PARIS! And France….no underpants

Well I don’t actually know when I left off, so I’ll start with my train trip. Since I was able to change my ticket, I was a little nervous I would be with hoodlums, since I was leaving that night, but instead I was with 2 Koreans, a mom and daughter, the extent of their English was ‘ok’ and ‘thank you’. The mom was so funny, she wanted to be on the top bunk, but that wasn’t her bed number, but she really didn’t care, so she slept on the other top bunk, but at some point she left and went down to the bottom bunk, but in the morning woke up across from me again!! She was funny.

I found my hostel ok, Tara found this one for me, and she did good. Its a 5 minute walk from Notre Dame and the metro is one street over. This hostel has a 2am cuefew and no outside alcohol is allowed. I dropped my stuff off, but check in wasn’t until 4 so I headed out to site see. I walked to Notre Dame, went to the top and had a nice view. The church itself was free, the climb was like 4€. I like Paris because if you are under 25 you get a discount. After Notre Dame I got another bus tour, this one is the most expensive, but you get 4 different routes and it is actually pretty good. I rode one tour, then the classic tour. I got off at the Eiffel Tower and took a nap in the surrounding park. I really enjoyed my nap, and felt like a local!!

I headed back to the hostel to check in and get settled. I got settled, met my roomie from London who is going to school here, and was too early to check into student housing so she was staying at the hostel until Sunday. I went down to the street to get some food, and there are like 500 restaurants within walking distance. I picked one with a ‘full meal menu.’. I got french onion soup (it was so hot, it took 15 minutes before I could even eat it!! But it was very good!! I got salmon for my main course and thought it would be a tiny piece–but NO! This was a beautiful piece of salmon, potatoes, green beans and a tiny bit of pasta!! It was the best salmon I’ve ever had!! For dessert I got black currant sorbet–yummy!! What a great dinner–after my baguette and brie lunch, this was stupendous!!

After dinner I headed to l’tour Eiffel to take night pictures (non of which are very good). The tower sparkles every hour on the hour, and when I got off the metro it was already sparkling, so I only got about 3 minutes of shooting time. But it was a beautiful blue, and on one side has the EU stars, it looks cool!! I decided I wanted to climb the steps. (Apparently 700 some, but that must be all the way to the top, because I didn’t climb that many). I made the climb to the 2nd level, the farthest they let you walk, and wanted to go all the way to the top–but the top was closed. Apparently the top closed 2 hours before the rest of the tower. It was a cool site and worth the climb. I’m going back tonight to take more pictures!!

I got a tour of the D-day beachs for Monday–it goes from 7am to 9pm!! Goodness I’m going to be tired, I have to get up at 615!!

I got back around midnight and took a much needed shower. I had set all my stuff out so I wouldn’t make too much noise for my roomie, and she had left the bathroom light on for me! I passed out hard and slept until 930.

Today I slept through breakfast, so I was going to go to the supermarket right next to the hostel, but its sunday, and they are closed. So I went to a cafe across the steet and got a nutella panini instead 🙂 healthy, I know, but it wa so perfect!!

I grabbed my stuff and headed out for the day. So far I have been to the Louvre (I didn’t go in, because its way expensive and I only wanted to see the Mona Lisa and my roomie said if that’s all I wanted to see its not worth it) and climbed the Arc d’triumph and now I’m going to the Sacre Coeur (sacred heart church) for Heidi.

Haven’t had lunch yet, its 230 and I’m starving! Just can’t figure out what I want!! 

Next day….

