Thursday, April 19, 2012

Roma, Roma, Roma: Spring Break Part 2!

Arriving back in Athens Monday morning, I had just enough time to unpack, repack, and grab a quick gyro at the local souvlaki stand, before my roommate Morgan and I hopped over to Rome for a week!  A few hours later, we were checking into our hostel, which I would totally recommend for any women travelers.  Papaya Female Hostel was located in a super safe, residential area just a 7 minute walk from Termini Station, which was super convenient.  It was also only about a ten minute walk from the Trevi Fountain, Barberini station, and all of that good stuff.  After getting settled in, we headed out to explore the area, and ended up meeting up with a friend who was also spending a few days in Rome.  We got dinner, and then headed to the Trevi to make our wishes and get our first gelato of the trip.  Here is a picture of us tossing our coins, the flash was a little too close, but I think you can still make out our excitement. :) The other pic is of our first Italian meal!

The next day we found the best breakfast place EVER.  A small espresso cafe, the 0.70 espresso shots and 1 euro pastries were literally my dream come true.  It was a typical place, with a large counter manned by baristas which kinda reminded me of the octopus from Monster's Inc. -->

After yelling our orders above the din of clattering cups and saucers and shouting Italians (un latte and that pastry right there) we settled down at the counter to drink the best coffee of our lives.  We decided to go back every morning after that and cycle through the drinks and pastries.  After chasing my latte with an espresso shot, I was on top of the world and ready to rock and roll.  
We headed off for our grand adventure, and our day was full of churches, beautiful piazzas, and a handful of famous sites!  I think my favorite part about Rome was seeing Latin everywhere in the city! It was so much fun to read the inscriptions and recognize the titles that I'd seen in readings at Willamette.  

The Fountain of Four Rivers at the Piazza Nuova (where we also had the best gelato of our lives)

 Oh hey, Pantheon!
 I bought a really cool postcard that kinda looks like this...guess I could have just printed out the picture.
 Then we headed towards the Colosseum and the ancient city center!!
 Secret: It's really big in person, too.

 We found a great museum area upstairs!

Here's me in front of the triumphal arch!!

After starting out at our little breakfast place, we headed to the Vatican on Wednesday.  Upon arrival, we saw a huge crowd outside St. Peter's and the Pope was on the big screens! Turns out every Wednesday in the morning they have a service and he blessed a bunch of people, so that was cool to see.  We headed around the corner to the Vatican Museum and boy, that was an experience.  
I am already planning my next trip because I feel like I have so much more to explore!  

In the museum we amused ourselves by venturing off the beaten path to the Sistine Chapel and exploring the many empty rooms of things like the Etruscan collections and Modern Art, because frankly, this is what I felt like when we were walking through the main hall (except for I didn't have my dad to save me from the stampede of tourists).

Anyway, so we had a lot of fun avoiding the crowds and did eventually make it to the big room, which was fun mostly because I liked watching all of the creative ways people found to stealthily take pictures of the ceiling. Next, we hit up the Vatican Museum Pizzeria for some much needed sustenance, and then went into St. Peter's Basilica! It was very beautiful but also full of funny people. 

After that day of sensory overload, we needed a good nights rest to prepare us for the next day's appointment at the Borghese Museum.  Luckily, upon arrival at the expansive grounds of the Borghese estate, we saw on the map a little picture of a giraffe, labeled Bioparko.  Upon further examination, we realized that there was a ZOO there!! We had lots of fun unwinding at the zoo.  
The Borghese museum was very beautiful, and my favorite piece in the collection was a Bernini sculpture of David winding up with his slingshot.  After the museum, we headed over to Trastevere to get some lunch! 

 Yummy organic gelato that we found! Pistachio and chocolate. :)
 I loved the street signs in Rome!! So fancy.  After a lovely afternoon in Trastevere, we headed to the Colosseum hoping to grab a snack with a nighttime view! It was so beautiful and the perfect ending to a great few days in the Eternal City.  Full of a sufficient amount of sugar and carbs, we headed back to Athens the next morning to get ready to get wild on the island of Santorini! (haha just a pun!)

Spring Break 2012 Part 1!

It's already the end of the week after Spring Break, and time is actually flying by at this point.  I received very exciting news when I arrived home after break--my aunt Karry is coming to Athens for my last week!! I am so stoked to show her around my temporary home and take her to all of the sites, because I also think it will be a great way for me to say goodbye.

I have started listening to Greek radio on my computer, and I am officially obsessed!  I also think it's good way to practice my Greek because whenever there's a song I love that I want to find again, I have to listen very, very closely to the lyrics in home of salvaging a line or two to feed into Google.  Also, the commercials are hilarious!

I suppose you're wondering about Spring Break! So far it seems that everyone from CYA survived their respective travels, but dang we were sure spread all over Europe! Surprisingly enough, many students spent at least a few days on Santorini, I guess that is on pretty much everyone's list.  It didn't disappoint!  But I supposed for my own sanity I should write about my adventures chronologically, so I will start with Crete!!

