Milano e Barcelona

I woke on my own accord this morning. I got up and decided to take a shower instead of a bath. I turned on the television and decided that I had an hour to catch American Dreams. To pass time, I attended the complimentary breakfast. It wasn't the best breakfast, but it was free. These are the luxuries afforded to those who decide to stay in European hotels.

After checking out, I had nothing to do but hike back to the train station to wait an hour for Jason and Aisha. I pictured them tired, worn and lost as they walked down the platform. Then music would begin and we would all hug as if we had not seen each other in years. Well, that didn't happen. They did not look lost at all. Instead, they looked like veteran travelers with their bags in hand. I gave our greetings and I led them to the line to get our reservations for the next train.

Our train from Milan took us to Bern, Switzerland. We had a four hour "layover" until our night train to Barcelona. We found lockers (not such an easy feat) and then got something to eat at Burger King. Normally, I would not have enjoyed the BK, but it was interesting to see what a Whopper tastes like on this side of the earth. On top of this, Aisha was elated to learn that they serve beer in Burger King. Jason and I learned that our credit cards are outdated and do not work everywhere. In Bern, your credit card must have a microchip in it to work.
"Run your hand over the scanner... no more fishin' for your fish."- Goodie M.O.B.

After eating, we walked around for about 45min until it was time for us to go to the platform for our train. We settled in our sleeping chairs and began to relax. I realize that this was the first time that we actually had time to talk to one another. Though our seats were not together, they kept me company until I went to sleep. I told them all about my students and various happenings. I honestly think we angered some around us who were trying to sleep, but I had not seen them in so long and had so much to talk about.

The morning came swiftly. Waking up on the train was not as bad as I thought, but it was not as nice as the hotel bed. (Funny how dramatic the change was in only 24hrs). We stepped off of the train and into Barcelona. Our first task was to find the hostel. I ended up calling to get better directions and we found ourselves on the popular street called Ramblas. However, there was no hostel in site. We walked up and down the street for about an our and a half. I used up all of my minutes trying to call the guy at the hostel's front desk. Finally, I got frustrated and asked a group of young tourists where there were staying. They recommended their hostel so we found it and set a reservation (check-in wasn't until 2pm).

Since Jason and Aisha had been traveling a lot already, they were out of clothes. We used our waiting time to do laundry and get food. The Laundromat was in a square that also had a fitness center, Irish pub and a small university. It was quite an interesting space. What was more interesting was the pub that we ate at. We were in Spain and everyone that worked at the Irish pub was literally Irish. It was great.

Checking into our hostel was flawless. We walked up, paid our deposits and got our keys. All three of us were looking forward to a great warm shower (though it was already warm outside) to feel refreshed. However, the shower had to have been the worst nightmare for me. I would not say it is the fault of the hostel or our roommates (five guys we still hadn't met), but just circumstance. The floor in the bathroom was wet and filthy, so I had a hard time navigating with my "foot- phobia" at work. However, I was able to get clean.

After showering, we went to see Sagrada Familia. We got the hang of Barcelona rather quickly. We figured out our trains and made our way through the town. I was a bit disappointed because the cathedral was undergoing renovation (and I forgot). I didn't really want to pay to go inside (which worked out for the best later on). We took a few photos outside and then headed back to the hostel to get ready for dinner. On our way, we found saw an array of interesting things- cool fountains, a guy in stretchy pants and a clothing store with a DJ & back-up dancer. The coolest was this store called Disegual. They had it sold everything from high end suits to urban wear. The music they had playing was great- Reggae and "non- mainstream *** hip hop". One of the workers told us of a club that played that kinda of of music, so we decided to find that club later that evening.

When we reached our hotel, the lady at the front desk suggested we try Toppas. It is a style of eating in which you try a lot of little things to eat. We found a nice little place outside of the Barcelona Cathedral and had a good ole time. We experimented with foods we had never seen or thought of eating but the experience was nice. I didn't get full, but we felt it was best to search for desserts. However, we didn't get more than 15 meters outside of the restaurant when we saw an awesome street performer. You will have to visit Jason's blog to get the full effect. He was awesome.

After that, Aisha and I got dessert similar to Crem-Broulette- called crema catalan. It was really sweet and really filling. We were so stuffed, that we needed a nap when we returned to the hostel. We were pumped about going out, but we are also old, so sleep was in order. Jason was not tired at all and decided to go to an internet cafe until we woke. Well, we laid down at about 9:30 and I didn't wake up until a little after midnight. On top of that, Aisha was knocked out. There was no way we were going out tonight. Maybe tomorrow.


Venezia: Giorno di Groundhog

Even if you have not seen it, we are all familiar with the movie Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray. Basically, it is about a man doomed to repeat the same day over and over again in a town that he hates. Well, at the conclusion of this blog, you will see why I felt like Bill Murray today.

Its not that I don't like Venezia, but today I am really ready to leave. I simply cannot wait to get on the train and head to Barcelona. However, I have found that in order to make it, I will have to spend a night in Milan. I am not happy about this but Andrea (the man that ran our hotel on Lido) helped me find a hotel very near to the station.

Today, we go to Brione & Vicenza. Last time I was in Italy, the Brione Cemetary was my favorite site of them all. The space simply amazed me. It is very aesthetically pleasing and well designed. I simply cannot describe the feeling I got from returning once again. I sincerely hoped everyone loved it as much as I. The trip was great... once again.

