Friday, December 14, 2012

the final day, the saddest day

After a week of finals, great meals, and good times with friends, it is time to go home. I have really had a great semester here and i could not have been happier that i had this opportunity. Going to Florence, Cinque Terre, Paris, Lyon, the Almafi Coast, Perugia, Barcelona, Krakow, Thessaloniki, Tivoli, Prague, Budapest, Dublin, and Venice, it is finally time to leave the home that I have called Rome. I really dont think that it has actually hit me yet that I am leaving, as I feel like so much stands between me and getting on the plain.  I am excited to go back to U.S.A. and see my friends and family but at the same time, I am really sad to leave behind all of the great friends I have made here. I feel like this is the first time I have had to say goodbye to some really awesome friends that I am not sure when I am going to see again. I am really looking forward to the last few hours I get to spend here as we are going to try to fit in the last of some monuments but not looking forward to all of the goodbyes....  so, with that its time to finish packing! With that I leave you with this:

a day trip to venice!

last friday, my friend kealy and i woke up bright and early to catch a flight to venice! after sprinting threw the airport because we almost missed our flight, we finally make to it venice where it was nice and cold. we started off by taking a boat from the airport to venice, which gave us a nice view of the alps. from there, we walked around the town to see some of the great buildings.  we went into a few beautiful churches before we grabbed some lunch at a local restaurant. then the waiter at the restaurant introduced us to a gondola company that took us on a short trip threw the canals. it was really a breathtaking experience, as it was filled with great views and fun! after the gondola ride, it got really cold and it was hard to stay outside so we did some shopping and looked around at some of the different buildings.  then, we headed to the airport, where our flight was delayed for hours! after some fun times at the airport and getting ripped off by a cab driver, we finally made it home!! it was a great day and it was nice to see one final aspect of italy, and although it was cold and a long day, i am super happy i got time to go!


country side of ireland

santa con
cliffs of moher
once again, sorry this is late, but two weeks ago i went to dublin! we arrived late on thursday night, and then woke up early on friday to do some sight seeing. we went and did a walking tour around the city to see some of the main sites in the city, which was definitely cool.  it was weird because i never realized that keltic wasnt really a dead language. i really thought they only spoke english but that was not the case! after our tour, we went to the jameson factory to sample some whiskey and see how it was made. anyways, that night we went to a few different bars in the area and got to see a lot of what the town was like.  the next day we woke up really early to go on a bus tour! We started out by seeing the dunguiare castle which was very unique as it was an ancient category.  Then we saw a old monastery and saw the baby cliffs before heading to the cliffs of moher! the cliffs were absolutely fantastic and stunning, and i felt like i actually got to see what ireland was like. after the long day of sightseeing... about 12 hours! we went back to dublin and got dressed in santa costumes for santacon (santa convention). there were tons of santa costume-wearing civilians out and about dublin which was really cool and led to a lot of great memories. the next day we did some souvenir shopping and visited the Guinness factory before grabbing our flight back to rome! this was my final weekend trip and it was really sad, but it was also one of my favorite trips i went on! i feel like there isnt really too much to write about because it really consisted of a lot of different things that you just have to see! 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Where dreams come true.... DISNEYLAND PARIS

taylor and i infront of the castle
sorry this is about 2 weeks after the fact. also, warning, this post will be boring and meaningless to anyone that has never been to disney world (for the most part anyways). moving on.

disney montage

christmas decorations
disney at night
so the day after thanksgiving, i hoped on a plane to lyon to visit my friend Taylor in lyon, france. after a nice night walking around the city and getting to see a few of the main sights, we got up nice and early to grab a train to paris!! although there was a little difficulty with the trains, we made it there around 10 to explore the two parks. we starts off at disneyland studios, where we went on the tower of terror, the rockin roller coaster, and aladdins magic carpets. the park was VERY small, but had a great deal of disney magic nonetheless. it was interesting to go on the tower of terror, because it initially seemed much smaller, but we soon learned that you dropped underground which was really cool. the fact that everything was in french was also pretty cool as it made everything funnier because for the most part we werent sure what they were saying. the rockin roller coaster was much different, as the room was basically dark with just a few neon lights (not even signs). they also didnt say you were pretending to see aerosmith at their show... they just said you were riding a roller coaster they designed. lame. nonetheless, the track was pretty much the same so the ride was still good. there were two new rides that they dont have in orlando: crush's coaster, and a toy story racecar ride. however, the race car ride was broken and the coaster had a 80 minute wait (probably because there were really no other rides) so we decided to move on to disneyland park aka magic kingdom. disneyland park was also much smaller, but very cool because it was totally decorated for christmas!! there were tons of mickey mouse santas, garland, and christmas lights. also, since it was the 20th anniversary of the park, there were a lot of special things happening for the event. we started off here by going on the auto-topia ride, where we got to drive on the other side of the road! then, because space mountain 2 was closed, we moved onto fantasyland. here we went on its a small world, which was especially cool because for the first time i had a connection to many of the countries! there was also a huge USA section which was much appreciated. next, we went on the pirates of the caribbean ride where we once again experienced the english/french dilemma. it was pretty funny because you would hear them say "dead men tell no tales" in english, then again in french (or at least thats what im assuming they said). i thought that this ride was better than the one in orlando, maybe because its more recent, but it seemed to have a lot of scenes from the movies which was cool and different. we then moved on to phantoms manor, aka the haunted house, which also seemed at first to be much smaller... and as we found out much scarier. this one was definitely not aimed for kids as it actually creeped me out quite a bit. after this, we went on big thunder mountain, which we were instantly intrigued by as we saw that you loaded into the cars on land but the ride seemed to only take place on an island. we quickly learned that you went underground in a pitch black tunnel which was really awesome especially considering the fact that i was in the front row! once again, i feel like i enjoyed this ride more than the one in orlando, but it also might be just because i didnt know what to expect for once. after this, we went on a new ride: indiana jones and the temple of doom. this ride i originally underestimated as a typical mouse trap kind of ride, but once i saw it went upside down i got more excited. overall, the ride really wasnt that great and my head really hurt afterwards, but it was still a cool new experience. then, for our final ride we went on buzzlighter and had some fun shooting zurg. since i got back from my day at disney ive been asked a lot about what i think overall, heres my best summary: positives: its disney, the christmas decorations were awesome, some great rides that arent in orlando, some interesting spins on disney favorite. negatives: long lines (because the park was so much smaller), the disney cast members werent that nice, the castle was super small. overall: i am super happy that i went, but i really dont think you need to spend more than 2 days there and it definitely is not worth making a trip just there... only if you are going to paris anyways. i was very happy to be back in disney though, and nevertheless, i still think any disney enthusiast should try to get there! after we were at the park (we had to leave before the fireworks), we grabbed a train/bus/train back to lyon where i had to pretty much instantly leave for my flight home. it was really nice to see taylor and meet some of her friends and see the city she has been living in, and i of course was happy to go to disney with her for the first time!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Poland: Auschwitz, Birkenau, and Krakow

