Monday, July 20, 2009

Back on American Soil

I'm home! I'm exhausted! I'm going to bed...and when I wake up I will let you know more. For now, I'm home, safe and sound.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Last day!!!

I thought this day would never come! Im so ready to go home. So after I blogged yesterday, I went down to the grand canal to join in the feasting and festivaling...I promptly dropped my phone (the blackberry one) in the grand canal and lost it. I called mom crying, I was so flustered, tiered, and not thinking. So I made my way back to the bus to catch a ride home only to find 3 stubborn bus drivers that had no intention of going back when they were scheduled to until the firework show was over! So I sat in the parking lot and listened to the booming fireworks, couldnt see anything either!!! unless I wanted to find my way back to San Marco Square, for an HOUR!!! Then they took me back to the campsite. I had a tent alone for the first time ever...slept like the dead. Got up when my Italian phone accidentally called home, so I talked to mom again, got some of the travel info I needed and now Im checked out and have to wait for a train at 8 tonight to Paris. Good times! So I wont have a phone till Monday or Tuesday and have lost all of your numbers, addresses, birthdays, my calandar, notes, lists, etc. Never put all your eggs in one basket??? See you all soon!!!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Venice a place of charm and full of delight!

Okay so yesterday was rough...beyond rough! We missed our boat off Capri so not only did we have to repay 16 Euro each to get off the island we were late getting to the train station. In a quick decision we decided not to splurge on the coach with beds (sara warned me not to do this!) and we sat up all night trying to sleep. We both got little sleep on already exhausted stressed out sore people this was enough to tip me over the edge. I was bawling in the train station over our luggage locker not being secure. PV wanted to puke all day cause he drank too much sea water in Capri and so we strolled the streets of Verona (I ate the biggest plate of spag!) and we just took it easy. Back on the train to Venice PV was feeling a little better and wanted to eat. He decided to dash out on one of the 2 min stops and grab a sandwich...he didn't make it back on the train.

Now here is my side of the story.
Pv jumps up with the change can. I say "No! (He gives me a look) Oh fine go ahead" and I go back to reading my book. All the sudden I hear banging on the door and I try to run down the stairs but there is this guy and his bike that won't move and I argue with them to push the button to open the door. I hear loud knocking on the other side of the car and it starts to move away. I'm so shocked and pissed at the biker and don't know what to do so I go sit down and pick up my book lest I begin to cry. Then I think of all the things I should have or could do. Pv is standing with nothing and I'm sitting with everything. Let me paint a picture first. I am on a train with two huge packs and one carry on and both of our money pouches, passports, and ticket. Pv is standing on the platform with the keys to all the locks on the bag and a can of change. I could have thrown him my purse. I could have tried to throw him the ticket. I could have gotten off at the next stop and tried to come back. I kept reading. Every time I tried to stop and think the tears overwhelmed me. All I could come up with was this

He knew where I was headed

He is the kind of guy to jump a train

God is in control

So I headed to Venice with strangest looks from all the peddlers sitting in our car. They kept looking at me and his empty seat and back. Upon arriving I somehow got my pack on my back maneuvering pv's pack on my front and grabbing the carry-on in one hand praying it all stayed on. I walked to the front and center end of all the platforms and is started to rain. Then it started to pour, lightning thunder, marble size hail! (Seriously!) I was so in awe and totally dumb found as to what to do. So I waited.

I have never been happier to see PV's silly grin coming through the crowd, I totally lost it! (Ask him for his side of the story. He ran the gambit of emotions as well.) 2 and a half days of absolute craziness! This was the last straw. But no the saga does not end here.

We eventually got over the swapping of stories and started to look for our shuttle to the hostel, checked in and went to grab dinner before the bar closed. Upon returning to the room there were two more travelers there (in a 3 bed dorm). They were from Seattle and said they had just been back to the registration desk to figure this out but the woman insisted that there was only one girl in our room. We went back and explained what was up and the woman was put out and gave us a key to another tent. We arrived and found another woman there who was not happy with sharing a tent with a guy. So we went back to the original tent to tell the 2 girls to move and they had already made themselves at home and had no intention of moving even though we had been there first and it would have been more comfortable for the other woman who was expecting a female dorm not mixed. Needless to say we gathered our stuff and crashed (the woman was pissed!) At 6am she moved out very upset and banging stuff around. I promptly went back to sleep after she left. I was too tired to care. PV had considered just taking the day to relax but I had over heard him telling two girls that venice was ugly and dirty, knowing that he had only seen mainland airport and train station, I decided he needed to experience the real thing. He agreed and quickly changed his mind. It is definitely a city with its own flavor. We went to Murano, blew a bunch of money on glass and headed back to the main island and walked furiously to catch the bus back to camp to get his stuff, my room and send him off to the airport. I don't leave till tomorrow night (but I bet I make it back to portland before he does!) Now I'm back on the island waiting for a bathroom and for the festival to begin! Bring on the feast!

