Monday, July 17

I'm broke but I'm happy

The above line from Alanis Morrisette was my motto for the trip, but even more so now that I'm home, relaxing, and enjoying a full "summer break" since 1996. Wait, oh my god... was 1996 actually 10 years ago? It's almost too hard to acknowledge that! Big YIKES. but taking the summer off is something everyone should do a couple times in life. You may have to live on cheap food like pop-tarts and cheez-its for a while, and not drive your car much (can't afford the gas) but it is wonderful to not have to be anywhere.

Good news: I finished sorting my photos and put all my Europe Favorites up at:
http://www.larasue.photosite.com I know, it probably seems like a lot to look at, but believe me, I scaled it way back from how many pictures I took!

If I have to pick a favorite album, I think the Holland/Belgium/Switzerland/ Germany one is the most fun. But there's lots of great photos in all the albums.

Lastly, I want to mention that in the last 2 weeks I've spent a lot of time getting reacquainted with the 20 gigs of music in my itunes which, of course I missed dearly, and I've realized now that one of the best things my trip to Europe gave me is that now when I hear songs or see photos about almost any country in Europe, I will have my own personal experiences to relate to the lyrics or the pictures. When one of my favorite songs, California by Joni Mitchell showed up on the ipod my first weekend home, it just hit me. It's even more a favorite song than ever before. here's part of it.

Sitting in a park in Paris, France
Reading the news and it sure looks bad
They won't give peace a chance
It was just a dream some of us had
Still a lot of lands to see
But I wouldn't want to stay here
It's too old and cold and settled in its ways here
Oh, but California
California, I'm coming home
I'm gonna see the folks I dig
I'll even kiss a Sunset pig
California, I'm coming home

Monday, July 10

I can't stop blogging!


In the last week that I've been home, I've been getting a lot of "what was your favorite _____?" questions so I feel the need to address that here. This feels so People Magazine or something.

Coolest City:
Barcelona

Runners-up: Lisbon & Ljubljana
Best BIG city that's still little and beautiful: Paris
Runner-up: Rome
Best country that I would want to live in: Holland
Runner-up: Belgium
Best scenery: tie for Switzerland and Tuscany
Runner-up: Southern France
Best shopping: All of Italy (but never mail anything home)
Best attitude from the locals: Cinque Terre
Best Everything - food, attitude, scenery, shopping, history: Greece
Best Trains: Germany, no contest!
Worst Trains: rural Portugal and Italy, no contest!
Best chocolate: Once you've had Belgian chocolate, there's no enjoying M&M's ever again
Most underrated: Ljubljana, Lisbon, Cordoba, Siena, Stockholm
A little overrated: Prague, Madrid, Florence, Copenhagen
Best Culture Shock: Istanbul
Top Places I want to go back to: For really active vacations - Portugal, Spain (Barcelona), Italy (Rome and coast), anywhere in Greece, Switzerland, and my favorite little runner-up, inexpensive and uncrowded Ljubljana. For just a lovely, typical Europe atmosphere, it's got to be Holland, Belgium, and France.

p.s.
I added a few more pictures to blogs below because I had wanted to during the trip and never had the internet speed, or the time (and oh, do I have time now). scroll down and check it out. email me if you're having trouble loading the page.

Monday, July 3

back to reality

made it home safe! glad to be home and spending a day to unwind & unpack. Not too much trouble adjusting to all the differences in culture yet, although I almost had forgotten how American toilet flushes looked, they're so different in Europe. And I also noticed right away, waiters in American restaurants are very attentive compared to European standards! Very very.

before I go I need to mention a huge Thank you to all my friends who let me stay with them in Europe, and who took time out of their schedules to show us around, I really really really really really really appreciated it! So Thank you Frank, Stephan and Verena, Anne and Jacob (& Andreas), Jorlan and Jeanine, Jessica, Jerry, Steve and Lali, Albert and Sara (& Jan & Oscar), Jennie and Baris, and Luigi.

and Jose & Sannerijn - I really owe you guys big time for the upload of your huge music library to my new ipod. I know I teased you about all the Classic Rock and 80's shit, but Aimee Mann and many others saved my life on days where I was ready to go bezerk on Kate, or at the freaks that were staying in our hostels, or at the kids that were kicking the back of my seat on the plane. It totally made a huge difference to my experience. That being said, I'm about to purge the library any second now! A little sad, but it means I'm home.

