Thursday, January 29, 2009

And just 2 more...that's it then, promise!!

On our 1st day trip, last week, if you remember there were many interactive parts to the museum that we toured. One in particular that I told you about was a boat that had a screen behind it simulating a storm. Well....Derrick happened to catch the hubby and I while in the storm!!!


And this video is probably my all time FAVORITE so far. HILARIOUS.

Remember our time spent in the Park in Torino?? 
And remember me telling you about our "Ice Dancing??" 
Well, this is it. And Drew is awesome.

And just one more...

One more video for your viewing pleasure: 

Another playground shenanigan that was just ridiculous. 

Just for fun....and laughs too!!!

So, we have a lot of fun making videos as we travel to bring back so that you can feel like you're right there with us....and so that, for a couple of them, you can laugh until you cry.  :) 

I have a couple to share from some of our recent travels, so I hope you enjoy watching them as much as we did making them!!! 

We had just gotten off the train and we were headed to our hostel as we explored the streets of Torino.

Remember reading about our fun in the playground as we walked around looking for the Winter Olympic site??? Well, if you don't you can refresh your memory before watching this one. 
We had WAY too much fun for a bunch of 20 something's playing on the playground.  :) 

And finally, our train ride to skiing in Bardonecchia. Keep in mind that I HATE talking on these things and was VERY tired. My husband made me do it.  :) 

Hopefully they'll be many more to come for your enjoyment!!! 

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Traveling, traveling, a'traveling we go!!!

Let me begin by saying, that we are so incredibly blessed. I don't even think that in the here and now, we realize the opportunity we have nor the experiences we're having. It won't be until years down the road, when we've been married for years, we're watching our own children grow up and get married, and we're sitting together on our front porch swing, when we'll turn to one another, and finally realize how blessed we truly were to have had this amazing life experience. To have seen the things that we are seeing. To have met the people we are meeting and connecting with.
I don't think until then, many years from now, will we truly know and understand.

With that being said, let me say that I am tired. Not sleepy tired, but just tired. I don't really know how to explain it. I'm not tired of traveling, I think I'm tired from traveling. We have been going, going, going since last Tuesday and I don't feel like I have had the chance to truly rest. I LOVE all of this traveling, but I just want a weekend to kind of take it easy; or a bit slower I guess. But our travels are not letting up anytime's what's been happening or is about to be underway:

1. We of course had our 1s day trip last week and I told you all about that. Fun, fun!!!

2. Then this past weekend we traveled to Torino and the Alps. Let me catch you up on that:
Oh boy....Sunday probably goes down as one of the most memorable days of my life (among many other things that have already come before it of course). I have never seen such natural beauty. It's amazing to me, that someone can see the things that I have seen and witness such beauty, and not believe in one divine creator. Only God could create such landscape with His own two hands. It is mesmerizing. Seeing such things has a way of not only redifining your faith, reassuring your faith. It was hard not to just stand there, in the open air of snow and mountains and blue skies, and just take it all in for hours.

First sights of the Alps

We were going to originally leave Friday afternoon, but chose to leave EARLY Saturday morning instead so that we only had to pay for one night of lodging (much cheaper). So Friday night was very low-key (with a trip that last the whole afternoon to prepare for our weekend adventures...if you want the skinny, you can Real Quick like read about it) with packing, pizza, and a movie.
Saturday morning, it was up early and off to the bus which took us to the train, where we rode about 2 hours to Torino. We spent all day Saturday in the quiet city sightseeing, ice dancing (if that's what you want to call it, haha!! some of the best times we've had together as a group so far....hilarious!!), playing in the snow, playing on a playground, and just all in all having a great time. We took the time to see where the Winter Olympics were held and warmed up with some lattes in a cute little café (it was FREEZING walking around in the snow all day) and finally headed to do some evening exploring. We ended up having Chinese for dinner (I Italy!!), which turned out to be REALLY good. Afterwards we finally headed back to the hostel around 9:30 PM for bed. We had an EARLY morning ahead of us in order to make our train for skiing.
This was my very first hostel, ever, and it was not too shabby. I think that we were actually very lucky in that ours was pretty nice, well kept, safe, and all around a pleasant stay. No complaints here.

My first hostel

So Sunday morning we wake up at 6AM to meet downstairs at 6:30 AM and off we start the 4 mile trek to the train station. We get there, our train is delayed 25 minutes, so we wait and finally bored around 7:30-8 AM. And off we are for skiing in the ALPS!!!

Waiting for our train

We arrived about 2 hours later, and had a bit of a time trying to figure out where to get passes, ski rentals, etc.; all that necessary stuff. We finally got it all figured out and hopped a bus to the top of the mountain.
Once at the top, we went to get our rentals, which took some time because there were 13 of us, but eventually we were all suited up. A quick bite of lunch and then we were ready to hit the slopes!!

Me and the hubby geared up, ready to go

Most everyone skied...myself and Leslee were snow tubing buddies for the day!! HA!! No, no, we did try the bunny slopes once, and then the beginner's slope (yeah right...more like the equivalent of an intermediate slope back home) once before turning in the skis and heading for the snow tubes!! :) We had an AMAZING time was her first time and only my second so BIG props to Jonathan and Harrison for being so patient with us on the slopes!! ;)

Me and my ski buddy :) 

We all finished up around 5 PM and turned our skis in to head back down to the bottom for a quick dinner because our train was leaving at 7:20 PM. We actually had to try a couple of places before finding one that was open because of the whole European funny hours opened deal. We finally found something open and I was risky and ordered a cheeseburger...but it ended up being REALLY good. Good risk I took. 
So we hit the train (which was also delayed) and 2 hours back to Torino, then switching in Torino to another train, 2 more hours later we were back in Genoa at about 11 PM Sunday night.

Fun weekend :) Definitely in my Top 5.
The whole group

3. Then we had our 2nd Day Trip on Tuesday of this week.
Another great one, but man oh man, those day trips wear you out. We ususally go from sun up to sun down. For this particular day trip, we had to be ready to go at the bus stop, by 7:15 AM. We had a bus chartered for all 19 of us (well 20 if you count Judy...not sure who Judy is?? Read about our fabulous day trip tour guide!!) to our destinations throughout the day. But never fear....there was still miles and miles and miles of walking included. Always. :)

We first went to Pavia, Italy where we toured Certosa Di Pavia, a mausoleum from the 14th century. Also, a true to the core monk was our tour guide. Unbelievable. Both the building and the monk. So much history and so much to learn about 1 structure.

