Monday, October 5, 2009

Siena Week 1(Florence, San Gimignano and Volterra)

My first week in Siena had pretty much been a whirlwind of shopping, food and classes. Well I guess classes aren’t really tough or very often, but it does require that I get up in the morning, probably a good thing for those of you who know my sleeping habits.

I have really started to develop a love for the town and everything that is allows you to find out about yourself. The history of the town just allows you to relax and take a step back to take everything in. I really love that about Italy. Everything is slower and relaxed. I’ve really had a chance to sit and read. I haven’t really ever enjoyed doing it, but now it’s probably my favorite thing to do here.

Marci, my roommate, and I are the lucky ones in the program that live right in the city center. We can literally see the Bell Tower from our window. It’s absolutely tiny, but it’s great that we can walk 2 minutes to one of the most historic city centers in the world. I love all of the buildings and the walkways because they are so filled with history and personality. So many generations of people have lived in these apartments and it’s considered a great accomplishment to have a house that old. In the states I feel like we get ride of the old as soon as possible.

Our classes are seriously the easiest things in the world and we don’t have to pay for any of the museums or anything because the program pays for it. I guess that is why it was so expensive. I really have enjoyed trying to find places that are fun to eat at and that has been really easy to do. There are a couple of restaurants that I really enjoy and I found a pizza place that is awesome and super cheap. YEAH!!! The only thing is that I already have this huge craving for Chinese food. I think Kasey and I will have to have a Rice King reunion as soon as we are back in Provo.

We took a couple of trips our first week in Siena. Florence was the first one that we went on and it was beautiful. I am really happy that we are living in Siena though. Florence is a little too crowded and dirty. I really enjoyed their outdoor market though. I was able to find one of the key things that I wanted. An Apron. YEAH! It’s seriously one of the cutest things ever!!! We also went to the Duomo and hiked to the top of the bell tower. That was not really my favorite part of the trip (it’s really high for those of you who didn’t know that, like 600 steps or something), but the view was totally worth it. The panorama of the city is gorgeous. You can see for miles with all of the fields and olive orchards. I loved it.

Later on in the week we also took a trip to San Gimignano and Volterra. They are some of the small hill towns in central Italy, roughly an hour from Siena. We took a charter bus to these towns and lets just say it was not for those who get motion sickness.

San Gimignano was the first city that we visited and it was gorgeous. The city used to have over 50 high towers throughout, but over the years they have fallen or been torn down. It sits atop a beautiful hill and just looks like a little piece of heaven in the middle of the valley. We visited a few churches and got to see another wedding. I feel like everyone in Italy is getting married. Crazy. The churches were pretty interesting, but I’m not going to lie it’s nice to be in Siena where we don’t have to go through churches everyday.

My favorite thing about the city was the gelato. It is the BEST IN THE WORLD. It’s not just me who thinks so, they actually have won the award for the last three years. It really was awesome. I’m thinking about making a trip out there just to eat the gelato. I got Noce, Friti di Bosci and Fondente(Walnut, Mixed Berry and Dark Chocolate). It is something that I will remember for quite a while.

After lunch we got back on the bus and went to Volterra. It’s the city that is the big Italian hot spot for all Twilight lovers. I felt a little sick so I didn’t get a chance to go to the museums, but I hear I didn’t miss much. I just stocked up on some gifts and souvenirs.

Let’s just say that the first real week in Siena was one to remember. Our housemother isn’t necessarily the most welcoming person. We got into a little bit of trouble with the water situation and door closing. It’s definitely something that I will have to get used to. It’s going to be an adventure.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Minori Amalfi Herculaneum and Pompeii

Pompeii, Herculaneum, Amalfi & Minori
Herculaneum and Pompeii
This has probably been my favorite educational trip so far. I really enjoyed hearing about all of the history and the way that people lived back then. It blows your mind. Herculaneum was basically the Club Med of the ancient Roman world. It’s amazing to learn about all of the technology that they had. I mean their kitchens are better than some of the ones at school. They took such pride in their buildings and the decorations. I mean they didn’t really have pictures so they took the time to make mosaics on the floor. I mean who does that any more. They just took so much pride in their home. I loved walking through the old cities. Its amazing to see how well intact everything is. I mean that stuff was there over 2000 years ago and you can still see the streets.
I do love that they have not knocked down the ancient stuff to put up new buildings. In America I feel that we just knock things down to make room for the bigger and better, but we don’t really get to see the history that way. I think that’s why I like downtown so much.
The cities were huge I mean it took us over 3 hours to walk through Pompeii. We didn’t even go through most of the town. It was amazing to see all of the buildings and public places that were still intact. I mean without that volcano eruption we wouldn’t have all of that today. There was even an almost red light district that was a little interesting. Who would have thought? I really enjoyed having the opportunity to go through those ancient cites. I mean how many people get to do that.
We had a blast taking pictures and I think we were probably the most rowdy people there. I mean we had been through about 100 churches at this point and we needed to have a release. We even played on the old sport fields. It was a blast.

