Aly's Spain Adventure

Read about what I'm doing while in Spain so you can keep up with me!

Location: Des Moines, Iowa, United States

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Fri. Dec. 22-Sat. Jan. 13
Viernes Dic. 22-Sabado Enero 13

Hola todos!
Como estais? Pues como hais leido. He vuelto bien a los EEUU. Wow, un monton de cosas ha pasado. Estuve en Chicago 2 dias y entonces fui a quedar en la casa de mi mama una semana y entonces fui a mi piso 2 dias. Tuve una fiesta del ano nuevo que era muy divertida. No nevaba todo el rato que he estado en los EEUU pero por fin, nevo la noche del ano nuevo. Creo que saque unas fotos y entonces voy a ponerlas en el internet. Despues de estos dos dias, volvi a la casa de mi mama unos dias mas. Desgraciadamente, tenemos unos problemas con mi hermana y drogas y entonces ahora ella esta en un centro de rehabilitacion por un rato. Entonces estaba muy ocupada con cosas de mi hermana. Pues despues de unos dias fui a Chicago pasar tiempo con Mike (mi novio). El tuvo una consulta con su ciruja sobre sus dientes el jueves y no podia pasar mas tiempo sin Mike :-) y entonces fui alli unos dias. Siempre me gusta ir a Chicago. Hay muchisimo hacer alli. Una noche fuimos a ver la pelicula El Laberinto Del Fauno. La pelicula ahora esta en los EEUU y esta en Espanol con subtitulos en Ingles. No la vi en Espana y entonces estaba muy emocionada verla. Era muy buena. Mike vive en un suburbio y entonces una noche fui al centro de Chicago y fuimos a un bar de shisha y luego fuimos a un restaurante que se llama "Ed Debevics." Es un restaurante interesante porque todos los camareros son muy antipaticos y comicos. Ella le burlo de mi mucho pero era muy comica. Ibamos a ir de patinar pero hacia tanto frio que no queriamos ir. Pues la mama de Mike le dijo incorecto y su consulta era el viernes. Decidi que tenia muchas cosas hacer en nuestro piso y entonces fui al piso el jueves por la noche. Wow, Mike limpio mucho pero todavia tenia que limpiar unas cosas y devolver unas cosas al lugar corecto, etc. Pues ahora es la noche de sabado. Desgraciadamente, Mike todavia esta en Chicago. El tiene que hacer trabajo para sus padres y entonces lleva un rato y el va a volver manana por la manana. Mas o menos es que ha pasado en las semanas pasadas. Voy a intentar escribir un poco cada semana si sea posible. Por favor, escribame muchos emails y podeis hablar conmigo por Skype (alydickinson es mi nombre). Os amo mucho!!! MUCHOS besos!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Mon. Dec. 4-Fri. Dec. 22
So once I got back from Amsterdam, the days just kind of flew by. I had to take my final exams before I left so I had to start studying. I had two weekends left and then I left on Friday the 22nd. My last weekend we ended up having a few parties. Friday night of my last weekend we planned on going to Kapital, the biggest club in all of Madrid. So Rhea came over and we were going to meet at Carlos's place but it got so late that actually he and his friends came over and then Tere also had some of her friends over. It ended up being quite a few people, a little unplanned party. So we had to get to the club by 1am which ended up not happening. This was mainly caused by Carlos's friends getting STUCK in the elevator. Haha. It's quite an old building and so the elevator got stuck about 4 feet above where it should have stopped. After about 20 minutes, the guys managed to push enough buttons that the door opened even though the elevator was still stuck too far up; they were able to get out. We just ended up going to a different club instead which was alright. I had to get ready for the next night. I planned my going away party for Saturday night around 9 or 10. No one really got there until about midnight. It ended up being me, Joanna, Rhea, Emmanuel and a few of Joanna's friends. It wasn't huge but it was a BLAST. I made some sangria and some pizza and we just played card games all night. We taught them drinking games. haha! We partied until about 6am. It was a really great time. So the week before this on Thursday we had our presentation for Marketing and I also had a test in my photography class. I think I did very well on my photography test and I also turned in the paper I had written for that class. I was VERY proud about my presentation. Unfortunately I didn't get to do much for the presentation except for put everything onto a powerpoint. The powerpoint was just an extremely long task to do. I had to read through all the info my group mates gave me (in spanish) and then (in spanish) put it all on the presentation. So then on Thursday we had to present in front of the class. I had only a few slides to present but I did it, and did it well. To present something in another language in front of the entire class is very challenging and nerve racking but I did it! As you can tell I was very proud of myself. So Tuesday of my last week I had a test in Spanish Politics which I did well on. Then Wednesday I had a test in my film class. I was kind of upset about having this test because I thought I would only have to write a paper for this class. My friend who left the week before only had to write a paper so I assumed it would be the same for me but I did write an email to our teacher to double check. I wrote the email on Thursday and on MONDAY (2 days before Wednesday) I found out I had the test of Wednesday! So I had to study really quick and ended up botching the test (yeah I'm pretty sure). So Tuesday night I had to say goodbye to miss Rhea which was incredibly sad. She is one of the best friends I made there but luckily she is from Colorado and it's only a 10 hour drive there. Awww so sad. :-( We grabbed a few drinks from a few different places and then headed home since I had a test the next day. Wednesday night I went over to Joanna's and Emmanuel's to say goodbye to them. Carlos came too and Unai (Joanna's roommate) was hanging with us too. We just had a few drinks and chatted for a while and then I sadly said my goodbye to them. :-( Thursday night was my last night. I left at 7am on Friday morning so I really had to say goodbye to everyone Thursday night. Me and my roommates ordered some pizza and made some sangria and just sat and chatted about how much we would miss each other. We exchanged some gifts. I got a beautiful zip up sweater from Mara from Peru made of llama. We took some cute christmas photos and then Carlos came over and hung out with us until my taxi came at 4:45am! One thing I forgot to mention was trying to send swords through the mail. For christmas for Tim, mom had me buy a sword from Toledo. So I tried to send home his sword along with a very large poster of mine. After waiting in line at the post office for an hour on my last day I found out that I couldn't send swords through the mail. So then I was worried about taking his sword as well as Mike's sword on the plane (checked baggage of course). Carlos came with me to the airport just in case I couldn't take the swords with me (and also because he's a great friend). Unfortunately for both of us my flight was cancelled because of a large London Fog. So we had to wait in line for about 4 hours to get a new flight that would go through a different country. Something crazy that happened while waiting in line was right behind us in line was a girl that I know. We actually met on our way over to Spain and didn't talk or anything the whole time we were in Spain and then she ended up being in line right behind us for a few hours. It was really crazy that it happened that way but it was awesome because we just played cards with them (her friend too) in line and stuff until we finally got our new flight. Luckily I was allowed to send my swords on the plane though it did cost 80 euros!!! The lady checking my bags was nice though and didn't charge as two parcels (technically I had two and should have been charged more). Awesome! So finally at 10:00 we were able to board the plane and I had to say goodbye to my buddy Carlos. :-( So sad but so excited to get home. Woohoo! We stopped through Dublin where we actually did most of the customs stuff (the only airport in the world that does customs there no matter what instead of waiting until you are at your final destination). After about 20 hours waiting in lines and flying in planes I was home in Chicago!!! But that wasn't quite the end. Fortunately I got Tim's sword and my poster but I didn't get Mike's sword. It got left in Dublin (so they told me). So I had to wait for about an hour to get my claim all done for that so that they could try and get it to me ASAP. A week later I'm still waiting but it's supposed to come into the Chicago airport today (the 29th!)! So I saw Mike which was WONDERFUL and also a little weird to see him for the first time in 4 months. It was almost like kissing someone you don't know but of course you do. It was just so wonderful to see him and finally cuddle him again. :-) So we got all my stuff and headed to his place...

