Hi everyone! I know it's been a while, it's just been too nice here to be inside most of the time! But I've had a few more incredible adventures since I last posted. First, Amsterdam. The weekend after spring break me, Marie, and four of our friends went to Amsterdam! We had barely recovered from all the spring break travel, but we'd only heard great things so we were really excited.
Marie and I left Friday afternoon and flew into Eindhoven. Now we realized only a few days before we left why that flight was so cheap, and it's because Eindhoven is literally nowhere near Amsterdam. It is almost a 2 hour bus ride. And a fairly expensive one at that. So that was kind of a bummer, but now we know to double check these things (that was one of the first trips we booked). But we made it to our hostel which was really cool. It's pretty well known and popular, two of our friends actually couldn't even get rooms there. The only thing was we were in a 14 bed mixed dorm, the biggest one we've been in so far. It was interesting, but not horrible at all since honestly we were hardly ever there, and the beds were pretty comfortable. We arrived around dinner time and were starving. Our friends Emily and Alyssa (the ones who live right around the corner from Marie and I in Rome) got there a day before us so they'd already scoped everything out and they took us to get fries and falafel. They serve the fries on the street in these HUGE cones with this spicy mayo and let me tell you, it was pretty unreal. But honestly the best thing we ate was the falafel, which we had more than once. They put the falafel balls into pita pockets and then it's unlimited toppings from a salad bar essentially and then they have this garlic sauce that was unreal. Cheap street food, but seriously amazing. Then we walked around the city, which is absolutely beautiful with all the canals and architecture. We walked through the red light district on the way to our friends' hostel which was an experience. I think i was pretty convinced before I came there that such a thing couldn't possibly be real, much less quite normal.
The next day we woke up pretty early and went to the Anne Frank house. We met Chris Stephens there, a friend of mine from high school who also goes to Loyola and is studying abroad in Spain. We waited in line for probably around an hour in the freezing cold (side note, it is pretty cold there and most of us did not pack appropriately!) but it was completely worth it. The house is unfurnished for the most part but there are a lot of artifacts and pictures of the Frank family as well as the family helping them and the other family in hiding with them. You also get to go into the annex, behind the famous moving bookshelf into where they were actually hiding. What got me was the marks on the walls where they measured the height of Anne and her sister were still there. It was haunting. There were also videos interspersed throughout the house of friends and even one of the father. They had Anne Frank's original diary in the middle of one of the rooms which was also pretty cool and pages of it all around this one room. We spent most of the morning looking around the house, it was really amazing.
Afterwards, we walked around for a while looking for a place to eat and finally settled on a pub and got some great burgers, I think it honestly might have been my first since coming to Europe. Also, don't know if I've mentioned this before, but Europeans put mayo and cream cheese on absolutely everything. Very strange to us, but not always bad. Anyways, after lunch we headed over to the Heineken factory because we had gotten tickets for the Heineken experience, which according to everyone who goes abroad ever, is a must. And it was really really fun. Kind of cheesey, which we expected, but it wasn't super expensive or anything. Also they did teach you all about their beer and the process of it and everything and we did get to do a beer tasting. The whole thing lasted a lot longer than I would have expected but we were all having a great time. After the Heineken factory, we went to find the I Amsterdam sign, because if you didn't take pictures on the I Amsterdam sign, did you really even go? Just kidding (kind of). But it was fun and there were people climbing all over it, but we managed to get a few good shots. And of course me being as uncoordinated and unathletic as I am literally needed like three people to hoist me up these four feet letters. After this we went back to the Heineken factory because included in our ticket is a 25 minute free boat ride to the Heineken brand store to pick up our free glass WOO! free things. It was actually really cool though to be on the canal and see everything from there. We wandered around a little more after this, it was almost dinner time. The city is incredibly walkable, we didn't take public transportation anywhere. The one thing is though, bikes come out of NOWHERE. I almost got run down by like five bikes. I would say it would be cool to bike around there but I don't know if I could handle it! We were going to go out that night so we all went back to take a nap at our hostels but ended up sleeping through the night, if that gives you all any indication of the level of exhaustion. The next morning Marie and I trekked across the city to go to the Van Gogh museum, unfortunately the line was way too long and we weren't able to go or we'd miss our flight which was a bummer, but we got to walk all around the city because it was on the completely opposite side as our hostel.We walked along the canals and it was absolutely beautiful. It was such a cool city, and so different from anywhere we'd been. There were a lot more canals than I expected I think, I guess I thought it was just one running through the city, but they're everywhere, it's a little reminiscent of Venice in that way. The architecture was beautiful as well. Overall, one of the coolest cities we've been to and we all had a fantastic time.