Amalfi and Minori
Minori is my favorite place ever!!!!!! It’s so quaint and homey. Everyone seems to know everyone else and they are so welcoming to everyone. It’s not really a huge tourist town for anyone, but Italians. I couldn’t even find it in my book. I loved the little old men that walked around at night with their hands behind their backs discussing the topics of the day. Most of them sat around for most of the day playing cards on the beach. I want that to be my life when I am older. I mean I already picked out the house where my Mom, Shelby and I will live it’s gorgeous (it’s in the pictures).
They also had some of the best gelato ever there and the cutest little market I have ever seen. We all had a blast hanging out in the water and just exploring the city. There are fun little hikes and quite a bit to do for such a small town. It’s just the place you would want to go and visit grandma at. IT was also just a 10-minute waterbus ride to Amalfi.
Amalfi was also really amazing. It was a little too touristy for my taste, but I did find some great presents (Shelby I still will not be telling you until Paris). We even got to see a wedding take place. It’s a lot different that what I thought it would be like. I couldn’t even imagine getting married in such a beautiful town. I think that we should have a petition so that the church can have a temple there. Anywhere it would be beautiful. I loved walking around and just watching everyone go by. It’s great to see the bargaining and people trying to maneuver their way around the one-way street and the cars trying to pass with just enough room for that. I mean the streets were packed. Who designs a city where there is only one road? It’s crazy.
I couldn’t have imagined a beach more beautiful and the water was so clear. You can see by the pictures. It’s great to see how beautiful the beach can be. California will never suffice again. I think I’ll have to go back. At least I have an excuse. The only thing that was a little hard was the rocky beach. I guess that’s why they are so clear though.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Rome part 2

Roma Due

It was made in the 1400’s and it just really touched me when I saw it in a book back home. I really enjoyed the rest of the pictures and you can definitely see from the pictures I took. Not all of them are great, but I think you can kind of get the picture. Let me just say that if you haven’t been there you need to go ASAP!!! We also went to St. Peters. I’m not a big church person, not that they aren’t beautiful, but its more of the architecture and the piazza outside that amazed me. I didn’t realize the size of what was accomplished in such a small area and with their resources. I still just sit in amazement at what they were able to accomplish, but somehow our house still took over 6 months to finish and they still didn’t do everything right. How times have changed.

After this and the museum we were all pretty pooped but we had dinner together at the hotel. Most of the girls had gotten in that night and no one really went out to do anything. Once our heads hit the pillow we were all out. The next morning we all got together and went to church in Rome. I was so filled with the spirit that these saints had as well as their love and care of us. They were very welcoming and comforting. I think that they knew what a hard time we would have with it and were more than happy to listen to our broken Italian testimonies or completely English ones (I think that you guys can guess which one I went for). The women in Relief Society were probably some of the sweetest women I have ever met in my entire life. I ended up having one of the elders translate for me and after the sweetest woman came up to me and kissed me until I cried all over again. They were so amazing!!! It really is a testament to the truthfulness of the gospel no matter where you are in the world, you can always find a congregation. Turns out we see missionaries all the time in Italy. It’s like every other day. It’s actually pretty cool.

After church we met up for lunch again at the hotel. And then went on a tour of some of the famous fountains of Rome. They still shock me. How did they know how to make things like that? I mean art now is so different. Not that I don’t appreciate it, but WOW!!! The talent that these men had and the creative vision, I wish I could have imagination and talent like that. I like to think that making clothes is something that Shelby and I can do to try to express ourselves as these men once did. Now if I could only get me Mom to start arting, (wait is that a word???) lets see um…painting, drawing really anything. If you didn’t know she is quite AMAZING.

The fountains that we went to were Piazza Narvona, Fontana do Quattro Fiumi, St. Luigi dei Francesi, Stat. Maria sopra Minerva, Il GEsu, St. Ignazio and piazza and of course to finish off the night the Trevi Fountain. We also made our way to the Pantheon. IT was one the way. I think that of all that we saw the Trevi and the Pantheon were my favorite. Trevi is just beautiful. It’s almost too much to handle. It’s hard to be able to see it all. You have to stand at the back and there is never a time when people are not there. It is always crowded. While we were there a bride and groom were actually taking picture there. Could you imagine, taking your wedding picture in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I mean the Trevi Fountain. I wonder if they realize how great they have it. The Pantheon is just something that you can’t even begin to comprehend. They made that in 100 AD they did the dome and everything. I just couldn’t even imagine living in Rome at that time. It must have been incredible to watch that all be built.

