Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Pardon the interruption....

Technical difficulties
So my bad. Actually no, it's not my bad. I was going to apologize for not updating this for a while but let's blame it on a lovely company called Dell. My charger blew out (the same week my camera broke) so I obviously called Dell. I have insurance on my computer for 4 years because everything I touch seems to break, but obviously the insurance would not cover the charger. Makes zero sense. So I ordered my laptop charger from a third party company...it was supposed to be here three weeks ago and it arrived a couple days ago. Needless to say, I have had limited connection with the outside world. I even resorted to reading books. Pretty bad, I know.

A Night in Monaco

Monaco is one of the wealthiest nations in the world. It is full of beautiful beaches, extravagant cars, a lavish casino and some of the creepiest men I have ever met in my entire life. A big group of us went to a club in Monaco for a friend's birthday and we were all decked out and excited. The drawback of going out in Monaco..the trains. The trains run until about midnight then don't start again until 5am. I mean I love going out dancing but it got old after about 3 hours. And it didn't help that every man that looked like child molester or just way too old and greasy to be in Monaco at a club was drawn to me. Every. Single. One. I think it's because I look like I'm 14 years old and the creepy men are all about the preteens I guess but good lord men, back off. So needless to say, my dream of meeting the Prince of Monaco (hell, I would settle for any extremely rich, smart, funny, hot Monacan...I'm clearly not picky) has not come true yet.
Spring Break in ITALIAAAAA

First Stop: Milan: Attack of the Pink Snails
Elise and I hopped on a train to Milan to begin our Italy adventure. Not much action on the way there. We sat in a train car with two Italian boys that smelled like Mighty Taco and a nasty old Italian woman who hated us because we are so clearly American. But we made it to Milan. My first real encounter with attempting to communicate with an Italian came when we needed a cab from the train station. Seeing that I am fluent in English, majoring in Spanish and living in France, I am just royally screwed up. So I spoke all three to the cabbie making the situation as confusing as possible and he was highly amused, pretty much telling me to just stick to English.
We stayed with Elise's friend Vi, who went on exchange to Cali in high school but is from Milan. She was fabulous and her house was amazing as well. After living in my ghettofab apartment, the house literally seemed like a five star hotel. And the shower was an actual shower, no need to hose myself down! Best shower of my life. We had our first Italian pizza that night, and oh my god was it delicious. The next day Vi showed us around Milan. We saw the place where the "Last Supper" lives but apparently you need to call 2 weeks in advanced to reserve tickets. So dumb, it was February and freezing, I doubt there were many tourists in Milan. Stubborn Italians.
Then we went to this large, large castle. It was really pretty. So pretty and large in fact that Victoria Beckham (Posh Spice for all those that aren't very hip) wants to buy it. She wants to buy an ancient castle, and she's serious. Apparently the people of Milan had a field day over this one and she is the new town idiot. Serves her right. You can't be a Spice Girl, be fabulously wealthy, be married to David Beckham and live in an actual castle. Don't get greedy Posh.

On our way back from the castle, we ran into these huge pink snails that seemed to be attack Milan. They were everywhere and apparently they are art. Humongous pink snails taking over the fashion capital of the world!!
Speaking of the fashion capital of the world, that's pretty much all that Milan had to offer except from the snails, the castle, the gelato and the food. There was every name brand represented within walking distance of one other but sad part was, obviously I couldn't afford anything. And fun fact: Abercrombie and Fitch is the new hot thing in Europe. They are eating it up, its unbelievable. We walked into one in Milan and there were lines of girls taking pictures with the "models" who work there.

Vi was an amazing host and cooked for us and pretty much spoiled us. It was a really nice, relaxing and delicious weekend to start off Italy Adventure '10 with.
In love with Firenze...the European way to say Florence

Next stop: Florence to see the sights, do some shopping, eat some more fabulous food and most importantly, to see Elaina!
After a relatively short train ride, made much better with a jar of Nutella, we arrived in Florence. Elaina came to pick us up at the train station and it was soo good to see her. Her apartment blows mine out of the water...mostly because she has a fabulous terrace that has a great view. And she is a pro chef too. She inspired me to cook more! In fact I just made chicken and sausage gumbo...impressed?

