Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Part I: Venice,Florence, Siena... Italy!


So, I suppose that I should get a jump on this entry about my trip to Italy... This one is gonna be a doosey! Haha... Strap yourselves in ladies and gentlemen, cause the story-teller is set to go and she ain't stoppin' till the stories have all been told. This could take awhile.

I must start with the CRAZY trip getting Italy - you would never believe all the things that almost prevented me from getting there and the amazing people I met because of this event. Luckily I felt impressed to leave rather early that day for the airport... SO, this crazy experience includes me getting on the wrong bus to the airport, and thus, heading to the wrong airport in Paris. It also includes me finally getting to the right bus and finding it takes an hour and twenty minutes to get there, having the bus break down halfway to the airport, and getting there twenty minutes before my flight - you read that correctly... 20 MINUTES before my flight! Then, because I was flying Ryanair (They're crazy, people...) they had me do a passport stamp, bag check (I can't believe I got through with my size bag!), and THEN security before going to my "gate" - that doesn't exist till they just call your flight destination out of virtually the only exit there is - bizarre. Anyway, that was the reader's digest version of the tale... If you want the entire thing, let me know, but it was seriously the CRAZIEST four hours of my life.

On the same lines though, I did meet this AMAZING woman named Martina that I sat with on the bus and plane, and then she helped me get on the right bus in Venice at the airport. She was an Italian woman who works as an interpreter all over the EU. She's currently writing a book and taking other risks in life that were so neat and inspiring to hear about... and the more we talked, the more I was enthralled with her stories and ideas about life - we are SO on the same page it's a bit unreal. She and I just shared an instant connection and she carried this overwhelming calm over me, and inspired me in SO many ways. She is an INCREDIBLE woman and I wish that you all could have met her too so you could understand what I mean... It's rare to meet a person and share that instant bond, but with her it was present and wonderful!

Anyway, we talked for hours about life, work, religion, everything, and she ended up giving me her number and email in case anything happened in Italy while I was there and I needed anything, plus to just keep in touch. I love randomly meeting and connecting to people! Forced meeting of new people is always nerve-wrecking for me... but when it just happens - bliss. (That might surprise some that I feel that way about meeting people... I love the new friends I meet, but the actual initial meeting... UG. I hate it. Haha! I do it, and do it well... but it's blech. Haha!)

Okay - enough about that.

Sidenote: I also met some study abroad kids who were living in Florence and they invited me out with them while I was there, but I didn't get to meet up. They were cool too!

SO, when I landed in VENICE (my first stop in Italia!), it was night-time and raining cats and dogs... or raindrops that were really big. This rain did not cease completely (though it did lessen) the entire time I was there - which was a mere day and a half. However, for some reason I was instantly in love with this sinking city of Venice. Yes, Venice is sinking apparently... and yes, the water level was SCARY high while I was there actually. I didn't care though. I was in love with wondering the streets, talking to people, getting lost on the bridges... It was just so fun! In fact, I didn't go see any "sights" (or even get a map) while I was there, cause I just spent the whole day wondering and taking it all in... and shopping a bit. What? I saved my money specifically for the Murano glass jewelry there. It the city I did my shopping for friends and family - and that was perfect.

I also had my FIRST real gelato there. *Moment of silence*

It was THAT good. Oh, man... I think I was in heaven for a moment. Yep, I am quite positive that gelato will be a regular consumption in heaven. What? That's not in the gluttony category, right? Either way, I'm still getting slimmer, so bring on the gelato - haha!

Favorite moments from Venice:
- Random boys singing "I Will Survive" through the streets...
- Bruno! This cute little Italian man who really wanted me to buy his stuff, but loved me even when I didn't - haha!
- Getting directions to my hostel at a local pizza joint where they took me in the back and were SO nice and helpful! Everyone there was SO willing to help and so kind... good people there in Venice.
- The masks shops that are EVERYWHERE and are EXQUISITE! They have the most incredible masks all over that city - robot masks, animals, classic masquerade gear, art work, planes.... things I never thought could be made into a mask. It was a theater nerds dream come true! Haha...
- Watertaxis - SO cool! In fact, that's how EVERYONE gets around... even the police! Crazy cool.
- Italian Pizza!
- The rustic-beauty if the city. It was old and worn, but so majestic and quaint. I fell in love with the city and WILL return with my future hubby someday - done and done.
- My random hostel mates - haha! The first night I had a random older couple from Colombia - SUCH sweethearts, but I walked in and the guy is just chillin' in his underwear on the bed - a bit awkward. Haha... The second night, I had a bro and sis from Ukraine and they were chill.
- The rain. I know it could have ruined the experience, but it was just okay with me in Venice... I would have not loved it in Rome or Florence, but in Venice... I loved it. Even though I was alone, it was romantic. So, I basked in the romantic feelings myself - haha!

