Thursday, April 28, 2011

the dragon snorer

This post is not about anything that has to do with Europe, or how beautful Ireland was, or about how excited I am to go watch the royal wedding tomorrow while in London or about how my dream of going to Salzburg is coming true in two weeks. But, it is about a 30 year old man. (that age is only an estimate) And not just any 30 year old man, but an American from Florida. You might be wondering why on earth out of all the things that I am experiencing right now that I would want to tell you about some random American guy. Well, I am going to share. While in Galway, Ireland two of our roomates were these American guys. They were nice and besides introductions and sharing how we all got to Galway there was not much conversation. The second night they were in our room there were also four other twenty year old something French speaking girls to fill our 8 person room. At about 4 o clock in the morning we were all woken up to a very loud and very consistent snore. All of the girls were murmuring and had phones out checking the time. The only two people sleeping were the American guys. After listening to this extremely loud snoring and attempting fall back asleep we were all wide awake again when mr. florida decided to chime in with his snoring too. Although it did not sound like snoring. Me and Fran were convinced that there was either a lion in the bed across from us or a fire breathing dragon. No joke. I really wish that I could describe exactly the noise, but I can't. All I can say is that if you can imagine a dragon making a really loud noise that is what it sounded like. All of us girls were laying in our beds giggling while our roomates continued in their slumber. Between the consistent loud snoring and the dragon roaring falling asleep was very difficult.
Those of you who know me well know that it does not take much to make me laugh. So combining the fact that it was 4 am and there was a man that sounded like a dragon in his sleep in the bunk across from me gave me quite a good laugh, most of which I attempted to muffle in my pillow. So I know this isn't a profound post about how absolutely beautiful Ireland was it's all I have after a long day of switching countries and waking up at 4am to catch a plane. But I will update you soon!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

mamma mia, get me back to italia!

A little summary of 2 amazing weeks in Italy.

PISA: We began and ended our trip in Pisa because that is where our 30 euro flight landed and left from. We saw the Leaning Tower of Pisa...and is a big tower that is leaning. So interesting. We also took the 'pretending to hold the tower up' picture along with all of the other tourists. It was more interesting watching all the people standing around holding their hands out in a funny stance getting their picture taken then the tower itself.

LUCCA: Before taking off for Rome we spent the afternoon in this small town outside of Pisa. It might one of my favorite places in the world. (of course i've been thinking that about a lot of places recently...) There weren't any tourist and it was small and surrounded by an ancient wall, like most european cities. If you can imagine a typical small Italian town, this was it. And then we had to run through the city after losing track of time to catch our train to Pisa so we could catch our train to Rome. It was kinda crazy and we got some interesting looks.

ROME: So, I wasn't the biggest fan of Rome. Of course the colosseum was amazing! Although I can't even begin to wrap my mind around all the history that it contains. The Trevi Fountain was super cool and we threw coins in it! The Pantheon was really cool too. It has a big hole in the ceiling. Crazy. And the Spanish steps...well, they were steps. If you take all of these amazing sights and then add fifty elementary school field trips, 200 traveling families from all over the world, and 500 college students on spring break at each place, plus really annoying men trying to sell you stupid stuff every 7 seconds, Rome kinda loses its magic. But it was really great seeing all of these amazing sights and eating really really good Italian food while we were there!

THE HOLY SEE (the Vatican): Even though it's kinda in Rome, it is technically it's own country, so I will give it it's own little paragraph. But I heard from some other travelers that we met that the Pope comes out on Wednesdays and Saturdays to give a little speech thing. So we were at St. Peter's Basilica around 10:30 am on Wednesday and sure enough the little old man in his white robe was rollin in his Benz through the crowd of people. Then he said something profound in Latin and Italian followed by translations in 8 different languages. It was very cool. He talked for quite a while and then blessed us. They also recognized some groups that were at the Vatican visiting and one was from Grand Rapids! How exciting! We cheered for them :) St. Peter's Basilica was absolutely beautiful! And so big! We also saw the tomb of St. Peter and toured the tombs of all the popes. Then we took a cheap tour of the Vatican Museum. We were just going to walk around and check everything out ourselves but learned so much more from our tour guide! We saw Nero's bathtub and the Sistine Chapel! It was beautiful! And I may or may not have taken a very illegal picture while inside...

VENICE: I looooooved Venice! I mean, how could you not like a city without cars and motorcycles surrounded by water with singing men in funny hats rowing gondolas down canals?! All we did was walk around and get lost and it was the greatest thing ever! We also took a gondola ride through the city. Our driver man was interesting...we were pretty sure that he was bragging in Italian to all the other boats that we passed that he got to drive two young girls around while all the other boats contained either groups of Asian tourists, families, old people, or couples. After he would say something in Italian the other drivers would just look at us and smile, or one time one of the drivers flexed for was quite the experience. The city is just beautiful and we saw so many masquerade stores and a sight where one of the Indiana Jones movies was filmed! The buildings were all so beautiful too, most having balconies with flowers and laundry drying outside of the windows. Also, we had to take a water taxi to one of our hostels! So cool.

