Thursday, July 30, 2009


The final leg of our European tour took us to Athens Greece. It took us nearly two days to get there!!! I couldn't believe it. After visiting the New Moon set, we trekked back to Rome, picked up our bags, and waited for our overnight train to Bari (the port city on the other side of the country). Mind you, most of our train rides were quite pleasant. But we must've been too spoiled cause this last train was a mess!!! Hot, sticky, nasty, and a whole lotta filthiness. I'm glad that was the last ride for us cause i don't think I would be able to do that again. LOL!

Anyhoo...we arrive in Bari around 7am, thinking we could catch a ferry soon. WRONG! The next ferry was scheduled to leave at 6pm!!! So we had to wait AGAIN! But, when we did get on the boat, it was so dang huge, we found a corner in the lounge (since we bought the cheap deck tix), and made house. The ferry ride to Patras, a city 3 hours away from Athens took about 18 hours! So, let's see:

Rome to Bari: 6 hours
Bari to Patras: 18 hours
Patras to Athens: 3 hours
Total traveling time: 27 hours!!! Not including the 12 hours of waiting.

It was quite the adventure. But worth it...cause we made it to Greece!!! Athens was not what I had expected. It was pretty dirty and dusty. But I didn't really care too much about that. All I had on my mind was....BEACH!!!! When we got in, we found a cheap hotel close to the metro station, and not too far from the Acropolis. That was cool! So much history there. But my favorite part about the whole trip was the water. Our first beach was kinda dirty cause it was a "free" beach, so the "sand" consisted of pebbles, cigarette butts, trash and dust. Lol. Kinda like a dirtier Waikiki. A whole lotta hairy old men in speedo's too. Soooo not cute. So we caught the bus a few miles down the road outside of Athens, and found a cleaner, less crowded beach. The water was so cool and refreshing, we imagined we were on the island in Mamma Mia! Hahahahaha! For and Ane sang the WHOLE soundtrack. It was pretty hilarious.

Later that day, we bussed down to Sounio, home of the ruins of Poseidon's temple, to see the most amazing sunset. It was a great way to end the day.

Being in Greece was definitely another memorable experience to add to the list. However, I just wish I had gone there first. By the time we got there I was so broke, I couldn't make it out to any of the other islands. So that is why I plan to go back and do a cruise in the Mediterranean. That seems like the best way to do it!

Now that I'm at home, and I ponder everything that I've done, I still can't believe it's over. I can't believe I actually got to experience all that I have. Goes to show that once you put your mind to it, you can make anything happen!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

New Moon in Montepulciano

Considering we did everything we wanted to do in Rome, we decided to spend our last day hunting down the site of the New Moon movie. According to the fan websites, it was only about 3 hours outside of Rome by train and bus. Since we had the whole day…we decided to go. I guess they filmed a scene in a little town called Montepulciano..which is nestled on top of a mountain in Tuscany. That was a plus. I’ve always wanted to see the vineyards in Tuscany ever since I saw the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun,” and it was just as beautiful in real life. I could totally see myself working out there for a couple months. Since I probably don’t want to promote the production of wine, maybe I’ll just pick olives and make olive oil. Hahahaha.

Ok…getting off track. So…we caught the train into a little town called Chiusi, and then hopped on a bus to M-town. We had no idea where we were going. And since hardly anyone spoke English, we had to use our intuition. After hiking up a hill that seemed to never end, we finally made it to the Grand Piazza where they filmed the movie. We knew we were in the right spot when we saw a “Twilight” menu special at one of the nearby café’s. Then, when we went in to inquire about the special, we saw all the pictures of the set in that café. So of course we took tons and tons of pix to make sure that everyone at home would know that we were there. LOL. So now when we watch the movie, we can totally say we were there!!!

When in Rome...

Rome was a short and quick visit. We arrived early Sunday afternoon, and decided to do the same as in Venice…walk around til we found a cheap place to stay. Thank goodness we did that. We stumbled across a family operated, multi-faceted business. Lets just say…you know its crazy when all operations are conducted out of a Laundromat. LOL!!! Yup…they are the proud owners of a Laundromat/internet service/hostel service/ baggage storage business. It was great! We were able to get a hostel for 20 euro a night…which was completely within our budget. But what was even better was that it included free internet, breakfast AND dinner!!! Not to mention an awfully friendly staff. It was awesome!!! The rooms and bathrooms were a lot “cleaner” than Archie’s, and the dinner was awesome! Definitely a great find.

