Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ciao Italia, Ciao America

Wednesday, March 30th- check.
5:30 a.m. -check.
Annoying ipod alarm- check.
It was my takeoff morning and I was up. I wasn't tired, but excited and yet sad at the same time. I was on my way home! But first- leave keys on counter, tiptoe down 4 flights of stairs with 50 pounds of luggage, and walk the 1 mile to the train station, but not leaving without my LAST cappuccino in Italy! Ah! It was so good.
I boarded the train and tried capturing every moment I had left of my trip. The odd looking Roman trees on hillsides- which I adore, the way the sun rose over hazy clouds everywhere, the way Trenitalia arrived late at the airport (it has an amazingly good record of being late everywhere, the airport is no exception)....
 I found myself getting around the airport quiet easily, since about 10 people warned me it was confusing and to get there super early. I took their advice, but I, by no means, was lost or confused.
Did I say I had my last cappuccino at the train station? Wrong, I had it at the airport...I almost forgot about that one! I made one last stop at the cafe in my terminal, among stores like Prada, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, a little more than classy airport shops.
10 hours, 4 movies, and 2 meals later I get to Atlanta. 15 minutes late that is....I started mildly panicking before the plane hit the ground and thought of ways of how I can get to the front of the plane as fast as possible. We were supposed to get there at 3:45 pm. It was about 4:00 and my flight to Portland left at 5:05...that is definitely not enough time, especially when a) you need to go through customs, b) you need to pick up your bag, c) you need to declare your goods d) re-check your bag and e) go through security.

4:15- in line for customs, begging people to let me cut in line. Thanks and God bless. Sprinting to pick bag up, only to wait for it to even arrive at baggage claim.
4:30- in line to drop off declaration list, begging to be let through with an even more desperate look on my face.
4:34- dropping off my checked back and sprinting to security.
4:37- As I'm taking off my shoes and placing my carry-on and purse on the x-ray scanner belt, I realize I have things in my bag that I can't take with me. The bottle of balsamic vinegar cream and maroni butter I bought in Rome, duty-free at that, were both over 3.5 ounces. Ooops. I totally forgot in the rush of everything! Now I'm really screwed.
4:39- security guy, a short, sweet Mexican man with glasses pulls me over to the side opens up my purse and tells me like 3 times I have to throw these away. I tell him I don't want to, I paid for them, and I'm not leaving without them. I told him what time my plane left and he had "you're NOT going to catch that plane" look on his face. How reassuring!
Him, " Hurry up, get your carry-on and follow me," he said in an agitated, stressed out voice.
Me, "Okay, okay!" in a panicky tone, following him back through the beeping human scanner thing.
We ran to the check baggage counter, he told me to throw these items in my carry-on then go back to him at security. I stuffed the bottles in my bag, told the guy behind the counter to make sure it gets on the plane. He was giving me a "uuuh I don't know about that" look, and I wasn't gonna have it. So I prayed.
4:48- back in the security line, I went in front of everyone else in line, made eye contact with my man, threw my shoes off and purse in the x-ray machine, as onlookers wondered what the heck was going on.  I thanked my security man liked I've never thanked anybody, he was so sweet! I hurried to put my shoes on as he gave me directions to my gate.
4:50- I sprinted, through crowds, down escalators to a huge hallway where I would catch an underground subway in the airport that will take me from gates E to B. It came just in time, I had a little bit of relief knowing I was on my way. B came, I got off ran again past everyone, including someone laughing at me (I distinctly heard a "HAHA" directed at me) up 2 flights of escalators and another 1/2 mile or so to gate B23.
5:01- No one was at the gate besides one lady behind the counter. "You on this flight?" she asked.
Hell yes I am!! And here's my ticket, it scanned and off the ramp I went. I arrived on the panting, sweating, and met 70 sets of eyes, curiously looking at me. Found my seat next to a cute old couple and I was there. I sat and recovered for 30 minutes or so as our plane took off. I made it. THANK GOD. I made it.
5 hours later, I landed in Portland, OR. I was home.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Domani...

...means tomorrow in Italian.

I used to say it to people I met at the store. Or vendors on the street. Just to let them I'll probably be back. Not like they really cared. 
I still have a few stories to tell you about my trip, that need to be typed and written out and go down in history. So where did I leave off? Oh yes....

I fell asleep for a bit on the train. I wasn't feeling too great after a grueling hike and not being properly nourished, so I munched on a bar of chocolate I picked up in Hungary. It was dark chocolate with hazelnuts. I love how hazelnuts are such a big in Europe! I'm so serious- from Nutella, to gelato, to butter, it is everywhere and oh-so-good. I was also exhausted, the night before we went out, walked long during the night then got up the next morning very early, so my body was not liking me at the moment. 
That next morning I woke up at 12, well actually 11 because the time changed. I checked my email and realized that my cousin will be waiting to pick me up from the train station at 12:15. It was 12:08. It takes 20 minutes to leisurely walk there...Uh-oh. I frantically threw all my stuff in my backpack and one big bag, bid ciao to my new buddies and bolted...nothing I wasn't used to. 

That afternoon I had one of the best meals I have ever had. We went to this house in the country that is also a restaurant. It's family-run, everything is made fresh- they have their own farm as well. This is the kind of place that you stumble upon and realize it is the a diamond that you tripped over. The restaurant was literally a house- you walk in to a dining room atmosphere- walk up some stairs in the house, walk into a couple of other small rooms that look like they should be bedrooms and viola! A table for three, with a sweet, older Italian waiter. What could be better? Prociutto, red wine, two varieties of ravioli's- ones stuffed with potato with mushroom sauce and parmesan cheese on top and ones stuffed with castagne with parmesan cheese. They melted in your mouth. They were so good!

That night ended with an amazing lasagna dinner made by my cousin and family visiting. This was officially my last Sunday in Italy; and tomorrow would be my last Monday in trip was slowly winding down.
But before I continue with my story, I'm going to interrupt you to talk about a place my cousin brought me to see in Pavia. It's the Carthusian Monastery of Pavia.

