Friday, June 29, 2012

Barcelona Pictures

I couldn't decide if I wanted to try and put the pictures into the previous blogpost I already wrote... and decided it was probably too much work. So instead, I am just going to start from the begining and one day at a time put up the pictures of each day. So day1 and day 2. Traveling and Barcelona.

*If you click on the first picture you can just scroll through all the pictures or you can read my little commentary by just scrolling down.

Our Airplane Buddies: Devin and Jake.  Poor Danielle had to deal with Devin
asking her all flight if she'd change him seats so he could sit by me...
Yeah clearly didn't happen.  But we definitely didn't want to forget them!

Pitstop in Germany.

 The jump.... and the fall.
 *Notice the horrified woman.
 I really do love McDonalds.
 We just wanted a cute picture on this street.... and then these two guys on a scooter decided they wanted to be in the picture too!

 First Gelato... kinda a big deal.

 Typical European Breakfast.

 So in order to go into the Cathedral you have to have your shoulders covered and skirt to your knees.  So I had to change my beach attire....and the guard outside the Cathedral to make sure everyone is following the dresscode.

 So we thought we'd hit up the Picasso Museum... until we saw the line and the cost..... so we settled with a picture of the sign. Yep we are that high class.

 Yogurtland of Barcelona.  And the cute Dutch girl that worked there.  She loves Grey's Anatomy and Friends.

Just some spectacular food...

 The Mediterranean Sea!  Watch out for the nude beaches.... they were everywhere!

 Dinner on the ship.  We were in love with the Molten Chocolate Cake........ loved.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Nothing like a sunrise to make you ponder.

Barcelona: Day 14
As I ran laps around the top of the cruise ship this morning I couldn't help reflect as I watched the sun start as just a few streaks of pinks and yellows in the haze on the crest of the Mediterranean to a brilliant orange as it rose. That is one of the fun things about running. If I would have been just staring at the sunrise I wouldn't have made it 10 minutes, but since I was running while I watched it the whole thing. Because it was the last day of the cruise it was extremely peaceful on the top of the ship. I only saw two people that joined me on a run for a little bit. The cool sea breeze and the peace of the brilliant sky made it a perfect scene to reflect.

What have I learned and how I am a different person from going on this crazy adventure. (Just so you can imagine what it is like while I am typing this blogpost, I'm sitting on a very crowded airplaine... of course in the middle seat only 2.5 hours in to our 11 hour fly. We just finished a delicious mushroom beef with rosemary red potatoes dinner that competed with or was better than more than half the dinners we are on our ship. I felt a bit guilty when we met a family from Philly who said the food on the ship was some of the best food they have ever eaten. The mom said she will never be able to compete with such delicious food.... yes Danielle and I felt extremely guilty because we didn't eat ¼ of our dinners because we thought they were gross... but I'll get to that on my next blogspot. So here I am, on a flight that is 11 hours and going to be light the ENTIRE flight because we follow the sun. Our flight took off at 5:30 pm and we arrive in San Fran at 7:30. Yes, time wise our flight only took 2 hours. But if I could take a picture of Danielle with her head on her tray table trying to sleep... you would definitely know this flight is not 2 hours. So anyways I am sitting here listening to classical music through the inflight radio (I already ran out the battery of one iPod listening to Harry Potter book 7 and want to save the other iPod for when things get desperate around hour 8-11) So I am listening to classical music and sipping on Chamomile tea feeling so high class. So back to what I learned from this trip.

The most valuable thing I have learned that I think is to important to learn over and over and over again is how wonderful people are. Jason has laughed at my blogposts saying how boring Europe sounds... I am not sky diving, para sailing, or even scuba diving. He even said, “Reading your blog has made me never want to go to Europe.” But looking back at the trip, the beauty of the places was remarkable. The views of these cute little towns with rocky cliffs built on the Mediterranean sea was amazing. The shops, the lifestyles, the food, the fashion, the culture.... so fun. But the best part of the trip hands down were the people that we met. It gave me a renewed hope in human nature. We met people from all walks of life with all types of lifestyles. New Yorkers that threw out the F word like it was going out of style, a family from St. Pete's Florida who came on the trip to give their private schooled teenagers some culture, a first year med student doing humanitarian work in Romania, or the numerous gay couples that added so much spice and fun to everything. We became hopefully famous... not infamous, as the “teachers” on ship. As we were getting off the ship a guy I had chatted in the laundry room with was on our elevator. I hadn't noticed him and he goes, “Oh hey teach!” or as we were standing in line to board our first flight the family in front of us turned around and said, “Oh weren't you the teachers?”

