May 24th Avignon - Ok, so we didnt go to Sicily. We both got sick, and the Amalfi coast was just too beautiful too leave. We stayed with Martine and Gianni Irace, family friends in a roundabout sort of way. They own a wonderful restaurant in Praiano called la Brace, which we ate at 7 nights in a row. Their specialties were fresh seafood, homemade pasta, cakes, pizzas, and an amazing view overlooking the ocean. Many famous people, such as Michelle Pfieffer have eaten at their restaurant. Martine was the best hostess ever, and she always made us feel welcome. While staying there, we visited Amalfi, a small town with a gorgeous Duomo (church) and amazing gelati. Our travel there was perilous by bus, with a driver who raced around the turns, honking quickly to alert oncoming traffic. The roads are narrow and windy, on the edge of cliffs, much like Highway 1 by Big Sur. We took these buses everywhere we went on the Amalfi coast, daily cheating death by putting our lives in the hands of insane bus drivers. The Amalfi coast is known for their ginormous lemons, and these lemons help them to make some awesome gelati and limoncello (lemon flavored liqueur). On another day, we travelled to Positano, where the bikini was invented, and The Talented Mr. Ripley was filmed. We layed out on the beach, and while waiting in line for gelati, ran into girls from UCSB. Another day, we journeyed back in time to Pompeii, the site of a tremendous volcanic eruption of Mt. Vesuvious in 62 AD, where the entire city was covered in many feet of volcanic ash, leaving the best preserved roman ruins known to modern man. It was pretty cool. We spent 5 hours with the 4 hour audio guide tour, and learned just about everything there is to know about Pompeii, for eg., their sheep industry, plumbing, cult of the dead, and others...We are now experts on the subject. Kind of. On yet another day in Praiano, we found our way down some stairs covered in vines, and rotting through with rust. We followed a man who macheted the vines away from the trail with a branch he pulled off a tree. At the bottom was a little cove with gigantuous boulders and rocks that had tumbled down into the ocean from the cliffs above. We sunbathed on top a rock for a while, then had some fun climbing on the boulders. We were fortunate to see the Amalfi coast from the viewpoint of a ship, on our way to Capri, an island just off the coast. The round trip fare was a lot, and once we got there, we had little to spend. We took a boat tour around the island, where we saw the green grotto. We had enough cash for one of us to see the blue grotto, but alas we decided to get gelati for the both of us instead. Next time around - Nice, Cannes, and Avignon!!!
May 10th Roma
Alright, we are in Rome, but we are staying outside of rome in the seven hills campsite. It is really pretty where we are staying, but an uphill walk to the train into town. blech! Rome has been lovely, although it rained the first day, we have seen most of the major sites. We met a couple of cool girls from Melbourne, Australia, with whom we are sharing a little cabin. In a few minutes, we are going back to the Colosseum for some kodak moments. Carissa is sick, but battling through it because she doesnt want to miss anything in rome. Next we are heading to Salerno, and a small town nearby called Praiano, on the Amalfi coast. After that, who knows? We are probably changing our plans and heading into sicily. thats it for now. ciao!
May 9th ROMA
Well, we are in the eternal city, ROMA! Back to where we left off:
Venice - On the way from Nice to Venice, we had a bonus stop with Busabout in Eze, France. We went to a perfumerie called Froganard or something, and I bought a nice perfume, kinda citrusy. We stopped again on another bonus stop in Verona, the site of Romeo and Juliet. We took the opportunity to grab the breast of a statue of Juliet for a kodak moment (legend has it that if you grab her breast you will be lucky in love) Everyone from 8 year old school boys to grandmothers did it. When we arrived in Venice, it was later in the evening, and since the last ferry would be coming back soon, we just decided to hang out at the campsite and the Camping Fusina Bar. They have a website...but we dont know the address. You should really check it out, theres some crazy pictures of crazy people weve met on our trip. The next day, we awoke to take the ferry into Venice at around noon. We saw all sorts of cool shops and confusing winding streets and canals. It started raining. blech. but we had a great day anyhow, and the rain finally came to a halt. We followed advice in the Lets Go book, and went to a great cheap pizzeria for lunch, followed by awesome gelati for dessert. Joe wanted to go back to the gelati place a couple of hours later, but we ran out of time. (usually im the one who wants the ice cream more than joe). We found a fun place to eat dinner, a little family operated ristorante hole in the wall. All of the cooks were old women who yelled at each other, and the young bartender dude, who was in his twenties, probably one of their sons. After dinner, we waited for the ferry by watching the sun set over the water.