Today I got up extra early, 615, to head to Normandy on a tour. We boarded the bus and headed out around 715. The bus ride was about 3 hours long, and our tour guide talked for 10 minutes and then said ‘now go back to bed!’. We were about 30 minutes from Caen and the Peace Museum, and she started talking again, filling us in on the history of the war and what the day was going to be like.We had about an hour in the museum, then a 40 minute video, and then lunch. The museum was neat, lots of artifacts and a tank and a few Jeeps. The videos were cool. One was a split screen, one side was the Allies one side was German. And it was just the video footage of the same things, happening from both sides. The other video wasn’t as good, it was computer graphics and then photos of how the Ally forces took over France.There was a September 11th exhibition in the museum and I wanted to see it, so I ate my lunch (chicken, potato and salad) quickly then headed to the exhibit. It was very neat, they had pieces of the planes, the buildings, personal items, etc. They put it together very well, but unfortunately I ran out of time, so I didn’t get to read everything, so I took pictures of stuff, and their descriptions and booked it to the bus!! I made it there just in time!!We then headed to Omaha beach. That was weird. They left it just like it was, so there are huge bomb craters and huge pieces of cement everywhere (from the German bunkers and stuff). You could tell where a huge piece of cement was thrown like 10 feet!! Crazy!! After Omaha, we went to the American cemetery. Its white crosses and stars of David and green grass forever! The upkeep is stupendous, and its very well respected!! I saw people’s stones from all over the US, North Dakota to Hawaii.We headed to Gold beach next. Gold beach is where the artificial port was set up in the bay. They had tons of cement blocks made to float, then anchored them into the sea bed and were able to drive on them, store oil, and supplies on there as well. Not many left, but it is clear from what’s left, this was a big port!!

We went to the Juno beach, this is where the Canadians landed. Sadly there is like nothing there, Canadian flags is it. Otherwise, it just looks like every other beach!!Now we are heading back to Paris, currently sitting in LOTS of traffic!! Ekkk!! Stopping in 2 hours to get food!! But I’m hungry now :(So I slept a bit on the bus and woke up to freezing air, and my vents were off. Apparently it was time to wake up. We stopped at a little shop off the road and I got a baguette and cheese for dinner! I’m going to have french onion soup when I get back by the hostel, cuz its just soooo yummy!!We are getting close to Paris, and its getting dark which is good. I want to get pictures of the Louvre, Notre Dame and the Eiffel tower tonight before I leave tomorrow!!I head to Brussels tomorrow!! New country! Yeah!! That’s country number 4!

So today I visited the Louvre (not inside, just out), Notre Dame (outside), Moulin Rouge (defiantly outside, its like €150 for the show!!), Sacre Cuoer (all the millions of steps to get the the church, then the 300 to get to the top of the church, Heidi!), Arc de Triumph (all the way to the top) and the laundromat!!

I had a great day, lots of sights and lots of nice people. Moulin Rouge area is scary, well weird. Its like 4 blocks of sex shops and caberneit (sp?) Shows and by 5 pm the tourists start leaving cuz its like the red light district at night. But I had to see it, and its a main street, I didn’t think it was, I thought it was like in a back street the way people talked about it, but its right there in the middle of many buildings.

I climbed to get to the Sacre Cuoer. It was worth it. I couldn’t take pictures inside, as there was service, but its very well kept and lots of fun people outside. The climb to the top was fun, only like 300 steps (I’m going to have to find out how many steps I climbed in all of my towers by the time I’m done with this trip) and worth it. Nice view of the city.

I climbed the Arc de Triumph, cool view and I was going to go back at night, but they don’t all tripods, so it would be difficult to get a good picture. I walked the Champs-Elysses after that and discover ‘Nike Paris!’. Today is ‘The Human Race’ by nike. Cities all over the world are doing big races, but if you just ran or walked today you could register your KM and they will have a grand total soon of how far people ran. Well, they had a shirt that had all the cities and a race number (every shirt is different, up to 1,000,000) so I had to get one, because A) I walked a lot today and B) because I’ve been to 1/3 of the cities!!

I road the tour bus around to get everywhere, its nice, drops you right off in front of everything you need to see, and you get information on the stuff. I got off at the Notre Dame and walked back to my hostel around 7. I needed to do some laundry and there is a laundromat right down the way. So I got back (I have 2 new roomies) grabbed my clothes put them in the wash and went to dinner.

I had again, for the 2nd night in a row, great food. Again, onion soup (sooo good last night, ok tonight), salmon with potatoes and green beans, and a fresh fruit salad!! It was so good. And now I’m in the laundromat waiting for my stuff to dry!

Tomorrow I’m up early and off to the D-day beaches in Normandy, then taking night pictures in the evening!!

Paris has lots to see! I like being busy!! 

Madrid

Oh golly where do I start with Madrid?

Well I’ll start off by saying I don’t like it. Not any one thing in particular, but just not satisfied with the city.

When I arrived I was excited, first because it was the nicest train I have ever been on (truly like a first class plane ride!!) And second because it was a new city, and new things to explore.

I found my hostel again, no problem. Its a very popular hostel and very well orgainized. It has a bar here 😦 and the bar crawl was the only city tour they offered really!! As soon as I heard that I knew that there wouldn’t be much to do.