Despite a few rude French people.... the most wonderful part of this whole trip was how amazing people are. People are good. People are kind. No matter where they are from, no matter what their faith or lack of faith is. I know I am not telling you anything you don't already know.... but it's so refreshing to learn it again. I have faith in humanity again. I dare another group of 14-15 year old teenagers to try and suck that faith out of me. We took lots of pictures with random people. With the nice taxi drivers, the waiters, randoms.... because the beauty of the Mediterranean.... you can look that up google and find pictures so much more spectacular than the ones I took. But what you can't find are the faces of all the good good people that we met.

P.S. I am now now home and will be putting up pictures from the trip soon!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Breaking Point: Sicily

Everyone has a breaking point. The point in which everything just comes crumbling down. Something snaps and you are just done. No matter how hard you try you are finished. Today on day 10 of the trip I finally hit my breaking point. I am actually quite shocked. I really thought it would be before today. With the jet lag, possible motion sickness, the crowds and heat... I thought I would have a pretty weak breaking point. But I guess it's been the 43 days of training at Disneyland that built up my endurance... but no matter someone's endurance eventually everyone breaks. And today was definitely the day.

The great news? Today I toured a darling little tourist trap on the Island of Sicily called Taormina by myself. The girls had hit their breaking points days ago and knew they couldn't handle another hot day in a city center. So why was this great news? Although I hit my breaking point, I didn't snap at anyone. Rather I sat in the shade on some steps eating some peach and pineapple gelato trying to enjoy the beauty around me (despite my feeling of snapping any moment) when these two cute old ladies from Pennsylvania came and sat next to me. We had a wonderful conversation when one of the ladies decided she wanted to shop a little more. So it was me and one of the ladies. I found out that her husband had passed away about two years ago from lung cancer and we just sat and cried together as she told me the story of his passing. I bawled and bawled. All I could mumble out between sobs was, “How wonderful that you had 54 great years together.” She patted my arm and said, “Don't worry pretty girl, you'll find your best friend too.”

The rest of the day in Taormina I just cried as I wandered down the streets of this darling ancient city that over looked the beautiful turquoise sea. Luckily I had sunglasses so no one really seemed to notice. The only thing that stopped me from breaking was.... you guessed it. Food. A delightful rich cannoli dipped in pistachios and chocolate chips. It was hands down the most delicious thing I have eaten on this entire trip. It was so rich I couldn't eat the whole thing but man oh man oh man it was heaven. It was very different from the cannoli's I've had... the ricata cheese mixture in the middle was a little thinner and lighter and the pastry shell was thicker, almost like a waffle cone, but more fragile. Ah... my mouth waters just thinking about it now.

So today. It was rough. But I survived. And now I am laying in my bed where I just might stay for a long long time.... or until dinner ;)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Venice: it's a marathon not a sprint.

I knew when I looked at the cruise itinerary I knew that this was going to be the toughest port. 10 am to 11 pm. The only thing I have to compare that to is Disneyland. I think the most magical time at Disneyland is the hour after it closes. When all the people and it's just you, the castle, and the Hello Dolly soundtrack. The only problem is, I am always so excited to get to Disneyland and wear myself out so fast, I rarely make it. I had a feeling this was exactly how Venice would be.

I woke up early so I could work out and be ready with my camera by 9 am when the tugboat guided us into Venice. The Capitan of the ship taught us about Venice and pointed out important places as we were pulled into Venice.

I had a preconceived picture of what Venice was like. Honestly, I wasn't excited about it at all. I had heard that it's dirty, it smells especially when it's really hot (Which of course today was), and I heard that the gondola rides were TOTALLY overrated. I had no reason to be excited about Venice. For some reason I think of Venice Beach (one of the trashiest beaches in LA) when I thought of Venice. For some reason I imagined tattoo parlors and weed.

So as our boat pulled into port, I was already blown away. Bridges. Oh the bridges! Every single picture perfect bridge. The building were darling too! I could not wait to get off the cruise ship and start exploring!

