Posted by: bchurbuck | August 1, 2011

B in the Real World

First off, sorry eager readers for the over-year-long delay, I know my thoughts are almost as important to you as your first cup of coffee in the morning.

Now that I’m not writing in Italy, which was the purpose of this (to keep family updated), I thought I would give the blog-thing another run to see how it can translate into my life; a life not filled with romantic European adventures, but that of a recent college graduate.

The summer is quickly coming to a “what should I do now with my life?” end. I have been living on Cape Cod for the past month spending my days either thinking about what I’m going to eat, when I’m going to exercise, and what I’m going to do with my day to make it seem like I did something. Regardless of what my day succumbs to, it has been a relaxing summer with no complaints other than not really knowing what’s in my future. But then again, I did learn how to waitress as a last resort!

I have been told by older friends and family that post-graduation is a weird time, there is that lurking feeling of what happens next? Once I was handed my degree, I of course thought it’s my time to relax and have fun because; heck, I deserve it after four years of the “work hard play hard” mentality. People always say that graduation is not the end, it’s the beginning; after all they are called commencement exercises at some schools; but on the University of Virginia’s academic calendar they are called FINAL EXERCISES (a truly daunting feeling overcame my body when my mom made me look this statement up multiple times to indiscreetly make sure I was graduating). This is kind of what I’m feeling about graduating right about now, that I have to start from scratch. I decided to major in what I really love learning about which is art history; I tried the economics route, but after a miserable time with stats, I hung up my hat. Now that I have an art history major I could go into museum work, but let’s be real, that’s not me.

So my dad has been asking me for a while now what I can see myself doing so he can help point me in the right direction. Here’s my list of possibilities/ideas:

  1. I don’t want to be stuck at a desk all day, I am far too energetic to be caged like an animal, and I don’t want my computer to be my best friend, I want to interact with as many humans as possible.
  2. I want to have some creative input towards what I do.
  3. I am really into sports, and how the sports world/market works.
  4. I love to travel.
  5.  I am very into nutrition and the whole green movement (I think it’s where our economy lies).

Well there you have it, pretty broad; I’ve been attempting to pinpoint something more specific, but then I have to come back down to earth and realize I essentially have to start from scratch. I am a 23-year-old minnow at the bottom of the food chain in a shark-filled corporate world, I realize I will have to do bitch an internship of some sort. I am not trying to sound pessimistic, but yes if I were reading this out loud you would be able to sense my monotone despair.

Yet, there is hope; I am not a glass half-empty type of gal and don’t want to sit and wait for something to fall in my lap. I am making a bold move and moving out of my parents house; under the shelter of their wings (well, sort of; there is food and shelter! Wink wink Dad) to “Everybody’s favorite city” San Francisco! I move out August 10th and will be living with my two closest friends, where I will be starting my new life on the west coast.

I am very excited to try something new; I will have my mom’s family for support in the city and Napa Valley, so I won’t be stranded. It will be a complete change in the social aspect because all of my friends are along the east coast; I am leaving behind some really great friendships, and am trying to convince some to make the move as well.

My parents both moved out to San Francisco post college; and strangely enough met while working together at the Balboa Café (employees weren’t allowed to date, but my dad quit, started dating my mom, got rehired… and there you have it, the initial start of my life.) San Francisco seems like a great city for young people to get a start, because everything is relatively new and up-in-coming.

I have lived the same scenario for the past seven years; three months on the Cape being packed into boxes shipped off to a school, this time the boxes will be shipped to the city where I will commence a new chapter of my life.

Hopefully this blog will enlighten you to my food obsessions, the hills of San Fran and how they fit into my workout plan, and hipsters.

Posted by: bchurbuck | April 25, 2010

Cinque Terre

To conclude my weekend of day trips, I saved the best for last- Cinque Terre. Possibly the prettiest place I have ever seen. I woke up at 6:30, got onto the train at 7:20, and arrived at the Italian Riviera at around 10:00. I had no plans and no expectations, I heard about a 5 hour walk that went through all five towns, and I was sold.

