A Travellerspoint blog

Lost in the City and Giulietta's Boob


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Although I'm not positive anyone besides my parents are reading this, I have more to share! Haha.

This week was a week of independency for me. After running around our neighborhood, I found this really cute cafe about a block and a half away and did homework there alone. I came home in the dark alone one night (the full block and a half lol) and felt completely safe. I went there three times this week. They accept our stipends (meal coupons that we prepaid for) which is refreshing. An old couple owns it and a young man works there. He laughed at me while holding his hand to his lips as a bottle and asked if the beer helped pointing to my homework. I like it there a lot and will likely spend too much time there doing homework. They also serve gelato which made me like it even more, in my heart not my waste line.

After venturing half a block alone, I got gutsy and made an attempt at the city. I successfully went into the city, went shopping for a gift for my mother, and sent the package home! I even bought a bottle opener and was able to get home to use it haha. I found a beautiful cafe with umbrellas close to the duomo and people watched while writing a letter home. I know that I have already been here for two weeks, but honestly, I have always been with someone while navigating through the city. I take full advantage of our roommate Shani, as she is better than a compass! As simple as it sounds, I was just happy to be able to ask directions for some places and not be tricked by a Nigerian into buying a bracelet or being pick-pocketed! It's the little things.. lol.

Today I did some laundry for the first time. After all three of my roommates have done laundry successfully in our machine, it didn't work for me! They all tried to help too and nothing but flashes of light! I pulled out the manual, but you know it's obviously only in Italian. My skills aren't that advanced. We were left behind some laundry detergent, but we were out of that too! On a Sunday, I didn't even try to go and find any. I basically ended up washing my clothes in our bathroom sink with shampoo. I wasn't positive about what soap to try but Marha recommended the shampoo. I just checked to see if my clothes dried, and they smell lovely of garnier nutrisse. Marha says we're on Italian welfare with the way we get food coupons and live, and now I see it! Haha I'm only joking, things could be a lot worse!

After being mega stressed over a midterm presentation in Italian for Friday, we went out Thursday night haha. I had a lot of fun. I am starting to wonder though about the mirrors at the clubs here. At one bar I went to, you could see right through the mirror into the guy’s bathroom while you were washing your hands! I put my hand up to be met by a boys hand against the mirror, and at the time, I considered whether it would be the start to a cheesy love story. The next day I just found it creepy. At the bar from Thursday, not-so-subtly called "The Club", they had full wall mirrors in the bathroom stalls. I wore a skirt and literally watched myself pee head on. I didn't find this appealing in the least bit! Anyhow, after dancing the night away, a coin I had stored in my bra (didn't bring a purse!) fell lower.. and it stayed there until I woke up the next morning in the same clothes I wore out. I seriously thought it had just fallen out! Sacre bleu - what a night.

Apparently I get around alone just fine. Getting around with my friends the next morning, however, I made an error in Italian law. Oops. The way that public transportation works here is you buy tickets either by the day/week/month, or by the ride/rides at the "tabbachi" (tobacco shops on nearly every block). When you get on the tram/bus/metro, you validate your ticket. We are waiting for our student passes to come, so we have been buying tickets with 10 rides. When we go out we take the tram into town. I had stupidly lost my ticket (surprise surprise right?) the night before. This wouldn't be a big deal unless the ticket nazi's didn't come onto the tram that morning (which they NEVER do). I was yelled at in Italian and forced off the tram. My wonderful friends came off with me, even though we had a midterm that morning!! The man was so rude to me even though I had told him in Italian that I only spoke English and that it was fine to just give me the ticket. If I hadn't drunk a whole beer to deplete my nerves for the presentation, I would have been pretty upset with how he treated me!! I was fined 34 Euros and needed to pay them on the spot. I had to go to a Bancomat (bank machine) to get enough money. Unfortunately for the rude ticket man, one of the euro coins I necessarily had to give him had been dancing around in my underwear all night. Karma sucks!

Due to the ridiculous amounts of paperwork "necessary" to live in Italy longer than 3 months, my roomies and I were forced to postpone our Venice trip until Wednesday. I was crushed. We were to be at the police station at 8:15 am, but it took us forever to find the place because the numbers of building on streets are out of order! How bizarre! The paperwork was extremely frustrating. Imagine the DMV times one hundred but with people talking to you in Italian. There was a digital system with numbers and tickets, but it wasn't efficient. Wickets were open with no one being served, people weren't showing up when they were called - it was chaotic. We eventually all just stood in a line and handed our numbers to the ladies without them realizing we were way down the list. All of my roommates were able to sneak ahead, but Murphy’s Law - someone literally came up from behind me while my application was being processed (how rude!) and said that they were number 999. She handed it back to me. Oh well. Found out the night before that I had forgotten the gorgeous travel journal that Amy bought me at the cafe I went to by the duomo; this definitely added to my bad mood. Jesann and I decided to go and find it in between all the waiting. It wasn't there of course. It took forever of course. I will hunt for it on Monday after school again (sniff sniff). By the time we got back to the police station, the people we invited to go to Verona with us were finished and had been waiting ages. I felt awful - especially because it still wasn't my turn, and I still didn't have my journal. My frustration was planted.

