A Travellerspoint blog

Eurotrip - Budapest, Vienna, the Alps, and the Dolomites

Roadtrip!!


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I had the ultimate Eurotrip over the weekend. I planned to tag along the day before leaving, and five of us travelled in an authentic Italian Fiat in search of a land we knew little about - Budapest. What would people do without the internet?

After google mapping our way through northern Italy at an eager midnight rush, we napped at a truck stop until sunrise. We got lost for long enough in Slovenia to constitute it counting as one of our travel destinations. I could guide you through the streets of Ptuj if you really wanted.

Our first day was greeted with cold weather but warm feelings. We were very shocked at how drastically the weather had changed. Maybe I should have considered the northern coordinates a little better – the price of spontaneity!

Everything was ok once I bought my Russian style hat (which I am currently wearing in my apartment at 12:30 am because we don’t get heat until November 1st !). To top it off we ate Hungarian goulash soup, and drank palinka and hot wine. I am excited to bring the recipe for hot wine back home. Think hot apple cider mixed with wine. You can’t go wrong.

The currency was the only place we went wrong on our trip. We were so lost in translation with Huffs that Shani ended up purchasing something for 100 euros instead of the 10 euros she had thought it was. We all learned our lesson there. I did feel pretty cool holding 50,000 huffs though.

We found a cheap place to relax after being uber tourists all day in Budapest. Our favourite submarine style pub sold beer for 3 euros a liter or the ever so confusing 750 Huffs. We played drinking games there with the Canada cards that I had brought with me. I ended up embarrassing myself while trying to teach an English lesson to my American friends. They pronounce things differently than I do. For example I say “pAsta” they say “pAWsta”. I went off with.. “Canada, Milan, Pasta, Jalapeno…” The list goes on and on unfortunately until Shani said to me “Jessica, you can pronounce your a’s differently!” My voice of reason.

The second day we explored Buda (one side of the Danube River) and Pest (the other side of the Danube River) by foot. We walked all three of the beautiful bridges, explored the parliament buildings, the palace, castles. The buildings were amazing in Budapest, but I find myself repeating that phrase about every place I visit. Perhaps I am just much too accustomed to Canadian architecture that anything and everything else is so amazing. No, they really are just that beautiful. I found myself thinking of my brother and his obsession with the movie Aladin as a child. The parliament buildings in Budapest look just like the palace! We also went to the Terror Haza Museum. The museum was to do with the communist regime in Hungary. It was very humbling.

After our depression wore off from the museum, we headed back to the hostel. While I was putting on my make up in the bathroom I asked, “Is there anywhere we can drive tomorrow that is close?” After thinking about it, we decided on a complete whim to drive to Vienna the following morning. It was apparently only 2 hours away! What an adventure, and why not? After the planning, we found a pub crawl through our hostel to go to that night. Only 3400…huffs that is. Not a bad deal with the tagline of “free shots all night”.

The shots ended up just being my favourite sugary drink as a child – Tang. Or that it was it seemed like. The boys of our group weren’t having it, and from there we discovered the infamous absinth. We caramelized sugar on spoons with a lighter and away we went.

And further and further away we ended up. The two girls and I got lost from the pub crawl group after a desperate search for a bathroom and ended up bartering with a taxi to get home. Me – I crawled out of the taxi. NOT to play the part I swear, but I did find the irony of a pub crawl mildly amusing.

The day trip in Vienna was a hangover and a half. We didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as we should have because of that and the fact that we were only there for four hours – one and a half of which we were eating. It was beautiful nonetheless. There was a neat circus/carnival going on, but my hangover kicked into overdrive in the crowd. We ate schnitzel, and my body was happy to see meat. Starbucks was shamefully one of the highlights of Vienna for me. I was able to find a to-go mug and a coffee bigger than a tequila shot. Happy hangover!

I feel like I have degraded Vienna in writing that paragraph. The palace, the parliament buildings, it is spectacular. The state of mind I was in was not, and we didn't have enough time. I need to go back and do it justice – I feel guilty. I am still so happy to have seen it.