I got off the train at Monterosso al Mare, and decided to walk from there because going from this town to the other five is the harder walk, as opposed to finishing at Monterosso al Mare.

All I had was a tiny shoulder bag with a trail guide, 20 euro, a camera, and my train ticket home. I didn’t have a back pack because in a desperate attempt to make my bag lighter for swiss air in Boston, I took it out- but I didn’t need it. Some people were decked out with tents, ski poles, the whole nine yards. There are 12 hour long hikes that go way up into the mountains and I’m sure you would need to be pretty prepared for such an excursion. But all I wanted to do was walk fast and take pictures.

The walking fast part happened in parts, other times I was stuck behind old farts with ski poles huffing and puffing, but I would simply say “Passato,” they would step aside, and I would pass and say “Grazie.” Each of the towns were about an hour or so away from each other. Sections of the trail were very dangerous, even strenuous, and since it had rained the day before people were taking their time. I was gasping for breath at times.

I would go into detail about every town, but looking back on my trip, they all blend together, in summary:

  • They all have very colorful houses
  • people are either eating or sunbathing
  • they are all situated on a hill
  • they all have ports where ferries transport people from town to town
  • they all have a church
  • they all have touristy shops
  • and all look like a postcard

My favorite town  by far was Vernazza, I stopped at every town but decided to have lunch here. I got foccacia with pesto sat on a rock in the sun and people watched. The Liguria region of Italy is famous for their pesto, foccacia, and sardines. I got a jar of pesto, which didn’t last more than two days, and a jar of sardines for my dad.

After I left Vernazza, I started walking behind someone who was actually fit, probably in his mid-forties- a geek with a beige hat, a serious camera, and hiking boots on. For three towns we seemed to pass each other and pass other people, but didn’t speak a word to each other. We worked as a sweaty team to pass and conquer. Some american idiots were wearing flip flops and sun dresses, I can’t even imagine how upset they must have been an hour into the walk. I was wearing spandex and sneakers, and sweat through my t-shirt in about half an hour, naturally.

There is so much that I saw, but to write about it all would exhaust me and you. It is a place that must be experienced, ideally alone; if you are like me and don’t like waiting for people (bad habit, but can’t help it.) It doesn’t even have to be walked, there is a train running through every town, and the cinque terre day pass is good for 24 hour access to the train and the ferries that run every half hour.

I got home at around 6:00 and was exhausted.

Posted by: bchurbuck | April 25, 2010

School trip to Arezzo and Cortona

Following my day in Fiesole I decided to once again do a day trip, this time my school provided the transport.

We arrived in Arezzo at around 10:00 am and the lack of plans was evident, our tourguide, who is a very nice lady who teaches Italian, likes to talk. But as much talking as she does, there always seems to be no organization. We listen to her talk about Piero della Francesco, the infamous painter, whom is Arezzo’s claim to fame. But of course, we can’t see anything by him until our appointment in the church at noon. So we walk around listening to her ramble on, the stuff she says is interesting, but her voice is so soft that none of us can actually hear her. Arezzo was beautiful, like all the Italian towns I have been to it has a duomo, a square, and lots of restaurants.

Once we were able to enter the Basilica of San Francesco, I was as happy as a clam. I  learned about the frescoes in this church this past fall in my Italian Renaissance class, so I knew how big of a deal these paintings were, plus they were just renovated. His cycle depicting the Legend of the True Cross is a masterpiece of Renaissance painting, Piero was one of the first to use foreshortening, and his Dream of Constantine is arguably the first nocturnal painting. (I took a forbidden picture)

After standing in the crowded roped off area where the frescoes were, listening to our guide talk for fourty five minutes, we were off to lunch. I had pizza with salami (pepperoni in America). Then we were loaded onto the bus and off to Cortona.

