Monday, November 30, 2009

wednesday, day 7: ireland/france

i woke up at 5:30 am, which seems to be an unfortuante trend in my traveling; it's alright, i usually sleep in pretty late at school, so it somehow balances. i made it to the massive airport (dulbin is the homebase for ryanair, and therefore the most picky security and hardest to navigate).
which reminds me, i'm learning every ryanair airport is not created equally. they all have incredibly distinct personalities, shown through the size, interior design, types of snacks to buy and personnel. paris is shockingly small but insane (oh paris, you would); milan is small, wide and full of disgruntled security guards; rome is neutral; trapani is the new kid on the block, so fancy but trying to start with a good rep; glasgow is swanky and anal about security; dublin is industriel and chilly; nantes is nantes. it's a bit comedic and hectic, you can always expect the same thing but never have the same thing.
i was so thankful, because my flight was almost canceled due to extreme wind. good ole ryaniar refuses to reimburse canceled flights for any reason, so that would have sucked; about ten planes right before ours were delayed and then canceled, thanks God for letting mine happen!
arrived into nantes, and spent an hour checking out le chaetau des dukes de loir, and an epic cathedral. then le mans, home sweet home! i had a spat with laundry, again, and had somewhat of a standoff with the receptionist (not fun). yay for friends to return to, and a supply of pasta!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

tuesday, day 6: ireland

oddly, the first thing i did this morning after leaving jaukb's today was visiting the guiness beer storehouse (it was the thing closest to his home). arthur guiness made beer several centruies ago as an alternative to spirits and unsafe drinking water, and its home base in dublin is now open for visitors. there's a huge "pint" that reaches through the top of all five stories that if filled could make 14.3 million pints- yikes!
i was really excited for my next venture: dublinia! it's the epitomy of something tourist, a three level musuem with the bottom being about vikings, the second being about medieval dublin and the third about how to be a good archeaologist. it was SO COOL and ridiculous; i got to write my name in nordish viking. as i was learning vikings used moss to wipe themselves instead of tp, in front of a manequin viking man going to the restroom, with recorded sounds of him grunting what was surely a number two, my camera died permanently. at the end, i climbed to the top of this tower that overlooks the city.
next to it was Christ church, the most famous dublin church where 3 relics of Jesus are kept (thorn from his crown, some piece from some garment, and something else i forgot). i was curious to check them and the place out, but they wanted 6 euros to walk around; i refuse to pay to enter a church. a crypt or special fancy tourist specific thing, maybe, i can see asking donations or charging a small fee, but that just ain't right.
i got my first smoothie in three months!!! and i had an over-enthusiastic conversation with the girl working the counter about my virgin pina colada type goodness, mmm. i miss blenders and all the good things that come from them.
then i wandered around the city, observing tons of groups of irish on strike in front of about a dozen buildings in the area i walked. i went up to a cheerful group of three men and asked them why they were striking and what was up; having been in france for several months and encoutered wayyyy too many strikes, i wondered if this was common and what it was about.
i learned that all the government employees (in literally every sector) had 6.5 or 7.5 % of their pay cut in one year from the economy, and the government wanted to cut their wages again. they want the government to pull from other sources they are shielding, so everyone except the cops and military decided to not work for one day. ireland unions are set up the way the ones in the states are, so there are never really strikes these days; however, this was an exception. i thought it was cool, wished them the best after a lovely chat and got directions to the first museum i wanted to see. i realized, at arriving to a curb full of picketers, that the things closed included every other thing i wanted to do for the day, which sucked.
spent the rest of the day alone in the rain, which was not as bad as it sounds. i discovered a fantastic and cheap store, where i bought some fun things. i also grabbed a great white hot chocolate with marshmellows and whip cream on top- everything yummy you could imagine, even better tasting than it sounds. went back to jakub's, and after a total of over an hour (between the morning and night) of trying to get his shower to heat up for me it worked! then he bought me my first pint of guiness, which was rubbish after a couple sips, and i traded it for his jameson whisky (also from dublin).

