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Italy Study Abroad Trip 2011 - Alaina Williams

Day 21 – The long flight home

June 19th, 2011

June 4

Linsey and I got up really early – around 5:30 am so that we could be ready to leave on the free transportation to the airport at 6:30 am. We were able to grab a bit of breakfast before we left but just barely – they didn’t open until 6:30. We ended up leaving a bit late because we didn’t find out which bus ours was until after 6:30. When we got to the airport, Linsey, Jared, both Steves, Carrie, Patrick, and I were all on the same flights. We got our tickets and through security without any problems. Then we had almost 2 hours of waiting for our flight. When we got on the plane I sat next to an older lady who apparently had some foot/leg condition that required her leg to be elevated so she was putting it on the armrest in front of us. This wasn’t going to work for the flight so they ended up moving her and I got two seats! That was really nice since it was a almost a 9 hour flight. I was able to change positions a bunch and just be really comfortable considering that I was on an airplane.

In Newark, I was really surprised by how easily we got through customs and everything. We got lucky and the line this security guy opened up a new line and just looked at the forms we filled out and as long as we hadn’t marked anything to declare, we got through in seconds with no questions or anything. We got a bit confused about which flight we were supposed to be on because this guy who was headed back to Omaha as well with a layover in Chicago had a different flight and we went to where his was first. We were able to figure it out and get to ours in time though. We had to wait quite awhile for the next flight though. It ended up being delayed because of storms in the Chicago area, but we left and arrived with enough time to get to our next flight. We barely had to wait in Chicago. I don’t think I slept for more than half an hour on the flights – I was exhausted but just couldn’t sleep.

When we got back it felt so late (it was 5 am in Rome and I had barely slept). It was nice that we were in a big group, but when we got our bags and stuff from the luggage pick-up area we all left without saying good-bye to each other, which was sad. I was really happy to see my mom, sister, and fiancé though. And my mom had brought me food! I was sad to not be in Italy anymore seeing the beautiful sights, but it was really nice to see familiar sights again, too.

Day 20 – Last full day in Italy

June 19th, 2011

June 3

This was our last day all together. When we woke up that morning, we completely understood why Catherine didn’t want to sleep in her bed – there were tiny little spiders all over the ceiling. I hadn’t been able to see them the night before so I didn’t worry about them. We’re guessing that the spider we killed that first night had laid an egg and the tiny spiders had hatched from it. Just remember that kind of freaks me out – but overall the stay at the Farmhouse had been good and it was out in the country in older buildings so having bugs inside is kind of a given. We had breakfast and then took the bus back to Rome. We stopped once on our way back and Sara found these kids toys that were motion activated sounds. One was this cat with a creepy almost witch cackle – the real memory of it has faded from my mind since. Anyway, when it started laughing Sara also started laughing and kept making it go and then I started laughing and big Steve wanted us to put it away so we wouldn’t draw attention to ourselves. Sara and I couldn’t figure out why anyone would ever get that toy for a child – I would think the laugh would traumatize the kid.

When we got back to Rome we had a different hotel than the first stay and it appeared a lot nicer, but it turned out that I like the other one better – mostly they hadn’t charge 17 euro for 24 hours of internet, it had been free (I ended up not using internet). A bunch of us then went out and got lunch. I had some broccoli and sausage pizza that was really good. Then we stopped at the cheap souvenir shops we’d found the day we got lost. One was nice, but one wasn’t so much – the owner was smoking a cigar inside and it was really crowded. We spent a long time trying to decide on what shirts to buy. I got one for my mom, dad, sister, brother, and fiancé, but didn’t get one for myself. We headed back toward the hotel and stopped to look at one more shop where I ended up getting post cards. We also walked through a market area that was kind of cute, except for this one guy who was selling art work, but not wearing a shirt, had a dirty beard, pants that were at mid thigh and not so great underwear – it was disturbing. After the market we ran into Dr. E and Jeff and chatted a bit. We then continued on to the hotel and stopped for our final gelato. I had crema and Nutella; I think it was probably the best (and most at one time) that I had on the trip. When we got back to the hotel, I repacked and wrote postcards. Later we went out for supper and I had ravioli; I’ve found that al dente is okay as long as the pasta is filled. Later that evening all the students in the group went out and had an interesting/fun last evening together. I was sad that we were going to leave, but also glad that I wasn’t going to have to live out of a suitcase for awhile.