We drove until exhaustion and stayed the night in our car. The one person who didn’t make an effort to keep the driver company was the one who had energy during the 8 hours in which we were actually supposed to sleep. How convenient. After a couple of minutes of what seemed like the longest text message of my life, I said “Josh, what the hell are you doing?”, “I’m playing tetris on my phone,” he replied. “It’s Chinese torture!” Just as I thought I was the naggy bitch, everyone else told him off as well. Sweet dreams.

We planned our roadtrip perfectly. We basically woke up in the Austrian Alps! How beautiful!!! I have a slight bias toward the Rockies, but the Alps go for miles! We had breakfast in a little mountain town in Italy before stumbling upon the Dolomite Mountains. The Dolomites are a famous mountain range in Italy primarily abundant with Germans speaking Italians. It is similar to Quebec because they tried to separate from Italy and be part of Germany. They were beautiful rocky cliffs with vegetation growing on parts of them. It was a wonderful way to spend the remainder of the road trip.

Budapest was my favourite trip so far. It was just a really fun group of people and a great place to be. The fact that it was a road trip added to it for sure. The food is fantastic. Oh flavor how I love thee. The way to my heart is through my stomach. Also, usually I have a guide book where I pretty much know exactly what to go and see, but I loved the spontaneity of that trip. We explored, and it was more about the journey and not the destination.

I am going to Paris for the weekend. It is supposed to rain and everyone from our group of internationals has said bad things about Paris, but I’m still so excited! I will have a photo of the Eiffel tower for you guys next week.

Love and miss you,
Jess
x

Posted by jwinitaly 11:34 Comments (0)

Life in Milan


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I haven't posted in a while, and I guess it is because life hasn't been as exciting in the last week or so. Well not compared to going to Oktoberfest anyway.

Last week after class something surreal happened. Shani, Jesann, and I were on the tram ride home at around 8 pm, and we made the mistake of sitting at the back when it was dark out. The trams are very long, and you're supposed to sit near the driver to avoid danger. There was this little girl who both Jesann and Shani pointed out to be so beautiful. She had large green eyes with long eyelashes and a dark complexion with dark curls. She really was stunning, and we all noticed. One of the women she was with started talking to us in Italian, and we became friendly with her. She was with two other women, and they were all dressed strangely. Shani joked to me that they looked like gypsies. They seemed to be dying for our attention for some reason. They acted very oddly and seemed to be mocking us and laughing very loudly. They stared at us, and it was very uncomfortable. A lady who was alone next to Shani told us to be careful and ignore them. I guess the lady heard her and started yelling Italian curse words at our guardian angel. We ignored them, but they mocked us and said things about our appearance and continued to stare. The worst part of it was their laugh that was so loud and wicked. We waited for our nice lady to get off the tram because she was alone. Then we quickly moved to the front of the tram where there were a few others. As we walked past them, one of the ladies yelled "BOO" and the little girl repeated it several times. These people were gypsies. Was this little girl even belonging to them? She seemed like the perfect little lure. We wanted to take her home with us. How sad it is that she is so corrupted by those evil people by such a young age. We got off at our stop, but instead of going straight to our apartment, we ran into our little pizza shop for safety. The lady in there immediately asked us "What's the problem?" She gave us little chocolates to settle us down, as we were shaking from the incident. She barely speaks English, but she is so kind. I think we owe her for the sleep that we got that night. We were very shaken up. Those women made the men that stare at us seem like Disney characters. I’ll never sit at the back again.

Shani's mom visited for the last week, and it was really nice to have her around. It was really neat meeting Shani's mom after getting to know Shani. I can see so much of her mother in her. Shani's mother took all the roommates for a wonderful meal by the Duomo. I had spaghetti - my first authentic Italian "spaghetti pomodoro" - delicious. We sat under umbrellas at dusk in the warm Italian air and sipped on wine listening to travel stories. Her mother has been everywhere! She is very interesting and passionate about travelling. She filled my head with dreams of going everywhere. It was weird though because the night that she wined and dined us was my mom's birthday. It made me sad that she wasn't the one there with us, especially on her birthday. When I mentioned my mom's birthday, my eyes actually welled up, and I felt like a huge dork because everyone noticed. Shani's mom said "She must be a wonderful lady to make you tear up". Damn straight she is! I really do miss my mom though.

Apart from the slight homesick hiccup, we had a great night. We took Shani's mother dancing to Old Fashion Cafe and had a blast. She is a very spirited lady, and I’m glad to have met her.

