Egypt take TWO!

August 15, 2010

Sorry for the holdup but between traveling through Morocco and the joy of writing 500 papers for my classes my blog has more or less gone on the back burner for the past week or so! But I definitely haven’t forgotten about Egypt yet so I guess it’s time now to keep on typing! And also another quick forewarning…this half of the blog will probably be just as long as the first!

I’ll start this off by saying that Thursday morning we woke up really early (like 4:30am early!) grabbed a quick boxed breakfast for the 300 and some odd students who were all on various SAS trips in Cairo and loaded into the buses again headed for the pyramids by 5am! Arriving to the pyramids just after 5 in the morning just in time for the morning sunrise was AMAZING!

Very rarely do the Egyptian authorities allow people into the pyramid complex before the official opening time long after sunrise but they made an exception for SAS and boy was it worth it! Watching the sun rise behind the 3 great pyramids while sitting scattered around the desert was definitely a memory that I will never forget. I stood in awe with my toes buried in the desert sand for a good 30 minutes just staring at the pyramids, with the sun rising up behind it thinking that this was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity and that I would never again see this again. After taking way too many pictures as the sun continued to rise in the sky, Heather, Kelly and I decided that there was no point in coming to the pyramids if we couldn’t leave without saying that we at least were able to touch them! So after the sun had risen we walked less than 10 minutes to the base of the middle pyramid and possibly ignoring the do not cross rope we walked up to the pyramid and poked it! 

Well after poking it we realized it wasn’t as exciting as we thought it would have been so we joined with another small group of SASers and traded cameras back and forth and may have possibly climbed up a couple feet of the pyramid to get a picture on it! lol…well needless to say when we say the Egyptian guard coming our way we kindly jumped off the pyramids and runaway to join the rest of the SAS groups! While walking back towards the main group of SAS students we spotted in the distance a caravan of camels coming across the desert and knew that it was almost camel riding time! Once my turn came I couldn’t have been more excited! I figured what could be more cliché Egypt than riding a camel around the great pyramids! Needless to say though my first camel ride was definitely an experience! After awkwardly mounting my camel while managing to obtain a large bruise on my shin I quickly face the next task of camel riding; staying on as my camel stood up. After quickly bonding with the girl behind me as we both grabbed each other to stay on Charlie (our camel!) as he stood up we then began our bumpy 15 minute ride that took us to the base of the smallest pyramid and back.

After spending a good 3 hours at the pyramids between the sunrise, walking around, and riding Charlie the Camel we all loaded onto the buses again and stopped much closer to the base of the pyramids allowing us to walk around the bases (apparently we got ahead of ourselves earlier). After our second stop at the pyramids we drove another 5minutes until we were at the Sphinx with the 3 Great pyramids in the background. Once at the sphinx my camera was taken from me by a little local girl about 10 years old who in about 90 seconds posed me and took about 10different poses of me and the sphinx including kissing and putting sunglasses on the statue! After some time at the sphinx we got back on the bus and traveled to a local outdoor market where we were given a little less than 2hours to walk around the area and the market at our leisure. After stopping at the market we got back on the bus AGAIN and drove to the bank of the Nile River where we all boarded 2 river boats for an afternoon cruise down the Nile.

During our lunch cruise we were entertained by both a belly dancer and a sufidervish twirler as well as the not so pretty view of Cairo from the boat windows. After lunch Rhonda’s (our tour guide) habibis (it means “my dear on”in Arabic and Rhonda called us that constantly lol) loaded back onto the bus for the last time of the trip and after a delightful three hour nap I was back in Alexandria before I knew it! After taking a quick refreshing power nap bacon the boat and grabbing a late dinner Heather, Kelly, Christiana, and I walked outside of the port to explore some of the many local market stalls near the ship when we met Muhammad, one of the shop owners. After looking around and talking with Muhammad and his father for almost 2 hours including cups of tea and pop, we headed back to the ship exhausted from our early morning wake up call for the pyramids.

 Still recharging from the long day before I slept in Friday morning (the 4th day in Egypt) and after meeting with a group for an early lunch Christina and I set out by foot to explore the markets and side streets of Alexandria. Walking up and down the side streets though we quickly discovered that Friday’s were may be one of the worst days to go out shopping as all the Muslim men were lining the streets for the afternoon for their afternoon prayers. Because of this not only were many of the shops closed but the ones that weren’t closed were inaccessible due to the hundreds of men crowding the streets. After several hours of shopping for Christina and window shopping for myself coupled with hot glasses of red biscustea we decided that the heat was getting to be too much and headed back to the ship. 

After resting and working on some homework for a but (one of the downsides to studying abroad is they give you homework lol) Christina and I met back up with Heather and Kelly to go out and meet again with Muhammad and his father whom promised the night before to buy us dinner for the night! Getting to Muhammad’s shop around 6pm  we could already smell the food coming off of the boat and boy were we glad that we had taken him up on his offer! Muhammad had gone to a local Egyptian restaurant and ordered several dozen of these pita bread type wrapped food with an assortment of stuffing including eggs, beans, and my favorite falafel (a mix of ground alfalfa, beans, and who knows what else but it was delicious!)After stuffing ourselves far past a healthy capacity and talking with Muhammadand his father for another 2 hours or so we said our good byes and headed back to the ship for the night!

