Friday, June 5, 2009

Italy is not the end

Yes, this is late. I think I have postponed this update in hopes of never truly closing this chapter in my life. My routine while I was traveling was to not open the computer until I unpacked my backpack. This made me move pretty quickly. I couldn't wait to share with others what I had seen, experienced, and learned over the past three or four days. I broke this rule when I returned from Italy. The suitcase couldn't fly open fast enough. Filled to its maximum weight, I had carried the things that represented the last four months of my life. These things surround me in subtle ways now. After I returned from any trip, the last step was always a blog post. I never wrote a post about Italy. The never wanted to finish the last step.

The orange "Publish Post" button at the bottom of the screen equals "living without traveling every weekend, not pretending to be a
n extra in a Harry Potter movie, and facing the realities of life with responsibility." In some ways it feels like I was never in England. Jewell swept me right back up with no punishment for abandoning her for a semester. Some days she even tries to trick me into believing that I am the same person. No, I am not the same. Not today, not tomorrow. My experience abroad are now permanently part of me. Nothing can be undone or wished away, and for this I am grateful. Let me tell you the story of my favorite place, Italy.

It was a strange night. The departure instructions were lengthy as nearly every person had a unique itinerary for the last 10 days of the semester. Some were on their way home as soon as they marked the last period on their final British Studies exam and others had multiple weeks of travel ahead.

The hour was late and I was ready to leave the manor. It didn't matter that I will likely never make it back to that place again, I was tired and ready to go to Italy and more importantly, go home.

The coach pulled away from the manor in the early hours of the morning. By mid day were we in Venice, Italy. We were met by the rain as we ran quickly with luggage in hand over two bridges. There is a large bus station where several coaches pick up and drop off passengers. After this point there are no motor vehicles on land. Even emergency vehicles are boats! It was very strange. After spending fourth months dashing across streets and reading the pavement to know which way to look, it is very nice to just walk in the middle of the street.

We soon found out that Venice would be the most difficult city to navigate ever! You basically just have to follow these signs that get you to big land marks and then go from there.
Obviously, we did a lot of walking and wondering. I was amazed at the peaceful nature of Venice. Some say that this place is a bit touristy and whimsical, but I thought the canals were absolutely gorgeous.

On the second day we went to Murano, the glass island. There are several islands around Venice and you can take a water boat to them. This was one of the first days of the semester that it was actually warm. I just remember the warm sun and beautiful streets. The shops all had amazing glass. The artistry was amazing. We spent sometime watching some demonstrations, and, of course, I had to make a few purchases.

Venice was also the beginning of the gelato feast that lasted the duration of the Italy trip.
At first I limited myself, but then I just gave in and ate as much as I possible could! Who knows when I will go back? I someone kept saying that gelato was not as bad for you as ice cream, but I think I made up for that by eating so much!

Also, we did the traditional, touristy Venice things-gondala ride, San Marco, and the Rialto bridge. These two days were fun, but not rushed. What a nice feeling. I also got to hang out with a few more people than on my other trips. It was great to meet more people even this late in the semester (actually the semester was over!). We went to a piazza had some gelato, spritz (a local drink), and loved just enjoying Italy and each other.

We woke up early and drug our luggage back over the bridges to the bus station to meet the coach. A lovely ride through the Italian countryside began we day, and by afternoon we were in Tuscany (a region in Italy). I was most excited about going to Florence. I had heard of the huge markets, beautiful leather, amazing art, good food, and the list goes on.
The days in Florence were amazing, but honestly, a combination of rain and excess time lead to mediocre days. I think Florence needs to go on my Europe Trip II list. We did do some wonderful thing, though. I spent lots of time in the markets purchasing and looking at lots of nice things for my family and friends. The market is streets and streets long. Right off it, we found a wonderful gelato place with awesome flavors. We went multiple times a day and made friends with the woman who was always working there.

My favorite part of the Florence was the Accademia where Michelangelo's David sculpture is. It was amazing. I stood in awe of the detail as well as the massiveness of the statue. It was also amazing because we didn't have to pay to go into the museum since it was culture week! Sweet deal.