Thursday night, April 5th, a group of us departed for the CYA-led optional trip to the island of Crete.  I am so glad that I chose to sign up (a HUGE thanks to the Willamette Classics Department and Center for Ancient Studies and Archaeology because without their help I never would have been able to sign up and pay for the trip back in November).  We took an overnight ferry, which was more like a cruise-ship, on the right is a picture of me and one of my roommates, Morgan, in our room on the boat!

We arrived on the island at 6:30am Friday morning, and after a very fancy breakfast on-board (great coffee) we met up with our hosts, Ann and her husband.  Dr.Brysbaert is a CYA professor who is currently on leave, working on super cool research for the year.  They were so great, and I especially liked her husband because as a Finn, he looked SO much of my Grandpa and his brothers!

Ann was great about balancing the sites with fun breaks, so over the course of the weekend we saw Gortyna, Rethymno, Gournia, and Knossos, as well as different historical aspects of Heraklion and Chania.  Our hotel was in Heraklion and it was so lovely!  We were right around the corner from a plaza with tons of shops and food, as well as a street market, so we had lots of fun.  There were also many different places to get Bougatsa and Loukoumades, which are two delicious Greek desserts! Saturday afternoon after being on-site we drove to a beach, Matala, for lunch time and a wonderful two hours lounging in the sand and eating lunch!  Many kids also jumped in the water for a swim, but I couldn't get in past my ankles.  The weather was glorious the whole weekend, and we all got a lot of sun! Saturday night we went out for a Cretan taverna dinner and it was so great.  We ate tons of Greek food that we recognized, as well as a few special dishes.

It was so wonderful to have such a knowledgeable professor leading our trip, and it was the perfect recipe of loads of sunshine, great food, and amazing sites.  I can't wait to go back!

Here are some more pictures of Crete!

 the market in Heraklion
 A beautiful view from Rethymno!
This is what we saw our first morning at Malia, one of the four palaces of the Minoan civilization, it was incredible how much of the foundations were actually still standing!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The land of marble: a Weekend in Paros

Last weekend I was transported to another time.  Wandering through white-washed villages and flying down country roads on an island I barely had heard of before Friday, I had the luxury of experiencing something that most people never do--a Greek island in the off-season.  The island of Paros is known for its marble quarries which have been used for constructing monuments since Ancient Athens.  Besides the marble, Paros is also known for its beautiful villages, perfect beaches, and warm breezes.  Only a four hour ferry ride from Athens, it also sees a lot of visitors in the summer months.  Our guide informed us that the island booms from a mere 8,000 inhabitants to 80,000 in the summer.  I personally can't even imagine what the island must be like with so many people in the narrow streets.  Luckily, we were able to walk through the quiet villages of Lefkada and Naoussa with not a tourist or tourist shop in site.  The beaches were completely vacant, but it was a beautiful weekend, especially for this Pacific Northwesterner!! Our first excursion when we arrived was a mild hike up to a monastery which was unfortunately closed, but that didn't stop us! We actually climbed over a low stone wall and then saw a perfect birds-eye view of the island.  Here are a few pics:

After that we went to our hotel which ended up being a small cluster of traditional, white-washed homes accented with different bright colors.  Our little house had a bright yellow door and shutters, which was so adorable! It was probably one of the coolest places I've ever stayed at.  Here is our little home: 

Above: Peek-a-boo!

Allie and I in front of one of the adorable little houses at our hotel!

Later that night after a quick siesta we all met in the dining room to have a cooking lesson! This mostly consisted of me watching and drinking wine while others made stuffed peppers and tomatoes, mousaka (a true feat), chicken fricasse, homemade bread, octopus, potato salad, and orange cake! Here is a picture of the preparations and the dining room of the Anezina Village Hotel. 

The next day we met bright and early (as in breakfast at 10:30) and headed out for a day of beaches and hiking!  First we did a nature walk up to this beautiful lighthouse with a gorgeous view of the island.

After that we went to a beach for a spa treatment that consisted of grinding the rocks to form a muddy paste.  Everyone covered themselves in the mud and waited 15 minutes for it to dry.  According to our host, after the treatment you should be ten times more beautiful! Unfortunately, I could not imagine submerging myself in the freezing cold water so I refrained from the treatment. But it was sure funny to watch! 

Later in that day we explored some of the picturesque villages of Paros.  The houses and views were breathtaking!


The next day we visited the adorable town of Naoussa!!

After what was most likely our best weekend so far this semester, we tearfully rode away on Sunday night, determined to return to Paros someday.

