Archive for July, 2009

My Big Fat Greek Adventure: Part I, Sailing with Cows

July 29, 2009

After parting ways with Jillian, Maria and Florence, Rosimara and I finally arrived in Bari, Italy just in time to catch our ferry to Corfu, Greece. As we walked to the deck where our 10 Euro “seats” awaited us, we joked about being stowaways and having to sit with the animals. Just as we finished having a good laugh, we heard an unmistakable sound coming from behind us, sounding much like a ‘moo’. As Rosimara returned after checking it out, the look on her face told me all I needed to know. We were in fact riding on board with cattle. Well, you get what you pay for, right? After having another good laugh, ’cause what else can you do, we decided to make the best of the situation. This was how we began using what has become the theme of our trip thus far, and that is, when given lemons, make lemonade! And we would be making lots of lemonade over the next few weeks. So, we had an 11 hour overnight boat ride among cattle on the deck of a cargo ship ahead of us and we were determined to make the best of the situation. And we did. We decided to sit on the deck and watch the sunset as it disappeared beyond the horizon along with my beloved Italy. Ciao Italia, I will miss you but I shall return! We then went to the ship’s one restaurant called the Trucker’s Lounge, which lived up to its name. After an inedible dinner, we headed back to the deck to relax, which we got to do for all of one hour until 2 truckers propositioned us, apparently mistaking us for hookers. After straightening them out and having another good laugh amongst ourselves, we resigned to the fact that we were not going to be getting a good night’s sleep on the deck of Trucker’s Central. Nonetheless, we grabbed 2 cardboard boxes, our towels, our bags and what was left of our dignity and made our ‘beds’. Sleeping with one eye open and a pair of scissors in between us, we ended up getting a total of 2 hours of sleep, before arriving at Corfu, where the Pink Palace bus was waiting to take us to our destination. How can I describe the Pink Palace? Hm. It was like the Pink Panther threw up all over a once beautiful beach resort on the Greek Islands and was taken over by MTV Spring Break and 100s of teenagers, a lot of nakedness, alcohol, booze cruises (yes, booze cruises), and other various forms of debauchery. Our decision to go to the Pink Palace began as a joke. Eventually Rosimara and I agreed it would be a hoot to stay there just for one night for a good laugh. Well, of course there ended up being a national ferry strike, and with no other means of leaving the island, we ended up getting stuck there for 4 nights. To both of our surprise, we ended up having a pretty good time at the Palace, in all its Pinkness. We in fact did go on the booze cruise, which despite the hedonistic debauchery surrounding us, ended up being rather pleasant and scenic. Rosimara dove off of a cliff and I went swimming in a bat cave…with bats. Considering I can’t swim, and I’m not a huge fan of bats, this was quite an accomplishment for me. During the boat ride, we were stopped by the coast guard. A few of us were asked by the captain to hide in the crawl space at the bottom of the boat to avoid being fined for having too many people aboard. Feeling a bit like Anne Frank, we waited patiently until the coast guard finally left and we were able to emerge from hiding. At the end of the day, as our boat pulled into the shore off of the Pink Palace, as I was attempting to climb down the ladder of the boat into the water, I tripped over my foot, did a flip and fell backwards, head first into the sea. All of the observers, or non-participants, watching the booze cruise pull in, most likely assumed I was another drunk girl falling off of a boat. Ironic, considering I was one of the only 2 sober ones aboard the love boat. Perfect ending to a perfect day!

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Under the Tuscan Sun: Part II July 17 – 21

July 21, 2009

After reuniting with Jillian, the four of us settled into our 6 bed dorm room at Plus Florence, where we stayed on the ‘plus girls’ floor- formally a female dorm, complete with hot pink walls and scented toilet paper. On the first day, we took a walk to the Piazzale Michelangelo, where we sipped wine and watched the most beautiful sunset- so beautiful that as the sun disappeared beyond the hills, all who watched, broke out into applause. It was a perfect moment. The next day we took a tour through a Tuscan market where we sampled fresh olives (which I still abhor, but ate anyway because I’m a trooper), dried tomatoes, cheese and wine- (yes, wine, at 10am..that was a first, but not a last!). After the market, we took a walk to the Galleria del Academia where we saw the majestic David- even more impressive than the copy we saw at the Piazzale the night before. The following day, Maria and Rosimara went to Rimini and Jillian and I took a day trip to Venice. Ah, beautiful Venice. We took a ferry ride down the Grand Canal- in the wrong direction and ended up in some town called Lido. We eventually found the correct boat and headed back into Venice where we had a lovely Italian lunch consisting of Gnocci Bolognese and Fragiolo, some of the best wine I have ever tasted. We then took a walk through the Jewish Ghetto which fueled my desire to visit Germany and Poland. Rosimara and I will be doing that in October. After lunch we met a very well toned Gondolier who introduced himself as Johnba, as in John the Baptist, who offered us a free gondola ride after his shift (which was tempting considering a gondola ride costs 75 Euros- that’s over $100), but sadly we had to turn him down, as the last train back to Florence was leaving at 6:30pm. Next time Jonba! On the train ride home we realized that our tickets were ‘sin guarantia’, or something like that, meaning that we did not have guaranteed seats, meaning that we would either be standing or sitting on the floor for the 3 hour train ride. Just when we began to almost feel sorry for ourselves, we met Mary from Ohio who was travelling with her 20 year old daughter (who was sleeping in the luggage rack… apparently they got screwed out of seats as well). Mary was a hoot! And she happened to have a bottle of wine with her which we cracked open and ended up having a blast! Thank you Mary from Ohio! We eventually made it back to Florence where we would say our goodbyes to each other and to beautiful Italia.

