Saturday, August 20, 2005

Last leg of my European tour...

Hello everyone,
I´m back in Germany now, until Wednesday when I fly back to the US!! I hope to send an email in the next week about my escapades in the UK and back here... I think I´m going out with Carina, my cousin (who´s also 23) tonight :-) I know I´m going to have a great time back here in Germany, though, because the first things I did upon returning were 1. eat yummy breakfast 2. sleep 3. eat TACOS!!!!!!!!!!! (my favorite food!) It´s been a great day so far :-D

I´m thinking of you and will see a large portion of you soon!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Stonehenge, Bath, and Salisbury, oh my!

Stonehenge was pretty cool today, and so was Salisbury (oldest Gothic cathedral in the UK) and Bath (where there are Roman baths on a natural hot spring). I almost missed the trip, though, because I didn't get very good directions to where the pickup point was and had to pay £7 to take a taxi to the next pickup point since I was too late to the one I was supposed to be at! That's like $14! WAY too much >:O Oh, well, at least I got to go on the trip!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

In the UK now!

Hi everyone!

London! I really like London! I like it so much that I think I need to live there at some point for a couple months, at least. The city is really diverse, and every single person I talked to - met on the street, asked questions in underground stations or at Camden Market, other random people - was very nice and helpful. There's just too much stuff to see and do there to only have spent a couple days; however, it's just too darn expensive to spend more than a couple days there on my current budget. I did make the best of my time, though, because many things are free and the day ticket to the underground was economical for how much I used it each day!

I first arrived in the middle of the night, around 3:00 am, so I just checked in and went straight to bed, careful to be quiet so as not to disturb the other 7 people staying in my room. This ended up being somewhat in vain, though, because a few short hours later, two girls got up around 6:30 and decided to do their packing when everyone was trying to sleep... the crunching of bags and loud talking signified that they did not care (maybe they didn't notice?) about the other sleeping souls in the room... and I even had a dream about telling them off after they had woken me up! Needless to say, I was very tired when I woke up the next morning, but that was a moot point because of my shower. Now, I understand that not everyone in the world even gets a shower, let alone a warm shower, but I am spoiled and have gotten quite used to hot showers (not warm, HOT). So, this shower (maybe 5 deg Celcius?) was enough to give me some kind of shock and wake me right up! It worked and kept me up the rest of the day.

I went to Kensington Palace and the park and took a long walk around London today. It was really nice, despite the drizzle!

Friday, August 12, 2005

Funny Story from Rome

Hello everyone!
after a relaxing week in Florence, I'm flying to London tonight. I really liked the campground I stayed in this week, even though it rained all last night and yesterday. It was actually good, because it cooled the temperature down a little! Since I had been wanting to spend a week on the beaches in Greece, doing very little other than reading, I wasn't super excited about being in Florence, which is surrounded by mountains and had no beaches :-( I ended up walking around the city a little each day (except the first day, when I was catching up on sleep that I missed out on because of the overnight train!). I was feeling pretty introverted this week, and was not really in the mood to fight tourists, so I tried to avoid the touristy areas as much as possible... which means that I didn't do much touristy stuff. I did a lot of people watching and talking to people at the campground, though, and read a lot. I'm excited to be heading to London tonight and know I'll have a good time there. I think the weather is much better for me, even though it could rain every day, because it won't be so hot. Look for an email this weekend talking about what I experienced in London!

I will leave you with a funny story, though. As I was looking through my journal a couple nights ago, I realized that I didn't tell you the story of my friend Gregore Gabriel (or was it Gabriel Gregore?). When I was in Rome with Ellen and Frederick, we had one very funny night. First, we went to a small, less touristy part of town called Trastevere (I think that's how you spell it) to eat dinner. We found a very cute restaurant in a little alley and ordered some delicious red wine of the house and pizza (we were trying to be really 'Italian', I suppose...). The food was really good and filling, and we decided to walk around a little bit to work off the food, then find a pub and have one last beer before catching the last bus back to the city center and the place where we were staying. Well, things do not always cooperate with your plan (especially on this trip!)... While walking along the main road in Trastevere on the way to the bus stop, Frederick was stopped by a guy who looked our age and was standing next to a car that had its hood (bonnet) up. Ellen and I had been lagging behind, talking about something, and when we caught up, we realized that this guy knew no English and Frederick knew no Italian, but they were talking to each other just fine. By the smell of things, the car had simply overheated, so Ellen and I tried talking to this guy in broken Italian (Ellen had learned Italian for a year in high school) and Spanish. He told us his name was Gregore or Gabriel (I really am not sure which was his first name, or if he had two first names or what) and that that day 'yo e amore mio kaputt'. Ellen and I figured that he had broken up with his girlfriend that day, which was just fantastic, because here he was with a broken down car. Ellen and I tried a few times to stop people on the street and ask them if they spoke English and Italian so they could translate what we were trying to say to Gregore. Nobody ended up being helpful, so we eventually just went into the restaurant that was right next to where the car was parked (that was seemingly full of ROMANS that Gregore could have asked for help, who spoke ITALIAN... guess it wasn't that obvious to him though!) and asked for some water to put in the car. We filled the tank for water (which was fun to find, because it was written in German on the cap, and the only book of car instructions in the car was about the air conditioning, which was in Italian and German) with the water from the restaurant, but unfortunately heard it all dripping out pretty quickly under the car. Well, Gregore wanted to see it closer, so he whips out his lighter and gets on his hands and knees to look under the car with an OPEN FLAME. Ellen and I ran for cover while Frederick kept telling him, 'no fire! no fire near car!'. It was freaking hilarious (in retrospect, because at the time, we really thought he was going to somehow blow up his car)! Finally we convinced Gregore to park his car on the side of the road near where we were and just come back and get it the next day.

