OFF TO THE LAND OF GUINNESS

So after our adventures in Rome ended and we said our goodbyes, me and Sarah (one of my roommates and best friends in Italy) took off for the land of Guinness and fish and chips-- Ireland. First stop: Dublin. We landed at the Dublin airport super late at night after an interesting ride with an upset customer on Aer Lingus. Y'all, this woman literally complained the entire time and she was sitting right next to me. She was threatening the flight attendants that she would go leave bad reviews for the airline, but once they buttered her up with a few mini bottles of red wine, she was knocked out. And I was happy. Anyways, we landed in Dublin. It was honestly a shock going from the heat of Rome to the perfect weather in Ireland that was actually a little chilly. I instantly regretted sending almost all of my jeans and jackets back home with sendmybag. But the chill was refreshing, and so were the people that (after a month of Italian only) I could actually understand when they spoke to me. Everyone was already so friendly and happy and Sarah and I were happy to be welcomed into this beautiful country. We grabbed out bags and headed to figure out how we would get to our hostel. We ended up waiting on the bus because it was super cheap, found Kinlay hostel, and went to explore the town of Dublin, Ireland. Naturally, we got pizza to eat because it was 2 AM and nothing else was open. But I guess we just couldn't let go of Italian food as well. People were coming off of the town at the pizza place and were having a lot of fun dancing around to (of course) American music. After some greasy, Americanized, but delicious pizza, we decided we would go grab drinks. That night was the night I fell in love with baby Guinness shots. They basically look like a mini Guinness, but they're definitely not full of beer. A baby Guinness is a shot made of Irish liqueur and Bailey's Irish Cream. So, so good. That night was also the night that we realized Guinness tastes 10 million times better in the country it actually comes from. That may have been psychological, but I know that I tried Guinness in America when I got back and it was not up to par. We met some interesting characters that night and got a little taste of Irish nightlife. We knew we picked Ireland for a reason and couldn't wait to explore more the next day. 

The next morning we woke up and found the cutest coffee shop right around the corner and went to explore further. I can't remember the name of the coffee shop because there's so many cafes in Dublin, but it was really close to our hostel, Kinlay, and in the Temple Bar area. We walked around and enjoyed the beautiful city full of eager tourists. We eventually got lunch at a delicious sandwich place called The Woollen Mills where I got the most delicious Irish cider, and then made it over to the Dublin castle as well. We hung out in front of the castle for awhile with an array of different people and then met up with friends from home that happened to be in Dublin at the same time. We all went to visit and experience the Guinness factory where Guinness was originally made. It was really cool to see all of the history behind what seems like such a simple concept (beer). We even got to learn how to properly pour a beer and of course I was pretty terrible at it. We all went to a really cool restaurant called The Old Storehouse Inn for dinner and enjoyed live music and the loud Irish men. It was definitely an experience and my tummy was satisfied with my delicious fish and chips. After filling myself to the brim, literally, Sarah and I went back to the hostel to freshen up and made plans to meet back up with our friends to go roam the town that night. So later on, we went out and enjoyed more baby Guinness, Jameson and Irish people. I almost fought a dude that night because he was screaming about how Americans are stupid, but honestly whats new when visiting a foreign country? That night we met the guy that was staying in our hostel, but honestly I can't remember his name. He was young like us, from Australia, and was on a year-long trip around the world. He had already been to 26 different countries. I thought it was so brave that he just up and left his job and took off to explore the world...and all alone nonetheless. I asked him if he ever got lonely and he said "for sure", so I decided right then and there that if I ever did such a thing (which I hope to), I would want to travel with a buddy. 