VERONA: "O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?" Yes, we did see Romeo's house and the balcony of Juliet. But Verona also had its own arena, very similar the the Colosseum. But the greatest part was that we stayed in a cute little B&B which was a very nice break from a hostel.

FLORENCE: I really wish that I appreciated art more because then I would have liked Florence a lot more. We saw a beautiful church and the David statue! We also stumbled upon a cute little park where we sat and people watched for a while. There was a soccer field next to us, or football, as it is called here, and we watched some kids playing a pickup game after they got out of school. We also ate the BEST gelato in the entire world here.

TAVARNELLE VAL DI PESA: If you are planning on going to Italy, the cities are great and beautiful but to truly experience Tuscany you have to go to the country. After two nights in Florence we took a bus ride out of the city through hills and vineyards to this little town and it was one of the highlights of this trip! Everywhere we looked was just breathtaking and didn't even look real! We spent most of our time walking along the country roads. We also went into town for dinner and lunch and it was so nice eating at authentic and non-touristy restaurants. After walking around in a little medieval village for a while we snuck into someone's backyard and just laid in the grass soaking up the beautiful tuscan sun. It was unreal and so beautiful!

Final thoughts on Italy - I love it!
My new dream is to move to the Tuscan countryside.
Everyone drives motorcycles or scooters.
'Ciao bella' is the most common Italian flirting phrase.
Everybody is so relaxed and never in a rush or stressed out.
The train rides through mountains and across the country were all stunning.
Olive Garden is a bad representation of Italian eating.
They really do say 'mamma mia' all the time! Even middle aged business men. It's fantastic.
Go! Go! Go!

Until next time, arrivederci!

Monday, April 11, 2011


Boun giourno from Venice, Italy! Sorry for the lack of updates about everything that has been going on...but we have been busy! We have been in Italy for about a week and have seen the leaning tower of Pisa, Colosseum, Trevi fountain, Spanish steps, Pantheon, the Vatican and so much more! We even got blessed by the Pope! Italy is a beautiful country and I love the culture! Today we are out to explore some more of Venice and tomorrow we take off for Verona!

 Also, the Italian men. Just how I imagined. Almost everyday we either get a "ciao bella!" or "mamma mia! bella! bella!" or serenaded by old Italian men in a cafe or have a gondola driver pretend to blow your dress up as he goes underneath a bridge that we are standing on. They also like to just stand outside and watch all the beautiful women pass by. It is very funny.

There is soooo much more but we are off to see the church from one of the Indiana Jones movies and maybe explore some islands!


Saturday, April 2, 2011

a typical in between traveling day in maastricht

09:00 - wake up
09:30 - lay in bed and pretend to sleep
09:45 - listen to new neighbors yappy dogs
10:00 - stumble into the kitchen to heat water
10:15 - tea and toast with blueberry jam
11:00 - debate whether or not to take a shower
11:15 - more tea
12:00 - finally give in to shower
13:00 - hit the streets of maastricht
13:30 - buy fresh apples and raspberries and strawberries from the market
14:00 - stop for fries (ketchup for me and mayonnaise [the Dutch way] for fran)
14:30 - window shop and walk past really old (like 500 yrs) buildings
16:00 - grab a seat on the terrace of a cafe and enjoy a 'koffie' or cola
17:00 - walk through the park and feed the ducks and goats and deer
17:30 - stop by the waffle stand and enjoy a nice warm waffle (better than anything you can imagine!)
18:00 - cross the bridge back over the river (by now all the stores have closed)
18:10 - see group of 20 young, attractive European men walking on the opposite side of the street
18:11 - turn to your friend and smile
18:12 - (without the exchanging of words) turn around and start walking the opposite way towards men
18:13 - catch up with attractive European men
18:14 - continue following European men
18:20 - giggle
18:21 - sigh
18:22 - turn around again and start walking
18:30 - enter apartment
19:30 - spy on passerby's and Quattro Mori customers 
20:00 - make dinner (usually pasta...)
21:00 - skype with family
22:00 - make reservations at hostel in Rome
22:00 - book plane tickets to Ireland
22:30 - hit the streets again to closest kebab stand
22:45 - order kebab and get asked where you are from
22:55 - almost get run over by a scooter or bike or car
23:00 - book hostel in Venice
23:30 - see what's showing on MTV (or Animal Planet and Discovery channel...the only English channels)
24:00 - spy on the Dutch people more
24:30 - bed

(view from kitchen table)