Thursday, November 26, 2009

monday, day 5: scotland/ireland

i slept in and it was magnificent! i'm a big fan of sleep, we get along quite well. by the way, i learned that "queue" is what you say for standing in a line, "pants" are underwear and "trousers" are pants, "i can't be bothered" means i don't feel like it, and how to properly use "wee" :) also, i'm finding it rather hard to form proper english sentences and phrases, since i've been attempting to fill my head with french; it's been amusing and annoying.

when d came back from class, we made lunch and then did a thanksgiving craft dessert! she bought all the pieces to make oreo turkeys, with makeshift candy because except the oreo's nothing was available to buy form the original recipe. i made 3, who took the shape of a pinocchio, a mosquito and a frenchman themed candy turkies. they are cute; one tasted good, the other two d are guarding d's kitchen until she eats them on thanksgiving. we said bye, and i already missed hanging out with her.

i went to take the bus to glasgow, and it turns out d accidentally booked my 13 pound ticket for the wrong day so i had to buy another one, with borrowed money from a sweet girl who is an actress. once i got to glasgow, i took another bus to the airport where i arrived way early (no more of this transportation nonsense, i say). i bought kilt stocking-keeper-upper's, a couple postcards, a mini nessie for my desk, a book of scottish poems and a scottish cookbook when all was said and done. i almost succombed to buying a chai from starbucks, because i have ben craving chai for a long time, but resisted the urge to not be that american who goes to starbucks in another country.

i flew into dublin, took and bus and met my host jakub. he is in his late twenties, polish and does computer stuff for we went to his place, and i crashed on his sleeper sofa in his living room of the flat he shares with another polish couple.

sunday, day 4: scotland

the morning started with a trip to a 15th century battlefield where the english and scots fought (english won), dropped katie off to go back to france, and then breakfast at an irish restuarant chain called o'brien's. i had a tortilla wrap and apple pie for breakfast, and it was magnificent! we bought kumar some yummy treats as a thanks for all his his hospitality, meals (i tried cornish chicken too) and petrol money and headed to dundee again.

during a two hour layover between trains in perth, i got my first scottish pub experience in. it was full of older men, watching football (soccer), with scottish colors decking out the hunter-ish decor. i got the usual scottish whiskey and coke, and i couldn't understand the girl's english so that's all i know.

once we got back to her room, we pulled an american thing and ordered pizza- delivery! and not just pizza, but pizaa hut pizza with cheesy garlic bread and spicey chicken fingers. we chowed down on our scottish desserts of irish whiskey loaf bread with raisins; jaffa cakes, which were soft shortbread cookies with a thin layer of chocolate and orange jam on top; yogurt covered granola and cranberries; and lastly hot cross buns (like the kid's song!) with apples and cinammon.

d is a christian, and in my small group back home, and it was so nice to just talk with her, pray and listen to a sermon of our pastor back home

saturday: day 3, scotland

today was our inverness day. inverness is the "big" city in the famous scottish highlands, where most things are untouched by man, everything is breaktaking, and by loch ness where the monster lives! we woke up at 530 to catch the first train, and because of d's clock being wrong we were 2 minutes late to make it; we ended up on the next one, two hours later.

we arrived and met kumar, our couchsurfing host, who picked us up from the station and drove us to his little place and made us lunch. expecting to take a bus tour to see nessie, we were surprised that he cleared his day to spend it with us and drive us around. we hopped in his car and jammed to rod stewart, oddly, on the way there. we made it to the loch, got out and skipped rocks. searching high and low, for some reason nessie was nowhere to be found (we think she went to warmer waters for vacation). turns out, loch (lake) ness is more than 230 meters deep- over 700 feet deep! and the water is really red/brown, pretty nasty looking up close.

