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Venice, Italy August 8, 2011

Posted by katehyder in Travel Log.
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I am literally having the best time of my life. Can’t believe how fortunate I am to know all the people I’ve met this summer and to be traveling to these amazing cities, learning from the best professors in the Oxford Program (sorry Groups 1 and 3). We keep saying God smiled upon Group 2… but He really did.

Day 1

We left Rome at the crack of dawn, nothing new there. About half way to Venice, Kristy and Taneshia (our group leaders aka moms) get a phone call from the Hotel Albani. Jessica left her suitcase in the street in Rome. (insert laughter) Apparently, both of our suitcases were sitting next to the bus. Did you really think we could/would lift those things into the bus? Get real. Anyways, our bus driver left them both almost, but mine is an obnoxious zebra print so she was spotted. Jessica’s black suitcase must’ve blended in with the street or something, we still aren’t sure. All I know is, she was luggage-less and it was hilarious!

We had a pretty long bus ride and of course, stopped to eat at an Auto-Grill. They’re great! We passed through Florence, everyone’s favorite city, and then finally arrived in Venice. For those of you who have yet to travel to Venice, you’ll need to know one thing: they don’t have streets, they have canals. So we took a taxi—a water taxi—to our hotel. Sounds cool and romantic, right? Wrong. We had to hoist our suitcases up into the boat and sit basically on top of them. It was terrible and hilarious! Carson gets seasick, so she was dying. Mark had to carry my bag out of the boat because I literally couldn’t do it. Surely, I thought, that was funny and our bad/hilarious experiences will be over now.

Wrong again.

Moseying down the road in Venice, I was getting so excited to see our cute hotel. Then we take a turn down a dark alley. Hotel Atlantide: 2 star hotel off of this alleyway. Terrible. Didn’t realize how spoiled we all were until we got to this hotel. Look below for the pictures… absolutely hilarious.

It came time to shower and Jessica started dying laughing from the bathtub. There was no water pressure. Literally zero. We had to shower in Amy and Christie’s room! The welcome/family dinner was great! It was in a very nice hotel down the street (rub it in our face, GT) called Hotel Pericone. The pianist played “Home” by Michael Buble and some Elton John and Billy Joel. Made me kind of homesick but it was great to hear some good tunes. But this little entertainment did not make up for the fact that I was missing Coldplay at the Heineken Jammin’ Festival 5 miles away. Grr.

Day 2

On the second day, we went to another hotel (Hotel Amadeus) to have class for four hours. Jessica made a cootie catcher and we learned about some Venetian art and music. Class is not bad at all—I really enjoy learning about everything before we see it. It makes it easy to appreciate what you’re looking at. Then we had a couple of hours for our nap. It was a good one because our room was like a dungeon! That afternoon, we went on a walking tour and to a Vivaldi concert at San Marco. The concert was really funny because the cellist looked just like Chris Kattan! After giggling through it, we all went back to the hotel. A bunch of the girls took a night off to hang out and try to get some Wi-Fi. Kelsey, Jessica and I went to the welcome dinner hotel to borrow some of theirs! The boys got a little rowdy without us there that night.

Oh and sidenote, Jessica got her bag back this day.

Day 3

The third day was really cool. We went to Padua and Vicenza. The smaller cities are fun because the locals are nicer and they aren’t so busy. We had a lot of fun and everyone loved Vicenza. When we finally got back to Venice, everyone went to a restaurant called AeOche to get some food and get on the internet. The girls stayed there for 5 hours! We are so deprived and we just want to share everything with y’all at home. Thank goodness for Google talk and Skype. I finally got to Skype Allie and I was so happy!

Day 4

Day 4 was pretty much a free day. We first went to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum where I swear I thought I saw Aaron Umansky (sadly, no, it wasn’t him). Walked around Venice all day afterwards and went to the supermarket to stock up on the essentials: Special K, crackers, etc. Jennifer, Jessica and I shopped around Venice all day. This is when I decided that I love the city! It is so incredibly unique. We were looking for anything and everything. Did we get Italian leather bags? No. Sore subject. That was our main goal and we just couldn’t find that perfect bag or a not so perfect bag for a good price. Oh well! I bought a really neat ring and pair of earrings made of Murano glass.