I knew something was wrong the second our strange lady-bus driver, with baby-blue sunglasses, tried to drive around a road block into the city. There was a car show going on in the center and buses were not allowed in. We tried about five different entrances and none would let us in, Cortona was out of the picture.

However, the guide-lady didn’t want to just take us back to Florence, we drove down bumpy roads trying to see Etruscan tombs, which looked like nothing but stones in dirt.  We all just asked to go home after an hour of trying to figure out what to do. I am glad Cortona didn’t work out because instead we took a scenic route back, and the landscape and clouds were unlike anything I had seen in Italy.

Posted by: bchurbuck | April 25, 2010


Last weekend I decided I couldn’t sit around in Florence for another second. So I decided to fill my weekend with day trips, the first one being a walk to Fiesole.

Fiesole is a town about 5 miles NE of Florence, it is situated on a hill that overlooks the whole city. It is an old Etruscan settlement, and has a history of conflict between the nearby Florentines. Today it is where the rich Florentines own villas to escape the city life.

I had been to a restaurant with my aunt and cousin near Fiesole in mid March, the drive up the huge hill got me interested in returning.

After a lot of procrastination, shower, google maps, and guidebooks, I was out the door at around noon and just walked in as much of a straight line as I could. I walked along a beautiful street with villas that made every effort to not allow any views of their homes or gardens, try as I might I couldn’t see much. Strangely enough, from the outside the villas look sparse, the type of house that you know would be cold, it may just be the block like architecture that put me off.

Once off this quaint little uphill road I got off track, and ended up taking the semi-frightening highway route which didn’t have a sidewalk. I must have looked like an idiot, but I saw two other idiots walking the opposite way (American of course.) Finally I see the town sign for Fiesole, at this point I am dripping in sweat, and construction workers are saying something to me in Italian, from what I gathered they knew I was tired.

The town is tiny, I followed a sign that led me up what seemed like a 180 degree hill. The sweat really came streaming after this friendly little hill, but the view at the top was astonishing, on a clear day I can only imagine what Florence must look like, but sadly it was a bit overcast. I kept going uphill to an old monastery of S. Francesco.

I walked down and my knees were hating me, the town square was small and oddly shaped with a bunch of cute cafes. I walked to a panoramic view area and decided I had seen enough of Fiesole. I found the street I was meant to arrive on, and it was beautiful. Lots of wisteria and very cool old villas.

I arrived home at around 3:00 and called it a day.

Posted by: bchurbuck | April 13, 2010


This past weekend I went to Barcelona, something I have been looking forward to for a while, and it did not disappoint.

I stayed in a hostel because my friend Mariel is in a homestay and is not allowed to have guests. My cab dropped me off at a door that did not resemble anything remotely close to a hostel. I stood there ringing every doorbell, and even called the hostel. Finally a man answered and told me “top floor,” I ascended an elevator that I thought was going to break at any minute. I was a half hour late for check in and the German man at the desk made sure I knew he was making an exception for such a beautiful, German looking girl.

We got back into the elevator, and left the building, walked a block down to a very 70’s looking building- my hostel. He takes his time telling me how to use my keys, then explains that my neighbor is a very short boy and that I should not be alarmed if he is scared when he first sees me…. Thanks asshole.

My room was actually really great, it cost $30 a night, and there was a tv, they change your sheets. The man made it clear that the hostel is so nice and that I should write a review about it.

I get ready to go out immediately because it is around 12:30 when this man leaves me be. I meet Mariel at a bar, which was too crowded so she took me to the bar where Dali, Picasso, and Hemingway hung out back in the day. It was very cool, there were old very dusty bottles, it was clear no one had touched the place. We got absinthe and beer. Decided we needed more, and took a tequila shot and left for Opium.

Opium is the coolest club I have ever seen, there were about 4 different bars, dancers, an outdoor bar, a huge dancefloor, and it is right on the beach. Let’s just say I had a very fun night and returned home at 9:00 the next morning. I don’t know how people survive here. But Mariel woke up the next day at around 2:30, then we went to Park Guell.

