Posted by: londontravels | November 23, 2009

Venice, Day 80

Venice is unreal. No seriously. It looks fake…like a movie set. All of the alley ways, the canals with their miniature golf-like colored water (a blueish-greenish cloudy color), it’s quite a site. It’s like something that Disneyworld put together and those little creepy puppets are going to pop out and start singing “It’s a Small World.” Never the less, Venice is a beautiful city with beautiful…men. What? Yes, that’s right, the men are gorgeous…much prettier than their female counterparts. They pluck their eyebrows, they go tanning, they rock diamond studded nose rings.

Okay enough of the jokes…Venice is quite the city. The city doesn’t stand on stilts (as rumored) but stands on the natural land. The main (and only means) of transportation is by boat. Water taxis, a water tube system and gondolas dot the surrounding waters and buildings dating back 900+ years that look like they used to be carnival rides lay the land.

I forgot to mention this, but this was my first trip by myself. Okay, not totally alone (I just said that to sound like the bad ass adventurer-type). By alone, I mean with out anyone from Temple or anyone that I knew previously. This trip was one that I found through a program called ISH (International Student House) that takes students from all over the world on various trips. An itinerary is prepared along with accomodations…all you have to do is show up at the ISH building at 4 AM to catch the bus to the airport. So, that is what I did.

Upon my arrival, I was introduced to 11 other students (ranging from ages 19-29) including the dean of students and “his friend.” 2 kids from India, 1 Indian born who lives in Singapore, 2 Malaysian born, 1 Nigerian born who lives in the US and 4 American born and raised (this is America!). All very nice, all very interesting. My favorite person by far was a kid named Dave (totally not his real name) who was Malaysian born, studying Mandarin but majoring in Architecture, that smelled like lead pencils and looked like Kumar from the Harold and Kumar movies and sounded like Apoo from the Simpsons. With a great sense of humor and a great accent, Dave was by far the life of the group.

We touched down right outside of Venice at Marco!…Polo!…Airport around 11:30 AM and took the airport shuttle boat (naturally) to S. Zaccaria (sick)/San Marco Square (water)tube stop where are hotel (finally done with those effing hostels) was located. Being almost Winter, the Venice weather wasn’t what I originally anticipated. I didn’t see the sun once and clouds are non-existent…just a misty/foggy atmosphere. The water, which I stated earlier in a lame-ass joke,  is the bluest water I’ve ever seen, which is sad because it’s a weird chemical-like blue (I was waiting for a yellow mini golf ball to be bobbing along at some point). The buildings are old, nothing extravagant or breath-taking, but unique to say the least.

Okay, so after finding our hotel and getting settled in our rooms (3 to a room) we had a walking tour to get acclimated with the city and then a group dinner at night (another accommodation that was already paid for…hoo haa, free food baby). The walking tour was very informative and we learned a lot about the Venetian people (only 270,000 actually live in Venice) and the most popular site in Venice, San Marco Piazza. The Piazza, which is known for its bell tower, masquerade-like basilica and (probably the most famous) its pigeons, is a tourist death trap with kiosks containing “I Heart Venezia” t-shirts (totally unoriginal) and masquerade masks (I don’t know how all of those business stay afloat…no pun intended…because they all sell the same shit). Dinner was a ton of fun because we got to meet everyone on a better level and…oh yeah, the dean said he’d cover all the wine (hoo haa, free wine baby). Pizza and pasta was naturally everyone’s choice of dinner and we finished day one on full bellies.

Day 2 started off with a tour of the Doge’s (the Doge: Venice’s Head of State that makes no political decisions nor leaves the walls of the palace, but basically acts as the old ass that looks sweet on a thrown…the Queen anybody?) palace. The palace, however, did have all of the political rooms inside of it, including the prison. After, we decided to head over to another part of the island called Murano where all of the glass blowing factories are located (another thing Venice is notorious for). There, we watched a demonstration of someone hand blowing glass (that didn’t come out right) then we did a little shopping at the 458 stores that sold the same blown glass products. Later, a few of us decided to take a boat ride down the grand canal…this is where we got to see how beautiful Venice actually is.

