Friday, May 8, 2009

A Bike Ride through Tuscany

First off, it is 4am in the morning here and I cannot sleep so I decided I would post a blog since it really has been too long for those of you who follow us. So I hope you get as excited reading this current blog post as much as I am just in thinking about what to say!

This Friday (May 8) Meg, Lizard and I all decided to do this Tuscan Bike Tour that we heard tremendous things about. We met this morning at 9.50 am on the bridge just upstream of the Ponte Vechhio. As we approached the meeting spot we immediately realized that this was more of a tour for young married couples, rather than three single (obviously not Meg, but get the picture) college students. All together there were about twenty of us, and as eager as everyone was for this tour, we quickly became acquainted with the other group members...which made the trip just as much, if not more fun.

So from the bridge we took a 30 minute bus ride through the hills of Chianti surrounding Firenze, to our meeting point at a 12th century Castello(castle). At the castle we were given a brief history of the castle, a tour on how they make there wines and oilve oil (which the current Count and Countess have been doing since their first ancestors built the castle), and then we were given samples of their wines and oils (which were superb by the way!). Once we finished the tour we all were fitted for our bikes and prepared to set out on our 25km bike ride through the Tuscan Valley.

Now one key thing to note as I describe our tour this afternoon, is that the three tour guides/ owners and instigators of the tour were so much fun! The two guys were Scottish brothers and the girl is in her late twenties, from California and went to CU Boulder! They were all young and hilarious! The guys were probably as much fun for us as we were for them, since as I mentioned before, this tour typically draws the married and coupled crowd! The chemistry of the entire group including the instructors was like that of a camp! Everyone acted like they had known each other for years, as we cracked jokes with each other and played off other peoples comments...the people in itself were just so much fun! The Scottish brothers (Rolin and Andy) were so so so cute and probably assumed that I was thinking that as you started this paragraph so I might as well be as open as I always am and straight up admit my yet again attraction towards the opposite sex of two upper-twenties Scotsmen (can you blame me?!) Anyways...

The bike ride was absolutely, positively gorgeous!! It was a perfectly clear, blue, sunny day at about 75 degrees at the hottest! I honestly cannot put into words the beauty of the Tuscan valley, (if you have seen it you can understand me on this one)but it is literally breathtaking! The first part of our ride was relatively easy, mostly downhill or flat. And as we coasted through the hills, my senses went into ecstasy overdrive! You know the feeling you get when you smell something beautiful? Like the reason we open every scent of Yankee Candle and smell it as long as it appears new to our senses, and the reason we specifically make a lap through Bath and Body Works just so we can engulf ourselves in the richness of the scents...well welcome to Tuscany in the Spring. Every plant is rich in blossom, I literally would get alternating scents of lavender, chamomile, roses, was so unbelievable unreal! Sorry that is a lot of description but again please understand my excitement of this tour!!...

So our next stop was at a family owned Ristorante were we had a full course of salad, wine, bread, appetizers, entree, cappuccino, and dessert! So in typical Italian tradition, the meal was not lite, even in the midst of an active day. So after lunch we hopped back onto our bikes for a 25 minute coast to our dreaded location--the base of the half-mile hill. Now let me give you a bit of preface on this hill. When we were looking at reviews for this tour online, every single person mentioned how remarkable the tour was but how dreadful, terrifying, and upsetting this uphill stretch was. People were remarking on their pretty terrific weekly physical activity and how it was too difficult of a climb for even them to handle. However, in our young and sprightly attitudes towards life, we decided we wanted to take the challenge of the hill instead of jumping into the van with the 15 other people. PAIN would be a good word to describe it. I was praying the whole time that CAD had not caught up to me enough that my heart would spontaneously burst from my chest, because at the rate it was was a bit frightening! But I am proud to say that Meg and I rode up the whole way! It was a bonus reaching the top of the hill and being affirmed by the two Scotts that we were in the top of the very small percentage of people who have been able to do they said to Meg and I "So it's not just beauty you have to offer, eh?" Clearly as you can imagine, I blushed for a good five minutes afterward! So at this point Meg and I were feeling pretty good about ourselves in spite of our shaking legs.

After the hill we had about a fifteen minute stretch to our ending point back at the castle. It was so so much fun...we ended around 5pm and we felt like we had just gotten started! We were so sad to say goodbye to everyone, but I can confidently say that this tour was by far my favorite thing I have done while being abroad. All of the dynamics of the day made it one that I will undoubtedly remember and cherish for the rest of my life! I hope I didn't bore you too much with such a lengthy post...until next time!!


Monday, April 27, 2009


Paris....wonderful wonderful wonderful! We loved everything about it...the Eiffel Tower, Croque Monseur, the Louvre, musee d'Orsay, Andy Warhol exhibition at the National Gallery, the best pastries the world has to offer, crepes, baguettes, Notre Dame, omelets, Arch de Triumph...etc. The people were so nice and friendly (contrary to what you always hear)! We kind of had a goof at the airport on our way home though, and of course we didn't figure it out until the night before our airport left at 7AM. So we had to be at the airport at 5AM, and the hotel we were staying was about 1.5 hours away, so technically we needed to leave around 3 AM in order to get there in time, but we soon found out the last train left at around 12 AM, so our plan was to leave at 12 and sleep in the airport. So around 11 at night we got kind of worried because it was daylight savings, and we didnt know at what hour the time was going to change, and we didnt want to miss our only way to the airport. So we packed up in a hurry and just left. But then we found out that we could only go to a certain point by train because the rest of the trains had already stopped running. So we went as for as we could, and then had to get a taxi for the rest of the way. They were really nice and showed us the secret door to go in the airport because technically the airport wasnt open until 4. So we walked in and found a cozy place by the escalator on the freezing marble floor away from the homeless people and slept until about 5. It wasn't until we woke up that we actually realized how cold it was...
Boy were we glad to make it home!! We slept until 8pm that night!