Day 19 – Pompeii, Paestum, Last real night of the class

June 19th, 2011

June 2

This was our day at Pompeii. I started out taking lots of notes so I’d know what all of my pictures were of, but I stopped taking notes pretty early on and am not sure they really helped with the remembering anyway. Sara gave her presentation and that was really interesting – she had found a sort of play-by-play of what probably happened. Apparently it’s in really good shape because of being buried under ash for so long – I think they began excavation on it in the 1700’s and the volcano had erupted and covered it in AD 79. But it is starting to be affected by the elements and people doing graffiti. Most of it did look in really good shape and felt almost claustrophobic compared to other ruins because there were so many walls that were almost all intact. The amphitheater areas and the stadiums were neat. The people of Pompeii were really short most being only around 4.5 feet tall so they had short counters and doors everywhere. It was neat.

After Pompeii we went to Paestum to see the ruins they had there. The temples were of the Greek style, so they are really old – older than the Roman temples in Italy. I really liked these ruins too because there was a lot more vegetation and didn’t feel so confining – the view almost reminded me of the pictures of the savannah. They also had really beautiful flowers. The temples were in such good shape that on the last two you couldn’t see in very well since columns and such were still in place blocking the view.

We then went back to the farmhouse and got ready for dinner. That was really good. We sat outside in the garden area. We had bruscheta, buffalo mozzarella cheese (that is water buffalo), fried mashed potato balls, chicken or turkey legs, and a dessert (I can’t remember what anymore). We then went around the table sharing all our favorite stories from the trip since it was our last real night together. Afterwards, I went back to my room and chatted with my roommates for awhile, then went to find Sara to see if I could use her computer. I did find her and used her computer, but was really tired, so I went to bed shortly after.

Day 18 – Theater in Palermo, Farmhouse welcome

June 19th, 2011

June 1

This morning we went to the theater before heading back to the airport. Oh, also at the hotel we stayed at breakfast was served on the roof with a sun screen over it (but water could still get through – good thing it didn’t rain). There was one song that played at breakfast over and over that really threw Sara off because it sounded like they kept saying her name. Anyway, when we got to the theater, Dr. E explained that baroque, Spanish, and grand staircases are favorites in Sicily which is why you see more elaborate staircases there than other places. We did a tour, but it was in Italian because the English tour wasn’t til later and we didn’t have time to wait, so I took lots of notes on what I saw. There was also an English woman who explained some of what was being said.

My notes: damaged but still used, color themes = pinks/creams, composite columns, cool chandeliers, dark wood doors, box seats all around the walls, flower lights, gold gilding and reddish curtains, overall very ornate, ceiling reminds me of Beauty and the Beast, built on top of an old church and supposedly haunted by a ghost; Wood room: flower chandeliers, ornate wood work, gilding, ceiling panels – green with flowers, entrance to large box directly across from stage, comfy chairs, Godfather Part III partially filmed here; Circle/echo room: masonry walls behind some doors, only in center can you easily hear yourself, cool acoustics; short ceilings in halls.

We then rode a bus back to the airport and rode our plane back to Rome with no problems or delays. We headed to the Farmhouse – a hotel, but not like normal hotels. It was way out in the country and most of the food they serve is made on the property. When we got into our room there was a giant spider on the table between my bed and Carrie’s to greet us. It kind of freaked me out. But someone killed it and we didn’t see any others (til the second morning that is). We then had dinner which was pretty good. There was some sort of party going on and at one point we heard what sounded like gunshots. We ran outside to see some fireworks! Then I journaled and went to bed.