FIRENZE - Well, Florence was beyond beautiful, from rolling green hills full of vineyards and olive trees, to gorgeous buildings. The Tuscan landscape was fabulous. We went to the Boboli Gardens, which were much like Versailles Gardens. We had more pizza and gelati (the gelati was a whopping 5 for two scoops!!!, and the man at the pizzeria next door thought it was a steal because he had paid over 7 the day before). We got to see lots of sculptures by Michelangelo in the Bargello, as well as a plethora of replicas. We ate at a great restaurant called La Colonnine, where Carissa had ravioli con funghi (mushrooms and truffles) it was a masterpiece, a taste explosion. fabulous. The first night we were in downtown Florence, we didnt know where to pick up the local bus to get back to our campsite just outside of the city, so we got on where we got off, and ended up riding it for an hour and a half, including a 25 minute break for the driver while he ate an apple and had a smoke (this is at midnight, mind you). That was pretty funny. Then we had to find our way back from the bus stop to our campsite in the dark with one measly flashlight. We spent another day in Florence exploring the streets and some more churches, including the Duomo. There was a church with tombs of famous italians, michelangelo, galileo, da vinci, blah blah...We went shopping...at leather shops in the city, and had a really good time trying on leather coats, while the Italian salesmen (epitome of sleazy salesmen) kept complementing me, and trying to bargain with us. There is a bridge in Florence, the oldest bridge in Italy that was left standing after WW2, called Ponte Vecchio (or, old bridge). It used to be where the leather tanners and butchers worked, throwing the unused carcases and scraps over the edge into the river. The Medicis were sick of seeing (and smelling) this on the way to work, and decided to change the bridge to hold jewelry stores. The descendents of the original store owners are still selling jewelry there today.
May 5th Florence
Well, the last time we wrote, we were in another country altogether.
Granada - really really cool. we met some kids from washington state (they helped us find a hostel when we first got there) who we also hung out with in barcelona, good times. Granada and San Sebastian are joes two favorite places so far in spain. There are a couple of really cool bars in Granada that serve free tapas with the purchase of a drink. At Bar Europa 2 joe and i got 4 drinks each for only 12, and enough food to feed an army! (or joe, whichever description you prefer). We saw flamenco dancing at a bar in the muslim district that was totally awesome, enjoyed it very much.
Barcelona - after a long night train, we arrived in the train station of Barcelona, where shortly thereafter, we had a bit of an incident with a gypsy woman we like to refer to as two tooth. Well, as we got onto the metro, and the doors were shutting, a woman blocked traffic, and joe felt a little funny about her standing there. we got onto the metro, and another lady motioned for joe to check his pockets. noticing quickly that his wallet was missing, he wrenched the doors of the metro open, and ran after two tooth. meanwhile i was stuck on the metro, and had to go to the next stop, not really knowing what happened. joe caught up with the woman, who happened to be about 8 months pregnant, and confronted her. she denied to understand at all about his accusations, and tried to hand him 50 cents out of her wallet after showing him her track marks from heroin, repeatedly explaining that she was pregnant by lifting her shirt. blech. he realized she was holding her jacket bundled up under her arm, and grabbed it from her, finding his wallet rolled up inside. she still refused to aknowlege any guilt. thats when i showed up, and helped him yell at her a little before setting her free. it would have been a whole lot of bother when nothing was missing. well. that was crazy. ask us about the crazy stories we heard from others about pickpocketing in barcelona after that experience. we finally met up with our wonderful friend lisa, who put up with us for a couple of days in her apartment in barcelona, in the gracėa district. we went to a bar with her, and got falafel at maoz falafel (sp?) we went to other really good dinners in barcelona in the plaza reial (spelling is wrong, but its crazy cataluynan) well, thats that, had fun with friends from granada, casey, carley and abby. we tried to see the only albino gorrilla in the world, but he was sick, so we climbed to the top of the olympic stadium mtn instead. phew. we tried to start busabout, but accidentally slept in. we went to more good restaurants, relaxed and played uno....
nice - busabout took a while because of traffic, to get to nice, so we didnt get to stop at the bonus stop. our guide was lame, but weve had much better since then, so yay! nice rained, we went to mcdonalds and had beer and fries. we will update more later, ran out of time, again! love you all! ciao! peppino and carissa (peppino is joe in italian)
April 25th, 2002 Granada
Alright, it has been a long long time since our last entry.
