Thursday, November 02, 2006

Saying Goodbye


My trip was over as soon as my taxi came to the door of the hotel. My bags were packed, and I had a 2 week journey through Europe ahead of me with a friend from school. I knew the next two weeks were going to be wonderful..and I was excited to continue my European experience, I just wish I had everyone with me as well. I spent a few minutes saying goodbye to everyone, and lastly saying goodbye to three of my new best friends..Jodi, Anna, and Jay, knowing that I would most definitly see them again. I left a huge part of me in Europe, and even a bigger part of me in Rome...
What I can say is that this trip was more then anything I could ever have asked for. It was first a dream of mine that I accomplished, and luckily for me it was with 44 other amazing people that each brought something extraordinary to the experience. Secondly, this trip taught me so much about myself, especially at a time where I left huge decisions back at home..I knew that I was going to embrace this new beginning, and I had a trip of a lifetime to mark the start. Lastly, I took away friends. Amazing friends. Incredible friends, that regardless of if I would even see again, we had Europe. I look back starting in London on 44 unfamiliar faces, and leave in Rome with 44 lasting bonds. I can picture our first dinner, the Effil Tower trip where we all were glowing with excited, bike riding in Austria which wore us out, Shots in Hoftgarden that burned our mouths, Dancing around in Florence all dressed up, and well there is Drag Queens and Stippers too... but all in all I left with much more then just memories of a trip, I left with memories of an UNBELIEVABLE trip, and well unbelievable pretty much sums it up! Until next time I leave you with one of my favorite quotes: "Travel is more then just the seeing of sights, it is the change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living."

Roma



Heading into Rome-once again beautiful scenery. We stopped at a small city in the Tuscan region for lunch, and I took one last look at the beautiful hills and sunflowers. I knew Rome was going to be special, but looking back at my trip, Rome turned out to be something far more than special. Starting from the beginning, we arrived in Rome pretty late. Petey Pablo had scheduled a night tour of the city. It started to rain while we were on the tour, but nothing could stop us from awing at the old Roman remains that sat right in the center of the city. The feel of Rome was old-it was unlike anything I had ever seen, because most of the buildings resembled the city back in the old Roman empire, it was quite fascinating. I couldn't wait to really see the city, but that was going to be tomorrow- because the first night we really only had time for dinner. I remember being pretty sick this day, my body was finally realizing the long days, long nights, and no sleep wasn't the best thing. Still, I knew that I only had two days in Rome and I was craving spagetti and meatballs. We stopped at a cute restuarant on the corner of the Piazza, were we had a decent group of 12 people eating away. My meatballs really weren't MEATBALLS they were more like tiny specs of meat scattered throughout my noodles, but I guess the atmosphere made up for my meal, it was still good! When we got back to the hotel, I opted for tea to make me ready for day two.
Day 2
Well, I woke up knowing this was the last offical day with my contiki group. I woke up sad. I realized after wallowing in the fact that I would have to leave some amazing people in about 12 hours, that it wasn't going to ruin this day. We started at the Vatican. It was very important for me to be there, because I love religion, and I knew the Vatican represented so much. We saw the Sistene Chapel- I remember standing inside looking around and thinking to myself "I can't believe I am here." It was absolutely incredible to see, and really my own words do not give it the justice it deserves. I would say in regards to the Vatican as a whole, you must go. After that we headed into the city- we stopped at Vatican Pizza where I definitly ate my way through about five pieces, it really was the best pizza I had in a while. We contemplated what to do next-we knew we had dinner at the Colusseam later, so we decided to walk around, get a couple drinks, and see where the Roman roads would take us. We bar hopped, and took advantage of the fact we could drink in the streets....which we all did. We walked to the Pythagron, over the Roman river, to the Trevi fountain where I threw the two coins: One coin ensures safe travels home, and one would ensure you would be back. I knew I was coming back to Rome in about two weeks to fly home(I would be backpacking wth my best friend from college for 2 weeks,) but I threw the coin anyways I guess to make sure I really would be there! We did a little bit of shopping, had some gellato, and walked around...where I almost fell 20 times because of the cobble stone roads. I had such a great time with the people I spent the day with...Ricky Bobby, Anna, Jodi, Shawn, Dutcher, and Jay; we all bonded over beer and spirits, and really enjoyed the city and what it had to offer. Surprisingly we got everything done that I wanted to see, even in time to go back to the Colusseum.(which really was something in itself, it is huge and old, but had so much history and made Rome..well stand out.) Off to dinner we went which was right outside the colusseum. We had a wonderful time. It was our last dinner. We had more wine, and then went to the bus for the last contiki travel- our coach was our home for the 2 weeks, all the times when pictures were taken of bobble heads, the songs and dancing, and the games that got us through the time it took to get where we needed to go, I would miss this coach, and everyone on it. We played can't stop, won't stop one more time, and we got lost in the moment of craziness..and reflection of a great experience. At the hotel we decided to surprise our bosses with a toga party...all 44 of us wore hand made togas of bed sheets, and headed down for the contiki compadre revealing. It was nice to hear eveyone say something pleasant to someone else about their contribution to this amazing trip...it bonded the group. I think we all stayed up as long as possible, drinking wine, and conversing about funny memories . I remember procastinating downstairs with the 10 that were left at 3 am....I couldn't imagine not being here with these people. That night basically could go down as one of the best nights I've had...for more reasons than one... I connected with certain people that taught me so much about myself....I made a special connection with one person..that truly made me realize...well, that Europe really was much more then a destination..that it was an experience that is romantic, classic, and fun all at once. Off to bed I went dreading the morning...and saying goodbye.