I Stayed home for the weekend with Marah. We were planning on hiking through Cinque Terre which is five small villages on the west coast of Italy, but the weather forecast called for 90% thunderstorms. Not ideal hiking conditions! Marah and I backed out, but Jesann had already left earlier with her manfriend. Apparently it didn't storm at all, but Marah and I had a nice chill weekend at our apartment with the two girls gone. Shani had gone off adventuring with her mom for the weekend as well. The Friday night I was able to cook at home because there was space to do it, and I finally had the time! I made meatloaf and a huge pot of chicken noodle soup, both from scratch. I was pretty proud, even though I had to Skype my mom halfway through the soup... "So I started making soup, and I don't know how." Haha. I enjoyed my home cooked meals for three days, got to love leftovers!

On Thanksgiving, Shani's mom made us dinner. She was leaving the following day, so she wanted to make us all a hearty home-cooked meal. How nice it was that it fell on my Thanksgiving, especially since my American roommates didn’t have Thanksgiving for weeks after. I was planning on eating pizza to be honest, it was much nicer to have meat and potatos and salad. She left with us all begging her to stay forever.

I ended up with a stomach bug that evening, and I slept on the bathroom floor most of the night. You know it's bad when the cold tiles feel good, ewwwwww. It lasted a couple of days, and I'm only now just feeling better. I think it was a sign that I should never skip Thanksgiving again! My family all had Thanksgiving at my aunt's boyfriend’s house, and he prepared an authentic "Newfie" meal. My tip: always be home for Thanksgiving.

Jesann's mom got here yesterday. The two moms literally missed each other by a day. We are protected another week. She took the girls out for dinner, as Shani's mom did. I regretfully didn't make it because of my stupid stomach bug. I really wanted to go, so I was disappointed about that. It was best that I didn't though because this morning I feel like a million euros (haha). I drank a bunch of water and took two sleeping aids, and I'm ready to go! Good thing because I agreed to go on a road trip to Budapest in Hungary tomorrow morning at 5 am.

I don't really know much about Budapest, but I agreed to go because it sounds like a blast. Shani, Marah and I are going with Jesann's manfriend Claudiu (pronounced Claw-doo) and our other friend Josh. Jesann will be adventuring with her mom. I'm extremely excited but a little worried about the 8 hour car ride. I am nervous about driving around Europe, but I am glad that the boys will be driving. I'm a bad enough driver in Canada let alone in the crazy streets of Italy, etc. On the other hand, maybe I'd fit right in.

After nearly a month and a half in Italy, there are things that I've grown quite fond of. I enjoy the hustle and bustle of the busy city, as I've never lived in a big city before. It is nice to blend in sometimes and not always bump into people from the past etc. I love seeing all of the beautiful people on bicycles and scooters. I kid you not, women in dresses and heels will peddle past you on a daily bases. Men in suits driving scooters look like they are out of a James Bond movie or magazine advertisement. I like the markets on weekdays where you can pick up almost anything fresh and cheap. The transit system here is stream lined and convenient in a way that everyone from seniors to businesspeople to students uses it. You can get to whole other cultures in the same time it would take to get to Vancouver in Canada. I like that everyone walks everywhere. It is the secret to staying thin and eating so much pasta! Women in heels command the streets, as if they were born to walk anywhere in heels. The streets are all flat, so you can walk miles and not break a real sweat. I love the pizza here. It isn't greasy, and it isn't doughy. It is fresh and thin. The only pizza I can compare it to is Earls pizza - the way they cook it in the fire. I like "appertivo". It is happy hour Italian style. The concept is spectacular, but I am a little out of the loop with it. You buy a drink for 8 Euros and then eat unlimited appies all laid out in a matter where you walk around and socialize with everyone. I can't speak Italian, so the food is good! Italy is pretty wonderful; however there are some things I definitely miss about Canada.