We drove about 30 minutes to get there. It's a big, beautiful monastery first started being built in August of 1396. It has such beautiful architecture and deep marble beauty on the inside....They used to let people take pictures on the inside, but not so much now....but like I encountered at the end of my tour, monks do sell books and postcards with pictures of the inside, along with homemade honey, wine, and balsamic vinegar I believe, all made by them. It's cool they actually have this really old winery on the property.
Heres a couple pictures of it:

There is sooo much history associated with this place, so if you want more information, here's a link to a

Back to my story. That Monday I unpacked everything, repacked everything, and realized the new weight of my backpack and new suitcase was nearing 50 pounds. Lord help me- I'll be carrying those along with a purse and possibly another handbag through 3 train stations to Rome, through the streets of Rome, and to Fuimicino Airport. UGH.
24 hours later, on Tuesday I said my bittersweet goodbyes to my cousins, knowing, but more hoping it wouldn't be another 20 years till I see them again. And off I was. First to Bologna, then to Rome, getting there mid afternoon.
The guy working at hostel (on the 4th floor of an apartment building in Rome, mind you) was a plumb, friendly, Hungarian-Romanian dude. We chatted, he gave me a map and took me to my room. I shared a room with a group from Spain. Students. All studying to be doctors and/or nurses. They were so friendly! I took off on my own to explore Rome and so did they as I randomly ran into them by the Collesium.
And it was really cool I did run into them- they gave me a free tour bus guide ticket in Rome! Haha. An older lady gave it to them at the train station, and since they were a bigger group and didn't want to buy extra, they had nothing to do with it but to give it away- to me. I was happy. And so I head off to catch the bus, but not after sticking my hand in the "Boca di Verita", just to be safe.  I'm a huge fan of Roman Holiday with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck and I tried to find all the places in certain scenes of the movie and found most of them! Except the place where she got her haircut, now it's a leather store close to the Trevi Fountain. Oh, speaking of that, it was sooo beautiful at night! You must see it at night if you go! And throw yourself a coin (or 3) in the fountain for a good love life....or so they say ;)

I got lost a couple times, but it was okay, because I was in Rome. All alone in Rome. Not gonna lie...a part of me really enjoyed overtaking this city all by myself, I got a thrill from it, and I was happy.
I think it was one of the happiest days of my life. I don't know why, but just being on top of a double decker bus, the sun shining down on me, and realizing that I am living my dream....was just euphoric. You had to be there.
Rome is a fascinating city. It's big, it's romantic, it's historical....It's so weird to think that thousands of years ago historical figures walked the same streets I walked, looked at the same hills, the same stars, the same sun...Ancient Romans were once there.

I got to the hostel fairly early that night, just as my roommates were going out. They were so sweet! We chatted for a while and they were telling me how cheap school was in Spain! Makes me want to finish my degree there. One guy was from the Canary Islands. We spoke about food, politics, and culture. I also chatted and shared some wine while looking at the stars with another guy from....Berlin? or was it Frankfurt, not sure. He was in Rome by himself. If I didn't wake up so early or stayed another day, just another day, we could have all hung out, but when in Rome...I mean, when you need to get up super early...
 I had to be up at 5:00 to catch my train to my was my last night in Rome. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

My Last Weekend Treasure

So, it's been almost two weeks since I have been home. It was weird, especially the first 3 or 4 days. Now, I'm starting to get used to it. Actually, I am used to it, maybe a little too much, because I feel like I am back where I was before my trip, except this time without a job. Anyways, there are still a few stories I haven't shared with you and about a week's worth of stuff I need to write about. Not gonna lie, I have gotten a bit lazy with blogging like every day- I usually don't blog, but for history's sake, I decided to take it up for the trip....and possibly after. I just got used to telling the world wide web about my adventures and such.

Anyways, back to my story. I left off telling you how I was headed to a small town- Casteggio. It is cute. It's got the square, a fountain, a really old church, vineyards, and most importantly, my family. I spent time hanging out with them, getting to know them, eating chocolate, and visiting nearby towns for the 3 days I was there. One day, I went to Voghera, the next town over that had a very quaint atmosphere and a parade of a few hundred children celebrating Italy day--again. I love Italians and the way they celebrate things- they get so festive and it goes on forever! I believe it was called "Experience Italy" and every week for a couple months or so they had some event, some where.
On my last day in North Italy, I was lucky enough to visit Torino, or as American would call it "Turin", I say that with a southern accent, and it cracks me up every time.
Anyways....about Torino. I was trying to decide where to go on my last day in north Italy. It was a Friday and that night I was heading a couple hours south to Parma, where I would stay with a couple of American girls studying there. (I met them in Rome at a hostel). 
I get up early, deeply inhaling the aromatic scent of Italian coffee permeating the dining room I slept in, get ready, and join cousin Laura for "o cafea." My cousin Laura is more like aunt- she is in her early sixties, the first daughter of my oldest aunt. And me, being the youngest of the youngest- that puts about 40 or so years between us. 
They take me to the station and I arrive in Torino shortly after 10 am. I don't know what to expect, I've heard about this city, know its big, and know chocolate is a big thing here. Which definitely increases my interest in Torino. As soon as I exit the station I cross the street and run into an information booth, and exit with about 6 pamphlets about the city. And I'm off! 
I walk by squares, Italian flags everywhere, men playing electric violins and accordions on the street...I smile as I pass by, and try to record as much of what I'm seeing, feeling, and hearing in my brain, knowing that these moments are unique and Lord knows when I'll experience them again. 
It was another day to celebrate Italy- storms of schools groups, tourists, Torino-natives, business men and women were on the streets with the same look of awe and admiration I was wearing. It was nice to know I wasn't alone, although I was, it didn't really feel like it. 
I strolled through a park that had different tents of vendors selling stuff- mostly food items like salami's, breads, dried fruits and nuts. I opted for a small amount of dried ginger- a personal favorite then made my way to a cafe for a cappuccino. After my short burst of energy I made my way down to the chocolate festival. It was SO awesome! 
I remember thinking- this is one of the best days of my life- and nothing even significant happened- I was just exploring a beautiful city that had a chocolate festival going on. All the big Italian chocolate brands were there- Perugina, Milka, Ferrero, Lindt, well as independent sellers featuring interesting products such as Chili Chocolate Liquor ( I was so tempted to buy a bottle, but I had absolutely no room in my bag) and Limoncello Hazelnut white chocolate cream- one of my favorites. It was SO GOOD. I kid you not. But again, space and money held me back. I half regret not buying it, but it only stirs my motivation to go back. Aaah. All these amazing flavors make me more excited for heaven. Oh Lord. 
It was a warm, sunny day in Torino so I hiked up to this hill that had a church on it and a good view of the city, one thing I still haven't seen was the Mole- Torino's building- basically the one people think of when they think of this city. I rested at the top, admiring my surroundings then headed back down, walked through the university district, wandered about the city a bit and headed back to the train station.

Overall the city was great, it was like a mix of the big-city-ness of Milano and the small town, romantic feel of Florence or Parma. So glad I was able to see it! 

Some pictures from Torino: 

The busy days don't stop here. I left Casteggio later than night, with long goodbyes to my family and off I was to Parma, where I joined Kelly and Megha, the law students from New York in a night out in Parma- experiencing the nightlife, meeting people from all over the world, and even doing Karaoke! 
It was funny because during my trip I've talked about and wanted to do Karaoke, but never really got the chance and/or didn't know where to go, so I gave up on the idea, but it was like God reminded me of this thing I've been wanting to do and gave me the chance to do it! Me and Kelly sang Bohemian Rhapsody of all songs and the crowd actually joined in on this one with us. It was a moment to be remembered and the most fun I've had in a while.
After walking 1.5 hours back to their place, making it about 2:30 am, we fell fast asleep, and got up 4.5 hours later to catch the train to the Cinque Terre- one of the most amazing places I have ever been to in my entire life- dare I say the best. 
The Cinque Terre means "The Five Lands" and is made up of five villages: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso. All beautiful gems on the western coast of Italy. Check out the link, that gives you more wiki info on it. And go see it! 

