So last time I blogged, I had just reached my year-mark in Senegal and celebrated it by planting 1,000 trees in my village. Needless to say, my friends and I decided that it was time to get out of Senegal for a bit and relax. So what's the best kind of vacation for a couple of poor, smelly PCVs? Why, a Mediterranean cruise followed by a couple weeks traveling around Italy, of course!
Part One: I'm on a BOAT!
My friend Jenn and I had been planning on going on a cruise for a while, and then two of our other friends (Nicky and Hailey) decided to join in! Obviously, we were looking forward to leisurely cruising along, seeing the sights and to all of the amenities of the ship: the plush beds, hot showers, pools, hot tubs, and the buffet. But, as per usual, Senegal decided to make the start of our vacation a little rocky.
First, Jenn and my flight to Rome (where we were leaving from) was cancelled. Then we had to wait about three and half hours to get our bags back at the airport. The next day, Jenn and I were able to get out and actually made it to Rome. But Nicky and Hailey's flight out (only supposed to leave about 45 minutes after ours did) was late, so they missed their connection flight and we have no way of contacting them to know what was happening. THEN, my bag didn't arrive in Rome but decided it would rather hang around in Lisbon. Normally, I wouldn't mind too much if a bag didn't arrive on time, but when you're leaving for a cruise the next morning and you are a dirty, nasty PCV who has been looking forward to wearing real clothes for months... you get a little sad about it. Luckily, the bag made it to Rome the next morning just in time for us to grab it and hightail it to the port.
So our trip to the cruise was pretty crazy, but the actual cruise was perfect. We went to Sicily, Kusadashi (Turkey), Athens, Crete and then back to Rome. I won't go through an entire blow-by-blow of the trip, but I'll some it up in a few sentences...
There is a lot of pollen in Sicily; not the best place for someone with allergies. Turkish men are certainly charming, and Ephesus is definitely worth seeing. The Parthenon is currently undergoing renovations, so it was kind of disappointing right now; but I bet at other time it's spectacular. Crete is one of the most beautiful places in the world and I would happily live there forever.
|My girls Nicky, Hailey and Jenn in Athens|
|What the Parthenon looks like a the moment|
|Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful CRETE!|
|Crete was definitely our favorite|
|We could have lived there forever|
We also managed to get a bridge-tour of the ship, where you can see where the captain works. Pretty cool!
|View from the bridge. Not too shabby.|
|Me playing captain|
Part Two: Viva Italia!
After our lovely cruise, we had one night in Rome with Nicky and Hailey and then they headed back to Senegal. Jenn and I decided to travel throughout Italy. We didn't get everywhere, but we saw some fabulous sights. Rome was first...
|Jenn and I at the Colosseum|
After Rome, we made our way up to Florence. While we were there, we went on some amazing day-trips to Pisa and Chianti to do some wine-tasting! We were among lots of lovey-dovey couples and honeymooners, but Jenn and I didn't mind... we were too busy with all of the wine, olive oil and delicious cheese.
|Whitest legs ever!|
|Gotta have a Leaning Tower photo|
|Pizza in Pisa!|
|With my vacation-wife, Jenn|
We then traveled to Cinque Terre, one of the most gorgeous places in the world. Cinque Terre means "five villages," and the villages are situated around cliffs on the coast of Italy. Sadly, they experienced floods and mudslides this past October, so a lot of the area was damaged.
Normally, you're able to hike between all five of the villages, but most of the trails aren't operational at the moment. We were able to do one long hike between Monterosso and Vernazza, and then a little one from Manarola to Riomaggiore. That little hike is called Via dell'Amore, the Path of Love. People write or engrave their names on padlocks and then lock them throughout the path. It's a very cool sight, and the view of the water and houses from the path is beautifullll!
|Riomaggiore, the first village. Lovely.|
|Entrance to the Path of Love. Heart-locks.|
|The end of the Path of Love. So many padlocks.|
|Goofing during our longer hike.|
Our last stop before heading back to Rome was Venice. Unfortunately we had pretty bad weather there, but it was still awesome seeing the gondolas!
|Very cool to see this in real life|
|Just as awesome as you'd think it would be|
Then we went back to Rome, checked out the Vatican and the Colosseum, ate our last amazing Italian meal and said goodbye to beautiful Italy (I think I've written the word 'beautiful' about 20 times already in this entry, but it's true).
Now we're back in Senegal. One great thing that happened since we went away was that we reached the glorious half-way mark in our service, so we're on the downward slope now! I can't believe that I'm over halfway done my service. Definitely looking forward to what this next year will bring.
I need to send huge shout outs to my Aunt Anne Marie and my parents for their vacation gifts, and a thank you to the Edwards clan for the awesome package that I received when I got back from vacation. Loving it! Also, thanks for my dear friends Amanda and Derek for the b-day card and Kyle for the letter! It's always nice getting mail, so thanks!
And thank you to everyone who actually reads this and keeps up to date on my craziness over here. It's nice to know that people care what's going on :)
Love you all and happy belated Mother's Day to the mamas out there!