Day 9, March 28, 2010
4 becomes 3.
Originally, the plan was to leave Rome early and head to Pompeii, but we ended up missing a train because of daylight savings time. We decided to switch our original plan a bit, and head to Naples and relax for a night, so we could have a fresh start the next day in Pompeii.
We said goodbye to Marissa, who was headed back to Wales to meet a friend and also her parents for the rest of Easter break.
*Be Aware, moment #1*
As we were boarding the train to Naples (Napoli), we quickly found seats and were ready to sit down. Since we didn’t have assigned seats with our ticket, we were in the aisle. As we are standing in the aisle, a man came through with a basket of food, trying to sell food to the travelers. As we moved out of the way to let him pass, he asked us where we were going. When we replied that we were going to Napoli, he told us that this train did not go to Napoli, but the other train across from us did. Luckily we had enough time to check it out, so we went to the other train to check. When we realized that he was lying to us, we went to get back on the train, but he kept yelling at us that this train did not go to Napoli. We ended up getting back on through another door with ample time, but it was very stressful. Eventhough he was impersonating somebody of authority and just messing with us, it was good that we used our best judgement and didn’t take what he said seriously.
Be Aware, moment #2:
As we arrived in Napoli, we could not see the street that our hotel. We knew it was close by to the station, but we didn’t know how close. We ended up hopping in a taxi- needless to say he went way out of the way, charging us 20 euro, when it was pretty much right next to the station. We should have seen that one coming, next time we’ll be more observant.
The hotel was beautiful! We had the day to adventure, so we took the metro to Sorrento, which was one of my favorite places when I went in 2005. Sorrento was the first European city I was ever in. It was good to be back.
We walked around a bit, had some gelato, and headed back to the hotel.
We ended the night with some pizza for dinner, since Napoli is where pizza was first created.
In all honesty, Naples was not what I expected. It’s the only city we went to that I would not go back to. It was really sketchy, with garbage all over the place. The pizza was good, but pizza is good throughout Italia.
Day 10 March 29, 2010
Naples to Florence
We woke up at a reasonable hour, checked out of our hotel, and left our bags at the hotel for the day. We got some quick pasteries, and headed to Pompeii. We were all really glad we decided to go to Pompeii; the weather was absolutely beautiful.
When we got back to Naples (we just made the train back), we got our luggage and hopped on a high speed train to Florence (Firenze).
Don’t be like this, moment #1:
When we were on the train to Florence, we ended up meeting two Americans who were studying in Barcelona for the semester. Cool right? Not so much.
Here’s what happend. First they started talking to us, and we soon realized that we all must have been in Pompeii at the same time and didn’t know it. Then, they went on to say how they kept getting in trouble because they were climbing on the ruins. That should have raised a red flag. The ride went on, and we would talk to them sparatically. Then, the conductor came to check our tickets…
I gave my ticket to the conductor. Justine gave her ticket to the conductor. Maggie gave her ticket to the conductor. These two girls had tickets, but they were the wrong ones. A very easy mistake to make, they were on the high speed train to Rome, rather than the regular one which they had tickets for. It wasn’t the mistake that was horrible- it was their reaction. They were so mean to the several conductors when they said that they had to charge them the difference. The girls refused to pay and made multiple stories as to not having money- including that she left everything in Barcelona. This went on for a while- including the college aged girls to rip up the receipt once they agreed to pay- and state that her mom was going to be so mad. She not only blamed the conductor, saying that he ”should have checked the tickets at the door”, but also insulted his English speaking abilities. I can honestly say that he spoke really well. To top it off, one of the girls asked Justine (a girl they just met 20 mins ago!) to “lend” them 50 euros!
The entire ride was ridiculous, and honestly made me embarrassed to be American. It’s people like them that make the American stereotype as being dumb, selfish, and spoiled seem true. We understood their mistake, but the way they handled it was so immature. We couldn’t believe that these were college students studying abroad. They should know how to represent their country and their program.
Don’t be like this, moment #2
Now, this moment involves passports. When we got to the international cafe in Naples. it is required that you give the desk clerk your passport as your only valid form of ID. Although this often raises a red flag, it is best to use your best judement. We saw that it was okay, and we sat down, used the computer, got our passports back, and left.
While we were there- some high school aged girl threw a fit because she did not want to give the man her passport. Again, I understand her feelings, but her rudeness was not neccesary. She spoke down to him and accused him of being a theif, when he was only doing his job. Again, this girl was American… not helping the stereotype.
We checked into a lovely hotel, had some dinner, and went to bed. We were excited to see a new city the next day!
Day 11, March 30th, 2010
Florence to Venice.
Planning to wake up by 9am, and check out by 10am- we overslept.
We woke up at 9:40, and still showered and everything- checked out by 10am!
Florence was very relaxed. We started the day off with some pastries, and went to the famous leather market. It was awesome to look around and try and get the prices lowered by haggling. I didn’t end up buying anything, but Maggie and Justine got some awesome spray paint art.
We met up with Maggie’s friend who is studying in Florence. We walked around a bit with some gelato (of course) and later got lunch. We then said farewell to Firenze and headed to Venice. (This trip has now come full circle for me).