Wanting to make good use of our last day in Egypt, Olyvia, Lydia, and I met up early for a light breakfast before crossing our fingers outside of the port and hailing a cab…knowing it would be hard to get a worse one than before! After talking with our driver for a bit we asked him where a good place in town to get authentic Egyptian food was and he seemed to know just the place. 15 minutes later after driving through all the small streets in Alexandria, we finally arrived at Muhammad Amid and knew the place had to be good…it was packed! After giving us a speedy tour of the place which included pointing at the steps and a picture of the Queen of Spain enjoying herself at the restaurant as well, our cab driver sat down with us to help translate. After ordering 2 of most of the main courses to split between ourselves which included 2 falafel, 2 foul (pronounced fool andit’s a type of bean filling), and 2 dishes of potatoes along with a large assortment of sides and toppings for our pitas, we were quickly served our food in about 5 minutes. Sadly for our food though, it did not last quite that long!The food there was amazing and we quickly stuffed our pitas with every combination possible of food enjoying not only the food but also talking with our cab driving and soaking up the atmosphere of the busy side street restaurant. After eating our waiter brought us out our bill that said 27Egyptian Pounds which is less than $5 US dollars and we were shocked at how cheap it was…until our cab driver told us that was the total for our whole meal not per person! We felt like we were stealing from the restaurant when we each paid the equivalent of $2 which included tip as well and we were all walking away stuffed! 

After eating at Muhammad Amid our driver took us to a government run survivor shop that was way out of our budget but we did enjoy the papyrus shop upstairs that showed us step by step how they make papyrus! After the papyrus shop we asked to go to the local Alexandria aquarium so I could finish writing my biology paper on Mediterranean fish and boy were we shocked again!Luckily the entrance was only 5 pounds (less than a dollar) because there were probably only 15 to 20 half empty and dirty tanks inside! lol After walking through the aquarium with our driver we enjoyed a quick walk down the pier(right across from the aquarium) and then called it quits for the day and headed back to the boat. After stopping quickly at Muhammad’s one more time to pick up the car touches we ordered (pendants with your name in hieroglyphics) we said a quick goodbye to Egypt and sadly boarded the ship for the last time in Egypt.

Well like I said this one was going to be another long one! lol..but I loved Egypt! It was so amazing to see everything that you had once learned about in history classes and to talk and interact with the locals always helps getting a better insight on the true culture and ambiance of the country. Now that all of my papers are done I just have exams to study for so hopefully my Morocco blog will follow soon after this one but I’m not making any promises! I hope everyone had a great summer and I will see many of you in less than a week when I return home…still have mixed feelings about this one!

Egypt...I poked the pyramids!!!

August, 8, 2010  

Ok I just have to start off by saying Egypt was absolutely amazing and completely surreal! For those of you who don’t have time to sit here and read all of this…because as a forewarning this will be a long post lol…I will try and sum up my five days in Egypt in just a sentence or two for you; so here we go…Egypt was amazing I saw the pyramids, King Tut, the Nile, the Sphinx, and just about everything in between along with riding a camel!

     So now for the much less “butchered” version of my blog! I will start off again by saying Egypt was amazing and I loved the country, the people, the food, and the culture that was all around me! We arrived in Alexandria, Egypt the morning of Tuesday, July 27 and after retrieving my passport sporting its brand new Egypt visa Olyvia, Lydia and I were headed for the gangway and stepping out of the port terminal I was surprised at what I saw…hundreds and hundreds of camels followed by miles of desert sand (ok I’m only kidding but many SAS students were expecting this lol) but no really I was surprised at what I saw. I knew Alexandria was a busy and crowded city but I would have never imagined the amount of poverty that I saw throughout the entire city. The streets were flooded with reckless drivers and an overwhelming majority of the tall housing structures appeared haphazardly built and still unfinished with concrete beams and steel wires rising out of most rooftops. After getting past the initial shock of what we saw the 3 of us hailed a taxi and were on our way for a day filled with unexpected adventure!

After arriving at the Alexandria library (which if you have never seen pictures of before you should look it up!) and realizing that our cab driver was not only going to personally usher us inside and then wait for us outside we quickly told him we were meeting friends later and paid him so he would be on his way. After spending some time exploring the inside of the library, making use of their Internet, and then spending some time in their several museums in the lower level, we decided we were ready to venture into more of Alexandria and left the library in search of a less hovering taxi driver! After discussing with our driver for some time what we wanted to do for the rest of the day and assuring him multiple times that we did not in fact want to go to Alexandria’s locations that were closed for the day we were finally able to leave the library headed for Pomey’s Pillar. On the way to the ancient ruins we were able to enjoy a quick glimpse into the life of the people of Alexandria as we weaved in and out of traffic and through countless neighborhoods and market stalls. 

Once at the site we enjoyed walking around the ruins that were left including both the pillar and a set of stone sphinx. After we finished our taxi driver took us to the train station where Olyvia and Lydia bought a set of train tickets and then we headed back to the ship early preparing for the long day ahead of us on Wednesday, but not before having yet another set of taxi issues! While driving slowly stuck in traffic a man ran across the road and in front of our taxi before jumping into the front passenger side door and taking a seat next to our driver. He then proceeded to ask us if we liked to smoke before pulling 50 grams of marijuana out of his back pocket and offering to sell it to us! Needless to say knowing that drugs are closely linked to the death penalty in Egypt we politely declined!

