Saturday, November 15, 2008


Part of why Siena is so cool is this Contrada business. Apparently all medieval towns used to be split up into neighborhoods but Siena is the only one that is still so hard core about it. Within the old city walls the buildings are split up into neighborhoods or Contrade. There are 17 contrade, mostly animals. If you live outside the city walls then you just adopt a contrada, but contrada is like family so once you're in there's no changing, even if you move into another contrada. I have adopted the Unicorn, for obvious reasons. Each contrada has a fountain and a museum. The Sienese take this whole Contrada business very seriously. Since I've been here I've seen a few contrada parades. I've never seen so many old and young men in tights and ridiculous outfits, but it's completely acceptable because it is for your contrada.
So the main event for these Contrade is the Palio. If you've had the pleasure of seeing the new James Bond movie then you have an idea of what this consists of. Twice a year they have a huge horse race in the Piazza del Campo. Ten contrade get to race each time. So three of the contrade are lucky and get to race twice. Sadly we weren't here for either of them, they are in like July and August or something, but apparently it is absolutely crazy. If you rent an apartment overlooking the Campo, your contract excludes the days of the Palio and your place is rented out for those who want a good view. Here's the gay part. Each contrada draws out of a hat, or something like that, to see which horse they get. These horses are purposely not all created equal. There is clearly one that is awesome and one that sucks and everything in between. So it appears that the real contest is who is going to draw the best horse. They also hire professional jockeys. Apparently the jockey of the winning team last year was paid something like $700,000. Now do you understand how obsessed they are?
They also have huge rivalries that go years back. Everyone is friends even if you are from the rival contrada, but apparently during the Palio season you just stop talking to those friends.
I think this contrada deal is awesome. Yes they are a little over the top about it, but it is cool history that they hang onto.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Volterra, San Gimignano, and Florence

Last Thursday we went to Volterra and San Gimignano. The drive there was beautiful, all the grape vine leaves are changing color. Sadly it rained most of the time...I never thought I would hate the rain but I have had to walk around in it so much here that I am DONE! Anyways, as many of you may know, Volterra makes an appearance in the second book of the Twilight series. I'm not ashamed to disclose that I am slightly obsessed with these books, as are many girls on this trip. Obviously we had our eyes peeled for any beautiful, paled skinned, "humans". This was the one good thing about the rain, perfect weather for a vampire. I'm sad to report that once again, Bella is a baby. The "huge" piazza that she has to run through to save Edward is in fact very small, at least in comparison to the Campo. Unfortunately, the closest to an Edward siting I got was some tacky graffiti with phrases like "Dazzled by Volterra". However, Alessandro did confirm that there are real myths, is that an oxymoron?, about vampires in Volterra. Apparently their Saint, Saint Marcus(who is a vamp in the book), banished all the vampires from Volterra, but some people thought St. Marcus was a vampire. Creepy? Unfortunately because of Stephanie Meyer it is impossible to find out about these myths on the internet since any search yields info about the book.
Okay so besides this vampire business, Volterra was cute and medieval and had awesome views and a cool Roman amphitheater. Classic Tuscan hill town.
San Gimignano is more touristy than Volterra. Here we learned about the frescoes in the main church, but otherwise it was all about the shopping and eating at a gelato place that won at the World Gelato Championship. Yes that is a real thing. I had mango and pear and it was amazing, definitely worthy of an award.

