Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Day 39: Pompeii/Napoli (date: 7/12/11)

Today we went to Pompeii and into the center of Naples. Trent seemed a bit more chipper this morning when we got up after a good night’s sleep. We got ready to go and took the train to the ruins of Pompeii!

I was really excited to see Pompeii because I was under the impression that there would be bodies in all of the houses and it would be much like a city that was frozen in time at the moment of the eruption. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. The ruins were awesome, but, for the most part, they were just ruins. There were only two places in the whole site that had plaster casts of the bodies!

The plaster casts were made from the hollows left behind by the bodies in the ash. The ones that we got to see were really cool. What happened in Pompeii was terrible, but it was amazing how everything was so well preserved by the ash. 

Pompeii was buried under almost 18 feet of ash from the eruption. From any point on the site you can look up and see Mount Vesuvius looming over the city. 

The whole city was pretty awesome. Before we left for Pompeii we had gotten some fresh fruit and salami for lunch. We found a nice picnic area and feasted on some of the sweetest fruit I’ve ever had. We ended up spending about five hours just wandering around seeing the remains of this ancient city. We both commented on how the oldest things in America are only 300 years old if that; and that we tend to tear down buildings before they can come become old anyway.

It was late afternoon by the time we left and we decided to head to Naples. Naples really is the dirtiest city I’ve ever been in. There is trash EVERYWHERE. 

The streets are filthy and the place is just gross. We went into the big cathedral so Trent could get a taste of what an Italian church looks like. We walked in and he was speechless. He just kept making faces and saying wow. I told him that this was pretty much what every church in Italy looked like and to wait until we got to the Vatican.

There wasn’t much else to do in Naples so we headed back to our hostel to relax a bit before going to bed. A combination of jetlag and packed days are taking their toll on poor Trent. But tomorrow we’re going to the beach so we’ll have a lazy day to relax in the sun.

Day 38: Trent’s here!!!!! Also, Napoli! (date: 7/11/2011)

I got up early today so I could check to make sure Trent made his flight okay. I packed up my stuff and joyously left that camping village for the last time! I took the train back into Rome and to the train station to wait for Trent.

I wasn’t sure what train he was going to catch from the airport so I sat for a bit waiting. Eventually, I saw him through the crowd of people exiting the train. We met up and decided what to do next. The train schedule ended up deciding for us. Our train to Naples didn’t leave for another two hours so we took the metro to the Coliseum. 

Trent said he felt like he was in Disney world looking up at it. We walked all the way around it and the Arch of Constantine which is right next to it. Then we headed to the tomb of the Unknown Soldier which is nearby. I relayed what little knowledge I have of Rome as we walked around.

After the tomb we had to head back to the train station to catch the train to Rome, which, lucky for Trent was the most crowded train I’ve been on since I got here. There were very few seats and of course no air conditioning. To top it all off, we left 25 minutes late! I told Trent it was his fault because that had never happened to me before.

Once the train got moving it wasn’t so stiflingly hot. After an almost three hour train ride that was supposed to only take two and a half hours we made it to Naples. Trent slept a lot of the way. I remember how tired I was when I first got in and he doesn’t have enough time to adjust to the jet lag anyway. A short trip on another train to get to our hostel and we made it!

We took some time to relax in the hostel and then headed out for dinner. We found a really nice pizza place and Trent got to experience his first Italian pizza. I think he was very pleased. Naples is the birthplace of pizza so it only makes sense that it would be incredibly delicious here.

After dinner we went back to the hostel, which is totally awesome! It used to be an old Fabric factory and has since been converted. The rooms are really nice and the whole place is clean with great staff. Infinitely better than that horrible place I stayed the last two days. We have three nights here and then one night in Rome. Tomorrow we’re going to Pompeii!!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Day 36/37: My last few days in Roma (date: 7/9-10/11)

The last two days were pretty uneventful. I’ve just been biding my time until Trent gets here so I can meet up with him. I could only stay two nights in the camping village I was out because they were booked the other two nights so I had to move to a different camping village.

This second one was horrid! By far the worst place I have stayed so far. The “room” I’m in has no lock so I’ve had to carry my important stuff with me whenever I leave. That wouldn’t be so bad if my laptop wasn’t so dang heavy! Ah well, the lack of a lock is only the beginning. Room is in quotations because the room was a little closet with four beds and a curtain in the doorway. It was one of many such closets within a larger building. Even that wouldn’t have been too terrible if the room didn’t have paper thin walls and wasn’t right next to the bar. Again, even this wouldn’t have been so bad if there weren’t people there until two in the morning screaming and music playing. But wait! The best is yet to come. The roof, I think, was made of tin and I could hear animals scurrying across it over my head. Also, there were pigeons roosting up there because they woke me up at 6 every morning with their cooing. Fortunately, only two nights here.