Friday, July 17, 2009


Alas I've lived and seen the acclaimed balcony of Juliet and took a picture of loveless tourists rubbing her bronze statues breasts in hopes of finding true love I guess. (Who ever thought of starting that tradition was the same crack pot that thought itd be funny to watch tourists climb a waterfall holding hands in Jamacia!) Verona was beautiful quiet clean and I'm glad I stopped for the morning. Now I'm off to Venice. I'm so tiered I could cry but its been a beautiful trip. One more city to go!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I'm in Verona

Yesterday we spent at Capri in the sea. We really had ment to explore the place but once we got in we didn't want to get out. (Okay so we did for lunch but then ran right back in!) There were rocks to dive off and if a person got tiered of swimming one just had to roll over on their back to take a nap. It was awesome! It was fun trying to dive when your body wants to be a bouey. Anyway, we took the night train to Verona and are here waiting to check our bags at 7 and explore to town. Maybe go to the lake before we head to venice tonight. I also am being pestered to make a decision on the cover design of my book. I can't believe how time is flying!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Okay, so last time I wrote, I wasnt anywhere near Naples! I left Cinque Terre and traveled to Siena. I spent a day recouperating while the Siena School of Language was finishing up. I slept in, did laundry, met another guy who was meeting up with one of the students to explore Europe for the next 30 days. We explored Siena together while the students were taking their last final. We went on a scavenger hunt looking for all the fountains of the different contradas, I think we found 6 out of the 17. Then we sat in the compo for 2 hours eating lunch. That was a nice change to eating on the run. We went into the compo museum and climbed a tower that had a nice view of Siena then raced back to the school to meet up with the students. They were headed out to a very nice 6 course meal and Chris and I tagged along till we knew where they were going to be and then trekked out on our own to find took us and hour and a half to find the place, then we sat there for two hours chatting with the owner...(she was from Iraq and his mom is from Serbia so they had a lot to talk about.) Then we retraced our steps to the restaurant and the school STILL wasnt done with their meal! We ate gelato on a door step and finally the students came out fat and happy. The next day PV and I headed to Roma. Two days to see Rome is not enough to scratch the surface but we were happy with as much as we did get to see. There is still so much more and we really ran through everything we did see so I have to go back! From there we headed to Naples (where we are now). It was a crazy day as it started out packing and leaving the hostel early in the morning. Dropping off our bags at the train station, picking up a ticket for Naples and starting out to see everything we could before we had to leave. We hit St Peters square and then I tripped and fell, yep, it hurt. Needless to say, I think my ankle will not recover till I get home. We saw a lot of stuff we had seen in the night but not in the day, trevi fountain and pantheon were my favorites...and then we headed back, not realizing how late it was. In the train station we split up, I went to find our train and PV to get our bags. It was one of those race against the clock moments where PV is wearing two huge backpacks pushing people out of the way and hop along me is trying not to loose him but still get us on the train on time. We made it, 4 mins early! Arriving in Naples it was late and dark. The train to the metro was fine but after that things got a little sketchy. We missed our stop along with another couple from Turkey but they found a women who walked us straight to our they just put garbage out on the street at night to be picked up and people are out drinking in all this filth so it looked scary. (I will not go into detail about all the crazy scary things we have encountered here!) During the day its much better looking and feeling. We were happy to hit the hostel that was much more clean and safe feeling. The next morning we met back up with Chris and Stephan (from the Siena School) and went to see Pompei. WOW!!! They were being hosted through couch surfing and their host was a linguist of dead languages. He also had a guest from America and one from France. They were awesome too Jeff and Baptist. I cant tell you how awesome it was to explore this place with a guy who can read the writing on the walls so to speak. He had plenty of other historical information too but kept saying that wasnt his area so if we wanted to know more we needed to talk to an expert. It was funny, Bartec was absolutely fantastic. He is studying for a year in Naples (latin and greek) and is actually from Poland. He is going to give us a tour of Naples today and a few castles and maybe the beach. Since all his guests are leaving today he has invited us to stay at his place tonight and then head to the east coast tomorrow, I cant believe how the time is flying! 6 more days for me, 4 for PV. PV has a friend in Venice and we are trying to be in Venice for Friday night. That leaves one night up in the air. I will let you know when I do!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Cinque Terre