Florence. I went to Florence three times, it's only an hour and a half away. I absolutely love Florence. This is the kind of place I would want to live in Italy if I were really living here forever. It's a big city but not too big. Leather can be found on nearly every corner-I got some brown cashmere lined gloves! The first two times we went with Peter and he took us to various churches slash museums for part of the day. The Uffizi there has some very famous paintings including one of my absolute favorites, the Birth of Venus by Botticelli. We have this awesome pass called the Friends of Uffizi pass which lasts for a year and gets you into all the big hitters, it's only like 40 euros. So I saw the David twice. The second time I just really needed a bathroom. We went to the Brancacci Chapel where Masaccio's famous frescoes are. I know this all isn't interesting to you, but I studied all of this in Art History so it is awesome to me. The highlight at this place was the 40 minute long movie they make you watch before. I can't even remember anything it was about but I had to hold back laughter the entire time because of the voices on the English translation we were listening too. The first time I was looking for the right channel on my headset I passed the English because it didn't even sound like English. It sounded like Roy the vacuum guy. If you don't know who that is, ask me for an impression next time you see me.
I also saw where Fra Angelico lived as well as a huge collection of his work. Oh, the Pitti Palace, the Medici summer home, had an awesome costume collection that I loved! The Bobili gardens there are also so beautiful, the set for a Jane Austen movie. The Duomo there is absolutely beautiful and I climbed to the top of the Dome to get a beautiful view of the city. There is also the Ponte Vecchio, the only bridge there that wasn't bombed in WWII. It is now lined with amazing jewelry stores. We drooled at the windows every time. All of these pics are in my Picasa web album. My favorite finds in Florence were: 1. This little clothing store just before the Ponte Vecchio. It's just a man, his laptop, and his clothes. They are really expensive, but he is the designer and he literally dressed us. Anna got a wrap around sweater that you can wrap in an infinite number of ways. He wrapped her up in that sucker like 20 different ways. 2. This panini place by the Duomo, I took a pic so I could remember the name. I always got pecorino cheese and sun dried tomatoes. Don't worry, I just bought an entire wheel of pecorino at the grocery store to bring home.
That small synopsis didn't do Florence justice. I love it there.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Warning: Due to the fact that I'm leaving Siena in a matter of days and I've almost completely stopped writing in my journal or communicating with anyone...these posts will now be void of pictures, since they take forever to upload. I'm just trying to get as much written down as I can before I leave here or else it could be forever. So hopefully my humor will be enough to make these interesting.
Friday morning I went to Milan with my travel buddies; Anna, Autumn, and Shannon. We were on a bus for about 4 1/2 hours. Gotta love public transportation. Once we got to Milan there were four stops. We finally decided to just hop off on the third stop because there were metros all over the place. We ventured down to the metro and were immediately overwhelmed. Milan is definitely the busiest and least friendly place I've been so far. We sat there for like 20 minutes just trying to figure out where the heck we were and then finally realized we were in the main station! Something that is common sense to a resident of Milan, so no signs explaining this are thought to be necessary. 20 more minutes later we realized that we were just a stone's throw from the Last Supper, which is what we were looking for. Sadly we had reserved the last three spots about a month ago and Autumn didn't get to come in with us. We got to be herded in like cattle through about four air locks and then BAM, there it was. We had 15 minutes to stare at it and then a guy started yelling at us to exit the was a little strange. It was amazing though, it hasn't held up very well due to Da Vinci's experiments with the medium...fool. Like so many sweet things I've seen there were no pics allowed so all I have is my memory and a picture from the outside.
We went down by the Cathedral to visit the lucky bull. I'm not sure how this got started but you are supposed to spin around on your heel on the, what used to be, testicles of the bull, for good luck of course. Italians are so superstitious!! Obviously I participated in this. As we walked out to the Cathedral there was a massive gathering of people with signs...immediately we thought we had stumbled upon yet another protest. Then we realized they were all girls in the 'tween' stage. A massive t.v. screen behind them caught my attention and we soon realized that we were about to be on Italian TRL! For the non-MTV generation, that is an MTV show that shows the top music videos and often has musical guests. Well we were in luck! LOST was there!! I can only explain them as the Italian version of the Jonas Brothers. Man am I a lucky girl. We stood in the crowd and screamed and waved at the little fetus boys. The one will straight gelled bangs totally made eye contact with me.
The Cathedral was as awesome as expected. I had a little run in with a thief outside, let me explain. So there are these guys with bird seed, meaning popcorn kernels, in the piazza because it is also known as pigeon central. Apparently they try to get pigeons to attack you and then do what they want with you, I don't know. Anyways, I spot these guys a mile away so I'm holding on to my bag tightly. Probably like five of them approach us in five minutes and I shooed them away. Sometimes I have a problem controlling my facial expressions and apparently I was giving the main guy a dirty look. Out of nowhere he comes up and starts yelling at me in what I think was English. Although I only understood a few words I got the point. It was something like...'Why are you looking at me like that, I'm not a thief!' blah blah. Well clearly you are a thief if out of the blue you decide you need to tell me that you aren't. So in Italian I tell him that I don't understand him and I walked away. He then proceeded to say gross things to me in Italian, what's new. So many dirty men here. Liz, it was reminiscent of what the bagger at Smith's would say to you. That is only the first fiasco.
Second fiasco. After the Cathedral we decided to go to our hostel to change for the opera. After walking for like 30 minutes we find it...or so we thought. It's like some super sketchy apartment complex and no hostel to be found. There was however a hotel on the second floor. When I ask the guy at the front desk where the Fashion Hostel is he replies with a "No". With further investigation we realize that "no" means that the Fashion Hostel that we had reservations with was closed down by the police on the 28th of October. We made our reservation online on the 29th. I love attempting to stay in the cheapest place possible. So at this point I just want my Dad there to take care of things for me. Luckily front desk man jumps on it and calls a hotel around the corner...a HOTEL!! They have plenty of room for us and they only charge us what we were going to pay at the sketch hostel. Then this guys boss comes in and calls the hotel again just to double check, they give us directions, and BAM! I have clean sheets, a t.v., a bathroom, and there isn't a bunk bed in site. Shannon and I just collapsed on our beds laughing...what a life. Front desk guy at the Medusa Hotel is number one on my list of people that have saved my life in Italy.
Then we book it to La Scala and without waiting in line got 12 euro tickets for the opera that night! La Scala is the most famous opera house in Italy. It was beautiful and amazing and although I was seated with the birds I could see just fine. Luckily it was in German so I understood the plot perfectly. I think there were two love triangles, or maybe just one pentagon.
The rest of my time in Milan consisted of shopping. Obviously I enjoyed myself. We went to lake Como on Saturday but I'll save that for another post.