View from the Top, Florence Style



So day two in Florence began with breakfast....the waitor was absolutely beautiful! I definitly had no problem ordering the contiki special, made especially for contiki travelers at Francisco's from this waitor. Anyways, once again I was in great company, and the proper breakfast made way for a spectacular day. The suck it crew once again decided we needed to do as much as possible to enjoy our day in Florence. One thing I did notice was that Florence was much more laid back then Venice, the streets were far less crowded, and I knew just walking around taking in the beautiful Tuscan views was going to be good enough for me. We started with a guided tour that took us through the center of the city to a few of the surrounding areas. I wanted to say I remember the tour, but I didn't. Once we got lost from the tour, we decided it was time to do Florence on our own. We walked to the Durmo which was amazing, because it was right in the center and represented the architecture that Florence was all about. The first thing I thought of was old romance-there were statues all around, and old Tusan stlyed buildings. The river in the city seperated what I would call "downtown" from the outer areas. We decided to take a little journey across the river to see what was on the other side. We eventually ran into the Bobooli Gardens, which we didn't actually go into but Anna and I stuck to the back to get some great pictures. It looked like something I would enjoy, full of nature and beauty, but time was ticking. We stopped from a cappacino at a local cafe across from the gardens, and I also picked up some gellato to tie me over until our great dinner. (anytime I saw gellato, I found a reason for getting some!) Finally, we decided to do some shopping- I ended up buying a cute shirt that I was excited to wear to the first "club" we were going to go to. Once again, we had to hussle back to the hotel to get ready for what was supposed to be the best dinner we would have....later proved to be exactly what it was. After getting all dolled up we were taken to the top of Florence, a spot that overlooked the entire city, and basically took my breath away. We took some great group shots, and spent time appreciating everyone that was there...making sure we all got pictures looking our best...at such an amazing spot. Then, we headed to the Chatosa for dinner. Greeted with champagne and music, I knew this was going to be a great experience. We had two long tables were half the group sat at either one...I of coarse wanted to make sure I sat with the people I spent the most time with, because this dinner was obviously something in itself, and I wanted to share it with the ones I loved.(Corny..maybe) A feast was what dinner was because I had about eight cources...yummy! The wine was overflowing and I had no problem enjoying that aspect of the meal, and it definitly was Jodi's. The food and the wine were amazing, but my favorite part of dinner was the music and the dancing. Watching Jay during Ave Maria while he was crying was adorable-and I danced the night away with my fellow friends enjoying the music and just plain having fun. After dinner, which was the best dinner, we were taken to Space Electronica....haha I walked into a huge Joker plastered on the wall. I was a little typsy when I got there, so I did not hestitate to jump on the bar and dance with Jay and Beth. After realizing I needed a break and another drink I decided to go up to VIP. Then I ran into someone who I would much rather hang out with then dance foolishly with random Italian men anyways. So, a few drinks later, and after some more dancing and talking we all decided to head back to the hotel...I really wanted gellato, but nothing was open : ( so I settled for bed instead. Jodi was running around with her bra on, and I found Luke and Jay sprawled out on one of the 6 beds in our room...haha. I decided this night was pretty funny, and if I didn't want a headache in the morning that I needed to sleep, besides Rome was tomorrow, and if it was true that all roads lead to Rome, I had a busy day!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Florence : )