When lit at night, Venice is truly stunning. The ride was about an hour long and instead of taking a tour boat, we decided to just use public transportation (which was hectic, but manageable). There were a ton of beautiful homes right on the water front, including a casino and train station (where I spotted the first car). While on the Grand Canal, a man hopped on at one of the stops, sat behind me and began to sing loudly in I-talian…the stereotypes are all so true.

On our last day, the group checked out the Peggy Guggenheim art collection. I must say, modern abstract art is not really my forte (most of it looks like a 6-year-old put as much paint on his/her hands and smeared it all over the canvas). However, I did enjoy a lot of the impressionist art, which included the works of Max Ernst, Salvador Dali and Yves Tanguy. There was a painting by Picasso as well…oh yeah, and some sculptures as well (see below).

Next we headed to the St. Mary of Health Basilica for a prayer/candle burning ceremony thing (apparently, there was some sort of festival this weekend that the locals make their way over to the basilica and burn candles in prayer and remembrance). And lastly was the most touristy thing that you could do: a gondola ride through the canals. It amazes me how those guys can paddle through the 6 ft wide canals, with 7 people in their boat, while smoking a cigarette…the gondolas were a neat experience. At night we went to a Venetian Opera (did I say that the gondolas were the most touristy thing to do in Venice?). I’ve never been to an opera, so what a better place to experience one then Italy. This wasn’t a typical opera, but one that had bits and pieces of popular arias of various opera’s…a nice little introduction to the world of opera.

Well, that was my trip to Venice. With all that said though, I am experiencing a bit of cultural overload. I’m kind of getting tired of being a tourist. Don’t get me wrong, all of these places are amazing…but being mostly popular tourist areas, I’ve experienced a lot of ticked off locals, over priced…everything and cultural barriers. Speaking of cultural barriers, one thing that I have noticed is Americans (or at least the ones I’ve traveled with) inability to adapt to other cultures. Rather, they try to force foreign cultures to adapt to their own. I don’t agree with this. Hence, the reason many Europeans have negative opinions towards Americans. Sadly, the most intolerable, ignorant people who were in this group were the Americans. Of course I am not saying that I am some cultured person who knows everything about the world because I am definitely not…I have my own quarrels toward some of the views and things that the Europeans do. But, in my opinion, if you are somewhere foreign and out of your comfort zone, just keep your mouth shut and do your best to adapt. Plus, I think it’s more fun that way…Anyway, Scotland (December 4) should be a nice way to end this journey…No airplane, no language barrier, just rolling hills and guys in skirts…two of my favorite things.

Well, that is all from me for now. Today is officially the 80th day of my trip…20 to go. I am sure we will be talking before Thanksgiving, but if not, I wish everyone a happy and healthy Thanksgiving. I am definitely going to miss spending it at home.

With Love,

Zac

Quick Notes:

I blame Europe for my newly acquired addiction to cappuccino.

Tisin- Check out the sculptures I found of you below.

Erika- Honey Bunches of Oats must be the cereal of choice in Italy…another weekend of unlimited golden greatness :-).

Posted by: londontravels | November 20, 2009

Venice

Leaving for Venice in a few hours…going to try to catch a couple hours of sleep. Saw Billy Elliot tonight…very well done. Talk to you all when I return. Love you.

 

Love,

Zac

Posted by: londontravels | November 17, 2009

Back from Paris (UPDATED!)

Hello friends,

Just got back from Paris…really tired. I have a long day tomorrow, so I am going to post some pictures and then get to more details later on. I hope everyone had a nice weekend.

Love,

Zac

Update: Wednesday November 19, 2009 8:31 PM (GMT)

Ahhh it feels nice to finally be able to sit down and talk about Paris. Our journey first started off as planned. I woke up around 5:15 AM, took a shower, ate some breakfast, grabbed Chris, Nora and Lauren and headed to the Gloucester Road station to catch the tube to St. Pancras Train Station. A misty, obnoxious rain came down and I was soaked before even getting to the station. But, that didn’t hinder our spirits one bit, for we were 3 hours (or so) away from arriving in Paris. The tube was on schedule, as were we and all that was left was to check-in and hop on the Eurostar…but why would it be that easy right? As we walked (swiftly mind you) towards the station and up the stairs to check in, Lauren looked back and exclaimed, “Where’s Nora?” This became the question of the trip, for Nora seemed to be nowhere to be found for most of the trip. No where to be found, Chris called Nora to make sure she didn’t walk the wrong way towards the King Cross station. It turned out that Nora lost her wallet at some point between the tube station at Gloucester Road and the tube station at St. Pancras Statiion. All of our hearts sunk. The train left in 15 minutes, Nora had lost her wallet and I was hungry.