First and foremost, I miss my friends and family - obviously. If I could import you all here, I'm sure I could live here forever. I miss sushi. I know, I know, it's not really Canadian, but for me it most certainly is! I ate it at least 3 times a week when I was in Canada. Here I've eaten it twice and been a little disappointed. It is still delicious, but I wouldn't trust it as far as I could throw it. I miss labels in English. When I bought ground meat for my meatloaf, I just picked the darkest coloured one hoping for beef - dog maybe? I'm nervous about buying medication if needed that's for sure. At the same time, I miss being able to meet strangers by talking to people at the bookstore, or chatting small-talk with the grocery clerk. The language barrier is daunting and can sometimes be isolating. I miss Wal-Mart. There - I said it, sheesh. I never thought I'd see the day. Honestly though, as nice as it is to have a little family owned specialty store for everything and anything, I can never find what I need when I need it. It is virtually impossible. Sometimes I think, I know exactly where that would be in Wal-Mart, and the irony hits me when I think of me preaching about the documentary I saw about Wal-Mart to my friends. I miss the protection of the mountains. Sure it's nice to be able to walk everywhere in the flat streets, but looking forever at only the silhouettes of buildings is a little sad. Living in Valleyview my whole life, I am comforted by the mountains everyday; they also give you a sense of nature and fresh air. It will be nice to see them again. I also miss the Canadian dollar. Euros are pricey, and the coins confuse me. They have.01/.02/.05/.10/.20/.25/.50/1.00/2.00 coins! The one and two euro coins confuse me because they are smaller than the .50 coin. They look similar to the toonie though with a different metal on the outside. The pennies here are tiny! It’s bizarre.

Anyhow, it is very expensive here, and I know why I worked so hard over the summer! It feels weird to not be working, as it is the first time I haven’t had a job for a long time. I feel like it is too easy or something! I’m not in anyway complaining though; it is just weird having the spare time. When I think of my summer, however, I remember that I am now reaping the benefits of those hell days of the Max until 3 then driving to Cache Creek in the morning. Looking back now, I don’t even know how I did it.

I will have a more interesting blog next week when I return from Budapest. I love you all and miss you. I hope you all had wonderful Thanksgivings with your families,

Love Jess

Posted by jwinitaly 03:38 Comments (0)

Everything is Bigger at Oktoberfest


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It has been a few days since my trip to Oktoberfest, but honestly I needed the time to gain clarity!

Oktoberfest is Christmas for alcoholics.

After bussing for seven hours in a freezing cold three bus entourage, we waited in line to drink beer at 8 am. No coffee, no "good morning sunshine", just straight to a beer tent. I was even forced to change in a huddle of my roommates - we have our priorities!

I waited in line for 10 minutes or so with my friends only to be rejected at security for having a backpack. I was a little annoyed because there were larger purses going in, and I felt I was being punished for my sensibility.
Marah was in the same boat, so we negotiated with a pretzel vendor who looked like a trustworthy granny to hold our bags in the back. Of course we took out all of our valuables. I even accidently took out my novel. I was the only person to be walking around a beer tent at Oktoberfest holding a book by Noam Chomsky, guaranteed.

Once we got into the tent, we were bewildered at how many people were in the tent! It was like we had stuck our head underwater and seen an unexpected world. Our group was around 100 people. Do you think we could find them? No we didn’t.

It was really sad at the beginning to be at the biggest party I’ve ever been to and be missing all of our friends. We did manage to find a few of the advisors with a table full of internationals who didn't speak much English. Marah and I were thankful to have each other.

At 9 am there was rumbling across the whole tent – people were banging there arms violently on the tables. We quickly realized that the first beer was about to be poured! There was a small gazebo type centerpiece and a man began the ceremony with the first beer. I don’t know the relevance of him, but I knew it was time to drink!

Women in the classic outfits emerged everywhere with huge mugs by the tens. I still don't understand how they could carry them. I wanted the outfit, everyone had them on! They started at 150 euros there though. Good drunk tourist scam.

Marah and I started it off right with two glasses of beer by 11 am. We also bought pretzels the size of both our heads from a man in lederhosen. They proved to be tastier when dipped in our beer. The mugs held a liter of beer – around three cans per glass. They were so heavy to hold without being at our table. We were so lucky to have found some people with a table because it was a full house.

We ended up drunk with two girls from Brazil, and we were convinced we wanted to go on the roller coasters. It seemed like a good idea at the time! Marah ended up with whiplash, me - I have never had so much fun on a roller coaster. I can understand the whiplash though. Imagine not anticipating the corners and the upside-down bits of a roller coaster? Fun but dangerous!