You may think this story is over, but no, ladies and gentlemen - it is just beginning....

So Gregore wants to thank us for helping him (did we even really help him that much? I guess!) so we walk along the road and we all sit down for a beer. It was actually pretty cool to be carrying on a conversation with Gregore in broken Italian, Spanish and English, with the random German word. As it turns out, Gregore's girlfriend is German, and had come to Rome for a couple days to visit before they were to fly to France for a month the following day. Sadly, Gregore broke up with her (at least that's what we think happened, he kept saying 'culpe mio', which is similar to Spanish) and she wouldn't answer the phone when he called her like every 10 minutes. After the first beer, Ellen and Frederick decide to buy another round, so we sit there for a little while longer and talk some more. Gregore decides we should see the beach, which isn't that far from where we were (apparently...). I was like 'how do we get there? there's no more busses' to which Gregore said that he'll drive his broken down car after two large beers. Riiiiight... Ellen and Frederick were like 'it's an adventure!' whereas I was like 'broken car + 2 large beers = I don't see us coming out of this alive!' So, we get in the car, which had cooled off by then, and drive in the direction away from the city center, where we were staying. After about 5 minutes, the car overheats again and we have to pull over. We're in the middle of this residential district, far away from central Rome, with a broken down car. Gregore is surprisingly still in a good mood, despite this possibly being the worst day of his life, and decides to open the trunk (boot) of the car and get out the beach umbrella and towels for him and Frederick to bask under the artificial lights in the parking lot. Ellen took some pictures, then Gregore decided he wanted to get some more beer. Well, by this point, it was like 3:00 am, I was tired and not in the mood for more beer, but what else could we do? We walked along the road and found a shop open (which I think must have been a miracle of this bizarre night, because things just aren't open that late in Italy!) and bought some beers. We walked a little along the road until we found a park and stopped there to drink the beers. Yum... When nobody was looking, I 'accidentally' knocked over my beer and kept 'clumsily' not being able to pick it up until all the beer was gone... It was all very cute and romantic for the four of us to be sitting on this park bench, facing the fountain. Ellen and Frederick were talking and somewhat cuddling, and I was on the other end of the bench, with Gregore. It was funny to try to talk, but I kept asking questions about what happened with his girlfriend and talking as much as I possibly could about Gonzalo, just in case Gregore needed to be reminded every two minutes that I have a boyfriend. At one point, Gregore told me I should be going to France with him the next day, and that he'd pay for everything. I refused a few times, but we were interrupted by Ellen deciding that she needed a bath or was hot (or something) because she got up and started walking around in the fountain. Frederick got up and started doing it too, and everyone was done with their beer, so we decided to leave the park and get our butts back to the city center. We found a taxi sitting by the side of the road and went back to the main train station to say goodbye to Gregore and walk to the place we were staying that night. We later compared stories and realized that Gregore was supposed to meet his girlfriend at the train station at 5:00 am, which we think is why he didn't want to go home to sleep or anything, just go to the beach and party all night.

So, I guess I should wrap it up about the Gregore story now. It was hilarious while it was happening, and still ridiculous when I think about it in retrospect. It was just one of those random things that you can't explain and never can expect... I hope that doesn't happen too many more times on this trip! Between the Gregore and the missing the ferry to Greece events, I don't think I need any more drama on this trip!

Here's hoping I make it to my youth hostel (backpackers) in London ok tonight and have a relatively uneventful trip to the UK!

Saturday, August 6, 2005

Drama in Italy

Hello everyone,
So. It was bound to happen... something went wrong in my trip :-( I'm lucky in a number of ways, though, so I'm in a good mood and thankful that I have food to eat and books to read!