I'll end this post with my final fiasco in Milan. Considering that we got off our bus at a random stop, we thought we would go to the main bus station Sunday morning to figure out how to get home. That whole thing is just a blur of confusion, bad maps, construction, and Italian spoken too quickly to understand. So we decided just to go back to the stop we had gotten off on. Here we found the store where we buy our tickets. In an awesome Italian conversation that I fully understood, the guy asks if we can come back later because he doesn't know how to work the computer but his son is coming in at eleven. I tell him our bus is leaving at 2:30 and it seems to be peachy. FALSE. We return at 2 and it is closed as is the other store nearby. It has also been made clear many times that you cannot buy your tickets on the bus. So we talk to a taxi driver about where the last pick up spot is in Milan and we hop in a taxi...going to the last stop buys us 30 minutes and hopefully produces an open place to buy tickets. We get there and it's closed. Horrible visions of attempting the train system, running from train to train, waiting endless hours, getting back at midnight, and waiting for an hour for a bus to take me home start flooding my mind. We decide to wait and see if we can cry or flirt our way onto the bus. As we wait I keep pointing out that I think we are in the wrong place. The bus is late. Finally we decide to call time of death on this thing and get started on the certain fiasco that a train will be. Literally as we stand up we see our bus fly around the corner and we are in fact not in the right spot. Luckily Autumn is not willing to give up and she starts running. Taken by surprise Shannon and I almost cause a few car accidents while crossing the street. As Autumn turns the corner I hear her yell..."It's still there!" We start going off about how the stores are all closed to the bus driver, he doesn't care, but the bus is jam packed, so he goes on the bus to see if there are four seats. At this point I can't breath and I want to throw up. He comes back and delivers the news that in fact we are going to get on this bus. I've never been so happy. He had to tell me to calm down has a dropped all of the changed in may wallet. Then the kid behind me threw up on the bus. Good times.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Last Thursday was what Peter likes to call a "work day", meaning he doesn't take attendance. Clearly we took this opportunity to go out of town. A little background info on this one. Apparently Italy has some sort of new person in charge of the public schools, Alessandro called her the new Minister? Anyways, she is cutting funds and other great stuff that everyone hates so there has been major protesting going on here for the past few weeks. Well, we didn't get the memo about Thursday being the official protest day and Bologna is a college town. So we rolled off the bus and straight into a huge protest, it was amazing. If I could have figured out what they were chanting I would have been right in there with them. It was so insane that we totally lost each other for abouts 30 minutes. My favorite signs were pictures of the new 'Minister' dressed as a witch or with a Pinocchio nose.Bologna was awesome. We kind of bailed on the whole museum thing this time, I was feeling a little museumed out. We did some major window shopping, which brings me to a great tangent. I never understood what window shopping was anyone ever satisfied by just looking at a window display? If you are in Italy, yes. They change their window displays like every week and they are just awesome in general. Oh, and they have the prices listed in the window so you really can shop. Normally this just deters us from going inside, but at least it keeps us from entering stores that are way out of our league.
We went into the original University building. The walls were covered in crests for the professors. For some reason I felt like I should be in Dead Poet's Society. The sweetest room was the anatomy room. There was a huge marble slab in the middle of the room for the body and these statues of men without skin...totally sweet.We also climbed the tallest tower in Bologna. Surprise, surprise. There is something to climb in almost every city here, but it does result in awesome views. This tower was the sketchiest thing I've climbed thus far. The steps were maybe three inches deep, good thing I have small feet.The highlight of Bologna was the food. This is where tortellini was invented, as well as Ragu sauce. Clearly I got tortelloni (big tortellinis) with Ragu sauce...delicious. Our waiter also said that we spoke fantastic Italian!!! but our egos were soon crushed during our fiasco of the day:
After lunch we were walking through town and stumbled upon the wallet of a young Italian named Alessio. We were right in front of a Tabacchi so we decided to turn it in there. Anna gave it a whirl. After getting tangled in some ridiculous grouping of words the old Tabacchi man thought Anna wanted to buy cigarettes for young Alessio. I decided it was time to step in. I decided to incorporate charades, since Italians use their hands a lot they are pretty good at this game. Sure enough after acting out walking down the street and picking the wallet up off the ground Tabacchi man figured it out. The best part of this is that I definitely know how to say things like...I found this on the street, or Someone lost this...but I'm not sure that any of those words came out of my mouth.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Lucky to Have Been Where I Have Been

Things I'll Miss About Italy
1. The Food! Not only is it absolutely delicious but I have my own personal cook here. It's back to college, meaning cereal and frozen vegetables. What will I do without my nightly bowl of pasta?
2. Jet setting on the weekends. Many of you may recall that I went out of town every other weekend last winter semester, I may need that to happen again to avoid withdrawals.
3. Public Transportation. We have calculated that at least 1/4 of our time here has been spent figuring out, waiting for, or taking public transportation. I hated it at first, but it's awesome and it helped me really get to know this place and the people.
4. Fake school. It's back to 8 hour days in the library and projects that take over my life.
5. The Campo/Dante Alighieri common room. What will I do without my hang outs? At any time I could go to either one of these places and find at least one friend to play with.
6. Parco. Paola and Marco just starting being too much to say so we switched to a combined name. As much as they are absolutely crazy 70% of the time(I got in trouble for brushing my teeth after midnight last night) they really are awesome and hilarious.
7. Carpe Diem. I feel like here I am constantly able to feel okay about doing anything because this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Buy boots, they're made in Italy-this would actually go under the category of Scarpe Diem, Scarpe means shoe and that is the name of my favorite shoe store here. Eat excessive amounts of gelato, pastries, and pasta. Travel all over the place. Spend my life savings. It was worth it.
8. A small town I actually like. I feel that never again will I live in a small town that I love. For some reason small town Italy is just infinitely better than small town America. I love that I can easily walk the whole city in 30 minutes and I know shop owners cute.
9. Italian pride. These people are completely obsessed with their country, their city, their contrada, and their soccer team. Every time I come back from a trip Marco quizzes me on if I liked said place better than Siena. The correct answer to this is NO! They have so much pride it is ridiculous. See next posts for contrada and soccer team info.
10. The buildings and countryside. I'm sure I'll never live anywhere this beautiful again.