We got to the southernmost village at about 11 am along with a billion other Americans. It was weird. Where did they come from? Judging by their faded blue jeans, American English, and cameras, they were out to do the same thing I was... And thanks Rick Steves for advertising this place to the world, so they can treasure it as much as I do. Okay, so I'll be honest, it was Rick's videos that opened my eyes to this place, BUT, I was crazy to think I would be a minority on this path. 
Anyways, we get off the train and start walking- my feet are ready, my eyes are hungry, and my heart is happy. I'm so stoked. It was beautiful- the path along the water, the sun shining, the breeze blowing...It was the "Love Walk" we strolled on from Riomaggiore (the southernmost city) to Manarola that was the busiest- both for the eye and the foot- locks hung from every possible place to hang a lock, pictures were taken everywhere, hearts and initials were carved on wild cactus leaves growing close to the trail, and there were quite a few people on it, most of them, again, English-speakers. 
This day was one of the best days of my life. That's two in a row! I'm on a roll. Hehe. 
The sun was shining, the hike was climbing, and I was crying. Or at least about to, it was just soo beautiful! 
We made our way to the next village, then realized we had to climb- a looong way to the next city and the ones following it because the path along the water from Manarola, the 2nd city, to the rest of the cities. Taking the train would have been lame, so off we go on the beaten path. We followed white arrows around vineyards, local's houses, rock paths, rocks steps, dirt paths, grass steps, and any other medium of foot travel. God, I can't explain to you how beautiful the day was. 
We got to the next town, Corniglia, had a short lunch, and continued our hike. 
I was leading the girls, who were so awesome and so down to hike this, even though they complained (and warned me they would) for some of the time. But I didn't mind. We had some great conversations along the way, they told me about law school, what it's like to live in New York, talked about relationships, and the like...They had vibrant, fun personalities, and so it made it fun. I don't know what I would have done if I was alone...I would have still wanted to hike it, but some parts of it were rough- if you fell or something, your body would probably be found a few days later down by the water or something. All in all, we made it to my favorite village out of all of them, Vernazza, that was showered with vibrant colors, umbrellas, boats, friendly people, local foods and drinks, and a gorgeous sunset. The last town, we did take the train to, because it was getting dark. Trust me, you do NOT want to get stuck on a trail like this at night. Finding your way around during the day was a challenge enough- take away the sunlight and your screwed. Unless you've done it before and are prepared- that would be fun. 
Anyways, we got to the last city, explored it, found a castle, and made our way back to the train that would take us back to Parma. And, to no one's surprise, it was 50 minutes late. Thanks Trenitalia. 

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Best Overnight Train

 FYI- I'm already home- this is what I have saved for you that I wasn't able to blog while
away. Enjoy :)
The best overnight train I've had so far on this trip was last nights.  
It was from Budapest to Zurich. How did I get there, you might ask,  
since in my last blog I informed you of my travel to Cattolica... Well  
I'm a little behind, but plan to fill you all in breifly.
Here goes!
Two whole days were spent in cattolica. It's a nice small town, but in  
the summertime the population doubles or more because it's the place  
alot of people come to to chill out during the summer- the beaches are  
filled with people tanning, swimming, and spending their summer  
vacays. It was a clear, sunny day as we walked along the beachfront  
inhaling fresh, but chilly ocean air. It felt so good, like I was  
giving my lungs a detox. They were happy:) it was a relaxing and  
peaceful two days at the beach hanging out with my aunt, eating great  
Italian homemade food, sharing stories, and sipping on espresso. If  
you are ever in Italy in the summer, make a stop here! You won't  
regret it, oh and get gelato at Pimpii Gelateria, close to the beach  
and the mermaid statue... They were closed when I was there, but I  
hear it's the best!
So after that me and Casey headed for Florence again, where we were to  
meet up with keeva, who stayed behind in Venice while we were at the  
beach. Florence is a beautiful city- as I have desribed before and it  
was nice to revisit it. I played tour guide for Keeva, whose never  
been there before and it was awesome, we hit the outdoor/indoor Market  
again, observing life in florence- which, on this particular saturday  
morning consisted of older men smoking, chatting vibrantly, and  
drinking a mid-morning wine, it was the cutest thing, so I snapped a  
picture, which I may or may not share with you on here. Me and Keeva  
walked around the city that day, plopped down at a huge square at  
Vecchio Palace and had lunch on the curb between two super fancy  
cafes- only our lunch consisted of lettuce, salami, bread, and wine,  
all which we bought for under 5 euros. Hehe. It was delicious. Also,  
while in Florence I unfortunately got my wallet stolen at darn H&M,  
but thank God it was only a little bit of cash.
So something they have in Italy is apperitif- this is kinda like happy  
hour except, you pay for your drink, and you get a mini snack buffet  
thing for free. It's like appetizers for free if you buy a drink type  
of was really awesome, and the cafe was the coolest one  
I've ever gone to. It was in a hallway off a side street, had  
candlelight seating, ancient-like artwork on the ceiling, pillows and  
benches, etc... Anyways, this is where I separated from Casey and  
keeva and made my way back up north- they were heading back home and I  
was staying for a couple more weeks.
Next up: Revisiting north Italy.
I went back up to Parma, the land of amazing Italian cheese and ham,  
then went to Milano- I had an appointment to see Leonardo da Vinci's  
Last Supper painting! The real thing! It was a miracle I even got to  
go see it because you need to sign up months in advanced and I was  
blessed enough to find one of the last opening times in the month of  
March. The thing with this paintin is that only 25 people can see it  
at a time for only 15 minutes. The reason is that it is so damaged and  
fragile that our breathes, humidity, and dust will destroy it further-  
that's why when I saw it me and the group had to go through 2 separate  
rooms where we were 'de-humidified' before going in. There was a  
strict security lady in the room with us that occasionally yelled 'no  
photos!' at people who whipped out their cameras. I thought about  
sneaking a shot,but I opted for enjoying the moment of seeing the Last  
Supper and engrave it in my memory instead. It was awesome! I started  
tearing up, i couldn't help it. It's a feeling a can't describe, the  
closest thing I can think of is when the bride and groom see each  
other forthe first time- your jaw just drops a bit and you're like  
WHOA! It was cool. If you ever go to Milano and appreciate art, this  
is an absolute must-see!
My journey to Romania:
So, one thing than wasn't really planned in this trip, but something  
that would be awesome to see was my mothercountry- Romania. Haha, I  
just love that word mothercountry, I dint know why it, it just makes  
me laugh. Anyways, my journey towards Romania started off early in the  
morning with a visit to Verona, Italy. My train was in Venice at  
night, and Verona, the so-called city of Romeo and Juliet was right on  
the way, so I took advantage of it. It was a cloudy day, but i walked  
around the whole city- it has an amazing Arena, like the collesium-  
it's one the largest in the world and what's cool about it was that it  
is still in use today! They have concerts, operas, shows, events, and  
whatever else there. They were actually setting up for an event while  
I was there. ALSO, it was Italia day on Thursday, March 17th. So  
everyone in Italy had the day off and flags flew from almost every  
balcony. It was a holiday and people were out, rain or shine.
I walked down a narrow cobblestone street observing people, window  
shopping, and admiring the beauty of the city. So, in this city is  
'Casa di Gulietta' which translates into Juliet's house and so I paid  
it a visit. The house itself they say belonged to the Capulets, not to  
the actual family in the story, but to the family generations earlier.  
Anyways, I walked onthis hallway that was graffited like no other with  
names in hearts, dates, and proclamations of love of young people and  
old. I observed two men holding up their ladies while they write their  
names in hearts on the walls, it was cute! In the small courtyard  
there was a bronze statue of Juliet, with her right breast being  
really shiney because I. Is said to bring good luck in the world of  
love if you rub her breast. There were families, couples, singles,  
taking turns getting their picture taken with Juliet, I had (wanted)  
to do the same haha. It was fun.
I then wandered about the city and had the best ice cream sandwhich I  
had ever had. There's this place called 'Savoia' that started an ice  
cream place in Verona and they are known for their ice cream. It's so  
good! The ice cream sandwhich I had was invented in Verona in 1929.  
It's ice cream with ameretto and almonds in the middle with extremely  
thin wafers that are on both sides of the square ice cream sandwhich.  
So good!
I then made my way to Venice where I caught the train to Romania  
through Budapest. A nice surprise was that there was another American  
that sat next to me so we talked, it was refreshing. Two train  
transfers later I got to Timisoara, Romania. My friend picked me up  
from the station and then showed me the city that weekend- it's a huge  
University town with over 8,000 students and a lot of Protestant  
churches as well- two of which we attended services for. It was cool-  
reminded me of my childhood church and at one there was actually an  
American speaker, how ironic.
This town is very old and was actually one of the main places where  
the 1989 revolution began; the operahouse was where  anti-communism  
leaders would give speeches from and students reveled against  
communism. Also, at the metropolitan church, on the very steps I  
walked on, men, women, and children were murdered because they stood  
in the way of tanks trying to destroy the churh. Crazy stuff. Also,  
they have a gigantic mall- full with even a. Bowling alley and a movie  
teather, in addition to others.
After Romania, I headed to Budapest to meet up with keeva and enjoy  
the city. And what a surprise it was! I didn't know what to expect of  
Budapest, but I enjoyed what i saw- a huge city divided by the Danube  
river. The hilly, scenic side where the castle made it's home was Buda  
and the urban, busy side where shopping, business, and everything else  
was the Pest side. We explored both in the 5 hours I had in the city,  
ending with dinner at an authentic Hungarian literal hole-in-the-wall  
place. If anyone ever goes to Budapest please please go here! It is so  
good! They have traditional dishes made fresh. I had a salad,  
Hungarian beer, and a Transilvanian knuckle ham with sour cabbage. It  
was one of the most tasty flavorful meals I had ever had!
I hopped back on the train that night to ultimately head to Casteggio,  
an adorably cute small town.