Nora headed back towards Gloucester Road in hopes to find her wallet, Chris, Lauren and I went to the Eurostar desk to make sure that we could change to a later train and my hunger pains had to go on delay due to our unfortunate mishap. Luckily, the Eurostar attendant said that whenever Nora came back to the station, that they would get us on the next available train…the only thing was, was Nora going to even go on this trip now? Luckily, someone turned in Nora’s wallet to the Tube attendant at Gloucester Road and she was on her way back to St. Pancras. Ugh, what a start to our adventure…

Our spirits were still high though and the next available train was around 8:30 AM…not bad. Nora returned, we hopped on the train and by 11 AM we arrived in Paris. At first glance, Paris didn’t seem to be as beautiful as I anticipated. The buildings kind of looked like London’s, but the streets were a little dirtier and it didn’t have that feeling of a world-class city. However, by the end of the night and our journey to the Eiffel Tower, the city looked captivating. The tower, which stood taller than I thought, was lit in a dim yellow light and every hour it would sparkle for ten minutes…truly stunning.

Before the Tower, though was a 4 hour (free) walking tour of pretty much all of the hot spots in Paris. The tour was kind of cool and way too long, but it allowed us to gain our bearings of the city (oh yeah and it was free…as my Dad always says: ‘if it ain’t for free, it ain’t for me, baby’). After the tour we walked to the Avenue des Champs-Elysees, the second most popular shopping district in the world (behind 5th Avenue in NYC). There, we checked out the Louis Vuiton store (per Lauren’s request) and then headed down to the Arc de Triomphe.

By this time, we were pooped. But, that didn’t stop us from headed to the Tower. We could see the circling spotlight in the distance, so we followed it in hopes of some how getting here. Well, it worked because 45 minutes later we were standing directly beneath it and in utter amazement (at least I was). What a wonderful first night.

We took it easy after that, because the next day was The Louvre (home to the Mona Lisa, as well as many other famous paintings). The Louvre was a beautiful site. A “U” shaped museum with a large glass pyramid in the middle, the Louvre was mobbed with tourists, who like ourselves wanted to get a glimpse at the infamous Da Vinci painting. Well, we accomplished that feat, in quite simple fashion might I add. The line wasn’t long at all to get in to the museum (it looked like more people just wanted to get their picture in front of the Louvre rather than go in it) and by the time we got in and found out where the painting was, there weren’t that many people looking at it (while here, I have heard horror stories of how hard it is to get up to the painting and actually get a good glimps). Oddly enough, the Mona Lisa is behind a 12 inch thick window and it has a gated off area about 10 feet away, so people couldn’t get right up to it (apparently there have been many instances where people have tried to either damage the painting or throw things at it). What fascinated me more (even though the painting was awesome) was the people taking pictures of it. Firstly, there were so many effing flashes going off when they specifically said no flash photography. Secondly, people brought props to take pictures with the Mona Lisa (one guy brought a golden bird that he put on his hand and reared back with his other hand to snap the photo of him in front of the Mona Lisa with this golden bird in his other hand…weirdo).

We only got to check out the one wing of the Louvre (there are like 5 or 6 wings of the Louvre and it could take up to 4 hours to complete the whole museum). After a long day at the Louvre and the neighboring areas, we were famished and as five Americans exploring Paris, we naturally went to a Japanese restaurant for dinner. Don’t hate…it was phenomenal.

By the way, you might have noticed that I said the 5 of us rather than the 4 of us (Nora, Lauren, Chris and I). The first night, we were walking out of our hostel to catch some dinner when we heard an American accent walking out as well. A petit girl with brunette hair and on her own, was walking out of the hostel to get some dinner as well. Well, we introduced ourselves and it turned out that she was from Connecticut (only 45 minutes from where Lauren lives) and she was studying in Barcelona and in Paris for the weekend by herself. Her name was Marcela and she ended up being our best friend through out the entire weekend. Marcela came with us everywhere and it was almost like we knew her from day one of our study abroad experience. She left on Sunday morning (we left on Monday) and while walking around the Louvre it seemed like something was missing. She was awesome.