Crazy terrible sleeping arrangement aside, I had two very enjoyable days in Rome. I found went and saw a few sights I hadn’t gone to yet and even stumble upon some I didn’t realize were even there. My favorite little discovery was an intersection called Quattro Fontana which, as you’d think, had four fountains, one at each corner. Here’s my two favorite. 

I tried to get pictures without people in front of them, but that proved to be impossible.

Anyway, both days I just wandered around, found a nice spot in a random piazza to read and people watch and just passed the time enjoying myself. I walked around until I was just tired enough that I could get back to the train station to get back.

In my wanderings, I saw a cowboy “statue” that was pretty neat. I actually saw him a couple of times and he was always holding different things in his hands. 

I also went on a walk along the river and couldn’t help but notice how enormously huge all the trees around it are. They must be ancient. Their roots were coming up into the pavement which I thought was really cool. 

Trent comes tomorrow!!! I’m really excited to show him around and see Pompeii and Naples. Only five more days left until I leave beautiful Italia!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Day 34/35: Just Outside of Rome (7/7-8/2011)

Yesterday was a sad day because I had to say goodbye to Tommy and his cozy little apartment. I would have stayed one more night, but they left at 5AM this morning and I wasn’t about to get up and go with them. I had a really nice time with Tommy and his roommates and hope they enjoy Shanghai as much as they did Rome.

Tommy didn’t have class until 1:30 so we lounged around ‘til he left and then I headed to the metro to find my way to my hostel. The place is about an hour’s worth of travel outside of the center of Rome on a stiflingly hot and packed train. From the train station I took the shuttle to the Country Club Castelfusano.

It’s not so much a hostel as a camping village. It’s similar to the one I stayed at in Venice but much larger and with fewer Australians. The majority of the people here seem to be Italians on vacation. There is an actual campground, little 4 bed bungalows (what I’m in) and what look like little houses with kitchens on the porch outside. There’s tons of stuff going on around here too. There are two giant pools and a little stage area. It kind of reminds me of a camp I went to in grade school called The Pines.

I spent the rest of my afternoon wandering around the little village and sitting outside reading. I was fortunate enough for the first night to have the whole bungalow to myself! It was nice not having to share with strangers but after staying with three other people for the last week it was very quiet.

Yesterday was pretty uneventful but today I went to the beach! There’s a free shuttle to and from the beach every half hour which is quite convenient. I love the beach. Getting off the bus, I immediately smelled the water and was brought back to summers in Florida with my family and vacations with my friends. The sand on this particularly beach is a lot darker than the sand back home. In some places it was actually black, but it was also really soft. 

My favorite part of being at the beach is watching little kids. They do some of the most interesting things with sand and water. I was also pretty amused at all the little girls wearing bikinis with nothing to hold the little triangles in place. Mostly, they just look silly. There were also a disproportionate amount of little boys wearing speedos.

I spent most of my time walking up and down the shoreline alternating between watching the people in the water and those on the beach. At one point I was accosted by a little boy who couldn’t have been older than two. He was holding a rock and had a great big smile on his face and the next thing I knew he was hurling the rock in my direction. Fortunately his aim was terrible, but I was a little put out by it, especially since I saw his parents laughing and not scolding him.

Other than the rock incident, my stroll was lovely. I love the sound of the ocean, the crash of the waves over my feet, and the breeze that’s always in my face. I am currently rocking a pretty sweet tan—at least it’s tan for me. Others might laugh but as far as I’m concerned I’m dark!

After I got my fill of ocean for the day I took the bus back to the village. I was in my room for a few minutes when my first roommate came in. She’s from France and is meeting up with another one of her friends from Colombia who arrived shortly after. They’ve both been studying in Germany and speak German to each other, but English to me. I think it’s astounding the number of languages people around here speak. America really needs to get their act together and start taking languages seriously in schools. I took way too many years of Spanish and couldn’t hold a conversation to save my life. It just seems like most people in Europe speak at least two languages. I feel like we should follow suit.

Anyway, I haven’t been able to post because this place charges an arm and a leg for internet. I’ve gotten on for just long enough to check my email. I’m off to a new hostel tomorrow morning so hopefully it will be free there and I’ll be able to put this one up! Until then…

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Day 33: Ostia Antica (date: 7/6/2011)

Today, I ventured a bit outside of Rome to the ancient ruined city of Ostia Antica. It was awesome!! It literally is the remains of an entire city. I wandered around it for hours and took close to a bajillion pictures.

My day started with me getting up and reading for a bit. I was getting hungry so I grabbed some lunch and then headed to the metro station. From the metro I hopped the train to Ostia Antica. After a five minute walk from the station, I was in the ancient city. 

I was amazed at how far the ruins go on. It makes sense, as this was once a bustling port city back in the first century, but still. You could probably spend a whole week there and still not see everything. I was only there for a few hours but I think I saw the highlights.