Bilbao - Gugghenheim Museum was super cool, with a great exhibit on modern art work, including Miro and other people i cant remember right now. The actual museum architecture was impressive, covered in tiles made of titanium, so that it glittered in the sun, and looked like a strange space age ship. We stayed in an ok hostel, and had tapas for dinner. Vanessa thought that prices would be comparable to Oņati, but alas, Bilbao was the most expensive city we´ve been to yet. We spent (between 4 people) a lot lot lot for only a couple of drinks and some dinky tapas. We had really good Fanta (orange soda) with vodka - at 6 a pop, it better be good.
Salamanca - A really impressive old city in the middle of nowhere, with one of the oldest existing universities in the world. It was built in 1218, and has an awesome facade of carved stone. Its library was also very cool, with really really old books. You cant even walk inside, but they have a clear plastic room that you can walk into to view the library. Globes were classified as round books, because it was considered sacriligious to think the earth was not flat. We stayed on the Plaza Mayor, where the hostel owners didnt wash their dishes, so the smell made the whole place reek of rotten food. blech.
Cáceres - Gorgeous old buildings, fortress-like, as they were strongholds during the different wars throughout spanish history. yeah. We went to a museum showcasing natural history, as well as the anthropological history of that area in spain, muy interressante. We ate just outside of our hostel, on their Plaza Mayor, where the vinegar had a bug in it. We tried to joke with the waiter about it, but he tried to explain that the bug arrived during the distillation process. he was very serious about it (all of this learned through his spanish, and our non-understanding ears) anyways, we also discovered there was a free classical quartet playing at the museum, so we watched them that night, and enjoyed some relaxing classical tunes.
Matalascaņas - A small resort town, we stayed in a hostel right off the beach. We finally arrived in southern spain, where there was a completely different atmosphere, accent, and weather than everywhere we had been before. We layed on the beach, which was covered in shells, topless women, and small children. It was super hot, and relaxing after days of sightseeing. It was good to rest. It was reminiscent of Mazatlan, but not quite as humid. For dinner, we had really good shrimp, very fresh, and Joe had Lenguado (sole) which was served whole. The lenguado was very good.
Doņana - We got a ride to the parque early in the morning from the owner of our hostel. The largest national parque in Spain, covering several different ecosystems, and with a large quantity and variety of birds and animals. We took a tour of the parque (as you werent allowed to access it on your own) in a large jeep bus with four wheel drive. We saw the dunes eating away at umbrella pine trees (covering them, then killing them), a cycle where the sand gradually moves inland. We saw other cool birds, wild boars, and wetland. We got dropped off by the park ranger near Matalascaņas.