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Fri. Dec. 1-Sun. Dec. 3
So Rhea and I planned on getting up fairly early and ended up sleeping a little later than planned but it wasn't too late. We got up around 10am and actually Colin had class that morning so we didn't see him for a bit. He actually had a prostitution lecture that morning so we learned some things from him later on. We headed out to the Anne Frank Museum. First we stopped and grabbed a little something to drink (some coffee) and we actually had a few peices of bread from Colin for breakfast. So the Anne Frank house is pretty close to Colin's place. It was a really interesting thing to see. It is the house that her and her family hid in during the second World War. They hid above Anne's father's factory for a few years and small little fact is that his factory was a jam-making factory. We were able to see each room and throughout the whole museum were facts and quotes from Anne's diary. There wasn't really any furniture or anything but for instance there were still the posters on Anne's wall from when she lived there. It was sad but really neat to experience. After that we met Colin for some lunch and actually just got some food at Maoz which is a falafel place. Then we waited around for Rhea a few minutes because she managed to get a phone interview with a lady back in the states. Woohoo Rhea! She did great! So then we went to the Van Gogh museum. I was soooooo tired of museums after Italy and France so I wasn't thrilled to go. However it was awesome. I really enjoyed it. It was a good museum with paragraphs about each section of his life and a lot of explanation about each style and about each painting. I got a great Japanese print of his for our office which I'm pretty excited about. Then we headed to get some dinner. There are a lot of different cultural influences in Amsterdam besides Dutch and one of the 'most important' cuisines to try that we had was actually Indian. It was really yummy and a TON of food. So after that we went to check out the Red Light District. That was a CRAZY thing to see. It was basically window shops of women scantily dressed and ready for sex. Here's a link to a photo: Red Light District
So it's weird cuz they actually categorize the sections of the District. There is the skinny blonde section, the big sugar mamma section, the asian section and I think I even saw the white trash section. There are sex shops and live sex shows throughout the whole district too. So after seeing the district we got a drink and chilled for a while. Before we went home we grabbed a peice of Space Cake that Rhea and I shared. We were all so extremely exhausted that we went straight home and fell asleep. Haha, our space cake did not work. Maybe if we haven't gone to bed so quickly. Oh well. We went to bed fairly late but hoped to get up at a fairly decent time the next day.
So Saturday morning we didn't have a specific plan but we got up at a decent time and had some breakfast and got ready. We had wanted to rent some bikes and go riding through the city but unfortunately it was raining out so that didn't work so well. We were walking around and picked up some bread and YUM cheese. Cheese is supposedly the best when it's from the Netherlands. It's true!!! Yummmy. So we just grabbed that food and actually headed to the Heinekin Museum. Rhea and Colin weren't thrilled but I thought it'd be fun. It ended up being probably the best time I had there! For 10 euro we got 3 beers and a cool beer opener thing. The museum was fun with a DJ music making part and a "ride" of how it is to be a bottle of beer. Haha. There is one bar where you get one beer and then a bar at the end where you get your other two beers. So we sat down and started slurping down our beers and remembered we had some cards so we got those and started playing. Then we saw some friends of Rhea that we knew would be there too and they sat w/ us for a bit. The didn't want to finish their next beers so they gave us their extra chips. A few other people gave us their chips too. So we were just chilling and then remembered the bread and cheese we brought. We busted that out and all in all ended up spending 4 hours at the museum. It was a BLAST! After that we checked out this windmill within the city and that was neat. We just kind of walked around a bit too. It was a good time. Then we sat and got a coffee and then met some of Rhea's friends for dinner (the same friends from before). It seems like we don't get a lot done when we're here but it's because it takes quite a while to walk places. So after dinner we went back to Colin's to get ready to go out. We went to a few different places that were nice and fun. We were going to go into this club but it was about 10 euro that we didn't feel like spending. Plus some guy in line was grabbing me and I did not feel like being around it. It sucked because everything closed around 2am. :-( We went home and tried another space cake which did not have an effect again of course so I gave up on that idea. We went to bed fairly late but had a nice sleep.
So Sunday morning we got up and got packing. We went out for a while and did some shopping for souvenirs and such. I got a great pair of slippers that look like the stereotypical wooden clogs. Teehee they’re cute. So I also looked for some boots and some jeans. Rhea and I both found some great pairs of shoes. Woohoo! So we got headed back to Colin’s and grabbed our stuff. I grabbed some cheese to take back to Spain w/ me and we got to the train station that would take us to the airport. Our flight was supposed to get us home around 8pm which was great. Unfortunately there were some “technical problems” which took about an hour to fix. Then we finally took off on our way home to Madrid. After about 30 minutes in the air, they said we had to go back because the problem wasn’t fixed completely! After returning, landing, and switching planes, we FINALLY got on our way home. I unfortunately got home around midnight and just collapsed of exhaustion. So it was nice to be back and I had a great time!!! Until school tomorrow…

