Sorry for the lack of updates, but there hasn’t been much going on. I haven’t gone anywhere recently because I’m been attempting to study for the Japanese test I have tomorrow. I’m going to fail it horribly, but I’m cool with that. This is just to see how it works pretty much. Hopefully I will be able to get a new tutor soon since the current one refuses to explain anything in English which sort of limits what I’m capable of understanding when I ask about grammar points. Pretty much just been working and studying, some reading some video games. Non-exciting stuff 😄
28 Aug 2011 Leave a comment
After our two days of rest it was back to the grind in Athens, Greece. The first stop of my excursion was the Acropolis. I took a few photos of the Parthenon, of course, but they are in the process of reconstructing it so it wasn’t particularly photogenic. My favorite thing to photograph was the temple of Athena Nike (Nike is the origin for the name Nicole (and especially the nickname Nikki as that’s one pronunciation of Nike)). From the Acropolis you could see for a good distance. There was an interesting funeral monument to a prince of Syria on the next hill which I took some photos of too. There were a lot of stray dogs on the Acropolis, and I noticed that most of them had collars, which I found strange. Our guide eventually told us that the collars mean that the dogs have been spayed/neutered and vaccinated by the government. They, of course, congregate where there is food, and since the guards at the Acropolis feed them every morning… I should theoretically know better than to pick fuzzbutts off a dog I don’t know… but… they were there… and she was just laying there… she gave this look like “what on earth are you doing” and eventually got up and moved, but FUZZBUTTS!
Next we had the city tour where we saw the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the stadium built for the first modern Olympics over the site of the stadium for the ancient Olympics (also the only stadium in the world made completely of marble because Greece has marble coming out their ears). Then we had more time for some shop perusal. I got a chicken gyro (the Greeks pronounce it “giro” so my mom was incorrect in yelling at me all those years, bwahaha) and took the subway and bus back to the ship. If the bus part wasn’t free then… well A. the way to pay was horribly advertised and B. it wasn’t well monitored. Free bus!
The game show for the night after Athens was “Battle of the Sexes”. I tried to participate in a lot of activities to keep the cruise fun (worked well!) so when they said “First team to get 5 people to center stage” I was right there. The first challenge was for “someone good with their hands”. We all sort of looked at each other and I figured since I was sort of crafty I would go up. The challenge was to make a balloon dog. They demonstrated and then handed us balloons and gave us sixty seconds. (We had to stop the clock when neither the men’s team opponent nor I could get the bloody things inflated so we restarted with an inflated balloon XD) Took me all of five seconds since I’ve done it before, but what really shocked me was that even after sixty second the men’s team had a snake with ears… The judge was also laughing at me which I couldn’t quite understand… (The judge told me afterward that they’ve never seen anyone manage to make a balloon dog which is why it was so funny) That competition was followed by line singing, orange passing, dropping keychains in a cup with your knees, making people dance and the longest conga line. It was a close match but the girls won 70 to 5. (They gave the 5 guys a pity point each)
The next day it was on to Kusadasi, Turkey. I visited the ancient Roman town of Ephesus, the second largest in the Roman Empire. We got to tour the terrace houses with an archaeologist who worked on excavating them for 26 years. He told us quite a few interesting stories of finds in Ephesus. The sky was gorgeous that day. Blue with wispy clouds and just PERFECT for photos. I got my picture taken (by a Japanese tourist again, you can’t escape them) with a carving of the goddess Nike. Shopping in Turkey is more like shopping in Cozumel than anywhere else in Europe. Pushy salespeople who watch you shop. I didn’t buy much at all, even if I wanted to they WOULDN’T STOP WATCHING ME.
We arrived bright and early the next morning to Santorini, Greece. My tour went to Oia (pronounced Ea evidently) early enough that I got pictures of the morning sun on the buildings and the streets were empty. We visited a winery afterward (meh) and got dropped off in Fira for some shopping. I finished up my souvenir shopping and even bought a necklace for myself. Then I bought a small baklava and cream roll from a bakery for the food portion of the journey. If Greece has a single traditional dessert that isn’t marinated in honey, I didn’t see them. The box was dripping honey in my hands from two tiny desserts. I know there were more ingredients than honey, but the taste was basically different textures of honey. Baklava is chunky honey covered by flaky honey and the cream rolls were airy, creamy honey covered by flaky honey.
The ship started to rock a bit for the first time (the sea was glass for the majority of the trip, I don’t think we had breakers higher than a foot until then) an I went to bed early that night. Not, however, before participating in the CopyCat gameshow. Basically a crew member would demonstrate something and you had 60 seconds to do the same. The events were merenge dancing, making a black forest cake, mixing a drink, setting a table and belly dancing (for the men). My team lost all but one of the events, and that only because I made a truly awesome black forest cake. (It had half a bottle of brandy on the bottom layer because I slipped but none of the judges were complaining :P)
We had another sea day between Santorini and Salerno. I got in the hot tub for the first time (never got in the pool but it was crowded and…meh…pool) The song Absolutely Fabulous started playing at one point and since that always reminds me of Brittany I got a good laugh out of it.