This morning I had to say goodbye to Jacquie, it was sad to see my friend go. We have had such a great time and this last place was stellar above and beyond my wildest dreams. I don't think any camera can catch the rhythm of this place. I'm sitting here in an internet cafe, reveling in typing on a real computer instead of my blackberry, trying to figure out what to do next. Roma is the obvious choice but I'm so ready to crash by the sea and never leave it, it's hard to focus. (I will tell you about Cinque Terre, don't worry!) It's really hard to find words right now...even though it's easier to type!

Note to self:
Directions to Roma Hostel
From Termini train station you just have to take the metro direction BATTISTINI (Linea A) and get off at CORNELIA station;follow the exit signs direction 'Piazza Irnerio' and then follow the signs for 'Via Aurelia'. Once you are outside the metro you can see in front of you some bus stops next to a Mcdonalds; from there you can catch bus # 246 and get off in front of the camping village.The bus stops in front of a supermarket, please use the footbridge to cross the road to the camping village.

Please ignore, I don't want to pay for printing it :)
Okay, gotta go, will catch you up from my black berry on the train to Siena or Roma!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Pv got up real early this morning and caught a bus to Siena. We eventually got up, packed and headed into town waiting forever for a bus as usual. We caught a train to Bologna and then a bus to our hostel which ended up being 20 mins out of town. Unfortunately for us we missed our stop and ended up way out in the country. The bus driver said we could get off and wait for the next bus. I needed a toilet and we were hungry so not thinking we jumped off the bus. It was 100 degrees out and sunday. NOTHING was open (I walked for a mile and saw nothing!) We had to wait 2.5 hours for the next bus and it was the same bus driver who had told us to get out and wait. I could have killed him! It was nice to have AC for the next 20 mins and then he let us know we were there. (A redeeming quality!) The hostel was great! No awesome view and or happy hour but there were hot showers and beds and lockers and Ciara our host was full of great information. She sent us down the road for dinner and it was some of the best food we have had so far. We went to bed tired and happy. There really isn't much to say about Bologna. It has the oldest university in Italy. All the sidewalks are covered with pillars on street side. Very cool affect as well as pedestrian/rain friendly. Portland could learn some thing from them. We climbed a tower that had worn wooden steps and plaques at different heights, for example at 55 meters it said "tower of pisa". It was pretty cool and felt safe at the top since you were surrounded by stone walls instead of flimsy fences. We walked around a lot and it all seemed to be the same. It does have the oldest university in Italy and we met one of the conservatory students at our hostel. He was playing the stand up bass outside and it was fun to sit and listen while I read. We did check out restaurant row that Ciara had recommended and after walking a ways down the deserted alley with questionable characters I freaked out and practically ran back to the busy streets with lots of people. I am sorry we didn't find what she was talking about but at the same time it wasn't worth feeling unsafe. We did find this wine and sandwich bar where the gentleman that waited on us and kept shoving more food at us was amazing! We tried a rosso we both loved and an interesting champagne and sheep cheese with balsamic and parmesian with marmalade and real bologna! It was so yummy we were full after all the taste testing we didn't even need lunch! We left bologna and traveled to cinque terre where I fell in love! This is a place I could live out the rest of my life by the sea! Tiny towns, great trails, terraced gardens, delicious food, wonderful people! - Jacquie just left :( I need to figure out where I'm going next and get packed before check out time. To be continued!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