Sevilla - the last night of the Feria de Abril. We saw fireworks and dancing, along with a love for cuban alcohol and music, something we obviously dont see in the US. We tried agua de sevilla, sangria, manzanilla and other alcoholic drinks. they were all super tasty, although the manzanilla was a bit astringent. The sangria is like jungle juice, the agua de sevilla was like a dessert drink with whipped cream and a raw egg, and other liquors, orange juice, etc. The manzanilla is a strong apple wine. We were able to visit a large park santa maria luisa something, with orange trees everywhere, and the best lemons we´ve ever eaten. Everywhere in Sevilla smells like honeysuckle. Its nice, and warm. We went also to the Alcazar, a medieval fortress built by both christian, jewish and muslim rulers influence. We walked through a hedge maze in the garden, it was so cool!!! We went to a flamenco bar that night, and saw a couple singers and guitar players that were very good. One of the singers was a little whiny, but according to our host, Becca, he has political influence so is allowed to sing. Flamenco has 50 different variations. crazy. We met some cool Americans and a French guy, and talked to them for a while. We got a recommendation for a cool place to get free tapas in Granada, and we will talk about that shortly. love you all,
carissa and joe
April 14th, 2002 San Sebastian
We had a great time in Oņati. The weather was a little crummy, cold and rainy the whole time we were there, but Vanessa was very hospitable, and we were able to travel all around the Basque country, to Pamplona, where we saw a bullfighting ring and a really cool cathedral (thats where they have the running of the bulls, you know) we also ate at a cider house, where we had some great food and some weird basque cider. On another day, Vanessa´s Basque friends made a going-away traditional dinner for her, and we had paella with rice and shrimp and mussels, and tortilla (not like mexican tortilla, its more like an omelet). Then we went with the basque people to a bar and had some cafe con leche and drinks. One interesting thing I discovered while at the bar is that they dont take shots like we Americans do, of hard liquor. One of her friends, Gaiska, bought us shots of the local rum, and i asked for a chaser, which they didnt understand. after explaining, they gave me a small glass of san miguel beer, but still looked confused. We said Salud and i proceeded to take my shot. I drank about 3/4 of it, when they all turned to me and gasped in shock. Turns out, Basque people sip their shots, and thought I was crazy. hm, whoops. we are progressing on our spanish speaking quite well, and i feel as though I am able to understand when people speak slowly. We are even learning a couple key basque phrases, hello/goodbye is agur, and ok is bale. its great fun. Vanessa´s friend Lide knows 6 different languages, and has been very patient with our struggles to make comprehendable sentences. She will be living in Santa barbara over the summer, so y´all may get a chance to meet her. On our last day in Oņati, we walked around the countryside, and visited the sheep. It was absolutely beautiful, and a rare moment in which the rain stopped. Now we are in San Sebastian, and it is our 2year anniversary. Tonight, we will go to a nice dinner, and relax. On Tuesday, we are meeting up with Vanessa and Nancy in Bilbao, and attending the Guggenheim museum. After that, we will travel onward around Spain. check the itinerary for updates on that stuff. Alright, hope all is well back home! Agur.
April 11, 2002 Oņati
We are now in Oņati visiting Vanessa, and having a great time. Bordeaux - i got my purse back! Our hotel deskperson told me that I should check a place that was only a block away, the owners of the bus lines in bordeaux. We went there the following day, and the desk person called le bureau des objets trouvees (sp?) the lost and found office. She told them my name, and they discovered that they did indeed have my purse. Hoorah! however, as it was a saturday, they were closed, and because she told me in french that they found my purse, i didnt allow myself to hope in fear that my translating powers were not working. The rest of the weekend was great. Joe and I found a fabulous little creperie just down the street from our hotel, where we ate a couple of times, wonderful crepes with chocolat and glace (ice cream) and chantilly (whipped cream) they were divine. We also went to the movie theatre and saw L´ombre de la häine (Monster´s Ball), english with french subtitles. A nice distraction from our lack of language ability. We also spent a lot of time wandering round the city and checking out all the neat shops. They had very nice clothing and shoes, but were too expensive. All in all, bordeaux was a great place to visit. Another plus to Bordeaux was that our hotel had cable, along with the bbc channel, and occasional programmes in english on the other channels, it was nice to settle in at night and watch tv in english. there were some really funny programmes. eh, i gotta go, will write more later about bordeaux, and our adventures in spain. love you all!
06/04/02 (crazy euro style date)
phew. we are now in bordeaux. last couple of dayz in paris, we went to the beautiful sacre coeur church, and hung out. we took the tgv, superfast train, to bordeaux, where we are now staying until monday.
yesterday was craziness. we got in, found our way downtown a l'autobus, and i lost my purse, after wandering in the hot searing southern sun for an hour. blech. however, at least joe has money and credit cards. we found out, though, that they may have my purse at a lost and found office, not open til monday. so i must wait. i am happy, though, it wasnt the end of the world. it helps that cindy (joe's mum) pretended to be me and cancelled my credit cards for me. merci beaucoup cindy!
we are staying in a hotel overlooking the main downtown square, it is supercool. the buildings are old and the people are friendly. last night, we ate at la creperie, and had tres bien crepes with lots of chocolate sauce and ice cream and whipped cream (chantilly)for dessert. c'est magnifique!!! afterwards, we tried to find the internet bar, but the maitre d lady gave us a bad map, and pointed out the wrong spot for the hotel/internet. we got mucho help from a crazy french lad who turned his nose up at a rude french couple who refused to help (he said, 'french people-(and made a frowny face)-he couldnt speak english, but i was able to communicate with him, sorta, go carissa! by the time we found the internet, it was long closed, c'est la vie! we are here today.
