Monday, February 20, 2012

No title can describe this...

Where to even start….
We spent our Valentine’s Day in class and then all headed to dinner at Zeppelin’s. They made us a special dinner – 4 plates and of course wine. It was delicious, and I ate too much as usual! Like we typically do, we turned the dinner into a 4 hour event before heading home.. because after all we did have to be on the bus to leave by 8:30.
Valentine's Dessert
Morning rolled around, and we got around and headed to our bus.. Our professors told us they asked for a purple bus.. guess what we got?? Powder pink with a dolphin decal on the front. We were gonna be travelling in style for the next 4 days! We departed and were in our first destination by 2pm – Paestum. This is a small city that is just made up of Greek temple ruins. It was absolutely amazing. Walking around these ruins you could see where houses used to be, stairs left over that ascended into nothing and remnants of columns. Of course the most incredible sites were the huge temples that after thousands of years are still standing and are still in great condition. It boggles my mind – first of all.. how did they construct these monstrous structures way back then, and secondly.. how are they still in such good condition. I was in awe the whole time walking around alone just taking in the incredible sites. Sometimes I found myself stopped in my tracks just looking up in amazement at what was standing before me. It was probably the most incredible architecturally significant place I have ever been. The weather helped with this too; 50+ degrees and clear, sunny, blue skies. The sky almost looked fake, which probably enhanced the awe-feeling that was running through me. We stayed here for a few hours, which is at least what you need to be able to ingest what is being presented to you, before we loaded back up to head to our hotel in Pompeii. Of course before we left I had to get a soccer ball… they were so cheap! We had looked for one in Orvieto and the cheapest one was 15 euro! What a rip off. So I found one at a tourist stand for 8 euro. What a bargain shopper – my mom has taught me well! Haha. The bus was leaving just as the sun started setting; we got a beautiful site on our way back to the hotel.. a great way to top off the day. God sure knows how to make his presence known.  :)
One of the temples - amazing!
Sun setting as we left
We got to Pompeii and checked into our hotel. Guess what? It looked like a Barbie’s dream house. First the pink bus and now the dream house? We were modern day travelling architect Barbie I guess! We got up to our room and found that we had a balcony.. with a palm tree right next to it. Could this day get any better? Of course it could! How about a 3 course meal provided by the hotel.. I’ll take it! We finished up with dinner and hit the sack; full day of sight-seeing coming up! We woke up and headed to meet our tour guide for Pompeii which is another city of remains. It was once a city and it was destroyed by Mount Vesuvius and all the people up and left leaving everything deserted. It is quite an amazing site. You can see everything, some buildings are still intact fully and others are just piles of rubble. He took us into a huge villa that had remains of frescoes on the walls.. again, mind blown.. how are these things all still intact and in such great shape? I will never understand! He took us into some other buildings – amphitheaters and bath houses - and he definitely started to get irritated with us. We tend to be bad about taking pictures, sometimes too many, of everything! He would try to keep the tour moving, but people would wander into other parts of the city he wasn’t taking us into so they could take pictures.. what can we say, we have curious minds! The tour was great, and it was again a beautiful day. While we were walking around on the outside of the remains we came across a bunch of dogs. We found out that Pompeii lets them run free and people can adopt and feed them. They get lots of love because tourists are constantly around giving them attention, or at least we were.. surly that’s what it’s like all the time? But the dogs were so cute, and they almost seemed to protect you. While a few of us walked to the supermarket at night, one of the dogs came up and walked with us the whole way there, he wouldn’t leave our sides. I think it’s pretty cool that the city allows it; if something like that happened in America they would all be in the pounds so fast.
View from the forum in Pompeii - Mt. Vesuvius in the background
We finished up our tour of Pompeii and grabbed a fast lunch because we had our sights set on something larger – getting up to the top of Mount Vesuvius. We hustled back to the hotel to get ready. When we walked in, the man at the front desk gave us some bad news.. the park was closed so we couldn’t get to the top! This put a damper on our day – everyone was looking forward to it.. how many times can you say you’ve been to the top of a volcano?? Well we started trying to figure out what to do with the rest of the day, and our professors came up with an excellent solution. We were supposed to go to Naples Friday morning to go to a museum before we got released to do what we wanted for the weekend; so they suggested we go to the museum that afternoon so we could have all day Friday and Saturday to do what we wanted! So that’s what we did – loaded the bus and headed to Naples. I had heard Naples was one of the more crime ridden cities in Italy, but I guess I didn’t quite have the right picture in my head. It was by far one of the most trashy places I’ve seen since we got here. I felt uncomfortable even on the bus. We were getting crazy looks, of course it could have been the big pink Barbie bus driving through the streets, but it still didn’t feel right. We got to the museum and hurried inside and spent the next couple hours there. It was full of archeological artifacts – a lot of sculptures, frescoes, and mosaics. It was a pretty cool museum, and I don’t usually do museums. After our quick stop we loaded the bus and headed back to Pompeii; lord knows we didn’t want to stay in Naples any longer than we had to!
Having fun with the sculptures.. :)
 Back at home we were forced to find dinner on our own. Lunch had been expensive so we were determined to find something cheaper. We walked into the city center and guess what we found? A McDonalds with a euro menu! :) It felt like home haha. We indulged in our American habits and headed back to the hotel, with a stop of course at a gelateria. Can’t get enough gelato! A bunch of us got together in the hotel and hung out for the night and played cards and socialized.. glad everyone gets along, it makes these events so much easier! We headed to bed excited – morning meant bus to Sorrento and then Amalfi Coast!