keep in touch y'all. peace homies.
Lara

Sunday, July 2

half-way home

writing from my lousy hotel in Montreal simply because I am feeling so bored and whiny...

it never ceases to amaze me that when a woman is traveling alone, the stupid hotel clerks don't think twice about putting her in a far away room, way down the end of a long hall, nowhere near the elevator (for ease of carrying all her heavy luggage) and nowhere near an emergency exit (for ease of exiting in an emergency, like if a rapist breaks into my room). I guess this is Canada, but I prefer a little extra caution when travelling alone.

So I asked for another room and they acted all burdened. And now I'm in a smoking room which really doesn't seem any closer to the elevator. I hate stupid Ramada. Also it was freakin' hilarious-pathetic, their van driver today did not lift a single person's luggage, he just opened the back door, and stood there with an expression on his face like, Right then, help yourself.

Welcome back to North America. Actually so far I haven't experienced the culture shock of everyone speaking English or anything, but I have had a couple Canadian strangers look at me funny when I speak slowly and clearly to them, like as if I'm treating them like idiots. Gotta break that habit.

And I have noticed that I now have an uncanny ability to guess what country people are from without hearing their voice, just based on what they're wearing. Seriously! Well I guess you can tell I was bored in the airport and waiting in long lines today. Germans and Italians are seriously so unmistakable to me now.

So the night train last night was a little scary to do alone, but I survived it. They do pair females together in compartments, so that was a relief, but I was really anxious from horror stories I've heard of people being mugged, even though my luggage was locked down, and even though I have nothing worthy of stealing, which is quite obvious from the looks of my bags.

The problem with the Sweden night train is half of the journey is over water, and there's no tunnels from Germany to Sweden, so the train car goes on a ferry (yeah, trippy). And while the train car is in the cargo hold of the ferry, there is like no air to breathe even with the windows wide open. The compartment was SO HOT that I couldn't keep our compartment door closed, and then I couldn't sleep, because I was nervous that the door wasn't locked. This lasted like 2 or 3 hours. Sigh.

But bad hotel or not, I am glad to be stopping over a night now before flying home, because I don't want to get home all crabby and needing a shower really badly. Oh... just noticed it's like 3am Europe time right now, so I reallllly gotta stop whining and get some sleep now.

But one more thing -- I can't believe no one has commented on the jackass dude yet - that is worthy of comments, people. And also shocked there weren't more comments about Kate's random unexplained owl picture on her site. That was supposed to spark discussion.

Saturday, July 1

Bon Voyage (literally)

Today is my last blog from Europe but it's still going to be a long journey before I'm home.

This morning I woke up at 6am to see Kate off at the bus station in Stockholm. This afternoon I'm taking a train to Malmo, Sweden which is 4 hours, then an overnight train alone (scary!) from Malmo to Berlin (8 hours), then another 3 hour train from Berlin to Frankfurt, oh - and then I have to take one more train to
the actual Frankfurt airport. but wait - it's not over. Then I take a plane to Montreal, and I'll spend a night in a hotel there, because my flight to Denver is not until the next morning around 8am.

So really, I have 2 full days left, but it will all be sitting in cramped spaces, and hopefully listening to my ipod if I can find a place to recharge it. I know, you're all saying, you don't feel sorry for me, I've been in Europe for 3 months for God's sake. True!

Well Sweden has been gorgeous, see Kate's page for a quick descrip, but one thing I need to mention to my college roommates: The Swedish fish is not good here (neither the gummy nor the ocean fish). Stick with the 5 cent fishes from Boston. And the famous "Swedish m
eatballs" totally taste like Chef Boyardee meatballs, oh my gosh, bizarre. Moving on...

Kate and I have both been reflecting a lot this week about the trip and how culture shocked we'll be when we get home. And actually, this was so funny, we took a boat trip through Stockholm's gorgeous foresty archipelago (a series of islands) yesterday, and the survey they gave us to rate the trip, had questions like "Did the trip provide you an opportunity for reflection?" and also "Was the trip inspiring?"- really random (only in Scandinavia!) but it was very fitting!

I think a lot of people will be curious, so here's a few ways that this trip has changed me...