So as the girls and I were standing in line to get off the ship and into the water taxis (that were privately paid because of the strike, which affect nothing by the way) I tried to warn the girls. I tried to explain that this port needed to be more like a marathon than a sprint. I tried to explain we needed to pace ourselves. I tried to coach them into ways we could conserve energy with water bottles, long lunch breaks, park benches in the shade.... But all my coaching was pretty much in vain. But oh well, we'll get to that later.

Something that shocked me, which I guess Rick Steves warns about in his books is that Europeans don't believe that they should have to wait in line for anything. They think the line doesn't apply to them. Today, as previous learned, we saw first hand how ridiculously true it was. There was a line to get off the ship, a line to show our passports, and a line to get on the watertaxi. At each “line” all the Europeans would just crowd to the front instead of waiting in line. It was quite ridiculous.

So Venice was more beautiful than I thought. It didn't smell at all. The water wasn't dirty. There was very little trash or graffiti. It was wonderful. St. Mark's Square was beautiful but very hot. So we started wondering through the shaded alleyways. I found another oil painting to buy. (I'm buying a painting in each city. I'm pretty excited about it) Then we found what I instantly knew would be our Gondola Driver. He was perfect! Tall, dark, handsome... and he really wanted us to be in his gondola. We each paid the 20 euro... (totally worth it) and we jumped into the gondola. It was amazing! It was about 40 minutes of pure gondola bliss. I just sat and flirted with him, took pictures of him, and dreamed of what life would be like if I lived in this darling city. At the end of the tour we took pictures with him and then he asked if we could be facebook friends. Absolutely hilarious! Don't worry McKenzie took pictures as I wrote my name on a piece of paper so Daniele could add me.

Next we found a airconditioned/wi-fi/cheap place to eat. I ate my caprese salad while I talked to Jason on facetime. P.S. I put some pictures on some of the blogposts. It was lovely. My salad was lovely. The cheese here in Italy is out of this world!
After lunch we wondered around for a little bit, then the girls decided they were hot, they were sweaty, they got what they wanted, so at 1:30 they decided to head back to the ship.

But I knew it was a marathon. I knew that I needed to just endure the awful heat for a little longer and it would get beautiful again. So they took off and I wandered around. I just wanted to sit in the shade and people watch. I sat on the steps of St. Mark's Square leaned against a column and watched the tourists wander by. It was very peaceful. In the distant background I heard a quartet playing at one of the local cafes. I actually fell asleep for a little bit until I was woken up by a man in a bright orange polo shirt that said, “St. Marco's Security” He told me that it was against the rules to sit on the steps. Weird but oh well. (It actually was the second time he caught me sitting down in the shade. I thought I just couldn't be sitting by the cathedral but after I finally found a sign, it was anywhere in St. Mark's Square. Ridiculous right?) But he just smile and me and said, “You again?” I laughed, joked a bit and went on my way. (I later saw people getting tickets for sitting on the steps. Ridiculous)

So I wandered a different direction than we had gone before. It was so beautiful. I laughed. There was so much of Venice that we hadn't experienced yet and I was thrilled to have the chance to explore. There were shops and open markets all along the water. Finally I found what I was looking for. A tree! I was really shocked at how few of trees I had seen. Not only a tree but a park! It was a gated park which lead me to believe it was private but I found an entrance with no fee so I wandered inside. There were beautiful tall hedges everywhere making the paths a maze. I wandered until I saw two park benches facing each other in the shade. There was a cute old couple on one bench and although I thought it was a bit awkward to get so near to them I sat on the other bench. We smiled at each other but didn't say a word. After 10 minutes or so I could tell they weren't going anywhere and I felt comfortable enough in our area especially with them facing directly at me, I layed down on the park bench, used my bag as a pillow and fell asleep. I was dreaming about how wonderful it was. Laying on this park bench feeling the breeze with the smell of the ocean. I fell alseep. All of the sudden I felt weight on my head. It terrified me! I jumped up completely startled to see a fat woman had just sat on my head. Literally sat on my head. There was about 6 inches on the end of the park bench that I wasn't using and I guess she thought her bottom was small enough to fit in that space. I honestly could not believe that just happened! I sat up and saw the cute old couple from Germany were just as horrified that she had just done that as I was. When I sat up the woman called over to her husband to come sit next to me. I'll be honest, I was absolutely pissed. Who the heck does that. I watched the German woman glare at the lady as well. I honestly almost yelled.... but we know I would/could never do that. So I asked, “Hi! Where y'all from?” (Acting like I wasn't fuming that they were so freaking rude when there were PLENTY of other park benches around) Go ahead and guess where they were from.... FRANCE!!!! I laughed. Of course. It was so fitting I almost couldn't stand it. I went on to have a lovely conversation with them until they got up and walked off a few minutes later.

