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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The One with Too Many Pictures to Post

Hey everyone!

Sorry it's been a little while again since I last posted. I can't believe another month has already gone by... May 1st is just days away and that is both exciting and very upsetting. May brings us another month closer to June, and by the end of June I will be returning home to the States. I'm going to try not to go too much more into it than this or else I am going to start getting emotional. As of lately, I have been avoiding talking and thinking about it; trying to pretend it's not happening so soon has become a daily effort. It's so difficult because everyone here is starting to ask about my plans and it forces me to talk about it and continue to deal with the realization that my (almost) year abroad is quickly winding down.

Anyways, this is going to be my quick post about my wonderful spring break adventures! It is going to be much too short but that is because it is getting late (and because I don't have the energy to dig up all of the tickets and specifics for all of the cool places I went) so I am going to briefly generalize for now.

ACS's spring break was from April 3rd until the 14th, but I was getting into that mindset earlier because my friend from college, Becca, arrived to Athens the week before! I got to spend my weekend and evenings (and one day I took off) showing her all around the city I've been calling home for the past 8 months. It was such a cool feeling to be living somewhere a friend had never been before, and being so familiar and comfortable with it. :)

Once my break started, Becca and I did a quick visit to the beautiful Greek island of Hydra. It is a very small island not far from Athens, and it has such beautiful sights and views. Becca and I spent most of our time just walking around outside, stopping for a leisurely bite to eat, or sitting in the sun just relaxing and taking it all in. Plus, we rode donkeys! (Side note: I didn't realize the plural of donkey was spelled with just the "s" and not the "ies" change until this post corrected me just now!) This was very exciting for me because before even coming to Greece, I had a goal and was hoping I would be able to ride a donkey on a Greek island.

Next, Becca and I began our Italian adventures! We flew into Rome and spent Easter Sunday to Tuesday there. Thankfully, it wasn't as crazy packed as we thought it would be, and more was open than online led us to believe so that was nice, too. The first day was rainy and gross, so after we found our awesome B&B, we took the metro to the Colosseum and wandered around there. It was only there and the wait to go inside St. Paul's Cathedral that were the really busy spots. The area around the Colosseum was a sea of ponchos and umbrellas. (Mainly because every step you took, someone was asking you if you wanted to buy either of those items. Haha.) The rest of our time there was spent eating lots of pizza, pasta, and gelato... and seeing St. Paul's and the Vatican from the outside (I saw them my first time), as well as the beautiful old Castel Sant'Angelo and the Ponte Sant'Angelo. We also ended up in the Trevi Fountain area, got some delicious gelato from San Crispino (I learned about them my first time in Rome!) and the Trevi was more covered up on the sides, but also more visible in the center! So even though it wasn't completely uncovered, I got to see it a little differently this time.

From there, we were off to Siena for a very quick visit. We had some trouble trying to get from the Siena train station to our B&B because no one seemed to have the right answer and the bus drivers were less than helpful... but we finally made it! We stayed right near Il Campo and it was beautiful. We enjoyed an amazing dinner at a very small restaurant that handmade the pasta, as well as your entire dinner, right in front of you. Best Italian I had ever had, hands down. We, of course, saved some room for gelato afterwards! So we walked around with our dessert, sat in Il Campo to take it all in, then retired to our nice little apartment for the night. The next day was a very busy day with lots of climbing things up and down. We climbed the tower in Il Campo, then walked our way to the Duomo. We walked around the inside of that, then went to the museum that had original artifacts from the cathedral, and then climbed our way up the Duomo, too! Our delicious lunch and dinners that day were very well deserved!

Our next stop was Pisa, and it took a bit longer than expected to get there. Our brief evening train ride turned into us not arriving to our B&B until nearly 3 in the morning because of a miscommunication with the station workers... we ended up on a train going the wrong way. But the place was so accommodating, understanding, and nice! Our breakfast the next morning was so fantastic, and the husband and wife couple were very helpful. Becca and I walked the short walk to the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Field of Miracles. The walk there was so nice and picturesque. We window shopped most of the way there! We tried to make our bodies forget all the climbing we had done the day before (and the late night we had), and we climbed the Tower! It was such a gorgeous day and the views were incredible. I couldn't resist being a tourist and taking the pictures posing with the tower, but it was really exciting seeing it in person! We ended our afternoon with more gelato, and off to Florence we went!

The longest stay we had of the whole trip was in Florence and I'm so glad it was. The B&B we stayed at here was the best of them all! The room was so spacious and the owner was so friendly and helpful. We went out to walk around and find a place to eat for dinner our first night. We found this awesome bar/restaurant where for 8 euros, you got a cocktail of your choice and could eat from their very well-stocked dinner buffet! Now here is where some of the sequence of details may get mixed up, but the rest of our time in Florence was spent hitting as many of the well-known (and local secrets, thanks to Becca's time abroad there) sites as we could. The weather was perfect for walking around and sitting outside for some more amazing food and gelato. We went to the Ponte Vecchio bridge (walked across it, too so we could see Becca's old neighborhood and get Gusta Pizza!), the Uffizi, Piazza della Repubblica, Piazza del Duomo, the Florence Cathedral, and the original spot where the famous "David" once stood.

We also squeezed in a day trip to Chianti out in the rolling hills of Tuscany for an organized hike and wine tasting tour! It was so cool to be in such a rural area compared to Athens and all these cities we were going to. It was very peaceful. It was also so interesting to hear about and see the detailed process that vineyards go through to make the perfect wine.

Finally, Becca and I said ciao to Florence and set out for Venice, the last stop of our trip! We got quite lost trying to find the place we were staying at (which was extra challenging because we had all our bags/things, and were wandering around the small, challenging streets and bridges of Venice. Once we finally made it, we rewarded ourselves to a delicious lunch where I finally got to try some real, Italian zuppa! Gelato obviously followed. Then we took the vaporetto over to the Rialto bridge. The vaporetto was much more affordable than a gondola, so we stuck with that. I was sad not to be able to do a gondola ride, but when I saw the 80 euro cost for half an hour (and the crowded water ways), I got over it! Haha.

The Rialto (and all of Venice) had absolutely gorgeous Murano glass in every shape and form you can imagine, as well as intricate, beautiful Venetian masks. I didn't have much money to spend (with it being the end of the trip) but I could have easily spent it all on those amazing items!

We also made it over to the Piazza San Marco and Saint Mark's Basillica which were incredible to see. It was also at this point in the trip that I was so sick of being asked to buy a stupid selfie-stick that I was thiiiiiis close to taking one and hitting one of the guys with it! Haha. We crossed over the Grand Canal on the walk back to our place just after the sun had set and it was absolutely beautiful. It was the perfect end to an incredible adventure. :)

Because there are wayyyy too many pictures to add them individually here, I am going to post the link to my Facebook album here: Brittany's Spring Break Album

And that's still not even all of the pictures I took!

Well, I still need to write about my weekend in Rhodes this past weekend... but my fingers need a break and I need to go make something for dinner!

So ciao for now, and I will try to update again as soon as I can!