It was so old, but so ornate. Wow.
One of the many beautiful ceilings of Certosa Di Pavia

Then we headed to another part of Pavia to see Collegio Borromeo circa 16th century. It is part of the University of Pavia and it's original purpose was for entertaining students. It overlooks the River Ticino and has some beautiful gardens within. We were running late all day, so we didn't get to spend much time here.
Next, we visited Palazzo Dell'Universita' which was founded in 1361. This, like the previous, had many courtyards and was 2 levels with many adoring statues. It was quite beautiful. Mostly though, as all of these buildings did, it held so much history.
We then had a quick lunch on the main street of town, and we hopped back on the bus for a 30 minute drive to the town of Vigevano, Italy.

The boys grabbing a bite

While there we saw Piazza Ducale, which is know to be one of Italy's most beautiful piazza's. It is a perfect square, closed off by the original Castello structure. It is a common gathering space for the locals and even had an adorable ice skating rink. It was really awesome!!!
After spending some time in the square, we were able to actually go into and see the Castello. It was very old and again.....very beautiful.

Part of the Castello

Of course, you're probably going to get tired of me saying "so old; so beautiful; amazing; wonderful; gorgeous...etc." but I don't know any other words that would even come close to describing the places and structures that I am seeing and learning about. So, I'm sorry if my use of adjectives is lacking. I can add pictures, but really, nothing I could ever show you or say to you will be justifiable.

4. And finally, we leave on Friday of this week (January 30th) for our very 1st 10 day trip of the semester (there will be 2 of these this semester including this one). We're off to Florence first and then a little over halfway through, we'll take a train and spend the rest of the trip in Rome.

The Pantheon.
The Colosseum.
The Arch of Constantine.
The Catacombs.
Michaelangelo's David.
Vatican City.
St. Peter's Basilica.
The Sistine Chapel.
St. Peter's Square.
Brunelleschi's Dome.

Yeah. I'm going to see those things. This week. And stand just feet away. And possibly touch them. And possibly photograph them.
Life is unreal sometimes. :)

So, if you don't hear from me anymore this week it's because I'm running around trying to pack and get things done before we leve on Friday. And if you don't hear from me in the next 10 days, it's because I'm traveling throughout Rome and Florence and much too busy to blog!! So, until I get back home to Genoa, arrivederci mi amici!!!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Catching up...

I promised I'd catch you up-to-date as soon as I got back this weekend, so here goes nothing:

Last week was pretty much your basic week; classes, meals, some Villa movies at night, some yoga and abs classes....all the typical student Villa happenings. We try not to go out to eat or shopping during the week to save money so we can travel as much as possible on the weekends. And since all of our lunches and dinners are provided for us Monday-Friday, why on earth would we spend money to eat??
Occassionally, we will go for some dessert somewhere after dinner -gelato, café, etc.- but not too often. We also might venture out during the day to make a trip for something particular that we're looking for, to see some of the sights of Genoa that we have yet to see and photograph, or to grab some necessities at the Di per Di.

The Di per Di. The translations is Day by Day. I don't think I have told you about that yet. Well, it's Italy's version of a grocery store, except MUCH, MUCH smaller. It has all the things that a grocery store in the States has, even a butcher where you select from fresh meats and cheeses. They also have a FINE selection of cheap chocolates. They also have lots of good juice drinks, cereal, and some Amercian things like Pringles and Coca-Cola. Basically, it's where you can find similar if not actual things to the States, and we use it as our "snack stash" store. We stock up and then we have something to snack on here at the villa during the day, in bewteen meals, and snacks to take with us on trips. All of us go to the Di per Di about 2-3 times a week.

Anyways, back to catching you up:
The big happening of last week was our 1st Day Trip!!! Over the course of living in Genoa, Italy, we will take a day trip every Tuesday (with the exception of 3 or 4 due to week long travels), every week for the entire semester. Most will be spent in parts of Italy, while a couple might be outside of Italy and in other countries. For each day trip, we will have a "tour guide" and, from what I can tell so far, she is pretty awesome!! Her name is Giuditta, but we call her Judy.

For our 1st day trip, we were to tour the Port of Genoa. I was really happy that we were going to stay in Genoa for our 1s day trip because in the 2 weeks that we had already been here, we'd taken many trips out into the city to explore, but we never knew any history behind the things we were seeing.
We began by getting up WAY early to meet her at the Piazza by 7:30 AM. On this particular morning, it was POURING down and rain and FREEZING. Needless to say, I didn't dress warmly enough, but luckily was well dressed for the rain. I had my rain jacket as well as my ever famous pink rain shoes (those things are SO old, but man I love them!!). However, my precious husband did not do so well in preparing for the rain. He had his rain coat, but alas, had no idea where the hood part (that can be taken off) had gotten to. So, the minute we leave the villa, he looks so pitiful!! I felt so bad for him, and was worried that the next day he would awake sick as a dog. The water just streamed off his head and down his face. Thankfully men were walking around the Harbour selling small and large umbrellas, and, it was about 2 hours into the tour when Jonathan finally broke down and bought a smaller one for about 3 euro. By this time, he was able to use it for about 20 minutes before the rain stopped.
He didn't pull out that umbrella not one more time all day long.
Oh well, it made for a funny story. :)

It was early and we had just stepped out of the villa...and already soaked

One thing about Judy is, she knows her stuff!! So we spent our first hour or so (in the rain) walking through the harbour obtaining as much historical information as she could put out in a short amount of time. We saw some beautiful, historical architecture that she knew just enough about to make you feel like you had had a crash course on the history of Genoa and its port.

We then moved on to a boat tour that included a view of the entire harbour area from sea and it was gorgeous. We had the boat all to ourselves, and it was the perfect way to begin the 1st day trip of the semester.