But I thought positive and headed to the city center to see what there was to see. And again, disappointment. Algonquin has a bigger ‘city center’ than Madrid. I decided to do the bus tour of Madrid in hopes of finding something to see. I road the bus for one whole loop of the ‘red-old madrid’ line. Then I hopped off and got some dinner, a pizza at a nice little place in the ‘center’ of town. After that I hopped onto the ‘blue-new madrid’ line. And road that around for a while. There was a bike rally, like bicycle, through town, it was pretty fun to watch. It took 2 hours, and I actually didn’t see a thing! It was like a tour of Schaumburg!! What a waste!!

So what I’ve decided to do, is get up around 9, go to the train station, swap my ticket for the 30th, for tomorrow. If they won’t swap it, I’m rebuying, its not worth saving money to lose a day of Europe. My plan is to stay in Paris for 4 nights, go to Normandy one day and London another. Dad, I’m pretty sure I get a stamp for that!! That way, I have 2 half days in Paris to see the city!

Going to bed now, gotta be hard asleep by the time the drunks come back home!!

It’s been too long

Wow, I haven’t blogged in a few days!

Well let’s start with my train ride to Barcelona. I had all girls in my 4 bed car, that was nice, and they were all young. 2 other girls (one from London, one from LA) they were back packing too. They are Jewish, and one is going to study in Isreal! How neat!

These girls aren’t very smart however, one got their wallet stolen in Rome, and they weren’t prepared very well.

We all headed our seperate directions when we got to the station and I headed off to find my hostel. The hardest part was finding the metro. We arrived at the old station, so I had to walk to find a metro!! Once I found the metro, it was easy.

My hostel is neat, in the middle of a neighborhood, with a supermarket right across the street!! The rooms are in flats, with 4 bedrooms, two bathrooms and a kitchen!! It even had a living room to hang out in!!

I was in a room with one boy and one girl and then an empty bed. The boy always seemed to be sleeping, except when I would go to bed, then he would be off somewhere! The girl is from Germany, she was there both nights with me.

I bought some groceries (Fanta Free, jelly, bread, yogurt, cereal, milk) so that I could save money and not buy lunches. However, the first day in Barcelona I decided to try a salad and potato Tapas–both nasty, cold potatoes aren’t my things, and I don’t like anchoives!! Especially not on a salad!!

I bought an open bus tour ticket for 2 days. They covered lots of the city, and you could get on and off as you like. I decided to ride each one around all the way before I decided what to see. It took 3.5 hours to see all the city, but it helped me understand what I wanted to see.

On the first day I went to the Olympic hill and took a tram to the top of the hill. Up on top there was a castle that overlooked the city and the port. I sat on top for a while and watched the ship yard and the cruise ships. I headed back down the hill after about an hour, and got back on the tour bus. I got off at a random station and caught the metro back to my hostel. I had dinner and relaxed, watched some Spanish tv, it was funny just watching their expressions! I headed to bed around 10, but I was exhausted!! I was supposed to rain, and never did, however it was cooler that day.

The next day I got up around 930 had some breakfast and headed back out. I stopped at the Sagrada Familia church (its been under construction for 70-some years! And won’t be done til 2026!!) My tour gave us a coupon book so I got a guided tour for the cost of the normal enterance. The guided tour was nice, the lady explained every detail, the whole church made sense then!!

After the church I got back on the tour bus, and took it to the stop by the mountain. I took a trolley up partway (more coupons!) And then a funicular up the rest of the way. On the top of the mountain there is a amusement park, you don’t pay to get in, you pay for the rides only!! So I sat in the middle of the park, watching the parents and kids argue over which ride is next, and I ate my lunch!! The mountain had a full view of Barcelona and the surrounding arean it was pretty!!

After the mountain I hopped back on the bus tour and headed for the city history museum. It took 45 minutes on the bus, and 45 minutes to find it! The enterance is very hidden, but it was worth it!! I ended up underneath much of the Gothic quarter looking at the old Roman city, the original Barcelona.

It was getting later, but I decided to ride the bus to dusk! It was fun watching the city close down. I got on the metro and after a construction site manoover, made my way back to the hostel. I had some cereal and some ice cream, what a healthy dinner! Haha!!