So Venice was a lot of fun.. We were now off to Florence and I couldn't wait.
One thing I was really happy about was that our hotel was directly in the center of the city-absolutely beautiful I must say. I shared a room with Kathryn again..but this time we had six beds in our room...funny enough this would come in handy later on...not for what you are thinking. We only had about a hour to get ready..we were told to go eat and then we were going to go to the RED GARTER.. it was a local bar that Contiki liked to bring there groups to. I couldn't wait to go out, but I was really excited to try some more Italian food..yummy. A bunch of us went looking for a good place to eat..we wanted something authentic..so we decided go down one of the back streets to find it..and that is just what we did. The people who worked there spoke almost no english...and I loved it because it really felt like I was in Italy..which I was. I ordered this weird kind of salad that tasted like crap to be honest, and made me realize how stupid I was to want to eat salad when I was in Italy!!! Next time I ordered it was Pizza, pasta and I really wanted spagetti and MEATBALLS! (we will get to that later.) It was a great dinner though, because like always the company couldn't be beat..we toasted with some wonderful wine and for a minute I stopped to look around the table, and thought how truly lucky I was to be here. The whole trip to me seemed like a dream because it really was so UNBELIEVABLE. After dinner we went to the center of the city-which was filled with statues and was incredible, it looked old but had so much history. I saw the fake statue of David... they really liked to put him everywhere..and the Duerma (DOME) was really big!! We walked over to the Garter, we got there pretty early..like 9, which for me which almost unheard of. Of coarse it didn't take long to order our drinks..and Ana fell in love with the bartendar right away. Jason decided to do some kareoke..and had everyone screaming and dancing to his rendision of "Bohemian Rapsidy." I am not going to lie, I felt like I was at a rock concert..it was too funny. I decided to join him for "I will Survive." This song didn't go over too well..it was my time to retire. I ended up dancing with a shirtless Austrilain, which probably wasn't the best idea, because he wasn't the brighest crayon in the box..o well. I did manage to spend some time at the bar with a few of my favorite people, until I was pretty good to go. I had to have some Gellato..which is by far one of my favorite European luxuries. I think I had two cones..but it was well worth it. I ended up getting a piggy back ride home, and couldn't wait until the next day...where we were going on a tour, and shopping was crucial.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Bar Hopping in Venice