View from the boat looking back at the harbour

After our boat tour, we headed over to see 2 architectural complexes between the harbour and the historical part of the city. The first was Palazzata Della Ripa and the second was Palazzo San Giorgio. Both held significant importance to the city's harbour and were great for sketching for the architecture students. We spent a good bit of time there letting everyone sketch and we got some pretty good pictures as well.

We then headed to Galata Museo Del Mare for a tour of the museum of the sea. This partiuclar museum was built on the original site of the 17th century arsenal main dock. In the main hall, when you first come in, you can see the entire map of the waterfront of Genoa. It's incredible.

An aerial view of the entire waterfront of Genoa

The museum was probably my favorite part of our 1st day trip. It was one of the coolest museums I had ever been in and had a lot of hands on displays. Of course being that it was a waterfront museum, there were tons of boats on display. Small ones, large ones, interactive ones. Everything was set in the time of Christopher Columbus and his discovery (being that he IS a native of Genoa...interesting fact that I did not know).
After finishing up at the museum we had lunch, which we had packed, on the dock. We had a lot of fun feeding the pigeons!! :) They kept fighting over the bread pieces.

The pigeons fighting

After lunch we took a tour of La Commenda Di Pre' which is one of the most historical centers in all of the Mediterranenan, founded during the 12th century. This building was used as a hospice to knight monks and pilgrims that were traveling through the area to reach the Holy Land. It was incredibly old and incredibly beautiful. There were 2 parts, an upper and a lower. I didn't get too many pictures of the lower, just because it was so dark, but I couldn't stop photographing the upper. It was probably the oldest structure I have ever seen or stepped foot in.

The interior of the upper church of La Commenda

From La Commenda, we went to the Palazzo del Prince, which was the mansion and the headquarters of the Prince of Genoa. We toured the entire mansion; bedrooms, gardens, and banquet hall. Again, very old and very beautiful. We actually weren't supposed to take pictures, but I managed to sneak a few in. ;)

The ceiling of Palazzo Del Principe

Lastly, we ended the day with a trip to the tip of Genoa to se La Lanterna. It was quite the trek (we go everywhere by foot; if I haven't gotten in shape come May, something is wrong), but well worth it once we arrived and the perfect way to end our 1st day trip. I have never seen a more beautiful structure and the lighting when we got there was amazing. I have never seen the sky so blue. It was the perfect backdrop for such an important structure to the Genovese history. The Lighthouse was first constructed in the 12th century, then a new one in the 16th century, and finally restored as a museum from 1995-2004. La Lanterna is the symbol of Genoa; it rises some 85 meters (279 feet...everything is in meters here of course, and yes, I had to google that conversion!! HA!) from the base and 117 meters (384 feet) above the sea. It remains a functioning lighthouse and navigational aid for sailors even today holding a light beam that can be seen for up to 33 miles away.
And again, absolutely beautiful. Even the walk up to reach it was photo-worthy. The lighting was just so perfect.

La favorite structure so far

So.....that at least gets you up-to-date on last week and our 1st day trip. I hate it because, I am getting so behind on blogging, but honestly, we go places and see things and photograph faster than I can tell you about them. And this bothers me because by blogging, I'm able to quickly put our experiences down so that I can come back to them and remember what I've seen and what I've done. I know if I don't, I'll forget. But really, we're hardly here, and when we are, it takes so long to process pictures and blog and everyone is always using the internet at the same time. It's fast, but it gets "clogged" up at times.

I do promise (mainly for myself) that I am going to try and do better. We just travel so durn much I can't keep up with it...I'm too busy seeing the world!!! :)


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Real quick...

Ahh!!! I know it's been a while, but life here in Genoa has been busy, busy!! I promised myself that I would do a good job of blogging frequently, but we do things faster than I can blog about our European adventures!! 
We're actually headed off to Torino for the weekend (in a mere 5 hours...I know, WHY am I still up!?! Oh well, I'll sleep on the train.....) where we will spend Saturday sightseeing, and Sunday....skiing in the ALPS!!!! :) Oh my goodnes....I can't believe I'm going to get to do this!! I actually am not that fond of skiing, and will stick to the bunny slopes, but how on earth could you pass up an opportunity to ski in the ALPS?!?! 
So, that being said, I did want to just share a couple things really quickly, and then when we return on Sunday, I'll give you a more thorough up-to-date on life in Italy!!! :)

1. We had to venture out today to find skiing gear, b/c for whatever reason, we were either told A) It was REALLY expensive to rent there or, B) Not possible at all. I don't know. I wasn't paying attention. So after lunch we took and adventurous expedition (about 8 of us) in the pouring rain (it was a dreary, rainy day today in Genoa) to a sports store called Decathlon, which was on the OTHER side of Genoa. 
Ha!! We took lots of buses -wrong ones and right ones-, took lots of stairs, and we were able to practice our Italian with the natives, but we finally found our way there!!! And as it should turn out, the store was INCREDIBLE and everything was REALLY cheap. Unbelievably affordable, so we were able to get some really great, necessary things for this weekend. 
The sports store 

2. On our long, wet journey back, we made a stop to a Pizzeria close by the Villa and right off our bus stop. Leslee and I shared a formaggio cuattro pizza and it was soooo gooood. We also managed to grab a few Coca Colas (ha!!) from the di per di (grocery store) close by the Villa as well. Made for a wonderful dinner!!
Oh my. So good. 

3. After dinner a group of us gathered in the studio to watch a flick. We had a low key, Friday evening at home and it was great. Exactly what we needed before this busy -but fun- weekend. 
Afterwards, before bed, Jonathan and I came up to our room and he helped me pack. I had to fit everything for this weekend into my pack!! Ah!! Haha, just kidding. It really wasn't all that bad, because, we really didn't need to pack too much and most of that would be ski gear. I only needed 1 pair of shoes (I know...can you imagine?? But this was strict orders from the hubby) so I'll wear those and won't even pack any. Crazy.
My new ski gear: gloves, socks, a watch, a bib, a pullover, a toboggan, and an ear band. It's going to be cold!!!