The next day, Sarah and I rose early to catch our bus to our next stop: Galway. Of course, we almost missed it. We were so used to buses in Italy always being late that we didn't think twice about actually getting there early, or on time for that matter! But we made it thank goodness and we took off for a new city. That weekend Galway was hosting some huge horse race so everyone was walking around dressed to the nines and what not, which we did not fit in with wearing ripped jeans and no makeup, but oh well. That day, we got to our new hostel which was super nice and fun and filled with people our age. That day, we walked around a bit but made sure to find out how we could visit the famous Cliffs of Moher. We ended up catching the last bust there that day to see the beautiful cliffs. The bus ride was beautiful the entire way and I have never seen so much green in my entire life. The untouched rolling hills of green stock with farm animals and ancient Irish houses were one of the most beautiful sights I've ever seen. Once we got there, I could not believe that I was seeing what I was seeing. The cliffs were honestly unreal looking. How can something so perfect just form like that? It is crazy. So while we were wrapped up in taking the perfect photo of the cliffs, we didn't realize that our bus was arriving to pick us up. Once again, we were pretty far from where the buses came and just figured that they'd wait on us or be a few minutes late. Nope. As we rounded the corner of one of the cliffs, we saw our bus, the last bus of the day, pulling off. We started running but there was absolutely no way we would catch it so I'm not really sure why we even started running. So that night, we slept on the Cliffs of Moher. Just kidding with you. We actually went into the little shop that was at the cliffs and started trying to figure out who looked nice enough to let us hitch a ride with them out of the middle of nowhere. We made the smart decision to ask one of the men working there and he told us to wait a moment and he would be right back. He came back out shortly and told us that one of the guys who worked there wouldn't mind letting us hitch a ride to the nearest bus station. And when I say "nearest," I mean like an hour and a half away. So, we took the chance and waited on our ride, Patrick, to get off of work. Turns out, Patrick was just the sweetest little old man I've ever met. His Irish accent was so strong though that we could barely understand him, but we still could make out some things. He said he'd lived in the same part of Ireland his entire life and told us about his travels, his family, and the war that he was in. It was so neat to talk to someone with that much history in this magnificent land. Once we got to the train station we bid Patrick adieu and went to try to catch a bus. Eventually, we made it back to Galway.

The next day, we went our next adventure to the Connemara region. On this trip, we got to explore more rolling, foggy hills of Ireland, as well as Kylemore Abbey that was nestled in the middle of all of those hills. Kylemore Abbey was first founded for Benedictine nuns that fled World War I in 1920. The abbey was full of history and also some beautiful gardens nearby. We ate lunch at the cafe near the castle, where we enjoyed traditional Irish sandwiches and stew on the cold and foggy day. Our adventures around the Connemara islands were nothing short of jaw-dropping. It honestly just felt so old and peaceful, and untouched. I thought it was so cool that the lands we drove along were filled with old houses, tons of different livestock, and a few small downtown areas that were all so cute. The lands were definitely extremely different than the city we were in previously. It was nice to breathe in the pure air, close my eyes, and be thankful that I ended up in this place at the perfect time.

Oh my goodness I almost forgot to tell you about the two girls that were in our hostel in Galway! So there were two other girls in our hostel while in Galway. The first one, Sabrina, was a teacher from Northern Italy and she was in Ireland trying to better her English skills. That was so neat because Sarah and I had just been in Italy for a month trying to learn at least a little bit of the Italian language. The other girl in our room was from Northern Ireland and had a very thick accent. She was just visiting Galway for fun that weekend and lucky us, she took us to one of her favorite bars. The whole room was made of bookcases stock full of old books. It was there she introduced us to one of my favorite drinks now: the hot whiskey. Its literally Bush Mills whiskey, super hot water, lemon, and cinnamon or honey if you want. It was just what I need to cure my sore throat from the cold weather change. Best drink ever. Those two girls were a blessing for us, as we got to tell them about America and they told us all about the countries they were from. Nothing could have been better.

We left Galway the next day and made it back to Dublin. That night, we went back to our favorite pub, "The Norseman" because they had live music all night. Sarah and I took our last few shots of baby Guinness, drank our last few hot whiskies, and sang along with the live music all night long. It was the cherry on top of an amazing adventure. But, that was not all for the night. When we got back to our hostel and opened the door, we realized that two very large older men were our hostel mates for the night and they were both passed out with only their boxers on, snoring as loud as freaking lawnmower. It was ridiculous and frankly displeasing. Honestly we were a little scared because they were just a little creepy. So we went downstairs and begged the guy at the front desk to give us a different room. We hadn't touched the sheets yet and at all and there was hardly anyone at the hostel that night from the looks of the luggage storage room. Unfortunately, he was just (not a very nice word) and would not help us out at all. He was super rude and we ended up trying to pass time by hanging out in the lobby. He even told us we couldn't be in there. So, we braced ourselves and both climbed up on the top bunk of one of the beds together because I was too weirded out to sleep on the bottom bunk of my bed. So we laid there for an hour trying to fall asleep with the horse-like snoring and eventually fell asleep for 30 minutes, but then woke up again because we had to leave to catch our planes at 4:30 AM. It was a sleepless night. 