At this point I was at a 9. (I needed to go to the bathroom) but I refused to pay the 1,50 euro to use a public bathroom so I decided to keep wander until I found a place I'd like to sit and enjoy a diet coke. I saw a Hard Rock Cafe. I knew they would have a bathroom and really hoped they would have free refills! And as an added bonus they had free wi-fi. So I sat up at the bar and ordered a diet coke from a handsome bar tender. He laughed when I said diet coke but I just ignored that. We had a lovely conversation while he picked the bottom mint leaves off a stem of mint which looked like it was for some type of drink. It smelled amazing! He was bored I was amused so we had a great conversation about Venice. He was from England but came to go to school in Venice. He lives outside of Venice a bit. So he drives a car to a station then takes a water taxi into work every day. He was 27 years old. He likes to surf so I told him about California. He said he heard that LA is gross. I laugh when I heard people say that. I think Pasadena, Glendale, Burbank, Santa Monica are all just as fabulous as other areas of southern California. Anyway we had a great conversation as I was texting Jason and Zoe. It was fun to see what type of crowd would chose to eat at Hard Rock Cafe in Venice. I was surprised how few Americans came in... but it was fun seeing how they were mostly people that wore very American brands and spoke different languages. Asians in Hollister. Russians in Lacrosse. It was fun. But of course my favorite was talking to this bar tender about life in Europe. He gave me one of the mint stems that had produced flower at the end. It was cute.

After I wandered around more. I figured it was almost time for dinner. All of the cafes around Mark's Square had opened up now. Each one had a band that played. It was so amazing. The heat of the day was gone. The sun was starting to set so everything was golden. I felt like I was in Disneyland. (The ultimate compliment coming from me.) But here was the most bizarre thing... I almost don't dare admit it. I was tired of tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. Gasp. So I wandered for probably another hour trying to find something to eat. Every single place had the exact same food it seems. I really didn't want seafood..... and I didn't want pasta. I seriously laughed at myself. All I ever want is Italian and when all the italian food I could ever imagine was at my fingertips... I didn't want it. So I just wandered. I thought about going back to Hard Rock Cafe for dinner but then I figured it would have given the bar tender the wrong impression... like he actually had a chance. So I started walking back towards our water taxi. I saw one fabulous looking cafe that had a great looking caprese salad so I was going to make myself eat it one more time. But then I saw a darling navy and white Venice sweatshirt that I had been eyeing all day. I could buy a caprese salad or get a sweatshirt for the same price.... so I bought the sweatshirt for 11 euro (CHEAP!) I bargained for it.... all the other stands were selling it for 20. And I walked towards my water taxi with an extra skip in my step.