Lucky to be Coming Home Again
In an attempt to make myself feel better about coming home I also compiled this simple list of things I used to take for granted that will be oh so good to come home to.
1. Peanut Butter; the jar that Mom sent with me was gone about 6 weeks ago. Mexican food, Chinese food, In N Out, Seedless grapes
2. Pigeon free public areas.
3. Washer, dryer, and refrigerator-we have a washer and a refrigerator but they are not used the same.
4. English
5. My bed
6. Technology: Internet/T.V./Cell phone
7. Free and plentiful public restrooms complete with toilet paper.
8. Talking during dinner
9. Boys. I can hardly remember how to interact with American males.
10. My family and friends

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


This Halloween was surprisingly one of the best I can remember. Kimberly's Mom sent her a Halloween party in a box, apparently Halloween parties are Kim's thing. So she decided to throw a party for our branch. I'm not going to lie, I was a little skeptical. First of all, we have very limited costume resources here and no one is really willing to spend any money on such things. The results were amazing. I was simply a hippie, nothing exciting. I just kept on the outfit I was already wearing that day and fashioned a headband out of a belt from the dollar store. Here are some of my favorite costumes.The missionaries fully delivered with borrowed and homemade items. Shannon and Autumn created angle costumes out of purses and wooden spoons from the dollar store.
Salt and Pepper

Kimberly whipped up some baked potatoes with chili...thank you American food. It was absolutely delicious. The Italians were complaining about the food being heavy...explain to me how the three course meal they eat daily isn't too heavy?

Then we busted out some games
First, the classic mummy wrap. I helped wrap Eve, Peter's daughter, and we blew our competition out of the water. They were Italians however and somehow I get the impression that they don't have as much experience as we do with this kind of thing. Yes I may have tp-ed a few houses in my lifetime. Tic Tac Toers please remember that time by Whitney's house when we used poop bags and ended up trying to hide in bushes on that main street...
Second, an Italian version of the donut on the string, biscotti on a string. Due to the slowness of my eating I opted to be a string holder for Shannon. Unfortunately she may have been as bad as me...the only person she could beat was a child.Third, bobbing for apples. I don't think I've ever participated in this game. 1. I have a small mouth and a jaw that likes to pop out of place. 2. For many years I couldn't even bite into an apple for fear it would break my beautiful teeth. Luckily others were pretty passionate about it. Most just went for the full head in the water...definitely entertaining. Karli was one that went all out.Lastly, some sort of Halloween relay that involved popping a balloon and eating the candy inside. Popping my balloon not a problem, eating the candy was just not going to I cheated. But everyone knew, so that isn't really being dishonest right? This is me trying not to puke afterwards...
So I know you're all thinking, "Wow, that sounds like the most childish Halloween party ever!" And maybe it was, but it was the most fun Halloween I've had in years. Thank you Italians and dollar store costumes.

Fiasco of the Day: Okay I have to catch the last bus in five minutes so no time to type something really good, but I will leave you with this little fiasco. I am fat. I've never gained extra weight in my life and here it goes...but it is all worth it. And now even when I'm controlling my food, Paola isn't shoving it down my face, I think that I need more because I'm used to eating so much!! Good thing I'm coming home just in time for Thanksgiving. I'll be getting thirds and fourths this year!!!

Au Revoir

First things first. I'd like to give a little shout out to Picasa. First of all it's free...thank you Linx for introducing me. Secondly, it has saved me soooooooooooo much time here. I simply highlight a folder of pictures and press upload and next thing you know you are all enjoying my pics online. So easy!! Also, for those of us with horrible internet connections, if the connection times out, it saves what has been uploaded and automatically continues the upload next time you get on the internet. Thank you Picasa for making my life easy.Here comes the end of our adventures in Paris. Saturday was actually probably my favorite day because we didn't have anything big we had to do. We started off the day at the pastry shop that we got lunch at our first day. I ate my croissant and lemon turnover by the river again. Then we made our way up to this beautiful park right by the river...can't remember it's name. We decided to rest from our rough morning in front of this fountain.We ended up at the Luxembourg Gardens...absolutely beautiful. We finished off the day eating underneath the Eiffel Tower. I had the most delicious chocolate eclair of my life. Saturday was so relaxing and pretty. Unfortunately we had to leave at like 4 p.m. The trip back was fairly uneventful compared to the way there.

