It’s hard to eat on the cheap like I’m trying to when your ID card with your free meal plan on it doesn’t work.
It’s hard to eat on the cheap like I’m trying to when your ID card with your free meal plan on it doesn’t work.
Mmmmm…apple cider, apple sauce, apple pie, apple picking. Apples= 3 lbs for a dollar at the farmer’s market!
Seeing as the volcanic explosion in Iceland sadly thwarted my attempt to spend the weekend in Paris with Kelsey, I have time to update!
For Easter weekend (April 1-5), Lisa and I headed down to Naples and met Kelsey, who was on spring break. We went on a cool tour underground in the aqueduct system, called the Sottoterrano (literally translating to under-ground) built several thousand years ago by the Greeks. It was used as their water system for hundreds of years, and during WWII was used as a hiding place for the citizens of the city to avoid bombings.
We walked all around Naples that day and then had the BEST pizza of our lives. Seriously, we spent about five minutes after putting the first bite in our mouths going “Oh. My God. Ohmygod. Oh my God!” So. Good.
The next day was spent in Pompeii, which was beautifully sunny and wonderful. We got there super early after successfully figuring out the somewhat weird subway/train fusion system they have going on over there. We looked around…
…had lunch, then took a two hour nap in the grassy field of the amphitheater. Which, by the way, could seat like 10,000 people or something impressive.
On Sunday, Easter, we took a ferry out to Capri! So beautiful, and definitely gave the feeling of the Italian Greek islands. We took a cable car and a bus all the way to the top of the island, then walked alllllll the way down on the longest flight of stairs I’ve ever seen. We passed a few suckers making their way up on the the way and were very happy that we weren’t them.
We hopped back on the ferry in time to not only have dinner at the pizza place I mentioned before, but a late lunch as well (yes, the same pizza place TWICE in one day), but as it was Easter, EVERYTHING was closed! There was literally nothing open! We bought bags of chips at the only place we found to eat for lunch and dinner, but the man who owns the hostel we were staying at actually made dinner for everyone, since nothing was open. Our epic pizza plans were thwarted. It’s a sore subject, so I won’t bring it up again.
The next day, everything was STILL CLOSED! We were leaving in the early afternoon, so it wasn’t a big deal, but the only place for food that was open only sold cornettos and brioches (Italian pastries) and gelato. So we had brioche and gelato for breakfast. Yum.
We got on the train back to Florence around 2 or so, ending our weekend in Naples! It was a lot of fun, but I wouldn’t want to live there. Well, I guess if I lived right next to that pizza place, I might.
On Tuesday we embarked to Paros on a four hour ferry. I love boats! (For Beth: BOATS! I hadn’t thought of that in so long!) So fun. We slept through most of it though, as we had to leave from the port at 7:25 AM, meaning we had to wake up at 4:30. Four. Thirty.
But then we were here:
…and it was all good.
We spent a day exploring the port village of Parikia:
…before lounging around in our apartment. We had expected to stay in a room with a shared bathroom, but since it’s low season the owner of the hotel gave us an apartment with a terrace for the same price! Lisa went for a walk while Hayley and I caught up on the balcony, watching the ocean over the maybe ten or so buildings that separated us from the sea. Beautiful.
The next day we took the bus to the fishing village of Naoussa, that we had heard we couldn’t miss. When we got there though, we realized all we knew is that there were things to see in Naoussa, but we didn’t know what any of them were. No guide book, no map, nothing. And the bus had just left. We walked toward the ocean, pondering, and it started to rain. Awesome. We ducked into a little cafe that had a few people in it and happened to meet a German woman who was just on her way out. She invited us back to have lunch with her the next day and disappeared! After she left, the four Coast Guard men sitting behind us started asking us where we’re from and why we were on Paros. Valid question, as we literally saw under ten other tourists the entire three days that we were there. When they say low season, they mean low. Most of the restaurants, cafes, and bars aren’t even open right now!