After being finger printed, to my utter discomfort, it was 2 pm, and I was literally the last person out of the police station. Were we really still going to Verona?

When we arrived at central station in Milan, I felt like I was about to get on the Hogwarts Express. The train station was fantastic with high arched ceilings and antique everything. We had never been to that one before because it is the busiest - now I know why! I was immediately recharged. I was so happy to be going travelling again! This is what I am here for! It took just under two hours by train to get to Verona. We were not going to have much time in Verona, but I didn't mind one bit.

We got lost trying to find the Old City, but we eventually made it! It is all part of it, I find - the getting lost bit. Plus, by foot you see everything! We saw much more than we planned because we got completely turned around on this bus we thought went to the Old City. It was a fun journey, and it was a beautiful day. We knew we had found the Old City when we came face to face with the Coliseum. Wow, I have never in my life seen something like that piece of architecture. I wanted to go inside so badly, but there was a concert going on inside! How much better would Kings of Leon have been in a Coliseum? I was amazed.

We continued on and found the Casa di Giulietta which is where Romeo and Giulietta is set. It was packed with tourists. I certainly didn't mind being one of them because it was unreal! On the way in, you walk through this corridor filled with post it's and writing on the walls to Giulietta. It is truly a love shrine. Many walls in the courtyard are covered in vines, and you can really feel the story as you look up the wall to Giulietta's balcony. On the wall is a quote carved in stone from the play. The statue of Giulietta is beautiful, dispite the fact that tourists have manhandled her to the point of erosion.

The legend goes.. if you touch the right breast of Giulietta, you will have good luck in love and romance. It is supposedly going to help me find my true love. I think they are right - that day I fell in love.. with Italy!

Verona is much more what I had pictured in my head about Italy. It is enchanting. I really did not want to leave after hitting up a market and eating gelato in the main piazza (square) behind a fountain. My day had blossomed unexpectedly. We were home by 12 pm, and I was exhausted.

Travel fever yet again. I have booked a flight for Paris October 23rd to October 25th with my roommates. It cost me 49 Euros after everything was said and done with "Ryan Air". It is supposed to be the bus of the air without assigned seats, very limited luggage, and advertisements stuffed in your face rather than delightful pretzels.. but 75 bucks to go to Paris - I'm all over it. I will let you know how it goes though haha.

After talking about Paris so much, I wish I was leaving tomorrow! We have a few other trips planned before it though, so I think I'll be ok! I am looking forward to the highly anticipated trip to Venice on Wednesday.

I also have wonderful news! My parents and brother are planning a visit!!! Nothing is set in stone, but I literally started crying when I read the e-mail. I think I am just a little excited. They are coming during my backpacking trip in January sometime before my brother starts his electrician program that he just got accepted to in February! I am a proud sister!!!

I chose my courses this week, and they will be very interesting: Photography for Beginners, International Relations in the Middle East, and Philosophy of Italian Culture: Life in the Bel Paese. I hope that they all work out! I am really excited for each of them. They, along with this whole experience will really vamp up my application into the journalism program. Also, if you guys have any feedback, it will help as well!

As always, thanks for listening,
love and miss you all,
Jess oxo

P.s. If you want notifications when I update my blog, you can "subscribe" on the right side of this page. It just asks you to enter in your e-mail address. I'm not positive that it doesn't send you spam though. Give it a shot, as long as I'm not boring you haha.

Posted by jwinitaly 09:07 Comments (0)

School and Lake Como


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Buongirono!

We started our intensive language class this week. They weren't kidding about it being intense. The American students are finding that it is really similar to Spanish, and I see resemblances to French which helps a little bit. It doesn't help however when the teacher asks me a question, and I answer with a confident "Oui.. I mean Si". I didn't think I would be as nervous to practice on the locals, but I am. I find though, that when I go out, I talk to people as if I really know what I'm doing. They can't understand a damn thing I'm saying though of course. Haha. I feel like a huge keener because I really want to learn Italian! I think everyone in our program does as well.