Anyway, that’s pretty much it. The highlight of my trip was the Eiffel Tower, which was amazing. The most overrated place, in my opinion, was the Moulin Rouge. Located on de Clichy with a bunch of sex stores and strip clubs, the Moulin Rouge looked like a dump with a windmill on top of it (see picture). Maybe it looks cooler at night…who knows.

Well, I posted some more pictures as well as a few clips of the Eiffel Tower. I hope everyone is doing well and I thank you all for the birthday wishes. This will definitely go down as a birthday that I will never forget, that is for sure. Love you all.

Love,

Zac

Posted by: londontravels | November 14, 2009

Paris

Leave for Paris in about 5 hours…going to try to get some sleep. So happy I am not flying there…extremely tired of the process of flying. Anyway, I will be sure to post some updates throughout the weekend. Bonjour Bitches!

Zacharina

UPDATE: Was just informed that Bonjour is “hello” in French…not good-bye…man am I going to struggle this weekend…ha ha

Posted by: londontravels | November 12, 2009

67, 68, 69: Tower of London, getting ready for Paris

Exactly 1 month left in this journey. Unreal.

On Tuesday, our class went to the Tower of London which is a castle that was built over 900 years ago and is still used by the government today (making it the oldest government building in Britain). If you aren’t familiar with the Tower, maybe this will help. That’s right, those funny looking dudes wearing those ridiculous looking outfits, called Yoeomen Warders, or if you are an avid Gin drinker (Pop-Pop), Beefeaters, are housed here. Apparently they don’t like when they are called “Beefeaters,” but this is my blog and I am going to call them whatever I want ha ha. No one knows why they were ever labeled as “Beefeaters,” but regardless, it is much easier to just call them “Beefeaters” rather than their official name: Yeomen Warders of Her Royal Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress at the Tower of London (ugh…give me a break). Oddly enough they actually live within the walls of the Tower and apparently after the tourists leave it turns into this bizarre little community. All of the houses (or barracks) are original, so they were built for people 900 years ago (I am not saying the world was full of midgets, but I am guessing that people were MUCH smaller back then).

Anyway, the Tower of London was okay. They had all of the jewels and crowns and such that are used at the coronation when a new king or queen is crowned…a little overwhelming and a bit gaudy if you ask me. I don’t know if it is because I have been here for over 2 months or what, but the whole royalty thing doesn’t impress me anymore (if it ever did). To be quite honest, I think it is pretty stupid. Royalty is born into royalty and are basically living off of the tax payer’s money (kind of life welfare). In my opinion, I’m not too sure the Queen has any idea what is going on with the issues in her country (education, war, etc.)…she is basically just a face. I mean, the Queen does have the last say; however, the Queen hasn’t overruled a Prime Minister’s decision since the 1700’s (according to one of my professors). I don’ know, it’s all kind of ridiculous to me.

Well, you weren’t allowed to take pictures of anything inside, so not many to post tonight, but I hope you enjoy them.

Currently figuring out what we are going to do in Paris this weekend…we leave on Saturday. I think the definite destinations so far are: (obviously)Versailles, the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame with a possible stop at Pere Lachaise Cemetery where icons such as Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf and Sandrah Bernhardt are buried (but I am mainly going to see the Doors frontman, Jim Morrison’s grave)…should be a great trip. Although Steve will be going to Paris, he is going with a traveling club (the one I will be traveling with to Venice and Scotland) so I am not sure if we will be meeting up with him. Instead, Chris and I will be accompanied by Nora and Lauren for this trip. I found out yesterday that we have a four bedroom dorm that all four of us will be sharing. This is a good thing (I hope) because we will be able to leave all of our belongings in the room without any worries.

Well, not much else to report from Jolly Ol’…Mother, Father and Turd Ferguson (Colin) sent me a gift certificate to Harrod’s (the superlaciously, ginormous department store) for my birthday, so I think I am going to check that out tomorrow. Take care all.

