Saturday, May 8, 2010

Barcelona, Madrid, Rome, Florence, and Naples: Catching up the Blog

Balance has been restored at last to this wild ride. From partying until 6 AM in Spain, to rubbing elbows in Rome with star athletes, to bonding over wine in Florence, and cruising through the busy streets of Naples on the back of a motorcycle, this has been quite an eventful stretch of days that I have neglected reporting. I will do my best to sum it up in a few short words:

BARCELONA and MADRID:
There are real pros and cons to traveling solo and to traveling with another. For Spain, I was fortunate enough to have a friend from home come enjoy with me. The comfort of having a companion to share every great moment was more then welcomed, but the compromise of our significantly differing motives created a few minor stumbles. This is to be expected and I am thrilled that in the end, all order was restored and Spain was deemed a success.
The night life in Barcelona is the stand out attraction of this insane beach city. Going home earlier than five is considered a laid back night. I had trouble maintaining the pace, but we still managed to see the city by foot and bicycle each sunny day. The no sleep, all party brought illness on my travel companion, but she somehow fought through the deathly cough and exhaustion in order to make the best of her time abroad.
We made great friends at our small sleepless hostel in Barcelona. I will never forget our many halarious moments, classic experiences, and fascinating conversations with our ever morphing, international group. Barcelona comes with its unique set of challenges like street hasslers and gawking men, but in the end, I have a warm, fuzzy feeling for the party city.
Madrid was a refreshing break from the nonstop fiesta. We spent very little time there, but enough to see the entire city, enjoy some artwork, and experience some real Spanish tradition. I bid Becca adieu after less than two days here and made my way to the next wild ride of Rome.

ROME:
At last, I got to see mom and dad. After fifty five days of separation with all that is home, seeing the old parents could not have been more appropriately timed. We shared enormous, emotional hugs in the train station and proceeded to have three amazing days together to experience this remarkable Italian city. When the taxi pulled up to our hotel to park my bags and settle in, I got my first of many doses of shock. The Hilton Cavalieri is the world's nicest Hilton hotel and one of Rome's popular hot spots for visiting celebrities. Policy surrounded the premises and I discovered why in no time. The entire Inter Milan football team was staying with us for a week to play their version of the Super Bowl later in the week. Not only that, but the Williams sisters and other notable tennis players graced the lobby casually as they awaited an important local match. Unbelievable. This place truly was extravagant and an overwhelming change from the tiny hostel beds and community showers I have become accustom to.
The city itself blew me away even more than our outrageous hotel. Strolling through the busy city streets, we would suddenly stumble over enormous classic landmarks and old city buildings dating back thousands of years. For those of you that have been to Rome, I will spare the details of each site. The structures are so famous that I don't want to clog up the blog with imagery of well known monuments. I can't go without mentioning the Vatican, though. Extravagant, beautiful, marvelous, breathtaking... none of these words come close to doing it justice. Even the hallways of the Museum leading up to the Sistine Chapel were unbelievable. The main event was that times ten. And just when we thought we had seen it all and our necks were begging for mercy from being craned up all afternoon, we then entered St. Paul's Cathedral. Wow. That is all I can say.
By the time our trip was approaching the end, we were all ready to move on to something a little less action packed. Mom and Dad were off to the Amalfi Coast and I headed to Florence. It was more than a treat to see them and the love of family was a cozy reminder of what I will soon return to. Recovering from two weeks of comfort was a challenge, though, as I entered unfamiliar territory with no plan at all.

FLORENCE:
Rain, rain, cold, cold. Boo for bad weather. I barely saw any of this Tuscan city. When I first got in, the greeting I received at the hostel was cold and nobody seemed to have much interest in meeting new people. Quickly my mood sunk and that old familiar feeling of anxiety began to come over me. I decided to get out as soon as possible and find a friendly atmosphere to sip wine, eat good food, and be alone with my thoughts and my journal. I struggled to find an area not completely swarmed with tourists. At last I chose a mediocre place that rushed me through my meal in a pushy attempt to turnover my table; very unlike Europe, but completely appropriate for the day I was having. I felt defeated, and headed back to the unpleasant hostel to get a good night of sleep. Luckily, a nice fellow solo traveler from California was also pondering what to do on this leg of his trip and was staying in my room when I returned. We proceeded to chat it up for hours and spent the remainder of our brief stay here together.
The next day we attempted to tour the city and enjoy strolling through Florence, but the rain and wind kept us down. We gave up all attempts at last and indulged in cheap red wine to escape the wet weather. What could have been a wasted afternoon morphed into one of the most intriguing conversations I have had all of my days here. I cannot describe how inspired we both were after an entire day of uplifting exchange, but now I feel that much closer to figuring out what I am really supposed to be doing with my life. I would say, I am willing to sacrifice seeing one city along my journey if it means enjoying an afternoon of spiritual enlightenment...

NAPLES:
I arrived a mere twelve hours ago and I can already tell this place is going to be amazing. As soon as I got here, the hostel owner, Giovani, told me to drop my bags, throw on a helmet, and hop on to the back of his motorcycle. We darted off to a classic tea room, downed an espresso and a tasty pastry, and proceeded to tour the city for the next three hours of perfectly clear sunny skies. When we got back, he helped me arrange the next four days of my adventure. Before I could absorb all the information, I was out the door with two other hostel dwellers to grab my first original Naples pizza and wine. We brought the pies back to the common area and proceeded to eat, drink, and be merry with a myriad of musical entertainment. Giovani strummed his guitar and played his harmonica while I tried to remember the words and perform the vocals for the classics like John Denver, Pink Floyd, and other good old American tunes. Everyone was completely beat, so we head in early and I got the pleasure of my first peaceful sleep in several weeks. Now I am off to see the city of Pompei, the volcano that destroyed it, and another similarly preserved city. I also plan to see Capri, the Amalfi Coastline, and Naples itself all in the next four days, so hopefully I won't burn out and won't see anymore rain clouds for a while...

Long post, but the moment was finally right to share. With 57 days behind me and only 20 to go, I have so much more swirling through my mind, but hopefully my action packed rendition of the journey so far is sufficiently entertaining and paints the picture well.

3 comments:

  1. oh wow! Great post! I'm actually better now! Of course.. I actually finally got better right when I came home. The lady on the plane did not appreciate my cough but oh well... so sad to hear about Florence! You'll have to go back it's amazing. I'm glad you had fun in Rome! So happy you got to see the rents.. I'm sure that hotel was just as amazing as it looked! I can't believe you were there with Milan soccer players! Hot hot hot! I actually ended up going to a Barcelona soccer game while I was there with some Bostonians! haha of course... Americans everywhere.. lots of fun though. and the Venus sisters were at your hotel too! crazy! Anyway it was great getting to share some of your amazing journey! I'll be following every post you make! Be safe!

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  2. My favorite entry so far! Wow! I can't wait to hear more about the psychological / philosophical / soul-searching spiritual aspects of your journey. Isn't it scary phenomenal how much the people you meet and their attitudes/actions define your feelings about a city? It never ceased to put things into an amazing perspective for me! Stay safe out there and keep up the good adventuring! :-)

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  3. OMG...what a blog..I can't wait to compare our pictures and adventures through Almafi coast, Pompeii, Capri and Naples..It was wonderful to see you in Rome and gave me the extra boost to make it until you come home..You looked wonderful and enjoyed every second we spent together..Hope you enjoy yourself in Brussels and London and see you end of month..Love ya
    :-) mom

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