I was disappointed to find out that we aren't taking classes in the main university. It is truly beautiful. The architecture is unreal. Walking through the courtyards I had already scoped out places I could sit and study with my coffee. Unfortunately, I just found out that because our courses are in English, we are in the international building about a block away. It feels as if we are the diseased ones quarantined in the building down the road. This is going to isolate us; there is no doubt about it. I would really like to meet more Italian people, though I do love everyone in our international group. It is easy to meet them at bars, but it is not as easy on the streets especially when we walk in packs and have "tourist" stamped across our foreheads. Once our Italian class is finished, we are paired with Italian students who want to improve their English, so that will help a lot.

I got over my cold. Thank god! It is not fun sitting on a tram filled with a ton of people and sneezing and sniffling and trying to pronounce "Mi dispiache" properly without infuriating someone. I am feeling tons better. I don't even have time to be sick here! The two international student organizations "ESN" and "ESEG" have something planned for us literally every single night. It is crazy! I can't even keep up! It is awesome because we get discounts because we have a large group. The negative side is that I feel like I missed something if I didn't go out one of the nights.

The bar we went to on Friday night was the coolest bar I have ever been to. Paris Hilton ended up making a guest appearance there the very next night! Not that she is my idol or anything, but it is still cool! The bar is called Karma, and it is only open in the summer because it is completely outside. We made it the very last weekend. It is very odd to see trees in a bar. There are five or six sections of the bar all playing different music. They are all unique. Some areas had fountains, some had couches of all colours - it was awesome! The best area was this huge round dance floor with strobe lights and a dance stage in the middle that you walked down into kind of like a bowl. It reminded me of an arena but obviously a lot smaller. The kicker was that foam rained down! It wasn't like the foam parties that are held at the max that seem a little over the top. It was glamorous! I was shocked the first time it happened because I had been dancing for a bit already, and then suddenly it was raining bubbles! The lights made all of the bubbles twinkle, and it was amazing. I only wished that I hadn't gone in the bubbles at the beginning of the night because my hair was siiiiiiiiicccccccckkkkkkkkk after haha. The Italian boys didn't seem to mind though haha.

I really was wondering if I had just come to a fancier Kamloops bar scene until we went to Lake Como on Saturday. I was feeling pretty ill from the night before, so I didn't even really feel like travelling at first. The train took about an hour to get there. Immediately I was floored by the way that the town is set up. Houses are built into hills. It looks incredible! We toured the city with our group. We entered the Duomo (apparently Duomo means cathedral and many Italian cities have their own landmark Duomo), and Jesann wasn't allowed in because of her shorts. haha. I had to put a sweater over my tank top, and it was an extremely hot day! The church was very ornate and beautiful. I wish that my two grandmas and my mom could see it. They would probably appreciate even more than I did. We walked through the town and were shown that the town had once been surrounded by large walls. Some had still been standing, and upon seeing one I was reminded of "Age of Empires" the game haha. It looked like a castle wall. We got stuck in the rain for a while, and waited until it cleared or the next train would come. It cleared after about 30 minutes, and we were able to walk toward the lake. The town is like Sun Peaks in the sense that it is a village with the lake as its main attraction. You have to look at photos of this lake, it is unreal. George Clooney has a house there! I had no luck finding him.

We were so hung over that we ate McDonalds.. at Lake Como. Hahaha. They call it McCafe.. classy McDonalds? That is pretty twisted. In a lot of public places you have to pay to use the bathroom, like train stations, etc. I've only done it once. .5 Euros! To pay to use a bathroom I would expect someone there to wipe my butt for me, but the facilities were below par for sure. I tried to get my money's worth haha. Anyhow, at McDonalds, there is an open door policy usually for the bathrooms. At Lake Como, they have a concierge type man who basically overlooks the restaurant to see if you are a customer, so that you may use the bathroom. I guess people would try and go there to use the bathroom, so they wouldn't have to pay. I found this quite entertaining and tried to take his photo. I think he is half in a photo, but take a look.

On the way home, I was feeling travel fever. I was extremely giddy. We decided to go to Venice this weekend!! Venice! It is nice to have little goals, as opposed to which bars we should go to. I am thoroughly looking forward to going to Venice.

By the time we got home, I was fed up with not having found a cheap(ish) bottle opener. I had made an actual delicious dish of pasta (after several less appealing attempts), and me and Jesann sat down to watch Project Runway on my computer. I was feeling a little desperate for my wine. I tried a fork, I tried a knife, I even tried knocking on every door on our floor to find an opener. I ended up with pieces of plastic (not cork) everywhere, and walking around like a fool with no one answering their doors except for a man who didn't drink (but I understood that! haha). In the end, I smashed the top off on our balcony! Too funny. The girls thought it was hilarious, me - I thought it was necessary! haha. My first bottle of wine in Italy! It didn't have a lot of body to it, but it was 2 Euros! The way that it had broken was at an angle, so it acted like a spout. This encouraged me to keep pouring! haha.

