Friday, August 5, 2011
It’s been a long, looong night… but I’m surviving! I thought that I’d find a safe place to curl up with my backpack and luggage and possibly fall asleep for a little bit before morning, but… that wasn’t the case haha. I ended up watching half of a movie that I had on my lap top and staying up for most of the night. I wasn’t too bad I guess, but I was so tired by the time it was morning. So many people started rushing passed me where I sat with my back up against a column in the middle of the airport. Lines were getting longer and more people were starting to come in to check in their luggage.
Thankfully I was directed to the correct side of the airport to check-in my one luggage haha. That made things easier. I eventually found where I needed to board and I boarded the plane just in time. The flight from Madrid back to New Jersey was long haha but I entertained myself with a movie or two. I tried falling asleep but I didn’t sleep for more than an hour, really. Before I knew it, I saw land ahead of us outside the airplane window… AMERICA AT LAST! Haha. It was great seeing landing on U.S. again and seeing the New York Skyline as the plane prepared to land. Once I exited the baggage claim area, I went directly to the next gate to catch my last flight to lovely Los Angeles, California.
I arrived at LAX around 9pm and couldn’t be more exhausted and thrilled to be back in Southern C A L I F O R N I A :)
Thursday, August 4, 2011
Since we didn’t get a chance to go inside the Basilica in Vatican City, that was our first stop today. We left as early as we planned on leaving and made it to the Metro station on time. Man, the inside of the Basilica is something else… there really aren’t any words to describe it. The enormous height of the ceiling (is one thing), the commanding architecture, the history behind every monolithic statue… it’s crazy amazing inside there. We ended up staying indoors for a good amount of time. Before leaving, I had the rosaries I got there blessed and dipped in holy water!
Once we got outside, we were drawn towards the Vatican post office haha where we all sent a postcard home from the Vatican. That was writing and doing! Afterwards, we made our way to the Pantheon—which I have been dying to see! Along the way there, we stopped to snap a few pictures of some other monuments. It took a hot minute but we eventually reached the Pantheon and… it was A W E S O M E! It was like Arch 170B… in real life haha. I couldn’t wait to go inside! But before we did end up going inside, Lu and I (who had the “I Love Roma” shirts) took a few fancy tourist photos with the Pantheon in the background haha. Love it! Anyway, I should say that one of my favorite things about the Pantheon was that it actually looked… old. As opposed to some other monuments we’ve seen, the Pantheon wasn’t touched up or anything… it was natural and true to its history… it was RAW.
The Pantheon and lunch was all that I had left in Rome before I had to rush off to the train station to catch my flight back to Madrid. It all happened so fast. I packed everything up as quickly as I could and with Edgar’s gracious help with dragging my broken luggage, I made it to my departing train with five minutes to spare. I met a couple of friendly people on the train that were from Malaysia and Manchester. It was nice chatting with them for the ride there.
The flight back to Madrid was easy… the hardest part was trying to figure out how I would kill the next 12+ hours in the airport haha.
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
We had a great adventure today in Vatican City! Just one thing… we got separated from Yoshie and we couldn’t find her anywhere! We looked for her for a good deal of time but as the time passed, we thought it’d be best to get on the metro and hopefully we’d run into her there.
We spent a good five to six hours in Vatican City and had a blast marveling at every single thing we laid our eyeballs on. Since we had an appointment to arrive there around 11:30am, we had to make sure we got there on time. Once we got there, we were at ease, but still… no Yoshie to be found.
So what did we do for those five to six hours, you may ask? Well, we started off the day by going through the Vatican museum where we walked through hallways upon hallways of historic paintings… it was crazy (awesome). We eventually made our way through everything and ended that portion of the tour at the Sistine Chapel… where all of our jaws dropped when we looked up, down, all around and the magnificently painted walls and ceiling... Ah! We stood in the same room that Michelangelo once stood and painted… can you believe that?! Oh man. Anyway, afterwards we took a stroll through several courtyards before making our way to St. Peter’s basilica, where we climbed a few hundred steps to the top of the dome of St. Peter’s. It was a mean climb, but we made it and the view was worth it! We managed to squeeze through the crowd of people and take a few snap shots of the view.