the scenery was surreal. every shade of green, orange, red and yellow blanketing every patch of dirt around. we convinced kumar (side note: he is indian, has lived in scotland three years and is a bridge engineer) to put on some lively scottish music, and he drove us to ruins from a 14th century castle on the loch. we drove some more, saw the town, and then returned to his place barely able to keep our eyes open. we watched waterhorse: legends from the deep, the disney version of nessie's story, while he prepared what became my first and delicious curry experience. his kiwi friend who recently moved to the uk came over too, and we swapped stories until bedtime.

friday: day 2, scotland

deanna is a great floor sleeper, which is great because i totally stole her bed for two different nights. after she was done with a bit of class, the three texans set out to climb The Law, which is an old inactive volcano that actually formed the town she lives in (!) being my first lava mountain climbing experience, i was ready for an extreme adventure up a jagged black slope; and was amused and the adventurer in a me a bit disappointed to see a quaint hill covered in a bed of thick grass (everything is green up here, all the time, like astro turf green!). nonetheless, we climbed up the stairs (haha) and made it to the top, enjoying the view of the river tay, dundee mountains, surrounding several cities and another inactive and smaller volcano/grassy hill.

the weather was FIERCE, but i anticipated it: 30's and 40's the entire trip, rain at lesat once a day and sometimes all day, extreme biting winds and always darkness. d went back to class, so katie and i curled up to watch some of the office, and eat/drink chocolate. for dinner, we walked across the bridge between dundee and a nearby city to a classic chippery, for good ole northern fish and chips. i got a type of fish i alrady forgot the name of, deep fried, with vinegar and salt drenched fresh fries, and an irn bru soda (it's a uk thing, and doesn't really taste like anything).

d wanted to show us the "uni," basically the unversity but specifcally the several story and multiple roomed area full of clubs and bars on campus. that thing was nice! they go all out, with themed nights, concerts, guest dj's, dance parties, drink specials, game nights- just like at a huge bar, but inside a campus building. it's the only place uk students go out to; and they go out alllll the time and have the worst rep for binge drinking in all of europe.

after stopping by that, we went to a cailee, but spelled differently with a "d" and "g" somewhere in gaelic. these are where people get all decked out in kilts and do traditional folk dancing! we somehow got in free, and i learned how to do scottish and canadien country dance with one, two, three and five other people at different times. it was a HOOT- live band, and grownups just skipping around and laughing to lively music. i loved it!

thursday: day 1, UK

today, I was in le mans, paris, Glasgow and Dundee, the latter two in Scotland.
i started out at home with two classes, history and nonprofit management, then went to the doctor about my knee. turns out cliff jumping 50 feet above the water, especially at low tide in winter and hitting the water incorrectly, in trapani wasn’t the best thing for the left one. this was my second doctor’s appointment: it seems that the campus doctors in france are no different than the ones in the states. i went to the hospital, my first french hospital experience, and was surprised how little differences there were. it’s socialist health care system, versus our private one, and it took the same amount of time to see the doctor (1.5 hours of waiting) and it was the same quality of visit. they did xrays, and think i just strained a ligament, which means just keep waiting it out like i’ve been doing for the past 4 weeks.
i took the tram to the train station, train to paris, caught the two metros i needed, and arrived at the shuttle station to get to the ryanair airport in plenty of time to catch my plane to scotland. however, ryanair is on crack, and the last shuttle for the night left 9 minutes before i got there. i had no other choice but to take a cab, which took about an hour and a half to get there and cost a crippling 130 euros, or over $200. this was double the cost of my 3 plane costs combined, and really stung emotionally and financially. i didn’t have enough money for it, but found an ATM and was able to withdraw exactly what I needed, which was my limit for the entire week. the driver gave me a 10 euro discount, and is a follower of Jesus too, so he was encouraging and really nice (buuut not nice enough to make it cheaper than that).
then i got into scotland, which is an hour ahead of french time, and met up with deanna, katie and angus. angus is a fun name to type and say, but more importantly is a Christian scot who volunteered with two days notice to drive 4.5 hours into the wee hours of the morning from dundee to pick me up in glasgow and then back, without knowing me and barely knowing deanna. they provided me with hugs, my first z-up in months and pringles. we drove back in the dark, which means nothing there; during winter, a “sunny” day is from 10am-4pm. we stayed up until 330 catching up.

