Monday, August 15, 2011

Back, back in the U.S. Groove

After a month-long tour of Europe, it feels so wonderful (and a little strange) to be home! We spent our last few days in Switzerland (watching the Sound of Music on our bus whilst driving through the Alps), and it was so beautiful! The places we went were so unique from each other, and this was no exception. Though it replaced Egypt on our initial itinerary, I think it was worth it.
So we started out in Geneva-weird to go from boiling hot and humid in Italy to possibly winter jacket worthy weather in Switzerland. Not my favorite place, possibly due to the fact that I was tired, hungry and to solve the problem of being hungry had to pay $13 for a McDonald's meal. Not happy. However, the surrounding area of French-speaking Switzerland was unbelievable! We went on a tour of the United Nations, Nestle headquarters (internship PLEASE)and Chateau de Chillon and then on to the German-speaking part of Switzerland.
I absolutely LOVED this area. Granted, I've heard about the Lauterbrunnen Valley from both of my parents for practically my entire life, so I think I was bound to love it. The first night we were there, we went inside a mountain to see a waterfall inside of it, and it was really cool! (Literally) The next day, we got up early and rode a cable car up to the Schilthorn and ate the James Bond buffet breakfast (On Her Majesty's Secret Service was filmed there). To. Die. For. Especially the delicious hot chocolate and waffles. And the view! So so beautiful!
Basically, my Switzerland experience was filled with loads of wonderful hikes around beautiful and scenic mountains complete with cowbells ringing in the air (Yes, Hairspray's 'I Can Hear the Bells' was constantly in my head.) It was an absolutely wonderful way to end my European experience, and I will most definitely make it back there at some point in my life.
I can't believe that the Study Abroad is actually over, but now that it is, posts will definitely not be as frequent (unless everyone wants to hear about me going to the library, packing, etc.. thrilling, right?)
Back to Provo soon, but I'm going to appreciate the East Coast while I still have it! On to Deep Creek Lake, Maryland tomorrow (I guess my vacation is ongoing)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Under the Tuscan Sun

So, it has been a crazy last few days. My body is determined to work against me and doesn’t let me go more than two days without feeling like I’m going to pass out, but it’s hard to give up exploring and taking everything in to take a breather. When we first left Rome, we went to Siena, a quaint little town complete with cooking school which provided a delicious meal for us.

From Siena we went to Florence which I absolutely adored. Besides the fact that we had to walk what felt like 400 miles with our suitcases to and from our hotel (a trek complete with cobblestone sidewalks and numerous steps), this city was absolutely wonderful. It was pretty easy to get a hang of, and it was beautiful. Even if Florence was not to die for, the drive from Rome to Florence would be worth it. The region of Tuscany with its fields of sunflowers and Italian villas atop rolling hills is a place I could easily spend my summer each year (and maybe the fall, winter and spring as well.) On the bus ride, I watched Ice Age 3 with our director’s seven year-old daughter who, after watching a part with the dinosaurs, told me she wished her mom had a tail. Also in Italy, I climbed the Tower of Pisa
, went on a run in Florence and made it to Venice. Obviously we got lost there, because it is absolutely impossible not to, which was fun for the first half an hour but an hour later not so fun.

Venice was so unique though and definitely worth seeing, especially if you’re very good with maps. Yes, we did get to go on a gondola (we just had to, didn’t we?), and I just may have fallen in love. Unrequited, of course. This morning saw us out of Venice by 5:30 am and onto Switzerland! Crazy to think that we have less than a week left!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

When in Rome

Let me just start by saying that EasyJet is anything but easy. Do not be fooled, fellow travelers. We spent our Sunday afternoon, evening, early Monday morning trying our best to get into Rome and after waiting, getting on our plane, flying, getting off our plane, waiting, waiting, waiting, getting our bags, waiting, getting on a train, waiting, going through the metro station up and down stairs (with our bags, obviously), finding out that the metro we needed to take was closed for the four days that we are in Rome, climbing back up the stairs, waiting, getting on a very crowded bus, waiting, and dragging our bags up a hill, we finally arrived at our hotel. A long explanation for a long night.
The next morning we had a business visit with a man involved with Rome's Chamber of Commerce. I was not the only girl in the room having a hard time paying attention due to the translator (he can show me around Rome anyday.) The rest of the day began with a cultural experience of doing laundry at a local self service. Interesting. The couple of days in Roma have been just crazy filled with the Capuchin Crypt (the basement of a church filled with at least 4,000 skeletons of friars from their order arranged in creepy patterns. Totally creepy), the Pantheon, the Forum, San Giovanni Church, the Spanish Steps (complete with concert), Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum,

Mussolini's balcony, the Vatican,

St. Peter's basilica and Square (yes, I'm a little ashamed to say I thought about New Moon), the Borghese (absolutely incredible sculptures), the NBA's Lopez twins

, a team of pickpockets in action, the BEST pizza, gelato, Pompei, and Naples. What a whirlwind. So now we're off to Siena and Florence. Ciao bella!