4. Finally, I have a WONDERFUL video to share with you!! We're really trying to do more of this. We had our 1st Day Trip (which I had hoped to share about with you earlier this week, but just never go to it, so hopefully I will be able to on Sunday when I get back before we head off to our 2nd one on Tuesday!!) on Tuesday of this past week. It was a LOT of fun and we got LOTS of pictures, but this video I thought was the best. I interviewed Derrick about our boat ride. 
It's just a sneak peek into our adventures for that day. 

:) Enjoy!!! 

Sunday, January 18, 2009

You speak English too??? YES!!!!

So another weekend has pretty much come and gone, and again, Luca has shown us some incredible things. But, although the things that we are seeing are incredible, I cannot believe how many people we are meeting....and actually speaking in Italian with!!! Our crash course has proven to be VERY helpful, but mainly because our teacher, Barbara, is amazing. 

And, in the midst of meeting and conversing with all of these Italians, we are meeting other students from here and there across the States and having a GREAT time with them as well. It just so happens, that on Friday night, we were out in the Piazza where a lot of the University of Genoa students hang out. We were passing through, trying to meet up with Luca, and I had to use the bathroom VERY badly (I had had a LOT of water while at dinner). So Jonathan, Drew, Leslee, and myself TREKED through the madness that was (I have NEVER seen THAT many people in one gathering area....we were PACKED like sardines, and could barley move 2 inches) until we reached the other side of the Piazza, thinking there was a bathroom in a café we had previously been to with Luca. Well, no go. 
So we're standing around, about to go on ourselves, when we think we overhear a group nearby speaking in English, who are also looking for a bathroom. We chat it over, "You go....No, you go ask....Are they speaking English???", when I finally just walk over, poke my head into their group, and say (in what I am sure was very Southern English), "Ya'll lookin' for a bathroom too??" Ha!! They immediately perked up and started exclaiming, "YES!! YES!! ....You speak English????" It was AWESOME!!! 

Their names are Marilyn, Denise, Alexis, Laura, and Andrea and they're from Miami studying abroad with the University of Genoa, but they're students of FIU in Miami. You can't imagine how great it was to meet them, at that particular time and place. We ended up venturing off with them to find a bathroom, get some gelato (my first REAL, Italian gelato....unbelievable.), and then we hung out with them for the rest of the night!! We even met up with them Saturday (last) night for dinner as well. They are SO nice, and there are only 6 of them in their program (1 was away traveling to Barcelona for the weekend). We hope to possibly plan a trip with them, and will DEFINITELY hang out with them often!! :) :) 

Yay for new friends, new experiences, and this amazing life God has given me....I'm trying to live it to the fullest, every day!!! :) 

Friday, January 16, 2009

The weekend is here :)

I know all of you are as excited as I am for the weekend's arrival!! It will be nice to have some time to do some non-school related things on our end.

On Wednesday, studio began for everyone as well as all of their other classes. We have continued with our Italian and we will have our last class on Sunday. :( So sad. The schedule for not just the semester, but as well as day to day, was given out on Wednesday. Looks like there isn't going to be a whole lot of "in class" time, but more outside, traveling time. Yay!! I know I'm looking forward to it!! And it's been good to finally have some free, "me" (while they're in studio) alone time. I've really enjoyed that. Don't get me wrong, I love everyone here and I love being able to be with my husband 24/7, but everyone needs some ME time every now and then!!

Today we had Italian, and then they had Arch History which got out early so there was some time to spare before lunch. Then lunch came, and afterwards, classes were done for the day!! It will be like that EVERY Friday so we have the opportunity to leave out for weekend trips....I could get used to this. ;)

Since we had extra time, a group of us walked downtown, and then we split off -girls went shopping and boys went....well, I don't actually know what they did!! HA!! All I know is, us girls had a GREAT time and got some REALLY cute, Italian things while we were out. We spent about 3 or so hours shopping, and then headed back for dinner, which was prepared earlier today by our chef, and we just had to heat it up. Good stuff.

The girls shopping :)

Now it's time to get ready and head out for another exciting weekend with our Italian friends!!! We're meeting up with Luca, and after last weekend, I can't WAIT to see what he has to show us!!

Have a GREAT weekend!! Ciao!!! :)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Don't forget...

Pay attention to what Gianni is saying as we walk. He introduces you to the fabulous Italian teacher that I have talked so much about, Barbara, the one we all love, adore, and do not want to leave!!! 

OH!! And I guess I should mention....we have new, Italian names here!! It's so much fun....Jonathan's is Gianni (Gee-on-ee) and my name is Leisa (Lee-sah). Love it!! :)

Gianni and Leisa :) 

So we took a walk to get a phone....

Yesterday, January 13, Tuesday, the other half of us that had not yet went downtown to get a Vodafone had to go and get one (this is necessary due to the traveling we will be doing so that we can keep in touch with one another, not nearly as binding as US cell phone companies, and MUCH cheaper). Gianni (or Jonathan as the Americans call him) decided to document our walk there.


Sidenote: Due to size of video, it had to be compressed and therefore this affected the quality. It isn't as great as it was straight off the camera, so sorry for it being blurry. Hopefully you get the point.

Updates from Italy

Ciao bellas!!!

Hope everyone out there is having a most fabulous day!! It sure has been a beautiful one here in Genoa. I actually took the time today to get some pictures of the Villa and the outside gardens, so hopefully soon you'll either
A) get to see some on here, or
B) at least get some type of link directly to those!! :)

Let's see what else....Italian class has been going molto buona!! We began having it this past Saturday and Sunday and have continued this week and we will finish up on Monday. We have it for 3 hours a day, and up until today we had broken that time up into 2 sessions. However, actual studio began today, so therefore we had to do the 3 hours all in 1 session with one 15 minute break. You're probably thinking, "oh man!" but really it's not bad at all. The time flies, and we really are picking up on it. 
The hubby and I are trying to use it whenever possible in whatever situations....even if it means sounding like complete idiots and messing up very badly!! :) We will have the sessions broken up again on Saturday and Sunday because of course, there will be no studio.We all will really, REALLY hate to see Barbara go. She is the main reason class doesn't seem so long. She is very good at teaching Italian....she doesn't teach it for memorization, only to be forgotten as soon as she leaves. She helps you to understand the language. She is so sweet, and really has helped to make our first week in the city not only pleasant, but doable. We will be so very sad to see her go back to Clemson on Monday. :(