We grabbed our stuff and headed to catch a ride to the Dublin airport. Once we made it there, Sarah walked me to my gate and gave me a hug, us both bawling our eyes out. Our adventures together were over for now...and it had been a month in Italy and four days in Ireland that we would never forget. I waved goodbye to her shedding a tear and hopped on my plane. Next stop: Germany.

LET ME TELL YOU 'BOUT MY BEST FRIENDS

Originally written December 3, 2016

There are people that you know for years and years that you never make as great of a connection with as you do with people who just stumbled up out of nowhere. There is something exhilarating about jumping on a plane and meeting a group of strangers that you know nothing about, that come from all around the country and that share the same love for adventure as you do. You can only pray and hope that you’ll meet even one person in your life like that. Well for me, I met six. In Rome, Italy. How lucky am I? I didn’t plan on writing specifically about my friends I grew to love so dearly in just a month…but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it would be the perfect ending to the story of my adventures this summer. After all, its not always where you are, but who you’re with.

I’ve always enjoyed meeting new people from different cultures, different upbringings, different beliefs and people that appreciate the value of diversity and the value of traveling the world to experience it. So I met this group of people on my trip to Italy and I can honestly say that I wouldn’t have wanted that group to be any different. Yes, we were all completely, and I mean COMPLETELY different, but somehow me meshed together so well and so quickly, now that I think about it. It was truly a blessing. I want to tell you a little bit about each of these people and why I appreciate them so much.

Of course I was the type that wanted to see what I was getting myself into with these people, so as soon as the list of people that were attending the trip was sent to us, I used a little tool called social media to track down these people that were lucky enough to embark on this journey like I was. Oh before I go there, I just want to admit that I filled out my roommates request sheet like a crazy person. I basically put that I wanted roommates who were super loud, funny and outgoing, stayed out until 4 AM every night, and loved to be spontaneous. So honestly, I had no idea who in the world I was about to live with for a month. Anyways, I messaged my roommates and we maybe said a few words to each other about how we were excited…and that was about it. I have found out many times also that you surely cannot judge someone off of their Facebook page and their Insta pictures because you will either be disappointed when they’re super boring but seemed cool, or you’ll feel bad that you thought they might be a little strange when they become your best friend. After stalking everyone, the trip was coming to life…I realized it would be such a sort time before I hopped on that plane and met these complete strangers.

But thats what happened. I showed up at the Atlanta airport, where I met the first two people I would call two of the best friends I made on that trip. First, I met Trennie, who I had no idea would be basically everyone’s favorite by day three. Let me tell you about Trennie. He is from Tennessee and plays in the marching band at UT and turns out, he’s everyone’s favorite at his school too…who would’ve known?! Trennie and I got in our fair share of arguments (HAHA), but I can honestly say this kid is one of the nicest and friendliest people I have ever met. Oh and he’s not too shabby of a dancer either. And even though I am probably the worst dancer ever and it may not mean a lot coming from me, that kid was always dancing to something or singing some girly throwback song that he knew every word to. He made me dance too even though every time I danced I only got made fun of. He always wanted everyone to feel included and could talk to just about anyone about anything. Like I said, always a favorite anywhere we went.

The next adventure buddy I met in the Atlanta airport was Sydnee. This gal is now one of my favorite people in the world. She likes to say that I forced her to step out of her comfort zone while abroad, and for that I am forever grateful because we had an absolute blast together. We endured long three-hour photography class together every day, wondering if our professor was on some sort of hallucinogen the whole time. He literally would see things in pictures that were definitely not there. We would show him a picture of a leaf and somehow, in his deep crazy imagination, he would see an astronaut or a dinosaur! What?! Yeah, so Sydnee and I enjoyed this crazy, but entertaining, man every day. We honestly learned so much about photography from him though, and we had so much fun going out and finding photographs to create with our class. Definitely never a dull moment. When I first met Sydnee, I had no idea we would grow so close over the trip and end up bawling our eyes out every time we looked at each other the last day we were in Italy. I literally could not even be near her because we just kept crying. And yeah, she lives just a few hours away in Alabama, but we would never be prancing around Rome together, taking pictures of strange things, exploring the city, eating heaps of Italian gelato, or eating lunch at the different cafes between classes together again. At least not in that situation. We swore up and down we would go back to Italy together one day, and Sydnee, if you’re reading this, I’m holding you to that!

