Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The End of the Trip

Today we came to a different hotel, but in the same city of Sorrento. The new hotel, Johanna Park Hotel is slightly outside of the city and has a shuttle to the city. They were nice enough to bring their shuttle to pick us up at our last hotel so we didn't have to carry the luggage everywhere. However, their "shuttle" looked like this. It was interesting fitting four people with four big bags into this car.

We had to carry two suitcases on top of us in the car. My suitcase wasn't small...
So anyways, our shuttle driver told us that we just absolutely had to go to Positano, a neighboring city about 30 minutes away by SITA bus. He said the bus ticket was only 7,20 euro round-trip, and there was a beach there and it was gorgeous. We had been wanting to go anyways, so we decided to do it. The bus picked us up right outside of the hotel, and we packed in through the middle door of the bus. There were already about 20 people standing in the aisle of the coach bus, so we joined them standing in the stairs for the middle door of the bus. Before this, I thought that I was becoming used to the smelly people over there. But no... The man next to us smelled so badly that I gagged a few times. He was up against me because there was no room and he had his arms up holding onto the rails. All four of us got motion sickness I think, and then we started going on these cliffs.

The last 20 minutes of the drive was on a road like this, with the bus driver gassing it on the straight parts and going way too fast on the sharp curves with the bus tilting, looking like it was going to flip. Some say the drive was beautiful, I say the drive almost made me have my first ever anxiety attack, and I'm used to driving near cliffs on a mountain. Nonetheless, we made it there safely.

We loved Positano. It's an adorable, colorful city on a hill/cliff with the beach at the bottom. There are cute shops, lots of boats, and many tourists. The houses and restaurants are all stacked on top of one another on the hill. It was really neat and had tons of steps.

The beach was made of pebbles instead of sand, which brought a nice twist to it. I liked lying on the pebbles, but I didn't like walking on them because they got into my shoes and were super hot, as they were grayish-black.

After a nice day of laying out and reading, I began to get nervous about the drive home, but I was comforted by the fact that most of the time, we would not be on the same side of the road as the cliff because we'd be in the opposite lane. We waited about an hour for the bus to come, and when we got on, there was just about no room for us.

The driver made Aunt Anne G. stand in the stair well in the front of the bus, right next to him, and he made her hold on to the front rail with two hands. She kind of looked like she thought she was driving or something. We couldn't stop laughing about it because she was also nervous about the ride, and there was no way she could avoid looking at the scary road unless she closed her eyes. I was the first person standing in the aisle, right behind Anne G. and the driver, also ironic because I could see everything and would be the first person through the windshield if anything happened.

But this time, we had a good bus driver who beeped before each blind turn so that oncoming cars wouldn't hit us, and he went slow around curves. He couldn't understand English and was very serious about driving, but sometimes I threw out the word "Bueno" just so he knew I approved and would keep up the caution.

We went up part of a mountain, and then got to the top and began going down. I watched carefully as the driver shift into second gear, and I was glad to see this in case the brakes went out. A few minutes later as we were on the decline, the driver sniffed and looked around. Then Anne G. sniffed and said, "Do you smell the brakes?" I shrugged. Then the driver sniffed, looked in his rear mirror, and started cursing in English. I thought he was mad at Anne G for saying his brakes were out, but he slammed on the brakes, opened the doors, and pushed me and Anne G out the door (without my purse with wallet and passport) before grabbing the fire extinguisher.

I quickly noticed smoke coming out the back of the bus and freaked out about it blowing up and my passport being in there. I was in a bind because I know you're never supposed to go back into a fire, but I thought I'd be stuck there without the passport so I started yelling at the people who were rushing out of the bus to grab my bag. Someone did, and I couldn't tell you the first thing about what the person looked like, I just ran away from the bus in case of an explosion.

We called our hotel shuttle to pick us up because I did not want to ride another bus the rest of the way down the mountain, and we knew that our hotel owner would be nice enough to send someone to get us.  A man came and got us in a different "shuttle."

I was just thankful it wasn't a bus!