Fiasco of the Day: So Shannon and I live outside the city center and we take the bus. Normally the bus is awesome and it is a crazy experience that most of the girls miss out on...but some times it's sketchy. I actually live pretty close to the train station, but walking at night is not a good idea because it's all on back roads. So I opted to wait for the bus with Shannon even though it wasn't supposed to come for like 45 minutes. So we go down to the bus station, this one is underground and really strange/sketchy. Unfortunately, or so we thought, there was a man down there. We were keeping a close eye on him as well as our bags. Then after a few minutes of being worried about him this car pulls up, which is weird considering that only buses are supposed to go underground. The window is open and the guy drives by STARING at us...that look will haunt me. Then like 20 yards, or should I say meters, after he passes us he stops, puts his hand out the window and waves us over. Does he think we're stupid?! At this point we are so thankful that the other guy was with us. Creepy car guy gives up and drives away. Then the bus stop guy gives up waiting and leaves. So Shannon and I decide to leave and just grab a taxi. Luckily there are a billion people waiting by the train station because as we were waiting for our taxi, creepster car guy drives by AGAIN. This time he passes us and then throws the car in reverse and just sits there waiting. Italian men are idiots. Do I look like a prostitute? No! I look like an innocent American girl waiting for a ride from a legitimate source. He drives away. Our taxi pulls up. As we are driving up the rode we have to stop because there is a car stopped in the middle of the road. Don't worry, this other car was the creepy stalker. So I'm freaking out because I'm like...does he know we're in here? Shannon has no idea what is going on because she is trying to find money in her purse for the taxi and doesn't understand what I'm freaking out about. So he gets to my street and I just hopped out and RAN. At this point the stalker was out of sight but I wasn't going to take my chances. Normally Siena is not scary at all...I feel safer than in Provo, but that man was just not okay.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Since all my pics are already up I'll skip pics on this post...
Okay, Paris day two started off with a messy attempt at washing my hair in the sink in our 1 sq. ft. en suite bathroom. Why I even tried I'm not sure, my hair was up after like an hour. So we went to this info desk that morning to ask directions and of course made Shannon go up since she "speaks" French, obviously she just spoke in English. Anyways, at the end of the conversation I looked up and noticed they were clearly talking about us. Then this man waves and winks at us. I gave him and smile and a wave back...he was probably 40. Apparently he told her that her traveling companions were very beautiful...oh silly Europeans.

So we hit up Les Invalides because Eiffel Tower Missionary told us it was cool. It's Napoleon's palace and so pretty! Highlights included checking out Napoleon's coffin, sweet WW2 uniforms and other memorabilia, and the armory full of sweet weapons and armor...Gabe would have loved it! Side note: Autumn insisted on saying Napoleon, NapoleON, like Uncle Rico in Napoleon Dynamite. You know how much I love that movie.

Then we went to see the Paris Opera House. Oh my gosh!! I had visions of Phantom of the Opera and myself dressed up in some amazing gown, going to see the Opera. Someday I will see something there!!!

We went to the Galleries Lafayette to see a free fashion show we read about on the internet, but the internet didn't mention anything about reservations, so that didn't happen. But we stumbled upon a really good view of the city on the roof of the department store. Oh and I was in shopping heaven. So many beautiful things. The wedding dress section was AMAZING. One of a kind dresses...I took a catalogue so I can copy stuff. I felt like they could tell I was a poor American living out of my backpack so touching was unfortunately out of the question.

Next we looked for the museum that the 40 year old flirt had given us directions to, but he was all wrong. I can't complain about getting lost in Paris, this was when I stumbled upon my coat as well as some delicious bread.

Friday night is student night at the Louvre...we got in for free!!! The Louvre is absolutely out of control huge. We made a beeline to the Mona Lisa just to get that out of the way. I wasn't disappointed since everyone had already warned me it was a let down and let's be honest, I don't even care for that painting anyways. So I took some pictures from 20 feet away from it...great. I saw some really cool paintings that I've studied and some sweet Egyptian stuff, but overall I would say that the Louvre is highly overrated. I've been to 50 museums better than it. Oh and here comes our Mormon connection of the day. I saw a girl from my hall freshman year twice in the Louvre...what are the odds. Sydney Smart for those of you who know her and no I didn't speak to her, don't act like you're surprised.

This kid Jeff from Canada "slyly" added himself to our group at the beginning of the night while we were waiting in line. Autumn and I ditched the rest of our group to see art that we thought they might not appreciate...including an entire room of Rubens, that room was really cool. We were surprised , or maybe not so surprised to find that Jeff was still with them when we met up at the end of the night. So unfortunately, in my opinion, we were stuck with him for the rest of the night. He was actually nice but he threw off the dynamics of our group, boys. We went to a restaurant by Notre Dame and had a legit three course meal. French Onion soup, es cargo, streak, and chocolate mouse. Oh and the water was free...awesome. Dinner was really fun. All three nights we had hilarious waiters that made for a good time.

Saw a guy pass out on the subway...that was an adventure.

Fiasco of the Day: So on Saturday Paola started talking to me while I was still half asleep, meaning my second language brain was not warmed up. Anyways, she tells me something about her brother and sister-in-law and monday....since I wasn't thinking I just kind of told her okay and that was that. Well Raquel and I returned home Saturday night to find her brother and sister-in-law here and no Paola and Marco. Apparently we are being babysat. So even though I was tired, I know she didn't tell us anything about where they were going. Raquel asked at dinner and our babysitters simply said...South. So we may never know where they were. The best part of our time with them is that the man, can't even remember his name, was quizzing us on things like agriculture in the U.S. Do people even farm anymore? I don't know. We had to make up where cotton in produced. We knew AZ and then just threw out stuff like Mississippi. Who asks that kind of crap? Does he realize how large the U.S. is?