Speaking of Italian class, Barbara helped us get our cell phones this week. Half went on Monday, and the other half went on Tuesday. Well. While walking there -which is in the major shopping district of Genoa- we happened upon a H&M store....BENESSIMO!!!! I was MORE than excited.....think Forever21 and then some. It was possibly the largest store I had ever been in. It was 4 stories and 1 whole story was all clearance....cha ching!! HA! I didn't actually get anything; although the sales were amazing, because I figured it was too early in the trip to purchase some souvenirs....after all, we've still got a lot of places to go!!!! :) :) 

OK....moving on..... :)

It's been SO cold here!!! It's okay during the day, but as the sun sets and you get in areas that are not closed off by the tall buildings, the wind CUTS through you. Thankfully, we brought lots of things to stay warm, and, on this same day that we visited the phone place (and went into H&M), the hubby picked up a FABULOUS jacket....his Italian souvenir for the trip. Perfect souvenir for the cold weather. And, I've got to say, he looks SO HOT, SO HOT in it. 

Oooo weeee baby!!! ;)

Speaking of all that wind, it does wonders on the hair, right?!? WRONG. Well turns out that it's NO big deal if you walk out the door and by the time you arrive to your destination your hair looks like a bird's nest...why??? Because, and again, another reason why I LOVE it here....myself and all the other girls are not concerning ourselves with looking "fixed" each day. We roll out of bed, shower at some point, put on NO make-up (glorious) and dress warmly, not for fashion. And I love it!! I put make-up on today for the first time since Sunday probably, and I didn't do it until 3 in the afternoon. It's truly marvelous. 
Getting up each day and not having to put that much effort into getting ready?? Just making sure you are dressed warmly for the day?? Don't know what you think, but us girls here at the Villa are really enjoying the low key, low maintenance lifestyle!!

And speaking of the girls, can I just say, I love everyone here!! :) I can tell that this semester is going to include as little amount of drama as it possibly can....everyone is very laid-back, go with the flow, and no one is trying to suit themselves. Because let's face it -when you have this many people, you have to set aside your own wants and do what's best for the group. ALL of us have been hanging out and it's been a blast. There aren't any "cliques" forming, which sometimes happens, and I don't like that. Everyone feels included. We probably sit around the dinner table each night for at least 2 hours talking and laughing. It's so great!!! I'm so thankful to have made 16 new, amazing friends!!! :)

A smaller group of us that went to an Italian play with Luca and friends. 

So, all in all, I'd have to say, the life is good. Each day is a brand new day full of adventure, full of new friends, full of new experiences, and full of photos to remember it all in the years to come. We are so richly blessed!! 

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Amaro Italia!

Or, as the Americans would say.....I love Italy!!!!

We haven't been here even 1 week, and already there are a few things that I simply LOVE about living in Italy. I thought I'd share those with you:

1. The "blood" oranges. Yes, that's correct...blood. I don't know what their Italian name is, but that's the English translation we were given here at the Villa. They are simply amazing. I'm surely convinced they're the BEST fruit on the face of the planet. I don't know if they are exclusive to one has said either way.

2. The cappuccino that I make for myself each morning here at the Villa. Oh man. I don't drink coffee and on occasion will have a cappuccino....but this is not your typical American cappuccino. The Villa has 3 espresso machines in the dining area and an unlimited amount of individual servings of espresso shots (decaffeinated included!! yay!!). It's insane. I make mine in a large coffee cup, which doesn't hardly fill it up (because it's only a shot) and then I add warm milk to it!!! It is SOOO good.....I even lick the cup when I'm finished. :) The architecture kids drink the shots straight up out of tiny, little coffee cups. And it seems like they all have one in hand all day!!!

3. The salami. I have never even liked or eaten salami. EVER. I don't know what it is, but it's good. We buy it from the butcher, and it comes in a long roll and we put it through the meat slicer for cold cuts and snacks on the weekends. Yummm-y!!!

4. The showers, ooooo weeee baby!!! HA!! This is kind of a weird one because the chances are more likely for you to end up with a cold shower. However, when you are not required to be in class all the time, like me, then you have the opportunity to shower daily at a time in which no on else is -in turn, alleviating the cold shower issue. All hot water for me!!

Many of you probably do not know this because I've tried not to remember it, but, while we were living in Charleston, I had a MAJOR hair situation that went on for about 3 straight months (regarding every time I showered) and this issue was not fixed until the last 3 days we were there (after I discovered the problem and worked VERY hard to fix it).

So anyways, the pressure here is REALLY good, and I could actually stay in the shower for many, many hours. It's so relaxing!!

So, that's just a couple of reasons why I already love this beautiful city. Every day I'm finding more and more reasons why so many people travel here, live here, and why it holds such rich history and architectural significance. And we've only seen one small portion....I can't wait to start traveling throughout the rest of the Italian country!!!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Italian Dinner with Barbara at Tre Corvi

I promised I'd update, so here it is:
The restaurant, i Tre Merli -which translates to 3 crows-, was down by the port so we had quite a walk ahead of us. But it wasn't nearly as cold as it has been, and Barbara took us a new route that went by one of the elevators in the city. Yes, you read that correctly. There is an outdoor elevator, circa who knows when -made completely of stone-, that you pay 1 euro to buy a ticket and ride instead of taking the 3,456, 789 stairs. Haha!! It was remarkable, but a couple of us chose to walk instead. We arrived at the bottom at the same time (about 10 minutes later), so that just goes to show you how far down the elevator had to come!!
So, back to dinner. The restaurant was beautiful and had a medival look to it and the meal was FANTASTIC!!

1st course: Some sort of grilled and fried cheeses...yeah. I heart cheese and this was by far the most amazing cheese I've ever had. Oooo, weeeee.
1st course

2nd course: Pasta, which was some pesto and then potato and cheese stuffed pasta. Incredible.
2nd course

3rd course: The entree. Some type of fish with nuts on top as well as the juciest black olives I've ever had. Mmmm, good!!
3rd course

4th course: Finally, dessert. Oooo. I don't know what it was. It was like gelato, but not cold. Semifriedo is it's given name. And it had chocolate syrup on top. I ate it all.
4th course

And at the very end they brought out an espresso for everyone. I obliged.