I got most of my stuff packed up, and hit the sack. However about 20 minutes later the door flew open and 2 people (a boy and girl) were standing there. They said something and left. My roomie said they did this ealier before I got back. 10 minutes later they came back with someone that works there. They asked us if we had reservations, and then left. We thought for sure they would come back, so we chatted for awhile, after 20 minutes we gave up and went to bed.

Apparently the girl came back because she was sleeping in the top bunk this morning, neither me nor my roomie heard her!!

I’m now sitting in the Barcelona train station waiting for my train to Madrid to post. I hope they have better food in Madrid!!

A train ride

Today I had to say goodbye to Riomaggiore and say hello to Milan (only for 5 hours-ish). I caught the train with Lisa and Emma to the first stop, they continued onto Pisa, then Florence and I switched trains to Milan. The train ride was 3 hours, 3 long hours and I was so tired, just because we were on a train, not for any other reason!! I slept for like 30 minutes though, I forced myself to stay awake!

When I got to Milan I checked my bag at the bag check and headed to the Metro to take me somewhere. It took me to the Duomo. This Duomo wasn’t as big as Sienna’s but it sure was cooler! It had buttresses everywhere, and you could climb up to the roof and walk around!

I headed down a street and treated myself to a 4 cheese pizza and water and enjoyed my own company. I took my time and watched some Englishmen make fools of themselves. After lunch I grabbed a gelato and headed back to the Duomo. I climbed the 250 steps (dad, these were easy steps too!!) to the top and walked around. You could see all the details of the buttresses and of Milan.

I had no idea what there was to do in Milan, but knew I was going to need something to hold me over on the train so I popped in a hotel and got directions to a market. It was 15 minute walk, but it was the cutest little market! I got a yogurt and grapes (which magically were seedless and I had no idea!) water and a gatorade.

I decided to head back to the train station and just wait there. I ate my dinner by the tracks and went and fetched my bags around 7. My train got called at 720 so I boarded early and checked out my sleeping quarters. I thought they would be rough but they have lots of room. I’m in a 4 person sleeper (couchette) and so far there are only 2 of us (we’ve been on the rail for an hour now) since we don’t have much luggage and there are only 2 of us, I think that’s why it seems larger! It has a sink in our compartment too!!

The train ride is 12-13 hours, overnight, and I will arrive around 9am. Barcelona is expecting a cool off and some showers these next couple days, and I couldn’t be happier! I’ve been hot for 3 weeks, a cool off sounds wonderful!

New country, new food, new language…all when I wake up 🙂

Last day in Cinque Terre

Today is my last day here, and I just didn’t know what to do. I laid in bed until about 9, then got up and people watched from my window until about 10. Then I got ready, bought a banana and a yogurt and headed out to another town. I caught the train to the 4th town to shop and relax. I am currently sitting on steps in the 4th town just people watching and it just feels so wonderful to not have anything to do.

I’m now writing from the train on my way to Milan! Yesterday was just the perfect day!

I got lunch in the 4th town, the caught the train to the 3rd town. From the 3rd town I walked back to Riomaggiore. The walk is just so beautiful, right above the water the whole time! When I arrived back in Riomaggiore I went and changed into my swimsuit to go sit on the beach (rocks really). All I wanted to do was enjoy the water because I was so hot. Unfortunatly the waves were too rough to swim in with all the rocks around so I sat on the rocks with the locals and let the water crash onto me and cool me off. I sat there for awhile but grew tired in the heat so I decided to try and nap on the beach. Surprisingly its easy to get comfortable on the little rocks, so I laid down and fell asleep for a bit. the heat woke me up though so I grabbed my stuff and headed back to the room. My new roommate, Kate, had just arrived and she was heading down to the beach. I warned her about the waves, but she didn’t seem to care. I laid down and fell asleep for 2 hours, it was so refreshing!

When I woke up, Lisa, Emma and Kate had just gotten back. Kate got beat up by the rocks I warned her about!! Kate and Emma left and Lisa hopped in the shower. While they were gone, my towel fell off our line to the line below!! I couldn’t reach it even with a broom, so I headed down and buzzed the people, they weren’t home. I headed down to the ground and tried again with the broom, no luck. I eventually was able to get it because of my triopod. I extended it as far as it would go, headed down to the ground and after 5 minutes managed to knock it off the line. A lady was laughing at me, but I couldn’t help but laugh as well. I learned my lesson: no more line drying without clothespins!!