So anyways, we got to the hotel and took hot baths and we to sleep soon after so that we could wake up at 5 the next morning for a bus to Rome (which never came). We ended up having to ride a train at 7:50 and then finally making it to Rome by 2 in the afternoon. It was okay though, and I was secretly glad that it was a train instead of a bus, even if it took an extra 4 hours.

In front of the Trevi fountain
We spent the rest of the day in Rome seeing the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain, shopping, eating, and searching for good gelato. It was a nice day with a nice hotel and a nice dinner and amazing gelato from a place called Venchi.

Our last Italian dinner
The next morning we were up and at'em and ready to come home! It was a wonderful trip, but by the end I was ready to come home to the US and stop worrying about the conversion rate between dollars to euros (one euro is about $1.50, so it's terrible). Uncle Paul picked us up in a very roomy Sequoyah SUV, and I thought, this is why I love being home... There is space!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Ponza, Naples, and an Allergic Reaction

We are in Sorrento now! It's a cute little town south of Naples on the Amalfi Coast. It has beautiful views of the ocean and is very charming.  We love our hotel, too! It is one of the cheapest, yet it still has character. It's family-run and has amazing breakfast. We have been in town today, riding a train around and walking the streets. We stopped to get gelato at a famous place that many famous people have visited. It was delicious until Meredith started having an allergic reaction. We all kind of panicked. She is allergic to nuts, so she got mint chocolate chip and coffee ice cream, but apparently nuts got in the gelato and her throat started swelling before she finished the cone. I had to help her out and finish the cone as we sprint-walked to find a "pharmacia"where the Benadryl was 15 Eu ($21), and so we decided to try to find our hotel to get her Benadryl from home. I'm pretty sure we were all saying silent prayers as we sweated our way home from being hot as well as nervous.

Meredith skyped her mom, and decided she didn't need a hospital and just took an antihistamine and is now sleeping. We decided it was the perfect time for an afternoon siesta because it's so hot outside and we are tired from yesterday....

YESTERDAY was crazy. 

We began on the tiny island of Ponza on the Tyrrhenian Sea off the coast of Southern Italy. It was beautiful and calm and peaceful. We felt like we knew just about everyone on the island--the hotel workers, hotel owner, waiter, restaurant owner next door, beach worker, bus driver... Everyone was so friendly and helpful, even though most did not know English. We did a lot of acting, mostly acting out swimming because that was the easiest way to say we were going to the beautiful beach that was just about 300 stairs down from our hotel. 

It was well-worth the walk, but it was a long walk down. 
This was the only sandy beach that we went to. We loved it! The boulder beaches were pretty but the rocks weren't so comfy. We had the best weather we could've asked for.
We stayed in Ponza for just 2 nights before moving on. It was perfect for relaxing after Barcelona, and we were all so glad that we took the time to go over there. (It was a beautiful 3 hour ferry ride away.)

Anyways, we left our sweet hotel, Hotel Ornensia, and crammed our suitcases onto Ponza's public bus where the very friendly bus driver sang to us in Italian. Then we relaxed on the cargo ferry for three hours as we traveled to Formia where we planned catch a train to Naples. After dragging the luggage up about 50 stairs and asking about 6 people for directions to the station, we found it. The crowded (rush hour) train scared all of us because of the rough crowd on board. We were stressed because we couldn't find seats where our luggage would fit, and there were some creepy men in the section by the door where we had to stand with our luggage.

Four seats finally cleared out for Meredith, Mary, and me. They got into the four seats facing each other, then we stacked four bags on top and around us. People stared, but we were happy to be seated. Anne G sat across the aisle from us where she met a middle-aged, Russian woman, who when we asked where she was from, replied with, "How do I look from?" After some clarification, we figured out that she meant, "Where do I look like I'm from?" Her English was better than our Russian, so I'm not making fun, but it was awkward. 

So Ulka, the Russian lady, talked to Anne G the entire rest of the time and she was going to Sorrento as well. So when we got off the train, she ended up "clinging" to us and throwing everything into confusion. The train from Naples to Sorrento was on strike, so she told us that we were going to split a hotel and all stay in one room and then come to Sorrento the next day. She started bossing us around and we really didn't like it, so we had to tell her that we were going to go ahead and come to Sorrento without her. Meanwhile, taxi drivers were mobbing us trying to get us to ride in their cars for way too much money, and we didn't know what to do. 