Yesterday, I left from Rome to take a train to the other coast of Italy, to the city of Bari, where I would catch a ferry to Greece. My train unfortunately hit a person when we were about 10 minutes from Bari, and we had to wait 2 hours before a judge came to allow the train to move again. Finally we moved and arrived in Bari, though it was 8:40 and the ferry left at 8:00. While on the train, I started talking to the three girls sitting next to me. They were on vacation from Portugal and were trying to catch the same ferry as I. We stuck together when we arrived in the Bari train station and eventually shared a cab to the port since the bus to the port would have taken 20 minutes longer. I unfortunately had no cash at that time, because the train I was on was nicer than the ones covered by my Eurail pass, so I had to pay the only 20 Euro I had for the stupid supplement instead of the supplement for my ferry ride. Lucia, Susanna, and Maria Joao paid and told me not to worry about paying them back (see? people are good!). We got to the ferry port and learned that the ferry had just left, after waiting until 8:30, because the train had called ahead to have the ferry wait. Which means we were just a few minutes too late! It didn't matter anyway, though, because the ferry was full, as is tonight's ferry, and we found out that we can't get reservations anyway. So. They went back to sleep in the train station, and I was standing there outside the ferry ticket office, when I heard these two girls talking in US-ian English (their names are Alyssa and Melissa - yes, seriously). I asked them where they were going, and they said a hotel and asked if I wanted to share a cab and the room to make it cheaper for us all (they had been on the killer train, too). We asked the taxi driver, in broken Italian, English and Spanish, to take us to a cheap hotel, which he did and didn't overcharge us for the trip, either! The hotel was very nice for being so cheap, and we immediately dropped our bags and raced for some food. We were luck and found the best restaurant I've seen here (their house bread was AWESOME!), and they kept giving us free water and bread, which we eventually took home with us (I actually have some of the bread right next to me right now, to go with my peanut butter and water - it's a good lunch!). I slept well and today came to the internet cafe to check finances and to see what my Greece/Italy options were. After that, I had to check out of the hotel at 10:00, and when I was checking out, met this Austrailian couple (Michelle and Franz) who were trying to go to Greece from Croatia, but had to come to Bari first. We traipsed around Bari all morning, and finally they figured out a way to get to Greece and now I'm alone in an internet cafe again, figuring out my next week, and letting you all know I'm ok and going to be well-fed.

My new plans are to use my Eurail pass to travel around Italy, based in Florence. I'll be at the Plus Camping Michelangelo hostel (yes, tents, but they're like cabin-tents, not just pitch-a-tent-on-the-ground tents). Their phone number is 39(0)556811977 and email is if you need to contact them to contact me. My cell phone is still working (Shoshana just called me while I was writing this!), so you can call that if need be. So. Tonight it's off to Florence (Kathryn - we only missed each other by a couple days!) and maybe a day trip to Pisa or something. Maybe I'll learn more Italian by the time I leave - yea!

I fly to London from Rome on Friday the 12, to arrive in London around midnight. I'll email sometime in the next week and definetly after I arrive in London. Please don't worry about me - my lack of shyness should help me in not being alone in dangerous situations, and I can hang out with tourists that speak English, German, and Spanish, so my options are very wide!

I miss you!

Tuesday, August 2, 2005

Ciao Roma!

Hello everyone!
I've only been in Rome for a day and a half, but have been lucky to have seen a lot already. I like how this city is actually smaller than meets the eye, so you can walk everywhere! I'm here with my friend Ellen and her boyfriend, which has been really nice so far. I think it's good to ease into this trip with some friends before I traipse off to Greece. Yesterday, before they arrived, I had already met three people who had given me tips on tours to take in Rome and offered to help me get around Athens... you know I'm not shy, so guess who initiated the conversations? ;-) That's why you love me!

The unfortunate thing here is that I don't know Italian. I really dislike not knowing the language of the people I'm trying to communicate with, even if they know English, so this has been frustrating for me. Fortunately, Spanish and Italian are close enough that I can speak Spanish with an Italian pronunciation and get by. I've also picked up some phrases and such, and have found a knack for picking the English-speakers out of a crowd...

Today was taken up by a sight-seeing bus ride all over the city, where we could jump off and on as much as we like, and yesterday we walked to the Coliseum. Tonight we're eating at an Ethiopian restaurant near where we're staying (we heard it has good vegetarian and is very cheap!) and tomorrow we'll be visiting Vatican City all day. Thursday, we might visit museums all day; there's a Botero exhibit and an exhibit about the Forbidden City in China that both interest Ellen, Frederick and me, so Thursday might be the most comfortable day as we'll be inside out of this immense heat all day :-) I'll email again sometime from Greece (I hope) to let you know I'm ok and loving the Greek food... because I know I will be!!

I miss you!