I got washed up and met Lisa and Emma for pizza. I found clothespins for the rest of my travels and grabbed a Fanta before we headed down with our pizza, to the rocks. We enjoyed our pizza and good conversation down on the rocks by the water. It was the most beautiful night, calm sky and calm water, it was just perfect!!

I am currently heading to Milan, Italy to catch my next train to Barcelona, Spain! I get there tomorrow at 10ish in the morning! I have 4 hours in Milan, then a 13 hour train to Barcelona! Long travels!! 

Let’s go for a hike

Well first I must fill you in last night. After the beach, I ran into Pip. Pip checked in with me, and is in another room. She invited me out for a drink with her and her roommates, so I decided to go.

We went to the same place I went to lunch at. We had drinks (I had a Coke light with lemon) and after awhile we ordered dinner. It was yummy. We decided to head to bed around 10, but as soon as I opened the door to my room, I heard a concert! There was a party in the square, apparently just because it summer. Emma and Lisa were in the room so we decided since we couldn’t sleep, might as well go down. We went and just watched everyone dance. I left around 1130 to shower and journal the day.

The party ended at midnight, so we could finally sleep! Thank goodness!

Today:
I woke up to an overcast sky and cool weather. All of us roomies got up at once, so we all got ready and headed our separate ways. I stopped at the Co-op to get some blackberries and a yogurt to snack on during my hike, and then headed out. This is the first time I haven’t taken my big camera with me! But it was too heavy for such a rough hike.

The first leg (from town one to town two) was paved, and covered and just simple, some curves and a very few steps, but nothing difficult, at that point I thought this 9KM hike can’t possibly be that bad! I thought too soon, that’s for sure! The second leg (from town two to three) was a little more challenging, but still mostly paved, its distance was longer than the first leg, but still not too tough. I don’t even remember seeing the 3rd town, so clearly I was in a zone. From town three to four it got a little more difficult. Many many steps and actual hiking paths, not paved. At one point you could opt out of stairs and take a road, but I decided since I was doing the official walk, I was taking the stairs. 

I stopped in the fourth town to have a snack and get a cold water. I took about a 20 minute break, then headed towards the final town. According to the park guide, its a 2 hour walk from town 4 to 5, so I was ready, or so I thought. The first 20 minutes of the walk was just stairs!! I couldn’t believe it! After the first ‘set’ of steps the path narrowed and got tough, and there are no handrails either! The steps never really stopped leading up. I had to take a 5 minute break at what I thought was as high as I could get, it ended up being close to the top, but I had another 10 minutes of steps after that!

Once you made it to the ‘top’ the descent started. And oh goodness, it was the most beautiful part of the walk, a stream ran next to the path, there were little waterfalls (not that you could see, but that you could hear) and 2 small bridges to cross. And then the stairs started, again! At least this time they led down to the town. I would say easily over 1000 steps down (which means if you are going the other way, you have to go UP them). The steps were of varying heights and widths, so it kept you on your toes, literally!

I reached the last town in 3 hours and 30 minutes, which was an hour and a half faster than the ‘average’ time! I was proud of myself. I decided to go sit on the beach and maybe go in the water. However, the weather was so weird that every time I stood up to go into the water the sun would go behind the clouds, and it got cool. The water wasn’t as warm as the other day, so I was a little disappointed. I took a short nap, then attempted to get back to my town. I missed 2 trains because they showed up on the wrong tracks, but I wasn’t the only one, so I didn’t feel so bad then!

I made it back to my room, and was going to get in the shower when Lisa came in. We decided to go have a drink (or in my case Fanta or Coke light) up on a ledge over looking the water. We showered, then headed up to a small bar to relax. Emma came and joined us a little later and we closed down the place (it closed down at 8pm). We headed to another bar until our dinner reservations at 930. We have fun talking to the locals and they love finding out where people are from. 

Our dinner was at the ‘best’ restaurant in town (there are about 10 total restaurants in our town). The atmosphere was nice, but the selection of food was poor and I really didn’t enjoy my dinner, just wasn’t ‘the best’ I guess. Our other roomie, Illia (the guy from Russia) came and joined us for some gelato before we all headed to bed. Lisa and I were so exhausted from the hike, we laid in our beds and our bodies shut down.

First day on my own!