We arrived safely at our quaint hotel at about 8 or 9 after an hour drive. I was so stressed by that time that we couldn't decide what to eat for dinner, so the waiter ordered a pizza for me. (And it turned out to be great!)

The cute town has this plant everywhere. I think it's the same kind of plant that the Streets
gave me last summer. Wish my thumb was green enough to have one looking like this!

We woke up to a wonderful breakfast and lovely day in Sorrento until we had the allergic reaction, and though her throat isn't swollen any more, Meredith is still not feeling better yet. It's really hot, and that's what I think is making her sick. We may go try to find a place with air conditioning! I'm very thankful for a restful day, but I feel bad that Meredith has to be sick. Say a little prayer for her... We'd like to stay away from the Sorrento hospital.

And a few pictures that I didn't put up last post...

The view from Parc Guell above Barcelona
A boy we didn't really know "fell asleep" on Mary.

At the top of Parc Guell

Mary sitting with the old ladies at the bus stop.

Our yummy Catalynan dish from the Bachelor party. We are broadening our palate.

The Sea Shepherd is docked in Barcelona!

Mary and Meredith with the cute town of Ponza in the background.

Monday, June 20, 2011


We have loved the city of Barcelona. We've met lots of very fun people, and have gone to lots of very fun places. 

Someone told us before we got here that the city was so great because the public transportation was so easy. That made me happy because that also meant that the transportation would be cheap, and so upon our arrival, we bought a pass for 10 rides for 8,75 euros. Good deal! Only .70 euro for a ride!

Anyways, our first day, we wanted to visit the amazing La Sagrada Familia, so we asked a woman at the tourist info place to give us directions for the metro. She did, I wrote it on the map, and we headed that way. We got off the metro on the stop that we thought she told us, but we were in the middle of a neighborhood. We asked someone where to go, and she told us to walk down a road. 30 minutes later, we were in a tiny quickie shop in what looked like a very residential, somewhat rough neighborhood, trying to communicate with the men working there. 30 minutes later or maybe more, we were at the La Sagrada Familia by about 3 pm. That was our first experience with the easy public transportation.

We made it to the Parc Guell on a bus, which was a huge feat, and the park was amazing. Pictures to come.

That night we got home by about 9, and wanted dinner, so we got ready and decided that we would go to the beach area to eat a good Barcelona meal. We asked the hotel man how to get there, and he said, "It is an L, you go left, then you turn right on the first street and it leads you there." 

We thought that sounded easy enough. 20 minutes later, we saw water at a bay, but we couldn't find a beach or restaurants. We asked a big group of guys where the beach and a good restaurant was, and they laughed, and told us in very broken English to follow them. We followed about 20 feet behind them because they ignored us and didn't seem like they wanted to chat.

We found the beach and restaurants and stopped and the group of guys kept walking. Then a couple of them stopped when they didn't see us behind them, and they walked back and said, "No, no, this is not it. This is not good. It is up here. Follow us." And so we followed them. 

The rest of the group of 11 guys was already sitting down when we got to the outdoor restaurant, and they had already asked the waiter for 4 extra seats because we had to have reservations (first red flag). We thought it was very nice of them, and they were very prepared. We sat down and they started bringing us tons of food. Olives, bread, fried fruit of the sea, fried calamari, wine, sangria... Without us even asking (second red flag). We didn't eat at first because we thought that another person had ordered it, until we realized we were paying for this, and we ate every last bite because we knew that we wouldn't be able to afford to eat for a few days after this meal.

Anyways, when they poured the wine, they all toasted, "To Francisco!" And we wondered what was up with Francisco. Then one of them told us that this was his Bachelor party. 

We were like, "What! We shouldn't be crashing his party!" They assured us that it wasn't a problem, but we still felt bad. And so, for a couple of hours, the 4 of us girls ate at the very end of a table of 11 Italian men who were chanting songs about thinking long and hard about getting married before you do it. It was in Italian, but one guy translated it to us in broken English. We had many long, difficult conversations throughout dinner with the guys. I would usually just say "Bella" or "Bueno" (beautiful or good). 