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Photos from Italy & France:
The old program I used to post my pictures didn't give me enough space so now you can view my pictures on Walgreen's site. You do have to make an account which literally will take about 30 seconds and if you really like a picture I guess you can get it printed then from Walgreens. Let me know if the site causes problems:
I'll get photos of Amsterdam posted soon!

Mon. Nov. 27-Thurs. Nov. 30
Monday I just stayed at home and relaxed after class. Tues. Joanna, Emmanuel & Rhea came over to watch the fall finale of Prison Break. I brought a bottle of wine back to Madrid from France that Emmanuel had recommended and so we drank that. Joanna & Emmanuel had also brought 2 bottles of wine and Rhea brought one. We ended up eating pizza, popcorn and drinking the 4 bottles of wine. We were just having such a nice time that it got late and they finally left around 1AM. I unfortunately had a headache the next day but we had such a nice time that it didn't matter. That night we had all planned on going to salsa class. Finally at about 10:30PM Joanna, carlos & Cesar arrived. Joanna had brought a bottle of wine so we drank that "quick" and were sitting and chatting forever until we realized it was too late to go to salsa. Cesar has asked us to go to Bourbon Cafe (where he works) for Mexican night every Wed. so we decided to go. We had a blast! We got a few Coronitas (they say that, not Corona) and danced forever. They had a crazy contest (in which I did not participate) to drink tequila for 10 seconds and receive a prize. They had a few little contests but we just danced the whole time. We finally got home around 5:30AM (Family don't freak out) and I got to class by 9AM the next day. It was a good time but won't really happen again. I was EXHAUSTED in class the next day. Thursday I got everything packed up and Thea and I took our flight out at 8PM to Amsterdam. We were staying with her friend there who studies there so he met us at the train station and we went to his place and went to bed. We were tired and it was late and we wanted to get a jumpstart the next day. Tomorrow you will get the adventures of Amsterdam and then I'll finally be caught up! Love you all! send me emails and leave me comments. Tell me you miss me. Muah!!!

