Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Italy (Firenze, Venezia, Roma)

Italy. So we arrived in Italy. We made all of our trains (somehow). I think we had 4 connecting ones to catch.  Mary Katherine (another of Sophie's friends) picked us up at the train station so we didn't have to try and find it in the dark. Mary Katherine also goes to the University of Alabama and knows Sophie because they are both in the Psychology program there. So that was nice of her to let us, 3, now stay with her. Mary Katherine's apartment is about a 10 minute walk from the train station. We settled in and told her all of our stories since we had seen her last. (Mary Katherine was the friend of Sophie's that we also got to meet up with in Barcelona) It was so nice to be back into a "home" and not another hostel. I know we have been apartment hoping with our (Sophie's) friends, but it's just so much nicer than being on our own in smelly hostels!

Our current backpackers status that I had given us was "Worst Backpackers" so we are going to try and improve that status.  We are heading to the train station for (hopefully) some good news.  We keep having this problem reserving trains and you can't reserve trains to other countries unless you are in that country which doesn't make sense because.. yes that is what we are trying to do.. get to that country! This could really up our status if someone could reserve some trains for us. 

The next morning the 4th of April we got up, crossed our fingers and toes, and headed to the train station. We had planned our whole trip out, but like I said, reservations for trains are kicking our butts!! This will be at the top of my backpacking list for any of you interested. 
We had no idea where we were going to be able to go after Italy. So at the train station we waited in the ticket line. (Please let someone speak English, please let someone speak English, please let our person speak English......)  Next.

Our man spoke England. Check. 
Booked our trains within Italy. Check. 
Book our trains to Switzerland. Check. 
(Holy crap we are on a role--the biggest smiles you have probably seen before; too good to be true?) 
He told us the train we needed to Austria couldn't be booked. Shoot.
Our next country we were planning on going was Hungary (Budapest). It was looking like the same train that would have taken us to Austria was the same one going to Hungary, so he didn't think we would be able to book that one either. He told us that he would still give it a shot though....
IT WORKED! Holy moly this was great. Booked our train to Budapest. Check.

We could get to Austria from Budapest without a reservation. Some trains require a reservation and others don't. It just depends. So with the railpass we can go on any train "for free" (because we bought the pass); unless it requires a reservation which you will pay extra for.. how much extra depends...

Last but not least, we booked a night train to Prague. Bam!
We won! I about fainted with our train luck.

Us and our young and naive backpacker status. But we FINALLY had a plan of where we were going to go for sure!!! (we knew where we were going and had it all planned out until we realized we needed all these reservations. it switched up our game a little bit!) '

Ok, ok, enough. I'll stop with that. So we left happy (although the long line behind us wasn't looking too fond of us)

Next stop. The tourist office.
One of the greatest stops anyone can make in a city/country/wherever/whenever.
Free maps, advice, help. We were going to collect our maps when out of the corner of my eye a sign catches my eye. FREE WHEEL CHAIRS.
Um, guys.... you thinking what i'm thinking? Will you push me around? Yep! So I get a free wheel chair for the day. Score. Remember I am just walking with crutches, and I am getting tired really quickly. Also, with the type of crutches I had I still had to put weight on my foot which wasn't ideal.

Not only did we get a wheel chair and free maps.. they told us where to go to get a boot for my foot. This is GREAT news. I may be mobile again! We have literally looked everywhere. This would be icing on the day if they really had boots at this place.

We set off to explore Firenze (Florence).... I can't quit laughing. Sophie is pushing me and we look like goobers. Cobblestone isn't ideal for wheelchairs I must admit. I was almost dumped a few times face first. We run into this beautiful church, just incredible. We are about to get in line to go inside when they tell us we can go to the back of the church and get in there for wheel chair access. We get in right away. No line. Sooo basically you can imagine how awesome our day is going........ has our luck turned?!?!
The inside can't compare to the grand outside.

Next stop. Pharmacy. We find it and they have a boot!!!! For 180 euros. Ouch. That's really expensive. I decided I better call my mom with a purchase like that. I don't need to go wasting my money now. I'm doing enough of that already. 
I had a wonderful older Italian man helping me. I was glad it was his shop. I told told I would be back after calling my mom (which means waiting for the 7 hour time change and to find a place with free wifi that my phone can connect to). He is probably thinking yeah right.. 

So we continued our journey around Florence. Next stop, David. 

The museum Academia to get into see him is a crazy long line.  Well we want to see him, so to the back of the line we go. We were waiting there about 7 minutes (at least an hour to go it is looking) when a lady came up and told me I was an "invalid" and could go to the front of the line. What?! With my friends?? Yes,  you are in a wheelchair and so we don't want to make you wait.. you can go to the front. Ok!! Thank you! 

David was giant. Huge sculpture. We were not supposed to take pictures, but I thought.. if my phone doesn't even have a flash then why not? I'm not going to hurt anything.. I don't think. 
David was definitely the main point of the museum even though the rest of the sculptures and paintings were great. Since I was in the wheel chair we were going to go up some stairs and I got to get put in the little lift to go up the whole 10 stairs. Ha. Sorry ma'am, I really probably could have walked. 

