Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ciao Bella!

Alright so here is how Rome went:
got to the airport at about 16h30. POURING down rain! Pretty sure I only packed for warm weather, and had just one pair of sandals for the two weeks. FML. So we finally got to our hostel after HOURS of searching in the rain. No one spoke english there and looked at us like we were from another planet. There were only 3 rooms in the hostel, and our room seemed to be the only one booked up, with 4 other people in it already. They got real annoying real fast, so we decided that we deserved a nice dinner after all that we had gone through. We headed out to what seemed like a good area, according to our guide book. Seeing as I spent 2 weeks planning these trips, and Rome was supposed to be 4 days long, we chose our top 4   for the city and explored one of the 4 areas. We ran into the Trevi fountain on the way to dinner.       Throwing my coin in.   On our walk to the square, we hit this  lil guy. We thought it was the Pantheon, but later was made fun of for about 3 hours by some ex-pats because clearly it is not. Im still not sure what it is though? Rome went by a little fast :/

Dinner was delicious, but it was pouring harder than I have ever seen in my whole life, no exaggeration, and like I said, neither of us were prepared for the weather, so we turned that in to a 3 hour dinner pretty quickly. 
After dinner, clearly not wanting to go back to the hostel, we decided to head to a bar. I had heard millions of recommendations for bars and clubs that I was so excited to try out, but given the weather and the lack of enthusiasm for this city, we headed next door to an all American, beer pong playing bar. Yuck. The last place in the whole entire world I would ever want to be. We did meet the ex-pats here though, and we had some fun just chit chatting with them.
Headed back to the hostel pretty early that night, seeing as we had a tour of the Vatican at 10 am and a flight at 16h. 
Again, this is where the FML part comes it. Our hostelmates stumbled in at about 330 am, and decided to get in a HUGE fist fight/ cursing contest with the people who work there. Apparently someone stole someone's jacket, which of course requires a brawl in the middle of the night. I politely, ok maybe not, but still, asked them to shut the freak up and to put me in a 4 star if they didn't stop, and was cussed out by the guy who owns the hostel? Okay... 
Flash forward to 7 am, the people who work at the hostel decided to throw a raging bash with everyone they know, until about 9 am. Lovely.
Flash forward again to about 930 am, time for us to check out, no one coherent is anywhere to be found, and there are people passed out everywhere. Ew. Finally I snoop around, seeing as we are already going to be late to our Vatican tour. The only person I can find is the guy I got in a fight with the night before, NAKED, still drunk probably. He casually helps me check out, still naked. Eh? Let's just thank god that's over with.
Headed to the Vatican for a tour following an umbrella with a bunch of Americans. Who am I?!
So, here are my pics of the Vatican Museum for all y'all:

Newest addition: the spiral walkway in the museum. St. Peter's basilica behind me (still raining). 
Large head in the pine cone courtyard. 

 Pine cone.

 Sneaky pic of the Sistine Chapel, not to be confused with the Sixteenth Chapel.

 Vatican City. Inhabitants: Roughly 300. Only home to the Swiss guards of the Museum and Pope. Only after 2 years of service can they invite their families in to live with them in the city. Or something like that.  St Peter's Square.  St Peter's Basilica.  The inside of the church.  Stairwell leading to where all the popes are buried. Icky. 

Sorry for my lack of Vatican pictures. It was overwhelming/ forbidden/ we were really tired.
So after the tour was over at about 13h, back to Rome to do 3 hours of sight seeing and head to the airport right-quick.  
So in a nutshell: here is Rome

 Run really quick to the Pantheon, which has a whole in the roof? Okay. Briskly walk to the Colosseum. Run into the ex-pats from the previous night. Small world? Find out that it is free (!) to enter the Colosseum just for that day. Do a quick tour while the sun comes out for 35 minutes.  Feel really sad for the people who lost their lives, but smile for a necessary picture, and feel a bit inspired to watch Gladiator.  Get a nice picture of one of Rome's 3 (4?) versions of the Arc de Triomphe.
Leap over cobblestones to the Spanish Steps. 