Day 17 – Palace, Cathedral, Tyrrhnian Sea, Seafood supper

June 19th, 2011

May 31

This was our full day in Palermo. We left to walk to a palace and stopped by an open air fish market on the way there. That was pretty neat. They had all sorts of odd things like fish heads, cow stomach, a giant swordfish head (I thought the sword part was a pole at first), and pretty much anything you can think of. We then went past the cathedral to a park area where we could see the palace. Dr. E talked for a bit about Sicily. Apparently southern Italy is more laid back than the northern part and they tend to be more passionate for example talking with their hands and big gestures. The northern Italians tend to think of the southerners as lazy while the southerners think of the northerners as to busy. Sicily has so many different architectural styles because it was taken over by so many different peoples before Italy was unified. It is known for Sicilian Baroque, but there’s also most other architectural styles. Also many of the buildings are in poor repair because of the material combined with the climate and poor economy.

The palace was first of the Arab style and then got some of the Normandy style when they took over. There was a chapel that looked like it started as an Arab style (the walls had many patterns but no images of people/animals) and then pictures of the apostles, Christ, and other Christian figures. We also went to their museum area which consisted of a hall with lots of pictures and artifacts (but all the descriptions were in Italian) and a dungeon/crypt area. While we were waiting for the tickets for the museum, I noticed that some of the arches had warped to be more of a half ellipse with a tie bar at the bottom to try to stop it from failing.

We then went to the Cathedral where there are also many different styles. The part I found most interesting was that on some of the arches in the chapels on either side of the nave, there appeared to be cracks, but the cracks were perfectly straight, so maybe it was something with the design. When I asked Dr. E about them, she said she wasn’t sure and she’d have to actually look at it (not just the picture I showed her). She said there’s so many things you need to know to understand how a masonry arch works and very few people specialize in them. If I were going the structural route, I would want to focus on masonry and arches/domes/vaulting, but I don’t care/like steel enough to want to wade through that.

Anyway, after that we walked to the sea (apparently the Tyrrhenian Sea, not the Mediterranean) and people picked up food on the way. I had a lot of fun at the sea; a few of us girls took off our shoes and played in the water for a while. Some of the rocks were covered with sea sponges that little bugs crawled out of when you stepped on them. The water felt so good and my feet felt so free. It was fun to climb all over the rocks and stand in the water. It was really sad when I had to put my shoes back on and we had to go.

We headed to the Theater but it was closed so I headed back to the hotel to journal. That night for supper, we went to Jeff’s friend’s restaurant. The food was absolutely amazing. It was all seafood and I was expecting not to like it but it was all really good. First course – cold things: eggplant, octopus, cocoa, olives, onions, and some other stuff; hot casserole thing: ricotta cheese, mint, pumpkin. Second course – risotto with asparagus, fennel, and shrimp. Third course – swordfish roll with basil, almonds, honey, orange rinds, and breadcrumbs in the middle. Dessert – semi-freddo whipped cream, eggs, Marsala wine sauce, and raisins. We also got a look into the kitchen after the meal. They get everything fresh that morning and the guy’s mom makes most of the food. A few people went out afterwards, but I headed back to the hotel with a few others so I could get to bed. It was probably one of the best days.

Day 16 – Assisi churches and Flight to Palermo

June 19th, 2011

May 30

We got up, had breakfast at the hotel, and then went to the churches in Assisi. The Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi is huge and on a hill so they had to make it several levels. It was also pretty dark throughout. The tomb of St. Francis is located below the church and apparently there were a bunch of pictures of children down there (I didn’t notice them) because St. Francis is the patron saint of lost children or something like that. I spent some time in their gift shop and got a postcard to keep for myself. When we got back outside, we sat for awhile just watching people and then Sara, Linsey, and I went to look at the vendors. I ended up getting a scarf; I tried to haggle, but she wouldn’t have any of it.

We then stopped at Assisi’s Santa Maria sopra Minerva. It was pretty small, but it was pretty. I think it might have been Baroque. It was a bit odd because there was really fancy decorations and stuff, but the walls seemed really bare. Dr. E forgot to tell us before we went in, but at the front there are drains for blood from when it was a temple to Minerva and they did animal sacrifices. There were some baby angels that Sara really liked – she learned on this trip that she really likes them (unless they’re only heads with wings).