After the rollercoasters, we found food and a grassy area with loads of passed out Oktoberfestians. We napped there for probably a couple of hours. I woke up to some German putting his arm around me telling me how beautiful I am and that he wanted to kiss me. I found the humour in the situation until I stood up, and he literally started throwing up between his legs- timing was luckily with me that day.

We didn’t realize that once you leave the tent, you can’t get back in! Oh no! We stood in line for a bit with the other hopeless drunk souls, and met some Aussies. They were hilarious! The fact that we were sober was cramping our style, so the four of us decided to ditch the line and just sit outside in the designated drinking area. Marah charmed some Swedish boys into letting us sit with them because of course there were no free tables. One of the Aussies went to the bathroom and never came back. It happens.

I went to the bathroom among the next hours and met some really cool girls! They were Irish but living and working at a pub in London. We partied with them until we had to go home. It might sound weird but it was nice to meet girls some new girl friends. It is because in Italy we can’t meet girls, it is literally impossible between the language barrier and the fact that they seem to prejudicially hate us. It was refreshing and neat to make new friends – especially since they work at a pub in London and want me to visit!

Thank God my parents bought me a watch the day we left for my trip. Seriously, thank God. I don’t know how many times it has saved me already on this trip, and as ugly as I first thought it was, I don’t ever take it off. I set my alarm for 8:30, and our bus was to leave at 10. This gave us enough time to buy some souvenirs that I wouldn’t like as much the next day, sneak out some mugs, and find our bus.

Finding our bus proved to be a problem. We didn’t seem to factor in a) not having our friends with cell phones, b) the dark of night in cold ass Germany, and c) being deliriously drunk off of 6 liters of beer. We tried the place we were dropped off in the center of Munich– no bus. We tried in front of the festival – no bus. Oh wait, they gave us a map – duh.

We looked at the map as if it were in Italian. Lucky for us, a very nice girl led us to a parking lot full of buses. What a relief! We only had to find our bus now! Then we realized that there were hundreds of buses. Oh my god. By this point Marah was crying, and I realized that I have been cursed with the fact that I’m a teeny bit more sober than she is. With that responsibility, I got very frustrated. We literally asked buses where they were going in search of the world “Milano”. I think that they all felt really sorry for us to be honest.

My bright idea ended up being.. “Oh our bus is probably NOWWW waiting where we were dropped off in the center, so we should probably go back there”. Just as we were making our way out of the bus parking lot, my name was called by one of our friends. There was the holy grail of our bus. The consequences of not finding that bus cause me so much anxiety even thinking about it now: freezing cold, not one bed in Munich available, not one ticket anywhere from Munich… oh brother. We got home though! It’s all about surviving, yes it is.

We had the craziest day. We had left Milan at Midnight, began partying in Munich at 9 am, napped by 1 pm, partied again until 8:30 pm, got lost until 9:30 pm, left Munich at 10 pm, and were in our beds at 7 am. I slept most of the way home, again in my bed until 2 pm, and I honestly went to bed again at around 10 that night. I feel like we jam packed a weekends worth of events into one single crazy day.

Among all the chaos, I did enjoy a pickle that was as big as my hot dog! I wish I could have brought some of those back instead of the ugly shirt I bought myself! However, my only regret is that I went to Germany, and I honestly didn’t see one bit of Germany. Next time!

Hope you are all keeping warm. I feel for you after going to Germany! I swear I really do.
Love and miss you,
Jess

Posted by jwinitaly 10:53 Comments (0)

Holiday from My Holiday

Southern France and Monaco


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On Thursday night my roommates and I showed up at the Duomo, and we were ecstatic. There was a massive set up for Milano Fashion week and the Duomo was being flattered with lights of all colours. Shani worked her magic on the security guard at the entrance only to find that we had completely missed the entire show by two hours. We were so disappointed, especially since we had been sitting in our apartment having some drinks waiting to go. We quickly viewed the runway with the words “Milan is Fashion” all over it before getting pushed by guards out of the Piazza. We found refuge in McDonalds in the Galleria. It will probably be the only place I can afford to eat in there. The other two girls drank their sorrows away, but Marha and I went home to pack for our weekend getaway. We didn’t think of it as a consolation prize... we were going to the French Riviera!!!