- I have totally un-intentionally become a vegetarian because 95% of the time I'm scared to try the meat in restaurants.

- I tend to eat ice cream like it's going out of style. It's cheap and cold on a hot day, and gelato especially I will dream of for the rest of my life.

- Coffee comes in small doses here, but really good and really strong. The other day I got a Starbucks in Germany and I couldn't believe how huge the smallest size looked! Not sure I can ever go back to watery American coffee. Capuccinos from now on.

- I haven't lost weight but my legs are as muscular as a horse because there's hardly any elevators in Europe and escalators tend to always be broken. At the same time, my knees have become like an old lady, I don't know what the deal is, but they've been bothering me every day since early May. Getting old. : (

- I feel like I can figure out signs in a Metro or Train station regardless of what language they're in - even if they were in Chinese, I can quickly guess which one says Toilet and Exit and Tickets and Tourist Information because of where the words are placed, and the picture next to it.

- When I hear that a city has a Fine Art Museum, I'm like "Sign me up, I'm there" which really was not the case before. I have learned a ton about modern (20th century) art and can recognize the artists and name the styles. Prior to this trip, I had only taken a class in Art History through the 16th century, but on this trip, I have mostly paid attention to modern art (though I hate most Contemporary art... story about that on my photosite)

- I have a newfound respect for foreign tourists visiting our country, since the U.S. doesn't offer menus and signs in their language, unlike Europe which offers most everything in English - however I have a newfound disrespect for American tourists! They are so obnoxious, loud, and instantly recognizable. Kate and I always wanted to pretend we were Canadian or Australian when we sat down near Americans.

- I am always looking out for someone trying to steal my wallet now, because petty theft, though non-violent, is much worse in Europe and you just don't ever carry your wallet in your pockets, it's always gotta be strapped onto you somehow.

- I appreciate how everyplace in the U.S. takes credit cards! Half of our hotels took cash only.


- I will appreciate the multiple choices for salad dressing in an American restaurant.

- I am totally never staying in a youth hostel ever again! Even the good ones sometimes don't provide you with what I consider basic human rights (!), like a pillow, or like soap next to the sink, or paper towels to dry your hands with, or a shower drain that DRAINS, or other little things I take for granted like... a window. They seriously need to increase the standards for European youth hostels.

- I am really disgusted with the fact that most of the U.S. doesn't recycle now! The entire rest of the universe does. Even the tiniest villages have public recepticles for plastic, bottles, and paper here. Even the airports and metro stops do. Collecting the additional recycle bins creates more jobs. The U.S. is completely pathetic on this issue.

- I pretty quickly adapted the habit of having wine or beer with lunch, which is a strange one to take home. Even (or especially) Europeans who are having a business lunch don't think twice about having a glass of wine or two before returning to work. This probably won't be acceptable in the U.S. anytime soon, though!

- I definitely won't take my home for granted, or at least not for a while. I miss Chris, I miss the dog, I miss my car, I miss my clothes, I miss my refrigerator!!!


and that's about as deep as it gets! but really, the 3 months was perfect - perfect timing, perfect weather, perfect extended vacation. Can't wait to come back to some of these (16!) countries in small doses in the future.

see you soon. Lara

P.S.

and speaking of stupid americans... I think I just saw Pontius or Steve-O jogging through the park across from where I was eating lunch here in Stockholm... the g-string and Spiderman mask kind of gave him away, plus, there was a bunch of guys in orange shirts giving him cues on when to go. bummer Kate missed this!


I guess we'll find out if it was really them (or an impersonator) when Jackass 2 comes out in September.

Wednesday, June 28

Prague & Copenhagen download


k, here's some pictures to catch you up on the last week or so... once again, we've been saved by friends who have high-speed internet. Yay friends!

Right is a little wagon on the back of a bike for transporting things like your groceries or your children - literally almost everyone owns one in Copenhagen. Biking is much more popular than driving. I almost got run over a few times because I forgot I was standing in a bike lane, not a sidewalk.

Here's me hanging out with Hans Christian Andersen in Copenhagen earlier today. He's actually really high up and slippery, but you're supposed to sit on his knee so he can read you a story.

Copenhagen totally wins for the coolest city hall (funky dragon sculptures).

My mom's friend Anne who we're staying with in Denmark has the cutest little 3 year-old son, Andreas. He loves trains. He's very shy.