     Waking up early, like super early, Wednesday morning I grabbed a quick 7am breakfast (I told you it was way too early!) and met with a group of almost 200 other eager SAS students headed with a semester at sea trip for Cairo and the pyramids! After a quick three hour nap we were reaching the outskirts of Cairo before I knew it and next thing I know the guide tells us to keep looking out the right side of the bus because the pyramids would be coming into view. Within several minutes we were entering the city limits of Cairo and before I knew it I could see the largest of the Great Pyramids out of my bus window and it was the most surreal thing ever. It was one of those instances where you’ve seen so many pictures of the pyramids before, you’ve talked about and learned about them in numerous classes throughout school, but to actually be able to see the pyramids out of my bus window was something that I had never imagined me doing. 

The rest of the day continued on quickly in this same fashion of surreal sightseeing. After briefly driving past the Great Pyramids we drove on through Cairo and onto the town of Memphis just outside of Cairo to see the step pyramids of Zoser. Once there we were able to walk around the area looking at all four of the step pyramids and were allowed also to go inside two of the pyramids. Going down into the tombs was also such a neat experience! The passage to go down into the tomb was a VERY narrow pathway that wasn’t more than 4 feet high so filling more than a dozen students down into the tomb at a time was more than a momentous task lol. Once in the tomb though it was so amazing! The hieroglyphs and paintings that still remained unchanged in the tombs more than 4000 years after they were created were just incredible to see! After walking around the Zoser Funerary Complex for about 40 minutes we all boarded back on the buses and headed for a wonderful (but sadly non-Egyptian) lunch at a local 5 star hotel. After a filling lunch of meatballs, rice, and tons of deserts we all piled into the buses again but this time headed for the National Egyptian Museum located in the heart of Cairo.

     Once we arrived at the museum and unloaded everyone for the 50th time at the entrance our tour guide, Rhonda, handed all of us “whisperers” so that she could talk in a normal voice and all 50 of us could still hear her via out headset while still being able to wander with a close distance to her. Walking into the museum though I was instantly astonished; first, at the amount of artifacts that were spread throughout the museum, and secondly at the seeming lack of security of the museum. Hundreds of ancient Egyptian artifacts were just almost literally laying around the museum some behind unlocked glass bookcases while others were simply just laying out in the open for everyone to touch at their pleasure. Walking through the museum though was amazing. Hearing the stories from Rhonda about many of the artifacts and the tombs and the mummies in the museum were fascinating and seeing so many artifacts that I had only previously seem pictures of made my first day in Cairo even more surreal. The moment though that sealed the deal and just made me stop in my tracks was when I walked into the room of King Tut and saw the golden head that had once covered his mummified body sitting behind glass in the middle of the room. I just stared at the head and the decorative case that held his body for a while just in awe that not only were these objects over 4000 years old and still looking magnificent, but also just the fact that I was actually seeing these objects and was face to face with the remains of King Tut. After we finished our guided tour of the museum Rhonda gave us about 30 minutes of free time to explore the rest of the museum at leisure and Heather, Kelly and I headed straight for the mummified animals room that we had heard about! Inside the room was case after case of mummified animals ranging from dogs and cats to crocodiles, baboons, snakes, and pigeons. The most amazing thing in the room though was the several animals whose wrappings had began to deteriorate and show the remains of the 4000 year old animal inside. Seeing that a baboon that died 4000 years ago still has the nails and hair on its toes and that a dog the same age is still in perfect condition with all of its fur, ears, and tail perfectly intact was one of the most amazing things!

     After our visit to the museum we all loaded back into the bus (by this time we were pros at loading and unloading if you couldn’t have guessed that by now!) and headed for our hotel that we were staying at for the night for a quick “siesta” as our guide called it! Once we arrived at the hotel and I got over being upset that my room was just across the hall from the rooms with a perfect view of the pyramids, I unpacked and rested for an hour and a half with my roommate before getting ready for the evening! At 7 that night all 400 of the SAS students that were in Cairo at the time (and that is the real number! Lol) met at the buses and went to the base of the Great Pyramids for a nighttime sound and light show showcasing the pyramids as an amazing backdrop. Although the sound and light show ended up being kind of on the cheesy side I loved being able to watch the sunset behind the pyramids before the show began and it made for some awesome photo opportunities! (how many people can say they seen that!) After the sound and light show that lasted just over an hour we all went back to our hotel for a late but much needed 10pm dinner. After another hearty meal of meatballs and rice and again way too many deserts we all went back to our rooms and collapsed for the night but only after scrubbing all the desert sand from off of ourselves and anxious for the day ahead of us!

     Well like I warned everyone at the beginning of this blog this one would be a very long entry! So I’m going to give you this much for now…go enjoy myself in Marrakech, Morocco for a couple days…and then when your eyes have rested up from reading I’ll finish writing and post the second half of my Egypt blog for you! Hope everyone at home is doing great and I can’t wait to hear back from everyone!

Turkey, two continents?one day; check!

July 31, 2010 

First off I have to apologize that it has taken me so long to write this entry, it’s been nearly a week since I left Istanbul but school is setting in and in the two day between Istanbul and Egypt (yes I’m in Egypt right now!) I had two big papers and an exam to work on….needless to say my Istanbul blog was put on the back burner lol.