Sidenote: There was a moment when I was walking that I caught a sight I was saddened by... Two men and two women were walking together through the streets, each with an umbrella (as it was raining in Venice). The men had nice, sturdy ones that had remained un-ruined. However, the women were holding the sides of there's and they were broken badly... They couldn't help but get wet a little bit. Now, as an individual who is proud to be a strong, independent woman, I still ask, why did the men not give their umbrellas to the women? That's a passing judgment, I understand, but all the same... In my opinion that equals true chivalry, and I would hope that whomever I date in the future would do that for not just me, but any woman around them who might need some help in the storm...

I also saw this in Rome, where the men would not move on the sidewalks for the women. The women were made to move down to the street to pass on the sidewalk more often than not. Way uncool... The end of that thought.

On to... FLORENCE! Haha...

The Tuscan Hills in Florence were fabulous! I was SO glad that I took time to stay there and see all of Florence, AND do a day trip to the countryside and Siena. It really has a unique and yet, classic beauty to it. I was under the impression that Siena was a mini Florence, but Florence and Siena are very different from one another too, so I was glad I got to see another side of Tuscany. While I was there I took a lot of time to just walk the hills a bit too and see the city from above... It was awesome. I have this whole new appreciation for hiking and exploring - it's probably because I don't get as winded doing it anymore, but all the same - the new drive is present in me now.

On that note, I found that I was def. breathing heavy as I climbed the Duomo in Florence, but I wasn't winded. I wasn't overly tired at all, when I would ahve been before. It was a cool moment to realize that I really am getting more into shape... I'm no skinny chick yet, but I'm healthier and slimmin' a bit where it's important... I just feel really good and that's what matters most.

So, here are the highlights for Florence:

- Meeting kids from a high school in VA at the baptistery and then meeting some JMU study abroad kids. It gave me a little VA pride in Italy! Haha...
- The most AMAZING sandwich (panini) shop EVER! They had these panini's with fresh pesto, tomato (I'm starting to like tomato - I know, who'da thunk it?), fresh mozzarella, and turkey. OH MY WORD. So good. SO good. Plus, it was really cheap. No fear - I went there everyday. Not kidding.
- The smell of leather good everywhere - haha! It was seriously all over the place... On a side note, Point Vecchio bridge was WAY too rich for my blood, but fun to walk on and see all the shops - very cool.
- Hiking above the city... and finishing one of my books a top the mountain point. Oh, that felt great! Who ever would have guessed that I would write hiking as a highlight... I know. I'm a changed woman.
- The Baptistery and climbing the Duomo - both super cool! The baptistery was just COOL to see and learn about what the doors and mosaics on the ceiling meant. Climbing up the Duomo was cool because I got some AMAZING shots of the city... and it was just good. I met a little couple I was climbing with and they were adorable. On a side note, there was couple that was doing separate itineraries on their trip... and they were on their honeymoon. Yea. Does that seem bizarre to anyone else?
-Seeing "The David"! I actually was thinking before I went to the Academia to see it, "Maybe I should bail on it... It's expensive to get in and there isn't tons more to see inside." The line was like waiting at Disneyland, but there was no ride at the end - haha! Anyway, I am SO glad I did it! It was HUGE and learning about how old Michelangelo was when he created the sculptor (which was started at 23 and ended at 25!) was very inspiring. I am just amazed by how perfect it really is too... so exact. Many say that it is the most correct statue of all time (proportions, etc.) ever created, and I can't argue. It was magnificent to see... AND I got a picture! Haha... I didn't know I wasn't suppose to until I had done it (bluntly in the open) and put my camera away. Then I saw a lady chastise another girl. Oops. Needless to say, I kept my picture though. (The unfinished sculptures in there were really cool too!)
- Religious "pop-up" art. Haha! Seriously, the Italians love putting religious art onto popped out boards and backings, and it looks like "pop-up book" art.
- Seeing the tombs of Galileo and Michelangelo.
- The funny British man in my hostel who would get fairly drunk and loud each nice. He was a very nice drunk though! Haha... I also met a girl named Laura that I chatted with a lot while I was there and that was nice... good times.
- The language. Seriously, Italian is just beautiful and it was bliss listening to it being spoken everywhere. It's SO similar to Spanish, so it brought me back to Cali a bit at times too. I told me friend, Jake Lee, he had to teach me since he served his mission for my church in Italy.
- The sculptures that are EVERYWHERE! There is always something the see in Italy - on every street you walk.
- The gelato... again, it was fabulous!

