So, the other day I went to the mall to do some shopping cause my Visa did not get enough use in Italy. In the parkade I noticed a fellow who was by chance also going into the mall. I noticed him because he was wearing a matching track suit. From afar I gave him my, I do not approve look, and proceed into Aritzia while he went into Gold`s Gym. I must admit I spent quite some time in the mall that day and as I was leaving, feeling like I had made some quite successful purchases might I add, who should I see but matching track suit boy. He had finished his workout and was standing by the doors enjoying a pre-packaged protein drink. How unfortunate. However I guess he took seeing me again as a sign of something and as we both walked back to our cars, he decided to talk to me.
Him to my back: Uummm … so, excuse me. Did you go to Jasper Place High School?
Ok, props to the guy for cold opening a complete stranger in a mall parkade but you gotta have better game than that to get me to stop buddy. I kinda laughed, replied that I sure did not, and kept on walking. While maybe not blessed with great style or culinary tastes, the guy was persistent. He came back with another stellar question.
Him: Can I ask you a question?
I had to bite on that. My reply? Well, you just did, didn’t you? Poor, poor boy. He looked at me all stunned and did not really know how to respond so I took pity on him and told him to go ahead. If he was willing to continue after I had blown him off AND insulted him I had to reward him by giving him a chance to prove himself. He came back with another winner of a question which completely justified the time I was taking talking to him.
Him: So, is that your natural hair color?
I actually laughed in his face. Or the vicinity of his face cause I was still a few feet in front of him. Could he not see the massive roots that must have been 2 inches long? Ok maybe only one inch and it was dark and he is a boy so maybe he doesn’t know about roots???? I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and kept talking to him. Eventually, after skirting the subject with such gems as do you live around here, do you come to the mall often, he asks for my number. I decide to give it to him. I will explain why later. He must be surprised that I said yes, or didn’t hear me cause he gets super awkward, yes more awkward than he already is and comes back with this.
Him: Uumm yeah I don’t really know how to do this.
I’m like what ask for a number? Cause you just did. Again I get the ??? face. Still not really realizing he should quite while he’s ahead he continues talking.
Him: So, I saw you on the way in and really wanted to talk to you then but didn’t. While I was working out I kept on thinking about that and totally regretted it. So, (and yes he does say so this much) when I saw you again on the way out I knew I had to talk to you.
Me: Well, if you were thinking about talking to me while you were working out, then you were clearly not working hard enough.
Me: It’s ok. I was just kidding but listen, I have to go.
Him: Ok, yeah. I’ll text you in a week or so and we can go out for coffee or dinner or lunch or… after that.
So this is what a three week plan??? Ok, sure. Whatever.
So after all of this why give him my number? I look at it as a public service. It took courage to talk to a random stranger, especially to keep me talking when I didn’t seem that interested. Now while I may not be matching track suit’s soul mate, maybe he has one out there somewhere. I’m sure she would be in a valour juicy couture suit. I don’t want to be the reason he never meets her. How can that be on me? Well, what if my uber bitchy rejection weakens his confidence so much that next time he sees a girl, possibly his Juicy couture soul mate, he doesn’t talk to her for fear she will reject him in a harsh way like I did. I cannot live with that. I do not want to be responsible for him not meeting his soul mate. Thus I am doing a public service- padding his ego. Girls everywhere should tank me. Haha. I sound vain but it’s not about me being so hot that it’s amazing he succeeded with me. That is in no way what I am trying to imply. Instead, it’s about him thinking he succeeded. I am so altruistic.
Why am I ok with this? I mean now the awkward random has my number how can that be good? The way I look at is, just cause I give him my number does not mean he will text. If he texts it does not mean we have to go out. Just cause we go out once does not mean we will have to go out again. So, I ask why not pad his ego? Why not let him think he is the man and was awesome enough to pick up a random girl in the mall parkade (I sound so classy)? What is the harm? Oh man famous last words, I’m sure I will live to regret uttering them. Mark this moment, this may be the last time I ever do anything nice for a stranger cause if this comes back to bite me I am done. I will go back to being an uber bitch who lets randoms know how insignificant they are. Woe to all potential nerdy suitors. If this somehow turns bad and knowing me, it will, I will belittle all men without game who have the audacity to try to subject me to their awkward fumbling conversation. Oh well at least I’m sure I will get a good story out of whatever ends up happening.