That night, Jessica and I went to dinner for our last Italian feast: pizza and pasta. We bought some gelato on our way out on the town (aka to the stairs to sit and hang out) that night. Ciao Italy! It’s been fun but I’m ready to be in Austria. Vienna here we come!

Vienna, Austria August 8, 2011

Posted by katehyder in Travel Log.
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On the way to Austria, we drove through the most beautiful landscape I have ever seen. I remembered Austria as beautiful from my last visit, but nothing like this! The Sound of Music songs were stuck in my head the entire trip. Traveling from Italy to a new culture was a nice change of pace; Vienna is beautiful and much more modernized. It has quickly become one of my most favorite cities.

Day 1

We stopped in the most beautiful rest stop ever on the way to Vienna. The food was heavy and expensive, but it wasn’t Italian so I was happy. After a long day of traveling, it was nice to walk into a nice hotel. Anything would be an upgrade from Venice. We even had free Wi-Fi in our hotel rooms! Jessica and I got ready for dinner in approximately 10 minutes (including shower, impressive) and headed downstairs to our family dinner. We were expecting some heavy meat and potatoes, but to our surprise we were served sesame chicken and rice! It was delicious. Then I fell in love with Vienna! We walked outside to try to find something to do. We saw McDonald’s, claire’s, H&M, Forever 21 and more… are we in America?

Day 2

Having two classes back to back is usually pretty brutal, but we made it out alive. Jessica and I wore our PJ’s to class (never going to wear anything else!) and had a couple of hours to nap. We headed out to a museum and saw the city for the first time in the day. It was beautiful! The Kunsthistorisches museum was huge and a little bit exhausting, so the girls opted out of the following optional walking tour to go shopping—shocking (but I only bought one necklace mom and dad!). Starbucks and the McCafe are amazing over here! Jessica and I went to the Hofer grocery store, which was the cheapest and most disgusting place ever. It was hilarious! Nothing is name brand and it all cost next to nothing. We bought tons of food and drinks for three euros.

Day 3

Our Belvedere Palace Tour was great! The lawn was magnificent, and our day didn’t start until 11. Professor Ulrich recommended that we go see The Magic Flute at a famous opera house, so we got all dolled up and went. Jessica and I were a few minutes late getting ready. Surely they wouldn’t leave us! Wrong. We were left. In high heels and dresses we pranced right on the metro and Jessica navigated us to the opera house. (I promised I wouldn’t mention that she fell on her face in the train station.) After eating some Subway for dinner, we piled into the standing room (along with what felt like a million other people) and tried to make it through the opera—it was just too hot! We headed to Prater Park (or something) to go out that night. It was strange. The theme park was closed and creepy.

Day 4

Jennifer and I took a morning walk when we woke up. We went to the McCafe and bought some great coffee, and stopped in a Sephora-esque store on the way home. We couldn’t walk out empty handed! After giving in and buying a hair dryer and a flat iron, I could not have been happier. The group went to tour the opera house we had visited the night before. It was beautiful and something I had never seen before! The study part of study abroad caught up to us again. Jessica, Erin and I stayed up all night writing our close readings and preparing our notebooks to be checked for Art. Everyone else went to the Prater Dome and said it was awesome! Jess and Erin stayed up the entire night, while people trickled in and out working on their books when they got home from the club. I slept for 2 hours and was exhausted the next day.

Rome, Italy June 29, 2011

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Another city down and six more to go! Rome was beautiful and full of some of the most amazing history I’ve ever seen. A diet of pizza, crackers and water had been consuming all of us until we decided we’d risk the E coli scare for some good fruit. We’re getting in great shape hustling after our COA professor, Mr. Pearsall. Street vendors harassed us, we are averaging 3 hours of sleep per night, but we had a great time and got to know each other even better.

