Thursday, February 26, 2009
Behind the Sagrada, I liked this side better!
View from our hostel!
Last weekend (February 19-22) I went to Barcelona for the last weekend of Carnivale. I really went because I wanted to go to Spain, but it was convinient that I would get to experience this celebration as well. I'm going just go through my weekend in a nutshell. We arrived late Thursday night and checked into SeaPoint Hostel. When I woke up for breakfast the next morning I realized why it had this name. I walked out to the dining area that had huge windows. They looked out onto the beach and the sun peeking out through the clouds onto the Mediteranian Sea. It was an amazing sight, one that words could not possibly describe. I ran back to my room to get my camera before I even started to eat. After breakfast we headed out to look for Guadi's Sagrada Familia. We ended up seeing the Barcelona Cathedral first and then finding our way slowing to the Sagrada passing the Arc de Triumf as well. We also stopped at STARBUCKS...we'd been deprived of our American luxuries so we had to indulge ourselves. Finally after another 45 minutes or so of walking we reached our destination and walked around in complete awe of the massive structure with intricate art and architecture. We decided to wait for our travel buddy to get in (she had missed her flight) before we decided whether or not to go in. I should also add that the Sagrada was started in 1850 and is still underconstruction. It is scheduled to be completed in 2050. We continued our exploration down to Las Ramblas seeing another Guadi site and then walking through a market filled with fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and cheeses. It was beautiful, all of the produce laid out in such an orderly fashion with their vibrant colors. We made our way back to the hostel and met up with our friend and she joined us for a walk back up Las Ramblas, where we experienced the wonders of the street performers. We watched two different ones. The first was a man who could do amazing things with a soccer ball. He continuously bounced the ball on his head while simultaneously taking off a shirt and putting a different one on and then putting on a beanie balancing the ball on his head and pulling it off again. He also juggled 3 balls with his feet while bouncing one on his head and jumping rope. It was pretty impressive. A little further down another crowd was gathering and we witnessed a tumbling and acrobatic routine. These 5 guys built 2-1-1's and diamond-heads and did amazing passes that I have hardly seen people dare to try on a spring floor let alone the hard concrete street. The final trick was one of the performers did a round off full over the top of 4 spectators, Kerry happened to be one of them. It was quite the experience. Our day concluded with pizza from Pizza Hut and relaxing at the hostel. Our second day wasn't too eventful, we went out sight seeing again to the Sagrada, and went in a few churches along the way including the Cathedral we had stopped at the day before. When we got to the Sagrada we decided not to go in, I ended up heading home before the other girls and relaxed on the beach for a while before heading out to the Montjuic Park to see all of Barcelona. That was an experience in itself but will have to wait for another time. We finally made it up there right before sunset and had sangria and chocolate crossiants as the sunset. It was pretty awesome! We went out to one of the biggest clubs in Europe (supposedly) and I would just like to point out that Spaniards and all Europeans are insane. The club doesn't even open until 1:30 and stays open until 6 a.m. We only stayed til 5 but I was definitely tired and ready for bed. On Sunday, we took the bus back to the airport and went back home to Rome!
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Around 7:00 we started to arrive to our destination. Someone described it as though we were arriving on the polar express…it was true. Funny but true. You could see the little lights of the town in the mountain valley as we drove through the winding mountain roads. There was smoke pouring out of the chimneys it was really just picture perfect. As we pulled into
We headed back so we could get ready for night sledding. Before getting back to the hostel some girls stopped for their boots, I went back and got my ticket and then got my boots also. We had about an hour and a half before it was time to leave so I took a nap and then got layered up for the evening. It was really funny because we all looked like little Michelin men waddling around in all of our layers. I made it down stairs and stuffed my fat feet (they had a few too many pairs of socks on) into my snow boots. We waited for a van and finally got into one and then started the 20 minute drive up the mountain. Once we got there we had to hike to a gondola and ride to the top. Our group was near the end of the line and each gondola took 8 people. It was crazy as the box of people went up and disappeared into the black sky. When we finally got in and did our own disappearing trick we looked down to see that we were being carried straight up the face of a mountain, it was a direct drop down. I’m really glad that it wasn’t daylight or I would have really been freaking out. Once we reached the top we headed to the rest of the group and got our glow sticks, put them on, and swung them around to our back. Then we waited until we got instructions on how to maneuver our sleds. When we were all ready, we hiked a long ways up to the trail and headed out down the mountain side. It was kind of scary the edge of the mountain was really right there, just a short (maybe foot tall) snowbank was between you and quite a tumble down the “hill.” Once we got past the initial bumper cars effect that was created by 50 people starting down the same hill, you were almost all alone on the