We climbed the stairs to the top of the bell tower to overlook all of Florence and the Duomo and it was so so beautiful. Florence is the way I pictured Italy with everything so pretty and old and having so much character. Elise and I fell in love with Florence. We saw the David statue, climbed up the Piazza Michaelangelo, ate some world famous gelato and did some fabulous shopping. Obviously I couldn't resist investing in a genuine leather bag from Florence and bargaining with the men in the market is a new hobby. It was the perfect weekend with my best friends with just the right amount of tourist activities, delicious food and hanging out in a fabuloussss city.

Things are free for a reason
On our way out of Florence we stopped at a bookshop because we needed some more reading materials for our train ride to Rome. One book I picked up looked interesting..hot pink cover with a beach scene on the front. I was pretty much sold. The price tag literally said FREE. Upon further investigation, the book indeed was free so I thought I was the luckiest girl in the world to find a free book. After reading the first couple pages, I realized why the book was free. It was translated from another language, and was the unrevised version, so it makes no sense.

Here is a direct quote, attempting to explain how a map skewed the size of Russia:

"Certainly it did not feature on any traditional Western maps, those that place the United Sates at the centre of the known universe and limit what was Soviet Union to a squashed chunk of the upper quadrant, the magic of the flat-plane projection shrinking Russia to half its real-life size"...excuse me, what?

Well that kept me entertained until we arrived in Roma!
When in Rome...do as Mary-Kate and Ashley did

Our travels to Rome were quiet as well and we even found our way to Luke's place quite easily. This trip, if nothing else, made Elise and I pro-navigators. After dropping our things off at Luke's (Cait's roommate from Hobart) we found the cutest little Italian place and it was sooo good and sooo cheap. Three glasses of wine, brushetta and spaghetti carbonara for 7 euros! It was unheard of! We were happy campers after dinner and then planned out our next couple of adventures in Rome.
Unfortunately, our day of ruins was almost ruined by the weather. It was cold and rainy and I didn't get the memo that my fabulous new leather bag from Florence would get stained my jeans in the rain. Have no fear, the situation is now repaired but it was a near tragedy at the time. Anyways, we took the metro to the Colesseum and oh my god is it a sight to see. I actually gasped when we got off the metro because its just chilling right there on the side of the road in the middle of Rome, like its no big deal. It was amazing and so big and beautiful. There also were an abundance of cats living inside which was strange. We made our way through the Roman Forum, the birthplace of democracy and some other cool ruins like the old stadium before it started pouring. As we were stepping out of the Colesseum, I heard my name being called. I turned around and ran into a friend from my school here. Then as we were walking up the Paletine Hill, we ran into another girl from my school. The world really is small.
The weather did not stop our quest for fabulous pizza. I had the address of a famous pizzeria and after pacing a street for way too long looking for it, we gave up and just went into some random place that smelled good. Turned out, it was the exact place we were looking for but we didn't know the Italian name for the restaurant. It was so so good and they cut these huuuuuge pieces of pizza with scissors depending on how much you want. Oh so good.

After pizza time, we made our way to the Pantheon. We couldn't really figure out why it was so famous other than the fact that Rafael was born there but I guess it was cool. On our way to the Trevi Fountain, being as popular as I am, my name was called again. My four other friends from school were also on their way to the Trevi Fountain. On our way there, we stopped in a shop and this crazy Asian woman was trying to sell us specialty liquors. She kept giving us free shots of the liquors she was trying to sell, so obviously we pretended that we were actually shopping for quite some time until she realized we weren't going to buy anything, and the free shots stopped.

We finally arrived at the Trevi Fountain and it was so beautiful. Probably my favorite place in Rome. It was so blue and magical and obviously we had to do as Mary Kate and Ashley did and take pictures of us making wishes at the Trevi Fountain. Apparently, if you throw in two coins you fall in love in Rome...but I threw in 20 cents, so I was assuming my Italian prince would immediately drive by on his vespa and whisk my off my feet. Didn't happen.
The Spanish steps were literally just a bunch of stairs leading up to a church. Not really impressive but nonetheless made fun by the Mary Kate and Ashley reference we pulled up as we raced up the stairs. It was really pretty from the top though so I guess it was worth it.

After a day full of adventure, we went out for, you guessed it, pizza. After pizza we were on a hunt for a place where they have chocolate shots. Our friend told us about it and we were lucky enough to find it. Literally heaven on earth. The shot glasses are made out of dark chocolate, then you can get Irish creme or coffee liquor or anything, topped with whipped cream and chocolate sauce and you drop the entire shot glass into your mouth at once. Obviously it was quite messy but oh so tasty. I still dream about them.