Last on the list for Assisi was San Rufino the city’s cathedral. It seems odd that this small somewhat bare looking church (compared to most others). I think it was Renaissance style because there wasn’t a whole lot of decoration. There was a tiny bird inside the church that kept tweeting and chirping – it confused me for awhile because I couldn’t find where it was. There was a cool wooden heart/shell sculpture thing over one of the doors. They also had glass/Plexiglas flooring over some areas – not sure why. We then had lunch (I had pizza) and got back on the bus to head to Rome for the airport.

When we got to the airport, we had to wait for a long time. Sara, Linsey, and I just talked and messed around and got bit up by mosquitoes. When we finally got on the plane, we had to wait an hour because of some technical difficulties. Everyone was standing up and walking around and chatting. It seemed really weird. The flight was fine and when we landed everyone started clapping – I think because we finally got there after having been delayed. We then had a bus to our hotel.

Some of us went out for a really late dinner. I hadn’t planned on eating, but I ended up splitting a baked potato and bacon pizza. It was a bit odd and the bacon wasn’t cooked, but it tasted pretty good. Then went back, showered, and went to bed.

Day 15 – San Gimignano Tower, Torture Museum, St. Catherine in Siena, Civic Tower, Crypt, Baptistry, Assisi hotel

June 19th, 2011

May 29

We got up, ate breakfast (provided by the hotel), and then went to the city museum (I think that’s what it was) which has a tower to climb with it. The museum part wasn’t anything special, but the tower was pretty neat. The steps were pretty steep and we had to climb a little almost ladder to the top. We took a bunch of pictures and had a great view of the town. We then headed to one of the torture museums. It was optional, but I went – not sure that was a good idea. I made myself walk through and look at everything – but it was tough, it was pretty gruesome. I was one of the last ones out – most other people saw a couple things and then left.

A couple of us then walked around the city. I think it was Carrie, Sara, Linsey, and me. There was a conjoining square to the one where our hotel was, and it had a bunch of vendors out but not really touristy stuff – more jewelry, pottery, knitted clothing and such. We spent a bunch of time watching a potter make some things. Then we walked back up to the area Dr. E took us the night before – it looked completely different. Afterwards we headed back down to the bus area and left for Sienna.

In Sienna we wanted to go up the Civic Tower first, but there’s such a long line that Jeff waited for us and the rest of us went to the Church. It was really interesting. The front was completely covered with statues and sculptures. The inside was all stripe-y, more so than the one in Pisa, but these stripes were greenish. The church was actually supposed to be a lot bigger, but because of financial difficulties and maybe a plague that killed off a bunch of workers (might have been another building that this happened to) it wasn’t finished. There are a two or three arched sections of a side aisle that were finished, but because it wasn’t fully completed they are bulging out since they don’t have the support of the rest of the structure.

Dr. E then got the call that we were next for the Civic Tower. When we got there, the people behind were pretty upset, but there was nothing they could do about it. It was such a long climb and would have been bad for anyone who was claustrophobic! Once again at the top was an awesome view. I believe the tower is the tallest tower in Italy that is associated with a governmental type building.

We headed back to the cathedral to go through a museum area and up to a lookout area on the church. We did a neat picture as a group where we lined up shortest to tallest (I was second from the front) and we each leaned a different way so that you could see everyone. Then we saw the baptistery and the crypt. The crypt was didn’t have any of its displays out, but there were areas where there was a hole covered with glass – it was really kind of nerve wracking because it was difficult to tell there was glass there due to the poor lighting combined with the rocky walls/floor of the crypt. At one point, I just went on one and jumped up and down to prove to myself that I was brave.

We then took a short break to get pizza – which was gigantic, cheap, and good – and then we headed back to the bus. We left for Assisi meaning another long bus ride and then our hotel. Once again we had a decent view – we could see St. Francis of Assisi Cathedral and the sun was setting making the clouds look absolutely gorgeous. I then went to bed – pretty early compared to the other nights.

Day 14 – Bus rides, Pisa, and San Gimignano hotel

June 19th, 2011

May 28

We left Milan today. For the rest of the trip we’re going to be riding a bus – which means long periods of travel between towns and much less to write about. I tried to journal a bit on the bus, but it was too bumpy. I ended up finishing Brunelleschi’s Dome and then trying to nap. Our first stop was Pisa, which everyone knows has the Leaning Tower. We stopped at a giant bus parking lot and were attacked by vendors as soon as we got out. There was a gas station sort of place nearby that we took a short break at to get stuff if we wanted, and then we rode an accordion bus (it had two sections that were connected with a flexible material so it could turn more easily) to the city center.