Since I've been here, I've also really picked up on broken English. We have even started speaking it to each other when we are in the room! We talk much slower, without contractions, using our hands to describe things, and sometimes put an English accent on it.

Anyways, the Italians ended up being very nice guys (from what we understood) and they stopped ignoring us after we sat at their table, but it was just so random. When we were going home, one guy showed us how to get on the bus. Then he ended up riding the bus with us to show us which stop to get off of because I think that was easier than trying to explain it to us. Once we were off the bus, we knew where to walk. We got home pretty quickly, and were so glad for that.

The next day we went to the beach for the day, and we went a "shortcut" that ended up taking us about an hour to get there instead of 20 minutes. So we asked the same friend that we made who was from Barcelona who had helped us get home the night before, how to get home on the bus during the day. He showed us exactly which bus to get on and walked us to the bus stop. 

After about 45 minutes riding the bus, we started wondering why we were still on it since our stop was only about 2 miles away. We stay on the bus for another 45 minutes thinking that it would go back to where we recognized something. We had asked the driver, but he spoke Spanish. Long story short, a woman ended up translating to us that there were protestors all over the city so they would not be able to go close to our neighborhood, but we should get off immediately to get home. 

Some wandering, map studying, and 3 different metros later, we arrived home in less than 2 hours from the beach that was 2 miles away. 

I decided that the American woman who told us that Barcelona's transportation was "so easy," was probably from New York City. It's not that we were that dumb, it's just that we don't have that kind of thing in the South. That's what I keep telling myself.

So far, we have walked everywhere today, and we are taking a metro to dinner tonight, but we aren't going to risk getting lost on the way to the airport tomorrow. We decided that we will splurge on a taxi! 

I think my favorite thing about Barcelona so far has been the culture and the feel of it. It has a fun feel. It's beautiful and clean and everyone seems to be happy, helpful and friendly. My other favorite thing is their waffles drizzled with Nutella, with 2 scoops of gelato on it.

I would come back to this city again, and I'd definitely recommend it to anyone coming this way! 

And really, we have had fun on our long walks through neighborhoods in the suburbs of Barcelona. The public transportation isn't all bad. It has given us the chance to see where the people actually live. We would have never done that if we had been able to figure out how to get places!

Pictures are coming as soon as I download a few!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Hello Barcelona

We just arrived in Barcelona at our hotel. We had a fun, smooth day of traveling. Praise the Lord!

For $34 a night, we got a great room! Beautiful, high ceilings and a balcony!

That's me on the balcony if you couldn't really tell.

And we have a cute view of a nice pedestrian street from our balcony!

We'll let you know if we can fall asleep with all the noise... 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Under the Tuscan Sun...

We had a bus tour today through Tuscany. We went to Siena, a vineyard/farm, San Gimignano, and Pisa. It was busy, busy, go, go, go, but very fun! I would completely recommend the WalkAbout Bus Tour- Best of Tuscany if you are ever planning on coming to this area!

I tried to take more pictures with my phone today so I could put some on here.

Beautiful wine country! 
Mary in the vineyard.
A little bit windy on the overlook in San Gimignano... Beautiful Tuscan hills.
We couldn't believe how much it actually leaned! It was insane.
Shortly after taking this last picture I realized that my passport, credit cards, and cash was gone. I got very nervous and after a few minutes, what felt like the entire tour group was staring at me and asking me questions. We couldn't find it on the bus or anything until an hour later, after the panic had completely set in and I had sweat through my shirt. It was the worst feeling ever. We rode the bus for about an hour and then I put my hand down in the crack beside my chair that my sister had been sitting in, and I felt the wallet. I'm telling you that I believe a miracle happened today. I don't know how in the world the wallet could have gotten there, and I don't know why I put my hand down that crack when I wasn't even looking for the wallet. Anyways, I feel ten times better and am going to sleep now resting easy, knowing that I don't have to spend all day tomorrow at the Embassy.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

We're here!!!