Love,

“The Ultimate Warrior”

p.s. Got a hair cut today. I decided to go to an actual barber this time instead of having Lauren struggle through the bee’s nest that is on top of my head with those awful eyebrow scissors. I told the guy what I wanted and he basically disregarded everything I said and did what ever he wanted…I am pretty sure he only knows how to cut one style (not that my previous hair cut had any sort of style ha). The bus ride their took longer than the actual cut, but he got rid of a lot of hair in a short amount of time that’s for sure…fastest scissors in London if you ask me.

sexy time

Posted by: londontravels | November 8, 2009

64, 65, 66: Oxford and Wales

Well, unintentionally this weekend turned into the Harry Potter experience. All of the Harry Potter shnerds out there, keep your magical cloaks on your back and your Hogwarts in your pants…I went to Oxford on Saturday and Wales on Sunday. Let us start with Oxford. Oxford, which many of you probably know, is where J.K. Rowling based Hogwarts off of in here novels. I have never seen any of the movies, or read any of the books, but if there was one place in the world that I would think little boys would be flying around on brooms and waving wands at midgets named dumbledorf and taking wizardry courses, it would be at Oxford. A quaint little town that houses 38 independently owned colleges that fall under 1 university, Oxford is the oldest university in the English-speaking world. Every building looks like a miniature castle with a sweet medieval flag flying above each school. Although we didn’t get to check out the infamous Bodlean Library (famous for being one of the largest libraries in Europe and now famous for something that has to do with Harry Potter), we were able to check out Christ’s Church, one of Oxford’s largest colleges, as well as a location double for Hogwarts. Apparently there are scenes in the films where the students are eating in the dining hall at Christ’s Church. Even though the films weren’t shot on location, it was replicated in a studio. Apparently though, the steps leading to the dining hall in Christ’s Church were used.

Anyway, Oxford is also known for being the place that Alice in Wonderland was written by Lewis Carrol. Apparently, the equivalent of our dean in the U.S. had a daughter named Alice that Carrol would tell stories to. Alice requested that Carrol write down his stories for her and for one of Alice’s birthday’s Carrol presented her with a written copy of Alice in Wonderland. It turns out that all of the characters in the story are based off of professors at Oxford and their tendencies…pretty neat. Oh yeah, and apparently Bill Clinton got blazed at the local pub, the Turf Tavern, when he was attending Oxford…fun fact for you.

Sunday was a pretty amazing day, for Steve and I took a coach tour first to Gloucester and then to the towns of Tintern and Chepstow in the Wye Valley of Wales. At first, Gloucester looked like it was going to be a waste of time, with really only one attraction, which was the city’s cathedral. Well, the cathedral turned out to be absolutely breathtaking. Being Sunday, there was a service going on (which we sat in on for a bit) and then we checked out the cloisters that surrounded the cathedral, which were equally as stunning. It blows my mind that people go their to worship every Sunday like it is no big deal. The cathedral is nearly 1300 years old and has amazing gothic architecture and high arching ceilings (perfect for some more Harry Potter!). That’s right, a handful of scenes were filmed in the Gloucester Cathedral as well as one of the cloisters was used s the girls lavatory in the film. Also, pupils from the King’s School (part of the cathedral) were used as extras.

If that doesn’t give you your Harry Potter fix, then hopefully this will. Our last stop on the tour was in a village in Wales called Chepstow that was home to the oldest stone-built castle in Britain, as well as home to author of the Harry Potter books, J.K Rowling. She didn’t live in Chepstow, but she did live on the border of Chepstow and Bristol (close enough). The Chepstow Castle was quite amazing as well. The first thing we saw when we walked in was people practicing sword fighting…that’s right, like we were at medieval times or something. The castle had a ton of small compartments and areas for different rooms and it was located right on the edge of the River Severn. Very neat.

Between Gloucester and Chepstow, came my favorite part, Tintern and home to the Tintern Abbey. Those who know of Tintern Abbey probably know of the famous poet William Wordsworth who took inspiration from the Abbey in writing many of his poems (those who took IH2 at Temple know what I am talking about). Apparently Wordsworth would get all hopped up on pshcycadelics and such and roam the lands around the Abbey and come up with these masterful poems (I can totally see why he would do that…the area is unreal). As for the Abbey, which is also located on the fringe of the River Severn, is a giant skeleton of a building that has been standing for almost 900 years. Visitors are allowed to peruse (spelling?) through the ruins and take in its beauty with no restraints (kind of like the Roman City). Very neat as well.