On some of the signs there were drawings of what the ruins most likely looked like in their prime. The second picture is what’s left of the portico structure that they think was a giant covered walkway.  

There were also a lot of really cool mosaics in some of the buildings. This one was a bath house and if you look closely up towards the left corner you can see the dolphins from the drawing. 

I walked into a complex that was basically a fire station. Apparently, fires were a big problem and it was essential to have people around to put them out. 

The coolest part of the city was definitely the theatre, which they were actually preparing for some sort of show. 

I continued exploring the rest of the town for about two hours. There was a big forum area and some “palaces” along with a lot of monuments. The whole thing was amazing. I would have stayed longer but it was oppressively hot outside and after two hours I was dying. I headed back to the train station and back to Rome. Tommy was back from class by the time I got back so we hung out for a bit and then went over to another group’s house.

Most of them were working on homework, but my friend Dan didn’t feel like spending his last few nights doing work so we went out to explore Trastevere. I got a slice of pizza for dinner and we sat in a piazza talking. One of the craziest things about Italy is that people go out every night and just chill in piazzas. There is always something going on. Just walking around there are tons of people milling about and hanging out at fountains.

While we were there a street performer started setting up some stuff. It took him forever but once he started his show it was pretty cool. He did some bike tricks, juggled some fire, and did various other little gimmicky things. It was quite entertaining.

Eventually we moved to a different piazza that had even more people in it. We stayed there talking about random things for a while and then headed back. It was a fun night. I kind of wish there more nights like that back home to break up the monotony of just hanging out at the apartment. Tomorrow I move to a hostel because the group is off to Shanghai at 5AM. I’ve got a few more days in Rome and then Trent will be here. We’re going to Naples and then Pompeii and then I’ll be heading back to America. I’ve been having a fantastic time, but I’m definitely ready to get back home. It will be great seeing my friends again and sleeping in my comfy bed!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Day 31/32: Rome (dates: 7/4-5/2011)

The past couple of days have been pretty uneventful. I’m starting to feel much more like I live in Rome than that I’m a tourist. I’ve seen the main sights at least one and so now I just kind of wander around and find a place to sit and read. I literally did nothing on Monday. It wasn’t even worth writing a whole post so I’m just including it with Tuesday.

Today was a little bit more exciting. I saw some more ruins and a lot more fountains.

I walked up one of the main streets in the direction of the Piazza Popolo. I stopped in another magnificent church on the way. I don’t remember the name but it was very pretty. 

The piazza was also very cool. There are lots of statues and fountains and a giant obelisk in the middle. Rome really likes their obelisks. 

I stopped here for a while just enjoying the day and the people around. After the piazza I headed to the Spanish Steps and climbed up them to see the Villa Medici. Another massive house. I really can’t imagine living in a place like that. I think I might get lost. As I walking down I got some more good pictures of the steps themselves and another obelisk. 

By this point I was close to starving because I still hadn’t eaten lunch so I on my home I stopped and grabbed some pizza. I relaxed a bit and hung out until the boys got back from their wine tasting tour. When they got back we met up with some other people from the program for dinner and I was pleasantly surprised to see one of my friends, Dan Hildebrand. He worked on S&W with me and I had no idea he was also in Rome.

It was great to see him again and we all had a very nice dinner. After dinner we climbed a hill that has a fantastic view of Rome. I tried to get a nice view of the city, but my little camera wasn’t up to the task. It was really great though. We sat up there for a couple hours talking about nothing in particular and enjoying the night. It was probably the best night I’ve had so far and I’m meeting up with them again for dinner tomorrow night.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Day 30: Rome (date: 7/3/2011)

Today was full of all kinds of fun. We started out with another relaxing morning just hanging around and then went to the Vatican in the afternoon. It truly is an impressive basilica.

We were walking around the piazza area and as we walked past the giant obelisk we saw a guy proposing. It was very cute and she said yes. One of their friends was taking lots of pictures. We meandered our way towards the basilica itself and after going through security went inside. My poor camera really can’t take pictures inside so my pictures are blurry and don’t do it justice, but the inside is truly incredible. 

We spent about an hour just wandering around and seeing everything. By the time we finished up at the Vatican we were starving so we stopped at a little pizza place for lunch. The boys had to go home and finish up their homework so I met up with Christine at Piazza Navonna. We grabbed a gelato and wandered around the streets. We ended up at the Spanish Steps and sat people watching for a while. 

We saw what looked like a bachelorette party in progress as well as countless other random things. There are tons of people trying to sell you little crap souvenirs and they bombard you with their items while you’re just sitting relaxing. One guy came up to us at least twice offering the same things. Maybe he thought we had magically morphed into different people.

We sat talking and enjoying the scenery until the sun started to set. We parted ways for the last time in Italy, but I’ll see her soon when I’m back in Dallas. Back at the apartment Tommy was still working on his homework so I just lazed around some more. I’m really going to miss all of this free time when I get back.