I sit here on the intercity train (which miraculously has wifi) for an hour and a half ride to Eindhoven where I will by flying out of to return home to Italy. Saying bye to Amsterdam is probably one of the saddest moments of my life. It marks the end of 10 days of traveling through Europe, through London, Dublin, and Amsterdam. This train ride marks the end of fall break, which means back to class tomorrow morning and having to think about managing work and play. More importantly this means that I am half way done with the semester. It’s crazy to see how fast the first half of the semester has gone by, and I really saw it this week. It actually feels like just yesterday I was sitting on a train leaving Florence to get on a plane from Pisa to London. 3 countries in 10 days was one of, if not THE greatest adventures of my lifetime. It is absolutely impossible to write a detailed account of my adventures over this past week and a half, partially because it will take too long and I’m not the best touch screen typer, but also because I will admit, much of it is a blur. So for this reason I will list all of the cool things I saw and did.
Chipotle in London
Rode the underground station
British museum (saw the Rosetta Stone and Cleopatras mummy)
Platform 9 3/4
Shakespeare Globe Theater
Holyhead ferry port
St. James gate
Dublin City Gallery
Francis Bacon’s studio
Attempted IMMA (closed)
The Formal Gardens
Amsterdam Central station
Red light district
I Amsterdam sign
Floating flower market
Waffles and Crepes
Pretty sure I walked by a lot of monuments that I don’t know the name of or don’t remember, but I’m pretty satisfied with my list. Pictures to come.
Now is the point where I sit and enjoy the countryside view and listen to Iron & Wine and think about how thankful I am to be doing exactly what I am doing right now.
So I’m a little behind with updating this blog. Since Switzerland I’ve been to Oktoberfest and Rome and am now on Fall break in London. Lets skip past the dreadful midterms and strep throat from last week and hop right into the story.
For the past three days Sophie and I have been living in THE WORST HOSTEL on the face of this planet. In case you happen to ever backpack through London and are looking into hostels, stay as far away as you can from “journeys london bridge.” That is a story for a different time and I don’t have the energy to complain. I will soon copy and paste my poor review that I’m about to write on their site. The whole point of this paragraph is to note that upon arrival to the hostel, they required to hold on to our passports in their safe for the duration of our stay. Beyond that, this hostel is the root of the entire disaster that took place this morning.
(Side note : this day just keeps getting worse. As I’m typing my iPad just deleted about ten minutes of writing and now I’m back to this point again….hahahah i actually don’t know what to do I’m going to explode)
Back to the story, the day started off quite pleasant. We woke up at 4am to grab our stuff and get on a bus to get to the Liverpool station to board a train to the London Stansted airport and get on a plane by 8:10am. Sophie went downstairs to check us out and I grabbed my stuff. We were out of the shithole hostel by 4:30am. Even though we had a minor freak out when we couldn’t find a place to buy our bus tickets, the day started to turn around when I saw a beautiful fox cross the street right in front of me and I thought how great this day was going to be.
We arrived at the Liverpool station early and were able to grab some food and get on an earlier train than expected. My muffin was delicious and everything was going so smooth, including train which I planned to sleep on for 45 minutes. I even stated
"public transportation is so beautiful when you figure out how to use it"
Right when it departed, I asked Sophie for my passport back, and that’s when we realized that our day was not going to continue with muffins and foxes, it was about to take off in a series of tears.
The hostel did not give us our passports back when we checked out. They are the biggest group of idiots I’ve ever encountered who didn’t have towels or locks to rent, didn’t know where their own appliances were to rent our, and didn’t give people their passports back when it is their policy to hold them! Granted it is our fault for not remembering them until we got to the train, but we were running on 2 hours of sleep. Ugh, no use placing blame at this point because it happened and we had to think rationally about how to get back as quickly as possible and make it back to the airport. I had hope we could make it in time if we could hop on the underground tube and take it directly to our hostel and be back in 20-30 minutes. I was really happy because our stop was connected to the Northern line which would take us directly to our hostel, but I realized it was closed. At this point Sophie was already I in tears and I was holding mine back, trying to stay rational for the both of us and think of the best plan, but after accepting the fact that we would have to take the train then a bus and do it all over again, plus pay for it, and not be able to make it through bag check and security in time, I broke down.