one day of break between travels

that's exactly what this was for me wednesday- scrambling to relax

the ultimate tuesday

man, today was crazy and great! i left my hosts in rouen, took a train to paris (layover was spent eating that great chinese food again!), arrived in le mans, did a slough of errands, got back home and went to class. this week, my looney and offensive professor decided he wanted us to share every stereotype we knew about each country represented among us foreigners. i transformed into morbidly obese, unaware of the world, and dominator of culture, as the lone american in the class; some of my other poor classmates were reduced to corrupt, abusive alcoholics. it was quite the class.
then, deb and i met up with frenchman raphael, from couchsurfing, and made his family dinner. we cooked sloppy joe’s with pickles (on a baguette though), lemonade and their first ever milkshakes (the french have every dessert covered except milkshakes). his sophomore in high school sister showed us her gerbils and asked if we liked miley cirus, his mom showed us how to work the kitchen, and his dad cracked jokes; just like back home  we didn’t plan on cooking for 6, so when we ran out of food they also added bread, cheese, raw meat and wine- they weren’t trying to be french, they’re just that french. then raphael and i swapped country music, and he put my collection to shame- i took 500 songs from him!
deb and i laughed hysterically all the way home, for absolutely no reason, and it felt so nice to be friends. i came back, and was marveling at the odd day i had and the trip i just came back from when emily knocked on my door. it was midnight exactly, and she had fresh chocolate cake for me! great day.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

monday: rouen

i left caen and arrived in rouen by train about noon. my couchsurfers here were a couple about thirty; claire works in paris (4 hour commute, every day!) and juri was working in the car industry. i learned that every french person is guranteed 1 year full salary after being laid off, and then a second year of half salary, by the government, no exceptions. since juri has a lot of time on his hands, he showed me around the old city a couple hours.
vieux rouen is lovely and large, with great shopping and eating at prices a little lower than other places in normandy and le mans also. i saw the place where jeanne (joan for english speakers) d'arc was burnt on the stake, pretty much the same age as me. in 19 years, she went from small town farm girl to military commander kicking the english out of french land to being captured and killed by them as a heretic (the catholic church later said "my bad," pardonned her, and she became a saint). in the last couple decades, a super modern church was built and dedicated to her; weird looking, kinda ugly kinda cool. rouen is named "the city of 100 spires," and monet actually has a series of paintings of some of its cathedrals. i visited notre dame, which is the tallest in either france or europe, and then two others just as lovely.
i saw a place used in medieval times during the plague: people sick with it were housed in this specific hospital for the dying, in the middle of its courtyards people could watch corpses being burned to prevent "la peste" from spreading. if that wasn't morbid enough, skulls and bones are carved into the wooden sides of the building, which is now used as a fine arts academy.
i hit up the fine arts museum and a ceramics museum (this type of art is apaprently world renown in the city). the wrought iron museum, housed inside an ancient tower, sounded lame to me but was really cool! i saw the tower where jeanne was kept hostage during her couple months-long sham trial.
then i spent the evening with the couple and their cat sushi, eating dinner (again, free, yummy, complete guest) and watching "les bronzes font du ski." it's a cult classic comedy from the 70's, with the same beegee's song playing in the background the entire time; it was entertaining and funny, and i understood without any subtitles or language dubbing!