Then we were off to a couple more bars and we ended up at a karaoke bar. We sang "Don't Stop Believing", an obvious crowd pleaser, but we were unimpressed with the crowds' response. I'm convinced the microphones were not turned on because I'm sure they would have been blown away by the American girls talent.

Next day, Vatican City. Ironically, it was a Wednesday. Ash Wednesday. We figured that out on the way there and I was surprised it wasn't absolutely swarming with Catholics out and about looking for the Pope. Sad news we didn't see the Pope. But I did see the Sistene Chapel and the School of Athens in the Vatican Museum which were both very beautiful. The other stuff though in the museum was not interesting and they literally build the place like a maze so you have no choice but to walk the half hour through all the other stuff just to see the Sistene Chapel. It was like there were a thousand ancient religious pop-ups and I was without a pop-up blocker.

After the Vatican, we went to get our last gelato and pizza in Italy. The man serving us pizza in Rome, was clearly Italian and couldn't speak much English but claimed he was from Scotland so he tried to chat us up for a bit. I'm not sure what it is with these European men pretending to be from somewhere else but its bizarre. Its happened numerous times. Like you don't have to pretend, and if you are going to lie, at least try to have the accent down.

Last night in Italy

For our last night together, we went to go to our favorite little cheap restaurant we went to the first night in Rome but obviously being European, things close whenever they want and on a Wednesday night at 8pm it was closed. We found another delicious place, not hard to do in Rome, and ate there instead. After dinner we went back to Luke's to find all of the girls living their partying with their professors. It was the funniest thing I've ever seen. A couple, who were in their 50s, were just chatting away and playing drinking games with their students. That wouldn't be the most acceptable thing in America, but it seemed like a frequent occurrence in Rome. So fun.

Elise was off to DC the next morning and it was sad to see her go. Then, it was my turn to return back to France. And this is when the fun began.

Absolutely not!

I was making the 10 hour train ride home to France by myself but I figured with my badly translated book and some baguette, I would be fine. The train came right on schedule so I gathered all my things and climbed up the stairs to the train then turned around to pick up my luggage from the stairs below me. As I was picking up my luggage, a girl about 13 years old, said "excuse me" so that she could go by me into the train car. I didn't think anything of it because I was a wide load blocking the entire train car. Then as I was just succeeding at pulling my luggage up by myself, another little girl of about 13 years old, asked me in Italian what train car we were in. I told her "ocho" thinking that might be close to the Italian equivalent and as she was trying to ask me another question, I felt something on my side. I turn around to find the first little girl's hand in my fabulous new leather bag from Florence.

I was so shocked. I swatted her hand away immediately, screaming "ohhh absolutely not!" and quickly made sure everything was in there. Thank god that bag had a zipper or that sneaky little brat would have been off with my wallet and brand new camera. I then swiftly turned around, whacking the other girl with my large and in charge backpack and grabbed my luggage, rolling over both of their sneaky little feet in the process. Then they had the nerve to tell me to watch where I was going...SERIOUSLY?! Ahhh I was tempted to scream at them "You sneaky little bitches, go to school!" but refrained myself because at that point I was so shocked to do anything but bruise them with my hefty luggage.
I pretty much ran to my seat because I was so panicked and couldn't believe some sneaky little preteens had tried to rob me. My purse was tucked under my jacket but it must have been popping out when I was trying to get my luggage up the stairs. I was so mad and the worst part was I was alone so I had no one to tell. I didn't want to tell anyone around me because at that point I was convinced the entire train and country of Italy was out to get me. For the first time in a while, I had to write in my journal because I needed to tell someone of my encounter with those pickpocketers.
The writing in the journal continued for much of that trip home because things just kept going wrong. What was supposed to take 2 trains to get me from Rome to Nice, took me 6. It seemed like every train I went on got discontinued and I'd have to get off and wait a half hour for the next train to come. Instead of getting home at 7pm as planned, I arrived at 11pm. It was not the most joyous experience of my life. Throw into the mix the fact that no one else was back from their breaks yet and my laptop charger was dead so I had no means of communication, and it equaled a very lonely me. But at least I was lonely in France after just spending an amazing
week in Italy. Can't complain about that.
So laptop charger has arrived and everything is back to normal. I'll fill you in on Carnaval and the Marseilles soccer game next time. I'm off to Lyon and Grenoble for the weekend...a tout a l'heure!