PV comes to visit

Even though we got to bed at one am and had very little sleep the night before, the insanity continued. PV was showing up on the 8:15 bus so we got up early and went to meet him. Now when I say early I mean accounting for a few things. Me not waking up. The bus not being at its stop when it says it will (or the next one!) And the 30 min ride around town to get there. All happened and when we got there he wasn't there. I checked my phone (I had forgotten to turn it on again) and he had emailed saying he missed his bus and would be there in an hour. We walked most of the way back to our site to hit out favorite cafe ("bar") for cappalloni and cappachino then back to the station where he was waiting for us. We went to the Duomo Piazza and toured the baptistry. It was amazing! Its ceiling was all tiled andhad gold behind clear tiles in places where it just sparkled. Its floor was a hodge podge mix of different patterns which was explained in the commentary I rented. It had been erected on the site of some homes and they just kept the original floors of the homes and built the baptistry as a special place to carry out this one (missing a catholic word, it will come to me). After seeing that it was time to book over to the Muse de Academia to visit David. First we went into the instrument part. That was cool! They had an old harpsicord and piano forte there and beautiful violins and cellos and this weird snake horn. They had some things you could manipulate your self and I learned that technically a piano is a percussion instrument because a mallet on the arm hits the string and a harpsicord a stringed instrument because it is plucked by the arm. Then we entered a huge hall. Now there are statues of David all over Florence. There is a huge Bronze one next to camp and a stone one in a piazza somewhere in town but the original marble David is unfathomable. I walked into the hall and it looked like every picture I had ever seen of him. I took some shots mydelf to document I was there and walked down the long hall. The closer I got the bigger he got. His demeaner stayed the same, thoughtful, older after having slayed Goliath, but he was bigger than life. His hands were incredible! The veins and nubby bones and tendons were all there as if you were studying a giants hands. His eyes were not solid like all the other statues we had seen so far, they looked real like you could loose yourself in them. He was the best part of my day. There wasn't anything else in that museum worth seeing besides a wonderful special collecting showing by photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. We left full. Then we went back to the Basillica to climb the Duomo. Okay so the leaning tower of Pisa was scarry. This was almost worse. There were aswesome moments lke when we were so close to the fresco painted ceiling you could touch it and whe you realize you are walking between the ceiling and the roof of the dome and there is hardly room to stand straight. There are places so small I don't suggest a clausterphobic person go! The inside of the church was beautiful and in describable. When we finished climbing the 453 steps (something like that) and emerged at the top I almost lost my nerve. The breze was strong and there was a flimbsy fence separating us from certain death. I was not the only one hugging the columns on the dome behind me. I did not like being that high up with so many people excited and carelessly jostling around for a good picture. After it thinned out. I found a quiet spot near the fence and listened to a hispanic women giving a group of kids a history lesson about christ and peter and paul (in English!) That's where Jacquie and PV eventually found me. PV tried to get me to stand near the fence for a pic. I'm sure it didn't turn out well. I was not a happy camper. I took forever getting down the tight steep skiny stair rails. I'm glad it wasn't a ladder or everyone would have known my legs were shaking. I was happy to be back on the ground at long last. We made our way to the famous "gold bridge" that is full of jewlers selling very expensive pieces. Then I bought my Florence jacket and we nade our way to camp. My foot is huge. All this walking on a sprain is not fun at all but I'm trying to ignore it as much as possible. We got back to camp in time for happy hour. They have this one really good italian beer called Poretia that I wish we had at home. After taking a break, enjoying the view and the sun going down we went back to the piazza where the play had been and eat at a Doner Kabab place we had noticed the day before while looking for Michealangelos house. After that we found gelatto and rushed back to the bus station only to find it closed. The lady who sold PV the ticket had given him the wrong time apperantly so we took him home, snuck him into camp and we all crashed. Itd been a really long and wonderful day.

Beautiful Florence!

