18 March, 2010

THINGS I HAVE LEARNED FROM SPRING BREAK, PART ONE

We spent ten days for spring break in Rome and Athens. It was a highly informative experience. I learned a lot. See the following.

THINGS I LEARNED IN ITALY

  1. Days in Rome are beautiful. But don't be fooled. The nights are freezing. In March, at least. Also, rainy days are somewhat miserable. Save the indoor attractions for rainy days.

  2. The Vatican Museum has, in the morning, a line that stretches for several blocks down the street. But if you go to the Vatican Museum in the afternoon, there is literally no line. You can just walk right in.
  3. Don't accept "gifts" or take photos with men on the streets. Even if they are dressed like gladiators or are really attractive. They will charge you for these things, but not til after you've taken the photos/gifts.
  4. The men methodically saying "No photo. No photo," over and over again in the Sistine Chapel don't really mean it. Go ahead and take photos, just don't be hugely obvious or take too many.
  5. Split meals. Emily and I split a lasagna for lunch, while Geoff and Lauren each bought their own portion of the same. The waiter gave me and Emily nearly an entire portion each. It was barely smaller than Geoff or Lauren's meal, and for half the price! 
  6. On that note, waiters in Italy are HILARIOUS. The one who gave Emily and I really big "half" portions was in love with all three of us girls. As for Geoff? He clearly stated, "Sorry, I don't like sausage." He wanted Lauren's phone number, but as we left he stopped me, winked, and said, "I've changed my mind. I like you best. Shh!" We also had a waiter who continually made fun of us, and gave us free wine when the lights went out!
  7. And on THAT note, I learned that if the lights go out in your restaurant during your dinner, you get free drinks! Ours was called "sexy wine." I kid you not. It was delicious.
  8. Don't pay for bus tickets. No one does. Even if you buy them from a news kiosk, like people tell you to do, the man is likely to give you an outdated ticket from as far back as December 2009. You only really need tickets for the metro (subway), but the bus can get you pretty much everywhere just as easily.
  9. There are several bus stops in each area. Just because a bus stops at a place with the same name as the place you're trying to get to doesn't actually mean it's your stop. In fact, it might even be as far as 40 minutes away from where you're trying to end up. It MIGHT even result in you having to return back to your original starting point and beginning your journey from scratch, turning what's usually a 30-45 minute trip back to your hotel into a 2.5 hour excursion. It's not fun, especially because, as previously mentioned, Rome is COLD at night.
  10. Use a student ID card! I saved so much on ticket and entry fees. Some places will even let students in for free, and usually it's good for at least a 50% discount.
  11. Fruit gelato is not made with dairy, and, while still delicious, tastes more like mushed up popsicles. Chocolate or creme gelato is the way to go! We ate it at least once every day we were there. It's cheap and delicious.
  12. Shop around when finding souvenirs. Prices are drastically different from store to store, even ones right next to each other. We found souvenirs that cost 6 euro in one shop, and 2 euro in another!
  13. Some of the most fun in Italy can be had just by wandering. Forget the map, just figure it out as you go. 
  14. If you happen to forget something important, say for example, a camera charger, and need to buy a new one, follow rule #12. Some annoying shopkeepers will want 60 euro for a new charger. Others will give you one for half the price.
  15. If you are on a budget, make use of the continental breakfast in the hotel. If you're really good at it, you can make it last until dinner. 
  16. Italian grocery stores are horrendously confusing. And also really fun. There are entire walls full of olive oil! Also a brand of pasta called "Emiliane!" Which is almost like my name! Emily Anne! Hooray!
  17. Do NOT assume every Italian speaks English. While this is mostly true in the tourist areas, when you're exploring outside of those, there's basically very little hope for you if you get lost. Or if you're trying to explain to a shop worker that you would like a loaf of bread. 
  18. However, most people we met in Italy were extremely nice, and even if they didn't speak English, were extremely willing to help if you looked lost.
  19. On Italian faucets, "C" does not mean cold. Quite the contrary, actually.
  20. Cheap razors = major major razorburn. Don't even bother. Seriously.
Other notes about Italy:
  • there was a bidet in our hotel room. It was frightening and I never got up the courage to even use it, because I was convinced I would fall in.
  • On our very first night, we met two guys from Canada, studying in Paris, named Serge and Flo, who were coincidentally staying at the same hotel as us. They offered to show us which bus stop to stop at. But we were all chatting so much, we missed the stop and our kindly bus driver made a special trip to bring us back. We bid Serge and Flo (whose names still crack me up. Surge and flow! They mean nearly the same thing!) goodnight when we finally got to the hotel and figured that would be it. However, we saw them at Palatine Hill the next day, and then AGAIN in St Peter's Square the next day. They were pretty cool, even if they wore the same outfits every time we saw them. 
  • Our hotel room had these silly light switches that sounded like buzzers in a prison when you turned on the lights.
  • Emily and I found a really awesome Italian market during our wanderings, and I almost bought this delicious looking blueberry jam to take home with me. Unfortunately, it was over 100mL, so I wouldn't have been able to get it on the plane. :(
  • When leaving Rome, I just threw all my belongings into my backpack instead of packing them tightly. This was a mistake. The extra inch of length it added onto my backpack meant that it was too big for carry-on, and the nasty Italian security man was not willing to make an exception for me, no matter how big my doe-eyes got. Everyone at the Fiumicino airport was really nasty, actually. At our gate at least. All my friends had already gotten through the gate, and they asked if I could put one or two things in their bags, but the lady at the gate was very mean. Finally we kind of just went ahead and did it. I literally took out two items, and then my bag was fine. Ridiculous.
All in all, Italy was amazing. So many good pictures, and hopefully I'll be able to share them with you if my Internet ever decides to behave!

...Stay tuned for Part Two: Things I Have Learned from Greece!

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