Venice, for many a city of beauty, for me however its beauty was somewhat dimmed by the harsh realization that some things just don’t turn out how I want them to.
I am not meant to be on time.
The best laid plans seem to unravel when timelines and I are involved. Sometimes it’s not even my fault but it still happens when I am around. It’s like my absent-mindedness is contagious. How can that be possible you ask? Well, let me relate the story to you. I was going to Venice with five other girls but I had a mid-term that Thursday so I could not leave on the earlier train with them. Some of them left but we all agreed that leaving me alone to navigate the canals of Venice in the dark may not be the best idea, so the most responsible of the bunch, Iris, stayed back with me. Now, a little back story on Iris, she is a Peace Officer at the U of A and takes her job very seriously. The first word everyone uses to describe her is prepared; she plans her trips to the minute. So, after my midterm I lug my over-packed suitcase to the bus stop where she is waiting. We catch the infrequent bus down to Camucia where the train station is and wait the hour until the train arrives. Since we have so much time we think, hey, why not go grab a coffee at the nearby bar (think cafe not club)? We are sitting there “enjoying” our beverages (worst coffee EVER) and Iris, ever cognizant of the time suggests we pay and go back to the train station. This is when the reality that I am not meant to make it to Venice on time hits. When she is looking through her bag for her wallet she realizes that she does not have the name or address of the condo we are staying at. Normally this would not be a problem, just call on of the girls and get the address right? Wrong, none of us have phones. Ok, then check our reservation confirmation email, easy. Nope, can’t do that either. No internet. So, what to do? Get the owner to call us a cab and rush back up the mountain to the hostel to grab the info and hope we can make it back down in half an hour, Possible right? Maybe it would have been, if not for a random road closure by the cops. Long story short we miss our train to Florence but no worries because we should still be able to make our connection to Venice if we hurry. Well again, that was just not meant to be. Our train to Florence was delayed by five minutes and we missed our connection. Good news though, that was not the last train to Venice, all we had to do was trade in our assigned tickets for a new seat on the next train. The travel agent who sold us the tickets assured us this would be possible but something must have gotten lost in the translation cause turns out it was not possible to trade our tickets for new ones. Our option was to buy new ones at 50 Euros a pop or see if we could just get on at the ok of a Conductor. We went with the later. We flagged down a man who looked like he worked there and in broken Italian asked to get on. Without really even looking at us, he just waved us on. We were not sure if he had the authority to ok us being on that train but we decided to risk it anyway and if the people checking the tickets gave us flack we decided to pull the tourist card and hope that would work. I mean it wasn’t as if we didn’t have tickets and were trying to scam a free ride; we had tickets, just for the previous train. Fate must have realized it had put us though enough that day and thankfully the ticket checker didn’t even bat an eye at our ticket times. Only an hour and a half late we arrived in Venice, ready to celebrate Carnival.
I am not meant to own a camera (the saddest realization of the trip)
Cameras travel, and I just don’t mix. Every time I go on a trip I break my camera. Sometimes I even break two in one trip (Thailand). I just need to accept the fact that I am not meat to own a camera. I received a really really nice one as a Christmas present from my parents last year and only managed to get one full months use out of it. Sad I know. Things had been going really well until the Saturday of Carnival when I dropped it. I had been out all day taking pictures, being really careful but one drop that night and it was broken beyond all repair. See, I did not just break it. I destroyed it. How you ask? Well, I won’t lie, I don’t know. I don’t even remember dropping it. All I know is, I tried to take a picture later that night and the screen was all black but the lens was out. That was when my friend told me I had dropped it and it was broken. I of course did not believe their lies and continued trying to use it but sadly to no avail. When we sat down at a restaurant I took out my camera to examine it and sure enough, it was broken. I must have dropped it when I was trying to take a picture which was super zoomed in and it landed right on the extended lens. The impact must have driven the one side back into the camera so the lens was no longer level and would not move from its quasi-extended position. What was I to do? Well drunk me thought it would be a good idea to consult the random drunk guys I was sitting with. Poor decision. I know that the camera was already beyond repair but they added insult to injury. Warning, mom and dad do not read the next sentences. They were convinced that all we needed to do was level the lens again and it would work. So, they put the camera on the table, lens down and pressed. The most awful gut-wrenching crunching sound followed and the lens retracted back into the camera never to come out again. Sadly, that was the end of the poor camera. It was beyond all hope of repair. I had treated it well before that night but we were just not meant to be. Thankfully my iTouch has a camera on it so I just used that for the rest of the trip and most likely will use it for the rest of my life because it is clear to me that I am just not meant to own a camera.