I don’t even know where to start with Istanbul other than it was amazing! In my opinion Istanbul was the first city that I had been in on this trip that was truly a huge cultural difference than the United State or what I had ever seen before. Walking through the streets of Istanbul there was no doubt in your mind that the western culture that we are used to is not what they are accustomed to but it made for an amazing time to people watch and try to learn about another culture that is so foreign to what I am accustomed to. We docked in Istanbul on Tuesday the 20th of July and let our adventures go from there!

Let’s see, day one!

:( Sorry still no pictures....

July 27, 2010 

So for those of you who keep asking for pictures I PROMISE I had every intent in the world today to post some pictures! But......we came to the huge new library here in Alexandria (oh yes by the way I'm in Egypt now!) anyways we came to the library and after paying to get in they took all of our bags and put them in lockers because we can't have bags in here and then I realized that my jump drive with pictures is in there as well :( 

On the bright side though the creepy guys staring at me as I got on the computer have now left! But Egypt has been crazy so far for the hour or so we've been off the boat...all I can say is the traffic here is INSANE! anyways....that's about it for now and I promise to write and post all about Turkey asap! :) 

Hope everyone at home is doing great and can't wait to hear from you all!!!

Gyros continued...yummy!

July 20, 2010

So as promised! Here’s the rest of Greece now that you all have hopefully all had your drink and potty break and grabbed another bag of munchies for round two!

Day 4 brought even more travels, more sun, and more importantly more food!!! After boarding a bus at 8 in the morning with 40 other SAS students we were headed for Delphi, the home of Apollo’s Temple ,approximately a 3 hour bus ride away from Athens. After a terrific 3 hour nap on the bus next thing I knew we were in Delphi! We started out our tour by touring the sight of the temple which not only included the temple of the god Apollo, but also various other temples, the ruins of the old town, the town’s theater and their ancient track as well.  It was so interesting to walk around the old town that was built into the mountains and when turning away from the town the view of the mountains across the valley was gorgeous! After walking through the ancient city for a while and learning about all the facts and legends surrounding the town, we headed down to the Delphi museum which house many of the pieces of art that were once housed in the old town. After our tour of the museum we began our 3 hour bus ride back down the mountain and back to Athens but only after stopping to stuff as much food into us as possible. Lunch was pre-ordered for us along with our guided tour and boy were we spoiled!

I've had my first real gyro and there's no turning back!

July 19, 2010

So for my quick recap! I HAVE MY LUGGAGE! Ok I’ll stop shouting to you all now! But I have clean clothes, Greece was amazing but…their food was even better!  Also a small disclaimer: I’m going to apologize in advance if you salivate easily because I will be recapping all the delicious food we had!!!

We got into Piraeus, Greece (only about 15 minutes from Athens) early Wednesday morning (the 14th for those land people who keep track of silly things like dates!) and although we were cleared early to leave the ship my friends agreed to stay on the ship until my luggage was safe and sound with me (see post below for way more details!) Anyways, after finally getting my bag and grabbing a quick lunch on the ship, Olyvia, Kelsey, Laura and I made our way off the ship and headed for the ancient city of Athens! Once in Athens we were able to quickly locate the Acropolis which is situated high above the city and from there found the Acropolis museum which is only several years old. After walking through the museum for a couple hours on our own and going on a quick guided tour we then decided we were well enough educated for the real thing and started our climb towards the Acropolis where the Parthenon was located.  Although it was super hot on our way up (our entire time in Greece hovered between 90 and 98 degrees) we were amazed when we reached the top and marveled both at the amazing view of Greece along with the Parthenon and its surrounding buildings as well. It was amazing to stand atop the hill and look at the remains of a building that is almost 2000 years old while thinking that now days we are patting ourselves on the back when a building is still standing only slightly crooked after 30. After wandering around the site for a while and of course taking many pictures we ventured back down the hill in search for our first real Greek meal. Since we were all so hungry we quickly found a restaurant to try and although the food was good we were slightly disappointed in what we thought was Greek food…little did we know though that“if at first you don’t succeed try again and it is guaranteed that great Greek food lies ahead!” (or the quote is something close to that…right!?!?!)

Though we had enjoyed Athens during day one Athens honestly isn’t the prettiest of cities aside from the historical aspect of it so we decided to escape to a little day of paradise for Day 2. Although we didn’t get on a 6 hour ferry and blow tons of money to get to one of the huge party islands we still had a blast spending our day at the small island of Ageana! Ageana is atiny island located off the western cost of Athens and is generally the getaway island for local Athenians making it an even better getaway spot for a group of 10 SAS’ers who wanted their own experiences and to get away from all the tourists! Shortly after arriving to the island we found a small bakery so naturally we had to try something and let me tell you their pastries with spinach inside were delicious and just about melted in your mouth! After our brief encounter with the yummy pastry shop we split into smaller groups and Olyvia, Lex  and I headed inland to explore the island and what we quickly discovered to be their version of countryside; the only difference between the Ageana countryside and Ohio’s; Ageana’s countryside is covered in olive and fig trees instead of corn and beans! After walking around the countryside we headed back to the coast to go for a short swim in the ocean…ok so maybe a three hour swim but the water was fabulous epically when the temperature was hovering around 100 all day! After drying off we headed to dinner where I enjoyed my dish of eggplant with cheese, tomato sauce, and yogurt much more than the view of fresh octopus legs hanging in the window :/ . After dinner we caught the late ferry back to Athens and called it a night around 8 after a full day of sun and swimming!