Friday, March 18, 2011

On Pompei and Carnavale

So, in the wee hours of the morning, me, Casey, and Keeva woke up and  
made some coffee. And no, that's not all we woke up for, we were  
heading back to Naples today to go check out Pompei- an ancient city  
that was buried and preserved under volcanic ashes of Mt. Vesuvius  
that blew in 79 AD. It was pretty cool, you hear about Pompei, but  
actually being there and checking it out was really cool. We walked  
around what used to be houses, stores, squares, streets, gardens. It's  
all been preserved under the radioactive strenght of the ash. Crazy  
stuff. We then went back to Naples.
  It was a sunny, but chilly day in Naples as we walked around,  
searching for wifi, limoncello, and food. Have I told you how  
different southern Italy is from the rest of Italy? It's a huge  
difference- people semi-aggressively try to sell us things and  
crossing the street is a test of boldness- you just need to start  
walking and hopefully cars will slow down and let you pass. :) a  
little crazy, yes.
Has anyone seen 'Eat Pray Love'? Well, in the movie, Julia Roberts  
goes down to Naples to eat the worlds best pizza (it's also in the  
book like this, I just haven't read the book yet) and that's where we  
had dinner! It's called Di Michele pizzeria and the staff working  
there was so sweet! Older men with huge smiles on their faces, smell  
of fresh pizza, and a restaurant packed with people as the night went  
on. It was a really cool experience and place to eat. Was it the best  
I ever had? It was a REALLY close second- I think the best pizza was  
on our first night in Naples at this highly recommended place- Il  
Matteo. It was SO good. Pizza will never be the same for me.
Anyways- that night we took a crazy overnight train to Venice.
At first it was us three in a compartment- then we were joined by two  
people and two kids, which was actually alot of fun- we tried talking  
in Italian the whole time. And then another couple. Since we didn't  
have reservations, we had to either squish together or one of us move  
out in the hallway on a pullout chair. We took turns sitting outside  
and basically had a sleepless, uncomfortable night, arriving in Venice  
at 5:30 am. We were exhausted and groggy and waited till 6 for the  
train station cafeteria to open along with other fellow travelers,  
some of which joined us on our trek into the city.
Venice was filled with tourists from all over the world, people  
wearing costumes and masks, and kids throwing confetti. The city was  
having one big party!
We hung out all day, trying to stay awake, drinking espressos and  
getting lost. That night we visited a local square where an Italian  
band played music, locals ran around with Italian flags, and most  
people had some form of outfit and/or mask on. It was like Halloween  
for adults. That night, the alleys and streets of Venice were filled  
with people of all ages- old ladies strolling over canals, teenagers  
dancing around squares, and middle-agers taking it all in. It was a  
night to be remembered.
The next day I drew a picture of the Rialto bridge and gave it to a  
fellow traveler, had lunch and headed out to the coastal town of  

Friday, March 11, 2011

Roma, Napoli, and the island of Ischia

Rome, Napoli, and the island of Ischia
So, after Florence, we decided to head down south to Rome, Italy. 
It was actually a great day to leave because it started POURING in Florence that day. I absolutely hate rain- I know I live the northwest, but I was born and raised in southern California! There is nothing fun about getting drenched in the rain- unless you're playing mud football or kissing your significant other someplace romantic- other than that, no thanks!
Anyways, we caught an early evening train, got there about 11 and made our way to our hostel. I was so tired! I'm pretty much always tired being on the road constantly like this- nlbut we got to sleep in the next morning. Oh and also, Steve met up with us in Florence and came down to Rome with us for a bit, which was pretty cool- although he did bail on us then next day. We did meet up with another northwest girl, Keeva, Casey's old coworker and the girl that we met up with in Prague and took on Rome!
Our first day consisted of eating gelato at the Trevi fountain and tossing a coin in for true love. It was such a cool fountain- the water was a beautiful blue, the marble was a whimsical White- it was great. Tons of people milled around, taking pictures, tossing coins, kissing, and just enjoying the was great. We also went to st. Peters church in the Vatican! It's so huge! Can't wait to show you pictures, it is so crazy big and elegant and everything. Also, of course the Sistine chapel! That was so so great. Basically you go through a museum of statues, artifacts, paintings, frescos, tapistries, and then down some stairs to the chapel. It was so beautiful! I'm sure you know what it looked like but I urge you to study it, it's so awesome. We weren't allowed to take any pictures, there were guards at the door that were hushing people and saying 'no photo!' over and over again. But, I did manage to sneak in a video;) 
We also checked out the collesium and ruins surrounding it, it's crazy because it was so old, like these things have been here for thousands of years, and being in their presence, standing where people stood thousands of years ago is such a crazy thought to grasp.