The People you do not want to see again, you will
This one is probably the most embarrassing. Well, it’s not that bad but hung over me did not want to deal with this. You would think in a city the size of Venice you would not run into the same people repeatedly but you do. Oh synchronicity how you are not my friend. On the opening night of Carnival we were wandering the back streets of Venice looking for something that was open and ended up finding a random restaurant. Problem was, we were not the only ones. This place was packed and as such the seven of us could not find one table that would fit us all. We did find a table of six which happened to have a table across from it which had some open seats. Well, I took those open seats as an invitation to sit down and join the two random guys. Thankfully they did not seem to mind and soon we were engaged in a delightful drunken conversation. What did we talk about? I have no idea exactly. I just know I thought I was hilarious. Beyond that detail I seem to recall everything going ok, at first. Then the accents kicked in. Back story, one of the Cortona students had recently adopted a British accent for funzies and others soon followed suit. I guess as I sat there talking to these very American Americans some of the other people I was with though, hey if British is fun, American must be fun too. Why not test it out on these guys? I guess they did not take so kindly to this and one of them actually got really mad. I was super oblivious to this and kept on talking away about random nothingness to them until they got up and left in a huff. I thought that was the end of it until I went to the train station the next morning and almost walked straight into the non-mad one. Oh man was that ever embarrassing. I was the girl who I’m sure made an ass out of myself and had asshole friends and now I had to face him again. Oh the shame. Any hopes that he would not recognize me were dashed when he smiled, chuckled a little bit, and then turned to his friend and motioned my way as he said something imperceptible. His random friend, who I had not met that night stared at me in all my hung over glory for a second before they both fell into hushed conversation. I quickly turned around and walked away hoping to escape my shame. I mean what are the chances that the one event that you most want to forget (and kinda did until you saw him) is the one thing you cannot escape? In my life the chances are pretty good. Of all the awesome random encounters I have, few are repeat however when something is awkward I am usually faced with it again and again and …
Or, the reasons I can no longer fit into my pants. Thanks Italy. When you picture an Italian person, and I mean a REAL Italian person, the people from Jersey Shore DO NOT count, what do you envision? Tall tan blonde? No. Uber white red heads? Again, no. I don’t know about you but I think small, in stature and in weight. I’d go so far as to call them tiny even. They don’t have a McDiet or the obesity epidemic that goes along with it like we do. Yeah I mean I can think of some overweight Italian people but for the most part I think of Elisabetta Canalis (George Clooney’s ex girlfriend) she must weigh like 100 pounds. My question is, how do they do it? How do they stay thin? I sure didn’t. I came home and even my almost blind Grandma told me I had put on weight. Well, ok, she didn’t quite say it like that. She actually asked me if my arms were fatter now because they used to be so small and now they weren’t. I begrudgingly admitted that yes, yes I had put on some weight in Italy. With a satisifid tone my ever sensitive Grandma replied, yes I thought so. You look bigger. Thanks Grandma.
So, again I ask how to the locals stay so thin given the food here? It’s literally all white carbs and refined sugars. That’s ALL they eat: pasta, pizza, sandwiches on white bread, brioche, and gelato. Oh and coffee with full fat milk. Oh and I can’t forget wine. They have a lot of wine. So all super healthy options. Yet they all manage to stay tiny. How? I have no idea. They aren’t even that active that I can see. I went for 2 runs (yes 2 whole runs in the 3 months) in Cortona and they all looked at me like I was ape shit crazy. I never once saw them out for runs. I mean yes they walk everywhere, but so did I. So that can’t be it. I have come to the conclusion that I will never understand it. They must just be genetically conditioned to eat only carbs and sugars and not gain weight somehow. Sigh. Below are pictures of what I was eating which will explain why my pants no longer fit me.
• Heated towel rack- best invention ever! Warm towels after a hot shower; I need to bring this home
• Being able to escape the crazies in the Hostel. You cannot put a price on peace and quiet. Having a place to go to escape from all the drama created by the children at the hostel ensures I stay sane
• The hike up the hill every day. Its good exercise and almost works off the sugar/carb filled meal I inevitably just had
• Our own bathroom. This whole sharing phenomenon is overrated. I don’t want to share a shower/mirror with 10 other people. I want to do things when I want to and not have to coordinate with an entire floor of girls.