After we checked in and dropped off our bags, we decided to head out and see the sights. First stop…the Coloseum. That was really one of the two things I really wanted to see. That along with the Vatican. But anyhoo….it was as grand as I had imagined it would be. Its amazing how people totally try to get you to take the guided tour option. Which is true…without it you’re really just looking at a pile of old rocks. LOL. But there were a lot of boards with information regarding EVERYTHING, so I felt like I learned a lot on my own. Quite fulfilling. Our pass at the coloseum was also good for the Roman Forum, which is an area ancient ruins that you could walk around in. It was HUGE! So by the end of the day I was done with Roman history. LOL. Luckily our hostel was conveniently located a few blocks away from the main train station, so finding our home was a breeze.

That evening we were spoiled with the most amazing pasta!!! Ahhh…just thinking about it makes my mouth water. I don’t know what it is…but any pasta in Italy tastes so much better. Thicker, tastier…and scrumptious!!! Ok..enough of that cause I’m getting hungry.

The Vatican was on the schedule for the next day. We figured we should give ourselves a whole day for that place and it’s a darned good thing we did! We were there for nearly 5 hours!!!! That was enough for me. After walking through the different basilicas, chapels, and churches, I couldn’t help but get freaked out by everything. It seemed so dark and uncomfortable. Hmh…something to think about. LOL. The Sistine Chapel was totally awesome. However, that euphoric feeling was rudely interrupted by the blatant disrespect other tourists had for this sacred place. I mean, there was a guy right at the entrance telling everyone to put their cameras away, and to not take pictures, and to be reverent. But noooooooooobody listened! Right when you walk in all you see is FLASH, FLASH, FLASH!!!! And all you hear is CACKLE, CACKLE, CACKLE!!!! I was so offended. So it was hard for me to fully enjoy the experience. Sad.

Later that evening, we took a stroll to see the Fontana de Trevi! That was gorgeous! I so badly wanted to jump in the water…but I controlled myself. Good thing cause I probably would’ve gotten arrested. LOL. We found the best gelato in town! Their mango and strawberry was probably the best I’ve ever tasted in my life. The mango tasted like I was eating the ripest mango from the tree. It was awesome. All in all…Rome was great…but best seen in a short period. Just like in Venice, once you’ve seen one thing, you’ve seen them all. But definitely an experience I will never forget.


Well, we said danke and alvidazen (sp?) to Switzerland, and bonjorno to Venezia!!!! Now…when we first got into town, I couldn’t help but think…”dang these buildings are hecka old!” Duh!!! LOL. We got off the train and boy did it stink. I guess that’s what you get when you’re surrounded by “stagnant” water. But…it was somewhat nostalgic walking down the streets of this old town. We went there with no reservations of any kind. Our goal…walk around and compare prices and find the cheapest hotel/hostel. That was quite the adventure. We walked for a couple blocks, and over only one bridge before we found “Archie’s Rooms,” a quaint little hostel nestled in center of town for only 57 euro a night for the three of us. This was a steal compared to the 75-120 euro/nt at the other places.

I know what you’re thinking…hostel = ghetto. But really…we just needed a bed and a place to leave our bags. Some of the perks included:

- HUGE room with 5 beds. We only shared the room with one other girl who was hardly ever there.
- Free Wifi!!!! This was by far my favorite. I was able to do all my camping on facebook, and upload a bunch of pictures. Not to mention update my blog after what felt like forever (when in actuality it was only like 4 or 5 days). LOL. There were also two computers in the common area available.
- Free lockers to store all our valuables.
- Access to a plethora of kitchen appliances (microwave, kettle, stove, etc.) to cook our food that we brought. Not to mention our own drawer in the fridge.
- No curfew.

The only drawback…no hot showers. If you wanted hot water you had to pay 1 euro for 8 minutes. So…we roughed it out and took ice cold showers the two nights we were there. It wasn’t so bad once your body turned numb from the cold. LOL. We decided this was probably the best thing to do for the next two countries considering many of these cheaper places may not be listed online. Ahhhh..the life of a backpacker.

