Friday, June 30, 1995

Europe Trip - Venice, Italy

Getting to Venice by train is very interesting as it leaves the Italian mainland behind and crosses the lagoon on a long causeway. I was struck by the first amazing view of the city as we left the front entrance of the station onto a broad terrace leading down to the Grand Canal with the domed church of San Simon Piccolo on the other side. We took a waterbus and checked into the Ostello Venezia which is a nice hostel right on the edge of the Canale della Giudecca.

View of Grand Canal from a vaporetto
Traveling around a city by the "vaporetto" is so different and very cool. Every type of boat can be spotted cruising by, garbage boats, delivery boats, construction boats and police boats. We went to the Piazza San Marco and climbed to the top of the bell tower, the Campanile di San Marco. It had a great view of the city surrounded by water on all sides. The piazza below was swarming with pigeons. If you jump into the air and stamp your feet when you land, a flock will take flight around you. Pretty cool.

Noah at top of Campanile
After that we went exploring further into the city, checking out the canals and visiting the "Bridge of Sighs". A little kid in front of us almost fell into one of the canals while riding a toy car. His father grabbed him right before he fell in. There was an interesting leaning tower near a square where we stopped for a hot salami pizza. We found Italians to be very friendly on this trip but the exception was in Venice. The waiter was one of the only friendly Venetians we met. Maybe they are tired of dealing with so many tourists here.

Bridge of Sighs
Today, we took a water ferry across the Lagoon from Venice to Lido and walked across the narrow slip of land to the beach on the Adriatic Sea. The water was very warm with no waves and we stayed till five before heading back.

Sunset over Venice Canal
We are having dinner at the hostel and later tonight we are taking a night train to Munich, then hopping a train to Salzburg in the early morning. We are leaving Venice earlier than we want to because there is no room in the hostel for the girls for another night.

Wednesday, June 28, 1995

Europe Trip - Florence, Italy

Greg and I arrived in Florence today about 3pm. We were able to see allot of the city, visiting the crowded Duomo and the famous bridge, the Ponte Vecchio. We also went to the Galleria dell'Accademia to see Michelangelo's statue of David. It was much bigger than I thought it would be. Another cool statue was the Rape of Sabine. Afterwards, we had a really nice dinner at a small little restaurant for only 14,000 lire.

Noah in front of David statue
While staying at the hostel in Rome, I was given a unused Florence bus ticket from a Mexican who had just arrived from there. I stamped the ticket in the machine when I jumped on the bus here and everything was fine until an inspector came on the bus at the next stop and started checking tickets. He didn't seem to like mine and asked for my passport. I don't understand Italian so I had no clue what the exact problem was but he wrote down my passport number and gave me a yellow citation. I don't know what it says so I am just going to ignore it. (Shrug)

Greg drinking from Ponte Vecchio Bridge
The hostel here is surrounded by vineyards and has the appearance of a large country mansion with nice courtyards to hang out with fellow travelers. Greg and I were given a smaller two person room with its own bathroom which was also very nice.

View from Florence Hostel bedroom
There are thousands of fireflies dancing around tonight. We are leaving for Venice tomorrow to meet up with Wendy and Carey who went to Milan instead of here.

p.s. We keep having the same problem when we buy bottles of water. We keep accidentally buying carbonated water which we don't like. It is hard to tell by the label and even when we try to ask we still get the wrong one sometimes. Oh Well.

Tuesday, June 27, 1995

Europe Trip - Rome, Italy

Well, we just did Rome in a day. We started out at the Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums near our hostel. The Sistine Chapel was smaller than I expected but the Vatican museums were very extensive and the best I have seen so far. Afterward we took the subway to see the Coliseum and the Ancient Roman Forum.

Noah looking up in Vatican
Outside the Coliseum we saw the strangest sight, a man grabbed a Gypsy women by the front of her shawl and started slapping her back and forth across the face while screaming. Her small children were yelling and grabbing at the man for several long seconds before she finally pulled his wallet out her clothes and handed it back. He was lucky his friend had spotted the women pickpocketing him. After getting our backpack swiped in Barcelona, I wasn't too concerned about the rough way he had gotten his wallet back.

Noah posing on ancient Forum column
On the walk from the Forum to Trevi's Fountain (after tossing a coin into the 2nd tier) we stopped for pizza and calzones. The lira here stretches much further with our $30 dollar a day budget and we are getting allot to eat. We then went and saw the Pantheon and Piazza Navona. Very Cool! Wendy and Carey kept complaining about getting felt up when ever we were in a crowded area. We ended up back at St. Peter's Basilica and waited in a line to check out the inside.

Greg, Carey and Noah in front of Trevi's Fountain
It was a very long day and it was nice to just hang out on the steps of the hostel and talk to the other travelers when we got back. Ostello della Gioventu Foro Italico is the largest, loudest and craziest hostel we have stayed at on this trip. Down in the game room, the ping-pong players are insanely good. They were fun to watch.

p.s. It was hotter than Hell in Rome! I tried to keep cool by sticking my hand in every fountain we passed.

Monday, June 26, 1995

Europe Trip - Genoa, Italy

Parade of large crosses in Genoa
We arrived in Genoa, Italy on Saturday. There was big parade for the patron saint of the city. It had big wooden crosses that were 15 feet high and really heavy. A man would carry one in a harness with his hands behind his back and supporting it with his head only. Fireboats were spraying water in high arcs in the harbor.

Fireboats spraying water in Genoa harbor
We met up with Wendy and Carey, the two girls from Colorado we met in Bordeaux and walked around the city. We tried the Italian Gelato and were blown away. Wow!! I also had Pesto for the first time for dinner. I guess it was created here.