I did get a TAD bit homesick while I was there... I can't explain it, but I did. Eh - I got over it though... I talked to my mom at the hostel and it was fine. I just needed to touch base with home and such. It's great traveling alone in that no one rushes you and you have a lot of time to ponder and plan. You also can just take everything so CHILL. It's a great way to learn about yourself and I did a LOT of that this trip - which, I loved. However, there are disadvantages too, and one of those is getting a bit lonely. You can be standing in a crowd and still feel lonely, as most people know. It's a weird sensation. You just want to turn to someone and share the experiences with someone else right then - that's what I was missing. Overall though, I didn't feel that way - and it was great.

I noticed something there too. I noticed that the first things I always learn to say in any language are "Please" and "Thank You." Even when I came to Germany... That is ALWAYS what I ask how to say first and I think it's SO important. I mean, if more tourists could say "thank you" and "please" when visiting places, I think tourism would have a better rep in some countries.

This is not a highlight by any means, but a note that it took me FOREVER to find the bus station to catch a bus to Siena... I kept asking people and no one could give me a direct answer until the FOURTH time. I found that people in Italy are SO willing to help and so happy about it, but OFTEN gave wrong directions. I'm not sure if it was the language barrier or just them not knowing their streets as well... I don't blame them - it's confusing there! Haha...

Highlights and memories from Siena:

- The street market that goes on the one day a week I was there - totally crazy and there were SO many people! I didn't get anything, but it was fun to wonder through and just see people and culture there.
- The "circus cathedral" in Siena. Sorry if this offends anyone, but to me it was one of the most beautiful cathedrals I had ever seen... and yet looked like a circus cathedral with all the colors and layers of black and white stone. There was SO much detail to the cathedral (to all the Italian cathedrals actually) that it was AMAZING to see. It's interesting because in contrast, the LDS Temples are very beautiful to me as well, but it's different... It's a simple, plain beauty. We have chandeliers and carvings, etc... but it's not as cluttered. They're all so beautiful, but in different ways.
- Seeing some AMAZING cars! I thought of my friend Nicole each time I saw one - haha!
- Watching people "watch people" - haha! I'm a people watcher - everyone knows this. However, it was fun to take some time and observe people as they examined others... their expressions and reactive mannerisms... It was funny.
- The statue in the cathedral of the lion eating the lamb... The was a more of a memory than a highlight. I thought it was interesting because of the scripture that the "lion shall lay down with the lamb" in the last days, and how this statue was showing the opposite. I was curious as to the symbolism behind it and whether it was meant to be a for-boding statement or a hopeful one for the future's change.
- Interesting also, were the faces on the cathedrals and how they all seemed to peer down at the onlooker. It's a bit unappealing and leaves one feeling that they're trying to be intimidated. I thought that was just an interesting observation... There are nicer ways to portray your past bishops and priests than to have their faces staring at you from above with angry eyes... St. Peter's in the Vatican City does a better job of this in some places.
- There were some moments were I felt a bit overwhelmed as I watched the handicapped going through all the sight-seeing places all over Italy... I just felt a lot of compassion for those people, and I wanted to reach out and help them when they were struggling to walk or stand up.

Other note: People in Italy LOVE the song "Replay" by Sean Kingston right now. Haha! They played it EVERYWHERE I was going... In London it was "If We Ever Meet Again" by Timbaland and Katy Perry.... Paris, Ich weiƟ nicht.

Also, I noticed how much time I spent looking and sitting in cathedrals while I have been in Europe... why do I not spend more time in the temple back home? So, I set a goal for when I'm home. I'll be going to the temple at least once every other week. I won't say every week because it's a bit over-zealous. So, in case I lose track of a week, I'm good... but I'll really be trying to go each week.

Okay - I still have to blog about Rome, but that'll be part of "Part II" in my next entry, or this will never get posted. Serious. Haha!

Sidenote: Italy was AMAZING, but made me miss Hawaii just a bit... That is still my favorite place I have ever been on this planet. I miss it even more now that my two besties, Sarah and Sam are there! EFY opens some great doors for you once you've paid your dues... haha!

Song of the Day: I chose this song because of my trip... See, everyone is so sweet to worry about me going around Europe by myself, but truth be told, going on a trip alone was kind of exciting. Yes, because of who I am I would rather go with someone, but I was just fine out there... It was fun! Italy is a VERY romantic place, but that part of it can wait for another time. For now, I'm single and loving this independence to do my own thing and travel around the world at my own pace. For that reason, I looked into my past songs and found a perfect one for how I feel right now about my life. I'm not opposed to anything "love-wise," but I am rather content. So, here is Natasha Bedingfield's, Single. Enjoy!

Natasha Bedingfield - Single (Official Music Video) - Watch more top selected videos about: Natasha_Bedingfield

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