Archive for October, 2007

hogar dulce hogar (home sweet home)

Karie on Oct 23rd 2007 09:55 pm

We’ve been back in Barcelona for almost two weeks.  Sometimes I think we’re starting to get the hang of things, and other times I think it could take a lifetime to really adapt.

We are currently sharing a flat through the end of the year.  Hopefully this will give us enough time to learn a little more about the city and figure out where we want to go next.  Our flat-mate is Christine, an English teacher from Germany that lives in Spain.  Go figure.  She actually went to college in England, then moved to Barcelona, where she has been for the last 15 years.  She is a wealth of information!

Even though she’s not Spanish, she has really helped us adapt to the local culture.  Plus, as a fellow “extranjero”, she has been in our shoes so she is more than willing to help.  She helped us open a bank account, gives great recommendations for food/entertainment, and best of all, she let us to go the market with her.  We literally followed her around taking notes on what to get, how to order, how to ask them to remove the fish guts & head before selling it to us, etc.  I think we’d be surviving on crackers if it wasn’t for her.

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reflections… warning: this one is sappy

Karie on Oct 10th 2007 08:54 pm

I had a moment the other day… I actually have a lot of moments, but this one hit me while riding a train through the Tuscan countryside, and it really stuck with me so I decided to share it.  This particular train was the dumpiest we had experienced so far.  Let me just sum it up by saying that when using the bathrooms, you could see down the toilet straight through to the ground below – no flushing required.  That wasn’t my moment, it just reminded me that you can hear God despite your surroundings.

Goofy as it sounds, I was listening to “Right Now” by Van Halen on my ipod. That song will forever remind me of working Turning Point Retreats for Buffini & Company, so it got me thinking about goals we had set, things we have done & still have yet to do.  I feel so blessed.  I’m not even 30, and I have seen some of the most beautiful masterpieces on earth.

Michelangelo was an equally brilliant painter, sculptor & architect (and even a poet in his own right).  He sculpted the Pietà at 24, painted the Sistine Chapel in his early 30’s, and became chief architect of St. Peter’s Basilica at age 72.  However, Michelangelo’s life’s work was dedicated to interpreting or recreating what God had already done.  The best that humans have to offer – magnificent as it may be – is only a copy of what our Creator has already given us.

Doesn’t it make you wonder how much beauty exists that we don’t even recognize, or lessons that we can’t begin to convey through pictures or words?  We spend countless hours and dollars (or Euro) to stand in awe of someone’s interpretation of a truth that we can barely grasp.  It just reminded me of how small I am in the grand scheme of things, yet blessed anything I could’ve ever imagined.

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Pisa, Italy

Karie on Oct 10th 2007 11:34 am

Our flight back to Barcelona left from Pisa, so it was the perfect way to spend our last day in Italy.  There was really only one thing I wanted to accomplish there, and that was to climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  It’s not the highest or the most magnificent thing that we have climbed, but I don’t see how this building can stay open to the public forever, so we wanted to be able to say “we were there when…”

The tower actually was closed for several years, as it was slanting 15’ from center.  After a lot of pushing, pulling & moving dirt, it was deemed safe, now being only 13 ½ feet off center.  I personally don’t think that sounds much safer, but ok.

The tours are guided, and only allow about 30 people at a time, for 30-40 minutes.  It was a strange feeling to climb the spiraling steps.  You can always tell which side of the tower you’re on, as you have the feeling of going uphill on one side and downhill on the other.  The stone steps are also well worn in patterns, based on when gravity pulls you to the inside or outside edges of the steps.

Going down was even crazier, and that’s when I understood that whole vertigo thing they had warned us about.  The slant of the building feels more exaggerated when going down, so when you’re walking in the direction of the downward slant, it feels like you’re falling forward.  The staircase now felt narrower than when I went up, and I was suddenly aware that there were no handrails.  This place would never pass American safety regulations!  I guess that’s partly what makes it so cool.

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Cinque Terre, Italy

Karie on Oct 9th 2007 11:08 am

Cinque Terra, translated “five lands”, is a group of villages built into the cliffs along the Mediterranean coastline in northern Italy.  While it is quickly growing in popularity, it is still relatively untouched by tourists, which makes it even more appealing.

We were staying in the easternmost village of Riomaggiore, which basically consists of one main street, starting near the sea, and going straight up into the mountain.  That made carrying luggage up to our apartment super fun!  We spent the afternoon exploring & hanging out on a rocky beach, which makes for a beautiful cove, but not so much for comfortable lounging.

That night Lance, Rachael, Thomas & Kaitlin all arrived, so we cooked dinner together in the apartment we were sharing with the Gertz’.  We wanted to tour all 5 of the villages, so the next morning we took a ferry to the furthest village, Monterosso al Mare, then took the entire day to work our way back..

We had heard about a “secret beach” called Guvano Beach, beneath Corniglia, the village in the center, and decided that would be a good meeting place for later in the afternoon.  Thomas & Kaitlin hiked there, and we took the train with Lance & Rachael.  Rachel’s book said there were two ways to get to this secret beach (although the fact that it’s printed in Frommer’s kind of spoils the secret): 1) a treacherous climb down the mountain, or 2) walk a mile through an abandoned train tunnel.  For some reason, we chose the latter.

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Rome, Italy

Karie on Oct 7th 2007 07:53 pm

Rome is quite different from the other cities we visited, mainly because it is much larger, so you get everything that goes along with a big city.  If we were to compare it to a U.S. city, it would be Los Angeles – loads of attractions, entertainment & culture, but spread out amongst greater distances with some “less desirable” areas in-between.

As it turns out, our Bed & Breakfast happened to be one of those less desirables!  Upon check-in, we were informed that “a toilet was broken” (aka, he overbooked), so we were being moved to a neighboring B&B.  What’s funny is that I had actually seen our new B&B online and consciously decided that I did not want to stay there… and there we were.

It was actually very clean & had all the basics that we needed, so I don’t want to make it out to be a nightmare.  There was mainly just one thing that annoyed me, and that was the owner, Marco.

On the website for this B&B, where most owners would post photos of their rooms & facilities, Marco posted a photo of himself.  He seemed to be quite impressed with himself and his guest houses, to the point where he seemed to believe it was our honor to stay in his place.

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Venice, Italy

Karie on Oct 3rd 2007 01:50 pm

Ah, the magnificent tourist trap that is Venice!  We arrived on Sunday afternoon, and took a Vaporetto (water bus) to the stop nearest our bed & breakfast.  The directions to our place read something like “cross the bridge, and turn left at the bank across from the toy store, walk for a bit, then turn right at the Jazz Club sign…”  We weren’t sure how long we would be lugging our bags over the millions of little bridges – up the stairs, down the stairs.  Luckily we found it pretty quickly (thanks to the Jazz Club), unlike the Preeo’s who had arrived the day before and wandered around for an hour before finding their hotel.  It seems there are a lot of unnamed streets & alleys in Venice (or maybe just bad maps).

Venice is a fascinating city.  I hadn’t realized that there are no vehicles at all in the city – not even bikes or scooters.  Deliveries are made by men pulling carts… up the stairs, down the stairs. That has to be one of the highest paying jobs in the city!  I never did figure out how their emergency services work.

Anyhow, we were briefly crossing paths with Devon & Jason Preeo, as they were headed off to Florence the next day (where we had just come from), then we will reunite again in Rome.  We had previously arranged to meet up for dinner that evening, but about an hour after we arrived we ended up running into them while crossing the Ponte di Rialto!  What are the odds of that?!

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