Posted by: Audrey Thorstad | August 11, 2011

Delayed Post

Sadly, my blog has taken a back-seat whilst I am franticly researching, writing, editing on repeat for the past few months. Much has happened since my last post, most of which I will be summarizing in brief throughout this post. As you all might have guessed (since I am still in England) I passed all my second semester classes and even did extremely well on my hellish Latin exam in May.

The whole month of April was the English equivalent to Spring Break, so Kelsey (another American history nerd such as myself) and I decided to do it in style. We planned the trip of a lifetime, southern France, Italy and Sicily. Flying down to Montpellier, France with a girl we both know from caving club who also went to school there. We wanted to make sure to see all the sights we wanted to, but also relax and enjoy our holiday on the Mediterranean Sea. So our days usually went thus, get up early, sight see for a few hours, lunch and wine, sight see for a few more hours, wine break, nap, dinner, sometimes drinks after. It was a perfect set-up. Granted not everyday worked out that way there were a few very long travel days. For example, from Avignon to Marseilles (we spent the whole day in Marseilles) took the train to Cannes, arriving in Cannes around 8.00pm, getting a bit lost/sight-seeing at the same time and finally arriving at our hostel around 9.00pm. When we arrived at our hostel the receptionist said regretfully that he had just given our room away because he didn’t think we were going to show up. However, he said, they would upgrade us (for no additional cost) to a luxury apartment across the street. With apprehension we journeyed across the street to our ‘luxury apartment’ to find a two bedroom, one bathroom, full kitchen, TV room, dining room and wrap-around balcony waiting for us for less than €25 a night. Kelsey, Luke (who we also know through caving and who met us in Marseilles earlier that day) and myself almost fainted, it was amazing. We asked the receptionist to order us a couple pizzas and went out to get a few bottles of wine (which is SO cheap and delicious). We ate pizza, drank wine and watched CSI in French. Perfect night.

I believe Cannes was my favourite place in southern France, and not because of the apartment, but the next day we took a boat ride out in the Mediterranean Sea to a small island, St. Honorat, which is the home to the Abbaye de Lérins (a Cistercian monastery where the monks make their profit by making wine).  For lunch we found a cove and made sandwiches with fresh French bread, avocados, tomatoes and cheese, this picnic will never be topped (we even saw a red octopus in the water). The Mediterranean Sea itself was one of my favourite things as well, the water is the most beautiful blue, I can’t even describe it. It is simply something one must see.

We then stayed shortly in Italy going to Genoa and Pisa where we flew to Palermo, Sicily. The food in Sicily (well, in all of Italy in general) was amazing, everything was so fresh. The salads, the pizzas, the pastas were exceptional. We also did something not a lot of people can say they have done…we climbed a volcano, Mount Etna. She was active, smoking and a long climb up. We, of course, were not allowed at the very top since from about half way up you could see the smoke and redness. We went with a tour guide, named Johnny, who was hilarious. After the long hike up and then back down we got to go on a wine tour. The wine was from a vineyard at the base of the volcano and grew all their own food as well. After the nice lunch break we drove to a river canyon which had been carved from the lava. Everything that day was beautiful and it is an experience I will never forget.

The worst day/night of the trip came when we were trying to fly back from Sicily to Pisa. Our flight was fairly early, so we had to get up at about 5.00am, bus it to the airport and watched as a few flights in front of ours were getting cancelled. We soon learned our flight to Pisa might be cancelled, they had to wait until Ryanair decided. That alone caused an uproar apparently Italians aren’t that great with patience. There was a lot of yelling (in Italian), fist waving and crowding the poor attendants who had no control over the cancellation. Once it was a for sure our flight was cancelled we ran through the airport to see if we could get another flight back somewhere near Pisa. The only flight we could get was to Verona quite a bit later that day; we had no other choice but to take it. We figured we could just catch either a train or bus to Florence which was where our hostel was booked for the night. We arrived in Verona, booked it to the train/bus station and we were regretfully informed there were no trains or buses going to Florence until 3.30am (it was about 7.00pm at the time). How had we forgotten it was Sunday in Italy, of course everything shuts down early. Needless to say we ate a long dinner, walked around Verona for a bit and slept in the train station until we got kicked out, at that time we went up to the platform our train was supposed to arrive at and slept in seats, freezing, uncomfortable and hating Ryanair. We saw Florence in a quick few hours and took the bus to Siena where we didn’t have time to sleep because we had a wine tour to attend (much more important than sleep when you are in wine country).  So although the night in Verona was the worst part of the trip, I was still sleeping in a train station IN ITALY. So honestly, it wasn’t that bad!

I learned a lot on this trip and I have decided to include a few of them:

1. The southern French are WAY nicer than northern French people.

a. Although they still like to sit outside smoke, talk and drink espressos (very posh).

2. The Mediterranean Sea is as blue as people say it is.

3. In southern France (especially Montpellier) watch out for dog poop on the sidewalk.

4. Monks make great wine

5. DO NOT anger an Italian unless you want fist waving and yelling to ensue.

6. You can literally get anything you want on a pizza in Italy (i.e. hotdogs, horsemeat, any kind of seafood…yes I mean anything).

7. Rome and Venice are as touristy as you would expect.

8. If you want to see the whole Catholic hierarchy in a matter of hours go to Rome and simply walk around.

9. Wine is cheaper than any other drink on the menu…don’t fight it, just drink it.

After 22 days, 2.5 countries, 14 cities, 1 cancelled flight and more glasses of wine than I can count I have stayed around Leeds, studying for Latin and am currently finishing up my dissertation. My plans for the next few months include: finish my dissertation, come home and visit MN for a few weeks (and RELAX), then head back to Leeds where I will be starting my PhD in October.

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