Springtime in Athens

Whew, time is flying by! I am just about to depart for Spring Break and I realized I have quite a bit to catch you up on. I was telling my Ancient Greek: Homer professor today that I'm hardly excited for Spring Break yet because I feel like this entire semester has been one big Spring Break adventure!  Every couple of weeks I've taken either an extraordinary weekend trip on my own or a week-long trip with school to explore other regions of Greece.  Let me break down the schedule of what I've been doing the last few months.  I arrived on January 22nd, what followed was a whirlwind of adjustment, exploration, and adventuring around Athens and particularly my neighborhood.  My first trip was to the Peloponnese the third week of February.  The next weekend I went to Paris with three of my friends.  Three more weeks later we took yet another week off of school and all went to Delphi and Northern Greece, where we stayed in Thessaloniki for five days exploring Roman and Byzantine Salonica as well as various sites of Ancient Macedon.  The next week was midterms and that weekend I took a weekend trip to the island of Paros, which brings me to this week.  Can you see how I feel as though every weeks is Spring Break?? I am so blessed to be in this country of so much culture and life.  In between my travels I have been able to examine the most minute of details on the Acropolis, get a solid grasp on a completely new language, and learn about the horrifying yet inspirational history of one of the most fought-over regions of the world.  This week my challenge has been figuring out my class schedule for next term, which is officially the last stressor before I sail away for the best Spring Break of my life!  Also, as I'm sure you are all wondering, it has officially become warm here! As an Oregonian accustomed to a long, dreary, and incredibly rainy season, the 65-70 degree weather is toasting me to the core! I couldn't be happier about it.  My thoughts and prayers to all my family and friends back home, hope the sun comes out soon as you celebrate the last few weeks of school!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Paris Ooh-la-la!

Since I've been hopelessly behind on blog posts, I'm not going to attempt to remember all of the beauty that was Paris.  I actually was shocked at how much I loved the city.  I had all of these horrible expectations of smoke everywhere, rude people, and bad food; boy was I wrong!! I had the best meals of my semester so far in Paris, every person we encountered was wonderful, and there was NO SMOKE.  I don't even know.  I'll run through our schedule:  We arrived on Friday in the afternoon and took a cab to our hostel in Montmartre (now that cab did smell).  After we settled into our room on the 5th floor we headed out to explore our neighborhood.  After stopping in at a little bakery and getting olive bread, we went to get crepes--can you already see what the main objective of our trip was?? :)  The place ended up being a hookah bar which provided ceaseless entertainment through the form of Hindi rap and I ended up getting a banana/nutella panini and an espresso.  After that we took the metro to the Louvre to take advantage of a free ticket night! The Louvre is absolutely better when it is free.  But in all seriousness, it was spectacular.  I'm definitely not a museum person but I was certainly impressed and could have spend probably four hours there. 

When it closed at 9pm we walked down the Seine toward the Eiffel Tower, hoping to get a glimpse.   Here's our glimpse!

After that we ate dinner at a rugby bar we stumbled upon (my roommate freaked out because she's a rugby player--she the one on the right in the picture) where we had an amazing meal of hard -boiled eggs, chicken, french fries and wine, nothing better.  Somehow we didn't leave the restaurant until well after midnight, it must have been the magic of Paris. :)  After that I think we walked around a bit more and then headed back to our hostel.  The next morning we woke up and headed to the Musee d'Orsay!  That was also beautiful, I particularly enjoyed the Manets and Monets as well as a new guy I found, Paul Signac who was one of the first neo-impressionists.  This was my favorite painting, although the colors were much more brilliant in real life. :)  

After that we went to the Eiffel Tower, and thus started my favorite afternoon probably of all time.  It was slightly drizzling and started off at Starbucks and then walked right towards it!  We had so much fun taking pictures and walking all around the tower.  We stopped for a snack at a vendor under the tower and shared waffles with nutella on them which were perfect for the drizzly weather.  Then we walked across the Seine and found a great location for some perfect pictures.  Here's my favorite.  

After that lovely afternoon we headed back to our hostel and took a nice nap.  For dinner we stopped at this amazing little restaurant in Montmartre and then went to this Irish pub/nightclub the girl at our hostel had recommended.  There we danced all night long. :) 

On Sunday we headed over to a flea market in our neighborhood where we spent a couple hours looking over the wares and then stumbled upon the most amazing antique row!  I wish we'd had hours to spend there; store after store of beautiful mirrors, jewelry, old clocks, and anything else you could think of.  We also found a little street vendor who was roasting peanuts and bought some delicious snacks for the plane ride home.  He was so cute, when he saw my friend taking a picture of his cart he asked her to e-mail the pics to him so he could use them! After that we saw Notre Dame, which was was so spooky, I wish we could have gone inside but unfortunately we were there too late.  I'll have to go back!  Here's one of the more scary pictures I took.  

We ate dinner at a restaurant right across the river and had an amazing meal! I had Croque Madame (kinda like grilled ham and cheese with an egg on it, but way better) and shared a Tiramisu with my roommate for dessert.  After that we rushed back to the metro hoping to get to the Arc d'Trimph before the station closed at 12:30 and just made it! After an epic night of running around trying to see everything on our list, we collapsed back at the hostel and had little snoozes before leaving for the airport at 4am for our 7 o'clock flight.  

It was an epic weekend, chock full of adventures and beautiful sites, and it only made me want to go back again very soon.  :)  One more picture...