all the time in the world to find our place.  

We finally found our hostel after running away from Wendy, walking a mile with our heavy backpacks, sprinting and waving frantically in front of bus #6 to stop it and get on it, walking around a corner and finally seeing our semi-disappointing hostel.  It was decorated nicely, but our actually bread was concrete with a satin bed spread to make it look fancy.  

We unloaded and took the bus back to the train station to catch another bus that would take us to the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  We took the cliche pictures leaning on it and such and just spent 20 minutes admiring the probability and reality of this building falling and actually staying standing tall.  We took a taxi back to our hostel because the buses stopped, and it was too far to walk.  mmmmm sleep. Can't get enough of it.

July 2.

Today our original plan was to wake up and leave by 9:30, but instead we woke up at 10:00 and left by 11:00.  We went straight to the train station and jumped on a train that took us to the most northern mountain, Monterosso, so that we could hike back down the coast.  We had a cup of coffee and set our, not knowing, on the hardest hike we've yet trekked.

The trail was so narrow there was no room to pass nor to make a faulty step.  There was the mountain always to our left and to our right was a drop off of vegetation, cliffs, and the ocean in the background.  Poor Elizabeth is terrified of heights.  

At one point, we couldn't complete the entire staircase so we rested right in the middle of it.  This group of 3 passed us looking in their mid life age.  

We caught up to them at the top of the stair case where they found their resting place.  This is where we got an introduction.  Debbie and Todd, married, and Gorgine all in their mid-fifties.  They were hiking the trail as if they were marathon runners, which they weren't, just in shape. They became our hiking buddies as we continued on this trail.  I mentioned to Kate that I wish I had eaten before we had left, but I didn't..Debbie over heard me and insisted on me taking one of her bananas and an apricot. She was so sweet, and I couldn't have thanked her enough. 

Then on top of that generosity, we were just about to complete the mountain trail, and they wanted to buy us lunch. So they did. We walked up these steps to one of the nicest remote restaurants where you could see the mountain, bay, boats, people, and dock on one side, and on the other the broad ocean.  Our meal was heavenly due to our frugal eating and our hunger after a hard hike.  I mean...for real...after that grueling hike this meal was the best feeling in the world and it didn't cost us a penny. I kept insisting to pay for my own meal, but Debbie said, "honey, I'm fifty-four, can you think of a better way to spend my money at my age?" I smiled and promised to pay it forward one of these days.

We hugged and exchanged emails etc...just in case we ever go up to Wisconsin we would have someone to stay with.  We spent the next 4 hours laying lazily on the dock watching little kids jump in the water, climb out, and jump in again.

We walked back into the town of Vernazza and up to the train station.  It was 7:00 and Elizabeth's chacos were not being nice giving her painful blisters on her heals; therefore, she decided to take the train back to our hostel.  Somehow, I talked Kate into hiking all the way back with me.  We went down back into town and we had to wait 20 minutes for what was said to have the best coffee in town to open up.  After coffee it was around 7:40, and we decided to walked the remaining mountains all the way back to our hostel.  

When we got to Cornilgia, I got some icecream while Kate ate her twix, and we were ready for the next mountain.  From there the hike was a peice of cake compared to the first hike we had that day regardless of our shaky legs.  Plus, I think we got a second wind, and it was all familiar because we had hiked it the day before.  

The only trail that came even close to as hard as the first one, come to think of it, was the first part of the trail leaving Vernazza going to Cornilgia.  But the feeling of hiking all five mountains was one of the greatest achievements. WE DID IT!

I had such an adrenaline rush when we finished in the dark I sat my stuff next to Kate on a bench and ran, yes I ran, up a hill all the way to the top and came back down. 

I think I'm going to train for a half marathon. yea..

July 1.

the next morning we started our adventure.  We hiked along the path to the 2nd village, Manarola.  We blew through the village, only stopping to take a few pictures.  Right after we left Manarola, we veered off the hiking path down to a nice spot on a cliff where a few other people had found the little spot of paradise as well.  We jumped into the icey but nice ocean water. We swam along the mountain to look into this one cave. We could see little fish swimming deeper under us because the water was so clear.  I loved the large almost ramp-like staircase that led down into the water.

An hour later, we hiked all the way to Cornilgia, where we found coffee!! I tried to order a nice sized cup of coffee, but they told me they had 3 choices: coffee latte macchiato,  cappuccino, or an espresso shot.  I got the latte macchiato.  mmmmm.

It was already 4:30, and we still had to hike all the way back and we were all a little tired so we decided to go ahead and make our way back. Our feet were heavy as we climbed all the way up to our penthouse hostel, but we made it.

The rest of the night we spent out on the balcony playing a gin tournament. shocked?

the 30th. I mean...what are ya gonna do?

Yay! we were up early. Italia Day! It was 8:00, and I jumped in the shower.  We went and got some breakfast. Instead of the usual McDonalds that we had been having every morning we got some pizza slices and Elizabeth got a quiche and a croissant. Dont judge the pizza...its good in the morning isn't it Brother? Do you remember you used to always eat cold pizza for breakfast in high school? haha. awe I love you by the way.