(Stole this from Jessica)

We left heading for food. Pizza! The first thing that is different for restaurants is that they have cover charges and tip added into the bill. So we had a 2 euro cover fee, which is basically just to sit there. (And if you didn't know... Europe doesn't really tip. I have yet to see people tip or tip myself since I have been here. You are not supposed to like the US.) But the pizza was great. 

Next was the bridge of Ponte vecchio.  It was so neat. What do you think??

Incase you have all forgotten. Jess is on the left and Sophie on the right. :)

A lot of jewelry shops in the bridge. We bought some gelato and had a nice sit, just looking around taking it all in. 

Everywhere we go there are tons of markets and a lot of things to buy. But in particular Italy has a lot of leather. We are big fans of stopping at all of those little store you see that all sell the same things. :) I love markets.  We needed to return my wheelchair so had to head back to the tourist office a little sooner than we wanted to. At that time I got to call my mom and she said that I should get the boot. Back to the pharmacy we go! The old man was kind as ever and even pulled my in for a kiss on the cheek after I swiped my credit card. Ha! How about that. 

My boot is feeling pretty dandy. I walked all the way back to Mary Kathrine's without help of the crutches or a wheelchair! All by myself!! That night we made dinner. Fresh bruschetta and then some cheese bread and marinara sauce. 3 euros each is a pretty cheap dindin. Oh! And of course some vino, can't forget the wine. Later that night we went to an Irish pub with Mary Kathrine and her roommates. They had an Iowa shirt on the ceiling! I was thrilled :) 

Boom baby!! And now the boot is introduced into our trip! 

Mary Kathrine (our wonderful host), Soph, Jess, and I

The next morning we took off for Venice. It rained all morning...all afternoon... and all night. Holy moly, we were soaked. We walked around venice all day long. There isn't a lot to do in that particular city--but wow was it amazing. So beautiful. And incredibly easy to get lost in. So man canals, small alleys, twists, turns and bridges. On our quest back to the train station we had to ask approximately 10 people where the train station was. Either we are terrible at follow their directions or their directions are pretty vague (I think the latter). Basically they all went a little like this. Go straight, on the second bridge take a right, and then cross the canal take a left and just follow that right up. Yeah, and every time we didn't end up at the train station. 
There isn't much more to say about Venice. I was shaking cold with wet feet. Even my water proof jacket was having enough of this rain. It was one of the worst weather days that we had, but I still have a good memory of Venice. Just can't get over how cool of a city it was! 

Do you know the show Cake Boss?? Can you hear Buddy saying "Cannolis!"  

This is how I felt at the end of the day!! No more anything!! I just want to sit 

We get back to Florence after a long day in Venice. Mary Kathrine has wine waiting for us. Just what we needed! 
Where are we going tomorrow???? ROMA! 

We left for Rome early on the 6th. Every time we go somewhere we generally get up really early and plan to go to bed early, but when you finally have wifi it's just too exciting and we end up going to bed way later then planned. So that means that we didn't have much sleep before we left for Rome. Our train ride didn't take too long only about an hour and a half. When we get to Rome we check in right away and headed to a market to get some baguettes for lunch. We ate them by this fountain! (As you may have noticed we often times don't know the names of everything we come across---my apologies!! Otherwise you bet I would tell you)
We ate then just enjoyed our day exploring Rome. 


Pantheon huge and amazing (like everything else is) me next to the pillar. 

On Sunday we got up and headed to the Vatican. We attended church at St. Peters Cathedral and although none of us are catholic we really enjoyed it. It was really powerful for me. Then after mass we walked outside to a sea of people. What is going on?? It was exactly like the movies when you see masses of people all crowded in the circular area of the Vatican. 

That is the little window that the Pope peeked his head out of! 

The Pope was about to give a speech in 10 minutes!!!!! What are the chances! He opened a little window and the crowd went wild!! Yelling, clapping, waving flags... I don't know what he said.. but people listened intently and even laughed at the end.  I couldn't believe how wonderful my Sunday morning had been! WE then took the metro to the colosseum.  Huge, huge, absolutely huge. How did man do this? The colosseum looked even more wonderful with the pretty blue sky. We spent a lot of time there. Did I mention we got to skip the huge line because of my foot once more?? We just stood and line and they spotted me and let me go to the front of the line. Well heck, maybe my foot thing happened for a reason?? Ha! 

Look at that blue sky! I told you! It looks like a postcard huh??? 

We had pizza, pasta, gelato, and most importantly wine. We went to Florence, Venice, and Rome. Successful trip to Italy! We went back to Florence for one last night. This morning, 8th of April, we did our fair share of last minute market shopping and then Mary Katherine took us to a look out over Florence. On the way up the hill it was sprinkling, but Sophie felt something hit her. Sophie got pooped on...on her face! her hair! and jacket. Hahaha. That beat my own poop on jeans time. Before we helped her out we made her wait to take a picture :) I wonder if we will have a number 3?? 

the look out... Amazing view. It just took me a heck of a time to get up there with all the stairs. Especially when it rains it is really slick for me. We hurried and grabbed a baguette for lunch (79 cents... can't go wrong) and hit the train. After a few too many switches of trains we finally arrived in Switzerland. It's night right ow and I think I am going to love it here. Xxx 

There are way too many awesome pictures to share with you on just this blog post... you are going to have to check them out on my facebook! :)))

Can't wait to share Switzerland! :)