This was when we met most likely the nicest man I have ever met. We checked into our hosel, and the man behind the desk was a real genuine, kind hearted man. He immediately demonstrated his gratitude for us being there, and made sure we were taken care of. He reccomended a great chinese restaurant which was right next door (it was late, so chinese was perfect). We ended up talking to ‘Uncle George’ until 330 that morning- not even realizing it had gotten so late. He told us a lot of his stories from his life growing up in Greece, as well as working at this hostel in Venice. He told us many stories of how he would make these new friends and they would end up taking advantage of him by taking his money and never repaying him or thanking him. It was kind of sad, but we could tell he was happy to have some people to talk to and to listen to him. He ended up inviting us to breakfast the following morning, which we accepted since it was the three of us and all.
Day 12, March 31, 2010
Italy to France!
We started off the day having a delicious breakfast made by ‘Uncle George’. He made us steak, eggs, and hot chocolate. We were so thankful that we had met such a nice person. We promised to write him and het sent us on our way to explore Venice with some fresh fruit.
Venice didn’t last long. Since we were supposed to be taking an evening night train to Paris, then from Paris to Pau- to meet Justine’s friend the next day, we decided to get our tickets ready first. Luckily we checked, because that specific night train was sold out. uh-oh!
It ended up working out. We worked another root, and ended up in Pau in time to meet Justine’s friend. The only draw back was that Justine and Maggie didn’t appropriately get to see Venice. We were only there for less than an hour, which we spent in an internet cafe trying to figure our plans out.
We took a train from Venice to Milan and then jumped on the night train to Perpignan, France…. which would ultimately lead us to Pau, France- our final destination.
The night train was pretty cool. Boys and girls were separated, so I was alone- but it was funny because I has a multi lingual conversation with one of my cabin mates. I knew he didn’t speak English. I expected him to speak French, because we were on our way to France. I also wanted to practice some of my french to prepare for Pau(I took French from 7th grade up to and including my first year of college… 6 years and 2 semesters). I finally got up the courage to ask where he was from (in French), to which he looked blankly. He didn’t speak French. I then realized that the train’s last stop was in Barcelona- so he spoke Spanish. (I took 2 years of Spanish in High School, and 1 semester in college) As I started trying to recall some Spanish, I started speaking random bits of Italian, because even though I haven’t taken Italian- I have been surrounded by the language for the past 12 days! Our “conversation” was some Spanish, English, Italian, French- and some how we understood. We spoke about politics and music, and I think a CD he had which the songs had something to do with politics, but I’m not too sure.
Day 13, April 1, 2010
Getting to Pau.
We had a long day ahead- Woke up around 6am on the overnight train with 15 mins to get ready. We got to Perpignan, then had to get to Narbonne. In Narbonne, we had some time, so we went into the small town and got some delicious french breads! We were starving, so we each ate an entire loaf of bread, as well as seveal pastries and pain au chocoalts.
We went from Narboone to Toulousse, and Toulousse to Pau.
It was actually pretty awesome. I was really nervous about using my french again. I knew I would have to use it since Maggie and Justine did not know any French. I was very surprised that it came back so easily. In Pau, we had trouble finding our hotel, so I stopped into an Elementry School to ask for directions. We finally found our cozy room and then met Justine’s friend for dinner and then went to a cafe.
Pau is beautiful.
Day 14, April 2, 2010
A day to relax?
After 14 days of travel, we finally have a day to sleep in and relax. Since there isn’t too much to do in Pau, we slept really late, and then went to the nearby supermarket and got cold cuts, bread, and junk food. We took it back to our room, and watched movies and just enjoyed eachother’s company without having to rush everywhere. After a while we headed out to see the Chateau de Pau, and the rest of the city. The mountains are beautiful.
Day 15, April 3, 2010
We woke up very early and took a taxi to the Pau airport at 7am.
We took a 9:40 plane to London.
We had a final vacation lunch in London at The Shakespeare Pub- we all got fish and chips, since we missed them so much! What are we going to do when we get back to America?
The next day was Easter, and all of the Americans (except Meg) were back. We decided to make an Easter dinner for everyone. It was so great to all be back in Cardiff and be able to relax. We had another week off until classes started up again.
**Just a note about how we traveled. We bought Eurail tickets via Eurail.com. With these tickets, you choose the amount of countries, and the amount of days. I chose 8 days of travel throughout Italy and France. We ended up saving a lot of money and time. With these tickets, we were able to just hop on the local trains without needing a reservation. For the high speed, we needed a reservation, but the reservation costs a lot cheaper with the Eurai pass. I definately reccomend it.**
This trip overall, was amazing. 15 days is the longest amount of time I have been out traveling. Each day was a learning experience. Part of the stress of catching trains and buses was part of the fun of it. The experience would not have been so rich if we didn’t have to go through so much planning to make it just right. Meeting the different people, also made the trip unique, because it demonstrates that there are so many different types of people in this world. We learned that when traveling, it is so important to use your best judgement. The best stress is usually overcome by reamining calm and thinking out the situation.