We woke up to rain on the morning we would head into Venice. I was bummed because I had to change my cloths..and I wasn't too happy about my alternative of an outfit. I was late getting on the bus with my new roomate Dana..but regardless of rain and messy outfits I was excited to see Venice. When I was little, I saw pictures of Venice and thought the gondala rides were so romantic...given, I was not going to be on a gondala with that special someone, but I knew I would love what Venice had to offer. When we got to where the ferry took us to Venice, it was pouring down rain. Petey Pablo came up with the brillant idea of buying cheap ponchos from the vendor on the side of the street. They were ugly. I thought back to when I was packing, when my mom called and reminded me to bring a poncho..and I said "I would never wear it." Well, I was wearing one. As hidious as they were, all 50 of us were wearing them, and I thought we rocked those ponchos quite well. When we got on the ferry, finally, we were really excited to see the city. Looking from the boat it was definitly a sight to see, the whole city was on water, the buildings were old but all different, and it looked like nothing I had seen before.
When we hopped off the ferry I immediately went to the first bridge I saw and saw a gondala with a cute couple passing through, I waved because I thought it was so cute, and took a picture, no rain was going to ruin this day. We had a glass exhibit scheduled for us that was really neat- this old Italian man blew through a pipe and made cute colored glass figurines..I definitly couldn't afford to buy anything here, but I loved how authentic it was to see Venezian culture. Anna, Jason, Jodi, Ricky Bobby, Shawn, me and Mark and Dutcher decided we would experience Venice by enjoying relaxing. I had a great lunch and then bar hopping we went. We stopped in Harry's Bar which is world famous for the first belleni created. I thought it was way over priced but you payed for the experience, I felt pretty special. Then, we went to a few more bars- got some beer which was fun...there is nothing like drinking with your bosses! When we were leaving the one bar, two police arrested the guys who sold fake purses on the side on the streets, it was sooo funny because I almost got run over by the police-it was a spectacle. Next, we had a lace exhibit which was really cute. I liked to see how delicate the stiching was, and how beautiful some of the pieces were that they showcased. The next part of the day was the gondala ride- the suck it crew plus Shawn and Dutcher bought a bottle of wine and departed through the canals. WE had the boy talk- haha and decided Dutcher got the lucky job of being our wingman- (he sucked at it, as we will see later on.) Jodi and I got to the sit in the princess seat..which was nice until Dutcher kicked me out-(loser) Then we decided to ask the man to sing to us, but he wouldn't, this kind of spoiled my vision of the perfect gondala ride, but the company definitly made up for it. After the gondala, we headed down to do some shopping- this is part of Venice I didn't like, too many Italian men yelling vulgar things to you while you rummaged the streets. I decided to go back to St.Marc's square because it was truly beautiful there to meet for dinner. Somehow, we ended up doing cheerleading in the middle of the square- but my favorite part was when Ricky Bobby bought roses for all his ladies. Too cute! Dinner was amazing. Once again, we had wine, and pasta- and some boney fish which was too hard for me to eat. I danced a little with Ricky Bobby and then collected my belongings and headed back to the ferry with the crew. We were all very exhausted. This was a long day- but I definitly will never forget drinking through the bars of Venice with company I will never forget. This and Rome were the two days where I was able to see some sights and then enjoy just sitting back and taking in the culture, the people, and spend time just hanging out with great people.

Monday, October 02, 2006

I swallowed too much water!



White water rafting. I had never been, and I was sooo happy to go, and especially to go in Austria. Well, the suits were a little ridiculous..we all looked pretty funny, but fun over fashion. Okay so I ended up being "o so lucky" and be accompanied by Mark and Jason- two big guys who love love love to joke around. Typically, I can keep up with their funny humor but not when I'm on a raft trying not to die. Well, our raft instuctor-Martin-was great. He was a lot fun, and made us jump into freezing cold water, stand on the raft, do turns, and even let us scream "suck it" as we paddled down the river. Jason and Mark thought it would be cute to have me sit in the front right as a huge wave basically came over the boat...let me just tell you that I probably swallowed gallons of water and I could barely breathe. They just thought that was sooo funny-but Martin felt bad for me, so he let me chill with him in the back, and I wasn't complaining. After rafting I had a nice warm shower, and a hot dog-it really was a great day-but I knew at some point in this trip I needed to get even with the dynamic dio. Anyways- the girls of the trip were bummed to have to leave the Austrian hotties behind, but Italy was next and we knew that it was going to be a great six days. We had a quick stop in Liechtenstein where I had a Kebab..it was sooo good, and I bought my mom a stamp, because supposeably they are very hard to get! It was quite a pretty country. Next, the coach drove us to Italy. I really didn't catch much of the scenery because by this time I was exhausted-maybe the water got to me. When we arrived in Venice-well outside of Venice where our hotel was we had a nice dinner where we all sat and went over the details of our rafting exploration. We got the pictures back, which really were funny! After dinner the suck it crew went running through the small town, and then decided maybe tonight would be a good night to relax before we headed into the city the next day. I will say that Italy was probably what I was most excited about before I came to Europe. I couldn't wait to experience the culture, FOOD, and wine.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Workout Plan