We ended up sitting and talking with them for almost three hours, and during that time they had us try both a stingray fish salad (kind of tasted like tuna, but so fresh and wonderful) and souma, Paros’ own special brand of…liquor. Which they drink straight. Beautiful. It actually wasn’t that bad, since it’s made from grapes. But I definitely watered mine down on the sly (thankfully it’s clear. Like…vodka. Mmmmm. Not planning on going to Russia anytime soon if it’s a custom to buy random people random drinks). And have I mentioned that European’s don’t seem to do shots? Or at least, not in daylight. Not that Americans do either but seriously, no one but Dads and other older male people drink straight liquor. And older male people tend to drink scotch. And we had to sip it. Blerghleknghsd.
They drove us back to Parikia and we explored the coast a little bit!
Later that night we met up with some of the people we had met that day at one of (count them) two bars that are open on the island during low season. We had totally forgotten that it was St. Patrick’s day, and apparently Greeks don’t celebrate St. Patrick’s day at all, so naturally the bar got really into it and all the Greeks were being ironically St. Patricky because they couldn’t really believe people honestly actually get into a holiday that basically revolves around pinching people and getting outrageously drunk. I know it seems like our experience in Paros so far has been all about the liquor, but it’s more interesting to comment on then the parts where we slept in until noon and sat in the sun sprouting freckles.
Honestly, there is so much to see on Paros including but not limited to: The Church of a 100 Doors (99 of which have only ever been found, when the 100th door is found, Constantinople will be returned to the Greeks), the abandoned Monastary, the valley of the butterflies, the castle guarding against the pirates at Naoussa, and the Archeology Museum. None of which I saw. I was too busy meeting people, eating good food, and enjoying the sun!
Our next day we went back to Naoussa and had a long, lovely lunch with the german lady, who has been living in Greece for a year now. She had many friends with her at lunch, most of whom did not speak English but a lot of whom also spoke German, so there was a strange fusion of languages going on as people told stories and the people who understood them would explain it in the other language they knew until everyone had heard it, resulting in the wonderful effect that the funny stories got three rounds of genuine laughter.
After debating whether to walk around Naoussa or lie in the sun while waiting the hour for the bus (guess which one we chose), we stopped and had milkshakes by the shore and watched a beautiful sunset.
We ended the day by meeting up with some people we had met the night before who offered to show us the best restaurant on the island. They took us to an amazing fish restaurant where I had so much seafood that I think I’ll be ok without any sort of sea creature near my mouth for about a month. Wonderful. Next they took us to two different bars that only the local Greeks go to before driving us back to our hotel. I love Greek people! Every SINGLE person we met was nice, open, funny, and curious. Not one took advantage of us or even hinted at doing so. Better than you can get in the US in most places, that’s for sure!
We thought we were going to spend one more day in Paros (during which we were planning to take a ten minute ferry to the opposite island, cleverly named Antiparos), but we decided we couldn’t ignore every single one of the amazing Greeks telling us to go to Santorini, and we decided to change our plans last minute! We got up for the noon ferry the next day, and were in Santorini around three.
The beautiful thing about low-season (again) is that we were able to buy our ferry tickets about an hour before we boarded, and we went to the island with a) no idea what to do once we got there, b) what the island really was at all, and c) where we would be sleeping that night.
But all the details of that are a story for another time.
Ah, breakfast. Honestly, I’m not that into breakfast in the States, and I do NOT agree with the mindset that gives kids like, a thousand eggs and pancakes and bacon before they march off to school each day. I’m already tired in the morning, I don’t need all that digestion going on and making me fall asleep during Calculus. At school I take yogurt and granola with me to whatever class I have first, or I eat a piece of fruit or something on my way, so it hasn’t been hard adjusting to the Italian (and it sounds like general European) culture of having only a pastry and coffee for breakfast.
I do, however, miss milk. Terribly. For those in the know, I quite literally drink 2-3 large glasses of milk every day. Some find this weird, especially when they find me drinking a water sized glass of milk while eating yogurt or cheese or ice cream. That’s a lot of dairy. But whatever, it works for me. Here, though, the milk is weird and they don’t just drink milk. Ever. I poured myself a small glass one morning and Valentina looked at me like I had sprouted running shoes out of the top of my head. I mean, she looks at me like that quite often, but this was a little extreme.