The next two girls that I met were my party animal friends on the trip, the ones who were always down to do something, even though class at 8 AM was actually a real life thing. I  think I met Carlee and Alyssa at the same time if I remember correctly, but I’ll tell you about Carlee first. Carlee was the free spirit I hoped so badly to find on this trip. She was the one that I had the most in common with as far as style, music and that sort of thing. She is from Maine and is seriously the biggest party animal I have ever met. The girl is just a ‘fun girl’. If my roommates are reading this, I hoped you laughed at that part! Carlee was my friend that got her purse stolen, could drink an unreal (and I mean UNREAL) amount of wine and the one that made me feel like I was somewhat clean because she was so, so messy. By the end of the third night, Carlee had told us all about the extremely hard time that she went through years back and after that, I gained so much respect for her. Not that I didn’t have respect before, but I realized how strong and brave she is. And I thought it was pretty cool that after just a few nights, she felt like she could share everything with us. I think thats when we all knew we would become such close friends. I miss living with this girl, having crazy deep talks with her, not doing the dishes together, thinking we heard ghosts, getting made fun of by her and just overall being around someone like her. If you’re reading this, I MISS YOU!

Now for Alyssa. I don’t even know where to start honestly. First off, she’s the one who came up with the term ‘fun girl’ because she said that when she looked us all up on social media she looked at our pictures and thought, “she looks like a fun girl.” So thats where that came from. And it never stopped…we probably said that fifty times a day. Me and Alyssa were probably closer to sisters than anything, mainly because we fought all the time. But we’d fight and then be over it in a couple of hours or so. Alyssa is definitely a true sorority girl from Jersey. She spoke Italian and hot dang, all the Italian boys loved them some Alyssa!!! But seriously, this girl was someone that the trip would not have been the same without. Yes, we got in our fair share of arguments but in the end, she became someone I could call a best friend. We talked about life together, cried together and honestly almost got in a fight one time. Alyssa loved to make fun of my dancing too, just like Trennie. Well, just like everyone. At first I thought Alyssa was really quiet but sweet, but then she actually turned out to be hilarious and so much fun to be around. She always made fun of me for saying “y’all”, but when we were leaving for Ireland on the last day, she said “I’m gonna miss y’all” and broke into tears. I knew the word y’all would grow on those people, even though she swore it never would! Needless to say, I miss our fights, our tears and our laughs the most, but I know that Alyssa will continue to be  fun girl no matter where she is!

Now for someone that I just happened to have so much in common with, even though you’d never guess it by looking at us. I met Mike I think the first night, and we instantly bonded over Sigma Nu talk because he is a brother of Sigma Nu at Utah and I was a Sigma Nu White Rose. It was so funny how his chapter was so similar to the group of guys that I was so close to at my school. Somehow, me and Mike got into really deep discussions every time we talked but I sincerely appreciated those talks, just knowing that someone thinks the same way as me and can relate to the crazy things that go on in my head. Mike was like the dad figure of our group– he always walked us home and made sure we were safe after being out all night; he would literally do anything for us and he just made for a great friend to be on the trip with. He was a best friend to us all, even though we had our fair share of arguments with him too. Needless to say, Italia wouldn’t have been the same without ole Mike.

I saved my true adventure buddy for last. This is another one  that I had no idea I would grow to be such great friends with. Me and Sarah were always friends during the trip, but we didn’t really become close until towards the end of the trip. This girl is one of a kind though. Sarah was the mom of the group for sure, always taking care of us, but she definitely had her wild nights! And when she did, man she was so much fun!!! Sarah was the one in the group that always bought the cheesy souvenirs like the mini Colosseum, and she always laughed until she cried about absolutely everything. We had so much fun roaming around, trying to figure out where to go and how to translate what we wanted to say into Italian. She was the one who showed me how to cook my own cheese sauce for pasta and the one who cleaned up the kitchen most of the time. Like I said…the mom of the group! But she is so much more than that. She is the girl from California who isn’t tan and has a Vermont accent and enjoys wine a lot but can only be limited to a couple glasses. When I booked my flight to Italy, I made the return date about a week after our program had ended, hoping that someone else in the group did the same thing so we could explore more of Europe together after leaving Rome. Well, Sarah didn’t book her return flight so she and I took off for Ireland when our time in Rome had ended. And boy, I wouldn’t have wanted to go on an adventure with anyone else. Like I said, we were complete polar opposites but it totally worked for our friendship. Sarah appreciated the beauty of the land in Ireland, and the Guinness too. What more could you ask for? I will tell you more about Ireland soon, but just know that if you ever decide to go to Ireland, take someone that you get along with, like Sarah and I did, with you cause it’ll be a trip to remember.