So the rain of the morning in Hoftgarden Austria put mountain biking on hold. Being the spontaneous person I am who can't possibly just let myself rest, I decided I would go running with the girls instead. Well, I didn't realize that running in the mountains was far different from my gym- let's just say we made up probably a mile and I thought I was going to pass out! Still, the scenery was quite pleasant and once I caught my breath I was able to go join the boys in a little game of outdoor tag football. Okay, so I wasn't neccesarily the best person on the team, but it was still fun to get outside after all the coach travel. When we finally heard mountain biking was ready, I was very excited! When would I ever get the chance to bike through this gorgeous town with people I was loving being around again. It was game time. Well, once again I under estimated the fact that biking up hills was far different from the straight streets of Florida, and once I got on my kiddie bike (its a height issue) I thought to myself that this was probably going to be harder then I thought. Thanks to Contiki, we had a great tour guide who took us all at different paces and made sure we knew where we were going. I got pretty good though, and eventually I was up with miss long legs Anna at the beginning of the line. I was impressed to find out that ice-cream and cake was on the house at this cool place that had outdoor water slides, and huge trampolines to play on. Of coarse I was over there with Ricky Booby being julted in the air- it was fun, and my ice cream hit the spot. When we got back after how ever many miles of biking I was in no rush to give back my bike, the crew and I, along with our boss Dutcher decided to go back to this trout lake we passed on the way to get ice cream. We had a little trouble going up this one hill, Dutcher and Jason disappeared from serious about 2o mins, poor Jason was having breathing issues(he was from Florida too) but eventually we made it to the lake to find more contiki people. We had taken over this small town, and we were loving it! I was appalled to find that Jessica Barrow and Jaime Sheild, two of my other bosses, were killing fishies by striking them in the head with a stone. It was gross. After the blood feast, and waiting for Jaime to catch her fish(We have a documentry showing exactly how long this took, probably 10 years...in fact she still might be there,) we sat down to eat. The woman cooked the fish they had just caught, and believe me it was fabulous! We then decided it would be a brilliant idea to race back to home ground, but we once again underestimated the fact we were exhausted. Once again poor Jason was let gasping for air. I love that kid. Anyways we were done, and I had exactly 30 minutes to dinner. That was okay because food was more important than my hair at this point. After dinner and a few shots at the bar we walked to the Silver Bullet. Let's just say I was ready for beer and fun. Ricky Booby who is from California and I decided it was time to dance, and I don't think I have ever been so silly in my life, but I loved it. I think I danced for three hours straight, but it was worth it. I definitly got my work out for the day. Jodi and I skipped home, obviously very content with our night, tomorrow we had white water rafting, then it was off to Italy!!! This trip got better with every day.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Cable Cars and Shots!



We were still in Switzerland the next morning and today we were going up to Mount Pilatus. When I saw how high we were going I was excited, but the way up well, that was a different story. Cable Cars. They are not my favorite thing, it has something to do with flying as well, letting my life go into the hands of a metal creation...that shakes. I was a tad bit scared, and my friends knew it, so making the cable car shake was on the top of their priority list,however; I was not the type of girl who wouldn't do something because of fear, I wanted to see the view, and if I had to shake in a cable car the entire way up I was going to do it!!!
It was a scary experience, they did shake the cable car the whole way up, but then I met up with Miss Jessica Barrow who happened to be a little weary of the dreadful cars too, so it was fun to stand in the back with her. :)
The top of Mount Pilatus was beautiful, the Swiss Alps were amazing, snow capped, and seemed like they went on forever. I felt like I was on top of the world, and I kind of was.
One of my favorite moments was standing on the fench overlooking the scenery and screaming "I LOVE CONTIKI." I also loved seeing a little goat who just roamed the side of a mountain, looked like he was going to fall, but he didn't and he was o so cute!
I also took the opportunity to get some authentic swiss hot chocolate.. see I live in Florida, and the only time when hot chocolate is considered is Christmas Day, and at the ice skating arena. Let's just say the hot chocolate was a treat!
Our next stop was Hoftgarden Austria. We arrived at House St. Lucus where Grandma waived to us from the window. One of the reasons why I loved Austria was because it was so quaint, I live in a big city and sometimes getting away and loosing yourself in a calm atmosphere is necessary. I know for myself, one of my favorite memories here was running with Anna and Jodi through outside, the mountains were incredible and the air was dense, I ran out of breath easily, but looking at where I was, I was appreciative that I was able to run somewhere so beautiful. That is one thing that I think I need to emphasis, being in Europe takes you away from reality, and puts you in situations where all you can do is look around in awe. I found myself in awe quite a few times, and a loss for words quite a few times as well. In fact, I think I left part of myself in Europe. Anyways, back to Austria. We walked downstairs to this cute bar that was inside where we were staying. This was definitly my favorite hotel by far, the only complaint was that our shower had no curtain and no door, so Kathryn(my adorable roomate,) and I had to make sure we were very careful when taking showers, or inviting company in.
Well, back to the bar. We had a great dinner prepared for us by the staff which was very good, and a complimentry shot from the bar. Let's just say that once I had that I was ready to continue the drinking, and the bar had some interesting choices starting with an atomic blue glacier shot that burned the back of my throat. I knew I had mountain biking tomorrow, I should have taken it easy, but I figured I couldn't pass up drinking with the contiki crew. I then monuevered my way over to the table where a bunch of people including Aaron our driver were sitting playing drinking games. Well, I opted in with my beer, and began an interesting night. We all got to know each other pretty well, and at one point I decided to see myself away from the table....it was just that time where bed seemed like a good idea, besides early wake up call and mountain biking, hmmmm... lets just say I needed some rest!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Mooo...It's Switzerland!