Well goodness! My day started early, and now I’m starting to get tired, and its only 7pm here!! (Ps, I’m writing this from the rocky beach in town)

I’ll start where I left off, on my train ride…

I arrived at my destination 30 minutes late, and caught the next local train to my final town for the day. They say this town Riomaggiore only has about 600 residents, clearly now since it is holiday time for everyone, there are tons of people! The directions to the hostel was right on! The lady must have been from Canada or the US, but she was nice. There were 4 of us checking in to rooms, 3 of us together. The place I’m staying is up 23 stairs, down 100 meters, then down 5 steps to a door on the stairway! Haha, its a fun walk to get there! Anyway, after we all checked in and paid (it is €20 a night, so roughly $30) the lady took us to our rooms. Me and 2 of the girls got one room, while the other girl went to a different room. I was placed in a room with a roommate who was already there but gone for the day. The other 2 girls (originally from Capetown, South Africa; who now live in London) Lisa and Emma invited me to lunch with them. We went and hiked around the town, which really is just about 2 roads, to find a place. We finally settled on a restaurant on the water and got some lunch. They headed onto the beach, and I headed back to town.

In order to take the trail from one town to the next (there are 5 towns, hence Cinque) you need to pay a fee to use the national park. I got my 2 day pass, so tomorrow I can make the 5 hour hike to the farthest town, and dip in the Med. Sea if needed! Because its soooo hot!

I looked at the shops because I’m going to need sunscreen in this weather for sure! And found a Co-op that sells fresh berries, that will be my breakfast tomorrow!

I headed back to my room, and my roomie was sleeping, that’s when I learned my roomie was a man. He’s russian, but lives in Vancoover and Florence, and is here on holiday. I think he might be uber religious, his goal was to hike to all the churchs, and the churches are at the highest point in the town, about a 45 minute hike to each of them. He’s smart, but has hair a little longer than his ears, that he straightens, puts product in, and then puts on his cool hat! Haha.

I decided to head to the beach on my own. I got my suit on and headed down, then up, then down again to find the smooth rocky beach. The water is warm, but not hot, and clear, so very clear. They offer snorkeling and diving tours here, maybe one day, if I have time I’ll hop on, otherwise, just enjoying the water is enough.

I’m going to find a place to eat soon, the sun is setting and I want to hit the hay early, I’m so tired. I think my South Africian roommates are going to party, thank goodness my Russian one doesn’t seem the type!

Roma!

Oh goodness, let’s see here we will start with yesterday (8-19-08)…

Once we arrived back at our beautiful room, with the patio, we got settled in. I repacked by backpack, twice, and packed my suitcase for home. We decided to go find the Fendi store for Susan. So that means, Spanish steps. There is a so called ‘shopping triangel’ of all the high end and name brand stores, the middle point being the Spanish steps. We headed down the middle street, and apparently Versace moved, because it wasn’t where it was 4 years ago. I didn’t think we were ever going to find it, and dad looked up and goes, oh there it is. So, I took a picture first, then the guard at the gate opened the door for us. Dad was a little freaked that one lady follows you around the whole time, but nothing in thw store is cheap, and they will do anything for their customers, so she had to follow us around. If we would have wanted something to drink, she would have gotten us something. I helped dad pick out a purse I think Susan will like, we paid for it and left. We headed down the next street, and there it was, Nike Roma! It was beautiful, haha!! Actually it was small, but I just wanted a shirt that said ‘Nike Roma’ and I found one! So I was satisfied.

We came back from the Spanish Steps and shopping, settled in a bit more, then headed out for dinner. I had pizza again, and dad had some pasta. He got to keep his wine bottle, he’s going to make a candle with it they even gave him a bag to put it in! We got some gelato on the way back, and ate it on our patio as we tried to figure out why my external hard drive wasn’t working, however, we couldn’t figure it out. We went to bed, and slept hard, this hotel is just so nice!