Park Guell is highly cool. Luckily I brought the first nice weather Barcelona has had (they have had a very crappy Spring). It is a park built by Antoni Gaudi, I am mortified I knew very little about him and his marvelous art.

The Park itself is situated on a rocky hill, it reminded me of a Dr. Seuss book, everything was very detailed, with beautiful mosaic work and it was very clean and well kept.  The entrance to the park is flanked by a long bench that looks like a sea serpent, and to get the shape of it Gaudi used the curves left by naked women sitting on the wet clay! Inside there was an area that had very good acoustics (a man was playing the spanish guitar) it had huge columns and on the ceiling there were elaborate mosaics.It seemed like the day in the park was the first day of spring, everyone was so happy, there were numerous people playing music, people drinking beer and just having a great time. We stalked what must have been a German tourist who was obsessed with yellow.

After Park Guell, I went back to my hostel, took a nap, got ready, and stayed up till the sun came out.

The next day my liver was hurting, but sightseeing was calling my name. We walked down Las Ramblas where there were vendors with bunnies, men in cribs pretending to be babies, pretty much a very random assortment of things on a long street.

That night Mariel took me to the bar on top of the W for drinks, where we overlooked the whole city. After that we went to CDLC for dinner, had dinner laying down, Tandoori chicken, Pad Thai, and a lot of Sangria. Then we went to the Ice Bar, a bar made completely of Ice, and you can only stay for half an hour. Once again we were up until the sun rose.

The next day we sat on the beach with friends of Mariel, and by the end of the day I was so tired and eager to sleep that I was looking forward to getting home. On the cab ride to the bus station I had the driver stop so I could take a picture of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia.

Posted by: bchurbuck | April 13, 2010

Spring Break 2010-Patras

In Europe, for study abroad students, there are companies such as Bus2Alps and Euroadventures. I have stayed away from them at all costs, my roommates on the other hand use them a lot, for example they took a 10 hour bus ride to Munich through them, stayed at a shitty hostel, and we toured around. I can’t stand that kind of stuff, not to mention I can’t sit on a bus for more than three hours without going insane. Or I start to become claustraphobic because my legs can’t move an inch, which in turn causes some serious knee and back pain.

If I had joined my roommates on their trip to greece I would have spent around 750 euro to take a bus to rome (4hours), then take a bus to ancona(5 hours), then take a 21 hour ferry to Corfu, then be dragged around from place to place.

Thankfully my roommate from Brooks wanted to do something containing the words Greece and beach for spring break, and she wanted it to be cheap. Ends up we spent more than we thought with the actual travel (we took a train to Faenza (2 hours) a train to ancona(1.5 hours), then the cruise ship.

For some reason before Mariel (highschool roommate and her roommate in Barcelona Nicole) came I thought the ferry was 12 hours long (it was 21 hours), and for some reason we all thought it was going to be a ferry like the kind you take to Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard. Open air, white, cold, crappy seats….. But what we saw at that port was nothing any of us thought we would ever fathom doing in our lives… A cruise.

Yes a cruise, like the Carnival cruises, my idea of a freaking nightmare. I remember reading “A supposedly fun thing I’ll never do again” by David Foster Wallace, promising myself I would never step foot on a floating tupperware. But it was better than the highline ferry I had expected, our deck seats did not mean we had to sit out in the open air freezing our butts off, but it did mean we had to go inside.

First off, we go up to the deck where there is an empty pool and we sunbath until the ferry starts, once it does I find a bench, pass out while reading A Prayer for Owen Meany. I wake up freezing, and we all decide it’s time to face our fears and go inside. Everything I thought a cruise ship would be proved true, announcements telling you when to eat in 5 different languages, creepy men sitting at the bar all day chain smoking, a church, a spa, cabins, and last but certainly not least three American girls dragging around huge suitcases thinking we were on a different planet.