sunday: history roadtrip around beaches

because of an amazingly timed series of events, i was able to meet up with some friends in le mans who just so happened to be in caen when i was! 3 girls form the czech republic, a french guy and his french girlfriend piled into a van and wandered around northern normandy for the day. they picked me up, and we first visited pegasus bridge, the first place the allies landed in german-occupied france in WWII.
next we scurried through and around bunker hill, a series of command posts and missile bases amazingly hid underground what is now peaceful farm land. a series of trenches connected about 20 different concrete-block posts around the area; arnaud, french boy, managed to find an escape route in one bunk and popped up like a groundhog in the middle of a field nearby. i learned that hunting fowl on public land is totally kosher- we ran into several hunters and their dogs exploring the hills, and the girls were afriad we would get shot on accident.
then we wound our way up a bit and hit the coastline. we visited several of the 5 ally beaches and their monuments, and tried to imagine this picturesque and serene stretch of ocean the way it looked in june 1944. the algae and sand were different than i had seen before, which was cool. we wandered a small town, checking out the local fish market on the bay and seagulls so large they could eat me. i tried mussels for the first time, smothered in rocquefort cheese, piled about 9 inches high and 9 inches wide (just ok, the cheese made it yummy).
then we jumped back in the car and drove to the american troop's cemetery, right before it closed. ironically, i was the one most neutral about visiting it; but when it was time to leave, i was the last one ready to go. it's pretty straightforward and not a lot to see, but still so much to take in at the same time. as we were leaving, i realized for the first time just how much of my family has been in the military.
i napped on the drive back to caen, and when we got to my host's home arnaud and laura refused to accept gas money from the internationals, which was incredibly generous and a sweet surprise. i spent another night eating italian food with the two hosts, and except for a two hour theological discussion we spoke entirely in french. i ended up speaking almost entirely french for 3 days straight!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

saturday: mont st michel

Today began my first of four days exploring Normandy. I woke up at 5am with my Dutch friend Alineke, and we took the first tram at 5:45 to the train station which was amusingngly stuffed with African girls from partying the night before. after the tram, train, and bus we arrived at the breathtakingly creepy abbaye of mont saint michel (michael), basically a massive mountain with a huge 12th century church dominating the otherwise desolate coastline.
after 3 visions were had by people of the archangel michael defeating satan here, someone built an abbaye, and at one point napoleon made it a prison (it's a functioning place with monks today again). the tides on this island are the largest in the world, reaching 45 feet high (we went low tide) at times. i was excited because we got a free tour, my first guided tour of anyplace i'd visited in europe, and it wasn't terribly exciting so we left the group.
the wind was INSANE, the post powerful and domineering wind i can ever remember being in! it rained a bit, typical brittany/bretagne, but nothing we couldn't handle. we walked around the island a bit, where they say there is dangerous quicksand, and i was glad i was wearing my red texas cowgirl boots :)
i spent a couple hours in a tabac, writing postcards, watching horse races with old men and drinking a nasty blue cheap champagne type drink, and then headed to caen. i met up with my two couchsurfers, marion and jeriam, both about my age. they were nice enough to meet me and pick me up from the train station by car (and later took me back too).
i spent the evening eating italian food they made and hanging out with their friends.

Friday, November 13, 2009


good news, my alarm clock-my phone- died and didn't go off. thankfully i didn't miss anything incredibly important, but i woke up after 1pm and missed a free fancy lunch with two american businessmen and apparently missed meeting a ridiculous man obsessed with texas, which was a bummer. i spent several hours doing really three simple things: getting a new school ID (which meant going to 8 places), getting my bank account together (5 places, several countries, the university too) and printing insurance info (my 11th time trying to make it happen, over 3 weeks). i feel like i have so little to show for myself sometimes, but then things like those happen and i know where all my time goes.
i met another couchsurfer who lives in le mans today, along with her little boy and roomie. julie is unlike anyone i've met- she's been in the circus for 6 years (she performed a bit for me, and i saw her stilts!) and works as a nurse in the psychiatric ward. i visited her home and had some tea, and inevitably busted out some country line dances, which apparently are really hip here right now. i half considered just staying here and opening up a real southern bar, there are none here, where the 3 (i know!) country dance groups can come to dance, and people can get jack daniels and coke for less than 8 euros for a teeny shot glass. i'd be a real commodity, the texan running an american country bar, teaching dance classes a couple times a week- the more i type, the better it sounds ;)
normandy tomorrow!!!!!!!!!!!!