I love Florence. Its just beautiful and full of art, history, life and every corner has some discovery in it. Today we went to the Uffizi museum. I was thrilled! I saw some of my favorite paintings and talked Jacquie's ear off about different techniques of the times and cliches found in their art. There was paint and sculpture mixed and it was in this beautiful palace...oh! Speaking of palaces! Its been so long I forgot to tell you about the other palace we went to and its extensive gardens and sculptures and costume museum! Another time. Anyway...Uffizi was quite the experience. And from the top it had an amazing view of the great Duomo (whose top wasn't put on till much later due to not having the technology to build a dome that big!) Then we had lunch at the cutest yellow and red cafe outside and ate really good food but I don't remember what. I just remember tomatoes and balsamic and so far every meal with those two have been delicious! We moved onto the Science museum where Galelio's stuff (including his finger) had been moved to an alternative sight during restoration. We were bumbed but went and saw a bunch of cool gadgets from centuries past. Out side we wandered around and happened upon Dante's house (that was cool and unexpected!) We stopped for gelatto everywhere but after a while got smart and started researching our gelatto places and asking around. That's when we really found the pleasure of true tuscan gellato! Walking around we saw a sign for a play. It was in this huge piazzaand they had been setting up for a few days (we'd walked by a few times) and this time I asked Jacquie what the play was about (her italian is so good, I don't know what I'm going to do without her!) It was Dante's Divine Commedy put to music and dance. Now this is one of Jacquies favorite author/books. You should have seen her when we happened upon his house (no surprise to her, just to me.) So even though we were exausted we couldn't pass up the chance to see the piece he created in the place he created it in. I got a literary lesson over dinner and we were off to see Dante's greatest work. Dinner! We past this mexican restorant and I had a hankering for a margarita. (I know, no surprise!) The guy yelled happy hour and we went in. I ordered some chips and salsa to go with and the salsa was oddly italian more than it was mexican. It was so yummy! Then we went to this cafeteria style place and I ordered way to much food from this kind boy who was teasing me about my choices and indecisions and so on. He wrinkled his nose at my defacing his cooking with balsamic vinigar and olive oil. It was fun but totally weird too. Wish I'd had someone to share a traditional florentine steak with! It was too much and I couldn't have put a dent in it. (Inch and a half thick as round as a dinner plate!) After we were done we walked back to the piazza, poured some wine and sat down to watch.

I can't even begin to describe what this was like. There was a huge church at one end. Projected onto it was the backgrounds for the different scenes (the woods he is lost in, the sea he has to cross, the flames of hell, satan himself, the clouds in heaven, etc. There were basically two movable platforms on stage that made up the set. The main characters sang while a dance troup did ballet and acted out the characters in the different levels of the inferno, pergitory and heaven. The voices were bigger than life! I still get chills thinking about it! I called dad and let him listen in to a trio by Dante, Beatrice and Virgil. He was on Doner's Beach in Clam Gultch and he loved it! Technology amazes me! Jacquie and I were both falling asleep but it was too awesome to leave early so we stayed to the end where they let these huge balloons go and watched them disappear into the sky. It was phenominal! Walking home at 12:30 we realized that we had been sleeping through Florences night life. The streets were bright, outfits where wild, and drinks were flowing. We made it up to the statue of David and again there were tons of people cars and music. The city lights The club outside our campsite had a line a mile long waiting to get in. Arriving at our campsite, we could have been anywhere and it wouldn't have mattered. We were OUT!

Palio continued...

So here we are, 20 deaf and hearing: LIS/ASL/Italian/English mix, hanging out in the campo as close to rail as possible at the highest point possible. People keep strolling in and the compo starts to fill up. A cannon announces the beginning and end to everything! Trials, parade, false starts and race. Even as the parade is going people are still filing in. I can't even describe what 2 million people in a square looks like with more people pouring in. When the oxen went around and the championship flag was hung over the officiating stand the doors were closed and there was no way in or out of the campo. We had been discussing through out the day our bus situation and the race start time. This is when we realized if we miss the last bus there is nothing we could do about it! We stood for two hours while the horses and riders jostled for position in lining up. There were 3 false starts. This is how it looks on tv. Cause I couldn't see anything from where I stood. There is the "ref" box (he gets escorted out of town as soon as the horses start off for sure. It is too dangerous for him to stay to see the winner in case one contrada is upset with how he handled the start of the race.) There is a rope from him to the inside of the track. Each contrada has a mascot (Turtle, eagle, worm, etc.) And is given a number (1st slot, 2nd slot,etc.) The ref waits for complete silence for the first line up. He calls out an animal and that contrada goes wild and then quiets down. This is crazy too. 2 million go from noisy and fidgety to silent is seconds. Way faster than any assembly at school or game at the Rose Quarter. He continues to call animals and they continue to line up in their respective "slot" there are no stalls just a rope. There is a lot of pushing shoving side stepping and smack talk going on. Each rider is dressed in his contradas colors with the animal on their back. Their horse has a set of reigns and head piece to match. (A horse can win the race without his rider as long as this head piece and reigns are still attached to the horse.) The riders carry a switch that cannot be used before the rope is dropped but after that any horse and or rider is fair game! Porcupine keeps shoving turtle out of his number one slot as far as I can tell. Shell might have had something to do with that too. If it takes too long to line up the ref tells them to all back out and do a lap on the leg right in front of us (I get to see more smack talk up close!) This goes on for an hour and a half until 9 are lined up in front of the rope. A second rope is raised most of the way across the track behind their butts and finally the last horse and rider (in red and green) races past them to start the race! When the short rope is at the middle of the red and green horse the front rope is dropped and they are all off. (I wish I could have seen all this but I got to observe it later on the tv in the pizzaria.) Three laps is all it takes. There were no mishaps at the corner with the mattresses (the only part of the track I could see) and the winner was a good horse length or more ahead most of the way! Turtles won! As soon as he crossed the line people poured over the fence and ran in front of the racing horses to get them to stop. It was insane! The turtle flags went up and the rest of the 17 contrada flags followed behind during the victory lap. (The last place rider gets 550 Euro first place got 150,000!)Then all the cafe's on the outside of the track bring out tables and chairs and feed everyone really fast! Not something I've experienced here, nothing is fast about food here!) The parading and music and partying carries on all night long. Everyone who is not apart of the winning contrada puts away their scarves. And all you see is turtles everywhere. Jacquie and I were exhausted having gotten up so early so after some pizza and shots, PV took us home and put us to bed before returning to the throngs of merry makers. I guess there was a water pump running that kept Jacquie up all night and she tried to wake me but I was dead to the world. It was a long hard night on her. We woke up extremely early to catch the first bus home at 630am. What a day!