Sun. Nov. 26 Day 10
So we woke up at a decent time-our fligth wasn't until 2PM. I got another crepe and we got our last fresh pastries from the bakery. We finished packing and right before we left a little band group started played right outside our window. It was a nice little send off. We had to catch the metro and a train to the very far away airport and then a bus to our terminal. I had to say goodbye to mommy and Catie so I could go catch my flight. I was quite sad but it was good to know it would only be a few weeks more before I would be flying back to the US. I got my flight which went just fine and got home EXHAUSTED! I talked to my roommates and then to Mike online and then I went to BED!

Sat. Nov. 25 Day 9
Our last real day in Paris and our last day travelling! Catie was getting a little worn out from all the site seeing so Mom & I went to the Palace of Versailles in Versailles which is about 20 min. out of the city. It is the biggest palace in the world. The gardens alone are enormous! The line was about 2 hours long so we actually only looked around the Palace on the outside and explored the gardens a little. It was so very neat to see. I wish we coulde inside to see the Hall of Mirros but we just had so much more to see. We got back to the hotel and picked up Catie and by then it was about 3pm. so we grabbed some food and by the time we got done with all that it was dark enough to go see the Eiffel Tower! It's about 10 times more beautiful at night. We waited in line and went up inside it. Mom was a little nervous but it was really worth it. What a view! Every hour on the hour the whole building sparkles for miles! The Tower has a total of 1710 stairs. That'd be quite the exercise. The tower is just a little over 100 years old and was built for the World Trade Fair. I was impressed. After that we walked to the Arc de Triumphe to go see it up close. You actually have to walk under the road to get to it. There is an unknown soldier buried there so there is a monument to him but the Arc was actually built after a military triumph (Arc de TRIUMPHE). We were kind of bummed out because we had planned to meet our friends from Rome because they were actually in France the same time as us too but they got their dates mixed up so we didn't see them. We have their email and everything so we'll still be able to keep in touch. So after the Arc we headed back towards the hotel and had some dinner again at the restaurant we ate at for Thanksgiving. Mom & I had onion soup (In France you don't need to say FRENCH onion soup). We also had some genuine french creme brulee which was AMAZING! So yummy! France truly does have some of the best chefs and food. We got everything all packed up that night for the travel home and got some good sleep. Oh and by the way the Christmas lights weren't yet lit in almost all the city except for this last night on our street they turned the light on. Mom was very excited!

Fri. Nov. 24 Day 8
So finally getting a good rest we got up fairly early and headed for the Eiffel Tower. There was a market right next to our hotel so I grabbed some fresh raspberries for breakfast. We also stopped by a bakery (which became our place for breakfast). I got a FRESH croissant and crepe (with sugar). So yummy! So then we caught our tour bus at the Eiffel Tower and went to the Louvre. We spent a few good hours there. We saw the Venus de Milo and Mona Lisa among many things. There were time periods of Egypt, Renaissance, Italian painters, etc. I actually bought a book talking a lot about the time periods and some of the famous works in each section. We actually had to take a break to grab a snack and finished up by seeing the Statue of Mary Magdalene, Rembrandt's work, and the Moat (a small part) of the Louvre. The Louvre was originally a place so you can still see parts of the moat inside and outside. Unfortunately most of the moat part was closed so we couldn't see it. So we finished up with the museum and caught the bus to the Notre Dame. We actually first grabbed some lunch and stopped by an internet cafe and then went into the Notre Dame. We lit a candle and said a prayer and looked around. There are many different altars inside and also on display was one of the huge chandeliers that used to be hanging up. After that we did some tourtisty shopping and got some Xmas presents... Then we took the bus near the Arc de Triumphe and got some dinner there. It was a great dinner and then we caught a cab home. Got some more wine, played some more cards and went to bed.

Thurs. Nov. 23 Day 7
So the train ride was quite the adventure. We got there and got settle in our cabin. All the cabins can technically hold 6 people but I think they only rent them to 4 total unless more is requested by a family or something. So we had no one else in our cabin which was great...until at the next station we did get a new roommate who of course was an Italian man who spoke very little English. The whole night we couldn't get the heater in the cabin to turn off so we were HOT! We kept opening the window even though it was loud it was better than dying of heat...except the Italian minded the noise more than the heat. He kept closing the window! So we arrived in Paris exhausted from all the previous travelling and also from a horrible night's sleep. Of course our hotel room wasn't ready when we got there so we couldn't take a nap or anything! So we walked about 10 minutes to the Eiffel Tower. It was nice to see but unfortunately I was so exhausted I was just crying but our room wasn't ready yet so there wasn't much we could do. Once I calmed down we found a tour bus and hopped on. We rode the bus all over without stopping until we reached the Arc de Triomphe and we actually caught a cab back to the hotel because we had about another hour left on the tour bus and we were falling asleep on the bus. So we caught a cab (which is not easy by the way) and went back to the hotel and took a LONG nap. We got up and found some dinner at the restaurant nearby. Mom & I had steak and Caite had a hamburger for Thanksgiving. We had actually found an American cafe but of course with our luck it was closed. I forgot to mention that at the beginning of the day we got some food at a nearby cafew which of course the lady spoke no English. We managed it though and had a VERY good omelette for each of us. Later for lunch Catie & I had crepes with cheese, ham, onions, peppers & tomatoes which was so yummy! So after dinner we bought a bottle of wine and went back to the room and drank it and played card games. Then we went to BED!