We had I think a half hour or an hour to look around on our own and grab lunch. Sara, Linsey, and I just had apples and sandwiches that we’d made in Milan before we left. We took a few pictures with the Leaning Tower (I didn’t do any fun, stereotypical pictures at that point though). Then we spent the rest of the time looking around at the vendors. I got a postcard for my roommate. We met up with the rest of the group and then climbed the tower. As we were waiting in line, we saw a giant bug on the ground – it was at least 3 inches long with even longer antenna. When we got in the tower, it was pretty difficult to climb and a bit trippy because of the tilt. The steps had deep divots where people stepped most of the time. From the very top of the tower we could see most of the town. They really don’t have anything special except for the campanile (the Leaning Tower), church, and baptistery. All the roofs are red and blended together. We took pictures and then made our way back down. The giant bug had moved to the final set of steps and when Liz, Effie, and Emily O. came out it scared them – it was funny to watch because we all knew it would.

We then sat in the shadow of the basilica and talked about the three structures. The Campanile is solid marble and was built on unstable ground – not a good combination since marble is so heavy. You can see that at the bottom one side has several more blocks of marble showing than the other side. I believe that at one point during construction, there was a halt and they could have chosen another material to finish with that would have been lighter, but they didn’t so now it is leaning. Several attempts have been made to straighten it and for a while it wasn’t open for climbing. I believe the most recent attempt to straighten it moved it back so it is only 4 meters from vertical. The people of Pisa actually don’t want it vertical because that would take away the tourism since there’s not much else that is famous in the town.

The style of the Church (and I think the Campanile as well but I’m not sure) is Romanesque. It has lots of stripes because of the layering of white and gray/black marble inside. I thought it was really odd that when they put in a mechanical system, they didn’t bother to disguise or hide the ducts – on the upper portion of the left side (when looking at the apse from the nave) of the nave you could see ducts in every archway.

The Baptistery is a circular building with Gothic architecture. It is also known for its great acoustics. When we were in there one of the workers sang different tones and the whole place rang with each note for at least 10 seconds – and the guy had a good voice. It was annoying though that when people were talking you could hear it echo all over.

After looking at both the church and the baptistery, we took a bit more time to do a group picture and final pictures with the tower. We discussed doing a group picture with the guys pushing on one side and all the girls pushing on the other side, but we didn’t get that done. We then went back to the bus stop, and headed to San Gimignano. I spent most of the time on the bus playing Solitaire.

We had to leave the bus at a stop outside the city and they had a van that brought up some smaller bags we’d pre-packed. We walked up the hill to our hotel then. The town is a hilltop town in Tuscany and is known for looking much like it did back in medieval times – and the buildings did look pretty untouched. I think it has 13 towers and 3 torture museums. All the streets are fairly steep. Our hotel was on a plaza sort of area that had a well and two gelato shops. The hotel was nothing like an American hotel – the ‘first floor’ had 3 sets of stairs to the different sections of it. I was with Catherine, Katherine, and Carrie again, and we had a great view from our balcony – I completely understand why Tuscany is praised for its beauty. After settling in, I went out and walked back the way we came and bought a souvenir for my fiancé. I then headed back for supper. It was a beautiful view from the dining area, but it was kind of strange once I noticed all the satellite dishes on the roofs – they just seem really out of place in the medieval town. We had supper which I remember being good; I think we had risotto (really good), veal and asparagus or maybe spinach (I can’t remember which), and probably another course.

After supper a couple of us went with Dr. E to a park area that she’d never shown students before. It was nice out and calm (except our group was a bit louder than I would have liked). We then came back and I got ready and went to bed. It was a really great evening.