Today (8-20-08) started wonderfully! I woke up and remembered I packed the cord that came with my hard drive, and boom! It worked!! Yeah, so that means I don’t have to lug my computer around! How exciting! Anyway, we ate breakfast and headed to the Holy land…the Vatican. We had a tour at 1130, which essentially just let us bypass the rediculously long lines to get it to the muesum and the Sistine Chapel. We had audio guides, but didn’t really use them, only on the stuff we thought looked cool. The Vatican has an amazing collection of Egyptian relics. We also saw some cool paintings, one of Raphels painting that has Michelangelo, Leonardo and himself in it. I’d seen it before, but its pretty cool with an explaination. Then we made our way to the Sistine Chapel, it only took about 2 miles of rooms, and over an hour on foot! But the Sistine Chapel is a rectangular room, and about 3/4 of the way down there is a railing looking thing, its about 10 feet tall. Then there is the art. Its beautiful. The colors are still very vibrant. When you are in the chapel you cannot to pictures (No Foto!) And every minute or so they yell ‘Shhhhh’ but ofcourse, Heidi, I got you some pictures! I don’t know how clear they are, but I will put them up tomorrow for you!! It took us over 2 hours to go through the museum and chapel, and when we got out it was after 130. We stopped and had some strawberries and water, then headed back to St Peters square. We decided to climb the coupola! The dome is so high, actually its the highest point in Rome! Law saw that no building can be higher than the dome! So, we took the elevator to the top of the church, then climbed the 320 (or 312 according to dad) to the top of the dome, and WHAT A VIEW! We decided this was the best view yet. While you could see the Roman forum, a building was blocking the Colosseum 😦

After St Peter domes, we walked around the chapel, then headed down to the tomb of Popes. Its was cool, first we saw John Paul I, then we came upon John Paul II, Mr JPII himself Tok well his grave). People we kneeling in front, and guards were moving people along, but JPII clearly was loved. After the Vatican we decided to go see the Trevi fountain.

I told dad it was on the back of a building, he goes, ‘it really is on the back of a building.’ Well it is! We through our coins in, got pictures of us doing that, and relaxed for a little bit. Then we came back to the room to drop our stuff off before dinner. Dinner was good, I had pizza, again, its just that its so good because everything is soooo fresh, and I love all the different cheeses!! Tomorrow we are going to the Colosseum and the Roman forum.

Sorrento and Capri

Our hotel is just amazing. The view is to die for and it is hard to leave. Yesterday (8-19) we headed out to Capri. Capri is a very small island, on 4 miles by 2 miles, but it is beautiful! There are no sandy beaches in either Sorrento or Capri, just cliffs and rocks. We drove downtown Sorrento and parked our car in a ‘garage’ which really is just a cave, and then headed to our boat. The boat ride was only about 20 minutes long, and boats, unlike trains, never are on time. They are always late. We arrived on Capri Island, and immediately got our tickets to get on another boat to go to the Blue Grotto.

The Blue Grotto is a large cave, with a very tiny enterance (about 4×4 feet) that once your inside there is no sunlight, but the bluest water. The water almost looks like there is lights underneath it lighting up the water, but its all natural.

Our boat ride was supposed to go straight to the Blue Grotto, then around the island, but there was a long line at the grotto, so we went backwards. The island of Capri is cliffy. Sophia Lorenz has a house, that maybe a moped to get to, but that’s all. Its way up high, with like a tiny bridge crossing some of the cliffs. The water is clear and beautiful greens and blues. The boat tour was nice and relaxed, and gave up-close tours of some of the larger grottos on the island. We finally got to the Blue Grotto, and it is a sight to see. Upon approach, there are about 10 boats, and 10 dingies. And the dingies look like they are trying to break through the rock, because you really can’t see the enterance to the grotto. We did some donuts in the water to pass some time, then anchored the boat and the dingies soon arrived. Only 4 people per dingie, and €10 per person for the ride and the enterance fee. Dad and I got in the 3rd dingie, and I got to cuddle with a nice Italian couple in the back, while dad got the front. We paid the rower and got in line to enter the grotto, after about 15 minutes it was our turn. Our rower had to wait for the waves to be just right, the he pulled on this chain to get the boat through the tiny hole. We all had to lay down, including the rower, to get through the hole. On the inside, the cave is huge, and the water is so beautiful and neon blue. If you took a picture with flash, it couldn’t capture the beautiful blue. We were rowed around the cave (less than 5 minutes) while our rower sang, along with all the other rowers. Then we got back in line to get out. We got hit by a big wave that through our boat into the wall, it was an experience! We finally got out on the 3rd try and arrived 98% dry! Then we headed back to the marina.