i can't seem to function in the laundry room here. it's like i've never even been within 20 feet of a wash room before! i ended up dying white things again, my third load of batched wash; this after losing the coin to start the machine, trying to buy another one, the woman sending the grounds keeper to help me find it in the gutters, and then finding it outside the room. however, this was my first time to successfully dry a load of laundry; there's always a little bugger that never fully dries.
i went to class, and the prof didn't show so went to the train station and bought tickets for this weekend! going to normandy, in several cities, 4 days, kinda by myself- more updates after the fact!
drama with more administrative and bank and insurance things. blah. class for non profit management, which is shockingly more mundane each week! i'm grateful i'm not lsot and confused all the time, but somehow this very dynamic and chaotic subject has been reduced to something from ferris bueller's day off.
i spent the evening with the internationals in the kitchens on campus again, swapping drinks, stories and languages. it was grand. when i tried to come back to my room for the night, i spent almost an hour and a half trying to get into a door that in every way seemed locked but turned out to be open the entire time (the french security guards, though they just sit and sleep, are really quite nice).


today was labor day in the states, but armistice day in france, celebrating the end of the (i think second world) war. everyone was out of school and work, making everything seem like a ghost town and distracted me during a petite promenade in the 30 something degree weather.
i went to "la fete des foraines" today; i was invited, looked it up online, and still had no idea what it was. turns out, it's a 40-50 day carnival in town. i was amused to see they aren't really different in france (and europe, according to my other foreign friends): tons of unhealthy fair food, same type of rides, games you have absolutely no chance of winning, and all costing a pretty penny. however, their fair food was more with crepes, waffles, porc kebabs and "pommes d'amour" (apples of love, ei candied apples); the paintings on the rides had a lot of topless/almost naked women; and one game that you use the claw to try and pick something up was to pick up nasty looking thongs as a prize.
the rest of the day wasn't terribly eventful, basically just a day of kicking back. i found the hunchback of notre dame, the theatrically dramatic version from 1939, on youtube and watched all 13 parts and loved it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

sunday & monday & tuesday

i went to an apple and chesnut festival sunday! it was lovely- in the huge preserved nature space at the east corner of town, all the town got together to celebrate roasting of nuts and on-the-spot making of fresh apple juice (with help of a john deere tractor!) the internationals and i enjoyed 6 free juice tastings, and i bought an apple tart i saw deep fried and doused in sugar before my eyes. there were animals, a cheesy magician who used my friends in his show and a lot of mud. my hour or two of checking it out turned into a day long event, and i was glad :)

monday the highlight was my first french bible study. about 9 other students met up at the empty baptist church and went through john chapter 3. it was hard to keep my attention and concentration going, with it all in french, but i'm glad i went. then we shared some snacks, all almost the same you would have in the states but still somehow very different.

tuesday i spent my night language class discussing the death penalty, which was interesting to compare notes with people from other countries. the EU banned it altogether, making the US the only first world country to still kill the convicted; however, it's still widely used in many other countries. lots of grea thinking tonight. also, i watched some french tv while writing letters, that was a hoot! i found the hunchback of notre dame from 1939 on youtube, and watched all 13 parts tonight- check it out, it's great!

i received two packages!!!!!!!!!!!!! one from my sister and her bf jonathan, and the other from my denton friend ashley. both had sweet cards, halloween and thanksgiving goodies, american snacks not available here (multiple peanut butter things), vacation souvenirs and love :) what a exciting time- it felt like Christmas!!!