After Rome we decided to head down south to Naples (Napoli) in search of sunshine and warmth- only to be greeted with clouds and rain. UGH! I think the northwest is mad we left it and decided to send rain after us. But I tried to be positive, were in Italy! That night we all ate an entire Napoli pizza- and let me tell you- there is NOTHING that compares to this pizza! It is so so good- the best I've ever had. Mine was a 'marghuerita al cocca' pizza which basically is cheese, sauce, basil leaf, and a fried egg on top. It was so goo, we basically devoured our pizzas in 6 minutes. Along with some lemoncello, which is a lot stronger than I thought it was- but good nonetheless. That night we had a thunderstorm. 
The next few days were spent on the island of Ischia, italy's best kept secret- and I only call it that because i just found out about it less than 24 hours before we went to it! Haha. That's how we roll. 
So we found this good deal on this hostel that actually we were the first guests to stay at this year. This island is a hit spot in the summer- celebrities go here, back in the day soldiers used to come to this island for it's thermal hot springs, it was so awesome! Unfortunately the weather wasn't that great on the island either, but it was a tad warmer- we actually wore shorts on the first day. People looked at us like we were crazy! 
So we spent 4 days on this island, exploring streets, checking out beaches, eating pizza and drinking meloncello ( which is actually better than limoncello, its creamy). The people onthis island are so nice and friendly, everywhere I went I gave a 'buonjourno!' which is 'good day' in Italian, and got a good response back. I met this old man waiting for the bus who used to be a professor, he wore thick rimmed glasses, had no front teeth, but was full of life and you could see it in his smile. We 'chatted' in my broken Italian about school and the island- he used to teach and had 3 degrees, one in philosophy. I wish I knew more Italian, I would have asked him to get s cafe with me so we can talk. Haha. Well, something cool we did was check out the hot springs on the island- Baia di Sorgento- which is a cove where hot (extremely hot) water pours out of hot rocks into the ocean. So, what you do is sit near the springs, but not too close because you will burn yourself and as cold ocean water washes up by the springs, you sit and soak in the waters. Does that make sense? I'm bad at explaining things. But it was cool. That was on our last day there, so we ate dinner on the rooftop watching the sun go down. It was beautiful.   

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Venice, Bologna, and Florence

Venice, Bologna, and Florence
So! I have been a little lazy about blogging, so I'm gonna try to tell you about different cities I've been to an the best parts of each:)

Venice was our first stop in Italy. It is locsted on the north east coast of italy. We got off the train at 8:30 in the morning and right when we walked out of the station- we see a beautiful canal with it's unique, aqua blue, Venetian color- I was so excited! Started by walking around the city taking pictures of everything, grabbing "un cappucino portare via, per favore" (one cappucino to go, please) and off we go. So, when we were there it was the weekend before the big Carnavale- where everyone wears beautiful masks, people dress up and row gondolas/other boats on the canal- it's one big party. It was the weekend before, so it wasn't super crazy, but they had a few events going on such as the boat parade, vendors selling masks, and as the day went on, more and more people started filling the streets and started wearing masks. It was a fun time. Venice had some beautiful buildings- old churches, balconies with laundry hanging out the window, all kinds of crazy colors on walls- i found my favorite wall there, which I might share with you. In front of the basilica (church) they had a foutain flowing with red wine! I thought it was either blood, wine, or punch- it was definitely wine, so I had myself a glass, served by older ladies in country costumes- it was so cool. It was a gorgeous city- and I'm planning on going back just once more before I head home. Oh and it's definitely a city for lovers- i found locked lips on every bridge.

Bologna and surrounding cities was also a great experience- located in central, north Europe. Bologna was a big city with a lot to see- but even 5 hours of exploring it isn't enough- I visited the university in the city- mainly their art department which had sculptures in the hallways! Adventuring around the building I found different classrooms with art projects going on, drawing lessons, and paint eveywhere- and you know was I was thinking- I want to go to art school! Ah it was so beautiful and I felt like this is a part of me and I can't not do it. Afterwards, we grabbed bologna's best gelato- which is more like the worlds best gelato, I kid you not. I got coffee and dark chocolate flavors- even though pistachio is my favorite, I try to try something different each time. It was SO GOOD!
We also spent some time in Parma/Reggio Emilia with my family (this is where Parmesan cheese comes from) and checked out a few nearby towns. Beautiful countryside.

Now for Florence- this is such a nice city! This town is located about 100 miles or so south of Bologna and is absolutely beautiful- we arrived on a nice sunny day, a tad warmer than up north. Our host, which we met in Amsterdam kindly hosted us and took us around town- we visited an outdoor market and an indoor market where people sold fresh produce, spices, wines, meats, all good things you can think of. It was great! One highlight of this city is that it holds Michaelangelo's David! The real thing! It is so huge, I snuck some pictures of it with my camera- it was really awesome. Another awesome thing here was that we went to Santa  Croce church, where Michaelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli were buried. Also, there, were artworks such as Donatello's Aninciation and Cimabue's Crucifixtion.
It was so crazy to actually be able to see these in front of your face! 
Other things we did in this city were eating Gelato and going to a Mexican restaurant for the first time since Ive been home! It was called Tiajuana and ha great Mexican food and happy hour margaritas. We went out with a group of 8 and had a great time- the people we Hung out most of our time here were other Americans who were studying architecture abroad, they were all from Kent state and super sweet and Steve, our Canadian travel buddy met up with us as well- it's nice every now and then to hang out with other English speakers and have Mexican. Overall Florence was a great city!

And just to let everyone know- my official return date is now March 30th!
Love and miss you all, and see you on just over a month!