We decided to try and go to the city center, so we started the climb, up lots of stairs, and steep angles. We quit after about 15 minutes, because we hadn’t even made it half way to the top, and we still needed to eat lunch before our boat left for Sorrento. We ate at a small cafe on the pier, we had fresh fruit salad and fries. Fries just taste so wonderful here! No ketchup needed (not that I would use it anyway). Oh and ketchup, for those who like it, is just like tomato paste, its just tomatoes and viniger, no sugar like in the US.

We got on our boat, and my seat was kicked the whole 20 minute ride by a wonderful Italian kid who screamed a lot. Anyway, once we got back to Sorrento we got our car and headed to another parking garage to park for dinner. We walked around a little and took our time finding our restaurant. We followed Rick Steve’s advice and ate at a wonderful little restaurant in an alley. It had great pizza, and was cheap! Our cheapest meal yet! We headed to Davide il Gelato, anther Rick Steve’s recommendation, for some great gelato. They had 60 flavors to chose from!

We headed back to the hotel, which proved to be the most difficult part of the whole trip. We made it up the tiny road ok, but there was NO place to park. So we had to go up farther and come back down, but dad hit the wall going up because its so narrow, and then parking, hit the rocks. No real damage, just scuffs, but he was flustered. We just hung around the hotel last night, I uploaded pictures and then passed out!

Today when we returned the vehicle, no damages we noted! Yeah! We are no sitting in the train station, in the McDonalds, dad got a coffee and I got a Fanta and we are just waiting for our train to come and take us to Roma. 
Dad leaves Friday. But first, on Thursday, we must celebrate his birthday! 

Travel Day, Pompeii, and Vesuvius!

Yesterday was an extremely long, extremely boring day! We got up a 6am, ate breakfast, then headed to the train station (via water bus!) We had to go to the main land to catch our train to Naples. We were early, but it was good, because we got to store our luggage in our compartment on the train. Sadly, one stop away from Venice, we picked up 3 lovely children (9, 6, 3) and their parents, who could not control them. I got kicked, a Kleenex thrown on me, and some kid kept pulling dads leg hair! Thank goodness they left in Rome, so we only had to ride with them for like 4 hours, instead of the 8 all the way down to Naples. In Roma, some slutty girls and their nasty male friends hopped in our cabin, because they didnt think anyone else would join, thank goodness our Indian friends came along and had seats next to us. These folks were just so nice, they told me to go to India and that it was safe in certain areas, so I should check, but that I could have a great time there. They were very nice, and were going to Pompeii and Herculaneum today, but we didnt see them. We finally made it to Naples, then had to find our car. Dad ROCKED! the driving through Naples. We missed one turn (my fault) otherwise, we were right on que! Dad just amazes me at his driving ability, I think it might have something to do with the fact he has to drive in Chicago a lot now. Our hotel is AMAZING! we have the most beautiful view of the city, and the bay. Oh goodness, its just wonderful! As soon as I have enough time I will label all my pictures, probably in September… (sorry)

Today we headed out around 930 for POMPEII! I was here like 4 years ago now (woah!) and just loved it. I never realized how big it was, and neither did dad when he saw it. It was amazing, again! It was nice not to be freezing while I was there this time, except this time I got sunburned. No happy medium for me. We saw all the best things to see there, in about 2.5 hours. I saw the place where Ben and I broke in last time, and its still not open to the public. It looks like they are doing new excavations as well. Its never ending! After Pompeii, we at a quick lunch, then headed on the bus to Vesuvius. HOLY ROAD TRIP! It took us like an hour to drive up, all the twists and turns, and the road is 2 ways, but in the States, it would be lucky if it was a legal 1 way! Our bus did a lot of honking on the way up! Once we go there, it was a 30 minute hike to the top. They mean climb, hike, crawl if you have to. Its gravel, like pee gravel, and awful. But we did it, WITHOUT STOPPING! It had the most beautiful view of the Naples Bay and Sorrento and Pompeii was down there somewhere, I just never saw it. This was the first volcano I had ever seen, and climbed, and it was beautiful! It even steamed a little for my camera to take a picture!

We got back, and missed our shuttle to the hotel, so we decided to eat in town. Rick Steve’s book got us a great little restaurant, and the owner was so nice. He brought us Lemonchillo after dinner, I think I was drunk off a little shot. But it was so much fun to eat at this restaurant. It had lemon trees, and no roof!

Tomorrow we are going to Capri!