I also had some great food in Florence. Bronwyn, Ian (the courier for Italy trip 1), his daughter, Chuck (my professor) and his family, and the normal Monica, Lindsey, and Laurel group went to eat at a lovely restaurant. It was so fun! We had three courses, and there were all wonder
ful. I enjoyed it so much. We spent almost 3 hours eating and talking. I loved it.

Is there a more interesting and exciting place than Rome? I fell in love with the whole city of Rome. The combination of ancient ruins with the huge metropolitan vibe created a unique feeling that cannot be replicated. We found another amazing gelato place, this time with over 100 flavors! It goes without saying that we went here multiple times. The prices we reasonable as well. AND it was very close to my favorite ruin-the Pantheon. The Pantheon is a large dome that was built during Roman rule and still stands well preserved today. The first time we came upon it I was scared. It was so massive and nearly out of place with all the (relatively) new shops and restaurants. Somehow I became attracted to it, and couldn't help but return several times throughout the visit.

One morning we got up very early and went to the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain.
You could hear the fountain from several blocks away. These places are usually very very busy, but not at 6:30 a.m.! It was an awesome feeling and I wished I had experienced more cities at that hour. We also made it to the Vatican City that day. What a crazy place! The museum was packed with people, but I did get an illegal picture of the Sistine Chapel.

We were moving the whole time, but still it was not rushed. I can truly say that I will return here again some day, hopefully with others who will enjoy it as much as me!

I could write pages about Rome, but I will spare you.

The beginning of the end...
We spent nearly four days in Rome and they were all wonderful. The city was amazing and I know that I would be coming home very soon.

We gathered in the late afternoon of the last day at the hotel. Chuck, Maria, Monica, Lindsey, Laurel and I had one last Italian meal and glass of prosecco. It was all very bittersweet. Of course, my mind was on my family and getting home, but I knew I would miss it all.

We went to the airport for a final session of "lets wait for hours in the airport." The flight was late and we didn't get to London until nearly 2:00 a.m. This was alright as again I had to wait for my flight from London to Chicago. It didn't leave until midmorning. I spent these hours repacking, trying to sleep, and just thinking about all the wonderful things I would do when I got home.

Although it felt like years, soon enough I was back on American soil. I had to rush through customs, check my bags again, and get on my flight to St. Louis. I had booked this in January and the airline had changed the time, but I didn't know until I got to the check-in counter! No worries. The shuttle from the International terminal to the American Airlines Terminal was so slow and I was afraid I would miss the flight, but I walked right on and took my seat. The flight attendants barely poured the Diet Dr. Pepper before it was time to exit. Since my flight was early, my family didn't even have to wait. I beat them to the airport! I used Nina's phone (friend/sorority sister from St. Louis) to call them and they were so surprised I was already in St. Louis. We met at the luggage claim. Luckily, all my bags had made it from Rome to St. Louis and they were under the weight limit! I was so excited to see my family. I didn't even know where to begin. I had talked to them a few times in Italy, but not as much as normal. Honestly, I didn't even recognize Mary Grace. She looked so big. We didn't even have to pay to park because we were only in the airport a few minutes. Dinner at Chili's and then a drive home. I was so tired, but I wanted to talk about Italy and home, the two biggest things on my mind.

My room was as I remember it. Everyone had cleaned just to make sure it looked good.

The days went on and I slowly got back on the right time zone and remembered what it is like to know so much about a place. It was nice to be able to not have to work so hard to understand everything.

So, here I am today, September 19th. Someday I wonder if I ever even went. Did I really do all that? Yes, I did. I can't say I loved it all. I can't say I do have regrets, but I can say that by taking this leap, I have set a tone for my life. There are no limits. I always generally thought this, but today and everyday since Harlaxton, I know it. I know nothing is too big or too crazy.

Thanks for following along. I will not be writing on this blog anymore since I can't run off to Italy or Germany or Ireland for the weekend. I hope to start a new blog soon, and I will post the link as soon as I set it up. For now you can read the Hilltop Monitor, William Jewell's student newspaper. I am the editor-in-chief, and I have a column on page two. I hope you read and enjoy!

So, I guess this is where I say "the end," but I am not going to. This is not the end for me. Everything I learned, felt, and discovered while I was abroad will always be with me. This is not the end.