Spanglish: Pueblo Ingles, Cazorla, Spain July 3-10th

July 18, 2009

Goodbye Barcelona, I’ll miss you! But I will be back. On July 3rd (sorry I’ve been a bit behind in the blogging), we set out on our 5 hour bus ride to Cazorla, Spain, where we would begin our 8 day English Immersion program, where 20 Anglos would help 20 Spaniards improve their English. The program was more than I could have expected. Although we were working 16 hour days (thats 16 hours of non-stop conversation with 20 strangers), those strangers quickly became friends and the 16 hours of work did not feel like work at all. I met some of the loveliest people from Spain, including the 3 Fernandos… Fernando Purple (because he liked to wear purple), Fernando Yellow (yes, you guessed it), and Fernando Glasses. And of course the Anglos, such as Mayor Pete from Monroe, NJ (Geez, I can’t get away from Jersey!), Cheri, the loveliest yoga teacher from Texas, and of course my new buddy, Jillian (who decided to travel with me, Maria and Rosimara after the program). I had my first hitchhiking experience while taking a walk through the small villa of Cazorla with Inma, one of the Spanish students who didn’t feel like walking back to the villa so decided we’d hitch it back. Love her! Later on that day, Jillian and I took a walk back to the village to go shopping at the little Asian Bazzare. While we were perusing the handbags, the little Asian man who worked there kept watching us and following us around the store. It was bizarre (no pun intended), nonetheless, we continued shopping. I tried on a pair of shoes, but decided not to purchase them. I decided to purchased a handbag instead. After paying for my bag, the Asian cashier pointed to my purse and said (in spanish), open your bag. Confused, I asked him why. “Zapatos! Zapatos in your bag”. Oh my goodness, he was accusing me of stealing the shoes that I tried on! Infuriated, I opened my purse and proceeded to take out every item just to prove to him that I did not in fact steal his 3 Euro pair of flip flops! Unsatisfied, he followed us out of the store and demanded that Jillian open her bag, which she refused. Good for her! I then asked him if he Habla Inglesed, which he did not.. only Espanol. So, I stuck my middle finger in the air and shouted, “Comprende?!” We went back to the hotel where we told everyone of our fiasco and warned them not to shop at the Asian Bazarre. Pablo, our program director, offered to take me back to the store to return the bag and get my money back, which I considered, but decided against… (I really liked the bag). At the end of the week, on the bus ride back, as we passed by the Bazarre, everyone on the bus (Anglos and Spaniards) stuck their middle fingers in the air and shouted towards the store, “Comprende?!” Now that’s international comraderie!

Under the Tuscan Sun: Part I July 12-17

July 17, 2009

So we flew from Madrid to Milan where Maria, Rosimara and I stayed with my friend Luca, who took us to a local Italian restaurant for our first (of many more to come) authentic Italian meals. Then he took us to an amazing open air club in Milan, which reminded me of a big Italian frat party (not that I’ve been to an Italian frat party.. or that they even have frats in Italy, but nonetheless, you get my drift…lots of outdoor bars and drunk people). Maria quickly made friends with a group of Italian guys- Guiseppe, Giovanni, Johnny, Stefano Giovanni- none of whom spoke a word of English- Maria doesn’t speak Italian either, but they didn’t seem to mind. We danced until 4am (again) and then headed back to Luca’s flat where we got a whole 2 hours of sleep before catching our train to Verona, where Matt would be picking us up to take us to our villa in Tuscany. Let me say that again.. our villa in Tuscany. So, we drove to our villa in Tuscany in Matt’s convertable with the top down and our scarves on our heads, much like the ladies of Grey Gardens. (Ok, we had our huge luggage bags on top of us and we were sweaty and tired, and probably smelled, so maybe not quite as glamourous but nonetheless…) So, after making a quick stop for lunch in Bologna, where we had… you guessed it.. pasta bolognese.. we finally arrived in our beautiful villa where we went for a swim in the pool and had dinner in Guissepe and Marilena’s (the owners) little restaurant on the premise. Marilena agreed to allow us to watch her cook the following night, so we had our very own private Italian cooking lesson, where we learned to cook Spaghetti Carbonara and delicious biscotti (not that I cook, but if I should ever become domestic…) One day we drove through the hills of Tuscany- with the top down of course. How can I describe it? It was like a dream and I feel so blessed to have been able to do that! We visited the beautiful town of Sienna- one of the few cities so far that I would actually consider moving to. On our way back home, Maria and I sat in the back, singing along, on the top of our lungs to the Grease 2 soundtrack. Sorry Tuscany. After about 5 relaxing days, we finally came to the end of our stay at Marilena’s villa and headed to Florence where we would be meeting up with Jillian- an amazing girl that Maria and I met at Pueblo Ingles. Florence, here we come!!