Wed. Nov. 22 Day 6
So we tried to get up at a good time & had some yummy continental breakfast. The owner of the hotel also owns a big glass factory on the island of Murano which is a very close island to Venice and so he offers free tours of the glass factory & the trip is free to get there. It took about 20 minutes to get there on a private boat taxi so that was nice. So we arrived right at the door and went in. They actually showed us how they made the glass. It was really neat to see. The oven in which the glass is it extremely hot. They actually use sand like stuff to make the glass and when it is hot they have it on a pole and kind of roll it around and when they shape it they use like plier-looking things to pick at it and scissors to cut it. He made a horse and so used the scissors to make the mane of the horse. They also can blow into the pole on one end and then the glass on the other end expands after a second. They have to warm it specially because when it goes from such hot hot hot fire to the cool air it breaks very easily so they gradually cool it down in machines. The vase he made broke after about a minute (that's part of the "show"). After watching it we got to look around the whole place with the millions of different peices of glass and the beautiful and unique chandliers and such. The showcase guy was really trying to get us to purchase things (EXTREMELY EXPENSIVE >100 EURO) and when he finally gave up he showed us the cheaper trinket room. Teehee. After we left we went to a few more shops on the island and unfortunately realized the factory was much more expensive but luckily we hadn't bought much there. I got some beautiful jewelry and mom & Catie got a few things too. Then we headed back and tried to find a palace we wanted to go to. In our guide book it was called Doge's Palace but in Italian it's called Palazzo Ducale which ended up causing a problem. We got incredibly lost very far from where we needed to be and eventually found some lunch. We realized we were very close to the Geto (ghetto) in Venice where the Jews were so we went to visit that. It is where the word ghetto originated from in the 1500's when the Jews were all forced to go there. There was a league attacking all over and so all of the Jews fled to Venice for protection and because of their overpopulation they just stuck them all in one section of town. It's also when they developed their reputation as money lenders because that was the only job they were allowed. In about 1700 they were liberated and then were forced there again during the second World War. It was kind of sad/kind of interesting. So then we headed towards the San Marco plaza and ended up finding finally the Palace we were looking for. It was interesting to see. Lots of history there. It is where the ruler lived/ruled from (can't remember the name of the ruler) but actually was somewhat "imprisoned" always having to have people at their side and could only sometimes get special permission to travel and always with at least 8 other people. Kind of weird. So then we explored the San Marco square a bit & I think we then headed back. It of course rained the whole time so we never got to go on a Gondola. :-( We went back to our hotel to grab our luggage but first stopped by and took photos of the Rialto bridge which used to be the only bridge across the Grand Canal. We then headed to the train station and grabbed some dinner there and got on the train for our 20 hour train trip to Paris.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Mon. Nov. 20 Day 4/Tues. Nov. 21 Day 5
So we got up early, had some breakfast, got packed and hailed a cab to the train station. We travelled a few hours to Florence playing cards the whole time. We figured out how to get to our hotel and threw everything there. We looked up online how to get the Pisa (yes with the leaning tower of Pisa) and grabbed some lunch. We took about an hour train to Pisa and went to see the leaning tower. It was so neat to see. We actually didn't go up inside but we hung out there for quite a while taking photos and getting some souvenirs. So we caught the train back and on our way back to the hotel we stopped by the hotel of the friends we made in Rome. They actually were in Florence the same time as us and we had exchanged information and such. They weren't there but we left a note for them and then sat down for a super fancy dinner at such a yummy place. When we were just about to order dessert our friends showed up! We all sat down and got dessert and just chatted forever! It was great! After dinner we went up to bed and got some good sleep. Tuesday we got up with an agenda. We went to the Galleria della Academia which houses the statue of David by Michelangelo. It was really neat to see. I never realized how huge it is. I bought a little book about the statue to learn more about it. It started as actually a scrap of material that no one could carve well because of the material and it was difficult to carve. After a few attempts it was forgotten until Michelangelo picked it up and carved the David. It is David from David & Goliath and the statue is interesting to many because of David's pose. Instead of triumphant with his foot standing on Goliath's head, he is deep in concentration getting ready to launch the stone at Goliath & it in a way shows that Michelangelo wanted to emphasize David's brains and not bronze & also the help that God gives to him to allow him to triumph. Actually before that we went to a big cathedral with a big dome on top where you can actually climb to and view all of Florence. Catie & I climbed the 450 stairs to the top and saw the best view EVER! We actually met a lady up there who told us another spot in Florence to go to to see a great view. We hopped on a bus (by the way in Florence they NEVER check for your bus pass and consequently we only had one the whole day) and went to the Piazza Michelangelo which is a little park like plaza high above the city where you could actually see the country side and the city. It was BEAUTIFUL. So gorgeous. So after that we had to hurry to grab our luggage and hop on the train to go to Venice. That was a few more hours of playing cards and resting and we were there. We had to take a boat ferry to our hotel. Only in one small part of Venice that I saw for a second did they have cars but there are no cars on the streets. The roads wouldn't be big enough for them anyway. There is only travel by boat, water taxi, or ferry. We thought we were supposed to get off at San Marco which technically was right but actually the closer stop was Rialto. We went an extra 20 minutes boat trip out of our way. We found a lady to give us directions and told us it was 20 minutes back or we could walk and it would only be 10 minutes. Crazy! We were like yeah we'll walk. We contemplated how things would work only water foundation. Cemetaries, waste systems, etc. We found our hotel which looked really super duper scary but ended up being super nice. The first floor looks like crap because the water can rise and destroy anything in the first floor so they put nothing there. Our place was actually a palace in the past and we ended up getting the suite. Something interesting about Venice is all the buildings are settled weird because of the water so our floor actually wasn't straight, it kind of all was on a slight decline towards the middle of the room. So we grabbed some food and walked around a bit and then headed back to our room to sleep. We actually received a free bottle of champagne with our room so we went back and played some cards and drank that and got ready for a busy day tomorrow. I'll finish the rest tomorrow. Love you all!