• A hot shower. I never want to leave. Its the best way to get warm
• No curfew. The people in the convent don’t have one while those staying in the hostel have to be back by midnight on weekdays and 1 am on the weekend or they are locked out for the night.
• TV, not that I can watch it cause its all in Italian but I can still say I have one.
• Maids. They are so nice and having them means that I don’t have to clean which we all know I hate.
• No washing machine or dryer. Hand washing everything is so awful and hanging everything to dry takes so long.
• The hike up the hill every day. I am so tired after the climb
• The Nuns and their overbearing nature. They are just always there with something to say. Sometimes it is something nice, mostly it is to scold us or remind us to do something or create some new rule we have to follow. Oh yeah, they speak Italian and so fast that I have no idea what they are saying half the time so I just nod and keep walking but they keep talking as you walk away even though they know you don’t speak Italian and can’t even hear them anymore. Ugh, frustrating. They also go into our rooms when we are not there and turn down the heat. They know how to pinch a penny which is kinda unnecessary as they don’t pay taxes.
• The gate that makes the same noise that prison gates do- oddly enough the Convent is kinda like a prison. We have these thick stone walls which are impenetrable except through said gate. They have cameras everywhere and the Nuns sit there and watch the monitor to see what you are doing. The front door is always locked, even during the day. I’m not sure why they feel the need to keep what’s in, in and what’s out, out. Its like Fort Knox in here.
• No one else is allowed to enter our rooms. Only convent people can be in the convent; it doesn’t even matter if they are fellow students who are at the hostel. They cannot come up with us, they have to wait downstairs for us. • Being asked to leave the hostel at 12 am because that is their curfew. They can all stay up and party together but we have to leave the hostel.
• No kitchen. This means I have to eat out for lunch every day as well as for dinner on weekends. This also guarantees I will be fat when I come home. Pictorial proof as to why I will soon be fat to follow. All I eat are carbs and refined sugars and more carbs and more refined sugars. Like I said, I am currently compiling evidence to explain my impending weight gain and will post the pictures soon. They will explain why I need a kitchen
• No mirrors. At least I can’t see how fat all the carbs will make me, but how do I know if my outfits look good? Its hard to coordinate without a mirror. There is a tiny one in the bathroom above the sink but its super high up. Its too high for my roommate to really even use to put on her makeup with. She has to stand on a stool.
• The 10$ breakfast that consists of
Coffee/tea/hot chocolate with powdered milk
White French bread
Packaged melba-like toasts
The price was built into our residence fee so we don’t have the option to pay it here per day- its essentially a hidden cost. Its exorbitant; what we get is so not worth that cost. The hostel gets cereal and milk, some fruit occasionally, and real bread which can be toasted
• No heat on Sundays. The entire Convent outside our rooms is always cold but our rooms are usually ok once we get in them and turn the heat up but on Sundays the Nuns aren’t really around so there is no heat. You cannot wear enough socks/sweaters/blankets to keep warm here on a Sunday. You MUST escape to Bar Sport (a local cafe) for heat, food, and internet for the day.
• The internet situation
At first we had to pay for it o Now we are given user names and passwords which expire every 5 days o It can only be used downstairs
I cannot get the wireless signal and have to use the cord thing(the technical term)
• The beds- WORST mattress EVER! I am sore when I get up in the morning from the bed. They feel like they have cardboard covering the springs.
I say all this and it seems like its so awful here but its really NOT. These are all minor inconveniences minus the heat situation. That’s actually bad. For all the rest I can just adjust to and live with. Also remember that there is probably some minor exaggeration for effect in the bad portion. Like I said its not really as bad as this all may seem when put all together and read at once.