 Hop on a train, and head off to Barcelona on red eye flight with a Catalonian family reunion. In case you don't know, Catalonians are WAY louder than Spaniards AND Italians. Lovely to deal with whilst trying to get some shut eye for a quick 2 hours. Hence us sleeping practically in the toilettes. 
Ciao Roma, Hola Espana! 

And Now, For A Trip to Athens

Ok I do realize that I completely fail at life. BUT, I was on spring break for the past two weeks, so that explains a bit.
So here's what went down. We were SUPPOSED to be in Athens on the first Sunday of break, but thank you Icelandic volcano for exploding all over Europe and delaying our flight 3 separate times until Wednesday.

And when we FINALLY got a flight out, we were just about the only people in CDG. Eery but only took us a few minutes to get through security.
So, with Paris behind us, we headed off to Athens, for what should have been 4 days, but turned into 2 and a half.

So of course, upon arriving to our hostel at about 2 am, they didnt have any reservation under our name, but thank you cute Australian working at the desk at that hour for putting us into a private hostel for the night. I owe that cutie Chase my life... well maybe not that much.

So we got some shut eye and did some sight seeing the next morning. Pretty sweet, we got into Agora, which is the small "city" that the Acropolis is in, for free with our student ID cards. Thank you La Sorbonne!
So here are some pics of Agora:

Atop a large rock, overlooking Athens and then some
PARTHENON. Hello you beautiful beast.
Although, everything on our Eurotrip was either under construction, on strike, or both. 
Some pretty sweet sculptures.
We noticed that in Athens, there were puppies EVERYWHERE. They were treated better than the beggars on the streets even. Everywhere we went there were lil bebes sleeping and/or eating food put out by each shop keeper. 
After sightseeing, which took about 3 hours, we had a nice long greek lunch, and went to this wine/liqueur shop called Brettos. Its pretty famous, as I'm sure you can see why. We may have spent a little too long wine tasting, but it was just all so good, and the owners were so nice!

Our hostel. Perfectly safe and clean, no worries moms. 
After this, we ended up hanging out with some people we met whom had been stuck in Athens for quite some time, due to the volcano, and ended up having a really fun time at the rooftop bar of our hostel, which had an awesome view of the Acropolis. 

The next day is where it gets a bit interesting. It was our last day in Athens, and seeing as we had seen what we wanted to see and Athens is quite small, we decided to take a quick ferry to the island of Aegina. Bikinis on, magazines in our bags, and an hour and a half metro ride to the port later, we find out there is a strike, one day only, of all boats in and out of Greece. Lovely. Seeing as we were in the dirtiest place probably in all of Greece, we spent another hour and a half to get back to Athens, walked for about 45 minutes to the biggest park in Greece, to, surprise surprise, find out it is closed for renovations. So another hour walk later, trying to get to the hill of Nympheas (all we wanted to do was lay out in the sun and relax), we decided to get a taxi and sit at a restaurant that the guide book recommended. The waiter was so nice and told us of a beach just a quick metro ride away. A delicious meal and three hours later (apparently in Athens they put the bill under the table cloth? What in the? How where we supposed to find that?!) we ended up at the ocean! 19h30 and determined to say that we laid out...  (^ fake smile)
 (^ another fake smile)
 I know it may sound a bit like complaining and you say "Well Caitlin, you are in Greece, go with the flow" but i'm sure that 4 days of cancelled flights, no refunds, travel companies who don't speak english or french, creepy greek men, dogs with fleas, and sand that has more rocks than actual sand, you would complain a bit too. 

BUT! The next day we ate these v which made life a little better. We also visited the Temple of the Olympian Zeus which was really friggen rad, and yet again free!

  ^ Fallen pillar.

So Athens was quick. The good was mixed with the bad, but we made it work people, as my mom and Tim Gunn would say. Off to Rome for a quick 20 hours next! See you there!