We we exhausted after a full day of travel, so we found a little sitting area and hid our bags, napped some more, then woke up bored to death. We had 18 hours to go, so we got wine and people watched in the bar, played scrabble to go, and watched Greek men dance.

Greek music is bad, it consists of overly dramatic men singing and it all sounds the same. I hope to avoid it as much as I can. Our choice of beds were two chairs pushed together, Mariel and her roommate are small so that worked for them. But I was too crammed so I chose the floor. We barricaded our area with chairs so no one would bother us, but it was the discotheque downstairs that ruined my night.

With little to no sleep, I tried reading some more but fell asleep until we arrived in Patras. We took a cab to our hotel, which was surprisingly very nice for the amount we paid for a week ($240), and fall asleep.

We were a little worried when we were driving in because there wasn’t much to be seen, so we asked the front desk where to go for dinner,  there was a small street with about 6 restaurants near us. The only problem was every menu besides one restaurant was in Greek.  So of course we go to the one we can read, I get some kind of fried cheese, cold mashed potatoes, and some kind of grilled pork on a stick. I felt very sick, but the type that is caused from eating too much. We went to a nice bar and realize that in Greece you don’t need to pay for drinks if you are a girl, I felt very ill after one.

We returned to our hotel and I was immediately violently sick all night, food poisoning most likely. The next day I was ready to be a vegetable. We sunbathed by the water, our view out of our hotel was amazing,  huge mountains just pop out of the ocean.

That night I was too tired to do anything and still a little sick so I didn’t eat dinner.

The next day I wanted to do something, and the thing in sight was this huge bridge (The Rio Antirio), so Mariel and I decided to check it out. It was a great 3 hour walk, we obviously were not supposed to walk over the bridge because it was the biggest pain in the ass figuring out how to get onto it without being blocked. I thought I was going to be blown over by the wind, and there were sections where we had to walk over just a metal grate looking down at what felt like a 200 feet drop to the ocean. Unknowingly once we crossed the bridge we had walked from Peloponnese to mainland Greece, which is pretty cool.

On the other side there was a run down town with strange ancient ruins. We had ice cream and coffee at this tiny cafe by the water, after that there wasn’t any more to see and it was getting late so we got a cab. The cab driver thought we were crazy for wanting to go over the bridge, saying that it would cost thirty euros because it is mostly for trucks. Dumbfounded we asked him what we should do, he dropped us off at a ferry that brought us back over to our side in 10 minutes.

That night we decided to go into the main town of Patras, and once again didn’t pay for a single drink, which was a recipe for a long night.

The next day we decided we needed to go to Athens, we woke up at 9 got a bus at 10, and were in Athens at 1. We told the cab driver to take us to the Acropolis, and once we got there we realized we were hungry so we got salads at a restaurant overlooking the acropolis… Little did we realize the Acropolis closes at 3:00, so we missed our chance, but it was still very cool. After that we saw a double decker sightseeing bus and decided it would be cheapest to pay 21 euro instead of cab fares. It turned out to be a great decision, we saw most of the city in under two hours and were told the history at the same time.

We got off at this great flee market where I bought friends cheap bracelets, everywhere you turn there are ancient ruins and very nice people, or so I thought.

Our route ended so we got off and we were craving Indian food for some reason, I pulled out my iphone and looked a place up called PakIndian. What happened next was possibly the scariest hour of my life. We walked down the sketchiest street in Athens, there were police everywhere, men just staring at us, but we had been walking for 45 minutes looking for this place so we were desperate and cranky.

Once inside men stood at the windows looking in at us the entire time we ate, I must have seen about 4 drug deals occur in half an hour. The owners made us feel more comfortable and the food was awesome, but it was getting dark out and we did not want to be caught on this street at night. So we ate fast, got stuff to go, and went out into the street. Thankfully there was a group of cops, so we walked behind them, they had to stop to break up what I assume was a drug deal, and they turned around and told us we should not be here. So we actually ran to the next group of cops, they said the same thing and walked us down the rest of the block to a cab. All the while men were doing unthinkable things, I didn’t dare to look up.