So in the past they would banish the deformed/disfigured people to the local convent. There they would live in seclusion so they didn’t scare the townsfolk, especially the small children. This is the story of how I kept that tradition alive during my trip. Disclaimer: I have taken some artistic license with this story. The embellishments make it a better story but don’t worry it wasn’t as bad as I make it out to be. Day One: Me to my roommate Shannon, “Ugh I hate zits. I’m getting this HUGE one. I can feel it coming.” ANGER!!! Day Two Wake up with Mount Vesuvius below my brow and lament to Shannon how all my Rome pictures will be ruined buy this gigantic red monstrosity. I am NOT impressed. Day Three No more pictures today so my shame will not be immortalized for future generations to see. All is good. Zit is still really big and painful tho. Day Four Zit is still there and what’s worse, it is bigger. How is that possible? I didn’t think it could be possible to get larger than what it was. It really really sore too. Odd. Oh well, it can’t get worse now. Can it??? Oh yes it can. Later that night I night I notice the area above my eye is a bit swollen. Not really sure what’s going on, but maybe some tea tree oil will make it better. Go to sleep with the hope that it will magically be gone tomorrow. Day Five OH MY GOD I AM A CYCLOPS!!! My eye has ballooned up overnight and is almost closed it is sooooo swollen. Try not to panic. Then realize I have class in 30 minutes and will have to go out in all my shame like this. Now begin to panic. Go downstairs and get an antihistamine. After I take it the girl goes, oh its the drowsy one. Go upstairs and proceed to pass out. Again I naively hope that the swelling will go down when I wake up. Ahahaha. Silly girl, it stays just as bad. Ok. You can deal with this. You are an adult. Who cares how much of a freak you look like. Ice the area that should bring the swelling down. If not then maybe there is a traveling circus I can join??? Ok minor success. Maybe a topical Benadryl thing will work?? Success. I am no longer a freak. I can leave the convent for dinner. Day Six OH MY GOD I AM A CYCLOPS…. AGAIN. Ok I must admit I was not as bad but still, minor panic begins to set in. What do I do? I’m not allergic to anything. What is going on? A regular zit does NOT do this. What is this????? Crap, they have scorpions here. It’s a scorpion sting. I’m gonna die!!!!!!! The venom is going to spread throughout my body and I’m gonna die. I’ll have this grotesquely swollen corpse. Ok lady. Get a hold of yourself. I’m sure its just a spider bite but let’s just call a doctor to be safe. Wait in the convent for the doctor wile everyone else goes to class. Doctor- its ok. Here is a prescription Me- OK? Doctor- ok. Ok. Get random ointment, apply and go to class with only minor swelling. Success, I am normal-ish again and so I am freed from my life of exile in the convent. I will no longer make small children recoil in horror due to my appearance. Life is good.
This weekend was my field trip to Rome as part of my Medieval History class. Lesson of the trip, some people are photogenic, some are not. Eric and I do not seem to be. After comparing our photos from Barca we have decided to see who can take the worse picture here in Rome. Don’t get confused here; we are not purposefully trying to take bad pictures. We both just seem to have very unflattering facial expressions in pictures, naturally. The camera captures us at our worst moments: mid word, while blinking, yawning, laughing, ect. Let me tell you, there were some prize pictures that were promptly deleted and some that will never see the light of day.
Slogan for the day- fuck it, let’s roll. This is epitomized by our prof aka tour guide, Alessandro. The bus picks him up en route to Rome but we don’t stop somewhere and let him on. Nope that’s not his style; instead he hops on while its moving and sits down without a word to us. Ok, no big deal, why stop the bus to let him get in when he can leap jump in alla Keanu Reeves in Speed. This sets the tone for the rest of the day.
Stop one is one of the first churches in Rome. After a short blurb about it, its on to the next one. Stop for pictures? Fuck it, let’s roll. We walk a short distance and stop for some snacks/drinks. Based on the pace he set over here I can tell snacks are a good idea or I’ll be too tired to make it though the day. After giving the 16 of us 5 minutes to get snacks we are off again. We walk down the street to another church which he promptly tells us we cannot bring open drinks or food into. We all chug our hot drinks/mow out food down cause fuck it, let’s roll. The church is really cool cause there are 3 levels all dating from different periods. The lowest one is the earliest. It is Roman. Its original purpose is unknown but it was either a bank or a slave market. Then parts of it were used in the worship of an Eastern god, Mithras. As with many of his worship sites, the Christians appropriated it and build their own church on top of the site. That is exactly what we find here. The next level up is a Early Medieval church. At one point there was an earthquake and its was severely damaged beyond repair. So it was buried and in the Late Medieval period a new church was build on top of it. That is the structure we see now. The earlier layers of habitation were forgotten about and only found when a Monk fell through into a room that was under the courtyard. We spent a bit of time here but once we left the church we resumed our hurried pace. We walked past the Colosseum barely pausing for pictures, hurriedly passed the site of the Roman Forum on our way to the Palace that Mussolini built. Here we stopped momentarily to catch our breath. From there we continued onto a site which was once a Roman theater that was later turned into a private home. I missed most of what he said as he didn’t feel the need to wait for the entire group to get there before he started. As suddenly as he stopped, he started off again. We walked a bit, came up some steps, and we found ourselves in the Jewish Ghetto. We had lunch there and then set off in search of the Pantheon. Passing, but not pausing at, many interesting sites we got the Pantheon. Wordlessly he entered it and began his blurb as I was still admiring the sheer immensity of the building. Five minutes later we set off again. Side note, some of the best, read worst, pictures of the day were taken here in that 5 minute span. By this time the group has thinned out and is essentially single file training after him for blocks. I am somewhere near the end so I completely miss what he has to say about the next building. I don’t even know what it was called. Before the next fuck it, let’s roll moment I have just enough time to admire the fountain outside said building. There is this weird looking creature, kinda like a platypus mixed with an alligator. It would be on the side of evil in some low budget fantasy movie. This is the last spot on the tour today.