Later this evening, we retraced our steps back to the Roman Forum, where we were finally able to go inside! It closed too soon by the time we arrived the day before so we were glad to be able to get through the gates this time! Anywho, we spent a decent amount of time walking through some of the coolest ruins I have ever seen before… they’re literally everywhere!
Before going back to our hostel, we grabbed some dinner and were relieved to find Yoshie waiting for us in our room. Phew!
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
We started the day off my making a trip to the Maxxi Museum! I honestly didn’t know it was so close to where we were staying, so thanks to Jinah we were able to check it out for a bit. While Jinah and Yoshie went inside, Edgar, Lu, Sherry, and I stayed outside and in the lobby space taking more pictures haha. We landscape around the museum is almost like a sculpture garden or some sort… haha so we made use of the interesting features of the garden and took pictures haha.
Anywho, afterwards we all made our way to some very important sites of Rome! : Piazza del Popolo, Piazza del Spagna (the Spanish steps), Colosseo, the Arch of Constantine, and Piazza Navona! Haha as you can imagine, it was a very FULL day today. The Coliseum… is something else. As soon as we got off the last stop of the metro and walked outside the door to see the Coliseum facing us… we were all just blown away by what was before our eyes. Dude, it looks SO MUCH bigger and massive in person. It’s absolutely amazing.
We ended the evening by searching for the cheapest Italian restaurant to eat at haha. We went down the line of restaurants in Piazza Navona and eventually ate at and ended up outside of the plaza Navona… what grabbed our attention you may ask? Well, other than the prices being the cheapest, by far, the waiter who was trying to sell the place was super nice to us and had an awesome sense of humor haha. He was definitely #2 on Lu’s list haha. Other than the fact that Lu had to wait an extra long time for her food, dinner was exceptional! The waiter was so nice that he gave us all free coffees before leaving – on the house!
Monday, August 1, 2011
In a blink of an eye, we left beautiful Venice today… and we are now in Rome, Italy! It was a mission to carry all of our luggage out of our hostel, over the bridge, on the boat, and to the train station, Tran Italia. But, with Edgar’s help we managed to get everything and everyone of us where they needed to be. Luckily, the train station was right next to a “boat stop” so we didn’t have to travel very far to get there. We waited in line for a bit before buying our ticket to Rome. I saw so many backpackers waiting around and walking through the train station! I love seeing hardcore travelers like that… it’s so inspiring. Anyway, we boarded our train and left promptly at 12:27pm. Since I bought my ticket separately from Lu, Edgar, Jinah, and Sherry (they bought the EuroRail Pass) I was placed to sit in a seat further away from them. It was okay though, I had the window seat anyway so I didn’t mind.
After about twenty minutes into our train ride, I started talking to the people that I shared my seating area with. I had the urge to start talking to them or at least say hello, so… I did! One of my most favorite things about traveling, especially in places like Europe, is that you are constantly mixing with so many different kinds of people. You either see or meet people from all over the world… it’s like all of our paths intertwine in these amazing traveling locations. Today I met an Australian girl, Rebecca, a Japanese girl, two native Italian residents, and one American who works in the movie industry! Yeah, that’s a whole other story on it’s own haha. But basically, you learn a lot when you meet people with different backgrounds and cultural lifestyles. Plus, it’s a ton of fun! I had so much fun simply having a conversation with all of them; and that very fact –the fact that we all come from completely different backgrounds— makes participating and being present in such a moment so enthralling and amazing. Rebecca the girl from Australia is extremely bubbly and friendly, the Japanese girl was a bit timid because she doesn’t know how to speak English very well, and the two native Italians were very helpful in pin-pointing the “must-see” places in Rome. It was so great! It’s crazy though because in the middle of one of my conversations with an Italian musician haha… the American guy behind me started talking to me! Now, this guy was pretty legit. He was super talkative and talked to me a lot about his experience working in the movie industry, how he used to shoot music videos for some really well-known bands of various genres in the nineties, and how he is constantly traveling and busy working on something new with a new project that is thrown at him almost every day. He said that he was born in New York, but he lives in Los Angeles… so we bonded over this point and fact and I just asked him a bunch of questions about what he does. The time passed by so quickly and melted away… that we talked all the way to Rome, up until we had to get out of our seats and get off the train. Don’t you just love meeting people spontaneously this way? It’s so crazy! (I got his email)
Anyway, after leaving the train station we found our way to our new hostel—which, by the way, is so much smaller than our hostel in Venice—ate kababs for dinner, and started exploring the streets of Rome. Since we began our day later than usual, we did the best we could to get through some good places today. Other than eating some more gelato… we took pictures, pictures, and more pictures of almost every little thing that involved columns or arches haha. The highlight of our day must be visiting Trevi Fountain… now THAT was absolutely amazing. I really can’t put into words how beautiful this fountain is… it’s so massive and INCREDIBLY detailed. I just kept staring at it in awe. We all even made a wish after throwing in some change into the water behind our shoulders… haha I hope my wishes come true!