Thursday, October 23, 2008


This is awesome...looks like you can just go to this link and look at any of my albums whenever. I love Picasa.

Paris Day 2

So our first day in Paris was jam packed. We started off in Monte Mart which is a beautiful area surprisingly just a few blocks away from our hostel. We saw the famous church Sacree Coure. Here’s a pic of Autumn being accosted by the bracelet man just outside the church. He was making her a bracelet and telling her crap about how since she was American she could have 5 babies and something about wishing on this bracelet would give her babies or something...I’m not really sure. Then we walked around the neighborhood and checked out the artists painting on the cool. Had my first French croissant....these have nothing on Costco, I nearly died.

Next sight was Notre Dame. This lady was outside and thought it would be cool to be attacked by birds? She was holding bread in her hand and they were flying all around her...I hate birds and she is crazy. Notre Dame is awesome because the architecture is so amazing. I’m used to seeing really old Italian churches with beautiful art and okay architecture, it was a nice change.

Next we found this awesome pastry shop and got quiche for lunch...I love quiche. We ate it overlooking the Seine river. Then we made our way to the Musee D’Orsay. I ordered my ticket in French, okay so that is like two words, but I was proud. It was my favorite museum thus far. Lots of impressionists which I must love because of my mother. I saw the dancer!! Tons of Degas, Monet, Picasso, Manet, Van Gogh...loved it.

By this time it was way sunny outside and we hit up the Eiffel Tower. I think we spent like four hours there, many of them spent trying to get the perfect picture. Apparently with this whole European Union thing like each month a new country is in charge or something. Anyways, I guess it was Italy’s turn so there were these ugly stars on the tower as well as a gigantic map of Europe on the grass in front of it. Obviously I had to take a pic standing on Italia. Now it’s time for the Mormon run in of the day but this story requires background. Starting in Rome, Autumn made up this game called My Team, Your Team. Upon spotting a really good looking guy you call My Team. Upon finding someone really gross, these people are often shirtless or something, you call Your Team, meaning the other people who are with you. So we are waiting in line to go up to the top and Shannon calls My Team guy with the blue tie. I take one look at him and I’m like, why? he looks like a missionary. So we’re joking around about how Shannon is attracted to guys who look like missionaries and then Anna is like “Guys, he is a missionary!” We get a glimpse of his tag. So we start predicting his story, just got off the mish yesterday, his parents came to pick him up and they’re from Utah. So Autumn being the fearless girl that she is, goes up to him on top of the Eiffel Tower and she’s like, Hey! We recognized you. Which doesn’t actually make any sense and she keeps talking while this kid and his parents are trying to figure out how they should know us. Finally it hits her that they don’t understand, so she explains that we were from BYU. Sure enough we were dead on on all accounts about these people. Small world! So we saw the sunset on the Tower and let me tell you it is soooo much prettier at night all lit up, I loved it.

We ate dinner outside on the Champs d Elysses...I have no idea how to spell that. French Onion I’ve ever had. Our waiter was a goofball. Did I mention that French people are awesome? I thought they were supposed to be mean, but there were so many good ones.

Just check out my online album for the rest of the pics...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Hostel from Hell

Paris. Where do I begin. First there is the part where I was checked in as an Italian citizen and we thought they weren’t going to let us on the plane. Then there’s the part where we had to take a crazy ride in a taxi and sprint to catch each of our three trains. I’ll leave those stories for another time, but we made it. I think this is going to take more than one blog. Maybe I’ll do one for each day. So we take a bus from the airport into the city and as we roll off the bus...BAM there is a BYU tour bus. Thus begins our daily Mormon run ins. Sadly there were no people with the bus.
We found this awesome place to eat and I had my first steak frites...steak and fries, delicious. Then we made the trek to our hostel. We have to give our director our itinerary, including our hostel, so we have to book one in advance. Problem is that we never actually know where it is going to be. Well, turns out we were staying in the red light district, just a stones throw from the Moulin Rouge. Our hostel’s neon sign blended in well with the rest of the signs, but they were attracting a different crowd. As the guy is looking up our reservation a young Asian girl comes up to the desk and tells him that the hot water isn’t working. I can’t even begin to explain via blog this guy’s reaction. First he just looks at her like he doesn’t speak English and asks her to repeat. So she repeats. Then he’s like...where, what room. She tells him. His response: “Well it normally works. Maybe you should just wait or something.” So basically we’re off to a great start. The hostel is painted three colors: black, neon orange, and bright purple. Luckily we have our own room. It is 3/4 the size of my dorm room with one normal bunk bed and another bunk bed with three beds. Clearly I choose the top bed so I’m sleeping like 25 feet off the ground. The bed consists of one sheet tucked around the mattress, the pillow is like pillow fluff formed into a square underneath the sheet in the middle of the bed, and one gnarly blanket, reminiscent of the dorm blanket that was washed once every five years. Luckily I brought my own pillow case and I stuffed it with clothes...didn’t touch that blanket. Our ‘ensuite’ bathroom consisted of a shower and sink. Upon opening the shower an intense smell of sewage took over our room. We decided that showers would not be possible. For this reason I would like you to disregard if I look gross in pictures, I washed my hair in the sink one time and that was it. I’m sure we smelled fantastic, but we couldn’t tell.
Seeing as heat rises, I was perfectly fine up high, but apparently everyone else was freezing. Each night the other girls would layer on scarves and extra shirts. This is what Autumn looked like when I awoke in the morning. Oh and anytime anyone flinch the entire bunk bed moved. Needless to say the first night was a little rocky, but after that we were so tired that it didn’t even matter. The last night we were there we heard sirens outside our window so we ran over and witnessed some sort of fight literally next door to us. There was an ambulance, police, a woman screaming and then slammed against a wall, and people running...the usual.