What did I lean on my field trip?
Red flowers symbolize a person’s holiness/ location in heaven
Mosaics were used in earlier Medieval times but due to cost and time were phased out in favor of frescoes
There are not many/maybe only one round church in Rome
And MOST importantly, how to take a picture while walking
So I lied about having a field trip to Rome on the 2nd weekend, turns out its actually scheduled for the 3rd weekend. Sorry, I know I’m an awful person. This mistake meant I had a free weekend to fill. What to do? Why not go to Barcelona? Yeah, that’s right a weekend trip to Barcelona- its that easy to do that here.
There were 9 of us that went and the entire trip was accompanied by my incessant counting of 3, 6, 9, 3, 6, 9… Sad thing was that I was super hung over during the trip there and all I wanted to do was sleep it off but the tiny seats found in all modes of transportation we took made that impossible. Travel on planes, trains, and automobiles do not mix with hangovers. We left Cortona after classes on Thursday and arrived late that night in Barca. First impression, the city is a lot cleaner than Rome. We were super excited to get away from pizza and pasta at every meal but because it was late and our hostel was located in a residential area there were not a lot of restaurants open. Sadly we had to settle for pizza that night. The next day we went sight seeing and I found a Starbucks. Highlight of the trip, hahaha. Just kidding. I wasn’t super keen to see a whole bunch of places and rush everywhere so mostly just drank sangria at all sights and relaxed. Delicious. We did some shopping too then just went back to the hostel. The next day was similar, sangria and sights. That night however we decided to go out-loca people style. In Spain, the clubs don’t open til late and when Alberta ones close they are just starting to get busy. The 9 of us went out via the Metro. Once we got off the metro we were swarmed by guys trying to sell us cans of beer and promoters trying to give us flyers for their bars. The one we chose had 3 levels and 3 rooms all playing different music. There was a top 40, hip hop, and electronic room. Well to call it top 40 is being generous. More like 5 years ago top 40 plus LMFAO. Sadly that is the most current North American music that has made it over here. Its weird to see all these people that do not speak English sing every word to all these English songs. It makes you wonder if they understand the words and if not, as I suspect, then why are these songs so popular? I wouldn’t want to listen to music I don’t understand. Ps, no one there speaks English. Oddly enough that does not stop them from speaking to you. Even when you tell them you don’t speak Spanish they keep talking at breakneck speed to you in Spanish. Do you think I’m joking and can secretly understand you? Or do you think that if you keep speaking I’ll magically learn the language? No. No matter how many times you day the same thing I will still not be able to respond. One sided conversations are not my idea of fun, so no, this will not help you pick me up. Silly boys.
As the night went on groups of us left but Shannon and I stayed til the bar closed at like 6:30??? I didn’t have a watch so I have no idea. All I know is that after much deliberation on how to get home we realized that it was late enough that the Metro had started running again and we could take that home. We got in at 7:30 and had to leave by 11 that day for the airport. Ugh. I immediately regretted staying out so late remembering my inability to sleep on the plane. Who needs more than 3 hours of sleep to function, not me apparently?
The trip home was kinda frustrating. After trying to manage 9 people’s interests all weekend and all of us running on only a bit of sleep, patience was a virtue in short supply. Everything was going relatively smoothly until we got back to Rome and had to get to Termni, the train station. Some wanted to take the train and some wanted to take the bus which was cheaper but takes a bit longer. As we were walking through the arrival area trying to decide this random guy stopped us and proceeded to pitch the idea of us all taking a van there. He said it would be the same cost as the train. Everyone just stood there and the same words were exchanged by both sides repeatedly.