Friday, February 25, 2011

Relaxing in Vienna

Vienna blog
So the last few days have been spent in beautiful Vienna...Vienna is located in Austria and is basically the classical music 'headquaters' in the world. It's surrounded by beautiful mountains and countryside and in it's center lies churches, theaters, opera houses, universities, etc. Oh and a bunch of shops and GREAT places for chocolate, pastries, cakes, and everything in between. 
So! We got there Tuesday night, met my sweet uncle and headed home. The next day we hit the city and visited around the city.
Oh! And we also got to experience a live organ concert for free in a local church! It was a beautiful church- see below. It was glorious! 
That next day we took a walk by the river which starts in Germany and emptys itself out in the Black Sea. That night me and Casey made dinner- chicken, bruschetta, and salad and started working on a couple cakes- tiramisu and a fruit cake. That night ended with Romanian TV shows. The next day we headed up to a small town in the country for the night- a very much needed day of relaxation- so this blog entry might not be too exciting. 
We went on a walk through the village with my adorable aunt and uncle...the mountains around us were topped with snow on top and the hills nearby were jealous of them. Houses had smoke coming out their chimneys, and a hint of fog permeated through the village. We made our way to the dairy farm and left some empty bottles to be filled- I wanted so badly to milk a cow! But wasn't able to. Then we made our way to an organic meat farm where a kind Austrian family welcomed us in and gave us our carne and then to an independantly owned store/restaurant- basically someones house where they butcher, smoke, and cook all kinds of meat. This was the best part- he gave us samples of smoked pork, salami, and even a fresh roast out of the oven! It was so incredibly delicious- I wish all you were there tasting this (except if you are a vegetarian- sorry). I usually don't eat s lot of meat but this I couldn't pass up. 
We then headed back, and spent a quiet evening of painting, drinking tea, and listening to classical music.
The next day we got to see a small town called Banden- where Beethoven used to have a house and spend time. It was cute, kinda pricey, but nonetheless beautiful. It's cool because they have bike trails everywhere. Near those two towns and in the summertime it is absolutely wonderful. One day I will come back, next time in the summer. So this was our last day in Vienna, which means we got to eat our cakes and break open the champene haha. Then later that night we were on our way to Venice, Italy! Which you will hear about next. And let me tell you- if 'falling in love' is possible with a city- this would be it:)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A few random pictures.

This is a castle in Germany we visited. It was built in the 1200s!

Tasty German salad!

Brussels, Belgium museum.

The atomium in Brussels.

A restaurant with my name. Of course it was shut down, it was Italian.


On the way to Berlin. Snowy.


Auschwitz again.

Locks of love on a bridge in Prague. Couples do this to show their love to each other.

Brussels. Mannekin Pis.

My Brussels cupcake!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Poland! A Story to Tell (picture-less though)

So, here we are in Vienna, Austria...pretty freaking cold over here, but we are used to it. Staying at my family's apartment now and going to to mountains tomorrow! So excited...but first, let me tell you about our adventurous trip to Poland, and then to Vienna!
It all started with our early trek out of was another cold, cloudy morning as we made our way to the train station from our awesome hostel hopped on a train that was headed to Krakow, Poland...we really wanted to visit Auschwitz Concentration Camp while we were here and that was the closest city to get to. I found a great hostel- that actually provided free laundry and such- which never happens at a hostel.
Anyways. We caught our train, made a few transfers at different stations and as we just crossed the border into Poland, the ticket checker on the train stopped by. (not just to say hi, mind you) hehe. So, we showed him our passes-global passes that allow us to go through 22 countries with this pass and the response we got was that they were not valid. Ooops. Nervous laughter filled the air as we scanned our documents trying to figure out why, I guess we missed the memo. Anyways, no big deal. We paid. He told us in a cute Polish accent we were to pay from our next transfer to Krakow for our train ride. We said ok. We get off next station, go to ticket counter where NOBODY spoke English and wanted to pay. Ok, so I tried to give this lady my credit card twice and she would not take it! She just showed us what platform to go to, which we already knew and told us, I'm assuming that we were all set to go. So off we go. Then another ticket checker came by and asked to see our tickets. We showed him the last one and he started telling us we needed to have tickets as i tried to explain to him that we were told not to...All with a HUGE language barrier! Good luck with that.
So, I pulled out my credit card, and of course his ticket checking device does not have a credit card slot (most checkers on trains in different countries do, Poland is just behind on things)....So he kept saying 'un moment, un moment...' dissapeared for awhile, then came back- only to go through the same thing all over again! We thought we would be screwed, told on the cops or something, but no....In all honesty I wasnt that nervous about it, it was actually kind of a rush, hehe. Oh and we prayed in our heads, God gave us peace, like he always does, because he is an AWESOME Father.
Oh and this whole time we are in an old, noisy train, sitting in a coach that is dimly lit with another stranger (woman) as we are riding into the dusky, mysterious country of Poland...It was cold, both literally and emotionally, staring at the passing shabby houses, lone trees, and distant fields. I could only thing of Jews and what they had to endure traveling perhaps the same tracks we were on.
On a lighter note.....we made it to our hostel, found us some food....oh i have another story! So we go to a grocery store, searching for food and I caught a guy stealing, stuffing shaving cream cans down his jacket...I slowly back away, accidentally run into a store clerk and pointed in the direction of the guy...I guess he ran out....V-day dinner consisted of coleslaw, spicy pepperoni, kebab chips, polish beer, and chocolate. :)

Okay, so next morning we get up early to catch a 7:10 train to Auschwitz only to find out we had to wait till 8:30. NOTE: trains in Poland SUCK. Times suck, trains are old, and they are always late. No offense to the country, just their trains in Krakow area....
We rush to Auschwitz, which took us 20 minutes to walk to with bags on our back, catch the tail end of a tour (which was crazy-we saw human hairs, the gas chambers, clothes and stuff they had to leave behind---crazy stuff. Read about it here:

So off we go, catch our train right on time- had another 10 minutes to catch another train- then five minutes to catch another train....and we made it just in time. We seriously were on trains that we were not supposed to be on! Seriously. Once, we literally ran off one train, across the platform to another and that one left in under 1 minute....It's like it waited for us, it was seriously insane. God was definitely with us the whole time, I can testify to that on almost everything on our trip! Praise God. 


So about the pictures- not on this blog- sorry I know I am bad at uploading pictures, but as soon as I can I will.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Conquering Berlin and Tasting Prague