We had a great time, and we were all able to sit at one long table together (about 20 of us). We came back to the villa (after a lovely 25-30 minute brisk walk....HA!) and have been relaxing all evening.

Buona Notte!!! :)

The whole group at dinner!!

That was one CRAZY Italian weekend......Part 4

Sunday, January 11th:
Today has been VERY chill so far which has been much needed. We awoke, again, with about 1 minute to spare before Italian class began (yeah, we got an alarm clock, but it isn't we've got to get that figured out). Up and rushing around we go down to have class until 1 PM. Then my fabulous, wonderful, precious, sweet, sweet husband went with Derrick to get the bread, and brought me back some amazing focaccia and that's what I had for lunch!! Mmmm, yummy!!! :)
After lunch, we've all been sitting around blogging, talking to family, and processing photos. So, although we haven't ventured out yet, we've been able to get some necessary things done.

I'm off to get ready because tonight our Italian teacher, Barbara, is taking us to a VERY nice restaurant and we have to order in Italian and it's something like a 6 course meal. Mmmm, mmm, good!!! :) :) I'll let you know how it turns out!! ;)

That was one CRAZY Italian weekend......Part 3

Saturday, January 10th:
Saturday was no different in that we didn't wake up until about 5 minutes before 11 AM....only difference today was, we had our first Italian class at 11 o'clock on the dot downstairs in the studio. Yeah. So, needless to say, I JUMPED out of bed, threw on some clothes, brushed my teeth, and was the last one in my seat as Barbara (BAR-bah-rah) began class. It lasted from 11 AM until 1 PM and it was quite interesting. I actually felt like I was able to retain a good bit (and hanging out with the Italians 2 nights in a row didn't hurt either, ha!!). We had lunch and then, I was about to fall over from sleep deprivation, so I took about a 2 hour nap and got up to shower and get ready before we had Italian again at 6 PM with Barbara. This time we had to do a lot more conversations out loud in front of the whole class so that was interesting as well.

Afterwards, about 6 of us grabbed a snack and we were out the door because we had made plans with Luca and his friends to see an Italian play!!! Oh be still my heart!!!! One of his very good friends, Sarah (Sa-RAH) whom we had met the night before was in the play. It was the cutest theatre -very post modern- and although the show was in all Italian, I still found that I could enjoy it and interpret some of it (of course with the help of Jonathan's interpretations as well). 

One of the Italian women that we had met the night before, Ljuba (Loo-ba), who was SO sweet, actually brought me a Lindt (which just happens to be my FAVORITE chocolate ever) dark chocolate bar to the play!!! The night before, another classmate, Heather, and I had just mentioned our love for chocolate, and so she brought us each a chocolate bar. I'm telling you....the Italians are the friendliest, most hospitable people around. They are amazing and I LOVE them!!! :) :)

After the play, we headed to another local pub that unless with Luca we would have never found. I had a "hot dog" but not like an American hot dog. The beef was cut up into strips and on a sandwich bun. It was actually very good. I also had a some TRUE tiramasui and a lutella (loo-tell-ah). Both were simply AMAZING and our Italian friends were laughing because of my love of chocolate (they ended up giving me another Lindt candy bar before the night was up....I of course saved it for later). We had a fabulous time and made a point to get home around 1 AM since we've been having such a hard time getting up. Otherwise, we would have continued on with them, because after dinner, they went on to a concert!!! I don't know if I can keep up with the Italians!!! :) :)

That was one CRAZY Italian weekend......Part 2

Friday, January 9th:
Friday was a lot like Thursday as far as during the day goes. We awoke even later this day, just before 1, and we didn't want to miss lunch and appear rude, so we hustled down in our PJ's. Everyone had a good laugh at that, as the married couple barely makes it to lunch and even better, still in their pajamas!! :) Ha!! We just can't seem to get out of our usual sleeping patterns being that we are now a whole 6 hours ahead of that. After a delicious lunch prepared by Angelina, we got ready for the day, and we were off.

I don't know how to explain that, besides when I have been sleeping or eating a meal, I have not been in the all (the main reason why you haven't had any posts to read or pictures to look at). We have been going CONSTANTLY this weekend. And, I'm not going to lie, it's been VERY tiring, but, you don't realize it until you lay down in the bed at night because you're having so much fun during the day running around!! And while all the walking through the city and up and down the steps is going on, you don't realize you're hurting until you can barely get out of bed in the mornings!! HA!!

So on this particular Friday, a group of us that had not yet been to the port walked to it to see the boats and the famous "pirate ship." It was VERY windy and VERY cold, but nonetheless, captivating. The pirate ship was humongous!! I don't really know it's reason for being there, but it's definitely cool. The port has some great outdoor cafés, but a lot of them are not open because it is so cold. They will definitely be a place to visit when it gets warmer. There is also an outdoor ice skating rink and structure for covering the rink designed by the famous architect, Renzo Piano (the same architect that designed the High Museum of Art in Atlanta). It's really something to see!!

Afterwards, we headed over to Rostkafe for hot chocolate. OH MY WORD. I have never had anything so good in my entire life. It seriously tasted like someone had taken the finest chocolate and melted it right into our cups. Ooooh. Man oh man. Good stuff.

AH-mazing hot chocolate

After we recovered from the chocolate and sat for a while, our friend Drew needed to go the MAC store to get a new plug in for his computer because his current one went bad. It was starting to get dark, so everyone headed back except myself, Jonathan, Derrick, Drew, and Leslee. We all made the 5 mile trek over to a store called, Saturn which was just like a Best Buy. I mean exactly like it. They had a MAC department so we went there to take care of business. By the time we finished up, it was completely dark, so instead of getting ourselves in trouble, we took a taxi back up to the Villa.
No joke, the minute we walked in the door, we turned right back around, and walked right back out!! :) It was time for us to head off with a long time friend of the Villa, Luca.