After thinking we were going to die, we decided to go home to safe little Patras.

The next few days consisted of laying out in the sun and getting free drinks. Patras is the third largest city in Greece and the main town is very chic, with great looking restaurants and people dressed up sitting out in the sun all day.

I really regret not getting a chance to have a great greek meal, but I had tastes here and there, which gave me hope. I think getting sick really turned me off from the flavors they use. But I did get some great Baklava.

In summary, I like Greece a lot, and I am glad that I didn’t go to a touristy place like Corfu or Athens, Patras is a great place but only for a week. We were ready to get back to Florence and Italian food. But of course we had the same travel arrangements on the way back.

We were travelling on Easter Sunday and for some reason the ferry company we used before decided to not run the ferry that day, so they put us on a different line. This one was worse.

The positive side is that we didn’t have to deal with our suitcases the whole time, this nice man (who turned out to be the manager) put them in a closet for us. But unlike the first ferry where we just plopped down and slept, this ferry did not like that. We were sitting in a lounge and the bartender comes up to me and says that I can’t have a pillow (which I wasn’t even using, it was on the floor under a table he couldnt see), then Mariel fell asleep for maybe one minute and he comes back and tells her not to sleep. Pissed off we left and ran into my manager friend, he took my pillow for me and told me to ask reception for it when I wanted it. He told us we had to sleep in the airplane seats… So we went down to check it out at around 6:00, and immediately left thinking we should spend as little time as possible there. Discouraged we went to the restaurant in the boat, I had shitty chicken and a salad that was just lettuce.

We went back to reception so I could get my pillow, tried to read in our airplane seats, couldn’t, so I put my pillow (which was in a plastic bag with my name in huge letters on it) on a shelf. We went back to the lounge with the mean bartender, got wine and read until we were tired.

Went back down to the airplane seats, and my pillow was gone; two shelves down, a fat middle aged man was in the fetal position, on a hard shelf meant for luggage, passed out with my pillow. I was pissed and shocked that someone would just assume to take a pillow, so I shook him awake and looked at him like he was crazy. It must have been a bad way to wake up…

I will spare you the details of the loudest snores I have ever heard in my life, and of my attempt to sleep on one of the shelves after a failed attempt in the seats. But we arrived, got on our trains and were happy to be back in Florence.

Posted by: bchurbuck | April 13, 2010

An American in Paris

I went to Paris over the weekend of March 18th.

After getting off the plane my sleeping arrangements disappeared due to a friend who I was going to share a hostel with, didn’t make her plane. I was not excited to sleep in a hostel by myself, and we booked it under her name.

Thankfully I was still with one of my roommates and she generously asked her friend if I could crash on their floor.

I have a friend from highschool who lives outside of Paris and we met for an amazing dinner at a restaurant called Les Papilles. It was a fixed menu, first we had this amazing mushroom cream soup (best soup I’ve ever had), next was roasted duck with vegetables, and lastly was a type of orange cream thing. It was hands down one of the best meals I’ve ever had.

I then ventured off towards Hotel Crillon in a cab to meet my roommate and her friends for drink at The Buddha Bar. After some clubbing we went home.

I forced my roommate to wake up at 10 am so we could get a full day in. We were staying about 15 minutes from the Champ d’Elysee and ended up walking all the way to Montmarte. Needless to say our dogs were barking, but along the way we saw the Eiffel Tower,had a Tartine and coffee for breakfast, searched for my Mom’s old apartment (couldn’t find it), found the strangest dog I have ever seen, went to Fauchon for pastries, Pompidou, then we had to get some food then go home on the subway.

I was scared to take off my shoes because I knew what I’d find would not be pleasant. Worst blisters of my life, and that’s saying something for a rower. But I got some band aids and it was off to a bar.