Mary was completely out in the first 5 minutes on the train.
We had a long couple of days traveling from plane to plane to train to train, then we drug our luggage down uneven stone sidewalks. After about 20 minutes, we finally found our quaint little hotel entrance, and a man opened the door, and Mary said, "We're here!!!" She acted like he knew who we were. The man just stared at her, and there was a moment of silence, and I was thinking, Mary!! Say something else. Maybe a, "We're here to check in." or "Do you work at the hotel?" Anyways, after we got over the awkward moment, we couldn't stop laughing at Mary's first words to our hotel owner. He was one of the most serious people that I have ever met and he never cracked a smile, very nice, but doesn't laugh at any of our jokes or when one of us says "Hola!" or when we accidently walked past our hotel today saying, that man looks just like our hotel owner!

Anyways, yesterday we went to a nice dinner at Trattoria ZaZa. It was delicious, and we went to bed at about 8 because of exhaustion, but the baby playing outside kept us up until about 9:30. We expected to wake up early this morning because we'd gone to sleep early, but I was the first one up at 10 am this morning. Oops! So much for the early start for sightseeing!

My favorite part so far has been the Centrale Market. We went this morning and bought dried fruit, nuts, mozzarella cheese, wine, olive oil, bread and mushroom dip, and all at a good price for snacks, breakfast, and picnics.

The Duomo
After that, we were off to do some hard core sightseeing. As I was totally engrossed in finding the Accademia so that we could see Michelangelo's David statue, I got hit by a woman on a bike. I didn't even see her coming until her handle bars whammed into my arms and her tire ran over my foot. A big crowd of people kind of gasped and a man asked if I was okay. It was a little embarrassing because everyone was looking at us. I'm pretty sure the woman on the bike was on drugs because she gave a completely blank stare and didn't say a word to me. We walked away and I couldn't believe she didn't say sorry. Plus, we never found the Accademia.

Don't know if you can see the tire marks across my toes.
Then we went walking through all the other sights, including a cathedral where Mary and I had to put scarves on over our dresses to make them cover our knees to get into the church. Mary had to put two scarves on, one to cover her shoulders and one to cover her knees. The man at the entrance laughed at her.

Anyways, then we went walking down past the Uffizi museum, Piazza Signoria, and to the Ponte Vecchio bridge that was so cute. It is a bridge across the river with a bunch of shops on it. By that time we were so tired that we sat on the bridge for a while and then made the trek back to our hotel/apartment. We have a kitchen and living room in our apartment, so it's nice to keep drinks. As I sit here blogging, both Mary and Anne G are asleep. They were out in about 10 minutes.

This is for my grandmother, Dixie.
It's funny to see "Dixie" in Florence!
We're going to rest a while until our picnic tonight so that we can stay out past 8 pm! We want to be able to stay up for the sunset tonight.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Meredith, here we come!

I'm going to Italy TODAY... Can't believe this day has come after all hours of the planning for the trip. I never thought it would come! I'm so excited to go and to see Meredith! 

I'm really nervous, of course, about the plane ride. I'm thinking of every worst case scenario. I feel like I need some kind of drugs or alcohol to relieve by anxiety but I'll be okay and I'm going to resist the urge (ha), and going to just take some sleeping medicine tonight on the plane so I'll get a good night's rest and wake up tomorrow ready to go in Italy. I'll be there tomorrow at about 10:30 am, and I will try to blog a few times about the trip. 

Hope y'all have a good week, and hope to update soon! 

Mother/Father's Day!

In light of this being right between Mother's Day and Father's Day, and me leaving for a while and possibly not having time to write this post, I would like to dedicate it to my sweet parents. I have to say that I truly believe I have the best parents in the world. I know you might think that you have the best parents in the world, but it's not true, and you should probably be jealous.

Well I'm just kidding. I know that my parents might not be the best for everyone 
(but I still can't quite see who they wouldn't be good for).  

But really, I really do feel so blessed by them.

I had such a fun childhood... Fun times going to work with my Dad every day, going shopping every Saturday with Mom, helping Mom with house projects, and helping Dad raise the baby goats and sheep. Dad would sneak us down to the gas station to get king-size candy bars without Mom knowing. Mom would take us down to the inner city to hang out with some of her students that were our age.  It was an odd childhood, yes, but it was so darn exciting! 