Sidenote: Luca helps connect the students each semester with the community and people of Genoa. He is AMAZING!! We LOVE Luca!!! This guy knows what Genoa is all about. We ended up hanging out with him for the remainder of the weekend, and I'm sure this will become a regular thing. He is from Genoa, so he knows of all the good "local" spots to go, not the touristy ones that we would find on our own. There is NO WAY we could have gone to the places we've been if it weren't for Luca....a tourist would never find these local spots because they are in the alleys of alleys, hidden behind a tiny door, upon the tiniest stoop. It's amazing that he has taken us into the places he has and we are only 5 days into our trip. Most people dream that these type of experiences just happen once before they leave, and they're happening to us every night!! Thanks Luca!!! :) :)

Okay, so off we go with Luca to a Pizzareia which he claims to be the best in all of Genoa....well I'm definitely convinced that he is right!! I ordered the formaggio quattro, or 4 cheese pizza with rosa, or red (tomato) if you will. If you know me at all, you know that I LOVE cheese.....and Luca said that my face when I saw the pizza and then tasted it gave him "great satisfaction!!" He said it made him happy to suggest something that was liked so much!! :) :) Oh, it was delectable!!

After the Pizzareia, we headed to another small café for more coffee and drinks (if you preferred). We hung out there only a little bit before Luca asked us what we wanted to do next. We told him that we were up for anything. So, he said that he would take us to his most favorite place to go in all of Genoa. I don't even know quite how to sum up this experience. So many people travel to other countries, but I don't think they are ever given the opportunity to really feel a connection with the locals and do something that they would do just about every Friday night. We come up to a tiny door in a tiny side street and there isn't even a name outside of the door. If Luca hadn't shown it to us, I probably would have walked right on past (or not even be on this particular street so late at night anyways).
Before we went in, he took us about 10 feet across from this place to a church that was just open for anyone to come in. I'm convinced there isn't anything nearly as old or beautiful anywhere else. Ahhh.

So, we go into this pub, and it's TINY. It's obvious locals, and we're OBVIOUS tourists. I'm looking around at all the SMALL tables that are taken, and I'm thinking, where on earth are we going to put 14-15 to people!?!?? But, as it turns out, Luca is good friends with the owner, and he knows just the spot. We follow Luca down into a very small, very narrow stairwell that winds completely around until we enter the coolest atmosphere in all of Italy I am sure!!! It was a small, rectangular shaped room with a high ceiling and the floor was glass that covered a well. You could still see the water below. There was a small table in the middle and pillows lined the outer area of the room. We all sat on the pillows and the owner lit some candles and it was unbelievable. Some of our students trickled out and more Italians trickled in, until it was only 5 of us Clemson students left and about 20 Italians!! We sat around talking and teaching one another phrases in our own languages until 3:30 AM in the morning!!! It was only the 3rd day here and by far the best learning experience of my life!!!!!

That was one CRAZY Italian weekend......Part 1

WOW. There is nothing else to say. No words could justify the experiences and people that I have already had and met in just the first 5 days that we have been here!!! So many of you have messaged me wanting details and I apologize for not keeping you up-to-date!! Since Thursday, or since we arrived basically, we have been going NON-STOP!! There is SO much to do and see, and we just can't let these opportunities pass us. So, with that being said, let me bring you up-to-date as best I can:

Sidenote: My days are really running together, so for my own sake, I'm going to "think out loud" if you will. :)
We of course arrived on Wednesday evening, January 7th, around 9PM. We probably didn't get into bed that night until around 2 AM and we spent that time getting to know the other students that were already here, checking out the Villa, unpacking, and drinking espressos.

Thursday, January 8th:
We slept in until about 11:45 AM but awoke very quickly to take a quick walk around our neighborhood, Castelletto (which means, "many castles..." and there are MANY castles around is truly remarkable. There is one DIRECTLY beside us. They are mostly circa 15th/16th century. Beautiful.) because we had to be back by 1 PM for lunch.

Lunch is prepared and served by our cook, Angelina everday at 1 PM. We MUST be here for this; not that I would ever miss a meal!! So we only had about 1 hour on this particular morning to "explore," but we did see some incredible sights and captured some great pictures. I can't wait to share pictures of all the STEEP stairs around us; and YES....we walk each and every single one about 5 times a day. It's the craziest thing I've ever done.

Anywho, we had lunch, which was delicious (as every meal I have had so far has been and I don't doubt that every other one will be anything but). After lunch the whole lot of us went out into the city to see if we could find our way around. When you come down the mountain from our neighborhood into the city, it is a lot of streets; more specifically narrow streets or alley streets. These streets are lined with little shops, whether it be commercial, cafés, restaurants, or the butcher. They wind through and through, and we walked and walked. We also managed to find an amazing bakery that Leslee -another student- and I were scoping out for their fine chocolates!! :) We explored the streets until it got dark and we then headed BACK up the hill to our Villa. 

When we returned, we had dinner. During the week, Angelina prepares dinner after lunch, and we are responsible for heating it up to eat in the evenings because she leaves to go home. Dinner was, of course, amazing and afterwards the entire class (all 18 of us) sat around for hours talking and getting to know one another, sharing our previous experiences.

Everyone is so incredibly nice and friendly. You never know what you're going to get coming into experiences like this, but I've already made some really great friends!!! :)

Beautiful sights in Genoa!! 

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Picture Problems

Ok everybody, for whatever reason, I am having some MAJOR technical difficulties with uploading pictures to my blog. And apparently, it's happening to everyone here. So....we're not sure what the problem is, but we're working on it. 

So for a lot of my previous blogs as well as future, there are pictures to go with them. I'll just have to come back and add them as they upload. I'm VERY sad/mad about this because I am dying to share!!! 

Thanks!!!! :)

We're HERE....Finally!!

As promised, I am blogging to you from my room in our Villa in GENOA, ITALY!!! :) :) Yay!!! We FINALLY made it…..and I say finally, because boy was it a process to get here!!! I actually think it’s quite humorous now looking back, but during the flight frenzies, I nor my traveling companions thought it to be that funny.  