Now…onto the city. Honestly, my favorite part of our whole time there was walking around San Marco’s square and along the Grand Canal. After a while all the other streets start to look the same. We realized this when we got lost the first night. Considering we were tightening up on our budget, we decided not to go to any of the nearby islands. Which was probably best considering we pretty much saw enough of what would be found there in Venice itself. Gelatto was the best!!!! Ahhhh….and so was the pizza! We decided to save the pasta for Rome. There are so many little ristorante’s and pizzeria’s it was madness trying to choose one. Mmmm..thinking about it makes me hungry. All in all it was a great adventure…but I’m ready to move on. Being surrounded by all that water made me yearn for the beaches in Hawaii. That was probably the worst…being hot and not being able to jump in the water to cool off. So Rome is our next stop…and then GREECE!!!!! I don’t even care what we see in Greece, I just want to jump in that deep blue water!!!!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Swiss Tour Day 2

The weather wasn’t quite the best today. A lot of rain…and a lot of wind. I never thought it would be cold during my stay here in Europe…but apparently it can still get under 65 here in Switzerland. But that didn’t discourage us. We still set out to see this beautiful country. First stop…Lucerne.

There is a really old bridge there that was a candidate for for the seven wonders of the world. The reason why it was so special was because it was built over a raging river…which back then would have been impossible to build given the resources and conditions they’ve had/experienced back then. It is a beautiful city. You could see part of the alps from the lake there. After visiting there and having some lunch..we headed towards the mountains.

The drive there was amazing. The mountains are so huge…and so green. What shocked me the most was that there was a lake about 2000 feet above sea level. Go figure. But then we were told it was man-made. What baffled me was there were a bunch of people living threre! Why would you live all the way out there? It is definitely beautiful…but even tho it was sunny…it was still freezing!!!! To each his own I guess.

We drove up to this massive waterfall. I couldn’t pronounce the name if my life depended on it, but it means dust shower or something like that. Because when you look at it, the water actually looks like dust. It was huge!!!! We even got to hike up to a spot that was near the back of it. That was a trip….the hills were so steep. I forgot I was scared of heights until I looked down, and then I was ready to go. LOL. But it sure was beautiful.

Afterwards…we caught a train to a village near the “Top of Europe.” It was even MORE freezing up there!!! That little village had hotels and shops up there which made me wonder why people would even bother staying up there. But as I looked around…I noticed a bunch of hikers. I guess you can hike all the way to the top of that mountain. Those people are crazy! Funniest thing…they were all either really young….or really old. Hahahahaha.

All in all today’s excursion was amazing. I got to experience more of God’s creation, and my testimony was strengthened thru this journey. I’m excited to see what else He has in store for me.

Swiss Tour Day 1

Today we went to Lunzeberg. I don’t even know if I spelt it right…but it’s a little town about 20 minutes away from where we’re staying and it is the home of one of the oldest castles in Switzerland. But, before we did that, we took a tour of the high school that Dominic, the youngest child of the family we’re staying with…attends. Apparently, it’s one of the most prestigious schools in Switzerland. It was huge. They actually meet in an old monestary…or part of the monestary. They have their own garden…which for me was probably the coolest part. The flowers here are absolutely gorgeous! It seems like many people here are self sufficient. They plant a lot of their own fruits and vegetables in their backyards…and even in their schools. America needs to get on that.

The castle was pretty interesting. It kinda reminded me of Iolani Palace with everything that was on display being roped off. LOL. The only thing though is that we didn’t have to wear booties. It was cute cause they had tours available for little kids where they could dress up like medieval warriors, and they even learned how to fight with swords and bow and arrows. It was pretty cute. I couldn’t help but think that my nephews would’ve loved this place. The castle is up in a huge hill that we had to hike up to. I tell you…I’ve never hiked up so many hills in my life. Sheesh! I better be skinny by the end of this trip. LOL.

After the castle we cruised around the city of Zurich. Our trusty tour guide said that Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland. It didn’t seem that big, so it just goes to show that there are a lot of little tiny villages here. Interesting. It was such a long day. But there’s still more…how exciting!

Hallo Switzerland!!!

Hallo…as the Swiss say it! Yup…we’ve arrived in Switzerland and it is absolutely GORGEOUS!!!! The 5-hour train ride (not including 3 stops) from Paris to Zurich was unbelievably fast and surprisingly comfortable. This is definitely the way to travel thru Europe. Luckily for us, Umi knows a Korean family that lives in Boden…a small town about 30 minutes away from Zurich. They live up in the country side amongst fields of corn, barley, pastures and so much more. Totally country…totally unexpected…totally AMAZING!!! I already know what you’re thinking…RANDOM Korean family in Switzerland. But they are the sweetest little family you’ll ever meet. So gracious and hospitable. Beautiful home. Beautiful people. Beautiful country. Makes this trip all the more worth it. An amazingly delicious Korean meal was prepared for us and we ate like Queens. It was divine. Next on the agenda…check out some castles. Exciting!