mountain, all you could see was the little trail of green glowsticks ahead of you. Somehow though the little light always seemed to come up a lot faster than you expected and it was hard not to crash into someone. We took our first break and got out and walked to see a frozen waterfall. It was really beautiful. Pictures wouldn’t turn out so it was just a moment we would have to remember. We had buddied up at the beginning and Rachel was my buddy, we met back up and then all grabbed our sleds and began to head down the next part of the course. I quickly lost her in the mob again and filed into line with the rest of the green lights. From this point on we didn’t have a full out stop with everyone but instead just walked when you had to. I finally started to get the hang of things, turning and passing people. It was funny it was like you were in a video game with the little glow sticks and it was really unrealistic how fast you got going and how just sticking one foot out would allow you to turn. I ended up running into Kristin. It was funny because I said, “Kristin, is that you?” and she simply replied, “Yes” and I just said, “It would be you.” It was really funny (you had to be there ). After that little crash we only had a little bit of the course left and then it was over. I met back up with my "buddy." We carried our sleds to the shed and headed in for our dinner. We sat down at our table and waited as we were served salads, then the cheese fondue came out and then we had Rosti, which is just hash browns with various toppings this one had an egg. After our meal we headed back down the mountain and got back to the ski shop. We turned in our gear and went back to the hotel.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
At about 7:30 and I headed off to my first soccer practice! I met Jessica downstairs and we went to Guarini Campus. We were both pretty nervous. I was glad I wasn’t starting alone. We met up with a few of the girls and walked to the bus station with them. We made it to the soccer field and met with the coach. He had us all sign our names and numbers and all other info on a sheet of paper. Jessica and I looked at each other because we hadn’t exactly planned on staying on the team we were only there to see how it was going to go but we reluctantly wrote our names as well. Once everyone arrived we all headed down to the field. Coach told us to do a 10 minute warm-up run. We all started to run and all decided that a nice jog would be a good pace. I was pretty sure I was going to be dying soon, I hadn’t worked out since the end of cheer practice in December but 10 minutes went by relatively fast and we stopped to stretch. All of our bodies were steaming in the cold night air as we sat in a circle and got stretched out. The first thing he had us do was do a pyramid sprinting drill “3 rounds” he had said in a very thick Italian accent. After we had completed that we went onto passing drills. Jessie and I paired up and started to pass, it was interesting because neither of us had very good aim. After passing to just one we did lines and passed and then sprinted and finally we made a diamond and did a more complicated passing drill which I would definitely need more work on. After we completed those drills we went up to our smaller turf field and began work with a goal. He set up cones and we had to dribble the ball through them and shoot. This was an interesting experience but I actually only knocked over about 3 cones the whole drill. The next few drills were game situations and we spent the rest of practice trying to explain the game of soccer to Jessica and I. I think that it was a great choice to join. After practice, coach told us to meet at the field house at 8:30 for the game on Wednesday. I giggled a little again, because I really had no intentions on actually playing soccer, but here I was, part of the JCU Soccer Team!
Monday, February 16, 2009
We woke up this morning and headed out to the
Today we had a tour scheduled. We had tried to call and confirm it and were unable to reach anyone, or at least anyone who spoke English. Luckily, our “tour guide” showed up early so we didn’t have to stress and we headed out for our first long day in
Lamiaa explained a lot about the pyramids, most of what I don’t remember. I was too amazed by the sight of them and everything we were surrounded by. There were police officers riding camels and also set up with their vehicles under covered “garage” they stood around with metal shields and their AK47’s. There were tons of tourists, busses and vans like ours and even Egyptians who had driven their own cars. There were souvenir venders carrying there wares with them handing you things and if you didn’t refuse, you ended up paying. One even walked up to the guys and put on an Arabian head scarf saying it was free, but Lamiaa, almost angrily, explained that nothing was free. They ended up paying 10 lire each for the scarfs. We also learned not to take pictures of the men on camels, they would ask for money too and we shouldn’t buy anything without telling her we would like to get something first and she would get us the best deal. We started to walk to the first of the three Pyramids in Giza and she looked for an entrance that we could go in and see some things. Suddenly there were officers yelling and blowing whistles and she got a confused look on her face. She said it was strange that we couldn’t find an entrance. Then some man spoke with her and she explained that they were doing some sort of excavation today and that all of this was closed, but we would still get to go in and see the other pyramid, Catherine. We headed in that direction ignoring venders as we went. We walked up to the entrance of the other pyramid and Lamiaa collected our cameras because we couldn’t take them in with us. Then we headed down into the pyramid. It was a pretty steep decline on a little ramp. People