The next morning I was in so much pain putting my shoes back on, but after a block of walking I was alright. We had another Tartine for breakfast then decided to go to Musee d’Orsay. We walked of course through Champ d’Elysee, and along the Seine.  Once we got there the line was way to much to handle especially on a sunny day. Discouraged we left and went to a cafe for a crepe, cheese, and another tartine.

I called my mom to ask what we should do, and she said walk from the Arch d’Triomph to the Lourve. It was beautiful, I got a baugette with a hotdog stuffed in it, topped gruyere melted and mustard. So I was happy doing anything. But my roommate wanted to go into the Lourve to see the Mona Lisa. I am not one for crowds or for getting lost and of course in the Lourve both occured. I saw Napolean’s rooms, famous Italian Paintings, Greek sculptures, the mona Lisa… I could spend a good week in the museum, but the crowds make it unbearable at times.

After becoming cranky, I decided food would cure any unhappiness. So I asked my mom for the name of a couscous place she took me to last time I was in Paris. It was possibly the highlight of the trip, more specifically MERGUEZ! The Latin Quarter was very cool, upon return I see myself spending the majority of my time there.

We were stuffed and walked it off a bit by going into Notre Dame. I went to Grace Cathedral in San Francisco over Christmas, and my dad was pretty accurate about it being an attempt of a replica of the real thing.  Outside we saw the strangest beggar, who must make bank with dogs sitting on his lap like this.

Our flight was very early in the morning, so we called it a night after Notre Dame. But all in all, it is my favorite city in Europe thus far.

Posted by: bchurbuck | March 13, 2010

birthday week

Last Wednesday was my birthday, and it feels as if I was on spring  break all last week. I only had three classes, one of which was going out to lunch, I stayed up far to late on about four out of the five days.  My cousin Sarah and aunt Kate were here and we had some great dinners. But now I am suffering from a large lack of sleep. but it was worth the fun.

Posted by: bchurbuck | March 13, 2010


To begin, words cannot do justice to this city, it must seen in the flesh.

My program gives us a few free trips, so I jumped at the chance to go to Rome for the night, for free. We got on the bus at 7 am, arrived at 11, checked into the hotel (which was surprisingly decent), and then we were off to the Vatican. The weather was hot and sunny, I only needed a light jacket, and got hot in that.

The only downfall of the trip, was the organization, our tour guide(an italian) was not very organized. But she took us to the right places, and then some stayed with the group, or like me venture off and do my own thing.

St.Peter’s Basilica was crazy, in a good and bad sense, we couldn’t go inside because the line was way too long. But the square itself is beautiful, smaller than I imagined, but very cool. The dome by Michelangelo was very delicate looking and detailed, pretty much the opposite of the duomo in Florence. I am disappointed I couldn’t go inside because Michelangelo’s famous pieta is housed there. Also Bernini’s high altar canopy is in there.

We then ventured to the Vatican, which is a strange place. It is behind these huge walls, but the entrance is very touristy, almost like a subway station. once you get out of the modern part, you walk into this square that had a strange bronze globe. After that  you can see possibly the most famous sculptures of all time, Laocoon and Apollo Belvedere, which are definitely all they are hyped up to be.

Then you go through room after room (there are twelve museums in total), and being that it was Saturday, the crowds didn’t make it very enjoyable especially because it was a gorgeous day. But it was still very cool. After the crowds and walking I was ready for the icing on the cake- The Sistine Chapel. It is something I have studied over and over again, and took a class on Michelangelo so know the ceiling very well. We get in and I am a little disappointed to be honest. For some reason I thought it was a lot bigger, but the paintings were unbelievable. It was very crowded so I couldn’t gawk for long without being shoved this way or the other. Pictures are not allowed, but I felt rebellious and took a few, then got caught and learned my lesson.

After the chapel, we had to go through even more rooms, and all I wanted was to be out in the sun and a bathroom. So me and some friends put our heads down and pushed our way out.