Sun. Nov. 19 Day 3
So Sunday was our last full day in Rome. We hopped on the other bus that was part of our package-The Archeobus. We went to the St. Callipto catacombs which are about 20 min. out of town. The catacombs were incredible. The catacombs are where the Christians buried their dead & also hid to give mass during their persecution. The Romans, having great respect for the dead, allowed the Christians to bury their dead here but it was forbidden to give mass or pray here and they actually caught some in the catacombs (including a pope) and killed them. The catacombs are kind of like tunnels underground and the dead would be buried in rooms or small "tombs" in the walls. There are over 60 of them in Rome & St. Callipto is the biggest with 4 levels and over 10 miles of tunnels. We couldn't take photos but we got post cards and such. We all prayed before exiting which was actually really nice. I also got a rosary from there. After that we finished the tour on the Archeobus which included a stop at the aqueducts which were amazing to see. We headed back into town and grabbed a snack & then headed to the Monument of Vittoria Emmanuel where the unknown soldier is guarded day and night, as well as the eternal flame of Rome. At 3pm we watched the changing of the guards which was kind of neat to see. After that we grabbed some lunch which ended up being a LONG adventure to try and find Hard Rock Cafe where we didn't eat. Haha. After lunch we went to the Spanish Steps which in the summer has millions of flowers & such. We actually had another celebrity encounter. We were in Rome during the wedding of Tom Cruise & Katie Holmes & were near the hotel they were staying in. Jennifer Lopez had been there for the wedding and was actually leaving the hotel that day. Of course the limo was dark and we didn't see much of her but we got to take a photo of the car and also see the paparazzi dart after the car down the hill. we then went down the Spanish Steps & actually ended up participating in the FREE HUGS project which is exactly what it sounds like. People hold signs offering free hugs. It started I think in Australia and the guy who did was actually banned from doing it until he had a 20 million dollar insurance policy so he got a petition signed by 10,000 people and now the project is all over. We walked for a while along a street with all the designer stores and I actually got a Prado bag...right outside of the Prada store...for 20 euro which was a good deal because the guy actually wanted 40. So we caught the bus and headed back to the train station and did some touristy shopping. Among the many things we bought, I got a funny gift for Mike. They are boxers and on them are particular parts of the statue of David which make them quite funny (not hard to figure out). So we bought tons of stuff and headed home for the night!