I wish I could transport everyone I love from Kamloops here. I guess that would defeat part of the purpose of this trip, but I do really miss everyone! Little things will remind me of someone, and I want to share it with them! Just don't forget me! I love you all,

Jess

ps. I will probably write twice a week. I am not sure if this thing e-mails you or something when it's updated? I'm not sure, but 2-3 times a week I will write, so check it when you're bored or whatever. <3

Posted by jwinitaly 06:42 Comments (0)

Made It!!!

Italy@


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I made it to Milano, Italy!!

The flight over was brutally long, but luckily I was able to sleep through much of it. We had three planes: Seattle to Washington DC, Washington to Copenhagen, and Copenhagen to Milano. Thank god for my roommate Jesann who I met up with in Seattle to travel with. She is a little more experienced than I am at traveling, and she knew exactly what to do. Flying into Copenhagen there were windmills spread throughout the water beneath us. When we flew over the Swiss Alps on our last flight, I quickly remembered why we were willingly going through the pain of flying/ laying over for 22 hours. They are beautiful! Maybe even better than the Rockies (sorry Canada.. please still love me.. haha). The boy next to me on my second flight was also going to Milan, and he had studied there the semester before. He was very helpful and provided us with tips about how to get around. It costs about 90 euros to taxi from the Malpensa Airport to downtown, so he guided us (and helped carry luggage!) on the train as he was also headed that way. We ended up only paying 16 euros with the train and one taxi. Don't worry, he wasn't like the boys off the movie "Taken"... I swear!!!! haha.

Stayed in a hotel right downtown Milan, called ABC Hotel. Was kinda crap, but the location was fantastic, and they served a delicious authentic continental type breakfast. I fell in love with the coffee that first morning. Anyhow, we met up with our third roommate there, Shani. (Like Shh-Knee). She had arrived a few days earlier with her cousin from Israel (but she lives in Las Angeles). Carried our luggage up what seemed like a million stairs. Jesann had the roller wheels luggage, and although my back hurt, I was sure glad to have just my huge pack and a purse and a shoulder carry-on bag. Ate gnocci at a restaurant near by. First authentic Italian meal and it was amazing. I have already started running to compensate for that cheese and pasta! At the restaurant they charged us to sit at the table and the water was pricey. The meal itself was very cheap, but with these things additionally, it added up! It is way better now to have our place with a kitchen. It was Sunday, so everything seemed to be closed. I think that Canada should go back to that system. Went to a restaurant/lounge that first night and felt somewhat isolated by the language barrier. When Shani and her cousin went back to the hotel, Jesann and I stayed and explored the streets. We realized quickly you can drink in public. Right on. We stopped at a shop that was serving beer and right away some boys were giving us advice on what to order. We made friends quickly with them and walked around drinking beer. There is a courtyard we sat in with giant pillars, and there were a ton of people sitting around drinking. I guess it's because it cost 2 euros for a beer at a stand, and 7 in a restaurant! You can make a night of just walking around downtown and drinking - very cool. Unfortunately one of the boys could barely speak English haha. We walked with them, and they showed us one of the largest Gothic cathedrals in the world right downtown Milan called the Duomo. I literally dropped my jaw and said "holy fuck" haha. It was unbelievable. It looked like the damn Disney castle but in real life. I was half hoping a prince would come out and invite me in haha. The night ended with me and Jesann throwing shoes at our air conditioning to shut it up, and our front desk man (who had been reading out the Koran out loud on his knees) showing us that there was a remote right in front of our face. Our first night was a blast.

The next day we were brought to our apartment by advisors from our school. Most of the people in the program are American, but I did meet someone from my school! Very cool. We all love our apartment!! It was fun unpacking. There are two bedrooms and one is small and one is large. We picked names to see who would live with who, and who got the big room. I got the small room with a girl that none of us had met yet. It had seemed like I had gotten the shit end of the stick, but I didn't mind because really.. I'm in ITALY!!!! My roommate is named Marah, and she has this cute little southern accent. We all are getting along really well. We are quite a bunch and are enjoying partying together and getting lost in the streets of Milan. There is a supermarket one block down, and plenty of little "bars" (which are ironically cafes) around our neighborhood. There isn't much shopping, but that's probably a good thing!