So pretty much that whole thing was a fiasco but I’ll add this little tidbit: One day we were walking down our street and came across a window full of dozens of what can only be explained and hooker boots. They were simply amazing: red, white, and black cheap plastic patent leather, some lace up, many thigh high. So as we’re exclaiming about finding this gem and I’m whipping out my camera this guy comes out of the apartment behind us and says, in a thick New York accent...and I quote: “Hooker boots. What do you want hooker boots for? You know what those are for...the girls up the street!” He proceeds to tell us his story of leaving NY years ago blah blah, but I never really figured out why he chose to live next the hooker boot store.

Cinque Terre

I'm alive! So it has been forever since I've written on here...that sounded like the beginning of every journal entry I've ever had, but I have good excuses. First, two weekends ago we went to Cinque Terre. I loved it! Definitely one of my favorites so far. I was bummed because I thought it was going to be too cold to go, but we got AMAZING weather-that's what you get for clean living. It was hot and sunny everyday and I got one last dip in the Mediterranean.

So Cinque Terre in the Northwest on that curve of Italy that goes over to France and it is made up of five cute little towns on the cliffs. Friday we rolled into the first town, Riomaggiore and took the walking path up to the next town. This path is called Via dell'Amore. I'm assuming it's romantic because of the intense graffiti? Not sure. Obviously we took this opportunity to tag the wall with ball point pens. Everything here is covered in graffiti and the usual phrase is: Ti Amo ????? By: so and so. Since we frequently make fun of this we obviously copied it. Guess you'll have to go to Lover's Lane to figure out who I love. So turns out it was not only sunny, but I was very warm and uncomfortable so Anna, Autumn, and I decided to take some stairs down to the water and hop in. I changed in some little cove under the stairs-I'm getting used to feeling homeless. We spent a lovely day on the rocks and in the Med....I love that ocean. A bunch of the other girls we were with went to a real swimming spot and they got stung by jellyfish...suckers. We spent the rest of the day walking around the first two towns. For dinner we had focaccia with pesto on it, Cinque Terre is known for it's pesto and let me tell you it was the best thing I've tasted here. This was where I ate dinner as the sun set.

Saturday we rode the train to the third town. We were with the group of girls who were stung by jellyfish the previous day. As we are taking pictures at a lookout this cat wanders up. The feline proceeded to sniff around Kimberly's bag and she mentions that she hates cats. Seconds later the cat begins peeing on her backpack. This was one of those moments in life where I could have died laughing but the victim didn't think it was funny...dang it. Then as we are walking down some stairs, Rachel makes a joke about what is going to happen to her because she avoided the jellyfish and the cat pee and as the words are coming out of her mouth she falls down the stairs and sprains her ankle. Again, I could have died laughing. So long story short, Anna, Autumn, and I ditched the bad luck group and took the hike from the 3rd to the 4th town...names are now hazy. It's hikes like these that make me enjoying hiking. From the 4th to the 5th town we took the boat, and we spent the rest of the day relaxing on the beach. We always laugh at how all the Europeans are nearly or fully naked and we are lounging in our hot one pieces. So as 22 of us are sprawled out on the rocks/sand we hear a lady walking on the sidewalk above us say "Look! All of those girls are wearing one pieces!" Awesome.

I had to get my hands on some more pesto so Anna, Autumn, and I went on the hunt for some pasta. We were starving and everything decided to be closed. As Anna would say..."Dang Italian nap time." Just as I thought I would be eating gelato for lunch again we happened upon a miracle. A restaurant overlooking the water, English speaking and good looking staff, cheap pesto pasta, no sitting fee, and, brace yourself, ICE! I haven't seen ice in my glass for months. Dad, I thought of you. So that was a heavenly experience. I purchased a jar of pesto and if you're lucky I'll share a spoonful.The train ride home that night was definitely a high light. At this point Anna, Autumn, and I were on our own because the others decided to go home earlier...fools. We hopped onto a deserted train and immediately decided we had to take advantage of this. A dance party via ipod proceeded to take place. This was the first dance party I've had since I've been here, and it has been killing me considering that in BA 6 we danced at least 4 nights a week. It was good to be back in my element. I should also mention that due to something about a car and a BOOM! the girls that left before us got back to Siena only ten minutes before we did. So basically that weekend I avoided jellyfish, cat pee, sprained ankles, and late trains...I'm a lucky woman.

So the moral of the story is Cinque Terre is a must see...beautiful.