What I learned in Venice is the same thing that I have learned a hundred times in life, and I am sure I will learn a hundred more. It is the people not the places or even the beauty that make life so great. Sure the gondola ride was beautiful, fun, and different but it was the driver that made it a blast. Sitting there flirting with him, taking pictures of him, asking him about his many girlfriends that will be the memory. Of course the highlight, like the “win” was when he asked for my name so he could add me on facebook. Or the English bartender that I sat and talked with for over an hour in the Hardrock Cafe. Sure I loved that I was sitting at a bar with a wall of windows that had a perfect view of St. Mark's square and a gondola station so I could sit watch gondola coming and going taking tourists typically lovers on romantic rides around the city but the memory will be more about this handsome 27 year old English guy with brown hair and a red beard who came to Venice to go to Univerisity. Trying to convince him that California is WAY cooler and he should come to the States where people are way nicer. And of course I loved that he asked if we could hang out after he got off work... (probably my favorite part of coming to Europe is how unique and special I feel. So often in Utah Valley I feel like I am just the same cookie cutter girl. I feel like often I hear someone say, “Oh you are a teacher, you have your masters, you play the guitar and love to run? What else have you done for us?” It's so fun to be here and feel like I am unique and special... even if it is it's just in my head and really they only like me because I am from the States.) OR even the fat French woman that sat on my head (I literally had to pull my hair out from under her bottom in order to sit up). I was so ticked off when they woke me up from my great little nap.... and I LOVED the older German couple that had been watching me, making me feel safe. They were just as horrified when she sat on my head as I was! I didn't actually speak to the German couple because I don't think they were confident in their English but our facial expressions said it all. But although the park next to the major water way in Venice was glorious... a much needed sanctuary with trees and grass (so so rare in downtown Venice) but it will be talking with this French couple that made it great. He was a computer guy for a French automobile company, she was a pediatrician as far as I could make out. They live 20 kilometers out of Paris but it takes him an hour and a half every day to take train and metro to work! They have family in Texas but he hates the Texan accident. He said he loved talking to me because he could understand me so much better than most English speakers. They travel all over Europe on holidays but there favorite place is Prague in December. I guess Prague needs to be on my list of places to visit. (Joanie has told me how wonderful Prague is, I guess I'll have to listen to her!) But who knew that another former communist community could be so wonderful? When I felt like I had built up enough of a relationship with this man (his wife didn't speak very good English so I am assuming she just sat and listened) I finally asked, “Why are French people so rude?” (I didn't use his wife sitting on my head as an example...) He said, “The farther north you go the ruder French people get because they are busy schedule. In southern France people are a lot nicer. But in Paris tourist forget that there was people actually working. They have places to go people to see, they aren't on vacation and that is why they are so rude.” It is conversations like this that made my time in Venice so fabulous. Once you've seen a specular cathedral you've seen them all (sorry if that is offensive) once you've seen a city center with darling little outdoor restaurants you know what they are like. The reason I love to travel, and the reason Venice was so great was the experiences with people. And that is why I loved that I got to adventure alone for 5 hours. It is when you are by yourself that you have experiences that I had today. I loved Venice, I loved the bridges, I loved the boats, I loved the houses and buildings, I loved the waterways... but most important Venice was a marathon not a sprint because it takes time to meet people and it is the experiences with people that make a place unique.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Who knew it could possibly get any better?

As I stepped out of the entryway of the 10th floor of our ship, I knew today was going to be a good day. It was about 6:30 am and the sun was just coming up over the mountain to shine down on the beautiful turquoise Adriatic Sea. Sailboats and yachts were passing us on both sides as we pulled into a beautiful cove with boats docked and darling white stucco houses with red and orange tile roofs. There were palm trees everywhere. I giggled and said, “Welcome to Croatia” as I started running around the track on the top floor of the ship.

I wish I could say that I was energized by the beauty that surrounded me during my workout, but my muscles are having a tough time here in Europe. I ran 6 miles yesterday on the treadmill... and that was fine! *It helped that I was staring out a wall of windows watching dolphins dance through the sea, watching the Heat/Thunder game, AND playing solitaire on my treadmill. HOW cool is that? But point is my poor muscles are losing strength disgustingly fast... oh well.

Anyway, I could not wait to get out into the city of Dubrovnik. Dallin, my high school boyfriend, wrote me every week of his mission telling me how beautiful Croatia was. I was so excited to finally see what he was bragging about. I felt like writing him on facebook today just to say, “You were right. It was everything you said and more.” But I remember him telling me how much the people hated Americans. He was spit on, rocks thrown at him, and even cars tried to hit him. So I was a bit scared.... which I was quick to find was COMPLETELY unfounded. In all of our stops, the people of Croatia were hands down the nicest to tourists.