My parents have taught me so much over the years. Only recently have I realized how much they have taught me. A lot of their philosophy, whether they know it or not, is to give us independence. They expected me to do things on my own, they never worried about me "making it places," they pretty much let me make my own decisions 95% of the time. They didn't really seem to worry about too much. They let us learn through trial and error sometimes, and we learned it better. 

My parents never cared much/pressured us about grades growing up.  They never had a strict schedule. Mom wanted me to have a decently clean room, but it wasn't the first priority on the list. We would sometimes (still do) decide a few days ahead of time to go on vacation. We weren't really concerned with the details, though we still had some basic structure in our lives. Overall, they taught us to go with the flow. 

Growing up, we didn't always have a lot but we always had fun.

I've never heard my parents fight. I never doubted that they might get divorced. It never even crossed my mind. They always seem to have the other's interests in mind. 

They have showed me how to be humble. They spend more time with people who the world views as"in need of help" than with people who can help them, though most of the time, they end up helping each other mutually. Some of their friends end up on the 5 o'clock news in a mug shot, and getting collect phone calls and letters from jail (usually to my Mom) is not odd around here. They have been taken advantage of so many times that people, including me sometimes, think they should have learned their lesson by now... But they keep giving people the benefit of the doubt, and it is an amazing picture of the way God loves us. "Love always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres..." 

My mom and dad show God's love through their relationships with the unloveable as well as the easily-lovable. I feel so blessed to have grown up with that unconditional love from them. I have never doubted their love for me. 

I can't say that my parents are completely perfect, but I can say that I am confident that they love me and they have been such a great picture to me of God's unconditional love for me. I feel so blessed to have had my parents as parents. 

Happy Mother's and Father's Day, Mom and Dad! I love you two so much! 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


I worked at Poppy today, just filling in for my sister since she is out of town.
 It wasn't too hard to learn what to do.

Anyways, it's the cutest store! If you would ever like to drop in and pick up some flowers to go, or have flowers delivered to the Chattanooga area, you should call this little store. It also has cute gifts like candles, cookbooks, and stationery. 

The cutest stationery- my favorite part.
Everything is adorable.

I have had lots of time today to be planning things to do in Italy and Barcelona. It's quite overwhelming, and I have less than a week to do it so I better get working again! Still open for any recommendations! 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

It's funny how I get out of school...

It's funny how I get out of school and then think that I don't have time to blog. It should be the other way around. Anyways, I have been doing stuff even though I don't have an official job. This week I stayed in Atlanta for 3 days and babysat my cute cousin Shelby. I've been babysitting for another cute family too. They have 4 boys under 6 years old and they are all so cute and energetic! 

Here are some pictures from babysitting that were on my phone:

Cute Shelby at the pool. It's all we did for 3 days.

Adorable Tate, one of the four boys.

Why do kids always have to get so close to the tv?

I've really been missing Kaden! He has grown so!

And he's such a good crawler now!
We had a fun Dugger family reunion today. We talked about my great-grandmother Glades, and I decided I like that name. Not that I need any baby names soon at all. Just saying I like it.

Anyways,  I will be babysitting most nights this week and working at my cousin's store during the daytime and looking for a job and packing for Europe and then going to Nashville to see the Street family and coming home to do facepaint with Evangelical Children's Ministry and.... I'll pretty much be busy.

And lastly, here are some very late pictures of formal and a few from Emily's wedding:

Gav, Nat, and I before our last formal.

My hot date at formal.
(I only say that because he hates any kind of PDA.
Not really only, I do think he is, but I wouldn't normally write that.
Does that make sense?)

Geoffrey, me, Adam and Gavin after formal.

He likes to disrupt our pictures,
 only because he knows it gets on my nerves.
This is why I put that caption on the other pic.

Our one picture from Emily's wedding together. In the parking lot.
At least we got one!

Natalie, Me, Emily W. and Gavin at the reception
And lastly, but certainly not least, the beautiful bride and groom! 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Then and Now


And now...

We've changed but we're still pretty much the same.

Still love my cousins!