By 9:30am, all 6 of us headed to the train station to head to Monaco. Now Monaco is the smallest country in the world and is composed of only 2 small cities.  When we got there at 11:00, we decided that the actual setting of our foot on the ground was satisfying enough and we had to take a train 10 minutes later to the first Italian town across the France border.  We gave hugs and said goodbye to our California friends and boarded the train.

In Ventimiglia, we had an hour lay over so we wanted to spend that time at their beach close by.  We found a nice spot and set our stuff down stripping to our bathing suits.  elizabeth and I found a little stream with a strong current coming from a small pond to the ocean.  It was so much fun! I went first and as soon as I sat in the pond the current was like a shoot and carried me way out into the ocean. Thats when my thoughts started to go a little crazy because I knew I wouldn't be able to fight the current and make it back to shore. Then, to my complete surprise I could stand up.  We both laughed and Elizabeth went ahead and road the stream.

I was so excited I wanted to go a second time.  As soon as the savage waves carried me out right past the part where I could touch, it startled me a little and I told Elizabeth I couldn't reach, but it was okay because the current had smoothed out.  But the second I told her this I felt my water proof olympus camera slip from my grasp and plunge to the bottom.  I tried to save it, but nothing but cold water ran through my fingers and my mind was in panic. I looked and looked for an hour until we had to leave in order to catch our train. I was upset but not devastated because I didn't have that many pictures on it and I still had my big camera. We all lighten the mood by saying, "at least its not your big camera." "Yea I don't know what I would do." I let it go and declared the days motto I mean...what are ya gonna do?

When we came closer to the steps we see three familiar people, Ryan, Peter, and Leah.  We ended up taking the same train with them to Genova, but their destination was farther than ours.  We played a few games of B.S. and said our actual final goodbyes.

In Genova, we went straight to the info desk and they told us we had ten minutes to catch the train to Riomaggiore, Cinque Terra, Italy...exactly where we wanted to go.  He said we needed to go to platform 13. So we did. the subway platform 13.  We realized our mistake as soon as we got to the next station still in Genova, and had to take another subway back to the first station missing our original train. 

I mean...what are ya gonna do?

Finally 2 hours later we were in Riomaggiore.  It was around 10 at night, and the manager at the biggest hostel was "nice enough" to let us have a room paying 25 euros each and only 2 beds.  It was 9 flights of stairs up only after 3 flights up outside of the building and 2 steep hills.  phew...we made it and just laughed at how exhausted and out of shape we were.

For dinner we got peaches, fresh olives, and croissants. We took them out to the cliffs where we walked down the steps carved out of the mountain to sit on the rocks on the water.  These two italian boys, our age, came and introduced themselves as Eddy and Fabio.  When Eddy asked me to borrow the lighter I had found on the rock, he told me in broken English to toss it to him. Because of the dim lighting I knew he would never catch it...I walked over cautiously as to not slip. With his hand and the lighter inches from eachother..I slipped of course.  The moment turned into slow motion as my body flattened into the water between the two rocks and my feet went from the slippery green moss covered rock to high in the air.

i mean...what are ya gonna do? .. when you face plant in front of two cute Italian guys.

the 29th..still in Nice, France.

Okay so the plan was to rent bicycles with Peter, Ryan, and Leah, but that changed early in the morning, when we decided we didn't want to pay 14 euros. that is 3 and a half meals that we could buy instead!

At 10:30, we walked down the street and used the internet for an hour and ate lunch there at Subway.  You may be thinking, 'why in the bucket-full-of-Jesus would you eat Subway in France?' But by this time we had already gotten our taste full of bread cheese and wine.  We wanted veggies and at a cheap price dang it!

After lunch, we walked down to another part of the beach and decided to play the beach bum role all day long.  At one point after I was journaling, Kate and Elizabeth decided to go swimming.  I told them I didn't want to join them, but to go ahead. When they were all the way out there they waved for me to come in.  I just smiled and ran into the water.  We treaded for 45 minutes just giggling and telling secrets then waded back to to the shore. We laid out some more and Elizabeth and I swam one more time out so far we were nervous a giant ship was going to run us over! 

But we were fine! We all three went back into town and bought postcards etc...but were starving!!!! We, again, ate subway for dinner.  God bless America.

Later, Elizabeth decided to stay in, but Kate and I wanted to walk around.  We walked in the direction of the ocean, but stopped at the store called Ten with hideous clothing.  Kate tried on these skin tight sliver sequence pants with black pockets and a white jacket with her swimsuit underneath.  She put on red high heels to boot.  Then I put on this hot pink fringe dress, perfect for a flapper costume on Halloween.  It was skin tight and scandalous. I had black high heels. Oh the fun of trying on clothes that you know youll never buy.

We walked out laughing and made our way to the blue beach.  We walked for 30 minutes towards the lowering sun and sat on a dock. We talked on a dock for a while then walked 30 more minutes.  We walked as far as we could stand and decided to walk back through the busy night streets to our hostel.  We looked in every window of every shoe store. We liked the berkinstocks.