Friday was a wonderful day; not only because of what we did but also because of the WONDERFUL food we found! Olyvia and I spent the morning walking through the Archeological museum in Athens and as silly as it might sound we were shocked to see how old some of the items in the museum were. When we walked in and saw that they had pots that were over 8,000 years old, made in 6000 AD, we just stood there and stared for a while. Another un suspecting item in the museum was only about 2-3000 years old but none the less I would have never guessed that safety pins were that old! There was no doubt in our minds what they were when we saw them and all we could do was laugh as we started at 3,000 year old clothes pins! After a good 3 hours of exploring the numbers exhibits of the museum we set out in search of some good Greek food and stumbled upon (well I was going to write the restaurant’s name here but my entire bill is in Greek and I’m not quite fluent yet!) but anyways we found an awesome Greek restaurant! After sitting down we realized we couldn’t read anything on the menu so after calling our waiter over and pointing at several tables near us we were finally able to order something we called heaven but was written in the menu as Doner Chicken and let me tell you it was amazing! It was pretty much like a gyro that you eat with a fork and came with pita, grilled chicken, tomato, onion, and of course tzatziki sauce! After more than stuffing ourselves to make sure we didn’t waste any of our “heaven on a plate” we all but rolled through Athens for a couple more hours before heading back to the boat for a good night’s sleep!

Ok so I just realized how long this was so I will stop here for now, allow you a quick bathroom break and time to pop another bag of popcorn and will post my last 2 days of Greece up soon!     

It's Like Magic!

July 15, 2010 

So the most amazing thing happened on Wednesday, I got a phone call that there was something for me in the gangway and when I went down there they gave me something called luggage! This luggage thing that they gave me was really cool too! It was full of lots of clean clothes and shoes that fit me and all the shampoos and lotions that I used to use at home and it even came with complementary camera chargers and clean underwear! I’m not sure who thought of such a neat invention but I have definitely put it to good use since I have gotten it and have also started to make more friends since I don’t smell quite as much anymore! :P But in case anyone from home finds it as humorous as people on the ship do here are some final numbers as far as I know concerning my poor bag!

30 days MIA -- 15ish airports -- 5 countries -- 4 airlines -- 1 severely exploded conditioner -- 1 exploded toothpaste -- and countless wrinkled clothes!

Also I found out that you can survive a month with…

2 shirts…1 pair of pants…2 pairs of shorts…1 pair of underwear…and a partridge in a pair tree (oh wait that was in my luggage)…I guess it was a pair of old navy flip flops instead!

Snorkeling, cliff diving, and stopping runaway cars…just another day in Croatia!

July 13, 2010 

For those that bore easily!  Dubrovnik along with Mostar were beautiful and the food was delicious and we’re just going to hope that all this delicious food doesn’t start to show and I still have no luggage after 29 days!

Now for the slightly longer spread out over 4 day version! We arrived to Dubrovnik, Croatia on Thursday the 8th of July and for those of you who don’t know (and I’m not saying I did before this trip!) Dubrovnik is located in the very tip of the long “tail” of Croatia that lies along the coast of the Adriatic Sea and has miles of gorgeous coastline. The county of Croatia is only roughly 15 years old but the town of Dubrovnik nonetheless is rich with history and heritage and the old town is surrounded by a massive wall that if I had paid a little more attention to in history class I might be able to tell you exactly why it was built!

Anyways enough of the history lesson! Our first day in Dubrovnik was wonderful! Our boat docked in a small town called Gruz about a 30-40 minute walk from the old city so after a quick walk to the old city and back a group of 20 of us met back at the ship for a snorkeling trip through SAS and I couldn’t have been any more excited for my first snorkeling trip (especially after I was finally able to borrow a swimsuit from a friend!) After reaching the small island where we were going to be snorkeling we received brief instruction and our snorkeling gear and were set free to go exploring! After a couple healthy gulps of lovely salt water couple with several times of burning my eyes with the same water I finally got the hang of it and was able to see little fishies swimming all around me! After about an hour ½ of us took a boat to a smaller more secluded island to do more snorkeling and look through an underwater cave. After snorkeling through the area for a bit our guide informed us that we could also go cliff diving there and I am proud to say that after tons of prodding I was able to jump off the 20 foot rock twice and loved it! The water was so clear and blue and it was amazing flying through the air! After getting back and washing up from our snorkeling trip we headed back into the old city to finish walking through the main streets of town and seeing all the various vendors selling Croatian goods.