Here's two pictures of Prague. Yep, gorgeous little city.

Funny thing was, I imagined us walking across the Charles Bridge (above) and stopping to take lots of pictures, but instead there were little jewerly vendors all over it and we spent about 2 hours shopping at them. By the time we got to the end of the bridge, we both had to find an ATM to get more Kronas.

Prauge had really funny posters for their Museum of Communism.

The red trolleys in Prague are so photogenic, I kept having flashbacks to one of my favorite movies, Dziga Vertov's Man with a Movie Camera. Liz or someone - was that filmed in Prague or Moscow?

Prague also had the prettiest post office we've ever seen (have to click on this one to see the detail of the walls)

and a cafe in Prauge called Fusion had the best coffee (cafe mocha pictured) we've had anywhere in Europe, and oh believe me, I've had coffee every single day on this trip.

Off to Stockholm tomorrow... it's midnight here so I better get some rest.

Tuesday, June 27

Half a week in Prague, Half a week in Scandinavia

We just got into Copenhagen this morning, and have only 6 days left before going home, hard to believe!

The last 4 days we were in Prague which was a gorgeous little city, but I couldn't appreciate it entirely because it was miserably hot and humid. I mean not just hot, it was uncomfortably hot. A couple times when we were climbing a steep hill or standing in line in the sun, I actually felt close to fainting. I can tell it's getting to be close to July, which is the high season for travel in Europe, and on that note - I know you will all roll your eyes at this - but I am glad to be heading home. Not like it won't be hot in Colorado, but at least I won't be lugging my 70 lbs. of bags around and sitting on unairconditioned trains for 7 hours like yesterday. Phew.

Also some news that put a damper on my mood the last couple days is when I last talked to Chris, I found out a large package of souvenirs that I sent from Italy arrived without 80% of the contents!! So I'll just say I'm sorry to most of you now, because that means lots of cute leather and/or Venician glass souvenirs are no longer going to be this year's Christmas presents. Sighhhhhhhh. I will try and look into whether my travel insurance might possibly reimburse me on this one, but I'm most sad about the 2 dozen or more postcards in there, which I'd never be able to track down again even if I tried. Gah.

I think advice to people sending things from Europe is to 1) bring your own packaging tape, they only provide really weak stickers at the post offices to seal the box and 2) take a digital picture of all the contents before sending it, so you know exactly what you lost, if it gets lost or stolen. These both seem like a big "DUH" to me now. But to be a little more optimistic - I guess if 6 out of the 7 packages I've sent home arrived safely, that's at least a fairly good percentage.

Lara

Wednesday, June 21

Deutschland Maddness...

We made it to Germany! And we have our train tickets booked for the rest of the trip too. Phew!

The World Cup chaos definitely exists within the big cities, but the 2 little towns we visited first were way out in the middle of the countryside and we took the little "milk trains" that stop in every city to get there so it wasn't busy at all. The only annoyance was some trains weren't air conditioned and it's been really hot and humid here.

First we stayed in Bacharach, a little one-street town on the Rhine River that was so German and so adorable. The hills are lined with local vineyards and at the top of the hill there was a 17th century castle that we actually stayed in - it's been a youth hostel since 1925! It was the cleanest and nicest hostel we've stayed in, too (outside view of it, right). More pictures on Kate's site.


Our second stop was Rothenburg, a famous (and touristy) medieval village with things like a gate and moat surrounding the city and you can actually see where they used to have cauldrons of pitch to pour onto intruders. Rothenburg is Christmas-Ornament central for the Bavarian part of Germany, so needless to say, we both left with quite a few kitchy but cute ones. While in Rothenberg, our hotel reservation actually fell through and we ended up just calling a phone number on an advertisement listed at the train station, and we rented the groundfloor room in a sweet little old grandma's house, with a private bathroom and breakfast included for just 45 €! So cute.

Now we're in Frankfurt where my friend Stephan and his wife Verena are letting us stay for 3 nights. We were going to try and get in to the Netherlands-Argentina match at 9pm tonight, but Stephan mentioned there's a huge screen by the river where all the losers or people with no money who didn't get tickets or didn't want to pay $600 for tickets gather to watch the match for free. We both have some bright-orange Holland-colored stuff we bought for 99 cents yesterday but apparently Germany and Holland are arch rivals, so we hope we don't get beaten to a pulp on the way over (just kidding, Mom & Kate's mom, don't worry).