Paris Day Two

My oh my…so many things to do in this amazing city! First on the list today….CHURCH! What a way to invite the spirit. Even though I couldn’t really understand what was being said, I definitely felt the spirit. The gospel is the same no matter where you go…feels like home. We hit up Notre Dame and the Louvre…just one word to describe both….AMAZING! For one thing I can’t get over how HUGE this buildings are. And to think that they were built hundreds of years ago makes it that much more crazy! How they heck did they do it without the technology that we have today?

So…summary of events for the remainder of the day:

• Check out the home of Quasimodo…Notre Dame. Humongous building!!! Very goth. Would have loved to go up top…but line was too long…and wasn’t up to climbing 400 something steps.
• Hit up the Louvre. Saw Venus de Milo. Mona Lisa. And everything else. Well as much as we could before my feet felt like they weren’t part of my body anymore.
• Hopped on a train to check out the Royal Palace in Versailles only to get kicked off because something was wrong with the track. Got shuttled by a bus to another station, and got to the Palace just in time for closing. YES!!! Gotta luv it!!!
• Caught the train back to the main city to check out some garden just to turn around cause THAT was closing too.
• Finally got hungry, and had some French food.
• Walked down Champs de Ellyse in search of the Louis Vuitton store. I was instructed to take a picture in front of it.
• Headed back to the hotel room to start planning the next leg of our trip.

All in all Paris has been quite the adventure. Even though we’ve hit a few bumps on the way, it was all worth it. With each new place I can’t help but pinch myself because I still can’t believe I’ve finally made it here. After months of talking and planning…I’ve finally made it. But the adventure continues as we head down to Switzerland. I don’t really know what to expect, but I’m open to anything!!!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Bienevenue de Paris!!!

Well, we've finally made it! After getting delayed the first day due to weight issues with the plane, we finally made the flight out to Charles de Gaulle on Thursday, July 2nd. Business class is definitely the way to go. I think they fed us enough food to last me the whole trip...cause seriously...I haven't really eaten much since.

Anyhoo...we arrived on Friday, July 3rd and stayed in a small town 20 minutes outside of Paris. It was quite an adventure. Here are a summary of the events that occurred that day:

* Looked for Ane's bag for a good 45 minutes, only to find it sitting outside the unlabeled, totally hidden baggage claim office!
* Took our first metro ride!
* Got stuck in the metro station in Chelles because our tickets wouldn't work. LOL
* Hiked for a good hour looking for our hotel
* Meeting some of the friendliest people France has to offer, and loving their patience for our lack of skill with the French language.
* Cracking up at the smallest room and bathroom EVER!!!
* Taking a stroll around town and enjoying the beautiful countryside.
* Having random frenchmen show us their muscles during our nature walk.
* Being scared out of our minds at night because of some of the shady people staying at our hotel.
* Staying up til 4:30 am chatting it up with Ane and Umi...the excitement for the city was overwhelming!

This was just day 1! The next day we packed up and headed out to Paris. After fixing up the drama with our hotel room (they wouldn't allow the 3 of us to stay so we had to book another room!), we took on the city. Here's a summary of that day:

* Took on Moulin Rouge and that whole area! Amazing!
* Went to some Basilica...sorry can't spell it...where Van Gogh and Picasso studied. Amazing building!
* Got hustled by some street vendors. Never been hit on more in my life!
* Got some shopping done in that district.
* Went to the Arc de Triomphe to find some type of ceremony going on for US's Fourth of July. Random.
* Cruised with some crazy people on the metro.
* Hit up the Eiffel tower. Built up enough courage to go all the way to the top only to find that it was closed.
* Went on a boat ride on the Seine River to get a preview of what to expect today (ie. the Lourve).
* Cruised by the tower for a lil' bit to watch the light show.
* Headed back to the hotel after a looooooooooong day.

Now it's Sunday morning, and we're ready to hit up the local ward. Totally excited for that. Sorry I don't have pix, but if you have a facebook, you can totally check out all my pix there! Stay tuned for more of our Euro tour!!!