img_4422-2.jpg

41° 54° NORTH, 12° 29° EAST

Originally written December 3, 2016

In our last week, we finished up finals for our classes at AUR, spent as much time as we could with each other and tried to hit up all of our favorite spots. I have never been so tired in my whole life. My body was finally breaking down from the lack of sleep and trying to fit everything we hadn’t covered in the last few days. We attempted to visit the Vatican, which this is obviously something you have to do in Rome and we were idiots and waited until the last day to do it. We ended up not being able to find transportation, waiting on buses that never showed up and making it right after they closed. But hey, that gives us all a reason to go back as soon as possible.

The last week in Rome was filled with bittersweet goodbyes to professors, Italian friends, our favorite restaurants and their owners, the most beautiful spots in Rome and lastly, the group of friends that I had grown so close to. I couldn’t bare to say goodbye to these people, and broke down in tears all throughout the week, knowing that this short month was over. This trip was something I looked forward to for my entire college career, and now it was coming to a close. But I was leaving with so many new friends, new memories and new lessons learned about life. I was leaving after finding a simpler, more fulfilling way of life in Italy. I was leaving, knowing I would be back as soon as I could afford it, but taking every ounce of knowledge with me for my next adventures. Rome had become my home…I had never felt this at home at my own apartment in my college town. Things had never felt to easy, so free and so right.

And thats why it was so hard to go. I guess I had it a little easier than the rest, considering me and Sarah were headed off to Ireland on a trip we planned so late within the last week. But we had something else to look forward to. It was just unbelievable that the month had flown by. I remember thinking on the first day that the month was going to be a long one and I would experience so much within that time. I have to admit that at first I was a little scared in the first few days. Not knowing if I would click with the people on the trip, not knowing if I would get homesick and not knowing if the Italian people would absolutely hate us since we were Americans. I would miss the simplicity of the lifestyle they lived. They didn’t care about clothes, or cars, or money, or fancy houses, or social media…none of that stuff that we care way too much about. And it was so refreshing. I miss it every day. Oh and the food; oh boy, I would miss the food the most. American pasta just can’t compare and thats no lie. Same for the wine!

In the next post I’ll finish up talking about Rome, ending things with a little bit about the best friends I made in Italy because they were what made the trip what it was.

Ciao till next time!

THE FLOATING CITY

Originally written December 2, 2016

You might be wondering what “the floating city” actually is by the title. And my answer is that its the most magical, mystical, historical and interesting place you can visit in Italy…Venezia! Or better known by Americans as Venice. So when you picture Venice you probably picture gondolas (the banana shaped boats that you ride around in) and colorful buildings, but I’m here to tell you that Venice is so much more than that. First of all– if you’ve never been, you need to book a flight as soon as possible and experience this wonderful city because it is said that in about 50 years, the city will be underwater. So that is why it is called “the floating city.” I’ll give you a little history lesson on this wonderful place. So way back when, as in 400 A.D., Venice was built on the Venetian Lagoon by inhabitants that were seeking safety and trying to get away from the barbarians from northern Europe that were trying to conquer Italy after the fall of the Roman Empire. Venezia’s lagoons were the perfect refuge for the scared Italians that fled the mainland, and after awhile, they came to know Venice as a home rather than just a place to escape. Venetians were therefore separated from all political, economical and barbaric warfare that was taking over Italy at the time. The water was a barrier between them and everything they had escaped from, and therefore, they developed their own lifestyle type, enjoying the copious amounts of fish surrounding them and adding on to their small town.