Greg posing amoung Genoa columns
On Sunday we all visited the house of Christopher Columbus and took a train to Cinque Terra for the day. They are five little towns on the Italian Riviera. We hiked from the first town of Monterosso al Mare to the second of Vernazza on a trail that wound through vineyards and along the cliffs over the Mediterranean. The water was so clear. It was amazing.

View of first Cinque Terra town from hiking trail
We had a big pizza for dinner and I saw fireflies for the first time as we walked up the hill to our hostel. Pretty Cool!

Noah looking out of window from Genoa hilltop hostel
p.s. We could see the entire Genoan harbor from our hostel on the mountain side. Great view and the nicest place that we have stayed at so far.

Friday, June 23, 1995

Europe Trip - Nice, France

We left Barcelona on Wednesday for Nice and had a really fun 8 hour stopover in Montpellier, France. There was a big music festival with thousands of people crowding the streets with bands on practically every corner. We had a great time untill we boarded our night train after midnight.

Postcard of Antibes Beach we visited
Yesterday we went to the beach in Antibes, which is a short train ride from Nice on the French Riviera. Antibes had a nice sandy beach which was nice compared to the cobblestone beaches we found in Nice. It was very hot and sunny and I was able to work on my tan.

Greg at harbor in Cannes
Greg and I got a bit lost looking for the beach. We were navigating the narrow streets and found a long rock wall blocking our access to the sea. We spotted a pretty girl in a bikini walking by and we decided to follow her thinking she would be able to lead us to a beach. We were right.

Noah on rock wall in Cannes
Today we visited Cannes and Monte-Carlo. It was raining & cold so we didn't get to see that much. In Monte-Carlo, we took the poor man's tour by hopping onto the city bus and riding the circular route through the tiny principality. The alternating hot and cold weather we have been having has given me a mild sore throat. Hopefully it won't last long.

p.s. It is pretty weird sleeping with the paper sheets they give us at the Espace Magdan, our hostel in Nice.

Tuesday, June 20, 1995

Europe Trip - Barcelona, Spain

This is our second day in Barcelona. It was a long train ride with standing room only, but the views of the countryside as we crossed over the Pyrenees into Spain made up for it. We are staying at the Pension Fernando, right off of Las Ramblas, the tree-lined main street. I have wanted to come to this city since watching the 1992 Olympics.

Postcard of Las Ramblas I bought in Barcelona
It was beautiful today, so we went to the beach. It was my first time at a beach with topless women so I tried hard not to stare. Lots of boobs.

We had our backpack ripped off. We were sitting resting on some steps and Greg had the pack sitting between his legs when a guy came over from our left asking for a cigarette. He chatted with us for a minute, distracting us while his friend snuck up from the right and snagged the bag. We didn't notice it was missing for a few minutes after he left and then we ran around looking for him. Greg was really pissed. The backpack had the camera with allot of cool pictures in it, my sunglasses, and my walkman. The worse loss for me was all the pictures we took in Tours, Bordeaux and here in Spain.

Sunday, June 18, 1995

Europe Trip - Bordeaux, France

We went to the huge sand dune, La Dune de Playa, in Arcachon about an hour's train ride from the city of Bordeaux. It was amazing and 117 meters tall at its peak. We took some cool pictures from the top as we took turns making huge leaps down the sand faces.

Postcard of La Dune De Playa we visited
When we got back to Bordeaux, we went bar-hopping with two girls we met from Colorado and two French girls that are students here. They were fun. We ended up staying out until the sun started to rise in the morning. It started to rain on Sunday so we just slept most of the day to catch more sleep as we are still very jet-lagged.

We stayed at the Maison de Estudiants which is student housing during the school year but rents rooms to travelers during the summer when most of the students are gone. I tried speaking some French at a nearby store with my phrase book but totally failed. Heh!

p.s. It was 10 dollars for a tiny pitcher of beer.

Friday, June 16, 1995

Europe Trip - Tours, France

We took an early morning TGV from Paris full of screaming school kids. The TGV is the very fast bullet train here in France. It was a very smooth ride but I would get startled every time another train would shoot by on the second track at full speed while I was admiring the countryside.

Postcard I bought in Tours
We are staying in a nice little place called Mon Hotel about a block away from the Saint-Gatien Cathedrale. Greg and I were so tired from two nights of no sleep that we didn't care that our room only had one bed. We passed out on the bed and slept past noon. Tours is very nice and full of young people. I think that is because this is a college town. I wish I could speak French.

We had some great coffee at a cafe and ended up seeing "Dumb and Dumber" dubbed into French at a theater. It was still funny.

Wednesday, June 14, 1995

Europe Trip - Paris, France

Postcard I bought in Paris
I bought this postcard in a little shop in an alley outside of Notre-Dame. Right now it is 2 am in the morning and I am sitting in the waiting room of a very cold train station. My friend, Greg, and I are going to the city of Tours in the morning because Paris is very expensive. Earlier we had been hanging out in the warmer locker room, but the French Police came in, looked at our passports and then kicked us out of there.

Greg and I at LAX
We flew here from LAX with Air France and they had the best airline food I have ever had. I like the baskets of rolls that they pass around with the meals.

Greg and I in front of Eifel Tower in Paris
We walked from Notre-Dame to the skyscraper at Gare Montparnasse, then over to the Eiffel Tower, and then finally to the Arc of Triompe. They have some interesting portable pay toilets in the streets I have never seen before. They have an electric door and are self-cleaning after each use. Weird!

Poster in Paris train station
I knew France was known for their topless beaches but I was surprised to see the amount of nudity displayed on signs and posters around Paris. It is a rather interesting difference from America.