Conquering Berlin
So! We left Amsterdam for Berlin at 8:26 am and after a long train  
ride, arrived at 3:20 in the afternoon in Berlin. I get so excited  
when we land in a new city. It was a beautiful sunny, but cold day in  
Berlin as we left the train station and headed to former East Berlin,  
where we were staying. It's not the best part of town, graffiti (or as  
some call it art) is everywhere, but it's fairly safe.
We dropped by a Youth With A Mission base that Casey kept in contact  
with and saw the place. Then just down the road we tried to find a  
hostel, most were booked up for it was a Friday night, hut we finally  
found a cute little hostel just in time for a free 'learn how to cook  
authentic German food' lesson! Perfect timing. So off we go to the  
kitchen and learn how to make stuffed peppers. So this dish has  
Eastern European roots, so it's not 100% German, but close enough.
The next day consisted of a walking tour of Berlin and I was blown  
away by how much history there is in this city. Our tour guide was  
absolutely awesome- he gave us a greatly detailed tour and he was so  
passionate about it- it was great.
I love seeing people get passionate about what they love or who they  
love, it's really refreshing. I refuse to not be an unpassionate  
person- especially in relationships to people. They are most important.
Anyways!  We got to see things like the Berlin cathedral, that was  
accidentally bombed by the Americans/British during the war,the Berlin  
wall- yes I got to see it! The only part that was standing; also where  
it used to stand they now just have bricks lining the roads,  
sidewalks, etc (see pictures below).
Other things we saw: the "deathstrip"-basically an area between the  
Berlin wall where a lot of people who tried to come over from the east  
to west were shot down and killed- hence the name, checkpoint Charlie,  
"ghost station"- basically the underground train goes through east and  
west, but because of the division, these stations were highly  
patrolled and closed down from the outside, so that when you were  
above ground on either side you wouldn't even know there was an  
underground station there. We also saw the state opera, Bebelplatz-  
scene of the Nazi bookburning, Memorial of the Murdered Jews of  
Europe, and we stood above Hitlers bunker and where he committed  
suicide!! Basically it's down the road from the murdered Jews Memorial  
(where during the Nazi occupation it was a garden just for Nazis).  
Hitler had some bunkers in that area that were 10 km deep, made from  
concrete, and were like 3 meters thick. He committed suicide by taking  
a cianide pill and shooting himself in the head, the last thing he saw  
before he died was his wife, wearing his favorite dress. When they  
were rebuilding the city in the 90s, they Put bombs on those bunkers,  
and Now there is a parking lot on that area. So basically, the bunkers  
are still down there along with mud and rocks- everything being  
destroyed though.
The second half of our day consisted of eating an organic hamburger  
and strayberry crepes made by a sweet Asian lady, and shopping in the  
'alternative' or second hand store area of Berlin- I found myself some  
jeans from a store called 'God Bless You' haha. Love it.
Now, we are on our way to Prague, it's about 4 in the afternoon. Oh  
and this morning we went to English speaking church in Berlin!
We arrived at about 6 pm, and left at 10 am the next morning...Definitely not enough time to visit the city fully, 
But, we did a good feel of it from Casey's friend who met up with us and showed us around. 
It seems like a pretty cool city, a lot of Americans and people from other countries around, which was pretty cool. 
The city has an awesome Castle, that reminds me of Disneyland or some princess movie--maybe 
Cinderella? That night we basically walked around the whole city, had some coffee and I had a glass of hot wine-
a local delicacy! It was quite tasty- a little "different" but something worth trying. We've heard about it in other countries 
and never really got a chance to try it because we heard that it was more of a holiday thing....
Oh, and our hostel in Prague was absolutely amazing! Thanks to Casey's great hostel-finding-skills
it was super nice- the showers were trendy- like something you would find in the Pearl District, 
each room had their own bathroom and modern concrete seemed to be the theme in the place. 
For anyone wanting to go to Prague, check out Miss Sophie's. And the price is quiet resonable!
Anyways, this blog ends here. And again picture-less. SORRY! But its been hard uploading anything lately 
I promise in the end I will give you so many pictures you'll get sick of them...but until then...
Stay tuned for next explains how our eventful Valentine's Day went on our way to 
Krakow, Poland....! You don't want to miss this. 
Oh- and to all you lovers out there- HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY! 
Love and miss you all, 

Friday, February 11, 2011

Brussels and Amsterdam

Brussels and Amsterdam  blog
Alrighty! I have so much to tell you about this city!
It is located in Belgium and is known as the capital of Europe- people  
all over the world come here to do political and business-minded work-  
they speak French and Dutch- and basically anything to be understood.  
46% of Brusseleirs are foreiners. So! Things are often written in  
French and Dutch.
Anyways- we got in late last night- making it in about 2 and a 1/2  
hours from Paris and it was super late- we had like 30 minutes to get  
on to a metro ( subway system) and get to our hostel. So off we went!  
First odd thing that happened was when I tried to go down the  
escalator- obviously this city cares about saving energy because they  
have sensors on them and only turn on when someone is on them- in this  
case me. Haha.
After we get to our destination, we tried to sleep in the most  
noisiest hostel I've ever been in! Seriously- it was loud till about 2  
The next day started early- got up about 7 or so, had a great  
breakfast and we started walking throughout the city. Our first stop  
was a HUGE flea market that starts at 6 am and ends at 2pm, I loved  
it! Reminds me of the old days in California- I bargained for a pipe  
(a gift for someone) and a beer glass. The square was filled with  
mostly middle-aged to older men selling their junk and wanting you to  
buy anything-bargaining is really easy once you get the hang of it- if  
you really want something-
  1. ask how much it is, 2. Pretend like it's too much with a look of  
disgust on your face, 3. Walk away, 4. Reconsider when the seller  
starts offering half the price :)
Next stoo after that was a bakery- where I found something like a  
cupcake- and it was really good. I'm gonna get so fat eating over  
here- thank God I walk everywhere!
Anyways, we hit up a museum lobby/giftshop, I got a small art book and  
then made our way to the Brussels exposition- an artistic, informative  
thing about the city. Pretty cool.
We then went to the library- the 5th floor is a cafeteria and an  
amazing view as well! Oh and did I mention having a street waffel  
beforhand- yes they are the best- they claim to have four types:
1. Brussels waffel- with sugar on top
2. Street waffel- with sugar inside
3. Tourist waffel- extra toppings
4. Extreme tourist waffel- just silly
So we had our street waffel:)
The rest of the day consisted of visiting art expo's, vintage stores,  
kebab street (where there are like 10 Greek food vendors competing for  
your service), great views, mannekin pis, chocolate buying and eating,  
and visit to the atomium- a huge atom. Really huge- see below.
At about seven or so we headed to the train station to catch a train  
to Amsterdam only to find out it was, we waited for the  
next train which left in another hour. Our little break time consisted  
of me jogging around the station (just one lap haha) and eating  
chocolate-hazelnut spread with crackers and drinking a homemade mocha-  
instant coffee with hot chocolate powder.:)
A note about the food here:
No hydrogenated oils (unless it's imported from America- which ticks  
me off, bit that's a different story), I can drink milk here without  
feeling sick! Not that I do all the time, but I won't say no to a  
cappucino an it actually tastes different and GOOD. No offense to  
American cows or people that drink milk, but it is soo good here. Back  
when America was adding hormones to their milk, Europe did not allow  
the hormone into their continent, they forbade it. 
Anyways. We made it to Amsterdam, and made our way to the hostel- this  
time it was a christian hostel- which was awesome- right when we got  
there they were about to have a bible study and we joined in just in  
time! There was an Australian, a Londonite, and another American that  
worked there. We read Psalm 27- and had a discussion about fear (you  
should read it too). Good stuff- God I love David.
Anyways- the next morning we got up, had some food and off we went!
Took a walk down some cute shopping areas- found cupcakes and coffee  
then walked over to the Anne Frank house!
About this house- it is a must do in Amsterdam- if you care about  
history. Anne Frank was a Jew and kept a journal about being in hiding  
and her life. The house was the actual place where they hid out! We  
got to walk in their rooms, learn about their conditions, who helped  
them, etc...
Please read about it more here: 
Oh and side note- if you are emotional, an easy crier, and immerse  
yourself in the history bring lots of tissues with you! It is so  
intense. I don't know how I'm goin to survive visiting Auschwitz....
Afterward we stepped outside into the first rain of our trip, a light  
drizzle and definitely not prepared for it- I wore my pea coat that  
got absolutely drenched- especially after our bike ride in the rain.  
We rented some and roads throughout the city- not gonna lie- it was  
quite a scary ride- especially since it was raining and rush hour. But  
we survived and just follwed other bikers heading in the same  
direction, hehe.
On our way back to the hostel we stopped by 'The Tabernacle'- a Youth  
With A Mission worship and prayer place right in the heart of the red  
light district. The tabernacle is just a room with daily worship and  
prayer sessions- we dropped in, had some quiet time with Jesus as  
music played in the background.
God is awesome. So awesome. If you don't know Him you are missing out-  
but if you want to know Him- just ask Him- I guarentee He will meet  
you where you're at!
Afterwards we headed back to the hostel just in time for another Bible  
study and discussion- met some great people- this girl is studying in  
Florence, Italy and she said she has an extra bed whenwe go down  
there! And she might come to Greece with us, so that should be fun!  
Can't wait for Italy and Greece. So excited.
What am I doing right now? Listening to Damien Rice and riding to  
Germany....I'll tell you where later;)
Oh and side note for Brenton- we will unfortunately not be going into  
Hamburg for a hamburger, BUT we promise to eat one in Berlin! Can you  
ever forgive us?
Miss everyone!!
And my beautiful cat, QT.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Zurich, Switzerland & Kaiserslautern, Germany