Leaving Paris was hard. It was a beautiful city full of found memories, but my head ache from the night before told me that sitting in the coach to recover wasn't such a bad idea. On coach people thought it was funny to capture pictures of people sleeping in funny positions...I therefore made sure when I took my nap to cover myself in Jodi's blanket. (Good thing she let me share.) When I awoke, my tour manager Pete wasn't reluctant to make sure he called me "cousin it."
When we arrived in Switzerland I was in awe at how quiant the city of Lucerne was. The mountains were overlooking a lake, and the air was fresh. Quite a difference from the hussel and bussel of Paris. All of us where so exicited to see the scenery that we took it upon ourselves to have a photo opt. As usual we were always up for some fun, and a few pyramids and towers later I was happy to be off Anna's shoulders since I almost fell about five times! We got to go into this little store where Pete knew the owners so I bought a swiss army knife for my ex-boyfriend(I still don't know why,) and lots of chocolate, (which I do know why...it was delicious!) Off to the hotel we went, and let me just tell you that the hotel was beautiful! Not only did I have a huge shower, but my bed had a down comforter(this was a luxury!) I knew that some people would go out tonight, but after Paris I was looking forward to my bed. We only had a hour to get ready for dinner.
Dinner.....well at firt I am not going to lie, I was a little skeptical. The stedkeller was a traditional swiss restaurant full of yodelers and cows. The food was veal, which wasn't my favorite. However, when my fellow contiki crew got up and made a huge conga line around the restaurant I began to have a blast. I looked around and saw over 50 people not afraid to be silly, and let loose and I appreciated everyone even more. Never take yourself too seriously is one of my favorite mottos, and everyone wasn't. Mark who I absolutely love,and Petey Pablo made way to center stage for the yoddling debut. Let's just say the yoddling wasn't up to par, but their drinking was, because both of them chugged that beer like it was their job! Nice going boys!
Just as we were about to leave one final disturbing event occured. I was sitting with Anna minding my own business and low and behold a huge cow(it was two people in a suit) came up behind me and engulfed my head in its mouth. I was frightened. It was time to go.
So, we leave stedkellers and Alfio decides to get everyone excited about jumping in the lake practically naked. Well, I wasn't into making my apperance and getting sick, but I definitly volunteered to take the pictures!
I did decide to take a run with Luke, Justin, and Megan. Just as we left, it started to pour. We all thought it would still be fun to run, so rain and all we went for it. Five miles later we headed back to the Flora hotel, and I took a well needed hot shower. I looked over to bed and saw my down comforter awaiting my arrival. Switerzerland was amazing and I couldn't wait for day two, mount Pilatus awaits.