Day 13 – Free Day at the Hostel

June 17th, 2011

May 27

I stayed at the hostel all day, literally. When I woke up (earlier than I wanted to because of the cars), I had some breakfast and then spent a considerable amount of time on Facebook chatting with Zach. When I got off I planned to journal, but that didn’t happen. I think I made a sandwich for lunch and packed some stuff up and then spent a majority of the afternoon playing Rummy with Catherine, Sara, Linsey, Ryan, and Emily H. It was pretty fun. Later, I packed some more and a few people from my room (which consisted of Sara, Linsey, Carrie, Catherine, and Katherine) went to the grocery store again. They bought more gelato that four of us shared and it turns out it wasn’t much better cold – now we know it’s definitely worth it to buy the stuff from the gelateria, the texture is so much better! That night for supper Linsey, Sara and I made pasta with sauce. Big Steve shared his sauce with us and offered some of his noodles, too. The sauce was okay (we combined ours), and the noodles (we made) were very al dente so I didn’t like them much. Steve’s noodles looked like there was a cheesy sauce on them but apparently it was because they were whole grain corn noodles or something – they tasted pretty nasty. He also shared the chicken he’d cooked with us. It was an okay supper, and I was very full afterwards, but I didn’t like the taste. I spent the rest of the night packing and talking to Zach. It was a nice lazy free day – kind of helped me recharge before our tumult of cities the final week.

Day 12 – Free Day in Venice

June 17th, 2011

May 26

This was the free day that Sara, Linsey, and I went to Venice. I woke up at 530 to finish getting ready. I had an apple and some toast & jelly for breakfast. There was a big group of us who left at 6:30 so we could get to the train station via the metro. It was weird walking to the metro that early. It was just getting light and very few if any people/cars were out. We got to the metro and bought tickets. We were all confused on how Jeff was able to get all our tickets so quickly because it took ours a really long time to print and he had 21 one to print at a time. We got to the train station no problem, and we were told we’d get a student discount for the tickets, but turned out Jeff was mistaken. Most of us bought the tickets from the little kiosks once we found out there was no discount. Linsey and I were close together on the ride there. It was a very uncomfortable train ride for the first half because there were two really creepy guys sitting across the aisle from us and they kept staring and talking in Italian which made us extremely nervous. Thankfully nothing bad happened. The last quarter of the trip was much better. There was a psychologist from Verona who sat by us and we talked a bit. We told her we were studying engineering and were on a trip through our university. She told us that her son was an engineer who did stuff with roads and bridges; I’m pretty sure he’d be considered a civil engineer, but she didn’t personally know what it was called in English. She told us a bit about Verona, but I don’t really remember anything. Oh, and that part of the country had lots of fields like at home (except there were more trees) and we told her that we had lots of farmers back in Nebraska. For a while she read the New York Times (she said she tires – I think it probably is to help her try to practice English). There was one article she read, I think it was entitled “Economy Devastates the Greek Psyche,” but she didn’t know what devastates meant so she asked us to explain, and that’s a very difficult word to explain in simple English terms – more of a nontangible thing that you picture than define. I tried to explain, but it was really hard because she didn’t seem to know all the words I was using – I think I eventually got across the basic idea. It helped me realize how difficult truly understanding a foreign language is. After that she made a comment about how English has so many words, while Italian has less words but harder grammar ( I have noticed that some of the words/phrases use apostrophes like I’d expect in French, so I believe her).

When we got off (around 10 am), we joined up with Sara and the rest of the group that came along (Rachel, Emily H., Patrick, Jared, Drew, little Steve, big Steve, Emily O., Liz, Effie, Matt; Carrie and Katherine had gone earlier). We split shortly after leaving the train station and went our separate ways. Sara, Linsey, and I decided to head toward San Marco and Rialto (the famous bridge over the Grande Canal). We ended up buying a map which was pretty useful the first half, but we had some trouble figuring it out later. On our way (we mostly followed the signs that were all around with arrows pointing the way to different common tourist places) we stopped and looked at quite a few shops. One of the first shops we stopped at had a set of glasses that I wanted to buy (and did later). They were on sale since one of the glasses broke. I didn’t get them then because I didn’t want to have to carry them around all day. One of the other shops we saw had really cheap necklace/earring sets that looked like things ladies would have worn to fancy balls. I wanted to get it but I don’t have any idea when I would have worn it so I just took a picture later when we found the shop again. There were a bunch of other little shops we stopped at to look at the Murano (or just plain glass) jewelry and things. They all looked really cool, but I never would have worn most of it so I didn’t get any. Also before we really go to any of the shops, we found a little doorway thing that led to a canal and Linsey and Sara both dipped their feet in. I didn’t because I was grossed out by the water. They seemed to have enjoyed it though. The town was so cute and ancient looking. They had clotheslines right under their windows, like you always see in movies, and lots of people actually hung their clothes on them. Sara absolutely loved them. It was such a peaceful little town when we were walking through the non-touristy areas. I really liked it.