I had already been sick with an intense sore throat through midterms, and a week later it wasn’t getting any better. I was in serious pain and in lack of sleep, and missing my family. I pulled out my bar phone and called my mom. I didn’t care how much the international and roaming call would be, I had to talk to her. Luckily she answered, probably recognizing a 14 character stranger number and assuming it was me in an emergency. I couldn’t stop crying and exclaiming how I just wanted to come home, I couldn’t do it anymore. I’m too homesick, too sick, sick of wasting money, sick of the exchange rate, sick of how cross the hostel was that I couldn’t even shower for 3 days because the water from the faucet is dirtier than not showering at all. Sick of public transportation, buying tickets, losing tickets, sick off buying shitty food and trying to do everything the cheapest way. But my mom calmed me down and made me realize how lucky I am to be experiencing this right now. Money is replaceable and at least Sophie and I are alive, have our stuff (minus the passports) and have each other. It was really refreshing to hear from my family and I was ready to think straight and bust out a mission.
We waited 20 min for the next train to come, and once we arrived at the station, the tube was open and we were able to get to the hostel quickly and retrieve our passports. Sadly, we had to go back to the hostel, which I never thought I’d have to see again. Ugh the people working it didn’t even say sorry and basically went about eating their Nutella covered toast and drinking their insta-coffee which they considered a “free breakfast” advertised on their website. How did this place have good ratings.
We sat in their lobby to use their phone and call the airline to see if we could change flights, but of course with our luck, they didn’t open until 8am. We waited an hour in the place that I least wanted to see to call the airlines and didn’t even bother trying to make it back beause there was no way we would have had enough time. We just had too accept this fact. Luckily they had wifi so we could look up our other options to get to dublin. We had to go there because we already booked a hostel, and had a flight scheduled from there to Amsterdam and from there back to Italy. There was no way this incident could ruin our entire fall break.
All flights were 200 pounds, which is 350 dollarsish, and that was not happening. We could maybe get a flight tomorrow for 90 pounds but would have to find a place to stay tonight and I wasn’t staying at that hostel again. Things started to turn around when we found a train and ferry package from London to dublin for 43 pounds leaving at 9, but we wouldn’t get there for 7 hours. I was our only option.
We rushed to the train station ( oh wait, I lost my tube ticket so had to cry my way through the gates and then buy a new one for 4 pounds) and then buy the tickets to dublin at the train station. At this point them having the tickets was good news, until Sophie’s card got declined. No worries, ill cover you And let’s move on with it. We boarded the train, slept for 4 hours, talked to hot skater guys from California on the train.
Fast forward to the present. I am currently sitting at a ferry port in Holyhead (which Sophie and i call holy hell) as I type this solely due to the fact that I have about 3 hours to spare until I can board the ferry to Dublin. I don’t have headphones to listen to music, and don’t have money to buy food. We missed the last ferry at 1:45 because supposedly our train was delayed (slept through that) and it gets worse. I somehow lost my ferry ticket. WTF!! I put it in my wallet and I have my credit cards, ID, recipt of purchase, and thankfully our passports, but no ticket. I begged the ticket seller to help me out and they gave me a makeshift standby ticket which I’m crossing my fingers will work.
If you read through that entire thing, congratulations. There is no climax yet. I am currently writing history and hoping it can only get better from here. I guess the moral is you have to hit rock bottom before you can work your way back up. At least I have my loving family’s support and am traveling with someone I actually like. It’s a great story so thanks for reading and now I don’t have to use my lack of voice to explain everything.
Oh and it’s beautiful in holyhell. I’m going to walk around and explore a castle so I guess that’s my fox and muffins?
Really proud of us for cooking something besides pasta… Cous Cous stuffed “peperoni” with chicken and feta @sophiegantz (Taken with Instagram)
Last weekend I went on my first field trip with Lorenzo de Medici to Lake Como and Bellagio in Northern Italy, and SWITZERLAND! When I first decided to study abroad in Italy, I knew that I wanted to visit Switzerland for its gorgeous views of lakes and mountains, and for its chocolate…all of which exceeded every expectation I had.