Yesterday we stopped in Wurzburg for dinner on our way up to Frankfurt and within an hour of getting there, a match had just finished in which Germany WON, and it was the funniest thing. It had been really quiet and not many people on the streets,

when all of a sudden we hear shouts of YEAHHHHHHHHHHH! all at once come out of every window in the city simultaneously. And then we hear faint horns honking, getting louder, getting louder, coming closer, more horns... and then there was like an instant 3-hour parade of people in their cars yelling, singing, waving huge German flags out their windows, and honking to no end. Funniest thing. Germany is not really known to be a flag-waving patriotic country, so it's really fun to be here for this unique month-long party.

We're off to Prague tomorrow, then a long long long jaunt up to Scandinavia by train before I fly home from Frankfurt in just 10 days from now.

as they say in German, Tschuess! (bye for now)

Can you say flip flop tan lines?

For all of you who are wondering how my feet are doing - well, they're very
tired and need a massage. But they've had their share of pictures during the trip, don't worry. On the right was me surrounded in a sea of pigeons by the Duomo in Milan.

If you know me, you know it took a lot of deliberation to decide which pair of flip flops to bring on this trip. I own like 20 pairs and several are my favorites. I probably should have gone with my classic rainbow striped Vans which have lasted me almost 10 years so far, but I ended up taking my ol' reliable Reefs which are super soft for walking, and solid black so they can double as "going out" shoes sortof. Even funnier, Kate brought the same exact pair, so she has
served as my "foot double" in photos a couple times.

But here's the thing about Reefs... if they get wet, and then you walk in them, they start to slowly STINK really bad, and it's pretty unappetizing to sit in a restaurant with them on. I was able to get away with scrubbing / washing them regularly for a while, but after a 5-mile hike in Cinque Terre where they turned WHITE for a day (above), and then the hot temperatures of the summer picking up fast, the Reefs had to be thrown away at last.

At a flea market in Italy, I bought some replacement leather sandals (pictured right, on the steps of the Acropolis).
They actually have good grip for slippery steps, are very summer-appropriate, and match everything - but they are so NOT comfortable on your soles. They make me feel like I walked barefoot on rocks all day.

So, next I bought some very-trendy-in-Europe flip flops called Bahainas, in an even-more-trendy color, Brazil soccer green (pictured right in Santorini), and these have now become my walking shoes, since it's warm out every day, or if it rains, they're water resilient!

It was inevitable that I'd end up buying new flip flops at some point, I mean, it's taken a lot for me to not order a new pair from j.crew and have them overnighted to me over here!! I love my flops.

Saturday, June 17

6 Countries in 3 days

It's true. Train journeys included, we've passed through 6 countries in the last 72 hours -Switzerland, Germany, France, Luxembourg, Belgium and Netherlands. A little accelleration now that we only have about 15 days left!!

The last 3 nights we have spent 1 night in a city and moved on to the next place in the morning, which means lots of train travel and seeing the city in 6 hours or less. All great places, but Kate and I are BEAT.

First we saw Strasbourg on the French/German border, then we rented bikes to quickly zip around Bruges in Belgium (mmm, belgian chocolate), then I did a half-day of museums in Antwerp today, and met up with Kate and her friend Jessica in Holland tonight who has offered us a place to crash between countries twice now. Yay friends. Yay free internet. And especially Yay homecooked meal!

On the left is Kate in the Basel train station where, in changing train platforms, you literally have to walk through Germany and Switzerland before walking into France. Cute.

Tomorrow we're making a run for the German border and I'm still a little worried that we may not be able to get in or out of the country all week despite their normally-reliable trains. Earlier today Kate went to ask about getting train tickets between Frankfurt to Prague and the train agent practically laughed in her face. Hmm. Getting to Prague may require some creative form of transportation. Not sure what we're going to do yet. But I suppose in the worst case scenario, if we're trapped in Belgium or Holland for a few days, that's not so bad. Plenty of bars to watch the World Cup from.

Wish us luck!