So I drink coffee. And it’s a lot better here than at home, for some reason, but I still miss my milk. I also get really hungry throughout the day because we eat breakfast around eight, lunch around one thirty, and dinner around eight thirty, whereas I’m used to snacking on fruit or cheese and crackers ever three to four hours at school. Then again, it’s only been a few weeks so maybe my stomach with adjust!
For those of you not in the know, my roommate Lisa and I decided to stay in a homestay while in Italy. It is seriously the best decision I have made by far.
Students not in homestays live either on-campus in one of two villas, Villa Natalia and Villa…um…something, or in off-campus residences. The residences are apartments that house between eight and twenty students in each apartment. Their bedrooms alone can have six or seven people in them. While those apartments are all in Il Centro, and therefore very close to the nightlife and everything historic there is to see in the city, I am glad I don’t have to sleep with five other people breathing next to me every night. On-campus housing is pretty cool, the villas are beautiful, as you saw, and they have much more of a colleg-y feel than any of the other residences, but on campus you are surrounded by English speakers, and it’s very easy to go the whole semester without learning much serious Italian.
My homestay, on the other hand, is completely awesome. Lisa and I are living with the Saracinos (no pictures, I thought it would be creepy to be like, “Hey, can I take your picture and post it on the internet?”). Giuseppe and Annamaria are the mother and father, and they have two kids, Davide, 13, and Olga, 11. They also have a live in housekeeper, Valentina. Giuseppe is very good about helping us with our Italian, and it’s clear that a large part of the reason they host students is to improve their English. I was talking to one of the housing coordinators today, and she said that Giuseppe gets upset if he is assigned a student who already knows Italian, because then how is the family supposed to improve their English?
At dinner we often trade words (Tonight we had tangerines for dessert, which they taught us are called mandarino or mandarini. Now that I think of it, we probably should have said they were mandarin oranges. But to us, mandarin oranges are canned. Huh. We also taught them the words “uphill” and “downhill,” which Giuseppe in particular thought were awesome, and clarified that in English we say we go “by train,” “by plane,” “by car,” “by bike,” but “on foot.” Then we clarified that English is indeed ridiculous.) Giuseppe will often say something, then have the kids work to translate it for us, then have us try to say it in Italian, then help us if we don’t know how. It is completely perfect, since the whole reason I did a homestay is so that I would actually learn the language.
They live on Via Luigi Lanzi in a three story house about a 15 minute walk from both La Pietra in one direction and Il Centro in the other. The floors are a beautiful marble design and each room is comfortable but not huge the way we build in California. The entrance is on the second floor, Lisa and I live on the first floor, halfway underground, and the family lives on the third floor.
The food is absolutely wonderful, though admittedly can be a little strange. Last night was my favorite meal so far, as we started with bruschetta (pronounced, for all you English folk, as brusketta. Giuseppe asked Lisa and me to please, never call it brushetta). For dinner we had an egg frittata and some sort of boiled vegetable. Then fruit for dessert!
For those of you interested, here’s how you prepare actual bruschetta. You don’t need that fancy jar from the store!
1 slice of toast per person (just normal toast. It tasted like white bread but it might have been sourdough.)
Tomatoes, chopped , enough to pile in a sizable layer on the toast
1 garlic clove, roasted and sliced into about 4 little pieces
Take a slice of garlic and, using your fingers, rub onto the toast. You don’t have to do this very hard, they just kind of slide it over the bread so the oil rubs off. Next, spoon the chopped tomatoes onto the toast. Then, pour a small amount of olive oil over the tomatoes, not enough that it soaks through the bread and is all over the plate (I learned the hard way), just enough to cover the tomatoes. Pick up and enjoy! The toast we had was cut in halves and thirds, so feel free to make the bread as small as is manageable for you.
Also, a note for Spanish speakers, “casa” in Italian is pronounced “caza” not “cassa,” which is why the leaning tower of Pisa is pronounced the way it is.