More of Italy…I may just move here! :)

July 9, 2010

So as promised I said I would finish up my last 4 days of Italy for you after we left Rome which I can’t say compare to Rome (simply because I absolutely LOVED Rome!) but they were still amazing! After an early breakfast in our hotel in Rome Thursday morning we headed for the train station to catch the 3 hour train to Florence and after a quick 3 hour nap the next thing we knew we were in Florence! After grabbing a quick lunch and finding a hotel to stay in for the night we quickly grabbed city maps and began exploring the wonderful city located in the middle of beautiful wine county – Tuscany. Our first evening in Florence Kelsey and I were both pretty tired so we spent most of our time simply walking through the towns winding streets and enjoying the sights, sounds, and yummy Italian food smells of the city along with its beautiful sunset over the river that evening! After waking up the next morning though we began our grand adventure of Florence beginning with a visit to the Medici chapel in which the Medici family was buried. Afterwards we toured the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore as well as the bell tower and baptistery that were built alongside of the church. Our plans were then to go see the statue of David and then on to the Pitti Palace but after seeing the line to David was 2 and a half hours long in the sun we decided to forgo that experience! After the place and a quick lunch we then boarded a train headed to Pisa.

Once arriving to the town of Pisa we followed a steady stream of tourists to the back of the town to a lawn in which everyone was staring at a tall skinny building that upon further inspection was not only crooked but very evidently leaning very sharply towards the ground. Not understanding what was going on with this crooked building or “leaning tower” we decided to join in the fun and snapped a handful of pictures with this leaning tower in Pisa and then toured the cathedral nearby. After walking through the church we grabbed another delicious Italian meal of none other than PASTA and spent several hours walking around the quite little town. Although the town is only known for its tower the town itself was also quite cute and not nearly as overrun with tourists as many of the other places we had been to.

When in Rome...make sure to do it all!

July 5, 2010
Quick Italy recap for those of you who don’t like to read or who are at work and aren’t supposed to be reading this! Rome, Florence, Pisa, Capri, and Pompeii were all amazing and I still have no luggage after 21 days!

Ok now for the slightly longer version! Italy has been absolutely amazing and I have love traveling around the country for the past 8 days with my friends. We got into Civitavecchia on Tuesday and a group of 8 of us headed straight for the train station on our way to Rome and although it was super early in the morning I couldn’t have been any more excited! The train ride to Rome was just over an hour and after arriving in Rome and finding our hotel and reminding our group about 500 times that we were in Rome we set out…for Pizza! After devouring my first of many pizzas in Italy we decided on our plan of attack for seeing Rome for the day but were quickly distracted by the gelato shops on every corner…so we succumbed to our instincts and  enjoyed our first of many gelatos in Italy as well before finally heading out to see the sights.

First stop…the Roman Forum! Although it was crazy hot and we weren’t sure what many of the ruins were it was still really cool to walk among all of the ruins and try to imagine how they built these building over a thousand years ago without the machines and technology we have today.

Second stop…the Colosseum…and it was awesome!

Walking up to the Colosseum the first thing I thought of was how big it actually was but secondly was how surreal everything was. To me the Colosseum (along with many of the other things I have seen) has always been pictures in my history books that I am forced to remember; but actually seeing, walking up to, and touching the Colosseum, it was nothing I had imagined I would do! I loved walking through the different levels reading the different descriptions along the way and trying to imagine what it had looked like when they had originally built it. In all though, it was amazing to see and something that I will never forget I had the chance to experience! After walking through the ruins we had made plans to meet for dinner at the Trevi Fountain (doesn’t that sound romantic lol) so after taking pictures and throwing our coins in for good luck we went out for a dinner of delicious Italian Pasta!

Waking up early Wednesday morning we made the 5 minute walk to the Vatican from our hotel and were at the Vatican by 8:45 to get good seats for the Papal audience at 11 that day and although it was crazy hot sitting out in the sun for 2 hours waiting it was so worth it when Pope Benedict went by in his pope-mobile less than 5 yards away from where I was standing! After the Papal audience we headed to the Pantheon, followed by the Spanish Steps, the Basilica of Saint Maria Maggiore, and the church of San Giovanni in Laterano followed of course by pizza, lasagna, and gelato!

Our last day in Rome we spent wandering in awe through the Vatican. We started at Saint Peter’s Basilica, followed by the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel and afterwards we walked under the basilica where many of our past pope’s including Pope John Paul II are buried. After a day at the Vatican we weren’t sure what else to do to fill in our evening so our hotel manager suggested a walk by the river, visiting Circio Massimo (which we still aren’t sure what it used to be!) and a walk and dinner through the oldest section of Rome; Trastevere which were all absolutely wonderful! 

Well this looks about long enough to put anyone to sleep so I will write more later on Florence, Pisa, Capri, and Pompeii! Chaio for now!

Mountain Climbing with Flip flops!

June 30, 2010
For anyone back home who was wondering and wants the super quick recap of the last several days…yes I am still alive, Spain was awesome, and I am on day 15 with no luggage!

Now for the slightly longer version for your reading pleasure!! We got to Spain early Thursday morning (the 24th for all those people on land who still keep track of days and dates!) ate a quick breakfast and went to a diplomat briefing that we have to do at every port. After our briefing the ship was cleared and we were aloud
onto dry land…unless you were lucky like me and got to go listen to several Spanish poets for your poetry class! Lol After the poetry discussion and lunch we headed out to explore downtown Barcelona and it was amazing!