We had our orientation at school yesterday, and our brains were mush by the end of it. The awesome thing is that there are these two international student societies that plan events and get us into places VIP and with cheap drinks etc. They also have planned a ton of optional trips for us throughout the semester which is perfect because a) they do all the work b) they plan it around our school schedule, and c) it's cheap! First trip is to Lake Como on Saturday which is where George Clooney has a house! Oktoberfest is on the list for the end of the month!!! Rome, Monte Carlo, Florence, Naples, Nice, Cannes, are among some others!

We went out last night to a club with a lot of the international students. We had a blast. Took the trolley there, and these girls who were sat in front of us turned around and stared at us for at least 10 minutes and spoke in Italian. It was so rude. We even tried to stare back, but they wouldn't break eye contact!!! I felt uncomfortable and annoyed. The boys love us, the girls.. not so much. We had to pay 10 euros to get into the bar, but they gave us three free drink tickets? Too funny. It is a double standard for sure. The bar just wants us to get drunk obviously, and it makes you want to stay. Good scam haha, it worked! Club was called Hollywood. The music was really good. They had a real dj, so it was nice to hear different versions of songs I love. Introduced my roommates to Tequila with the pineapple chase, and they were thanking me for it last night.. but they were not thanking me this morning hahaha.

Today we woke up to find a street market right below our balcony. It was huge! Apparently it runs every Wednesday which is so awesome! It smells of fish, but it is helping to rid me of my sushi withdrawal haha. (I have not had Sushi for over a week..) I bought some fresh fruit and vegetables and found it to be much cheaper than the supermarket. I browsed at the merchandise being sold, and I'm pretty sure some of it had to be stolen. I also noticed that things sold at the beginning of the market were a little more expensive than in the middle. Probably because tourists like me can't help themselves and buy the first things they see haha. I did manage to find some Italy socks to add to my collection though!

The weather here is hot during the day if it isn't cloudy, but cool at night and in the morning. It is beautiful to walk around everywhere. Italy is marvelous in the fact that you just feel the history. Every building no matter it's importance is so beautiful. I find myself constantly tripping over my feet because I am looking up at a building. We are about 30 minutes away via public transportation from our school which is right downtown. There are many forms of it here, bus, trolley, metro (subway), so it is easy to get around.

We do a lot of walking everyday. You have to pay attention though because the drivers here are crazy!!!! And yes.. this is coming from me... haha. They park everywhere and anywhere, they don't stop for pedestrians (and if they do they are touching you with their bumpers), and they drive so fast weaving in and out of traffic like they're late for lunch with the prime minister. There really are a million scooters here haha. One almost hit me today when I was walking (with the right of way) across a crosswalk. So nuts. The pedestrian signs even have a green man, a yellow man, and a red man, like traffic lights, and I had a green man!!!!! Sheesh. Sorta funny though. We mapped out the way to our school with a little walk included with a trolley ride, and we walk through a castle... through a CASTLE!!!! But every time we go in there, there are these guys trying to give you bracelets then make you pay for them. One of them asked Jesann if she wanted a husband haha. That reminds me, I tried to go into the Duomo on our second day, but because I had shorts on we couldn't go in.. I am such a dirty dirty slut with my shorts. haha. Will try again soon.

Had Gellato today.. mmmmmm so unreal. The lady serving to us didn't speak English, but she laughed at our reactions for the first taste. I better run a lot or this food is going to really get to me. And also, Heineken is dirt cheap here.. uh oh. haha.

I am getting sick, the partying, the business and the wonky sleeping patterns have caught up with me. Between that and using Skype tonight pretty unsuccessfully with my mom I got pretty upset. First cry in Italy haha. I really miss you guys. Writing this made me feel a lot better though. I skipped going out tonight with a couple of the girls, and the apartment is so quiet. I feel right at home though. I didn't want to edge on this pre-cold, and we are going out tomorrow for a welcome to Milan thing, maybe Friday, and Saturday is Lake Como and going out as well with the International students. Also, tomorrow is our first day of our intensive Italian course. It runs four weeks long and then we start regular classes in English. I will be glad to learn some basics to help get me around a little more. I really did think that more people would speak English. Anyhow, I better go to sleep, remember although it is 4 pm in Kamloops, it is 1 am here. 9 hours ahead. E-mail me if you wanna talk! Seems to be most effective way at this point. I love you all. Goodnight!

ps. This entry is very long, but a lot has happened. I will try and make the rest a little shorter, so that you aren't falling asleep by the end of it!

Love Jess

Posted by jwinitaly 17:29 Comments (0)

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