Road to Amalfi = longest, windy roads I’ve ever been on. Put a warm day, warm bus, and people together.. if you get motion sickness, this may be a little tough on you! I was too distracted by the beautiful views and cliff sides to be too effected though. We arrived and started our search for the hotel, which happened to be right next to the where the bus dropped us off – right on the coast. :) This was a perfect location! We checked in and dropped our bags and immediately left; we didn’t want to waste any of the gorgeous day. We went to a place to eat that the hotel man recommended; we all ordered pizza and it was delicious! The atmosphere of the place was awesome too; even had an old man come in and play his guitar and sing for us. Some of the first Italian music we had heard since we got here! We finished eating and headed straight for… the beach. Duh! We hung out on the pier, climbed on some rocks – naturally – and headed towards the beach. Shoes came off and we walked in.. the water was pretty cold, but we found that if you stand in it long enough it’s not so bad! We muddled around for a while and searched for pretty rocks and drew in the sand; it was a perfect afternoon. We decided we should at least do something with a little architectural significance so we headed to the cathedral after that. A man let us in and once he found out we were architecture students his face lit up; he showed us around everywhere, even some places I think public usually can’t go. He was so excited we were there and he got to share everything with us. We walked around for a bit and then headed back to the hotel so we could watch the sunset from our balconies. The sun set behind the mountains so we couldn’t see the actual sun, but we could see the beautiful colors, and boy was it beautiful. Darkness fell and so did the temperatures; we wandered out to find food but decided to get groceries and go back to the hotel to make a big group dinner of carbonara, salad, and bread. Delicious! With the long day of travelling and beach dwelling behind us, we fell fast asleep – had to be up bright and early to catch the 6:20am bus back to Sorrento so we could make it to Capri!
Laying on the beach in Amalfi
Morning came fast and we loaded the bus. Since we were up so early we had the privilege of watching the sunrise as our bus travelled along the coast back to Sorrento. I thought the sunset was beautiful.. but the sunrise definitely topped it. God has amazing ways of showing his glory, and today he was shining through the clouds. I took countless photographs that don’t even do what I saw justice.
We made it back to Sorrento and loaded up on the ferry to the Isle of Capri. Thinking it would be a great idea, we sat on the top of the ferry outside so we could see everything.. note to self: it’s cold at 8:30am on the Mediterranean in February. It was beautiful, but definitely cold! We got to the island and headed up to one side “Capri” to begin our journey. We walked around trying to find some sites and stumbled upon this set of stairs that went down. I couldn’t see the end of them, it just kept going and going.. so naturally, I wanted to go. We all headed down the stairs; the further down we went the more hesitant we were.. until we stumbled upon a cave. It was amazing! We played around in it for a while and then continued down more stairs. We just kept going and going, felt like they were never going to stop. We got to a flat trail and started finding side trails off of it. These were the best; they were fun hikes that always ended in the most magnificent views. We continued along the trail for hours, and when we thought we were almost to the end, another trail grew off to the side. I ventured up and yelled for everyone to follow. It was amazing – we hiked up a mountain!  The views just got better and better, and we even came across the biggest earthworm I have ever seen. It was about the length of 2 ½ of my feet.. not exaggerating. We took our pictures at the top, and then made our way back down the mountain to the end of the hiking trail. Then we said “remember 4 hours ago when we said ‘hm.. wonder where these stairs lead to..’” guess we found out. It was the best hike I’ve ever completed! Of course we were starved after this so we grabbed a quick bite to eat and headed to the other side of the island “Anacapri”. This side didn’t involve fun hikes and adventures, but we saw Villa San Michele which Marco recommended to us, and we saw why. The house itself was pretty cool, but the gardens are what made the place. It was so vast and full of views to the sea; I can’t even describe in words what it felt like. It was just an amazing, peaceful place; a good end to the trip to Capri. We headed back down to the dock to catch the ferry back. Unfortunately we didn’t gauge the time to get down very well because our bus got there right as the boat was about to leave. I guess this happens often because it hadn’t left yet. So there we are, crazy American tourists, running off the bus and down the dock to get to the ferry before it leaves. The crew taking the tickets were laughing at us by the time we got there; I’m sure it was a funny site for them, and probably not the first time they’ve seen it. But we made it, and smartened up and sat on the bottom of the ferry this time, protected from the wind. I was so worn out, I crashed on the way back during the 30 minute ride. We got back to Sorrento in time for gelato and some food and then boarded the bus to head back. We left around 8pm and got home around 1am.. I slept the entire way. Guess the last four days wore me out.. I mean the last hour+ I’ve been typing this and reliving it has worn me out too!
Made it to the top!
We got home, unloaded, and crashed for the night.. slept in the next morning, but not too late so we could make it to church. I finally made it to a service at the Duomo. It was amazing, frigidly cold, but amazing. I felt at peace sitting there, even though I couldn’t understand what they were saying since it wasn’t English.. It was nice to have the day to relax and catch up on things, and a walk around the rupe of course. And then today was just spent working on studio and posting the tons of pictures from the trips. This past week has truly been an amazing experience. Can’t wait to see what future trips hold in store for me!
This has definitely gotten long enough today.. Ciao!

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