And now for a complete change of pace, the bay of Naples! It's pretty crazy because I remember looking on the calendar they gave us at the beginning of the year and thinking this seemed so far away, to think that it just happened is unreal. It was a fantastic trip, absolutely on par with Tuscany. We met for the buses on Friday at 8 am and all drove down to Naples together, which is probably around a 3 and a half hour ride. Our first stop was the archeological museum in Naples itself with our art and architecture of ancient Rome professor who was our guide. It was a very cool museum, filled with artifacts from Pompeii. What's pretty amazing is that they used so many things we still use today, pots and pans, even colanders, they had jewelry and everything. And most of it is in really goof shape considering not only is it thousands of years old, but it survived a volcanic eruption. After this museum we got back on the bus and went further south to the town of Pompeii. We had a picnic lunch outside and then went into the ruins, again with our professor. It really is pretty incredible, apparently only 2/3 of it is actually excavated, and unfortunately there is no way to keep it very well preserved, but it still looks pretty good to me. According to our professor, however, the 1/3 of the city that is currently being excavated is in pristine condition, it looks like people just went out for a few hours. crazy! We went into some homes and shops and things. What struck me were the mosasics on the floor, mostly in tact still and absolutely gorgeous. There was even one that was a beware of dog sign! Our professor always says "there's nothing new under the sun". It was a very cool trip. That night we had dinner at our hotel (which was beautiful! we all got balconies overlooking the mediterranean) and then as a group walked into town. We went to karaoke with our program directors and had a blast! Such a great night.
The next day we caught the 9:50 am ferry to Capri! What a gorgeous place. We had the best day there. Our whole group of friends got two boats to take us all around the island. We brought some wine, laid out in the sun, and had the absolute best time. We all agreed it was on par with our day in Tuscany. We were all together and relaxed and just having so much fun. The boats stopped at one point to let us jump in! I almost didn't go, but it was a once in a lifetime opportunity! And the water wasn't as cold as I expected. The Italians think it's freezing but in reality that's how cold the Atlantic is in the middle of the summer! The water was crystal clear and an unbelievable turquoise color. They stop about halfway around the island and give you the opportunity to climb out of the boats and into little rowboats so you can see the blue grotto, which is a famous cave where the water is an extraordinary color. you get into these rowboats and as you are going underneath the cave you have to lay down flat. Inside is unbelievable. Apparently it used to be the emperor Tiberius' personal swimming pool and it's connected to the imperial palace he built for himself on the island. We just wandered around the rest of the day after that, it was very relaxing we had lunch overlooking the water and just took it all in. It was truly one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.That night the school took us to dinner and this Italian musical which was pretty cheesey and we were all exhausted from the sun! I went home and sat on my balcony overlooking the ocean. A perfect end to a perfect day.
The next day they took us to another museum and a park and it was a beautiful day. We laid out in the sun for a while and some people (not me, obviously) kicked a ball around until it was time to get on the buses and head home. I still can't believe it's over! I can't say I feel great about only having a month left in Rome...it's pretty surreal being that I have looked forward to this my entire college career, and even before. After class the other day we had a picnic on top of villa Borghese in the gardens there. I maintain that I would never want to be anywhere else. I absolutely love this city and am so glad it worked out that I am here.
This weekend we decided to stay in Rome and check a few things off our list. We're traveling so much we barely have time to see things in our own city! On Friday we are planning on going to the vatican museums ( I haven't even seen the sistene chapel yet!!) and Saturday we are going to the catacombs.
Much more to come!