In Salerno I went to see Pompeii. I must admit, I didn’t realize how BIG it was going to be. I knew it was a city…but it was… a WHOLE CITY! And they only have about half excavated they said. It was quite hot and sunny so my pictures compromise most of my memory of it because you couldn’t really see anything it was so bright. I had a yummy clam shaped pastry thing with cheese in it for a snack before we headed back to the boat. It was Sunday so there weren’t many shops open at all. Good thing I finished my souvenir shopping in Santorini!
Another sea day between Salerno and Barcelona, plenty of time to think “I’m going to miss this huge bed” or “I’m going to miss this food” or “I’m going to miss someone cleaning up after me” 😄
26 Aug 2011 Leave a comment
First port of call was Villefranche, a port city near the town of Nice in France. My excursion was a city tour and a trip to St. Paul de Vence, a small medieval walled town nearby. I must admit I fell asleep through part of the Nice bus tour. St. Paul was quite cute, though. I loved the narrow cobblestone streets. In St. Paul I had a crepe, I, of course, couldn’t read what kind of crepes they were so I just picked one at random. (I could read the word Nutella enough to avoid that, thank goodness) I ended up with a strawberry crepe. Luckily it was jelly (Or jam I suppose) so I could deal with it. When I checked my coins later, though, I noticed that the shop keeper had given me a 2 franc piece instead of a 2 euro piece for change. They haven’t used francs for nine years and you can only exchange them for euros in France. Typical French.
Next stop was Livorno, a port half an hour from Pisa and an hour and a half from Florence. My excursion took me to both destinations. Pisa was about as I expected. The tower was, indeed, leaning. They have fixed it up a bit because its been leaning more every year and they were worried about it falling over, now it’s back to the amount of lean it had in the 1800s or something. I did a little bit of shopping and then we moved on to Florence, which was far more interesting. I got to see statues that I had only ever seen in my art history book. The statue of David I saw was a replica because the real one is in the Acedamia and I wasn’t about to wait in those lines! I got to see originals of “The Rape of the Sabine Women” and Cellini’s “Perseus” along with quite a few others. Tuscany (the region Florence and Pisa are in) is known for two things: gold and leather. All of Florence smelled faintly of leather, and I loved it. I ate a tagliatelle pasta with a wild mushroom sauce and had panna cotta for dessert (mmmm). Then I had some chocolate chip gelato while waiting to get back on the bus. After a year in Japan, I must admit I was considering getting up and moving to Italy immediately after I finished eating.
Next day was Rome, the eternal city. First stop was St. Peter in Chains, which confused me for a long time because it sounded so familiar. Finally remembered that is the name of the cathedral in Cincinnati where I got confirmed. We got to see the statue of Moses by Michelangelo and the chains of St. Peter, of course. Next we went to the Colosseum and the Arch of Constantine. A quick trip around the Circus Maximus and we headed for the Vatican to see St. Peters Basilica. Interesting note, there are more than 900 churches in the city of Rome and it wouldn’t shock me to learn that 200 or so are named after St. Peter. I was absolutely overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff they managed to fit in the Basilica, and yet it still seemed empty (except for the 15 bajillion people in there with you, of course). There I saw La Pieta (though I couldn’t get a good pic with it being behind glass) and a whole bunch of things that I took pictures of solely because they were in the Vatican and thus probably meant something. There was just TOO MUCH. There were a bunch of people standing in line to touch this big cross on the wall, so I went and touched that even though I haven’t the slightest idea why. Everyone else was doing it, gotta figure it was uber holy or something. Normally on Sundays the Pope comes out and gives a blessing to everyone there, but he was on vacation (Is the Pope allowed to do that?) that day so I didn’t see him. After the Vatican was free time to go see the other amazing sights of Rome. I started out by managing to get myself lost for a good half hour. All roads may lead to Rome, but once there they don’t follow any sort of logic. Bought a yummy panini while I wandered about, mushroom and sausage I think. It was yummy. Almost asked directions of a group of Japanese tourists (wouldn’t that have been funny) but I found a sign and managed to get myself to Bernini’s fountain of the 4 Rivers. After that I saw the Pantheon (not the Parthenon, the Pantheon, as in the Temple of All Gods), tossed my coin into the Trevi Fountain and made it to the Spanish steps. By the time I got there I was quite tired so it was the subway back toward the Vatican and the meeting location for my bus back to the ship.
We had two much needed days of rest before we got to our next port of call. Time to finally explore the ship. One night was formal night and the other day they had an international food festival for lunch. So much delicious food. Also, So. Much. Cheese. I don’t even remember everything I ate but I will try a partial list: some kind of sage cheese (yuck), a baked brie, cheese fondue, quesadilla, strawberry muffin, orange muffin, chocolate fondue, nachoes… I can’t even remember everything. So. Much. Cheese.
More ports of call in the next post!