Spanglish: Pueblo Ingles, Cazorla, Spain July 3-10

July 11, 2009

Goodbye Barcelona, I’ll miss you! But I will be back. On July 3rd (sorry I’ve been a bit behind in the blogging), we set out on our 5 hour bus ride to Cazorla, Spain, where we would begin our 8 day English Immersion program, where 20 Anglos would help 20 Spaniards improve their English. The program was more than I could have expected. Although we were working 16 hour days (thats 16 hours of non-stop conversation with 20 strangers), those strangers quickly became friends and the 16 hours of work did not feel like work at all. I met some of the loveliest people from Spain, including the 3 Fernandos… Fernando Purple (because he liked to wear purple), Fernando Yellow (yes, you guessed it), and Fernando Glasses. And of course the Anglos, such as Mayor Pete from Monroe, NJ (Geez, I can’t get away from Jersey!), Cheri, the loveliest yoga teacher from Texas, and of course my new buddy, Jillian (who decided to travel with me, Maria and Rosimara after the program). I had my first hitchhiking experience while taking a walk through the small villa of Cazorla with Inma, one of the Spanish students who didn’t feel like walking back to the villa so decided we’d hitch it back. Love her! Later on that day, Jillian and I took a walk back to the village to go shopping at the little Asian Bazaar. While we were perusing the handbags, the little man who worked there kept watching us and following us around the store. It was bizarre (no pun intended), nonetheless, we continued shopping. I tried on a pair of shoes, but decided not to purchase them. I decided to purchased a handbag instead. After paying for my bag, the cashier pointed to my purse and said (in spanish), open your bag. Confused, I asked him why. “Zapatos! Zapatos in your bag”. Oh my goodness, he was accusing me of stealing the shoes that I tried on! Infuriated, I opened my purse and proceeded to take out every item just to prove to him that I did not in fact steal his 3 Euro pair of flip flops! Unsatisfied, he followed us out of the store and demanded that Jillian open her bag, which she refused. Good for her! I then asked him if he Habla Inglesed, which he did not.. only Espanol. So, I stuck my middle finger in the air and shouted, “Comprende?!” We went back to the hotel where we told everyone of our fiasco and warned them not to shop at the asian bazaar. Pablo, our program director, offered to take me back to the store to return the bag and get my money back, which I considered, but decided against… (I really liked the bag). At the end of the week, on the bus ride back, as we passed by the bazaar, everyone on the bus (Anglos and Spaniards) stuck their middle fingers in the air and shouted towards the store, “Comprende?!” Now that’s international comraderie!

Allison Maria Barcelona… and U2!

July 1, 2009

So, my last night in London, after seeing Romeo and Juliet at the Globe, I met up with Andreas and walked through Holland Park and Knotting Hill, where we saw a street fight! Just like in Bridget Jones’Diary! I then called it an early night, went to sleep and flew to Barcelona in the morning. And here I am. I love Barcelona!! Our first night here we stayed in the hostel where we are staying and played drinking games with our store bought vodka (Yes, I am officially 21 again!), and then went out to Club Boulevard and danced to 80ś music until 4 in the morning! Then next day we hit the beach, where we experienced our most adventurous adventure thus far… we went topless! Apparently people dont like to wear clothes here. Lots of naked people walking around! Its kind of strange, but I love the lack of inhibition here. After the beach, we hopped on the train to head back to town, and on our way, we noticed a sign for the U2 concert playing that very night at Camp Mou. The show was at 8 and it was about 8 15 when we noticed it, but we said, f it and got off the train at what looked light the right area where the arena was, found the stadium, bought 2 tix off a scalper and rocked it out with U2!!! In Barcelona!!! On the first night of their international tour!! Then today we hit the beach again and had a fabulous time (kept our tops on this time!) Tonight is our last night here then off to Madrid en la manana. Adios para ahora!