On our train to Nice we met some travelers who had been at the runway show the night before. Insult to injury it seemed to be the only public one, and it was “amazing”.

We checked into our hostel around 12:30. By checking in, I mean dumping our bags and grabbing our swimsuits. We were at the beach by 12:35 – haha. We laid on the stony beach until we needed a fresh beer or needed to cool off. The weather couldn’t have been better, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. According to Shani, the saltier the water, the more buoyant you are in it. We could be as lazy in the water floating on top, as we were on the beach. It was a nice change from running around everywhere constantly.

One of the first things I noticed about the French beaches, apart from the fact I can speak a little French, is the topless women. I was honestly debating it after seeing some of the older ladies on the beach whip theirs out, but I just couldn’t do it! Jesann pointed out a lady who had extremely fake, bronzed, pierced boobs and was playing with her little son in her lap. There was a lot of bouncing going on, and I wondered about an awkward conflict. Needless to say, I have tan lines.

We went for dinner on the boardwalk and watched the sun go down. We polished off a crème brule and were feeling very French. We met up with a couple more of our schoolmates that evening. After being denied access to a club because our guy friend Tom was too “tired” (drunk), a few of us roamed around Nice. We stumbled upon interesting people. A girl drew a map on my arm to a club that we couldn’t find. We showed it to some people and laughed along the boardwalk. Tom accidently spat on some very nice Brits, and we ended up talking to for at least 20 minutes. We eventually found a “Havana nights” style underground Cuban club that smelled of sweaty men. We danced there; or rather had our feet stick to the ground, and ended off the night eating Kebab Frites under twinkly street lights.

After sleeping in the hostel with my huge pack and waking up to “Andy, USA, 2008” written under the mattress above me, I was ready to get up an go somewhere! We went to Monaco. We took a 25 minute train and we were in our third country in two days. Monaco is the second smallest country next to the Vatican, and is a whopping two square kms. It is very wealthy and thrives off of the famous casino “Monte Carlo Casino”. We gawked at the yachts, cruise ships, and expensive cars.

Some of us climbed up to the Kings palace to gaze at the view and the cute guard in white pants. Marha and Tom stayed behind because Marha had hurt her ankle in the ocean the day before. When we met up with them, Marha had scored tickets to a yacht open house for her and Tom. We ate crepes and waited for them. Apparently everyone had been either dressed in a suit/tuxedo or had fake boobs -the powerful men and their arm candy no less. Tom got in trouble for filling up his water bottle at a water jug and was told “it isn’t a restaurant”. It was probably because he had been wearing the same recycling shirt for the whole trip up until that point. C’est la vie!

We unfortunately weren’t able to convince the king to let us stay over in Monaco, so we returned to Nice before sundown. We partied in our hostel, and meandered to a club called High-Top. They actually let Tom in this time – hurray! We had met about four people from Quebec in our hostel which I found interesting, though they didn’t seem to think so.

We checked out of our hostel at 9 am on Sunday and headed straight for the beach. We dtiched the idea of going to Cannes on account of it apparently being very similar to Nice. We only needed a beach anyway! It was funny to see all of our backpacks on the beach with us. A vendor, spotting my Canadian patches, announced “Canadian, I’ve got Heineken, Yeah Canada, I’ll be back”. We stayed on the beach until our train at 6; we had the best of luck with the weather. The only day that we didn’t spend on the beach had been the cloudy day. We returned to Milan with sunburns and a couple more countries to our list.

This weekend will be Germany, and I look forward to bringing home an Oktoberfest mug and serving you all a beer in it.

Love and miss you all,
Jess

Posted by jwinitaly 14:01 Comments (0)

When the Moon Hits the Sky...

Venice!


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Finally made it to Venice!!!

After looking up our tickets to Venice online the night before, my roommates saw that it seemed to be sold out! They frantically went to the train station, but there were tickets left. Thank god! We were to depart from Central Station in Milan the following morning. On the way home from Central Station, Jesann nearly had her whole document holder stolen! A man started yelling at this girl, and eventually he told Jesann that the girl was trying to cut the strap of her document holder! This really freaked me out when they told me because my friend Donna bought me the same one that I use to this day! We are feeling too comfortable here, and Edward Scissor Hands taught us all a good lesson.