Day 1

We traveled from Florence to Rome on Sunday, June 5th.

During the three-hour bus ride, we stopped in a small village called Orvieto. Let me be the first person to tell you: never go there! Kelsey and I ordered food with shrimp, and it came out with worms on it. Jessica and Carson saw a dead cat. People were dressed as freaks at some Sci-Fi convention, it rained… it was just a terrible and strange experience. The only cool thing that happened was an ADPi from Arkansas noticed my GT ADPi shirt and we talked for a little while.

After we arrived at our retro-themed hotel in Rome (Hotel Albani), we had our second family dinner (aka Welcome Dinner). They served us veal and flan, which obviously didn’t go well with the cracker eating pickiest eaters in America. We all stayed in one night to work on our Architecture notebooks.

Day 2

Our first COA quiz was Monday morning, followed by a 2-hour music class. I felt really sick after class so I crawled back in the bed while everyone went to the Coliseum (jealous!). I ordered some expensive and disgusting room service, attempted to wash my clothes in the bathtub (never again) and FINALLY got to Skype my mom and sister. That night, we all headed out to the Spanish steps, Trinity College Bar, and the Trevi Fountain. It was beautiful. According to Lauren, one coin means you’ll come back to Roma, two means that you’ll fall in love soon and three is that you’ll get married soon! Of course, I only threw one.

Day 3

My favorite day in Italy so far was Tuesday. We visited Vatican City and it was absolutely amazing. My pictures don’t do it justice! We started in the main part and then left for the museum. I looked around and couldn’t find Colleen, Jen, David or Mark. I flipped on my BlackBerry and sure enough, Jennifer had BBM’d me that they were lost! After one overly priced phone call and a bunch of detailed directional BBMs, Jen and Colleen made it to the museum. The boys, however, were left on their own to explore the city. Our tour guide moved quicker than Mr. Pearsall, who said she was the best guide he’d ever had. Lucky us! After we finished the 2-hour tour, we went back to the hotel for literally 5 minutes before heading to the Borghese. Of course, David and Mark were completely fine and waiting on us at the museum.

To follow our daily ritual, we hiked back up to the hotel and passed out for a few hours. (We don’t sleep over here, we have two 3ish hour naps.) That night, Carson, Colleen, Jennifer, Jessica and I went to a café called Ayers. It was great! We got free water (hot commodity), free dessert and free salad. I think we’ll go to dinner sans the boys more often! We went to a very popular plaza called Campo de Fiori that night. Jessica and I had the best gelato in Italy (from Blue Ice) and the bars were lots of fun. Bradley got us home in an hour and a half via the bus system.

Day 4

Day four was a morning of church tours. It was a lot of fun! We saw the Pantheon, which was amazing. The night before, Jessica and I spotted a Hard Rock Cafe and decided we just HAD to go. So of course, we talked it up all day to all of our friends. By lunch time, group 2 was craving a nice burger and fries. We hiked to the Hard Rock for a meal of honey mustard, freedom fries and some red meat. Did I mention the free refills? After stuffing our faces (literally, everyone ate everything), we looked around only to find other Americans in Rome looking for a little piece of sanity. In bliss and feeling 20 lbs heavier– calories don’t count when we’re eating American — we took yet another nap.

That night, the gang headed back to Campo de Fiori. We stopped at the Trevi again and some people threw some coins in and we took some pictures. Outside the Pantheon, we drank wine and listened to a street performer (they are all really good!) who played some good home music like “Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton, “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd, “Every Move You Make” by Sting and we shagged to some “Stand by Me”. Then we saw some club promoters we had met the night before. They dragged us to a club called 18 and it was terrible. Then for some odd reason we decide to follow these “club promoters” to a place called Bloom, which was the strangest place I’ve ever seen. Twilight zone, again. (Note to readers: quickest way to make me stop talking to you is to tell me you’re a club promoter.)