Our evening ended with walking into a church right across from Trevi Fountain, eating a strawberry and nutella crepe, and zig-zagging through the streets all the way back to our hostel. We stopped by a super market before going back to our hostel to make sure that we have some bottled water and snacks to nibble on for tomorrow’s adventure.
Three more days of Rome for me! Lets DO THIS!
Sunday, July 31, 2011
I still can’t believe we are where we are so let me restate what I’ve been saying all day today: We’re in Venice guys! I can’t believe we’re in VENICE! It felt nothing short of some sort of magical dream to wake up in this morning knowing that we were in Italy. Since it was our first and last official whole day in Venice, we had to make haste and use our time and money efficiently haha. For starters, while Jinah went to find some pizza to eat for brunch, Edgar, Lu, Sherry, and I found the nearest grocery store to buy some inexpensive snacks that would last us throughout the day. I ended up grabbing a bottle of water, pear juice, strawberry yogurt, and a pack of “Plum Cake.” We decided to let our ghetto sides shine and eat our cheap snacks on the ground behind the market next to one of the canals. The food we bought was surprisingly filling; this was a very good thing.
As soon as we finished eating, we picked up all of our trash and headed out on one of the main streets again. Remember how I said that we were surprised to find not many people out last night? Well, scratch that. There were so many people out and about today it’s not even funny! I guess people only come out during the daytime. But anyway, while we were walking along one of the main streets, we stumbled upon a Gondola service station… where we were drawn in by the beautiful Gondolas and breathtaking Venetian scenery. We didn’t plan on it and we definitely didn’t expect to pay 20 euros each, but… it happened anyway haha. Yes, we got to ride in a Gondola boat today! The ride was about thirty minutes long and we were given a tour of some of the highlights of Venice… I really enjoyed the ride! My goodness, I have no idea how to put Venice into words… everything about this place is so wonderfully beautiful. The water and canals are one thing, but the boating arrangement for transportation, the food, the music… everything is full of their own “beautiful, specific details,” that it cannot be replaced nor taken granted for. I cannot find any word that is nearly close enough to describe the awe-inspiring nature of Venice… other than, “Now I know why this is Mom’s favorite place in Europe.”
After our Gondola ride, we found our way to San Marco Square where we ended up staying for a good two to three hours haha. We took about a billion and a half pictures of everything! The church, the (original) Campanile, the pigeons... everything! Speaking of pigeons, I had THEE best time taking pictures with them haha. I took some of the bread I had bought earlier to feed them; once I threw down the first few crumbs a whole flock of pigeons began swarming me! The pigeons are not afraid of people at all; they’re seriously savages! Haha. They just came swooping down towards and passed you like bomber jets trying so hard to snag just one more bread crumb. Mom took a similar picture feeding these pigeons when she was in Venice many years ago… so I really wanted to recreate that photograph stuck in time.
After bonding with all the pigeons, we realized that Jinah was no where in sight! She must have walked off somewhere and unknowingly got separated from the rest of us. We waited around in the Square to see if we could find her, but… we had no luck. Since she had the map, we knew she would be okay. Along our mini journey through Venice, we stopped to eat some of the most delicious gelato in the world (of course, I’ve been saying that every time I ate gelato here in Italy), we tried on various authentic Venetian masks and took pictures with them, we browsed around a bunch of souvenir shops, and continued to take a plethora of pictures.