You can go to whatever hotel you want. We want to go to termini.
Yes 12 euro and you can go to whatever hotel you want. We want to go to termini
Some people weren’t sure about it so we walked away at one point but then someone was like wait its a good deal, why not? The pause encouraged the guy to ramp up his sales pitch and as a result some others joined the its a good idea side. Result, we were all just standing there in limbo. Ugh, I hate indecision. So, for better or worse I was like, ok let’s do it. Let’s call it an adventure. Nothing scary or dangerous happened it was just weird. The van was too small by 2 seats so we all had to squish in and the guy kept trying to get us to pay him to take us to Cortona or on some other trip later. He only relented with his pitches when we agreed to take his phone number. His prices were ridiculous though so we have never called him. He then played tour guide for the rest of the trip pointing out things we had all already seen, even though we told him we had all already been to Rome. Guess that got lost in translation. Finally we made it to the train station. As luck would have it there was a train leaving fairly soon after we got there and going in the direction we needed to go however we could not quite agree which track it was on. After much deliberation and repeated checking of the board we decided on a track. I asked the conductor guy just to be safe and he told me the train stopped at Cortona. Keep this in mind later. The train stopped the town before Cortona and we all got our stuff ready anticipating that we would be the next stop but surprise, the train passed right by our picturesque little town. That’s right, the conductor lied to me. Lesson learned, never trust a train conductor. There was mild panic in the group as they speculated when we would get home and where the next stop was. Thankfully we found a fellow passenger who spoke English (kinda) who told us the next stop was not Florence, but Arezzo. Unlike Florence, Arezzo is actually super close to Cortona so we could at least hope we would get home at a reasonable hour; we just needed to catch a 20 minute train back from Arezzo to Cortona, no worries. In the end the journey home took a bit longer than expected but everything turned out fine, thankfully.
There is an undeniable charm to this city, I don’t know what it is exactly but I love it here. History lesson, there has been a settlement of some kind on this location since the Etruscans (pre-Roman civilization) build one in approximately 700 BCE. In a master feat of engineering they drained the entire valley below the city and so in the mornings when the mist from the valley rises and mixes with the smoke from wood people use to heat their homes there is this mist that covers the valley below so it looks like I live above the cloud level. I heard someone call it a sky-land and so I’ve taken to calling it that too. Its so cool to see.
There are some interesting sights in and around the city (well for me anyway). I’ve walked to the main church at the top of the mountain/hill whose bells can be heard ringing no matter where you are in the city every 15 minutes. There is also a fortress one level above that dating to the Renaissance period above the church. The fortress was commissioned by the de Medici family. If you walk like 30 minutes outside of town into the countryside there is a monastery literally built into the hill. It was one of the earliest made by St. Francis and his followers. There is also a lake that is pretty close but I have not been to it yet.
There is a Saturday market, think 104 st farmer’s market, which sprawls over 2 of the main town squares. Its mostly gypsy vendors selling cheap quality clothes but also some food stalls. Fruit and veg, cheeses, bread, random fish and cured meats. I hear it has a really good pork sandwich. I haven’t tried it though so I can neither confirm nor deny this. I can tell you that they have a roast pig in the stall that they shave the meat from, head and all. Not my idea of delicious.
The night-life is not particularly bumping but there are some places to go if you want some late night refreshments. One is the discotheque which has all these weird decorations: chairs that look headless bodies of provocatively dressed women, paintings of portions of women’s bodies in pin up style garb, and the piece de resistance an angel outfit with a ball and chain attached to it. Random. The other place is called Lion’s Well aka Hogsmead. Its seriously right out of Harry Potter, as is so much here. Its more of a pub type place where you can go to watch a soccer game and drink some beer. Surprisingly I don’t mind soccer here. The wimpyness of the players still bothers me but the game itself seems better here.
Why did they have to make Tuscan hill towns so hilly?? Its really hard to appreciate their majesty and beauty when you are bent over gasping for breath thanks to the almost 90 degree climb you just had to endure to get to your destination. While in theory there should be just as many downs are there are ups in the town, it never seems to pan out that way. Somehow it always seems as if my destinations require me to climb up. I keep hoping that eventually climbing up the mountain won’t be so hard but if the LRT stairs from last semester are any indication- I will never become accustomed to the effort. While I complain about the effort it takes to crest the hill, it is ultimately worth it. The view is spectacular. You can see sooooooo far. Its like when you take off in a plane and you can see everything in miniature for miles. The houses are all super old and everything is made of stone. That means that its always super cold inside them. The lack of central heating is kinda unfortunate but I’m surviving. The convent I’m staying in is actually a lot nicer than the hostel that the bulk of the other students are staying in, it has a better heating system and each room has its own bathroom complete with a heated towel rack. The only down side is that it is 2 levels down the mountain so I have to climb up to the hostel for dinner each night and if I want free internet. I just keep telling myself I will have a really nice bum when I get home.