Florence, Italy June 14, 2011

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We have been in Florence (Firenze) for 4 days now! It is absolutely beautiful. June 1st, we arrived at the airport in Rome at 8:45AM (2:25 GA time.. eek!). Exhausted, hot and excited, we trekked through the baggage claim and out to the bus with our 50 lb luggage (I did it!!!) and equally heavy carry on. This is the first time the girls discovered that we packed too much.

Our bus driver, Jean-Pierre, drove us into Florence where we got our first hotel rooms, and had to carry our bags around. This was the second time we realized that we packed way too much! The Embassy Hotel is precious. The beds are 3 inches away from one another and the bathroom is teeny tiny. I’m living with Jessica this summer and we just happen to have the ‘party room’. Why? Because we have an awesome terrace! If you ever stay in this hotel, request room 806.

Night one, we went to a cute little pub that played Ben Harper and Dave Matthews (a nice little taste of the USA). We met a middle aged couple from Ireland who bought us all drinks! They loved my red hair and my mom’s maiden name (McEachern) and thought I was just sooo Irish. Next we went to a club called Space.

So this trip sounds like non-stop fun.. but where’s the “study” in this study abroad? We actually have class in each hotel. The first day of class was Thursday the 2nd. Jessica and I got locked in a staircase–typical– and were 5 minutes late to art. Professor Pearsall took us all over Florence visiting churches and museums. We walked what felt like a thousand miles in cute sandals rather than the oh-so-touristy tennis shoe. Our feet were then/are now/will be killing us… but beauty is pain, right?

That night, we all went to dinner together at a restaurant in the city. The owner LOVED America. He was wearing an Alabama pin and had a Texas flag in the restaurant. He seemed to be so hospitable by bringing us tons of appetizers, wine and pasta. The waiters were funny and nice, too. But by the end of the dinner, we were €25 in the hole– oops!

After a little party on the terrace, we roamed the city streets and hung out on some awesome stairs. A random Italian offered to take us to his club and not charge us a cover, so naturally we said yes! We met some other American students, some Italians, and had a blast.

Yesterday, we visited the Bargello and the Uffizi. Both were beautiful, but the Uffizi was sweltering hot! Europeans definitely don’t believe in the A/C like us spoiled Americans!

We had a couple of hours of free time around lunch, so Jessica, Kelsey,Jordan, Lauren and myself went to grab some food and hit up the stores around the Duomo and the Palazzo Vecchio. Kelsey, Lauren and I were innocently walking along when all of a sudden, I stopped dead in my tracks in the middle of the busy street! I was looking straight at DJ Pauly D and Ronnie from the Jersey Shore! It took me a minute to realize that it was them, and I finally said something. He spoke with us for a little while, trying to get us to go to the pizza place where the cast works. We said we didn’t have time and he turned mean… but we still got a few pictures!

After our long day, we had a two hour music class. Dr. Ulrich is so awesome and taught us about ballet, Tchaikovsky and Swan Lake. (We’re going to see it tonight!) Then we all climbed to the highest view of Florence, and it was breathtaking! We ate dinner in a little pizzeria overlooking the city.

This morning we went to the Medici family’s chapel, which was amazing. We have free time from 11 until 7:30! We went to eat lunch at the Jersey Shore cast’s restaurant. I am the worst at directions in Europe, and it took us forever to get there (sorry guys). We saw Sammi Sweetheart, Vinny and Pauly D this time… but it wasn’t as exciting. More bizarre than anything else. Now everyone is napping while I blog! We will be getting ready soon to go to the Swan Lake ballet tonight. I can’t WAIT to see it!


Tomorrow morning we’ll be heading to Rome for our next tour. I hate to say goodbye to Florence, because it’s great! I feel like we’ve learned the city in every way only to leave it… but I’m not complaining. I mean, we get to do this fall in love with a city thing 8 times before we even get to Oxford! I’m having a great time and making some new great friends (how could I not, group 2 is the best group of all time), and I can’t wait to write about Rome in a few days!

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