As we loaded the buses, we headed to Vicenza. However, during our ride, we changes were being made to accommodate travel schedules. For some reason, it was necessary to call back and forth between buses, counting who was in need of leaving & when. In addition, we got lost... twice. A trip that should have taken 30min, ended up taking about an hour. By the time we arrived, one bus had to head back to Venice in order for those students to catch trains or plane. The other bus stayed for and how so the students could see the sites here. The hitch... they were on their own. All of the profs went to check into their hotels, or left so we were left to fend for ourselves. Christina, Rosanna and I walked through the town and ate far too much. Eventually, the time came for us to head back to Venezia (the place I could not wait to leave). I walked with Kendra and "The girls" to ensure they made it to their respective locations via vaporetto. Upon reserving my train to Milan, I found that I had the last reservation making it cost far more than what I intended. I finally made it to my train and got on. However, this trip to Milan (a city I did not want to go to) was not going to be short. About an hour into the train ride the train stopped. I looked out of the window just as the conductor announced that we had arrived in Vicenza. Can I EVER get out of this city?

I was quite happy when I arrived in Milan (because it was not Venezia). I checked into my hotel and debated getting something to eat. I knew breakfast was free and it was already late. The hotel was very nice, so I decided to wait on the food. The great thing about this place was that you could pay ten euro for 24 hours of unlimited movies. I made the purchase and began watching Jarhead. It is a lot better the second time around. I fell asleep shortly after that. Milan isn't so bad after all. At least Hotel Soperga wasn't that bad.


Venezia: Giorno due e tre

Today we took a tour of Basilica di San Marco. It was obvious the line was going to be long so Sharon and I worked together to get everyone to Piazza San Marco at a good hour. This however, fell through and I ended up taking a later vaporetto to show the remaining students where to go. We walked around the square with Paolo until time to go in. Upon entrance, I found myself amused by Julia and Jere regarding various aspects of the cathedral. We all got a kick out of the security- or lack thereof. Paolo wanted us to say until the lights came on in the ceiling. Once they came on he said everyone was free to go. The next tour was of the Doges Palace about two or three hours later.

The Doges palace was very adventurous. We saw furniture, weapons, tools, paintings, sculptures and a prison. It was a well rounded tour that everyone could enjoy. It was given Sra. Pietroboun again, but this time we were able to keep up. This tour turned out to be nice and no one was happy that it was over. This is because we had to rush over to do another tour with Peter. He wanted to take the students to a few modern housing developments. When we reached the first place, a number of the students thought it was great. I thought it was horrible. Yet others, thought it was a waste of their time. We spent the majority of the time here before moving to the next area. Students kept disappearing and reappearing. By the end of the night I just wanted to get back to the hotel. After Peter sort of abandoned us at the University, we made our getaway. I called Amber and Mark to make sure they had eaten (they were both sick). I had pizza, then we got gelato and turned in for the night. It was a great way to end.

Today was the day we went to the Biennale. It is an exhibit similar to the World's Fair. However, the Biennale hosts architecture exhibits from all over the world. One aspect of the show (the Arsenale) contains models that can be the size of an entire room. This years Biennale focused on cities, disaster and planning. I wasn't that impressed, but it was impressive. I was told Marc Boles had an exhibit (he is a student of Zaha Hadid), but I never found it. I was most impressed by the exhibit that was put together by the group from Cuba. They constructed an environment in which the workers lived. They worked, slept and ate there. It was constructed in the Francia pavilion from scaffolding. It was fully equipped with a kitchen, sleeping quarters, shower, t-shirt workshop, office space, steam spa, swimming pool and look-out tower. It was really fun.

After the biennale, the only ones that remained together were Dan, Mark, Christina, Brandi and I. We decided to do a bit of shopping. I was able to pick up my hoody. Mark checked on prices for a Rolex. Dan got to go to (and was disappointed by) the Diesel store. Christina and Brandi were happy after spending way too much in one of the glass shops. After the vaporetto back to the hotel, we had an early pizza dinner. We fell asleep in my room while waiting on some of the others to return from dinner. Upon their return, we were going out. However, I did not want to go back to the mainland. I quickly lost interest and decided to go to my room to rest up for our trip tomorrow.


Venezia: Giorno Uno

Our journey to Venezia was very nice. This started off a bit shaky, but everything smoothed out upon arrival. As it turns out, the bug that has been going around has gotten worse. There are five guys from Calpoly that are sick. Even Jill's (the Calpoly TA) dad is extremely sick. We really need to figure out what it is because students are dropping like flies.

After checking into the hotel, we had a swift walking tour of the city. It was not easy to pay attention on this tour because the lady (Sra. Pietroboun) walks very fast. The streets are so narrow that we walked in single file lines for most of the tour. The radios kept losing reception becuase of the size of the group. Overall, the tour was nice... and later I will learn that is was rather helpful.

I had set up to go to dinner with a group of students, but had to cancel because Sharon said we would have a faculty dinner. Initially, I was unhappy about this because I had no idea what to talk about. However, I sat on the vaporetto with Jere and he kept the conversation light. I dinner, I sat across from Paolo and we had wonderful conversation. He explained to the table that the people would keep bringing food until we said basta. This was true. We had mussles, grits & shrimp, smoked swordfish & salmon, fried calimari and shrimp, sorbet and finished with a cappucino. We had all of this on a day that they don't serve fish in Venezia. It was awesome.

After dinner, Peter wanted to introduce me to some grad students. He also showed me some places on the mainland that the students could hang out. The places were jumping, but I was really tired and ready to go to bed. I didn't get back until about 2am. Part of the reason we were so late is because we were not sure where the place was, nor how to get back. Not to mention that I had to go to the bathroom the majority of the time. The walking tour we had earlier came in handy because I had already taken note of where some local restrooms were. I used this to navigate and orient myself within the town.