Updates from Europe
Well, I have been back for a few days, but just haven't updated the blog. I kept a journal while I was there and my initial plan was to transcribe the journal into my weblog... until I remembered the three updates I sent out to my family while I was there. The updates pretty much cover everything and they'll save me from having to type everything I wrote in my journal (that could be a problem for several reasons including "I can't read my own handwriting"). By way of disclaimer, my spelling is atrocious for several reasons, the first being that I can't spell well. Also, I was using various European keyboards and I got pretty lazy when trying to hunt down certain letters and characters. Finally, I was generally in a time crunch when I sent out e-mails, so I didn't have time to spell check. One time, I sent an e-mail and then got kicked off the computer 8 seconds later because the time I purchased had expired. Also, my grammar is terrible (I have no excuse for that) and the formatting seems to be a little funky. I guess I could fix the formatting... or not.
Anyway, here are the e-mails:
I'm in Rome, Italy and loving every minute of it. I don't have much time to type because I'm on a half-hour time limit at a cyber cafÃ¨ near our hotel. So far, I've seen most of the big sights and some not-so-big ones.
I've seen: The Coliseum, The Ruins, The Roman Baths (not too great), Vatican City (including The Vatican Museum and St. Peter'sBasilicaa--the tallest dome in the world), the Borghese Gallery (there's a room there called "The Raphael Room") and many other places. I've ridden "The Metro" several times--first time on a subway--and haven't been mugged yet.
Our hotel is right smack in the middle of the historical part of Rome, in the city. I've been doing my best to communicate, but it's a tough language to learn, partially because it's similar to Spanish and I keep trying to say things in Spanish. Anyway, it's really beautiful here and I'm having a wonderful time.
Next, we're off to Florence, Italy where we'll spend a day or so. I'm looking forward to seeingMichelangelo'ss "David" and doing some shopping at the markets. From there, we'll go to Switzerland. Hopefully, I'll be able to send another update by then.
I'm getting plenty of pictures (as are those with me), so don't worry. I hope all of you are doing well. Please send this along to anyone I may not have included.
Well, I'm currently in Interlaken, Switzerland and I've been here for a couple days now. I'm kind of short on time (as always), so I'm just going to give the highlights of my trip so far. I think I covered Rome, Italy in a previous e-mail, so I'll skip that part:
After Rome, we went to Florence. On our way there, we took a little side trip to Pisa, where the Leaning Tower stands. We got some pictures near the Tower, then went right back to the train station and hopped the train to Florence. Florence is beautiful and was pretty refreshing after a few days in Rome. Florence, though touristy, seemed much quieter and more laid back. The highlights were The Duomo--a giant dome built by Brunellesci (excuse my spelling)--and the city itself. I spent most of my time there just wandering around, looking at everything. It's really amazing how different the architecture is here. For one thing, it's actually interesting to look at; for another, it represents history and has meaning. In the States, all the architecture is similar and it seems like the architects all stick to a "minimalist" mentality when they build. There's hardly anything fascinating about even some of the best buildings in the Sates... and most of the best buildings (ie, most of Washington, D.C.) are based on buildings in Europe. Next, we went to Cinque Terra, Italy. Cinque--Five--and Terra--land or towns. It's a little string of five towns along the western coast of Italy and it's really, really beautiful. The towns themselves are great and there's lots of hiking and outdoors stuff to be done. Although we didn't do it, it'spossiblee to hike from city to city in about 5 hours (give or take). We hiked the longest section between two of the cities, but spent most of the rest of our time at the beach or "on the rocks"--there's very little "sand" beach here, it's mostly rocks. The water was beautiful and we had a great time and saw some incredible sunsets.
Next, we came up to Interlaken (again, forgive my spelling). The first day, it was very dreary and rainy here, but since it's been clear and sunny. We didn't do much the first day because we caught a 6:00 AM train out of Cinque Terra and we didn't get to Interlaken until 4:00 PM. We all just sort of checked into our hostel and took naps. Yesterday, our second day here, we started the day off by going "Canyoning". Canyoning is an extreme sport where you walk, hike, jump and slide down a canyon with a river (and probably you could do it in a canyon without a river). We had some fun jumps--the highest was 18 feet off a little cliff into a pretty serious rapid below--and some slides. Walking was fun too, but we pretty much just did that to get to the jumping and sliding. After canyoning, we relaxed at the hostel for a bit and then went out for a sunset walk around the city (it's a small city). We ended up getting lost and we were gone for about 5 hours... the sun sets close to 10:00 PM here, so we were fortunate that we had enough light to get out of the woods where we were. Today, we went for another short hike up into some of the Swiss mountains. These mountains are incredible and it was great to see them from such a vantage point. We got some good pictures, too.
Next, we're off to Paris! We're catching a train in 45 minutes and we'll get to Paris around 10:00 PM tonight. We're not sure what we'll do, but we're probably going to the Louvre, Versailles and the Eiffel tower. We'll also probably spend time wandering around the city just to see what there is to see. We're in Paris for a couple days (and nights) and then we're off to London for the final leg of our tour. We'll be there for a couple days and then we hop on a plane back to the States. My plane will be getting into Dallas around 8:00 PM on Monday night.
Ok, I have to run and catch a train. As before, please forward this to whomever you think should have it. I figure it's easier to send it to a few people and let them send it out than to try and remember everyone that might want to know how my trip's going.
Auf Wedersein (spelling still bad)!
Third and final e-mail:
Well, I'm back in the States, but I wanted to send out one last update covering what I did in Paris and London.
We left from Switzerland by train and got to Paris pretty late in the evening. We decided to grab a bite to eat and ended up getting big fat greasy burgers at a bar near the hotel. Then, we decided to try to see the Eiffel Tower at night. Unfortunately, we got stranded between metros (we were trying to switch trains and the system closed for the night), so we had to walk about 2.5 hours back to our hotel... in Paris... after midnight. I ended up getting to sleep around 3:30 that night. Next day, a few of us just tried to enjoy the Parisian culture. We went to a market and got supplies for lunch, then went and ate our lunch in Notre Dame's backyard. Then we toured Notre Dame and walked around the city, seeing the sights. Next day, we went to Versailles and saw the palace andtheh gardens out back. It was really overwhelming and consumed almost all of our day. We went straight from the palace to the train station where we caught a train through the Chunnel into London.
In London, we stayed at a dump called the Hyde Park Hostel. Turns out the actual place was not nearly as nice as their website. We went out trying to find some food and finally found a pub where most of us got fish and chips. Things in London are about twice as expensive as in the States, so that was tough. Next day, a few of us went on an open-top bus tour. We also went to see Saturday Night Fever (based on the film) and that was an experience. The most entertaining part may have been catching the actors slipping out of their Bronx accents into their British ones. Later, we continued roaming around London and spent some time in Hyde Park. That night, we ate at a place called "Mr. Jerk", which was aCaribbeann place. It was interesting and not all that tasty, but it wasn't bad either. Next morning we went to "see" the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. I used quotes there because I didn't see anything changing... I just saw a band go by or something. It was very much a non-event. Later, we continued our bus tour and then sort of walked around London looking at famous things. We saw the outside of the Globe theatre (Shakespeare's place) , "The Clink" an actual prison where the slang term originated and some other places. For dinner, we went to a steakhouse in Piccadilly Circus... the steak was pretty terrible and expensive. Next morning, we started our 17 hour journey back to the States.
So, that's about it for my trip. This and the other two e-mails are a pretty good summary of what I've been up to.
Hope you've all been well.