Posted on April 30th, 2011 at 10:01 PM by admin
Our last night was a dinner show. This time the opera singers were quite impressive — particularly the soprano. The show was very interactive and many people in our group, including me, were invited up on stage as a part of the performance. I danced with the host while he continued to sing opera a millimeter away from my face. Then the tenor cut in and the host gave me a butt push that actually did hurt. One of the guys in our group has a video of the whole thing — you’d think I was acting — my dad’s ham in me certainly came out that night. On the bus one of the women in our group recited a little poem about all the funny things that had happened in our two weeks. It was a good laugh for sure. When we got back to the hotel we all hugged, kissed and said our good byes. You spend every day of your life with these people for two weeks and then suddenly it’s as if it never happened. Will I ever see these people again? I don’t know but I’m glad that I met them and was able to share some once in a lifetime experiences with them. Bonding at it’s finest.

This guy must have regretted not shaving before the show

Posted on April 29th, 2011 at 9:13 PM by admin

Weather = bad, Amalfi Coastline = still good!

Our final day on the tour was on the Amalfi Coast. As luck would have it the rain came back and the views were a bit hazy.  I still got some great shots but I had to imagine how it would have been on a clearer day. After taking some above the coast shots from just off the highway, we went into the city of Positano. It was really neat to see an old city literally built on the  lushly covered mountains and limestone cliffs of a jutting coast line. This city also had some wonderful flowers blooming. The pictures came out especially nice as they were accumulating water droplets from the days’ on and off showers. 

Learning the benefits of shooting just after rain showers!

There is certainly no space going to waste on the Amalfi Coastline

April 29

Capri, Italy
Posted on April 29th, 2011 at 7:55 PM by admin

loved this angled rock formation with the pure aqua marine blue water

look at all the little boats lined up on the shore!

The next day we headed to the island of Capri (with the emphasis on the first syllable). The perimeter of this small island is only about 10 miles. We of course went around with a local guide to see some of the views and all kinds of tropical fauna. Afterwards we grabbed “Caprese” salads and paninis and got on a boat that went around the whole island. It was either that or visit the Blue Grotta and see nothing else. We stopped near a few caves — the Green  Grotta for instance. We also passed through the lovers arch (too bad I was loverless at that moment). I really would’ve liked to have seen the Blue Grotta but time just didn’t allow. Regardless I was able to take many a great picture on the boat ride as well as enjoy the cool wind on a sunny day.

Our group all aboard and ready to cruise around Capri

What a beautiful island...


Dad stopping for a fresh lemonade

April 28

Sorrento, Italy
Posted on April 28th, 2011 at 6:48 AM by admin

Our travel day to Sorrento was a rough one. With rest stops only it took about 10 hours to get there. Of course this happened to coincide with my worst  health day of the trip. What was 3 weeks of strep is now going on a week of a sinus infection. I’m running out of drugs again so I am hoping my body will get in the game soon. Despite this rough trip I managed to read another book for pleasure — one that my dad brought with him and read a few days earlier. I have to pause to reflect on how I manage to travel and site see an average of 10 hours/day and still have made time to read 3 books and several other school assignments while being sick. Either I’m having one of my amazing moments or this is the exact reason I can’t seem to return to good health. My ego prefers the former. And now back to the travel stuff. I am writing this blog on the bus just as we are arriving in Sorrento. It’s a bit hazy today but  much improved from Taormina’s weather. Some of the coastal views we just saw here from the bus were spectacular. I hope my shooting through the window will capture its beauty.

On the way to Sorrento...not bad for a "through the bus window" shot eh?

(Later that night…) Dinner was to be Sorrento’s specialty: Pizza. We were served 3 different flavors as well as multiple “bready” appetizers. I don’t think  I’ve ever seen so much pizza in my life! But in my opinion the highlight of the night was not the pizza but rather the desert. This place had the best tiramisu I’ve EVER had and that is saying a lot because I’ve had a lot of it in my life.

Have you ever seen a Pizza of this size?!!? The served us like 4 of them!

The next day  a bunch of us went into the city to shop and had the most wonderful gelato. I got a mixture of two of Sorrento’s own: Sorrento Walnut and Ricotta Pear. My mom was even able to find dairy-free chocolate gelato. I bought several things that I don’t really need such as biking gloves and a wallet.  What can I say? I was having one of those days where I really wanted to purchase things. Luckily that was the only day that I felt like that! That night we went out for another nice dinner in Sorrento. There I had the most tasty appetizers of the whole trip. Unfortunately I was pretty much full by the time my  main course came but what else is new!?!? I drank some coffee with our lemon puff of a desert so that I could try and stay awake for a musical that I didn’t really want to go to. It was an interesting mix of folk and opera. It was a  a bit lacking in the professional department but entertaining nonetheless.