We eventually got to the famous bridge and there were a bunch of little street shops set up there. There was a little square in front of an old church; we sat on the steps of the church in the shade to eat. The church was really cool looking (we didn’t go in, I’m not even sure we could have) on the outside. There was a 24 hour clock on the bell tower that had hands.

We had our PB&J sandwiches and apples. There were pigeons and tiny little birds all over. Sara seemed to adore the little birds. She even came up with this theory that the pigeons and the little birds were in cahoots together: the little birds would come and be so cute that people threw food to them and then the pigeons would come in and eat the food too. Linsey ended up throwing some of her apple seeds that they tried to eat and then just chucked her entire apple core out in the center. Pretty much everyone hated pigeons by that point – and several people were scared of them since they pooped everywhere. Thankfully I never got hit.

Anyway, after we were done eating we crossed the bridge and got some pictures of it and I also think we took some pictures of the gondolas (I didn’t have my camera battery so I’m going to have to get pictures from Sara and Linsey). The little streets were really cute and curvy with cute little bridges crossing them – I just thought it was beautiful (unless you looked at the water too closely). We stopped and entered one church on our way to San Marco. The thing I found interesting about this church was that the columns were all carpeted or covered with some sort of fancy looking tapestry. I guess that the columns in the downstairs of our church do have carpet, but it doesn’t really stick out a whole lot from the rest of the basement. Also, these were in the sanctuary. We walked some more and eventually got to San Marco. It also had a really cool 24 hour analog clock as well as a digital clock that was in roman numerals for the hour and regular numbers for the minutes. We ended up being there when it turned 1 pm and there was a big bell at the very top that was struck by some mechanical person thing – I don’t remember exactly what it was. We looked at the outside of the church, but we didn’t go in because we didn’t want to wait in line (apparently it wouldn’t have been a long wait but whatever). We also got to see the sea from the square and the islands. They had some really amazing looking churches on them. We then headed back toward the center of the city. On our way we saw tiny glass figurines in a window. Most were smaller than my pinkie nail and they were pretty elaborate for their size. There were zoo animals and bugs and unicorns and horses and all sorts of things. I kind of wanted to get one, but they were really expensive because they were so difficult to make and I was afraid I’d lose it anyway. We continued on and decided to stop at a WC (a water closet, i.e. a bathroom). It cost 1.5 euro, but it was pretty nice, and the water from the sinks seemed good enough to use for filling up our water bottles. Before that, while Sara was in the bathroom, I went with Linsey so she could exchange money at a place that seemed to have the best rate. It turns out they show the best rate because they don’t include the cost of fees and everything. Linsey wanted to exchange 40 some dollars and they were going to give her around 20 euros. When she saw that she decided she wanted her money back and the lady behind the counter got upset. She asked a few times why and Linsey said that she didn’t want their rate/fees. Eventually the lady gave all the money back but she basically threw it under the glass thing – she was very mad at us.