We started with walking down Las Ramblas one of the busiest streets in Spain and after an hour or two veered off down one of the side street and it was like another world! There was instantly hardly any traffic and the few people that were there all seemed to be locals; away from all the tourists. We spent the next 6 hours walking through all the tiny streets through the city taking pictures, talking, and loving the views! On all sides there were winding roads with tall building with their balconies and flowers growing from them like in the movies, we loved it! After walking for so long we came back to the boat later for a quick power nap and headed out again around 10 for dinner (the payee was delicious!) and then walked around the city till about 1 when we headed back into port for the night.

Friday morning we woke up early again and went back into town to catch the Red Bus Tour. With this tour we were able to buy on bus ticket that went around the city explaining different buildings, histories, and things like that while stopping and allowing us to wonder and catch another red bus when it came through. We stopped and visited many places in Barcelona including several Gaudi homes and the Sagrada Familia church (also by Gaudi) which was absolutely beautiful! The stained glass inside as well as the facades on the outside were so awesome to see. For lunch we stopped on the side of the road to a small sidewalk cafe and I enjoyed my lunch of a salad with pineapple, grilled chicken, fresh bread with olive oil, my glass of red wine, and flan (I felt very sophisticated lol). After our late lunch we rode back to the main street in town and pretty much ran back to the ship to make it just in time for a set of free SAS tickets that we got for a "Barcelona at Night" tour. It was to be a tour of Barcelona, although it was very rushed and we revisited the Sagrada
Familia we also went to this huge fountain where they have a water/sound/light show every weekend night that was really neat to watch both the fountain and the mass of people! After a long day we finally decided we were hungary for dinner around midnight so we grabbed a bite to eat while walking around the city at night.

Saturday morning..waking up early again! (I’m noticing a not so fun trend starting here!) we got on the metro to the train station and from there rode the train to Monserrat. We had heard several people talking about it and decided to give it a try for ourselves and I am certainty glad we did! Once there we rode the cable cars up the mountain a bit till we reached sort of their town with a church in it. After walking around exploring for a bit we went inside the church which was beautiful before deciding we should climb the mountain as well! From where we were on the mountain we rode a funicluar farther up the mountain to a place where we thought at the time had fabulous views. While taking pictures a guy our age near us asked if we were speaking English and we found out that the 3 of them were currently studying abroad in Europe as well and after talking for a bit we decided to climb together. As we continued to climb we passed more and more people who were deciding to turn around but we were determined to read the top and once we did it was breathtaking. We had miles upon miles of hills and small towns spread out before us it was all we could do to stand there and stare. We climbed to the top of the second highest peak (you needed actual rock climbing equipment for the highest as well as something besides flip flops for shoes assuming!) After climbing back down the mountain we parted ways after exchanging emails and headed back to Barcelona after finding out
that rock climbing for 6 hours tends to make one tired! Once back in town we grabbed an early dinner and ran into some SAS students on the streets and headed back to the boat for an early night in.

Sunday, also waking up early!, wasn’t nearly as eventful, Kelsey went with me to the Barcelona airport and after nearly 5 hours in the airport here are the current stats on my luggage!
15 days….5 (yes 5!) countries….12 airports….3 airlines…and its still nowhere to be seen! (I’m sort of jealous of it!)

Well that’s about it for now hope I didn’t put anyone to sleep with all of this! And we are off to Italy tomorrow so wish me luck and I can’t wait to hear from everyone!

Whales and Dolphins and Land...Oh my!

June 23, 2010
So the title pretty much sums up my last 3 days! I'll start from today and back track from there...yesterday we saw land!!!! It was the first land I have seen in the past 8 days so we were all pretty excited when the tip of Africa came into view and shortly after that (and after convincing our professor to let us out early!) we sailed through the Straight of Gibraltar and were able to see the tip of Spain on one side of boat and Africa of the other!!! It was so windy though! I would wait until a huge gust of wind and jump into the air and would end up at least a foot behind from where I started lol.

Other than that and classes I have been able to see Dolphins and whales this week too! We were all eating dinner one night when someone jumped up and ran to the window yelling so naturally we all followed and saw at least 30 dolphins near the ship jumping away together through the was an incredible sight! Then the following day while eating dinner out on the back deck of the ship someone told us to look out in the distance and there were whale spouts shooting out of the water! We saw it probably 15 to 20 times before he disappeared but it was still pretty cool!

Lastly we are in our first port tomorrow! We are docking in Barcelona, Spain tomorrow morning and after listening to a Spanish poet for a short time on the boat for one of my classes my friends and I are excited to spend the next 4 days walking around and exploring Barcelona! While in Barcelona I am also hoping to find my bag as well...I have all my fingers crossed that my bag will be there patiently waiting for me but any prayers towards its safe arrival and our joyous reunion are being graciously accepted! Hope everyone from home is doing great and can't wait to hear from you all!

-Almost to Spain!

Still Lots of Water!

June 19, 2010
Not much new on the open seas! Lots and lots and lots of water! (if only I had the same problem with luggage!) I'm making the most with the 3 outfits I currently have on board and thankfully I don't think anyone has made mention of the fact that I have a 3 outfit rotation! (of course 1/2 the ship knows I don't have luggage!) lol

Other than that I started classes several days ago and so far they are not going too bad. I have also signed up for several clubs around the ship knowing that I can't sit still for long :) and am excited to help out with community service, the young kids on board, and the shipwide auction and the end of the voyage! Also a group of friends and I have been working at planning our iteneries while in port and am proud to say that I think we have figured out a rough schedule of what we want to do in Spain and have great ideas for Italy as well! Lack of internet makes planning hard but we make do with bugging everyone at home to look things up for us!