School has started already here and I am going on a field trip to Rome next weekend. That’s right I said field trip and Rome. Jealous much? I will also get to go to Florence, Rome again, Perugia, Assisi, Pompeii, and Herculaneum for school. Way better than going to Galaxy land if you ask me. Beyond that there isn’t much to tell about school yet as classes just started.
I’ve learned to adapt to the small breakfasts already and my bag is always stuffed with random snacks to tide be over til dinner which is always huge. I may have developed an addiction to nutella though so I’ll have to stock up when I get home. I have it on the fresh bread every morning here. Yesterday there was a market in the main piazza and I bought a ton of local fruit which is so delicious. Its all so fresh. They even have strawberries here still which are all red, not like the ones at home. Hurray for a more temperate climate.
Holy, these young girls do NOT know how to pack! They all show up with huge rolly suitcases that weigh more than they do. They think this is ok cause once we get to school they can leave them there and be done. Problem is getting to school. The hostel we stayed at in Rome was on the 3rd floor so that means they have to drag essentially another version of themselves up all those stairs. Oh man it was hilarious to watch them struggle but the stopping after every flight got to me so I finally at the 2nd floor just took one girl’s suitcase from her and carried it up the last flight for her. Yes I am a Champ who carried 3 suitcases up the stairs. Aren’t you all proud of me, but man think about how weak their arm muscles must be if I could do it and they can’t. Poor children. Later another girl showed up again with an oversize rolly suitcase but she couldn’t even make it to the first floor without needing a break. I’m serious. No, really. So again to speed up the process I offered to carry her suitcase but this time with her. I mean why pack that much if you can’t carry it? Didn’t you think this through??? Silly, silly girls. I guess I made quite an impression cause the next day when we left to catch the bus one of those same girls asked me to roll her suitcase across the busy cobblestone street casue it was hard to roll it and she didn’t want to take too long and get hit. Hahahaha. Yes, actually. No hyperbole there.
As for Rome its ok but not at all what I expected. I’m not exactly sure what I expected, maybe something more… I don’t know what exactly, just more. Not to say its not nice; it is, sometimes. Its mostly just different. I guess its cause I’ve never really been to a place with a lot of history to contend with. In other places I feel like the historical sites are either separated from the modern cities or at least all located in one section of the city. However in Rome, there is this intense juxtaposition between new and old. Well, really its old vs older. As the “newer” parts of the Rome were added successive generations had to contend with all these pre-existing buildings, there was no way to grow and avoid them. So as a result there are all these ancient buildings in various states of deterioration which just seem to spring up out of nowhere and are haphazardly mixed in with various Medieval and Renaissance buildings. One block can be filled with Renaissance buildings but turn a corner and there are the remains of a structure which was made before the time of Christ. Think about it, I just happened upon a part of a wall constructed in some BCE year. Crazy. In theory being surrounded by all these old buildings would be nice but its not always as romantic as it sounds. There is a ton of graffiti, not on the ancient sites per say but on ALL the other buildings. Not to put Rome down but for the most part it needs a good scrubbing and a fresh coat of paint. It seems like structures made after the 17th century seem difficult to find here. Don’t quote me on the exact time reference; I’m guessing there. Maybe cause they already had so many buildings here from so early they just kept them as the city aged but its weird to not see anything built since the industrial revolution but like the airport and train station. Sadly I can’t tell you much about the “must see” sights because I didn’t really have much time to explore them before we had to meet to leave for Cortona I did manage to walk to the Colosseum which was impressive. The scale on which it was built is remarkable. Imagine how loud it would have been when full. Crazy. . I am coming back though so don’t worry its not as if I came all this way and will not see them.
I leave in 5 days and I have not packed yet. Nothing is prepared, not even a little bit. I have not even begun to consider what I will need to pack. Procrastination all the way. So, question is- what will I need for a 3 month trip to Italy?