The rest of the evening was awesome. I mean, all we did was walk around as much of Venice as possible without a map haha… but that was all I needed. Venice is beautiful from every and any angle… Lu and Edgar surprisingly ran into one of their friends from Berkeley who is studying abroad and traveling this summer as well! Haha talk about a small world… ah! After they chatted for a bit, we continued to walk and we walked as far as we could until we reached the water’s edge! It was a beautiful site to see… Once the sun went down, we thought it would be best to head back to the hostel. We were a bit worried when we found out that Jinah wasn’t at the hostel waiting for us but just when we were about to leave to eat dinner, we see her coming up the stairs! Haha yes, reunited! We all ate dinner together at one of the only Italian restaurants that were still open near midnight.
Saturday, July 30, 2011
And in the blink of an eye, we are out of Guardamar del Segura… goodbye Spain, hello Italy! I’m currently in Venice, Italy right now! The journey was long, the airlines were mean, but we made it to Venice… and it couldn’t feel anymore like a dream than it already does. As soon as Melissa and I woke up this morning, we started packing and getting everything together before our shuttle arrived at 12 noon to take us to the airport. It was another bittersweet day today, especially when we woke up to near silence in the Pension; almost everyone had already left to their new destinations. It felt a lot like the end of freshman year at Berkeley in the dorms… haha but enough about the “sad” part. All of us had such a wonderful experience in Guardamar this summer and I know I will never forget it.
As noon neared, Melissa and I brought our luggage downstairs and I occasionally poked my head outside the door of the Pension looking for a large van. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was looking for, but I guess I didn’t need to, because the shuttle driver parked his van and walked over to me and asked if I was the one that scheduled a shuttle to the airport. Thank goodness he did that. Anyway, within five minutes or so the rest of us came downstairs (Edgar, Lu, Sherry, and Jinah) and we packed up the van before heading out. Haha we had so much luggage between the six of us… it took some strategic work to make all of our stuff fit, but we did it.
I’m so glad that we took a shuttle to the airport because we ran into a bunch of difficulties and delays between checking into our flight and boarding our plane. Ryanair, the airline that we chose to fly with today, caused us so much stress and were completely unreasonable with charging us with fees for our luggage… to make a long story short, we ended up running to the gate and vowing to never fly with Ryanair again haha.
Anywho, within a few hours we arrived here in Venice, Italy with a combination of a hungry and sparkle in our eyes. We hadn’t really eaten all day so we were all so hungry but –I don’t know about them— I was so wide-eyed and like a kid in a candy store once we got here… I think my “homies” were making fun of me for filming us walking through the airport once we arrived here haha. Anyway, we had to find our way through and out of the airport so we just asked for directions and were guided to take a bus and then a boat to get to our hostel. Yes, you head right – a BOAT! The most amazing thing about Venice is the fact that water takes the place of streets, boats take the place of cars, and boat stops take the place of bus stops. It’s just so amazing. One of my first impressions of Venice is that it is extremely classy and it’s actually not as crowded as I thought it would be. After asking around, we finally found which bus we were supposed to take (the 52) and we took our boat to our hostel where we waited for one of the owners of the hostel to direct us to where we’ll be staying for the next two nights.
Dude, our hostel is so legit! It’s located right on one of the river streets and is absolutely huge and wonderful. It’s like we’re living in an actual Venetian home… and it’s all to ourselves! Man oh man.
We spent the rest of the evening walking through Venice… exploring the streets and experiencing the “night life.” We passed by so many amazing little shops that I can’t wait to walk into tomorrow. We ended up eating some delicious Margarita Pizzas at a local food place and dined so wonderfully. And our meal was topped off with an amazing scoop of Gelato icecream…. Mmmm!!! It. was. bomb. After we ate, we started exploring more and more…. Until we started feeling raindrops fall onto us. Can you believe that? As soon as we got to the Grand Canal, it started pouring like crazy! Madrid, Part 2 for sure, dude! The funniest thing was that as SOON as it started raining, crowds of venders came out of no where carrying a bag of umbrellas and asking if we wanted to buy one. We didn’t think it was worth 5 euros, so we stood under a landmark for a bit hoping for the rain to stop so we could walk back.
Alas… it continued to rain. HARD. So we decided we had no choice but to run back home in the rain. I tried my best to cover my bag but other than that, I let myself get SOAKED. I mean, there was nothing I could do haha. By the time we got back to the hostel, we were all drenched… we look at each other, shrugged, and walked up the stairs to our hostel. You gotta do what you gotta do.
Water seems to be a reoccurring theme this summer, now isn’t it? Haha.