After our walking tour we all were supposed to make our way back to the hotel separately and grab dinner on the way. I ended up going with Julia, Marie, Elizabeth, Laren, Makia and Brooke. During our adventure to try to find a restaurant we came upon some wine shops and the managers were dancing to the makarena…I know..crazy… Anyway we all jumped in and started dancing along. It was a blast. You wouldn’t ever really find anything like that in the states. We just let loose and had a blast. There were tourists and everything videotaping us and I think we even grabbed some pictures of it. I’ll post them if I can find anyone with some. After our dancing experience we made our way back to the street and found a restaurant.

It was really fun to have our first real restaurant experience in Italy. I had the lamb and it was SO GOOD. I couldn’t believe it was less expensive than I thought it would be. I really enjoyed the ambiance. It’s just a more relaxed way of doing things. You don’t get rushed out but it really is an event to go out and eat. I love it. I have always thought of it this way…now I can do it without making anyone angry.

After dinner we made out way to the Spanish Steps and grabbed some gelato. Lets just say some memories were made on those steps. Those girls are awesome!! We finally started to head back to our hotel around 1 went to bed to grab some shut eye.

The next morning we had to get up a little early to travel to the Coloseeum. Well we didn’t really have yo travel too far, just a short metro ride away. I seriously LOVE public transportation. I hate having to drive anywhwere. So we arrived at the coloseeum and it was more incredible than I could have imagined. I loved the feeling and the abiance of the area. You cpould just imagine what went on there. I mean Gladiator was great, but it doesn’t do it justice. The massiveness of the building just blows my mind. I never really thought that I would be so interested in it, but I really enjoyed seeing where so many great events took place. I am so into sports now I think that I would have definitely had a season ticket to the Coloseeum. For those of you who know me, you can understand the statement.

I spent a lot of time with most of the girls and we just went a little picture crazy. I loved it. I have really gotten into taking pictures I will make sure to put some up. After the COloseem I went outside and got a few people to take pictures with some gladiators dressed up outside. It was really fun and I got a kiss for only 5 Euro. HE asked for it….LITERALLY. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it though.

We had free time until we went to the Catacombs. We decided to take pictures at the Mouth of Truth, a request from my mother. It was pretty cool but the line was a lot longer than I expected, but it was worth it. Then we took the bus out to the Catacombs and waited for a while.

The Catacombs were pretty cool and it really got me interested in Archeology. I had always thought that it would be gross down there, but it was surprisingly cold and calming. There is a reverence that exists there. We went to the only one that is owned by the Catholic church, most others are owned by private investors and families. I would love to do an internship with the Vatican and spend time out here. I learned where the Anchor came from. It represents the trinity and the stability that it provides in your life.

That night was pretty uneventful, but on Tuesday we went to Borghese gardens and a tour of some other churches in Italy. The churches were pretty cool, but I am sad to admit that I was a little sick of looking up at ceilings after a while. One church that I really enjoyed was “Chiesa Immacolata Concezione”the one made entirely out of bones. It was a little creepy and had a weird smell.

Borghese was beautiful and I have decided that I want a house like that. It kind of reminded me of the house in Sound of Music. I loved the grounds and the height of the ceilings. I mean the art wasn’t bad either. Hehe. The sculptures were my favorite part. I still am amazed at the intricate parts. I mean they didn’t even have like power tools. HOW DID THEY DO THAT???? CRAZY

Our last night in Rome we decided to grab some gelato and hit up the Spanish steps again. That was a really great send off to that part of the trip. It was really great, but to sit and take in the people moving around the city. We also went to Campo di Fiore. We had dinner there and did some bargaining with the local merchants. We had some more gelato and took a look in a bookstore. I got one of my first souvenirs, a book for the future children. I was so tired by the end that I went back to the hotel, but not before some awesome shots of the view from the roof. The next morning we had to be ready for the bus at 6:30 so the night was pretty much done for me.

Friday, September 18, 2009



So my first night in Rome was amazing. We; Julia (the girl I shared a room with), Brooke and Natalia all went out to see the town. We didn’t have anything to do specifically so we just walked around. We got on the Metro and went to the Collesseum. We took pictures outside and had a blast. While we were taking pictures we saw a whole bunch of people going to this party. We eventually found it and it looked like a blast. There was an outdoor pool, poker, wine bar (Julia’s favorite) and dancing. We walked through and got a couple of stares, just a couple of blondes in Italy, who would have thought. We eventually found our way out of the party and got lost. Midnight in Rome and we are lost. None of us really knew our way around the city so we tried to figure it out. We didn’t really figure it out so we walked around for a while and eventually called a cab. That kind of seems to be my M.O.