All joking aside about Harry Potter, this weekend has definitely encouraged me to check out the movies (refuse to read the books), for I hear they are pretty decent. It would also be cool to watch and see all of the places that I recognize. I think that is all from me for now…another successful set of trips, another weekend down. It is amazing how fast this is going.

With Love,

Zacharias

Posted by: londontravels | November 5, 2009

Phillies: Season Phulphilled?

Keep your head up, Carlos. We will be back

“Are they better than we are? For this series they were. They’ve got the trophy. We don’t. We gave it up, but we’re going to get it back.”

-Charlie Manuel last night after losing the World Series to the New York Yankees

I don’t know about you, but I am completely satisfied with how the Phillies played this season. Who woulda thunk it? Not only would the Phillies win the World Series in 2008, but a year later they would find themselves in the October (or, at least for this year, the November) Classic and looking to be the first team since ’76 to win back to back World Series. Most teams, after making an appearance in the World Series will flounder the next season and fall right off the map. Not the Phillies. They made upgrades to their line up (Raul Ibanez, Jayson Werth’s career year), they made major upgrades to their starting rotation(Cliff Lee, Pedro Martinez and the maturation of J.A. Happ), a part of the team that for years has been their weakest link and although their bullpen stumbled into the season with injuries and suspensions (not to mention the miserable season of Brad Lidge), this team still found a way to win and win big. They dominated the division, something they haven’t been able to do for so many years. They dominated the playoffs up until game 2 of the World Series and at times they looked to dominate baseball’s most storied franchise.

Clearly this Yankees team is not the Tampa Bay Rays of last year. For one, the Yankees payroll is 3 times the Rays and players like Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettite have a total of 2o World Series rings…I am not positive but I am pretty sure no one on the Rays has a ring (please correct me if I am wrong). There isn’t much you can say other than the Yankees are the Yankees–this was bound to happen sooner or later.

In my opinion, Charlie is right…they will be back. Players like Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Cliff Lee and Ryan Howard are in their prime right now. Players like Jayson Werth and Shane Victorino just keep getting better and players such as Carlos Ruiz and Pedro Feliz know their role and get the job done in the field. And even if the Phillies do hit an age bump along the way, it seems as though they finally have that bright farm system that will either help bring in some proven vets, or that could be plugged into their everyday lineup.

Keep your heads up, my friends. This is an exciting time in Phillies history…let’s enjoy it :-).

I pose this simple question:

p.s. I cant wait for Spring Training!

Posted by: londontravels | November 5, 2009

58-63: Rome and back home

(I apologize for taking so long to post my travels to Rome. I had a few papers due today so I was putting those together since I got back…I know you all have been waiting with bated (spelling?) breath…sike.

Wow, what an amazing week. Started off in Dublin, toured the Wicklow mountains in Ireland, flew back to London for about 8 hours than off to Rome…whew, I am beat. I don’t even know where to begin with Rome. Considering I have only been a few places, I wouldn’t be surprised if it is the most fascinating city in the world. It is basically a city, built on a city, built on a city, built on a city. If you go to the highest point, you are able to see how the buildings dating back to the Roman Empire sit far below the buildings built during Mussolini’s reign…pretty amazing stuff. The fascinating thing is that there are cities that are buried even farther below the old Roman City that haven’t been discovered yet! The city is a huge recycling bin.

We arrived at Ciampino Airport in Rome around 12:30 PM and caught a bus to Termini (a giant train station in the center of Rome that has trains from all over Europe running through it) and then headed to our hostel. We figured it wouldn’t be too difficult, considering the hostel’s website had a YouTube video of how to get to the hostel from Termini…perfect right? Well, about an hour and a half later, Hostel Alessandro’s Palace was nowhere to be found. I was hot (extremely warm when the sun starts to go down in Rome), I was jet lagged and I was sleep deprived (pulled an all nighter with that Phils game going on that morning). All I wanted to do was hop back on that bus and back to Ciampino to find the next return flight to London. I don’t know if it was the lack of sleep, or the heat, or maybe the fact that I have the hand writing of a 3 fingered 4th grader, but for some reason I thought our hostel was on Via Vienza. Well, it wasn’t. It was on Via Vicenza (damn you letter ‘C’!). A hop, skip and a jump later we were at the massive front doors  (as all doors are humongous in Rome) of Hostel Alessandro’s Palace.