Sat. Nov. 18 Day 2
So day 2 we woke up and got some breakfast-we had a great continental breakfast including yogurt, ham&cheese, cereal, fresh juice, etc. Then we headed to catch our bus to go to the Colosseum. We found out that the tour bus we wanted the first day was running again & the one we had before was crappy so we bought a pass for that new one (the one we wanted). It had a ton more stops as well as another bus that takes you out to the country. So we hopped on the bus & got off at the Colosseum for another try. It was open today and we actually paid for a guided tour which turned out to be great! It was really interesting to see the Colosseum but also really sad. It was actually used for a lot of horrible things. The gladiators used to fight the animals but were generally slaves with no real choice. They would also fight each other, sometimes against someone they had trained with since they were young and it was a battle to the death. Thousands of Christians were also persecuted there, forced to battle againste the lions with no weapons of any sort. If they somehow managed to survive they still would have to hope the emperor would allow them to live. He would give a thumbs down if they were still fated to death. See the photos for more. So during the tour we found out that the Sistine Chapel and the whole Vatican museum was already closed for the day and didn't open on Sundays! We left Monday morning so unfortunately we weren't able to see the Vatican museums though we did stop by the Vatican for a few photos of the outside & such. So we grabbed some lunch & then continued our tour on Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum. On Palatine Hill is the house of Augustus-the first emperor of Rome (though he technically never called himself that). Before Augustus, Caesar ruled and was killed. When he died he left the empire to Augustus (his great nephew). We learned that he did have an illegitmate son who never took the power, not knowing of his relation. Marc Antony wanted to get the power from Augustus & they eventually went to battle & Augustus won. Marc Antony & his wife Cleopatra killed themselves after their defeat. So we saw the house of Augustus which of course now is mostly ruins but we could see how HUGE his house was when the tour guide pointed out the bathroom about a half mile away. It had some interesting things in it. There were gardens outside that the grounds were always warm. They ran the hot water pipes underneath the garden so the heat from the pipes would keep the ground warm. There's a lot more but look at the photos for more. We also went down into the Roman Forum which is the first city of Rome which started its building in about 50 B.C. We found out the while Mussolini was in power he wanted a direct view of the Colosseum from where he was living so he decided to PAVE 60% of the Roman Forum & 90% of the Imperial Forum (also part of the first city). Mussolini, after losing his power, was kille d& dragged throughout the city naked. He deserved it for so many reasons! So we went to catch our tour bus home but it didn't come!
Tangent: I forgot to tell the cute story about how mom & I got magnetic bracelets/necklaces. I had seen them before and thought I would like one so I asked how much. 15 euro. I was truly looking for about 8 euro so I was like nevermind. He kept bargaining with me until he said 8. So I bought i but thought I would like a different color so he handed me that one so I could switch but then said 2 for 10 & just kind of grabbed the 2 euro change I had from the 10 euro bill. Haha 1 for 15 or 2 for 10. Good deal!
So we were waiting for our bus & found out they went on strike again! While complaining we met a Mexican family who were also on our bus & so we kind of made friends. Habib & Marcela & their 4 kids & us went and caught the metro together to go yell at the office to try & get our money back. They had a dinner party so they went to that & we went to the Trevi Fountain which is BEAUTIFUL especially at night. After that we grabbed some dinner & then headed home. Exhausted again!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Fri. Nov. 17
Day 1 in Rome
Ok so I just looked back at the last blog I wrote & I totally forgot a VERY important part! Basically the whole time mom & Catie were visiting (for like 2 or 3 days at least) there was something going on right by my street (basically my street, just right off of it), some kind of filming. So we kept seeing it as we would walk by so finally we were like "I live nearby I was just curious if you could tell me what's going on here." The guy was like "You know what the Bourne Identity & the Bourne Supremacy are right?" and we were like of course. He showed us his badge & was like "This is the 3rd one-The Bourne Ultimatum." Holy cow!!! Matt Damon was there! We tried to take some photos but since it was night time they didn't show up too well. So when everyone sees the movie & there is a blue-ish car & they're just filming sitting in the car, yeah that's my street!