coming out were sweating and breathing hard, either they were extremely out of shape or we were in for an adventure. We had to crouch down and crawl through a small hole and then had a small space where I could stand and walk but the guys all were still a little hunched over in the small space. Then we had to start climbing up through a small cramped space again, and finally, as we began to sweat we reached the large room. It was humid and hard to breathe. The room was large with high ceilings and had the name of the man who had discovered it on the wall. There was a sarcophagus there but it was only a replica and the guy explained it to us in poor English and handed us a flashlight to look at. When we tried to leave he wanted money, but we told him no and headed back out. It wasn’t all that impressive good thing we only paid 15 lire, a little more than 1 Euro to do that. When we finally emerged from the pyramid, Lamiaa navigated us toward our camel ride. She had negotiated that it would be 100 lire pounds per person and we were to give them a small tip afterwards. The guides took us up to our camels and helped us on. It was slightly akward because they acted strange to the girls. I was called queen and princess and other things. We began the ride being led and eventually they gave us our own reigns. They kept saying “kick it lady, come on lady”….it was really kind of annoying but they were speaking English so I couldn’t complain too much. And when they wanted us to go over something the said “other side, other side” We were so confused because what we undersood was to go the other direction, but really they mean to go to the “other side” of the hill, or rocks. We got to have a small little camel race and we stopped a few times to take some pictures. They took our cameras and took them for us. I learned that my camel’s name was Michael Jordan. Finally we reached a flat area of desert and they got us off the camels and we took more pictures with all of the pyramids in the background. They put headscarfs on, did the whole top the pyramid thing, and made us do the “Egyptian” poses. One of the guides asked if I was married, I laughed and said no, but I had a boyfriend back in the states and he said I was a very lucky lady, I don’t know what he meant but…I was getting used to the random comments from Egyptian men. After our professional photography session we re-mounted our camels and headed back to our starting point. The guides hopped on and rode back part way, but we decided they probably weren’t supposed to because they hopped off before we got into sight of their boss. I officially won the race, because I was the first one back to our little spot. They got us off our rides, and we got out our money again and gave them pretty large tips, for the little that they had to do, but we really felt bad for the probably12-year-old boy that was one of our two guides. So we gave them more than Lamiaa had advised us. It was a lot of fun, but we were off to our next stop, to see the Sphinx. We drove down a ways and then we got to the main road and got dropped off. Lamiaa explained a little more (which I don’t remember of course) and we had 15 minutes to go take pictures. It wasn’t very long and Adam somehow managed to get conned into buying batteries and after the whole conflict ended. Lamiaa lectured him and all of us once more. We were not supposed to buy anything without asking her about what the price should be first, to avoid conflict for her and for ourselves. After we looked and took pictures we met back up with her and she called the driver and he picked us up and we went to go get lunch. We went to a buffet that was 50 lire each and we actually received service. Our waiter was extremely smiley and happy to be working, or he faked it really well. Not only that but he kinda reminded me of Mario Lopez. The buffet was the exact same spread as we had had last night. It was good to get some food in us. We finished and got picked up again and we headed to
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
This weekend we visited Florence, Italy. As you could see from the previous post, it was quite the journey! Once we got here though, I found that Florence is a big city with a small town feel. It was really nice. The streets make more sense and it was really just alot easier to get along. I think it may have been a little less graffitied too. Any way, here is a video from the top of the Duomo. Mind you I am terrified of heights but this was too amazing to pass up. Enjoy!
Today the adventure out of Rome began! We hopped on board, actually buying a pass because we didn’t want to get caught since we would be on for such a long time. The ride wasn’t all that bad, but Termini is definitely not within walking distance. Once we got there we found our way to the ticket booths and printed off our tickets. Our train was leaving in about 3 min. We hurriedly asked a uniformed man where to go and he pointed us in the right direction. Once we reached the train we realized we had assigned seats and instead of being anywhere near each other we were on different cars. I boarded my car and ended up sitting next to some strange old man. He kept trying to talk to me. He said he knew English but would say a couple words then resort to Italian and I couldn’t quite convince him that I had no clue what he was saying. After the train got moving and the ticket checker came by the man moved. We arrived at our stop, I called Kerry and asked her if she thought this is where we should get off. We agreed it was got off and walked into the station. We had a second ticket, which was strange, but as we walked out of the station and into the town of what we thought was
After coffee, we headed back to the station and got on the train, This one didn’t have assigned seats so we got sit in a little pod of seats by ourselves with no strange Italian men. The ride to