We had a bus to take us back to the center, but had to wait for the rest of the group. With a lot of time to spare we grabbed lunch at an outdoor cafe. The next stop was the Spanish steps, we went with the group, but then ventured off because our tour guide talked way too much. The steps are basically for people watching, people sit here all day with gelato and watch the world pass by. I wasn’t up for that, so we went onwards to the Trevi Fountain.

The Trevi Fountain is unbelievable. Possibly my favorite part of Rome, it is very grand and inspiring. In the middle is the figure Poseidon drawing his chariot up from the sea, one horse represents stormy and the other calm seas.

The tradition is to throw a coin over your shoulder in the hopes to return to Rome, which I did. We sat here for a while just watching the water flow, and people pass.

After a long day, we made our way back to the hotel, took a catnap, then met everyone for dinner. It was a free dinner which was awesome.

We took the metro back, bought some wine, went to the Trevi Fountain, and just relaxed. Once we got cold we walked down what would be compared to Fifth Ave, which was very chic.

The next morning the hotel offered free breakfast, I stuffed my face. Then we walked to San Pietro in Vincoli, which is the home of Pope Julius II tomb, and Michelangelo’s famous Moses. The original tomb was supposed to have over forty sculptures, but the Pope died beforehand and interrupted Michelangelo’s work with the commission of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, which includes over 300 individual figure and he finished it in 4 years! The tomb was very beautiful, even a little creepy.

The Colosseum was next on our list. It is so much bigger than I expected it to be, huge in fact. The stadium had 55,000 seats, the walls are made of brick and volcanic tufta faced with marble blocks, that were bound together by marble clasps. After taking too many pictures of the building, with its different architectural orders (doric on the first level, Ionic, then Corinthian). Right next to the Colosseum is the Arch of Constantine,  after looking at this we decided to go to the Palatine hill.

Two millennia of destruction and decay have left a jumble of odd pillars and stone, which with the help of your imagination, give the sense of a plan. The Palatine Hill was once covered by a palace, which today is full of orange trees, cypresses, and wild flowers growing among the ancient remains. Here is a summary of what was cool on the Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum: the Temple of Antonius and Faustina, the Colonna di Foca, the Curia, the restored arch of Spetimus Severus, the Portico of the Dei Consentes, the Temple of Saturn, Santa Maria Antiqua, the House of the Vestal Virgins, and the Arch of Titus.

Once we bought our ticket for the Palatine Hill we could go inside the Colosseum, and cut the long lines. Once inside all I could think of was gladiator, and what it must have been say back in its hay day in around the 80s AD.

We got hungry fast, and luckily the night before I wrote down a restaurant nearby that got good reviews. The restaurant was across the street from the Colosseum, but away from the tourists, so it wasn’t mobbed. I was an idiot and ordered the house special- Lasagna, and should have trusted my instinct, but my caprese made up for it.

Our feet were hurting, but time was ticking away, so we ventured on towards this huge building that none of us knew about. We passed the Circus Maximus, the Imperial Fora (which is still being excavated), the Column of Marcus Aurelius.  It turns out the huge white building is the Piazza del Campidoglio, which was designed by Michelangelo, for the triumphal entry of Emperor Charles’ V  into Rome on the Capitoline Hill. The monumental building stands on three sides of the square, it was under construction so scaffolding covered parts, but it was breathtaking.

We got some gelatto, and headed back home to board the bus. A short but sweet trip, an extra day would have been nice to do some museums and the Pantheon.

Posted by: bchurbuck | March 3, 2010

Thoughts on umbrellas

Umbrellas, I hate them… I feel they should be used only for heavy downpours when you are wearing something nice, and not on crowded streets and narrow sidewalks. People in Florence use them whenever they can, even if it is only drizzling.  I am starting to get very annoyed, and my eyes are bound to get poked out by one of the thousands of asian tourists taking pictures of pigeons. for my vision every time I leave my apartment. 

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