25 Aug 2011 Leave a comment
I’m dividing the cruise post into a couple of posts just so it’s easier to tell whats going on in the pictures 😄
The journey began on 8/9 when I stopped to buy water in the airport. I found a nice thin one that would fit in the outside pocket of my purse, however it was diet water. Diet. Water. It did, however, come with a scrunchie which I found funny. The scrunchie will match nothing I own and the diet water was mineral water which is gross. Ah well. I would like to note that a large number of the German flight attendants are blonde and blue eyed. Coincidence?
In the Frankfurt airport I noticed that a lot of German seems to be like you fell asleep on the keyboard while writing English. Welcome becomes Willkommen for instance. The spoken language has more differences, though. The people at the airport kept yelling things at me multiple times in German before they would speak English. Even if 85% of my ancestors are German language isn’t genetic, people. I’m on a bloody connecting flight. I’m not staying in ze motherland. Give me a break.
The snack on the flight from Frankfurt to Barcelona was something called Kirsch-Schlupfkuchen. Sounds like something you could find in IKEA to me. It turned out to be some kind of pound cake with some fruit on the bottom. For you, dear readers, I ate the fruit in an attempt to figure out what kind of fruit is was. I thought at first they might be cranberries, but they were too big. They were about the size of an ume (or a soft squishy walnut I suppose for anyone going ume???) but they were the wrong color and taste. They actually weren’t too horrible cooked and surrounded by poundcake. I wouldn’t eat them alone, but I’m sure that shocks no one.
Got to the hostel with blistered hands from lugging my suitcase through the least handicap accessible subway system in the history of the world part 1. Interesting note, some part of brain cannot accept that Spain is not Mexico. If you were to ask me what Spain’s most famous food was I would stare at you awhile and basically respond with “…not tacoes”. I was consistently surprised by the cleanliness (not that it was horribly clean, but that is was cleaner than Mexico (not difficult)). I also had to remind myself that I could drink the tap water and didn’t need to brush my teeth with bottled water. (The tap water was blasted mineral water, though. Blasted mineral water. Yuck) For dinner I had some sort of sandwich thing. There were sandwich stands everywhere so I assume Spain is at least semi known for them. Mine was ham and cheese. Mmm cheese.
My stateroom on the ship was the size of my bloody apartment. (It had like 10x the amount of storage my apartment has though) My tablemates were a good group. Three ladies from Philadelphia, a family of three from San Diego, two couple from Australia and a couple from Dallas. Youngest person at the table was the kid from San Diego at 18, oldest was in their sixties I would say so we had a good range. Lot’s of interesting conversations (especially when certain Australian words came up. Did you know a cantaloupe is called a rock melon in Australia? I do now.) The ship has a rock climbing wall which should be fun ^^
Next post will be our first three ports of call!
03 Aug 2011 Leave a comment
Last weekend was Yonago’s annual Gaina Festival. During the festival different teams (usually companies) compete in lantern balancing competitions. Then on Sunday night there are fireworks. I decided to see how good my new camera was with firework pictures since I know that that was one thing my old camera could NOT do at all. I was actually quite pleased with the results! The mall was giving way little fans for the festival, they look so cool and happy, but I would like to draw your attention to the thumbnail image I pulled from it. I would love to hear your possible explanations for it in the comments!
14 Jul 2011 Leave a comment
It’s been a busy couple of weeks! Mostly school stuff, which isn’t particularly interesting, but some cool stuff has occurred.
Mom sent me some contact paper so I’ve been decorating my walls to make my apartment look less like a shoebox. Pics at the end of this post!
Only July 2nd we had a 4th of July Barbecue. We ordered 6lbs of randomized meat from The Meat Guy for $50. Totally worth it. We got chicken wings, chicken leg and thighs, pork belly, baby back ribs, irelander sausages, maple links, smoked pancetta , a deer medallion and a crocodile leg! It was all quite delicious (we used the pancetta to wrap the deer medallion to keep it moist and the deer was everyone’s favorite. So moist and delicious. I didn’t care much for the pancetta plain…too salty XP) (Pics of the BBQ also at the end of the post)
In other news, I’ve started doing Japanese Archery (Kyudo) ! One of the English teachers at the school I’m at now (the one across the street) is now in charge of the Archery club at school and told me that there is a teacher at the Kyudojo who lived in Hawaii for awhile and so he speaks really good English. I went to get some information and ended up with a bow in my hands and my first lesson 😄 Best part is it’s not expensive at all! I just pay the dojo usage fee of 180 yen each time and I’m allowed to use the gloves, bows and arrows they have there for the beginners to learn. I’ve only managed to hit the target twice so far, which is also how many times I’ve managed to get arrows seriously lodged into the roof over the targets (one so bad they couldn’t manage to get the arrow head out >.>), but it’s a lot of fun!
We’ve started summer break from school now so I’m enjoying sleeping in until 8:30 (depressing really…). Yesterday Mara and I went to get our new visas. It should have been an hour process including the trip to the airport where the immigration office is, but it ended up taking five and a half hours because of various complications. It’s done now, though, so I’m legal for another year 😄