We started off the trip at Piazza Independencia at 5:45 am, which meant we had to leave our house at 5:30 to get there, and be up at 5am or earlier. FML! Considering none of my classes start until 4pm, this is the earliest I’ve had to wake up this entire trip…actually this entire year. Fortunately, we had a 6 hour bus ride ahead of us to get to Lake Como, and I slept the entire way…except for the 30 minute break at a bus stop, which was MADNESS. The bus stops here are quite interesting, because they have the gas station with normal snacks like chips, candy, drinks, etc. And then there is the separate “grill” which makes caffe drinks as well as self serve sandwiches (stupid premade cheese and salami on some bread that they throw in the oven for about 15 seconds) Literally hundreds of students came piling in to the cafe hungry for breakfast and cranky because it was too early to be awake. Luckily we all fell back asleep instantly and woke up to the beautiful……………..sound of our tour guide’s voice telling us how George Clooney had an affair with an Italian actress and they stayed at his house in Lake Como, and then the tour guide decided to throw in how he had an affair with some Swiss girl. TMI? We then were dropped off in the center and were free to wander for an hour or so. First stop? McDonalds…for the bathroom of course. Surprisingly, McDonalds was extremely crowded with families. Couldn’t they choose something a little better in a town full of amazing pastas, pizzas, etc. We then walked around and saw the Duomo di Como, Lake Como’s cathedral, with a unique combination of Gothic and Renaissance architectural styles. Afterwards we walked along the edges of the Lake, watching families and children play on the rides in the park and dogs swim in the lake. I also experimented with my telephoto lens for the first time, taking pictures of far away buildings on the surrounding mountains. After grabbing gelato and hopping back on the bus, we headed across the lake to take a ferry to Bellagio.
The entire Como Lake is shaped like an upside down Y. We had visited one of the wings, and then hopped on a ferry to Bellagio, which translates in Italian to “Beautiful Resort” and that it was. The town was full of incredible greens, and large Italian gardens. Here I learned that Italian gardens are very distinct. They are comprised of evergreen plants with no flowers, so they stay green all year long. Also, they have a design made up of geometrical shapes. One of the most famous Italian gardens is the Boboli gardens located back in Florence, which I am now extremely excited to visit now that I know a little more about its history. Bellagio also was full of extremely overpriced cafes and shops, but it was pretty walking through the streets and seeing all the overgrown vines. We reached the edge of the lake between the two small legs of the Y, and I decided I wanted to go down and actually touch the water…FAIL. I sat in bird poop and had to spend the rest of the day with white poop on my black pants.
After wandering around Bellagio, eating pizza and pastries (the usual anywhere in Italy) we hopped back on the bus, where I instantly fell asleep, slept through the border, and woke up in Switzerland! My first view of the country was the snow capped Alps on the windy road up to the top. I basically handed my camera to Kevin and told him to take pictures out the window because I got so car sick I couldn’t even look up. After passing through the peak, we ended at St. Moritz Lake. The view looked identical to a painting. It was UNREAL how perfect the sunset created warm reflections of the mountains on the lake, and the clouds shadows created patterns on the mountains. The lake was as smooth as glass, and a small sailboat sat perched, untouched, peacefully. Everyone was freeeeeeezing, but stood outside in the cold to snap a few pictures before ending at Hotel Sonne where we were served a typical Swiss dinner: first course mushroom pasta, second course tomato salad, main course turkey and french fries?, with pudding dessert. Seems random to me, but I enjoyed trying the cuisine. That night some of the girls and I walked around the lake and looked up at the stars. We even saw the Milky Way galaxy because the sky was so clear and free from light or air pollution. St. Moritz is a quiet little resort, one of the most expensive and beautiful ski resorts in the entire country. Switzerland actually charges a tax to drive on the roads, so it was very quiet, clean, and peaceful looking out at the sky. There also wasn’t a huge nightlife there, so we all went to bed early and got a good nights sleep.
The next morning we were filled with a buffet breakfast (highlights include nutella packets of which I stole and put in my purse to eat on the bus ride home, amazing Swiss cheeses, and yogurt and granola). After stuffing our faces, we had a 3 hour walking tour to burn off some calories. The town was empty, as its not peak season for tourists, so we were able to see all of the shops, leaning tower of St. Moritz (which actually leans more than the Tower of Pisa), and visit a chocolate store. I will never forget the moment I tried Swiss chocolate and experienced pure bliss.
After the walking tour, our group of students sat aboard the Bernini Express, a 4 hour train ride through the Swiss alps, passing gorgeous lakes, Swiss towns, through tunnels, and ending in Italy. Only pictures can describe this experience, and luckily I had a window seat.
The rest of the day I sat misreably for 8 hours on a bus ride home through Sunday night traffic… end of story.
OH WAIT! zee bad and zee dorf.
These are the two parts of the town. The “bad” (pronounced bod) is the lower ground part of the town, named after the cold springs. The “dorf” is the part of the town located on the hills. This goes for all towns, especially in Germany such as Dusseldorf. St. Moritz is in the part of Switzerland that speaks German. There are 4 official languages of the country depending on the region: German, French, Italian, and Romanch, and interesting combination of basically the previous 3. All of the Swiss people basically learn these languages so when they move away from where they grew up to find work, they will be able to communicate. I’m still stuck saying BAD and DORF :)