Isn’t that pretty cool that a city that was built as an escape from war, is now considered one of the most beautiful and mystical cities in the world? I think it is pretty freaking cool. So when we got the chance to visit this amazing city, we were nothing short of ecstatic. When we got off of the train, we remembered that Venice is an island and that we had to take something called a “water taxi” or a “water bus” to get to the island from the mainland. The water bus was packed full of tourists, so once we stepped foot onto the island we were so relieved. And more than that…we were completely awestruck by the beauty of this city already. The island was packed with people (tons of tourists). Oh and in case you needed to know, GPS walking directions don’t work in Venice because the streets aren’t real street size; they are like three feet wide streets, some even smaller than that. So I would say it took us around forty minutes to find our hotel and it was probably only a few hundred feet away. Yeah, this city was going to be tricky to figure out, but we were up for the adventure.

Once we got to our hotel, we realized how ancient the town really is. It was like we were staying in a haunted ancient Venetian inn, but it was pretty cool I thought. So we settled in and figured out what we wanted to do, and after discussing for a little while, we just went for it. We had the whole day to explore this gem of a place. We took off to find something to eat, stopping at every glass store on the way because they were so fun to look through. Venice has everything you can imagine made out of glass and it is not cheap. I saw a small glass elephant that I knew I had to have, but I told myself I would come back by to bargain with the owner before the weekend was over. We finally found food..well, eventually. Tip: don’t expect delicious, amazing food in Venice because you will not find it. It is a complete tourist trap, as in, the food is not good and it is extremely expensive. So we ended up finding pepperoni pizza and just about died because the last place we saw pepperoni pizza was in Florence. Although it was probably 10 AM, me and a couple others grabbed some of that to hold us over. We continued to explore the city, every step we took bringing something new and interesting. I’m not really sure how we didn’t get sick of stepping into glass stores though…I swear we probably looked in about fifty of them. We went back to our hotel for a little bit after that, to change and look nice for the infamous gondola ride that you have to go on when in Venice, because when will you ever get to do that again? Unfortunately, when we got back to the hotel, it started raining and we were all in a tizzy trying to figure out what to do. Everything to do in Venice is obviously outside so we waited out the rain, hoping that it would just disappear and we could continue our journey.

Sure enough, after spraying a whole bottle of hairspray in my hair in hopes that it could block the effects of the rain, it stopped raining!!! We went on our merry way and found a place to try the “amazing spritz” that Venice is famous for and some light appetizers for “aperitivo”. Like I said, Venice is a tourist trap, so it doesn’t really matter which restaurant you go into…its probably not going to be very good. We just happened to step into one of the worse ones. It wasn’t even ran by Italians; it was ran by people of a different ethnicity. That can be one sign that you’re purposefully getting yourself caught in a tourist trap. The spritz was not what I expected at all. If you like olives and a strong blood orange flavor, then the spritz may be for you. But as for me, I had to hold my nose to get it down, and so did most of my friends. Maybe it was the place we chose…maybe the drink was just hyped up. Maybe Italians had an acquired taste for the drink. I’m not sure, but goodness it was nasty. After that, it was time to find a gondola to get ourselves into! We had eight people in our group, so we knew two of us would have to break off from the group…so Sarah and I volunteered. We found gondolas and Sarah and I rode with some super nice ladies visiting from Spain. Oh and we got the extremely attractive gondolier (gondola driver) and the others got the old man. So Sarah and I were pretty happy when we got to flirt with him the whole time, well attempt to flirt because I don’t flirt and he barely spoke any English at all. So I have to admit, it wasn’t too successful. But he was so sweet and funny, like most Italian men are to American girls. The thirty minutes flew by, and before we knew it we were hopping off of the gondola, smiling and yelling “ciao” to our gondolier. Yes, paying way too much to sit in a banana shaped boat and ride around is probably really dumb, but why wouldn’t you do it when you’re in Venice, Italy?!

The night brought some different plans. We didn’t know much about the nightlife in this city, but Alyssa texted a guy she knew that actually went to school in Venice for awhile and asked him where to go. He gave us the name of the spot, so once we got ourselves ready, we took off to check it out. Y’all, I have to say, I have never been so creeped out walking around at night. If we wouldn’t have been with guys, I probably would have freaked out. We walked forever trying to find this place, but like I said before, the GPS directions do not help in a town like this. It seemed like the streets kept getting darker and smaller the further we went and I was convinced that at one point, the streets would just get so small that they ended. Well, we finally found the area that the friend told us about. The scene was so strange though, especially after the first thing some guy came up and said to us was “look out for people around here…they’ll put stuff in your drinks.” So that was a little unsettling and I was pretty careful where I bought a drink from. After that, we found the one club in all of Venice down a different alley way that took us what seemed like hours to get to. Once we got there, we realized that once again, we should be super careful. I’m pretty sure the ceilings were about 7 feet tall and I personally could not breathe it was so hot in there. But, we danced for a little while and hung out, avoided some of the creepiest men I’ve ever come across, and then got ourselves home. Of course the walk back home was still creepy except now it was like 3 AM so even worse. Honestly though, things may have been strange, and Venice may not be known for its nightlife, but it was all part of the experience and I wouldn’t change it if I had the chance. Seeing how different parts of Italy are so diverse and have their own culture, like Venice, is so interesting and theres always a history that comes with why they’re like that which is pretty neat too.