Thursday, April 15, 2010


And here is my Bordeaux post! I absolutely loved Bordeaux, just as Italy. It is a fairly small town with surprisingly, a lot of attractions and things to do. 
This is their Opera house, it was in a huge open square. Interesting because the city has a lot of open space, and just as many Range Rovers as LA. So contrary to Paris!
This is just a gorgeous building thrown in the middle of the city. No significance, just a building. ????!!!
We climbed to the top of a tower (we seem to do that a lot in every city) and had a perfect view of the whole city. This is one of their churches, Cathédrale St-André, quite similar to Notre Dame, i'd say.
This is a photo of Bordeaux's new courthouse. Interesting looking, no? The security guard surprisingly let us in and showed us around. Each of these eggs are trial rooms. They look a lot similar to boardrooms and have windows on the outside for spectators to watch the trial. What a strange concept I thought! Like I said, the building is fairly new, I think built in the past 5 or 10 years. Interesting seeing as the rest of the city is 100s of years old. 
It seems to me that Bordeaux loves them some animals. This is a statue in the gardens of the Musee des Beaux-Arts. (Time didn't permit us to go inside, but I hear there are a lot of famous works in there and that it is a really gorgeous museum, so if anyone has the opportunity, it is highly recommended!)
And again, the animals, with these turtles in the middle square of the city. No plaque or anything near it, just hanging out. (In the photo, my brothers Horacio and Patrick, and of course, Caroline)
We spent Sunday in St Emilion, wine country of Bordeaux. It rained heavily off and on, but that was alright seeing as we spent the majority of the day in cellars. A bit off season so the vineyards were not as pretty as I hoped they would be.  
Photo of the whole group. I think that's a first that we have all been together, besides the welcome dinner.
My first wine cellar experience! Moldy, damp from the rain, and quite tempting. Walls upon walls upon walls of wine bottles, dating all the way back to the french revolution in the 1800s.
First wine tasting experience, with one of my roommates (colocation in french) Sara. The first tasting we did, we had a really funny German connoisseur. He looked like he has been there for 100 years, and knew so much about the wines. We all found one that we absolutely loved and ended up buying a bottle for each of ourselves. I saved mine for when Margaret was here and we drank it together the last night before she departed.
This was our second tour. He gave us a look around his family vineyard, taught us how to actually make the wine, showed us his personal cellar (astonishing, but he didn't allow photos. I'd say there was easily millions of euros worth of wine in there). This guy really really knew what he was talking about. He gave us tips on cheap wine that is actually good, for us students on a budget, taught us about the history of wine making, and how to ACTUALLY go wine tasting.Quite a hysterical method to it. 
Step 1. Smell the wine. Step 2. Swirl it in your glass to bring alive the REAL odor of it.
Step 3. Smell again.
Step 4. Hold the glass up to a white sheet to see the actual color of the wine.
Step 5. Take the wine in your mouth, and make a sort of taco with your tongue, slurping the wine through it. This made us all giggle because he didn't explain the steps before he did them, and we were all awkward about the noise he kept making with his mouth. I guess the reason for this is to separate the taste of the alcohol with the taste of the wine, yet again to get the true flavor and odor of it.   
After the tasting, we took a tour of the city, with some really really interesting ruins and catacombs, but no photos were allowed, so Im sad to say I have no evidence. The tour was given in French also, so I only got snippets here and there of everything. It was just quite fascinating because this little city that probably doesn't even have internet has more history in its pinky than all of California combined. (One of the reasons I'm so obsessed with the EU). 
After the tour, we climbed to yet ANOTHER mountain top. So many lookout points all over this continent! Always the same. Most narrow, steepest stairs ever, up to a little landing with no barricade to keep you from falling off. For this reason, I steal all my lookout pictures from Caroline. I usually trek to the top, but not long enough to be able to take photos. Definitely not for the claustrophobic or those with fears of heights. Having that been said, here are some photos of the actual wine country, props to Caroline for doing the hard part for all of us. Enjoy.