town square
clock tower
As we said goodbye to Prague and the Czech Republic, we said hello to Poland! We were slightly confused as to why we were boarding an 11 hour train when Prague and Krakow were only separated by a 5 hour drive, but we found out soon enough.  After being almost scared to death when our train stopped for 3 hours and we realized we were no longer connected to the conductor train, we finally got back on track to Krakow and arrived at 7am when it was about 30 degrees! From there, we took a bus to Auschwitz where we joined a walking tour. The tour lasted for 3 hours and included both Auschwitz and Birkenau on the tour. It was a really moving experience, with a lot of exhibits, but for the most part, many of the buildings had been burnt down before the camp were discovered. To keep this post moving in a happy direction, im gonna skip over to when we arrived in Krakow! Know, let me highlight once again how cold it was, 27 degrees! Which was really tough as it has been around 60 degrees here in Rome. In Krakow it was pretty foggy so it was hard to see a lot of the buildings, but it was still a very cool town to see with a lively center. After grabbing some pierogies for dinner, we walked over to the Krakow Castle and got to see the famed dragon statue. Then we hung back at our hostel for the night since we had to get up early to fly home. Luckily, in the morning, the fog had lifted and we were able to see some of the buildings and take some pictures! It was a really nice day and although we didnt get to see a lot of Krakow, it was still interesting to see the different buildings.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

High ho, High ho, its off to Prague we go!

Old Town Square
The Church of the Prague Castle
Prague Skyline
So after spending the morning in budapest, Remy and I got on a bus to Prague! Although it was a 8 hour bus ride, it was actually pretty nice as they played movies and even showed a few episodes of Big Bang Theory! Once we got to Prague, we got to walk through part of New Town (not that we knew that) on our way to our hostel. At our hostel, we shared a room with 26 girls which seemed intimidating but was actually pretty manageable, especially since the beds were super comfy and they had rainfall showers! The next morning we woke up early to grab some bagels for breakfast (delicious) and then we walked over to Old Town to join a walking tour.  The tour was actually fantastic as over the course of the 3 hour tour we saw all different parts of the town. Prague is definitely one of the coolest cities I have ever seen, as it was full of history and beautiful architecture. It is also a great blend of old and new, as they have two towns dedicated to both. We also got a chance to see the Jewish quarters, which were very interesting and full of even more history.  What makes Prague unique is that it was one of Hitler's favorite cities, so almost all of it was left untouched during WWII, so there is a ton of stuff that dates back to the middle ages. My favorite part of the city was just walking around as literally every seat had buildings with beautiful architecture and something unique! After the tour, we walked across the river to the Prague Castle, which was absolutely beautiful. The castle was up on a hill so it provided us with a great view of the city, truly fit for a king. After walking around inside the castle walls, we walked over to the John Lennon wall to take some pictures and attempt to carve our names into the wall with coins since we forgot to bring a pen. Then, as the sunset, we walked across the Charles Bridge, which was built in the early 15th century, and then we did some souvenir shopping before heading over to the train station to set of for Krakow, Poland.  It was really an awesome day, and I wish I had some more time in the city, but I am happy with everything we got to do!  Prague was really, really, amazing and I hope that one day I can maybe go back.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

a morning in budapest

after landing in budapest and getting to the hostel just before midnight, my friend remy and i went to sleep so that we could get an early start on exploring budapest! budapest is actually composed of two different towns, buda and pest, so we took sometime to explore both. since we didnt have much time, we did a lot of walking to see the main buildings and we spent some time in the market place. we got to see the castle, parliament building, and some pretty cool churches. shopping in the market place was also a lot of fun as we got to see a ton of the different souvenirs they had. overall, budapest was a pretty modern city for the most part, as they had a lot of brand-name stores and everywhere took credit cards (which is rare in most parts of europe but really useful as budapest does not use the euro).  although we didnt have much time there, i really enjoyed what i did get to see and really enjoyed my day! at 3pm we walked over to the bus station and got on our bus to prague! more on that soon :)
market place
inside the castle walls