Where to begin...oh my, oh my. Okay:
We had breakfast Tuesday morning with my dad at Cracker Barrel and then he dropped us off at GSP around 11:15 AM. We then met up with Derrick and left GSP with no problems at 2:35 PM Tuesday, November 6th. His mom, Vickie, who is INCREDIBLY awesome treated us to lunch before we left. Thanks Vickie!!! ;) Anhywho, we went through security with NO problems, straight on to our gate, and only had to sit for about 10 minutes. 
Sidenote: Most of you I have talked to and you know how hard the packing was going for me (and, of course, you can reference my last post, New Year, New Adventure to see exactly why) so when we got there, not only did we each have 1 carry-on but we ended up having to check in 2 bags, AND my main suitcase still weighed 71 pounds!!!!! Which we did have to pay a fee for, but there was no getting around it....and of course my sweet hubby isn't letting me live that one down!!

So, back to the flight story....headed to Washington/Dulles and we get there with no problems around 4:30 PM. Sit and wait to board about 20 minutes and we're on the plane ready to go to Rome. Well. This is when the whole problem started. A flight coming in from Chicago needing to board our plane was late. VERY late. So we sit for 45 minutes to an hour before they get on. We then FINALLY head off, with a very uneventful 8 hour flight. Our dinner was actually pretty good for on flight, and we had about 5 movie choices and 5 TV shows playing consistently throughout the flight. I slept on and off because I was SO excited and couldn't sleep. Our plane was probably the nicest plane I've ever been on....we each had our very own TV screen to watch and 1st Class was insane. We were treated with a delicious breakfast about an hour before landing and all in all, it was a very nice time. :) 
HOWEVER, when you wait 45 minutes on passengers to get onto your plane it's inevitable that your next flight will be delayed. Well. Off the plane we go at about 7:50 AM, Wednesday, January 7th, and, we stand in line to go through security for, um, about 35 minutes. Mind you, our flight was to leave at 8:30 AM and at this point, it's about 8 AM. So, we get through that (and by the way, Jonathan did have to have his bag searched) and then we run off to get our passports checked. Can I just say that the Europeans SERIOUSLY need to get their airport/flight/plane junk TOGETHER. UGH. Anyways, we waited in line for about 35 more minutes to finally get our passports checked (DEFINITELY past 8:30 AM now) and off we run to our gate only to find that our plane is.....gone. So. We are then directed to another line where we must re-book a flight for yet, another plane. This line was again, another one of those famous lines where you wait for about 30 minutes. So, we wait (and overhear the Italians saying what we think is that all the flights to Genoa are no longer in existence) and finally get up to the desk and we are able to book 3 flights to Genoa, boarding at 12:15 PM . YAY!!! Having some extra time, we grab a quick sandwich in the airport and then go to sit at the gate and wait. And wait. And wait. And.....wait. We did not stand up to FINALLY get on a bus to take us to our plane until 1:15 PM. Yes, my friends, 1:15 PM. 
But wait, it gets even better.

We hop the plane, and all 3 of us are dead so we immediately fall asleep. This is supposed to be a 1 hour flight to put us in Genoa. I awake to the sound of the captain telling us we are going to be landing in about 20 minutes. Well, apparently there was bad weather, which at the time we thought just meant rain and fog (which was what was happening in Rome), so captain cannot see to land. So, he circles the landing about THREE times (another 45 minutes or so) to no avail. What happens??? We are rerouted to land in Pisa. Yes. Pisa. Ohhhh....I'm just getting exhausted typing this as I'm sure ya'll are getting exhausted from reading it!!!! 

We land in Pisa with NO clue what's going on and no way to communicate (everyone up until this point had been able to efficiently converse with us through English....even the Captain would speak to us in Italian and then translate to English) except through our translation books. We find that a bus has been organized to take all of us that were headed to Genoa, to Genoa, but our luggage is still unexplainable. Did it make the original flight to Genoa??? Did it make the later flight that we took to Genoa??? Did it get left in Rome??? We were told it was left in Rome. Fill out baggage claim form. Give to baggage claim when you get to Genoa Airport. Blahhhhhhhhh.

So, we rush to figure out, where is this bus to Genoa??? We find it. Get on. And off we're headed for a 2 hour bus ride to the Genoa Airport. This turned out to be a good thing, because, the view was INDESCRIBABLE!!! It was completely dark, but we could still see pretty good (and manage to catch a couple of good pictures!!). On this bus ride is when we discovered why we couldn't land in Genoa....SNOW!!!! There was snow EVERYWHERE!!!!!!!! It was BEAUTIFUL!!!! I couldn't believe it.

We get to the airport and we head immediately to baggage claim...but don't forget EVERYONE else on our flight, which was now on that bus, didn't have their luggage for some reason either. Well, we're standing in line, and our very observant friend Derrick sees that there is a whole area directly behind us, a couple hundred feet with some luggage just sitting on the conveyor belts. So he heads over to check it out, and I quickly follow, and....OUR LUGGAGE!! YAY!!! It's all there....every single piece (which was about 11 pieces for all 3 of us)!!!! YAY!!!! I'll say it again folks, YAY!!! It was funny too, because all the Italians started getting excited (after hearing us scream for joy) and followed the Americans and discovered their luggage!!!! 

Finally. Got our luggage and ready to head to the Villa. We found a taxi with no problems and the driver was EXTREMELY nice. Our ride was only about 20 minutes, and he gave us help with our Italian and tips about the city as we drove. He really was awesome!!! He dropped us off, we unloaded our luggage, and our good friend from the Charleston program, Po, greeted us at the door at 9 PM, Wednesday, January 7th. Whew. We were SUPPOSED to arrive to the villa at 9:30 AM Wednesday morning. A whole 12 hours later we arrive. Again, whewwwww. 

I know that was EXTREMELY long and I apologize. If you didn't read it all I completely understand. But several have been asking about the flight over and I definitely wanted to share, and although I'm journaling a little bit, I knew I would never remember this come the end of May when we get back. My hubby did share this same story, much shorter though I am sure, so if you'd like another perspective you can read his. It's probably interesting to see what we each included or left out. 

Nonetheless, after 31 hours of traveling, we're here. Safely. :)