Our first stop was to the city travel center. (I can't think of what we would call it) While we were standing in line the lady in front of me asked me what I needed help with. I told her we didn't exactly know what we should do while in Dubrovnik. Comes to find out she is a tour guide. She said she's way too expensive though so she told us exactly what to do. It was so so so nice. Then we went to an audio station to get head sets to learn about the Old City. The girl working there was beautiful. It seemed every girl I talked to from Croatia had beautiful blonde hair with tan skin. She spoke English perfectly. Of course I asked her how she learned so well. She said, “Grey's Anatomy and Sex in the City.” Hilarious. I asked how many languages she knew. She said 4. I said, “Croatian, French?” She interrupted me, “Oh I don't don't count Croatian. And I hate French!” (Why do I love everyone that hates France now? How did a couple of rude people make me such a hater?) Anyways she speaks Croatian, English, German, Italian, and Spanish. But here was my favorite part. She said, “When I was young my grandpa told me the learn as many languages as I could because the more languagers you know the more money you'll make.” I wish someone would have given me that advice! I wish I could speak another language. But oh well. Back to Croatia. There is a huge wall that surrounds the Old City of Dubrovnik. (If you asked Danielle she could tell you a lot more about the history of the city because while she was actually listening to the tour, I was taking pictures, lots of pictures... and trying to facetime Jason, poor guy... it was maybe 2 am.) Anyway, the city was unreal. It is what I would think that Jerusalem would be like. White stone creates the whole city (I'm talking about inside the old city.) There was a drawbridge and 30 feet walls surrounding it. No cars inside the city, the streets were tiny with stairs everywhere because it was not level at all. There were a few churches and even a synagogue. But it was hot hot hot. Especially in the Old City because there were no trees just plants but it caused it really

Interrupt my normal Croatia writing. The intercom just came on. Italy is on strike tomorrow. The entire country is on strike. The entire country. All transportation is on strike. I don't know if that means that all shops and restaurants are closed. But I am supposed to be going to Venice. We'll see how that works out for us. Hilarious.

Ok back to Croatia. It was really hot. Probably the hottest I've been since Chicago when my entire body was drenched in sweat this one time my mum and I did an architecture tour on the river in the heat of the day.

Anyway, after we did our audio tour, Erin and I took a tour walking around the old city wall. It was beautiful! The water color. I can not get over the water color. (Go ahead and google Dubrovnik since I can't upload my pictures) And sail boats. Remember how I am such a sucker for sail boats. Maybe someday I'll have a sailboat in the Mediterranean. After the city wall we went to the beach. The water was crystal clear, perfect temperature... but it was pebbles. If it was white sands it would be perfect, but I can't complain!

While I was enjoying the cool off in the water, I ran into a few girls that ended up being from Ventura. Is it bad that I still tell people I am kinda from Pasadena? But they told us about the cable car that takes you up to the top with a beautiful view of the whole city. So we took the cable car up to the top and saw the whole walled city with all the newer development surrounding the old city.

After we went to find lunch. After some minor melt downs, I ended up wandering off by myself. I love wandering by myself. (Sorry mum) It was probably some of my favorite time of the entire trip. I think I love being by myself so much because I don't have to be concerned about making anyone else happy, I don't have to stick to any type of schedule, I get to just become a fly on the wall. I walked up to a darling little smoothie shop called, “Art Cafe” where the seats were old bath tubs with feet that they cut one side of the bathtub off so you sit in them life sofas. The chairs and tubs were all painted in vibrant colors... as soon as I walked in I thought of how much my sister Sara would love this place! I ordered the smoothie she recommended and sat down and just watched. I watched people walking by, I watched people interact in the cafe. I watched this man sitting by me with 4 packs of cigarettes staring at a computer screen. I think he was a writer. How fun. I checked my blog, uploaded a picture on instagram, and got on facebook. I'm FBO... did you see? (If you are wondering what FBO is, its okay I was out of the loop too, until yesterday when I was talking to Kenny. Kenny is a 21 year old Duke physician assistant student we met at the pool.) We were chatting about life asking the typical questions. He asked if I had a boyfriend. When I said yes he said, “Oh are you FBO?” I was like, “What the heck?” (I thought Utah Valley was bad with our DTR, NCMO, FHE) He said, “Facebook official?” Still confused.... he said, “Is he your boyfriend on facebook? Because if you aren't official on facebook, then you aren't really together.” I had to laugh. Just the night I had gotten an invite from Jason to be FBO. So as soon as I had this little heart to heart with Kenny I went down to my computer and accepted Jason's request. So now I am FBO. Kinda a big deal.