Wednesday, June 14

More from Cow Country

Yes! We made it to the top of the Jungfraujoch today!
And it wasn't even very cold! We were fine with just a light jacket (or less in the sun), believe it or not! I heard from one local there's only about 45 days of the year that it's this nice weather in Switzerland, and we're lucky we nailed it at the best time. It's times like this that all the hours of research that were stressing me out before the trip feel like they were all worth it.

The cog railway that's called the Jungfraujoch is "the main thing" to do in the Bernese Orberland, but even so, it wasn't too crowded today. I think the whole world's population is in Germany for World Cup, seriously. I keep hearing horror stories about the madness. Great.

Anyway, the view from the train all day today was awesome, but it's hard to capture it with just one picture, so I thought I'd post instead a scary view from the gondola that goes up to Gimmelwald which we've had to take 3 times now.

If it looks familiar, the valley below us looks almost like a clone of Yosemite Valley, with lots of waterfalls trickling down the cliffs around it. If you ever want to visit this area, we highly recommend Gimmelwald of course, but the cute town below us that doesn't require this steep gondola, and has more hotels and restaurants is Lauterbrunnen.

Here's another shot of the gondola cables looking up (way on the right).

You can feel the passengers' tension build when it rocks back and forth a few times along the way! A few hundred feet above us (on a different gondola ride) is a funky restaurant where the 007 movie On Her Majesty's Secret Service was filmed around 1969 - it's one of the movies that Austin Powers spoofs the most, right down to the suede suit and lace cravat.

Speaking of which, one more important photo - yes I got a Barba Pappa souvenir from the store in Rome - it's my bag. Isn't it groovy baby? My bright red t-shirt above is a souvenir from Barcelona which says says "Baddest Surfer Girl" in Spanish. Appropriate souvenir. I'm also sporting a new Paul Frank hat, with Julius monkeys all over the other side, I'll have to find a better picture of it.

Check out Kate's blog for a few more pictures & laughs.

Tuesday, June 13

Gimmelwald!

Yay! Kate and I are in Gimmelwald, this adorable little mountain village that you can only get to by gondola, it's so high up. We are surrounded by beautiful mountain peaks of the Alps, and bright green cow pastures. Unfortunately we missed just this morning a grand event for Gimmelwald, the "procession" of the town's cows before they leave the town for 3 months to graze in the Alps. Apparently they have a little parade with their beautiful Swiss ribboned cow bells on, and it's on a different day every year, so we didn't know that it was happening today.

Still, we had a gorgeous afternoon photographing the town, and we also loved Lausanne, the city on Lake Geneva where we just came from. Check out this photo of the hang gliders going through the Alps - I emailed my mom we should come back and do that for my 30th birthday... I figured if I put it in writing now, while it still sounds like a good idea, she'll make me go through with it.

Tomorrow we're doing something a little crazy, we're taking a train up to the top of the Jungfraujoch, the highest point in Europe. It will no doubt be covered in snow when we get there, and we both only have a couple long sleeved shirts and a light jacket, so we won't last long at the top. But the train journey itself is really scenic. Can't wait.

If you're wondering how we found Gimmelwald (population of about 25), it's one of the special places our trip guru, Rick Steves, raves about to no end. According to him, there are people who say "If Heaven isn't all it's cracked up to be, send me back to Gimmelwald" and I have to agree - everything is perfect here.

The weather is warm with just a little alpine breeze, the food - especially cheese and yogurt - is homemade and delicious, the air smells like flowers, there's garden gnomes galore (*yay*), all the houses are dark brown timberframe with windowboxes full of pink geraniums, and all the people are super friendly just like the town is a big family.

"Esther's Guesthouse", where we're staying just built an addition to their chalet-type building, so our room is only 2 weeks old, and it smells like freshly cut wood! Of course in Switzerland, you always have a goose down duvet, even in a budget hotel, and a thick goose down feather pillow too. How perfect!
Strangely for a cow-town, we have a high-speed internet connection just outside our room and we even have cell phone service here, so finally I'll get some photos of Italy and Greece up on the blog tonight.
Bonsoir!

Sunday, June 11

Santorini Photos

You'll probably all get postcards saying this, but at the sake of repeating myself, Santorini, the Greek island we visited for 5 days was spectacular. It was the best of all worlds - the food, the wine, the people, the landscapes, the weather, the beaches, the low cost... everything was perfect. I'd recommend visiting there in September, May, or even early June where there are relatively few tourists. That was what I couldn't get over. It's JUNE and it's still not their high season yet.