That's how you say hello in Swiss-German, or that's how it is  
pronounced anyways.
This weekend was very relaxing- we arrived in Zurich at about 10am,  
meeting Casey's friend, Mahela. She picked us up from the train  
station in a car! And that's when we realized that it's the first time  
we stepped foot in a car since we left! Headed to her family's  
beautiful home that was situated on a hill, surrounded by farmland.  
Cobblestone driveway, huge country barn, a small orchard, and a  
chicken coop were in close proximity of the home. It reminded me of  
the home in Alice in Wonderland- the rabbit's home that she grew  
really big in. You know what I am talking about?
Anyways- it's cool her family grows alot of things; her sister raises  
chickens- which we had a great omlete from:) and also leeks, walnuts,  
lettuce, and a variety of other things as well.
This makes me want to start growing things again when I get home- only  
problem is, it would be on a small balconey that would probably add up  
to one good meal and that's about it.
After taking a short bike ride, we had lunch and went into Zurich and  
walked around the city- there's one main expensive street that has  
cute little shops, chocolatiers, restaurants, and a lot of people  
walking on it that we explored that day- this street also goes  
straight down to the water- a beautiful lake- then loops around to old  
town Zurich which has cobblestone alleys, old churches, and a laid  
back small town, friendly feel to it.
We ended the night with a great homemade dinner that consisted of  
salad (super happy about the greens), and boiled potatoes, and of  
course Swiss chocolate and tea for dessert.
Next day we got up for a delicious brunch and headed into town- made a  
visit to the Zurich toy museum, and shortly toured the university's  
garden, but because it's winter there wasn't much to see. Speaking of  
weather, it was clear, sunny, and somewhat warm- we have been very  
blessed on our trip.
Afterwards, we went over to Mihela's work- where she works with Muslim  
children during the weekend so we got to hang out with them for a bit  
and they were so cute! They all also spoke at least 4 languages which  
was pretty impressive because these girls were no older than 12 years  
old. Pretty awesome what she does.
The next day consisted of church in the morning- which was something  
we both missed as of late and. Lunch together with the whole church  
afterwards- which was Great!
 Then headed off to Kaiserslautern, Germany, where Casey had a contact.
We spent the night eating and playing games with other Americans- her 
friend does this thing called Cadence International-
a Christian ministry to people in the army and such. We basically hung out
with other Americans which was a nice break from all these "foreigners"
we've been meeting (jk by the way, I like meeting non-Americans :))
The next day we went to a sweet castle on a hill that was actually built 
in the 1200s! Crazy! I stood where people stood over 800 years ago. That 
is soo wild to think about, oh my goodness. 
Then we hung out around the town, and got some dinner at the only brewpub 
in town that served authentic German food- I opted out for a beer taster tray 
and a market fresh salad with grilled mushrooms--German? No idea, but, we are 
hitting up Berlin at some point, so
I'll get my chance :). 
I wasn't too impressed with these cities- no offense to them, but they just didn't tickle me fancy. 
They were both relaxing and laid back for us though:) 
I miss my friends and family. 
Here's some pictures: 
Zurich- by the lake.

Trying homebrews in K-town.


The Castle in Kaiserslautern- built in 1200s.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Beautiful Barcelona: So Far my Favorite

Oh my goodness. Barcelona is so great! And that is what i am going to
tell you about since I am on an overnight train to Zurich, Switzerland
and 8:43pm is still an early bed time for me. Even though Ive had a
loooong day.
Well, our venture into Spain started yesterday morning when our
overnight train arrived in Barcelona around noon. As we made our way
through the country after crossing the border, the sun was shining as
bright as I have ever seen it on this trip so far- a warm and
welcoming sunny; and the scenery around us was just as bright- it
kinda looks like southern California-southern shrubs, dusty, snow
capped mountains in the background, and the Mediterranean sea to our
left. Gorgeous!
Oddly, my first meal in Spain was mcdonalds (free wifi) side salad, a
'mini capuccino', carrots, and rice cakes as we figured things out and
looked for a hostel.
I felt really confidant arriving in Spain because I somewhat knew the
language, and we got around fairly easy- people again are really nice
in Barcelona and I could actually communicate with them, which was nice.
Anyways, the weather was about 55-60 degrees and sunny. It felt so
good after being in the cold for the last two weeks!
Our hostel was right on the water- the beaches are so beautiful here.
That day we checked out a main street called 'Las Ramblas' and it's
basically a long wide street where people walk in the middle on a very
wide sidewalk- there you will see some street vendors, outside seating
for cafes, and street performers- or people that just stand there
doing nothing but have gold paint all over them. Anyways- there are
some cool stores in the area, bakeries, cafes, etc. We also walked by
the Barcelona cathedral- an old building gothic style-it looked really
cool at night and also walked by a Salvador Dali museum.
The next day is a little more exciting-
We got up to see the sunrise over the sea- and I decided to try to
paint it as one of my paintings. It was so beautiful! A nice chill was
about us, but slowly turned into a nice warmth.
We then walked all day- went to Parc Guell, Goudi's house, arc de
triomphe, and just wandered about the city. Parc guell was absolutely
amazing- from the top you could see all of Barcelona- from the see to
the mountains- it was so great. All I could think was Jesus Christ-
how awesome He us to create this all for us! And how awesome us He to
make minds so creative to build the things we've seen! Seriously- just think about all the wonderful, sometimes overlooked things in this world- it all shows LOVE, Gods love for all people. Imagine what heaven is going to be like.
Oh, and you know how I am eating a cupcake in every country for Kristen?
Well that same day, just after seeing Barcelona´s Arc de Triomphe, we randomly walked down this street that was not so populated, had some apartments and small shops and I found this place called Lolita´s Bakery- basically the only place in town that had cupcakes! And there I had my chocolate tiramisu cupcake.
That is all for now!
The beach-sideways.

Cupcakes in Barcelona.

La Segrada Familia.

The marketplace.
Last but not least...make art and send me €.