After the smoothie (which was equivalent to $6 for the size of our kiddie smoothie.) I wondered some more. I found a cute cafe that had a caprese salad for until 10 euro... so I sat, people watched, and ate a fancy caprese salad and dipped bread in delicious olive oil. The waiter came and sat with me and we chatted for a good hour. He was probably 40... lived in Germany for 6 years but the rest of his life he spent in Croatia. He started the whole conversation asking where I got my beautiful tan skin color from. I giggled like a school girl. I told him California. He asked me what California is like. I looked around. Honestly, Croatia looks a lot like Orange County. The same vegetation... a lot of the same flowers and trees, but just about 2 or 3 times more flowers (same flowers just a lot more). Croatia was very clean. He asked why such a beautiful girl was eating by herself. (I know it is probably getting obnoxious but Americans could learn a lot about flattery from the Europeans! Even if we know it's flattery we still like it!) I watched boats sail in and out of the dock. I watched kids play in the water. I watched birds soar through the perfectly clear sky. It was glorious.

Next (of course because the salad was small) I headed for the gelato shop. I decided to try something different. The whole trip I have been getting hazelnut and chocolatey gelato. In Sorrento I even got... oh I forgot what that chocolate is called... ya know the triangle shaped yellow box bar kind? Anyway, Igot that kind in Sorrento. But I was so so so hot today that I ventured out and got mandarin orange and strawberry. I felt like a little girl with my little sundress sitting on the bench with my legs dangling off with my sperry shoes swaying in the breezy lickin' my gelato ice cream cone waiting for my bus. It was absolutely blissful.

We had to be back on the ship by 3:30 because we are headed to Venice tomorrow, which could kinda be a disaster. Strike... what does that mean? Will there be riots? Will there be fights? But most importantly, will I get my caprese salad and wii-fi? (That was supposed to be funny) really I am worried about our gondola ride.... with 4 girls even if it was 100 euro it wouldn't be bad... and what an experience! But I guess that might not happen. Oh well.

As for Croatia. It was everything I could have possibly dreamed plus some. I remember the post cards that Dallin would send home every few months. I remember being shocked by the palm trees. When he got the call I thought of communism, ugly cement buildings, and bombed out towns.... who freakin' knew that Croatia is pretty much heaven.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The best day of my life

(The pictures are TERRIBLE. My lens on my phone camera is so scratched it doesn't take a good picture anymore. Good news is Jason is changing the back of my phone as soon as I get home! :)

It's crazy... you never know when that day is going to hit, the day that is so spectacular that for the rest of your life you are going to continue to talk about that one time that you (dot, dot, dot)

Today started like any other day. My stupid alarm clock went off... I really didn't want to get up. I really didn't want to go hit the gym... but you know me, so I did. I finally found the actual gym on ship. Quite lovely actually. I ran on the treadmill, I did weights and abs, and then I was planning on doing one last little “insanity” workout before calling it quits. I had stretched out beforehand because I realized it had been quite some time since I had really hardcore worked out (since the day I left).... but I didn't realize my body was suck a wreck until I went to do a jumping jack. Snap. I completely destroyed my neck and back. Couldn't move my head to look up or down and could barely move it left to right...

Now clearly that doesn't sound like one the start to one of those days that is going to go down as possibly the best day of your life....

But the I walked outside. Right in front of me was the Amalfi Coastline. I have no idea how to possibly put into words the beauty of the blue ocean hitting the rocky cliffs with houses and buildings and flowers... OH THE FLOWERS! It was like Orange County on crack. I seriously laughed. No wonder Shane was such a snob. He went from living in San Juan Capistrano to serving almost his entire mission on the Amalfi Coast.

We drove the 45 minute drive from Salerno to Sorrento. Honestly, I had no idea what to expect. When I hear Sorrento all I think of is the cheese. All of the hills and mountains between Salerno and Sorrento were completely covered with greenery. The closest thing I can think of to describe the beauty of the mountains is Hawaii. The vegetation was that think. And then we turned the corner and headed down to the darling little town of Sorrento. Huge massive cliffs on both sides with this whole town built pretty much on the cliff. And then I couldn't tell how but there was a cute little beach with docks surrounding it.

We were let loose to explore the cute town. Flowers, citrus fruit, and gelato everywhere I turned! The cutest shops and vendors everywhere. Honestly, when I imagined what Italy would be like, this was it. Although I had been trying to have a positive attitude in Florence and Rome... I was kinda disappointed. I had dreamed of what Italy would be like, and honestly.... Florence and Rome were not it. I now know that Sorrento is what I dreamed of. Every single place you looked could have been a painting. So green, so lush, so picture perfect.