We found another church a bit later that we stopped at. I don’t really remember anything special about it, except that the ceiling looked like they started a fresco but then stopped in the very beginning (it was a dome set above a square and only one little corner of the square was decorated). We sat in there a bit to cool off and write down where we’d been. After that we decided to follow the signs to some place that we thought was going to be a fountain. We walked a really long time through relatively empty streets – it was nice and peaceful. At one point we passed a fruit stand that was closed, but the fruit was just covered under blankets and it smelled incredible. If it had been open I may have gotten something. Next to the fruit stand was the final sign we saw for the thing we wanted to find and so we walked further and came to a canal (which we think is what the signs were for). At the time we didn’t think we’d found it. Anyway before we got to the canal we found a fountain to fill our water bottles again and this cool looking building that was partially boarded up and really white and looked like maybe it used to be a temple or something from ancient times (except that the masonry didn’t look weathered like I’d expect). We were surprised that no other tourists were there. We sat by the canal for a while and just enjoyed the shade. While we were there an ambulance boat went by – there aren’t any vehicles on the streets of Venice so it makes sense that they’d have boats, but it was kind of weird.

We eventually decided to get back up and wander some more. Sara found this little stair step/door way/ alley thing that we went through. They seemed to have cisterns in the middle of most squares and there was one here so since there was no one around we went up and tried to open it, but alas, the lid was bolted down. We did a bunch more wandering and some getting lost as we tried to find another place by the signs, which we later found out was all the way on the other side of the city. We got really confused because we were expecting to cross the Grande Canal again, but we followed the curve of it or something in our wanderings and ended up at the train station again. We still had a couple hours til our train back so we decided to find the shop where those glasses were.

It was quite interesting trying to get there and even more so when we got there and I tried to explain what I wanted. The owner didn’t speak any English, and I’ve found I have a very difficult time communicating when there’s the language barrier. I was trying to tell her that I wanted to buy only the blue glasses from the set, but she wasn’t quite getting it. Sara ended up asking her if she spoke Spanish (since Sara knows it pretty well), and the lady basically indicated she could probably figure it out. This helped a little or at least made it seem less awkward in the attempt to communicate. Basically the lady ended up saying that I couldn’t buy just the blue ones, and by buying the whole set I could switch out the glasses and have different color combos. I decided to buy them and wanted to make sure I got a receipt, which Sara didn’t know how to say in Spanish so that was really difficult to get across. It’s kind of funny now that I think about it, but the whole thing felt a little stressful at the time. The lady wrapped up the box really nicely and I’m really hoping all the glasses make it back okay. At some point earlier in the day we went back to Rialto and looked through the shops set up. I found a sword/letter opener I wanted to get, but it was too expensive and the guy wouldn’t haggle with me. Apparently all the places there have set prices.
Linsey and Sara got some gelato shortly after and we decided to find a place to sketch after they were done. I wanted to sketch a window once we were sitting, but I was a bit too far away to see it well enough. I ended up sketching the corner of a building which had a lot of different materials in it and was kind of broken and just plain interesting looking. I didn’t get very detailed, and since I didn’t have my camera I don’t think I got a picture of it, I guess I’ll just have to remember it from memory and my half sketch.

After we finished the sketching we decided to make our way back to the train station. We went around the city the opposite way from what we did before, by accident of course. We found the places we were trying to find earlier from the signs – turned out one was really just a giant parking lot. They had a weird bridge between that part and the train station. It had steps for a bit and then no steps just a curve over the top and then changed to steps again. We still had more time so we went to see if we could find food; Sara and Linsey figured they might get hungry on the train and they didn’t want to pay the exorbitant prices they’d charge for food on there. So we walked back the way we came when we accidentally got to the station. They ended up deciding not to get anything so we sat on some benches for a while. There were some metal things in front of us that posters/ads were all over and there was a little boy who kept running around them and kicking or hitting them to hear the noise. I think he was pretending to be a karate person or something. It was cute at first but got really annoying pretty quickly.

When it got closer to time for our train we walked back, but when we got there Sara found she forgot her water bottle. She almost didn’t go back to get it because she figured someone had taken it, but it was still there. She was happy because she’d grown attached to it.

The ride back was fairly uneventful once we figured out the problem with our assigned train car. The car we were supposed to be on was closed for repairs or something so after standing there for a while (no one gave us any direction on what to do), we sat down in one of the empty sets of seats. I don’t even remember what I did on the ride. When we got back we took the metro again and walked back to the hostel. When we got there most people went straight to bed. I stayed up tried the melted gelato I’d bought the day before – it turned out to be really nasty and I threw it away. Then I went to bed. It was a long but fun free day.