Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Winter Break and the New Year!

First, I would like to apologize to my avid readers (if there are any) for not writing for so long. In my defense, I was away on holiday and visiting family during this long period. I was not consciously choosing to neglect you. Because of my long absence, this post will be excessively long, and for that, I would also like to apologize.

After a grueling 8 weeks of classes my Winter holiday began on the 6th of December at 1:04am. Well, actually it began earlier when Maura, Melody, and I were standing on High street just minutes after saying goodbye to David and Mason. We were all waiting there for the bus as the frigid air whipped our faces and we watched drunken university students wander from clubs and bars. Melody and I rummaged through our purses to find our coach tickets just as the bus peaked around the bend, which we quickly produced. Maura turned to us, looked at our tickets, and said "we had to print those??" and that is how the journey began. Thankfully, I had an extra 20 quid to loan her and we set off on the bus to Stansted Airport to catch our 6am flight to Rome.

Rome was completely wonderful. As we rode the bus into city center I saw these amazing remains of Roman buildings decorating the hills. It truly was spectacular. I could not believe that this was the city that holds the remains of a culture that I studied for four months. I simply couldn't believe it. I remember us walking from our hostel after arriving on a leisurely stroll down the street and suddenly happening upon the Colosseum! We were shocked. None of us were expecting it to be so close, because it was literally 10 minutes away from where we were sleeping. As we walked around this 2000 year old monstrosity, my mind reeled and couldn't reconcile the view in front of me. How is this possible?? I simply can't really be here! There was definitely a disconnect between my mind and reality.

In Rome we saw the Pantheon (which was terribly crowded), the Colosseum, and the Vatican. The visit to the Vatican Museum was by far the most interesting excursion in Rome. We went on the 2nd day (Monday) in the morning, arriving there at 9:30, only to be greeted by a line that wrapped around half of Vatican City. As we stood in line waiting our turn, we passed cripples begging for money at an alarmingly slow pace. Maura, Melody, and I attempted to divert ourselves by playing word games, such as naming all the countries in the world. (I failed miserably.) It took us over two hours to get inside. After seeing the first gallery, Maura decided this looking at old art thing was not her forte and went to the pizzeria (who knew there was a pizzeria in the Vatican? It's no doubt overpriced) and said she would catch up with us later. Melody and I left her there and proceeded to get a little lost for 30 minutes until we at last found our way in to the significant galleries that lead to the Sistine Chapel. We walked through room after glorious room full of ancient Roman art, quickly growing weary of the teasing signs claiming that the famed Sistine Chapel was just through the next doorway. As we wandered we began to realize that it would be next to impossible to find/meet up with Maura at the end of this tour, then we proceeded to not worry about it for the time being.

Finally, we arrived at the glorious chapel that Michaelangelo painted, leaving us in complete awe of its splendor. The room was incredibly crowded and although the guards were yelling "no foto!" everyone was trying to sneak pictures of the masterpiece. OUr view was cut short all too quickly because Melody needed to go meet our friend from Jewell who was meeting up with us at the Castle D'Angelo for a late lunch, leaving me to round up Maura.

Melody left me sitting on the curb right in front of the entrance to the Vatican Museum. I attempted to call Maura but it went straight to voicemail. So I sat there on that curb waiting on Melody's return and Maura's appearance for over an hour as the sky began to dim, the temperature began to drop, and my stomach began to complain of its emptiness (no food for 8 hours = bad). After nearly an hour after sitting on the hard slab of concrete I received a call from my Scottish friend, EMma. Confused, I answered to hear her say that "Maura is lost." I responded with "Of course she is! But how do you know this?" Apparently, in a stroke of brilliance, Maura decided to go to an internet cafe after losing us and discovering her cell phone was dead in order to find someone to call us. With some maneuvering, Maura successfully met me in front of the Museum just moments before the arrival of Melody.

Needless to say, Rome was very exciting and I was very sad to leave its ancient streets, but we had to leave for Florence! Florence was also wonderful. It was much more of a laid back city, so we allowed ourselves to explore. However, we did stop in at several museums, one of which included the David. (Really that was incredible! I never knew it was so tall!) Our time in Florence was short (only 2 days) but I will say my favorite experience there was wandering through the markets near the Duomo. I found a lot of cute items and enjoyed experiencing the delights of the colorful culture.

Yet another experience occurred, which was the climax of the trip. This particular event happened we were sitting in the train station waiting on our train's arrival. We had arrived to the station early and had finally come near to the moment of our train's platform announcement. Melody and I pulled out our tickets to double check we had them and... (do you get a sense of foreboding?) Maura cannot find hers. She literally had it in her hands two minutes before yet somehow that slip of paper disappeared. As she pulled apart her backpack searching for her ticket, the platform was announced for our train. Our blood pressure rose exponentially as I watched her tear through her stuff to no avail. Finally I just yelled at her "go buy yourself another ticket!!" Melody and I were absolutely freaking out, questioning "what do we do if we miss our train?" "Should we leave her behind?" "we can't leave her behind! What if she can't get a ticket for this train??" Thankfully a few minutes later she shows up with a new ticket in hand (which cost her around 50 euros) and we ran for the train. I felt like we were in the Amazing Race: Melody and I running with our giant backpacks loaded to the brim and our purses wrapped across our bodies, sweat rising on our faces as our bodies rocked with adrenaline. Of course our assigned train was nearly at the end and we were out of breath by the time we reached the door. In some miracle we made it on the train and sat down in our seats literally shaking because of the stress and adrenaline racing through our systems, while the rest of the passengers just stared. We successfully made it from Florence to Venice, in some stroke of good luck.

Venice was wonderful of course and shockingly empty. The city tended to frustrate me because of its disorganization on a map. However, I loved my time there. We visited the Doge's Palace and St. Mark's and successfully made it to Grom, the gelato place that Rick Steeves raves about. We loved wandering around and getting lost while looking at all of the neat shops lining the streets. OUr time to leave came all to quickly, but we had to pack our bags to head to Oxford so that I could leave the next day for Kansas.

As the time has come to 12:30am, I should probably rest. I have to awake at 8:30 in order to attend lectures. However, I will write more on my time at home and adventure in Liverpool and Dublin soon, as well as my new amazing house mates!