So Friday morning we got up BRIGHT & EARLY (Our cab picked us up at about 5am). We got to the airport on time & all & actually had a very nice ride in our taxi with a very nice cab driver. I actually saw one of my friends from Madrid in the airport too so that was kind of crazy. We arrived around 9 or something like that. I had been sick all week and of course I had to go on vacation sick too so that was a bummer. From the airport we caught a shuttle bus to our hotel & met a lady who was riding w/ us & she's from Finland. She was nice & we all chatted & eventually got dropped off right near our hotel. There was some kind of a strike/demonstration going on so we had to walk about a block to our hotel because the driver couldn't drive us there. It was a very nice place, pretty large with a very nice bathroom. So we were all ready for lunch so we grabbed some at the restaurant right next to our hotel which was kind of fancy. Real Italian food is so yummy. Of course with every single meal you get bread. They also do something, instead of tipping, they add a cover charge or sometimes it's called a service charge. Unfortunately we didn't figure this out right away so we gave some REALLY big tips on accident. Oh well.
So we decided to go find a tour bus so we could see everything in the city & it also doubled as our form of transportation since the city is pretty large. Grandma & grandma had told us not to get the "green ones" so we wanted to get this red one which went to a lot of places as well as it actually had a second bus service which went to the outskirts of rome to the catacombs & aqueducts. Unfortunately we figured out the red bus people were on strike so we had to get the green bus. So we hopped on the green bus & started our tour. We decided that we wanted to do the Colosseum first so we got off on that stop. There's a really big arch by the Colosseum which we took some photos of but of course now I can't remember what it was for. So we were approached by some "gladiators" who asked if we wanted to take a photo. Assuming they were with the Colosseum we said sure & took 2 photos. They then told us (after taking the photos) that it's 10 euros. We were like what?! They said "it's our job & we pay taxes" & we were like whatever dude. We did give them 5 euro but not all of it. Shouldn't even have given them anything! People will do anything to trick you. Oh well. So we went to enter the Colosseum & found that it was closed even though on the sign it said we had a whole nother hour. We were like what is the deal?! Well it turns out there was another movie being filmed there! It's called Jumper & it has Hayden Christensen (he was Anakin in the new Star Wars) & Samuel L. Jackson in it. Unfortunately we didn't get to really see anything but I found out later about an hour after we left they filmed the movie OUTSIDE OF THE COLOSSEUM so we could have seen it! Oh well, we'll live. So from the Colosseum we walked for a bit & ended up discovering the Roman Form & Imperial Forum. We learned in a tour later that they are the oldest cities/first cities of Rome. They began being built in about 50 B.C. One of the cool things about Rome is that is how it is all over the city, just random bits of old city that is discovered & just blocked off with a gate. We actually saw some people excavating more of the Roman Forum which is not completely discovered yet. How crazy right? Super cool! So after that we went to this little tomb area that was also a prison/dungeon & went down in to see it. It ended up not being much but it was neat. We headed back towards the Colosseum to see it at night & to also catch our tour bus back. They were still filming at the Colosseum! Actually we think they were setting up INSIDE the Colosseum. They had big huge lights that they were putting over it & into it & we waited around a bit but didn't see anyone. :-( So after that we caught our bus & took the rest of the tour & went back towards the hotel. Catie & I got some dinner at a restaurant near by & mom went back & straight to bed where we joined her shortly. We were all EXHAUSTED. More to come...

Monday, November 27, 2006

Sun. Nov. 12-Thurs. Nov. 16
So Mom & Catie arrived today! (Mom's bday) Of course something had to go wrong. I woke up late! Mom & Catie figured out how to use a pay phone & called me & woke me up at 9am so I hurried to the airport but it turned out to get to the Metro area they had to catch a shuttle so I actually met them just in time. We hopped on the metro & Cercanias & got back to my place. We walked around a bit & grabbed a little breakfast & then headed to the Rastro where they got their souvenirs & I finished buying the souvenirs that I want since it might not be open the next time I could go. I think after that whole big adventure we probably grabbed some food & actually headed home & they were so jet lagged they just slept the rest of the night. I of course had to study for an icky test so that was fun but I did get time to study so that was good. So over the next few days there was just a lot of touristyness with Mom & Catie. On Wednesday Catie came to school with me & that was really fun. I took her out for about 2 hours Tuesday night just so she could see what the clubs were like but we had class the next day so we didn't do anything really big. Wednesday night I took them to my salsa class & they tried Caipirinhas which are yummy lemonade like slushy alcoholic drinks. Mmmm. Actually my director of the study abroad department was in Madrid so she was there too with Alcyn & Linda and we just chatted about how our time has been here so far. Thursday Mom & Catie went to Segovia all day to see the Aqueducts & the Alcazar castle which is actually the castle the was a model for the Disneyland/Disneyworld castles. They got back around 9pm & we actually went to dinner with Carlos & Joanna (my roommates couldn't go because one was out of town, one was sick & one had to study for a test :-( ). Dinner was a good time with some yummy paella but we had a really crappy waiter. It was of course the crappy waiter that we got. So we headed back to my apartment and got packing for Italy & France and hit the sack!
Soon to come...The visit to Italy & France

Tues. Nov. 7-Sat. Nov.11
So there wasn't too much that happened the week after grandma & grandpa left. I think Tuesday night Joanna & Emmanuel came over & we all watched Prison Break which I have come to love. You all should watch it. I've been downloading it online so they came over & we watched the newest episode & had a beer & some popcorn & that was a good night. Then Wednesday night Joanna & I went to salsa of course. My friend Johnathan & his friend ended up coming (Johnathan is the one that now lives in my old apartment). It was nice to have dance partners but they both were showing interest in Joanna and I & we both have boyfriends & of course we not interested so once class was over we bid them goodnight & I walked Joanna to the bus stop.
So we had no school on Thursday due to another break so I kind of relaxed all weekend. Friday night I went out with Joanna. We first got a drink at a bar & then met her girl friend from her University who was actually also Polish but Polish American (born in US). We had a good night and I think we got home around 5am or so. It was kind of nice because the girl was friends with the bartender so we ended up getting free drinks but it started to turn into a "club scene" which Joanna doesn't care for & I didn't really care for her girl friend so we went home & that was my crazy night for the weekend. Saturday night I did my best to go to bed early because mom & Catie came Sunday morning!