After checking in and getting our room keys (Chris and I slept in different rooms), we headed back down to the front desk to find out if anything was going on for the night. The stick-like, earthy, yoga-doing, tan skinned man suggested catching the subway (mastered that bitch by the end of the week) to Spagna and going up the Spanish Steps to Piazza del Popolo (by far my favorite name for a building, especially when you say it in an Italian accent…go ahead, say it…isn’t it fun?) and then up to this ledge called the Pincio to check out the sun set. So, that is what we did. However, as we were about to leave the front desk, the man turned around and signed in to TU Mail (Temple University’s e-mail website). Chris and I were completely drawn back and asked the man if he went to Temple. Obviously, he said he did and it turns out that he is in his last year as well at Temple and trying to complete his last 9 credits by staying in Rome (Temple has a Rome campus) and not going back to North Broad Street (yeah, good luck with that). Small world right?

Well, Chris and I headed up to Piazza del Popolo (go ahead, say it one more time…this time with a little more Italian inflection in your voice) and he was definitely right that it was a great view. Unfortunately we missed the sun set, but you are able to see pretty much all of the buildings of Rome from one view…very beautiful. Oh yeah, I am sure everyone has heard of the Spanish Steps right? Kind of underwhelming…actually, I didn’t even realize I was walking up them while en route to Piazza del Popolo (I can totally picture everyone saying it aloud in a really lame Italian accent ha ha).

Well, after the flight, 0 hours of sleep, and a solid trek to the Pincio, all I wanted was an ice-cold, frosty one. And what a better place to have one than… my hostel’s bar…that’s right, my hostel had a bar in it. Speaking of the hostel, it was by far the nicest one I have stayed in yet. Very clean, very modern and the people who worked there were very nice. Anyway, after downing an ice-cold Italian beer (not too bad) I hit the hay, for I had a 4 and a half hour walking tour of Rome in the morning.

Bright and early on Saturday, the hostel conducted a walking tour for its patrons that covered pretty much all of the main attractions in Rome. And guess who our tour guide was? That’s right, the dude at the front desk that goes to Temple ha. To make things even crazier, his girlfriend came along on the tour, who also goes to Temple and after meeting her, I realized that she has been in a few of my classes. Also, a few kids on the tour were from West Chester! VERY small world. Anyway, the tour took us to Santa Maria Magglore, San Pietro in Vincoli, the Colosseum (although we didn’t go in…more on that soon), the Roman City, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II and a few other places. All beautiful structures, all old as dirt. The most fascinating thing that I learned was that the Pantheon is the oldest standing structure in Rome and it dates back to 25 BC…WHAT!? That’s right, do the math…the Pantheon, which is still in immaculate shape, which has thousands of people walk through it every day, is 2035 years old. And to make it even cooler, there is a giant hole in the center of the ceiling that is never closed. Which means when it rains, the Pantheon has a beautiful shower in the center of it…wild.

After our very long tour, we hit up a local pizza joint (phu-nomenal) and then for some gelato of course. The gelato place we went to served over 200 flavors of gelato…it was a dream come true (Mom, we all know you enjoy your ice cream, but you NEED to try gelato). Later that night, we hit up the hostel bar again and did some mingling (wasn’t really in the mood to mingle on day 1…I just wanted to slug my beer and go to bed). One thing that is so cool about traveling and staying in hostels, is that everyone there is doing the same thing you are. No one is in Rome for a weekend and then back to their hometown. They are there as a part of a lengthy trip from place to place for an extended period of time. Especially those Australians man…those bastards have the luxury of  taking off  for a year and traveling! Apparently in Australia you are able to leave school, or your job for a year, come back and still have your job! So lucky! Oh yeah, I didn’t even realize Saturday was Halloween until a few numb nuts from our hostel thought it be clever to go out in toga’s for a pub crawl (get it…toga’s…Rome…yeah, totally unoriginal).