Monday, July 6, 2009


So its been a while and as Tawni has so kindly reminded me "catch up with your blog!"

I will try my best to recall and help you to live vicariously through the extremely historical experiences I have happened upon so far.

July first.
Jacquie woke up VERY early. She did a lot before I even stirred including climbing the hill behind our camp site. Oh yeah! So we are staying at this camp site up on a hill overlooking Florence in an old olive grove. It has the best view, great beer, hot showers and a huge set of stairs to climb to get home every night! I did eventually wake up and we set out to explore Florence. We found a "bar" (as in coffee bar) and had capelloni (I think) Jacquie is so much better with this language. It was like ricotta cheese creamy delicious with mini chocolate chips rolled in a semi crunchy shell. A bit of heaven to go with our cappuccino. Then we set out on foot and made all kinds of discoveries. Like where the science museum is not :op we took lots of pics and strode down many streets and got the lay of the land. We had terrible pizza for lunch and were scared to try pizza again after that. (Don't worry we eventually did). I really don't remember much from this day except my feet hurting from all the walking. We pushed like we only had one day to see Florence and covered a ton of ground.

July 2nd
Today we got up extremely early (5:30am) to catch a bus to Siena at 7. We practically ran to the bus station and I sprained my ankle pretty bad on the way. Not wanting to slow down or think about how tight my shoe was becoming, I tried my darndest to keep walking. Once in Siena, we met up with PV and he showed us around. Siena is definitely a town anyone could fall in love with. Its cobble stone goes up one hill and down the next. Its tall brick and stone buildings are hardly spaced wide enough for a tiny car to pass through. Today it was adorned with the flags of different contradas (neighborhoods as far as I could tell) and everyone was wearing a scarf to show their colors. There were gangs of the same contradas parading through the streets following horses all dressed in matching colors. A lot of pride was being flaunted and history being replayed. You didn't wear a flag and walk alone without getting roughed up by another contrada. We met a lot of hearing and deaf students from the states and deaf people from all over Italy. We learned as much italian sign as fast as we could. It was one of the top experiences of my trip so far. So many different dialects too! The older deaf folks relied heavily on spoken Italian so that made it hard for us folks that didn't speak it. Jacquie has been interpreting for me since she got here. I'm so surprised at how much she learned in such a short time. I don't know what I'm going to do when Jacquie leaves me. I know nothing of the language here. Maybe ill go to England instead. They sorta speak english :)

Anyway, some deaf folks cooked our group some great Italian cuisine and then we all headed to the Compo. We stood there for 5 hours total. 2 hours waiting for it to start so that we could have a good view of one corner of the track. Then the parade started. It lasted one and a half hours! Each contrada had their own group of flag bearers that waved and tossed and put on quite a show and their own drummers and knight and horse and all kinds of midevil weapons. There were 17 contradas in all. They were all dressed up like pages and wow I can't explain but someday when I get home I'll show you. At the end of the parade was these 4 HUGE white oxen that pulled this wagon with the bishop of whatever church this race was dedicated to and other important people. After the parade the horses and their riders came out (bear back mind you) and started their way around to the starting line.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Trip to Florence