Mom holding my and her gelato - not sure i've ever seen her happier! Hehe

Shopping in Sorrento (Janet and I)

Our tour guide (Milli) and driver (Francesco)

Mom, Dad and I at our last dinner in Sorrento

April 27

Taormina, Italy
Posted on April 27th, 2011 at 5:50 AM by admin

Downtown Taormina was very cute!

Greek ampitheater in Taormina with a beautiful view that we couldn't see

In Taormina our beautiful weather streak took a serious turn for the worse. Taormina, supposedly one of the most picturesque parts of Sicily, was barely  visible through the fog. Did i mention it was raining the whole time too? This didn’t stop us from our tours though. First we went to an Ancient Greek amphitheater which was clearly different from the Roman amphitheaters in that the spectator seats were built into the hills instead of being built up on flat ground with roman arches. On day two we got in the bus for an hour and a half to see some craters at about 6000 ft high on Mt. Etna. Our hotel in Taormina had a beautiful view of the coast — at least I think it did. After two days in the hotel I only saw a bit of the coastline the morning that we left. I guess we had to accept a few bad luck days.

Despite the fog at Mt. Etna I did manage to find a bit of color

There was still snow on Mt. Etna at the end of April - clearly people ski here in the winter

The only upside to the abundance of clouds were these pictures....

Sunrise on our departure day finally showed me the picturesque coast right outside my hotel window


Posted on April 25th, 2011 at 9:01 AM by admin

First glimpses of the sea salt producing city of Marsala

A pile of sea salt being protected while it dries

Our next overnight stop was Agrigento on the south western coast of Sicily. But first we made a stop in Marsala on the way to see how sea salt is captured and dried. I bought some mixed with sage as an edible souvenir. In Agrigento we did a tour with a local guide through the ancient greek city of Agrigento (formerly Agrigakas). Being the non history buff that I am I had no idea there was so much Ancient Greek history in Sicily. I have been enlightened! Some of the pictures I have of this area rival what I got when I visited Athens years ago. Interestingly enough this areas also was displaying a modern Polish sculptor. Many of the statues I found quite interesting with the exception of one that was put right in front of one of the Greek temples. Who does that?!?!

The very well preserved ancient greek Temple of Concordia

Contrasting old and new

April 24

Palermo, Italy
Posted on April 24th, 2011 at 7:29 PM by admin
After arriving in Palermo via faerie we went straight to the hotel to unload and have breakfast. Then we headed on our tour of the city. We started in my person favorite cathedral — the Monreale Cathedral, also known as La Basilica Cattedrale di Santa Maria Nuova (please see previous Palermo post for pictures!). I even bought a mosaic from a local store to have a souvenir of my favorite cathedral!! We also visited another similarly styled chapel called Palatine Chapel (Capella Palatina). Much of the rest of the tour was from the bus but we saw many of  the most important buildings. I was excited this day and took an extraordinarily large amount of pictures. We saw a few churches, one in the Norman Palace, which we barely managed to get in a visit before they closed the church to tourists for an Easter mass. The other, Palermo Cathedral,  was holding a mass when we walked in. Many of the tourists were taking pictures but I just didn’t have it in me to do so during a mass.

Fountain outside Cathedral Monreale

Some of the most impressive grafiti i've ever seen

Inside the Palatine Chapel

In the afternoon we were given  more free time than usual presumably because it was, after all, Easter Sunday. We walked down the street of our hotel to find somewhere to eat. We ended up  in a fish place with a waiter who should’ve retired long ago. He messed up every part of our order imaginable but the fish, at least, was very good. Mom  and I went out to find some Sicilian specialties after lunch while dad went upstairs for a nap. Unfortunately we didn’t find any such specialties and  ended up walking back to the hotel empty handed. I then decided to take a nap and a bath. I even finished the book I brought to read for homework out on  the balcony overlooking Palermo’s coast. It was definitely a high time for me even if I still was fighting illness. I didn’t realize my health would go downhill from there. The decline started with a restless night due to some idiot in the parking lot screaming to cram in cars all night. The hotel room  and view was spectacular but clearly costs were cut when making window insulation decisions!

The view out my hotel window

Dad and I infront of the coast AND a very large tree stump

April 23

Pompei, Italy
Posted on April 23rd, 2011 at 6:47 PM by admin
The next stop from Assisi was Pompei but it was quite a bus ride to get there. My new antibiotics were making my stomach do somersaults and I wondered if I was going to be able to keep down breakfast. I was given a granola bar and candied ginger by some very nice people in the group. I slept for about a third of the trip, did homework for another third and, well, consciously prayed to not throw up the other third. Thankfully I was able to keep the food down and, although a bit tired, made it through the two hour guide through Pompei that followed the bus ride. Pompei was one of my favorite stops on my tour back in 2000 but I admittedly wasn’t quite as impressed this time. I think maybe more of the stuff was removed and brought into the museum but my terrible memory does not allow me to say for certain if that is true. I did still enjoy it and with 72 degree weather in April (as it has been nearly the whole trip thus far) one really can’t complain! I enjoyed a cafe latte before the bus departed for Napoli, where our overnight faerie to Palermo awaited us. Hopefully my stomach can handle some overnight cruising…

Welcome to the ancient city of Pompei!