On the drive to Sorrento I met the most darling mom and daughter sitting behind me on the bus. The mom's grandparents were from Italy originally but currently live in New York. So the mixture of New Yorkian and Italian was awesome! She told me the story of her grandpa and why he came to America. Of course I had to tell her the story of my Italian roots... dating back to 1850ish? When Lorenzo Snow hiked up on top of the Italian Alps and converted by Italian relatives. The mom was so excited to find out I was Mormon because that was how she discovered her relatives that still live in Sicily that they are going to visit on our stop.

Anyway, Lauren, my new New Yorkian friend and I had a lovely lunch in a street cafe where of course I hate caprese salad and a margarita pizza. It was everything that I could have possible hoped for. The mozzarella was hands down the best I'd ever tasted. It was fresh but it had a lot more flavor... maybe salter than I've ever had before. (And we all know I am nutz about caprese salads and have had them all across the U.S.)

When it was time to hit the beach we went to a hotel that had an elevator that took us down to the beach. The sand was black from the explosion of the volcano that killed the entire city of Pompey. (yes we didn't go to Pompey and I am not one stitch sad about it) It was interesting because the beach was very privately controlled. So much so that there were only certain chairs were could lay in and places we could change. I only stayed at the beach long enough to get some pictures and jump in to cool off (another unbelievably hot day). I figured I will have PLENTY of time to lounge at a beach or by a pool (and we all know I am trying my hardest to not care about being tan anymore) so I figured wandering around the most beautiful place I'd ever been sounded like I much better idea. But of course McKenzie and I found wii-fi on a street corner. So I bought a 2 liter bottle of water and I sat on a bench and facetimed Jason for the next hour. I couldn't resist but take this picture of what he looks like when I wake him up at all times of the night. Hilarious and so freaking cute.

After McKenzie (who is engaged) and I got our fix we wandered around the city. I took loads of pictures and can not wait for you to see them because I can not describe the beauty. It is my favorite place on the entire plant. I love it more than Glendora, Red Cliffs, and even..... Disneyland. (Gasp) The people were extremely nice as well. It was so sweet, McKenzie and I wanted to get a picture right outside of the cute private garden. So as we were taking pictures of each other with the gorgeous flowers of this garden the security guard would life the arm to the road so we wouldn't have the ugly thing in our picture. Of course we got a picture of him.

Maybe I'm just a flirt or like the attention way too much, but it was hilarious how many guys came up and tried to flirt, get my number, or ask me to go to the beach with them. I tell ya.... if you ever need a confidence boost, come to southern Italy! But the ultimate compliment was how many people started speaking to me in French thinking I was from France. But of course as soon as I started to talk my nasty English... they all caught on fast. Italian, Spanish, and French are so much more beautiful. Why did we have to pick English?

As we drove back today I knew it. I knew this was going to be one of those days that for the rest of my life if someone asks my favorite place... this would be it. This was the place I would always dream of returning to. The place I will always beg to go to. No Hawaii, Caribbean, or even Disneyland for me. I will be saving all my pennies to return and stay for weeks.

So funny little side note: so after the trip as we were boarding the cruiseship there was someone from the spa there offering 3 types of messages for $99. (normally I would think that is way too much, but a stupid message is normally like $200) $99... what a deal! And since my neck hurt so bad still I figured I should just pay the price and get it fixed. The spa was unreal. It was beautiful, it smelt deliciously clean, the music so soothing, and of course walls of windows facing the Amalfi Coast at sunset. You can not beat that.

So before the message the lady asked me my problem areas yada yada yada... I told her I have the dryest skin you'll ever see. When I say that I think people actually think I am exaggerating. The message was fabulous. But I knew it was a bad sign when she finished she told me to get dressed and go sit on the couch.

She gave me a diagnosis on all my problems. First thing she said, “You really need to start drinking water immediately.” Which of course I had to laugh at.... earlier today Danielle said, “Kristin, you drink more water than anyone I've ever met.” When I told the girl that she said, “Then here are all the products you need.” of course amounting to almost a thousand dollars. When I said, “No thank you.” She said, “You have absolutely horrible skin. Do you even use lotion?” And that's when I really smiled... WHO says that? No tip for you.

The best thing of tonight.... banana bread pudding with a caramel sauce. Divine. (and I don't even like bread pudding!)