We were planning on taking a cab from where we were to the hotel, but we ended up driving right by the Spanish Steps and got out. We met some really cool people there. They were from New York and just traveling for fun. One of them got into trouble for stepping into the fountain. The police came over and started yelling at here in Italian. Let’s just say that there was a language barrier. We also made complete fools of ourselves on the Metro. I don’t think that the Romans want us to come back after all the noise we made. Luckily it was open until 1:30 so we were able to take it back to the hotel. We finally made it back to the Hotel Pacific and crashed. We had to meet the rest of our group in the morning and we needed our sleep for the day ahead.

Our first day as a group in Rome was definitely full. I swear we didn’t stop for anything. We didn’t have to meet the group until noon so some of us who had been there for a while got to walk around for a while and grab a bite to eat. I love eating in Italy. It’s always an adventure. You can grab any type of pizza you could possibly imagine having and it’s so cheap. It’s like 2 Euro. Always a good munch.

As a group we set off for the Vatican Museum, just a short walk from our hotel. I was amazed at the size of the building. It was built so long ago I didn’t think that anything that old could still be standing. When you think about LA or anything like that, none of the buildings are older than 100 years. It’s just wonderful to see that they still appreciate what went on and the beauty of the architecture. We walked through the garden first and then made our way into the museum. I loved everything. There’s not really a way to describe what you see. It’s something that people have to experience for themselves. I had no idea that so many things were still there and that they had been so well preserved. I was actually able to do a little research on one of the pieces for a school project and I was able to share some of my knowledge with the group. I had chosen St. Jerome in the wilderness by Leonardo Da Vinci. I loved this piece…

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Getting There

I said goodbye to Mom and she promised not to cry. Surprisingly to any that might know her, not necessarily a promise she typically lives up to. I got inside and.....My adventure began getting to the airport...All was going well until I realized that I had gotten in the wrong line and would have to wait another 35 min to get my bags checked(Mind you I listened to Uncle Mark as opposed to my mother and was there with just enough time to only allow for a certain amount of time for mistakes). Luckily the lady at the counter, not necessarily the most courteous let me pass, but definitely was not happy about it.
I finally am able to get on the plane and it's a pretty smooth ride from LAX to Toronto. All was going well until I realized that my flight was running late and I might not be able to catch my flight to Rome. AAAHHH. So I tried to get off of the plane as quickly as possible....WHY DOES IT TAKE SO LONG TO GET OFF OF A PLANE ANYWAY? THAT IS PROBABLY MY LEAST FAVORITE PART OF TRAVELING.
Anyway I get off of the plane and I have to go through customs. I hate that the first stamp in my passport is Toronto. I mean really??? It's not even that cool. It's like having Mexico as your firt stamp...well maybe not as bad a Mexico. That line took forever. Luckily my French got me through a little bit faster. I had to run to my plane though. That definitely was not fun. I made it though, just as they were about to close the door. I am usually so good at traveling. I don't know why I had so many problems. Oh well I'll have a lot more trips to make up for it.
I finally landed in Rome and it was a lot easier to navigate then I thought it would be. I made it through customs without a hitch, got my bags(still praying in gratitude that they were not lost) and got my money. No problems. I thought I was free and clear...then I had to get my ticket for the train. I never thought I would meet someone so rude in the service industry. I understand that it's not easy dealing with tourists all day, but oh my gosh. The train ride went okay. I helped some other people get to where they needed to go and taught them how to read their tickets.
I got on the Metro and didn't have a problem. Mind you I am carrying about 120 lbs of luggage with me. I had even made preparations the week before and written down where I was supposed to get off and everything. I didn't think that I would have a problem with that. Turns out that's where everything went down hill. I got off one exit too early and I walked around for an hour and a half trying to figure out where I was going. I finally gave up about an hour and a half into the ordeal, but the damage was done..I had blisters and my pride was definitely shot.
I made it to my hotel and I think that the taxi driver was a little shocked at my sigh of relief when I exited the cab. I had never seen anything so lovely(A little dramatic I know but believe me you would too).
I finally got up to my room and took the longest nap of my life. Fell on the bed at 11:30 and woke up at 8:00 p.m. I finally came to terms with the fact that I WAS IN ROME!!!! OH MY GOSH!!! IT WAS BEAUTIFUL...