Howth, Ireland....a tiny fishing village outside of Dublin

London and Liverpool

Friday, April 17, 2009

Liverpool, Home of the Beatles

In previous blog I forgot to mention how crazy/great it was to be in an English speaking country again! We kept catching ourselves saying si and grazie and forgetting that people could actually listen to our conversations when sitting on the metro or walking around. It was also a HUGE relief to know you could walk up to someone to ask for help or directions, something we are not used to here in Italy.
On to Liverpool..

Liverpool was one of my favorites just because the people were so nice!! Of course we never have any idea where we are going upon first arriving at our new destination, but the people in Liverpool were constantly helping us! After walking to about 5 different bus stops, we finally made it to our hotel. Thanks to Lizard, we stayed at the most amazing hotel(or it seemed like that after coming from the hostel)with the most comfortable beds, chocolates on our pillows, English tv, and a huge continental breakfast. I think this is also what made the Liverpool trip so good. Unfortunately, not the best weather in Liverpool, but that didn't stop us from our Magical Mystery Tour! We rode a crazy neon tour bus around Liverpool and got to the sights of the Beatles including, their homes, Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields, and much more. We got to hear tons of great stories from our tour guide who actually knows Paul McCartney! We were laughing the whole just because it was such a funny experience and because half-way through Tiff leans over and asks "how many people were in the Beatles?"
Another thing we loved about Liverpool was the accents..they were crazy and nothing like in London. It was really like another language, and most of the time we didn't even know what they were saying, but it was so fun to listen to.
Liverpool night we headed to the Cavern Pub where the Beatles used to play and listened to this guy do a lot of Beatles and oldies covers...i think one of the most fun nights on the trip. It was such a fun atmosphere in this small underground pub with all of these people just singing along and having a good time and dancing. We just sat in the corner, sang along, and took it all in.
I think that about covers Liverpool and London even though I'm sure I left things out, so I will have to have Mary Beth fill in...

Up next..Dublin!! (and pictures!)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Our whirwind of a spring break...only a month late

There is so much to say about our spring break trip that I don't even know where to begin! It doesn't help either that we waited a month to post about it, so sorry if some details are spared or forgotten. Hopefully the pictures will do justice! So we visited 3 countries and 5 cities in 10 days!! It was a whirlwind but a very fun one! Surprisingly, there were only a couple mishaps and a few moments of frustration and we all survived each other..even Cole who was with 4 girls!!

Stress #1 (before the trip even began)- waiting in the check-in line at the airport not knowing if our bags were going to make it on board because they were almost definitely oversize and overweight. Apparently these discount airlines are very strict with carry-on luggage, but we chose to do it anyway. So while no one was looking we walked over to the little metal box you have to be able to fit you bag into to carry it on and of course none of ours came even close to fitting, even with shoving. After frantically worrying for an hour, the lady didn't even look at our bags because apparently we had already checked-in online. It was a close one...

First stop...LONDON
We arrived Friday evening and headed for the hostel. It might have taken an hour to get there, but I'll have to say we have become very skilled at grasping each city's transportation system (or maybe that is just Cole and I and everyone else just follows). For our first hostel experience, it was not a bad one. Quite the opposite of what I was expecting, we came in around 11pm to get ready for bed and found everyone in the room sound asleep with lights off. So we scrambled around in the dark and in our shared floor bathroom to get ready for bed. Oh and found someone sleeping in the bed Cole was planning on sleeping in, so we all re-arranged in the dark. Quite an experience! Hostel experience #2 eating our cereal with spoons that had just been used by someone else. Our first day we took a free tour of London that we had found an ad for in the hostel. Starting with the changing of the guard, we got to see Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey, Parliament...all the things you need to see while in London..and all for free! We then grabbed some lunch and had a picnic in Hyde Park, one of the most beautiful parks I have seen. We were lucky to have great weather, so we relaxed in the park along with everyone else! We wondered around some more, across London Bridge and by the Globe Theater and then called it a day. Sadly one of the highlights of London was eating that night at Texas Embassy... some good old Mexican food. After another night of getting ready in the dark and a morning of eating cereal out of bowls and spoons other people had just finished eating out of, we headed to the Tate Modern. (I'm not complaining, I loved the hostel!) The Tate Modern was great! MB will elaborate more because she absolutely loved it! We also found that if you don't plan, you get a really late start to your day. Cole and I found a really fun market that had tons of food and home-made goods, lots of hand-made bags and was a lot of fun and we ate way too much food. We also went to Kensington Palace and got to see all of the Queen's dresses and Princess Diana's gowns. Kensington gardens were beautiful..there were people practicing archery in their back yards!! It was just like a movie, very peaceful and picturesque. While we were at Kensington, MB, Tiff, Lizard, and Colleen went to Hillsong which I know was quite an experience!

Stress #2- figuring out how to get to Liverpool the next day because of course we waited until the night before and all the ticket prices had gone after going to 3 train stations, we finally got tickets and ended it with dinner at McDonalds (a frequent stop for us).

Next stop...Liverpool