week getting back, oct 31-nov 6

the next week i spent recovering from the adventure. i relaxed and spent time with friends, the entire time.
i'm really bad at consistent record keeping of any kind- blog, journal, photos, you name it i eventually get bored with it. so basically, this was a good week but not very eventful, and that's all i've got :)

sicily- italy, part 2

fifth day: we arrived in trapani and met our host marco and his friend marcello. our favorite people we have met traveling, by far: inspiring hospitality, great guys, fun times, shoved us full of free food. they picked us up from the airport, showed us the salt mines, took us to drink espresso, eat gelato, then lay in sun all in our first 2 hours. we then ate some pastries, and hit up erice, a famous old town on a mountains in the city. i hit a huge bell on top of a church tower, ate and drank some more, explored a castle, and went back to trapani. katie and i tried capoeira round, a brazilian style of martial arts-dancing, and were SORE but enjoyed it. then we went and ate pizzas. all in the first day!

sixth day: after much needed sleeping in, we had a feast of a breakfast prepared by the guys. then we cruised to some reggae with the windows down to san vito, which has the best view in the entire area of the beach. i went cliff jumping, 54 from the sea, and it was so worth it. we rested back at the house, and then enjoyed yet another massive feast with 14 sicilians.

seventh day we left mid morning, and were sad to say goodbye to such beautiful people, weather, language, geography and amounts of free and delicious food. in 6 days, i ate 16 types of gelato and as much or more different types of pastries, all native to the area. it was also halloween, but we spent from 7am-930pm in travel mode and were exhausted, so not my best halloween but still alright.

italy: success! thank you God for this amazing opportunity and allowing it to go so perfectly!

when in rome!

oh man, this was amazing! the food was outstanding, the people friendly and easy on the eyes, the history more than ancient, the hospitality unmatched, the transportation not the best and the memories incredible. amazing 7 days: 1 traveling to and from italy, 4 in rome and 2 in trapani, northwest sicily. katie and i had a shockingly fantastic time together too. we stayed with 3 couchsurfers (look it up online if you don't know it- very cool): all native italians, attractive, twentysomething year old men who let us crash their homes for free and showed us an insider view of the cities.

we flew from paris to milan, where we spent a 6 hour layover attempting to sleep in the airport for our red eye, and then arrived in rome! our first day, we visited appia antica, the oldest road still alive and kicking into the city. paul mentions it in the new testament, and it was around before him if that says anything. we visited tons of old and magestic things, my faovrite being saint callisto's catacombs, where Christian martyrs were burried in several levels of labrynths for over a thousand years. then we met benny, who is 29 and was for two nights. he was hospitable, sooo into himself, and defines what it means to be flamboyantly gay. benny cooked us a lovely traditional italian dinner and served us espresso, red wine and lemoncello to drink. he is a professional latin dancer, and took us out to an amazing place where we danced to latin and hiphop beats until we crashed at 4am.

second day, we hit up the vatican and did some shopping. going into st peter's basillica, i was searched by security because they saw a sharp metal object in my bag... a cross i had just bought that day (what irony!) we visited the vatican museums, which included hundreds of priceless pieces of art, most noteably the sistine chapel. after meeting a new friend and wandering around the smallest nation in the world, we met our second host giuseppe. he is a 26 year old financial planner who fits the epitemy of normal, with a little quirk to him. he also made us dinner!

third day, we walked from his place to the colisseum! it was amazing to see the place where 70,000 people could come for free and see up to 20,000 humans and animals slaugter each other. we went around palatine hill, seeing the arcs of tito and constantine, the forum/senate, old town hall, churches, gardens, memorials, you name it. we went to the gargantuan trevi fountain, the pantheon and the spanish square/steps before grabbing dinner and relishing dessert at the oldest gelato factory in the world.

fourth day: diocletian baths, church dedicated to mary, the saints and martyrs, church of the sacred heart; american lunch at a roadhouse grill, dinner cooked by benny and dessert at the gelato place again.