I've completely lost track of days out here so having class on Saturdays isn't as bad as I thought and surprisingly I've become very used to the ship after 5 days of being rocked back and forth with the waves....loosing an hour of sleep every night though isn't quite as fun!

Hope everyone back home is having a great summer and I can't wait to hear from you all!

Just a little stinky!

June 17, 2010

So I have officially been out in the middle of approximately nowhere for the last 2 days…with no luggage! The airlines managed to lose my bags and as far as I know the poor bag has been in at least 7 different airports since the last time I saw it... But…luckily I came well prepared! I get my luggage in 6 days when I get to Spain and until then I have 1 pair of pants, 2 shirts, 1sweatshirt, and a pair of underwear :/ not so pleasant lol…but the book store did let me in today even though they weren’t open yet so I now have clothes to wear and I have toiletries from probably ½ the girls on the ship to wear and am know as “aww you’re the girl who lost your luggage” lol.

But on a brighter note, the trip so far has been great! I have met tons of new people and are making many new friends! Classes start tomorrow; Biology, Poetry, andGlobal Studies, and I am hoping to join a couple groups here on the ship (such as helping with arts and craft with the kids!, babysitting, and a community service group!) A couple friends and I have also started planning out what we are doing when we arrive in Spain and it is crazy to think that we are going tobe traveling around the world to so many different countries with so many countless opportunities presented to us!

Well, that’s about it for now I’m not super tired but I’m 3 hours ahead of my normal time right now so I should probably force myself to sleep so I can get to class in the morning! Can’t wait to hear from everyone back home! 

Hello Canada!

June 14, 2010
Sooo...after a solid 3 hours of sleep my mom, Jared, David and I piled into the van at 4am headed for Fort Wayne for my 6am flight...I know I know way to early but what can I do! lol. So I get there and check in only to realize  my flight had been delayed! Only by 46 minutes but just enough to make sure I would be late for all my other flights and have a 6 hour layover in Detroit by myself! :/ After hugging goodbye and getting my bag checked through security they came over the PA system and announced that my flight was moved back to normal time....leaving in 15 minutes....first sprint of the day!

Landed in Cincinnati and got off the plane around 7:15....with a flight to catch at 7:30...picked up all 50 pounds of my carry on and sprinted (sprint #2 of the day!) from gate 32 to gate 2...of course they have to be at opposite ends :) . After arriving at my gate and catching my breath long enough to talk to the lady I boarded my flight to New York where once landing I found out the girl I was to meet had also been delayed! (oh reliable airlines!) After a quick bite and a few last calls home I found a group of people also going to SAS and we boarded our 50 person puddle jumper headed to Halifax!

After arriving in Halifax I found that although I was able to be redirected to my original flight my bag was not quite as fortunate. So, now I'm in Halifax bagless hoping in comes in before I leave tomorrow. After getting into Halifax I met up with several girls that I am rooming with for the night. After going to a quick grocery run and a trip out on the lake on the paddle boats we are now waiting for one last girl and my luggage to come in before we crash for the night and board the boat in the morning!

Can't believe this time has actually come...I'll be on the boat tomorrow!!! :)

It's Time!

June 12, 2010

I can't believe it's almost time for me to I am typing this now I have less than 2 days left here in the States and I'm not sure that it has quite hit me completely yet that I will soon be on a boat headed for Europe and traveling around the world. It seems like it was just yesterday that I applied and got my acceptance letter in the mail and here I am months later actually ready to set sail.

So now, I'm just hoping that my to-do list can some how begin to magically shrink on its own!...but I'm doubtful that that will happen :(

- find my passport and we thought I lost it it...check!
- pack for Ashland for when I get back home..check!
- make sure all my paper work is in place....check!
- hang out with all my friends before I leave...check!
- Actally pack for Semester at Sea.....umm oops I should probably get on that :/

Well that's about it for now so I'm thinking next time I write I will be on a boat...someplace warm!

Getting Closer

May 29, 2010 

I can't even believe it 17 days until I leave...just over 2 weeks and I still have so much yet to do. Delta switched times for my flight home making it too early for me so after canceling that less than 3 weeks before  leaving, that's my current concern (I think I'd rather get stuck in Europe than Virginia if I had to get stuck somewhere!) On top of looking for plane tickets I'm also spending all my lunch breaks at work reading over travel guides, country printouts, and scouring maps of the Mediterranean trying to figure out what I'm doing about overwhelming!

Needless to say I'm still super excited for my trip and can't wait for this awesome experience!

Counting Down

May 12, 2010

So my boat leaves in exactly 34 days (not that I'm counting or anything!) and I couln't be more excited! I still don't think it has hit me yet that I am going to be seeing so much of the world in only 5 short weeks and that is truly going to be an oppertunity of my lifetime. I get more and more excited every time I talk to someone new that is going to be on the boat with me or every time I get another email update from Semester at Sea. I can't even imagine how excited I'm going to be the day before I leave! Until then though, I'm working 40 hours a week here in Bryan at Anderson and Vreeland...I guess making money for later in the summer! Well I guess that's about it for now...maybe by the next time I write I'll be in the middle of the ocean!