Ancient sinks?!!? How cooooooool

I think this is what I would do if molten lava was about to cover me

April 22

Assisi, Italy
Posted on April 22nd, 2011 at 9:28 PM by admin

Out the window on the way to Assisi (love how it gives a birds eye view of the landscape!)

Just outside La Basilica di Sant'apollinare in Classe

More byzantine that I love at La Basilica di Sant'apollinare in Classe

From Venice we stopped at La Basilica di Sant’apollinare in Classe along the way to Assisi, where we were to stay overnight. I believe my first tour of Europe ten years ago also visited this city but my memory was very vague. We visited the Assisi Cathedral (Cattedrale di Assisi) where everyone was shhhhhhhed to death and then headed back for a hotel dinner. I was a bit late for dinner having had to see the doctor for a persisting illness that I’ve had for 3.5 weeks now. It of course started raining on my way to the pharmacy. Not sure if this doctor really knew what was wrong with me but I do know that he prescribed me multiple extremely strong medications so I will hope for the best. He also informed me I have a piece of wax in my ear that is about 2 inches long. I guess I should do something about that when I get back to Austria.

The streets of Assisi

My parents in front of the Assisi Cathedral

The group got a bit rowdy again given the unlimited wine at dinner and our table was told to quiet down. I was surprised that Americans in Italy were being told to be quiet at a restaurant but I suppose I have witnessed stranger occurrences in my almost 29 years on this earth. We only stayed one night in Asissi but we did get to SLEEP IN until 7am this time. Grazie a dio!

April 21

Venice, Italy
Posted on April 21st, 2011 at 5:16 PM by admin
Our first night in Venice was to be a fairly laid back night and it was for the most part.  We went out to have a Venician dinner. On our way the tour guide showed us a few quick sites to work up our appetites. I couldn’t get over how close the buildings were built together but there are after all no vehicles in Venice with the exception of one island. Some of the allies were no wider than two people wide. It was definitely something to see. The food quality at the restaurant was a bit under the quality of most of the dinners we’d had but it was certainly edible. We were served prosciutto with melon for an appetizer and tiramisu for desert just as we have for nearly every dinner and I have to admit that I’m getting a bit sick of them. The up side for many was that the unlimited drinks were included in the excursion price and most of the group certainly took advantage. Unfortunately I was and still am on antibiotics so this vacation is pretty much alcohol free for me.

Cool building on the way to dinner

My parents and I after our first dinner in Venice

After dinner our guide did something that was probably not wise — she decided to show us some more sites on the way home.  Intoxication and site-seeing yielded some unfortunate results as we managed to lose two gentleman in the process. We spent a long time waiting for them and trying to find them but to no avail. Everyone had a theory as to how they got lost and where they might be. At about the same time we lost these guys I observed a bit of bargaining for one of those slingshot glowing light things that they sell in the main squares. The drunkenness lead to great annoyance to the seller as we tried to bargain lower than what was clearly his LOWEST price. In the end we got a sarcastic as hell “Grazie” along with the corresponding F-U gesture. I didn’t find out until the next morning that the gentlemen did eventually find their way back to our hotel (which was by the way on a completely different island that could be reached only by water taxi).

The next day we got up early AGAIN to put out the luggage, eat and head out on our official tour of Venice. The Doge’s palace was truly remarkable but I was a bit disappointed that we weren’t able to get in to Saint Marc’s Basilica, despite having a reservation, because they were cleaning for an upcoming visit by the pope.  We did get to see some extraordinary glass making though. I was tempted to buy some glass jewelry but well I couldn’t justify the expense seeing as how I don’t wear that much jewelry.

The glass master shaping a horse - now that is art!!

One of the stairwells in Doge's Palace

That afternoon I skipped the gondola ride (guess I’ll just have to come back with someone special for that) but went on a lagoon cruise that night on the way to dinner in Burano. Burano, unlike the center of Venice, was very quaint and quiet. The houses were painted very bright colors and no two houses next to each other were the same color. It was simply a very picturesque island. The dinner was very good and I even found some nice souveniers and gifts. The area is also known for hand-made lace. I definitely appreciated this high level of craftsmanship as well but once again decided to pass — lace is not my style.

No, this picture has not been altered:Leaning tower of Pisa eat your heart out!