Probably the best part of our entire trip so far, was we rented an ATV (I mostly rode in the back) on our last day and scooted around the island at a whopping 20-30 mph. The references to Dumb & Dumber going through my head while riding the bike were endless, of course! but we visited some gorgeous beaches, especially Red Beach, pictured. Like jaw-droppingly gorgeous.

Before that, we took an organized little boat tour of the island and saw beautiful postcard views of little white cities on the cliffs (pictured below the town of Ia) as well as taking a dip in some natural hot springs, and climbing the summit of the volcano. Oh and I rode a donkey up one of the steep cliffs. Sorry no digital pictures of that one, but click over to Kate's website for a couple more pictures from our trip...


By now we've had 2 straight days of really boring travel to get out of Greece (a one hour van trip, a 9 hour ferry, a one hour cab ride, an overnight stay in Athens, a one hour bus to the airport, a 4 hour flight to Milan, a 3 hour wait for our train, and then a 4 hour train to Switzerland) and I'm so freakin' jet, train, and boat lagged!!!

I never thought it would come to this (I am so busy usually, I never read), but I'm actually reading The Da Vinci Code now because the last 48 hours required so much sitting and waiting, and I found a used copy in our hotel. I must be the last person on earth who hasn't read it (just like I haven't seen Titanic yet!) Too bad I have no choice but to picture the main character to be Tom Hanks in this book though. Hmph.

Well it's late and this internet terminal is like 12 dollars an hour so I better go. Ahhh, Swiss prices.

Yawwwwwwn.

Tuesday, June 6

Greece, Yum!

















I've been in Athens 3 days now and love it (what a surprise!).

But really, I am surprised, because this time of year, it's not as crowded or hot, the 2 things people warned me about. We stayed in the Plaka, a little touristy zone at the foot of the Acropolis with gorgeous views, cute little souvenir shops and more importantly, yummy cafes where the fresh Greek salads make me drool! (coursely chopped veggies swimming in olive oil and feta cheese, even better with bread).

I can imagine that in scorching hot heat, and tons more tourists, this could be hell, but it's quiet now. I think also it was just recently that they no longer allow cars on the Plaka streets, so that makes it low-key too.This morning has been the only bad day, because Kate and I had both forgotten (all this time!) to set our watches an hour forward for Greece, and we missed our ferry to Santorini which was at 7am today. The next one will not get us there until 2am tonight. So yeah - Grrr. We're both blaming each other for the screw-up too, don't ask me to elaborate more, but just trust me, we're both in a bad mood today.

Nevertheless, I really needed a day to organize my receipts, my bags, and my photos - I'll post some here (check out the 2 entries below). Yasas! (ciao)

Photo download - Rome

so...Rome's got a little problem with crowding in museums and monuments. They don't seem to be familiar with the concept we call "maximum capacity". At the Pantheon, I couldn't even get in the door, it was like a mosh pit in there. Sistine Chapel was the same way, only you're not allowed to take pictures or talk. I kept thinking about the fire at The Station bar in Rhode Island and how packed in the people were when that happened... yikes.

And speaking of crowds, check out the lines outside the Vatican! Thank goodness we took a tour with Rome Walks which I highly recommend- and we had an awesome tour guide who filled us in on everything about the Vatican while waiting in line 3 hours or so.

Beautiful mosaic murals were in all the metro stops in Rome.
I thought this t-shirt was so funny. I have to find a sticker of that! Cami, help me out here...

by the way, the rumors are completely true about buying cheap fake-brand purses in Italy, it's so easy. the vendors don't even have to hide. but it's interesting that they mostly have fakes of Gucci, Louis Vitton, and Dolce & Gabbana... and not Calvin Klein, DKNY, Chanel, kate spade, or many others. I wonder if there's been a law protecting some brands but not others.

And only in Rome would my hotel bed come with posters of Marlene Dietrich, Louise Brooks, and a Pier Paolo Pasolini film above my headboard! Rome is so bad ass that way! Their movie posters are of Pasolini rather than Marilyn Monroe - you know, someone who actually contributed something of substantial importance to the movie industry - call them crazy...

If you're ever visiting, here's our advice: stay at the Beehive apartments, coolest place - www.the-beehive.com.