The next day, we walked around the city some more, admiring the beautiful architecture in St. Mark’s square and the brilliance of the churches like the Basilica di San Marco and the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute. The second one we got to go inside of and it was definitely one of the most beautiful churches I’ve ever seen. Doge’s Palace was beautiful as well. Really, just all of the architecture in Venice is striking. It made me sad that the city will probably be underwater in the next fifty years or so because the history of the city is just so unique. We went into a really cool modern art museum after that, where different modern art was displayed in so many different rooms; some of it was even interactive art. I thought it was super cool that such an ancient city still invested in the modern day arts and that they were trying to incorporate millennial work into the city. After admiring all of those wonders, we did some souvenir shopping for family members. I bought my dad a really cool tie that has little gondolas and gondoliers on it and my mom a beautiful glass pendant. The pendants made for great gifts for friends back home so I bought a few smaller ones to give to my best friends. Of course, I had to make it back to the glass elephant that I saw on the first day, hoping it was still there. After we got completely turned around and couldn’t get back to that specific store, we finally found it. We made sure to get back to our hotel in time to grab our bags, say goodbye to this magical city where we made so many memories in such a short time, and hop on another water taxi to make it back to the train station.

After every weekend adventure, I was always happy to go back to our little apartment in Rome. This weekend in particular, I knew this would be the last time we went back to Rome after a weekend trip and I knew I would have to make the most of our last week in the city that truly felt like home to me. And of course I would never be able to forget the mystifying city of Venezia, Italia.

Ciao until next time!

A SOUTHCAROLINIAN ADVENTURE

Originally written November 20, 2016

Yesterday, I drove up to Clemson to visit my brother for a day for some quality sibling bonding time. First off people, always cherish your brothers and sisters and stay close to them. I know it sounds kind of morbid, but after your parents pass away, your siblings will be your only immediate family left and why wouldn’t you want to have a good relationship with them? I know it took years and years for me and my brother to finally get along, but now we hang out like best buds and its pretty awesome.

Anyways, this will just be a short post telling you about the really cool areas in South Carolina near Clemson. My dad is from that area and so are a lot of my family members, but I honestly always thought South Carolina was just made up of flat fields and beaches. Clemson is basically at the foothills of the mountains and there are some beautiful spots around the area. Yesterday, we grabbed some lunch at Loose Change in downtown Clemson and headed for Table Rock State Park, which we had heard was quite beautiful. After about a 45 minute drive to Table Rock, we drove towards the park entrance only to see a sign that said “Closed due to park wildfire.” I guess we should have checked the website since there have been all these crazy wildfires sparking up lately, but we were pretty bummed. We pulled over at a gas station and tried to figure out somewhere else to go around Table Rock and I came upon something on the internet about a Lake Jocassee that was just about 15 minutes away from where we were. So we went on towards Jocassee; of course we got lost and ended up at the entrance to a gated neighborhood, but the security guard at the gate explained to us where to go to get to the lake. We made it to the lake and got out of the car to find out that it was now freezing cold and that this lake was absolutely beautiful. I read the story of how the lake basically drowned the Cherokee city of Jocassee a long time ago…so thats pretty interesting that there is a whole city under this stunning lake! We walked around for a little over and hour exploring the beach that was on the lake and of course trying to get some neat pictures out of the trip. You could see the mountains overlooking the lake for miles and miles and we could even see the smoke from Table Rock in the distance. As the sun set we walked back to warm up in the car since by now there was no sunshine to supply any warmth at all.

Although we had planned to go to Table Rock and go hiking that day, some things don’t work out for simple reasons. Lake Jocassee was awesome and so was the time that my little brother and I got to spend together. Never take the simple things for granted. And if something doesn’t work out, that means something greater was meant to happen.