Sunday was another fascinating day because we checked out the Colosseum and the Roman City (we went in this time). I am pretty sure the entire time my mouth was opened and my eyes were wide. Both amazing pieces of history, both so unbelievable. It blows my mind how these things are still standing! And if it weren’t for a really dumb governmental decision to rip off a large chunk of the Colosseum to recycle it for another building, the Colosseum’s exterior would be fully intact. As for the Roman City, you are free to roam throughout, sit on parts of what is left of the buildings and lounge in there like it is a park…SO cool. That night, Chris and I went out to a local Italian restaurant to get our fix of authentic Italian food. After a plate of some banging ass noodles (forget the name of them) and vodka sauce that had chunks of bacon, onion and cheese in it and a bottle of wine, our experience of Rome was just about complete. We headed back to our hostel to hang out in the bar (again…who needs to go out when you have a bar in your house ha) and meet some fresh faces.

**Oh yes, I forgot to mention earlier that I roomed with three Brazilian people; a woman named Luana, a girl named Michelle and a man named Uraio (so hard to say). Luana and Uraio were sister and brother and Michelle and Uraio were a couple. An extremely kind group of people, I really got to know them through out our time there. It turns out the Luana is a freelance television producer (she produced THE DUEL, the MTV Real World Road Rules challenge in Brazil) and Michelle is a film distributor in Brazil. Of course I told them my interests and career aspirations and we ended up exchanging e-mail addresses. It turns out that they are planning a trip to London in the near future and were hoping that I’d be able to show them around (feels cool to be able to show people around a place that is foreign to you too 🙂 ).

Anyway, as I was saying…our trip to Rome was just about complete. WAIT! How could I go to Rome without visiting the Vatican City?! Of course, of course… I would be kicking myself if I didn’t do that before I left, so on Monday morning before we caught our flight, Chris and I checked out St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. An extremely interesting area of Rome, the Vatican has walls all around it and serves as basically its own little city. It is so independent that it has its own post office within the city and its own currency! I honestly do not have words to explain what I saw. The second I turned the corner once getting into the gates of the city, I saw St Peter’s Basilica and immediately got chills…truly stunning. The inside of St. Peter’s was even more beautiful with giant porcelain sculptures draped around the structure and a massive, elaborate altar at the far end, about 100 yards away. A mass was going on and the sound of the choir’s monotone voices was an astonishing experience in itself. The Sistine Chapel was quite cool too. I think Chris got more out of if than I did because he is a huge art buff. Pretty much all I know about the Sistine Chapel is that Michelangelo painted the entire building (fun fact: did you know that Michelangelo was widely known for his sculpting before he was forced to paint the Sistine Chapel?).

Now, my trip to Rome was complete. I saw some of the oldest structures in the world, I ate some awesome Italian food and I met some amazing people. There is nothing cooler than being in a foreign land with a bunch of strangers who are all there for the same reasons you are. You learn some fascinating stories from people who you won’t see ever again in your life. Whether it be for a few hours or a few days, you develop relationships with people who you won’t ever see again in your life. And 20, 30, 40 years down the road, the only way you will be able to relive those moments will be through a simple snapshot in your memory…truly a beautiful experience.

With Love,

Zac

Quick Notes:

Andrew Rubin– the one Australian girl I met is a huge Summer Heights High fan and she sounds exactly like Ja’mie…I couldn’t stop laughing when she talked…I think she was offended.

The first video is of the Pantheon and the second video is of the Colosseum. Enjoy.

Posted by: londontravels | November 3, 2009

Rome pictures

Have a few papers to write by Wednesday so I will update in a couple days. Here are some pictures of Rome to hold you sex machines over. Enjoy!

Posted by: londontravels | November 1, 2009

When in Rome (…still don’t know what that means)

Bonjorno friends (LIMITED TIME ON THIS INTERNET SO I WILL MAKE IT SHORT),

Currently at the hostel in Rome. Took a walking tour of pretty much all of the great sites in Rome (Trevi Fountain, Roman Forum, Collosseum, San. Pietro in Vincoli, Piazza Venezia, Piazza Navona, etc.). We weren’t able to go in to the Collosseum, so today we took that tour as well as a tour of the old Roman City…what amazing sites. Tomorrow we are going to get up early and try to knock out the Vatican and Sisteen Chapel before our flight home. Rome is by far the most fascinating city I have been to yet. I will be sure to give more details when I get back to London. Ciao bitches!

p.s. is anybody paying attention to the Temple Owls football team?! 6 game winning streak with a 6-2 record?! That sounds like bowl eligibility to me!

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