After waving goodbye I went and found something to eat, found the restrooms (50 cents!?!) Then heard blah blah blah geneva platform 4...I ran. By the time I got up there most everybody was already on the train. (Did I mention they only stop for two minutes?) In my seat I watched the country side change again from following river valleys to winding our way through gorges. The architecture changed as well from stacked rock and clay tile roofing to more white wash walls with verigated tin and scrolly wood accents. We had arrived in Switzerland. At the train station I immediately left to see what I could see during my 2 hour lay over. I was taking a picture of a church across the street when a woman approached me and asked if I wanted a pic of me in front of it.

Meet Veronica. Older woman with 3 children ages 27-36 who looks in on her disabled neighbor and walks their dog for them. She has lived in several countries and speaks 4 different languages and asked if she couldn't show me around. I was thrilled! She told me how the church I was looking at had just had a big celebration for its 150th birthday. She took me to this river with a huge fountain and pointed to a huge old church on a hill. That one she said was 1500 years old. Then she told me to walk down to the lake and not to miss my train and not to trust people and to be careful with my bag etc...she was my Switzerland mom for an hour. Very sweet. She had to take Wendy the dog back to her neighbors and make sure they had everything they needed and then her son was coming for dinner so we parted ways. What a beautiful soul!

I saw men playing roller hockey on old roller skates (not the in line kind) near the lake. It was beautiful as the sun was going down but then I realized I must have misplaced my memory card for my camera in Avingon France when I downloaded my pics at the station before the fam left :( 16GB down. Back at the train station I got a little nervous. The only train at my departure time was going to Roma. I met a woman from Texas and her two sons headed to Rome celebrating one sons graduation. The other was a sophomore in high school. They had just come from Paris and it sounded like they were having a great time. The train pulled up and thankfully had a piece of paper that showed all the stops. Florence was one so I hopped on and found my berth. Inside was a boy from Belgium. Right after me came in to guys from Pakistan. Next stop we picked up a very old man from India (his feet where amazing! Dry wrinkled and looked as though he had never worn shoes in his life!) He coined the phrase "its salty" meaning its hot where's the AC. And last but not least a guy from Rome headed home. I found myself in a sleep car with 5 men. Not what I was expecting.

The guys from Pakistan where cousins on a crazy wild trip fitting in 5 different countries and multiple cities into 9 days. We were all getting off in Florence then They were headed to Pisa then Florence then supposed to be in Vienna that night! Crazy men! Javid was studying in Lead, England getting his PhD and come to find out he is a part time note taker for Deaf students at the university. Zulfia works in the oil fields for an Italian company in Pakistan. They invited me to take a quick tour of Pisa with them. Arriving at 6am with nothing to do till 1:30 I was game but told them as long as we get back before Jacquies plane I was cool with it. They said they still had to see Florence too and catch a train at 6:30 so we went. It was awesome!!! They were very fun to travel with. We arrived walked to the square with the tower and church and old wall. Took tons of silly pics. Their philosophy was to follow the chinese people because a they stick out and have very innovative picture taking ideas. We bought tickets to climb the tower the steps are marble and worn down a ton! The top was a little scary if you don't like heights. But they don't let you stay long. Its weird to climb down a leaning building! I was happy to have my feet on solid ground again! I had to pay to pee again and then I realized I'd lost my new wooden ring (set it down while applying sun block) I was very disappointed but it had been a good day so far. We sat down to a meal of light Italian beer and pizza. It was so good! Making our way back to the train station we just missed the train to Florence that would have gotten me to the airport on time. I started to get nervous. Jacquie and I had no way to contact each other and our plan was to meet at the airport. Javid debated the validity and authenticity of "they" and that helped me keep my mind off the fact that JQ would be sitting there forever wondering what my fate was. We arrived and finding and waiting for a bus shuttle became excruciating! When the bus pulled up to the station there she was waiting to get on! I couldn't believe it! I had almost missed her! Poor thing. I was so sorry I hadn't been there when she landed. We made our way to Campo Michelangelo and life was looking up. We freshened up a bit and headed to town for dinner taking one of the Rick Steves walking tours. It was an incredible night and we saw the old gold jewler's bridge. We decided to have diner in a whole in the wall place that turned out to have incredible food hearty house wine and stellar service.