Fiasco of the Day: So this one is a frequent occurrence. Since they don't use AC we have the windows open at home all the time and instead of screens we have prison-like metal things. So the windows are wide open meaning flies are very common. Without fail at least 3 times a week during dinner, a fly makes itself known. I feel like normally when I see a fly it is simply ignored, and only the most annoying get the fly swatter. Well if Marco sees a fly, often even a small gnat, he is immediately out of his chair, tripping over chairs and people around the tiny kitchen to get that sucker. Weapon of choice: hands. The first time this happened Paola's head ended up getting smashed between his arms. During dinner I have seen the death of a least 5 flies and many others have survived. I love Marco.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Old Stuff

Herculaneum with Mt. Vesuvius in the background

Autumn testing out the facilities

As promised this blog is dedicated to the old ruins that I saw over a month ago...sorry this took so long. So after Rome we made our way down to the south and hit up Herculaneum. This city is actually better preserved and slightly cooler than Pompeii but it is way smaller. For those of you who aren't up on your Italian history, these cities were destroyed when Mt. Vesuvius erupted some long time ago. Because of the lava slash ashes covering everything, they were pretty well preserved and just plain cool.

In Herculaneum I got some amazing views of Mt. Vesuvius and obviously played the Zoolander dialogue related to such volcano numerous times in my head. Now, unlike Hansel, I HAVE been to Mt. Vesuvius. I'm constantly trying to related things we do here to interior design. Let me tell you Herculaneum was a jackpot! I am currently obsessed with having my house in an updated Herculaneum style. Mosaics, mosaics, mosaics; floors, ceilings, tables, walls, you name it. I can see in the future getting myself elbow deep into a- 'mosaic my entire house by hand project'. Those of you who have lived with me know that I would do this. I'll do a tenth of it and then give up and hire someone. But really I am obsessed....I took a thousand pictures. Then we have the whole fresco with reds, yellows, and oranges all over the walls. It reminded me of the stained cement floors at the Theos house. Love love it. So if anyone wants a Herculaneum house...I'm ready to go. This one is for SAC!

The next day we went to Pompeii and I'll be honest, it was hot. Did I mention how disgustingly hot it was my first week here? The only acceptable clothing to wear in this kind of humid heat would be no clothing, which with this BYU group was unfortunately not an option. If i wasn't in shade or being doused with water I was contemplating the positive sides of death. Yes it was that bad. So as you can imagine walking around through dirty old ruins with no roofs was slightly unappealing. But Pompeii was cool, totally huge and I probably only saw 10 percent of it. My favorite part was the casts of the bodies that they have. Once the bodies rotted away there was a just an empty space in the lava of their bodies, so they made casts of them...awesome.

Okay, last day in the south we hit up Paestum. Let's be honest, don't make a special trip for this one. Once again so flaming hot and it was cool, but I was all ruined out and the other places were way better. Oh and I had just been at the beach the day before so the memories of that were still fresh in my mind.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Arezzo e Cortona has been a while so let's get caught up.
Two weekends ago I had yet another romantic Tuscan excursion with the girls. On Saturday we hit up Arezzo and Cortona. First, I had stumbled upon these awesome plane tickets to Paris for like 50 euro the night before, so once we got to Arezzo we were on the prowl for the internet. We found this old library, hiked up a few flights of stairs, and BAM the internet. I had to fill out some sketchy paper work, and of course it was me, I'm the only one who gets things done around here. Then we had to wait for an open computer forever, but we bought our tickets to Paris!!!I am so unbelievably excited. Here are from left to right...Anna, Shannon, and Autumn buying their tickets!After purchasing tickets we ran to some park overlooking Tuscany and celebrated the joys of life.

Arezzo was pretty sweet. This is where they filmed It's a Beautiful Life. My favorite part was the Medici fortress on the top of the mountain and this beautiful park that surrounds it. We wandered through the fortress and ended up on top of it. There was some sort of field on top and Anna and I decided it would be an appropriate place to play cricket in a Jane Austen book. She is currently reading my falling apart copy of Pride and Prejudice and I'm on Mansfield Park. I thought walking through the fortress was scary until I saw what was down below...this creepy graveyard/mausoleum. There are like millions of people buried on top of each other.

Next stop was Cortona. We all decided we should drop out of life and live here. From the train you have to take a bus to the city on top of the mountain. Views of Tuscany here are absolutely amazing. We took some sort of hike on accident through people's yards and then happened upon the main cathedral on the tippy top of the mountain. The inside of this cathedral looked like a circus tent to me. This is just one of many houses that I loved.
If only there wasn't a crane in like every picture I took.
So basically Saturday was an adventure, wandering through forests, parks, and old buildings.

Fiasco of the Day: So basically on all these trips I am somehow in charge and figuring out what to do is close to impossible. While the public transportation system here is awesome and can get you anywhere, actually figuring out times and places is close to impossible, especially with my Italian. However, this results in a carefree, roll with the punches kind of lifestyle that I enjoy.
We've started compiling a list of people who have saved our lives here. Saturday was a big day for this list. I'd like to thank: The Americans at the Cortona bus station, we had no idea how to get on top of the mountain. The bus driver who let us ride his bus for free AND the amazing lady at the Tourist Info desk who helped us get home that night. I would probably still be at the Cortona bus station if it weren't for all of them.