today we tried to take a tour of wine country, but it was full :( therefore, we do our own tour of wine shops around the town. tomorrow, a walking tour of old bordeaux, and possibly a hot air balloon ride. yay! ps i really want to buy shoes, they are supercute, but i am waiting for italy, and our return to paris. the chocolate, on the other hand, i cannot wait for, and it is sooooo gooood! au revoir until next time, carissa and joe
04/01/02 We've done so much already :)
First of all, the flight seemed to go a lot faster than it actually was. (14 hours) We slept a lot, and everything was on time. Got to watch Riding in Cars with Boys (drew barrymore) it was ok. We got in early in the morning, and miraculously found our way from the airport to our apartment via four different trains. We hung out for a while before Vanessa showed up. Vanessa and I went shopping and exploring around the neighborhood where I got my haircut. It turned out real nice, even though they didnt speak english. (joe says it looks cool...cut in french style) After getting back from that, we decided to try to check out notre dame. When we got off the metro, we were right by St. Chappelle, and went there. There were 15 panels of stained glass windows. supercool. Then we went to Notre Dame, and decided to check out the inside on the following day. We ate dinner at a cafe overlooking the seine/across from notre dame. Then we decided it wouldnt be too far to walk home. ha. It took an hour and a half and was super dark by the time we got back. We got to walk through the latin quarter, where they throw plates on the ground to get your attention, and try to get you to come into their restaurant. By the time we finally got back, we were tired and thirsty, so we bought three bottles of vin at the local wine store and took them home. One was horrible/vinegar-y, we didnt drink it. The other two were pretty good.
The following day we woke up late and decide to check out the louvre. I (carissa) navigated a little wrong, and we went the wrong way. We kinda ran out of time, so we decided instead to check out notre dame. It was very impressive. Afterwards, we bought glace (ice cream) joe got french vanilla (you gotta do it in france, same with french fries). Then we took the metro to the eiffel tower and climbed to the top. On the way up, we saw the sunset, and by the time we got to the top, the sun had set and paris was truly the city of lights. yay. afterwards, we were going to go to a jazz club, but it was too late so we went to a local restaurant. very good food, interesting buffet of hors d'oeuvres. Joe got saumon (salmon) super good. We walked in at 10 and left after 2 (time change).
Easter - Versailles. We took the RER to Versailles, and waited in line for the self-guided tour of the king and queens bedchamber and the hall of mirrors. super cool. then we went outside and had lunch overlooking the jardins (gardens). We took a walk around the jardins...it was sooo big!!! There was a manmade lake shaped like a cross that was a mile long. After Versailles, we went home and slept. long day. Today we plan on going to the louvre, and seeing vanessa off at the train station.
03/27/02 We leave tomorrow morning!
We rented a car today (Ford Focus) for the drive down to LAX. Our flight is at 730am, but because of heightened security in airports, we have to be there at 430am. Yucky. However, staying up so late is a blessing in disguise, as we should be so tired that we will sleep the majority of the 14 hour flight. I am super duper excited! We will be in Paris a little over 24 hours!!!
03/15/02 We're getting closer!
I can't believe we haven't started packing yet (well, actually I can). We're out of the double digits in our countdown now, and I'm growing increasingly antsy. Are we prepared enough? Do we have everything we need, so that we can have a good trip? I'm going to go shopping today for items to put in our First Aid kit, as well as some Ziplock bags for packing. YAY! I will be updating this page with antecdotes and journal entries while we are in Europe, so keep checking back for new entries. : )
I can't wait for Europe!
Joe and I are embarking on a fantastic journey March 28th, 2002. We fly out of LAX early in the morning on that day, and arrive in Paris on the following morning.
I am going to have the time of my life! We have rented a flat in the 15th arrondissement, near "La Tour Eiffel," as well as other wonderful attractions.
The first weekend we are in Paris, Vanessa is going to come up from Spain. Vanessa goes to a Graduate School specializing in International Law and Society, just outside of San Sebastien.
After an adventure-filled week in Paris, Joe and I will move on to Bordeaux. I can't wait!