Our train left at 7:25, and we left an hour before and still had to run for it. We slept the entire way there, and the train took longer than expected. We didn't have a very long day in Venice, but we knew that from the beginning, and we made the most of every minute.

To cross the Grand Canal to get to Piazza San Marco (Saint Marco's Square), we took a water taxi. It was packed with people. Little old Italian ladies were overly feisty, and it made me feel less intimidated to be aggressive and get a good spot. The water taxi is basically a small ferry. The people in the middle are out of luck for the view, but we all pushed our way to the edge and saw everything. The buildings, the canals, the gondolas - us four girls were in heaven! The gondola men weren't bad to look at either haha. The trip to San Marco's Square via water taxi was well worth the 6.50 Euros.

What a day! Shani has been to Venice before. She told us that it smelled awful when she was there, but you have to look beyond the smell. We prepared ourselves, but it barely smelled while we were there. I have been told that it has to do with the weather conditions, probably rain etc. Hot day and minimal stench.. good timing!

We toured throughout the square and shopped around. Jewelry and dishes made of Murano glass adorn every kiosk we walked by. They are made on a small island very close by, and it is famous all around the world. I bought a couple big rings, but I'm not sure that glass will replace my love for wooden jewelry just yet. Venetian masks of the February Venetian festival called "Carnivale" flaunted all the stores. I bought a small souvenir one with maple leaves. Probably not the most authentic one, but I couldn't help myself.

In a shop that we bought panino('s) (sandwiches) from, there was a photo of pigeons spelling out Coca Cola in the Piazza San Marco. Advertising geniuses. There are kamikaze pigeons EVERYWHERE. These pigeons are balsy! Crows back home actually move when you come near them. Pigeons, they own the air and the land in all of Italy. In the squares you can especially notice them. They fly at you like torpedoes, and I swear I've pulled some matrix moves to avoid them! I digress..

As we got lost over the canals and bridges (some 150 canals and 410 bridges in Venice), we ran into an attractive gondola man. Shani bartered him down to 15 Euros a person for a 30 minute tour. Not a great deal, but we had heard from so many people that it was like 150 Euros! We were delighted. He told us about some Venice history, and he showed us that Venice is sinking! Some of the doors have been locked up completely and windows are now used as entrances. In some areas we saw water flooding over the stairs of the entrance. How interesting and bizarre. The construction of the city baffles me; it’s an architectural marvel. Our gondola man even sang to us! He obviously does it for everyone, and it may be cliché, but we got lost in the moment of the canals and the song.. "When the moon hits the sky, like a big pizza pie.. It’s amore!!!!" The gondola ride will be something to remember forever, and I fully recommend it.

After the gondola ride, we wandered more. We got lost, and I asked a young boy where to find Piazza San Marco. He ended up hitting on me. I found it entertaining because he called me Canada and was probably about twelve. An Italian man in training no doubt.

The girls wanted to shop more, but I was interested in seeing the museums. We had minimal time, so I scooted through Palazzo Ducale alone. It was wonderful. The ancient art, artillery, and pillars were very interesting. I only wish that I had more time. After looking through the museum, I decided that I definitely will go back. I could have spent 2 hours in that one museum at least, and there were several other places that needed substantial time investments that I had missed out on as well.

We walked back to the train station and regretfully parted with Venice after a short day. The train ride home was hilarious. After searching high and low in Milan for spicy food, Shani had found chili peppers at a market in Venice, and I swear the spiciness made us all loopy. That or the beer...

Going to school today seemed so dull compared to our adventure yesterday. But no worries, tomorrow we are going to the French Riviera for the entire weekend!!! We are taking a train to Nice tomorrow at 7 am and are planning to go to Cannes and Monte Carlo, Monaco. Monaco is one of the richest countries in the world, so it should be pretty nice! I am looking forward to this trip immensely! It is a little holiday in the sun. Instead of flying, we only take a 5 hour train ride - that concept seems so weird to me still.

This week is Milano Fashion Week, and we are going to a runway show in the piazza of the Duomo!!!! I am so excited. I think that it will not be what I expect (Heidi Klum anyone?), but I will enjoy it regardless.

Wish me luck on my first overnight trip! Have a great day everyone!

Posted by jwinitaly 08:21 Comments (0)

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