22 December 2010And so the whirlwind, world-wide European exploration tour begins! Our current travel plan is Nottingham to London to Sevilla (Spain) to Barcelona to Athens (Greece) to Santorini to Athens to Rome (Italy) to Florence to Venice to Paris (France) to Shannon (Ireland) to Galway to Dublin, and then back to Nottingham! Of course, some places, like Barcelona and Shannon, are only quick stops or layovers for flights, but still!
I am currently writing this on a ferry from Santorini (a Grecian volcanic island quite similar to my home of Kauai) to Athens, where we’ll catch a few hours of sleep before jetting off to Rome.
To start from the beginning, let’s head back to Sevilla. A good friend of mine is studying there, and Lindsay and I decided to explore the city while my friend (also a Linfield student) finished her exams. It was amazing to walk around without a single jacket, keeping an eye out of heladerias (ice cream shops) and stiltingly get through an order. The Spanish (and Greek, as I was to learn) were remarkably forgiving of my butchering of their language and spastic hand motions. It was great to eat food that wasn’t from a dining hall, to wake up to church bells, and to wander cobblestone streets for hours.
We stumbled upon a Christmas market almost entirely dedicated to nativity scenes, complete with every possible miniature object one could think of. Then, we visited the Cathedral, which had a treasure room and a beautiful orange grove. Rachelle, our Spain student and guide, warned us not to pick the oranges, as they were very bitter, and also used to make marmalade for charity. Next, we saw the Alcazar, or the old Spanish Royal Palace. While the tile, fan, and painting exhibits in the rooms were beautiful, the outside gardens were breathtaking. My favorite was the Dance Garden, which had a simple waterfall and duck pond, but the various fountains, paths, and strutting peacocks were all stunning. Too soon, it was off to Barcelona for a short layover until heading off to Athens.
Unfortunately, as we arrived at the Sevilla airport, we were told that our Athens flight was canceled, due to the strikes currently happening. But once we arrived in Barcelona, our airlines company was quick to organize a hotel room for us, complete with meal vouchers, as well as another flight the next day. Of course, the hotel was as comfortable and divine as only a hotel can be, especially after four months in a dorm room!
Then, it was a quick stop in Athens. Unfortunately, all we had time for was a quick tour of the very few places around the Acropolis that weren’t closed, and a wonderful and large dinner at a family restaurant. Then, the seven and a half hour long ferry to Santorini. During the summer, I can only imagine the hordes of people, the bustling masses, the bright store fronts, and the burning sun. But as it is winter, all is quiet, calm. The black sand beaches are empty. The sky is mostly grey, with strong gusts of wind. But still, there is beauty in the Styrofoam-esque pumice rocks, in the bright white and blue buildings, and the hundreds of stray cats, all remarkably well fed and clean. And the people are certainly just as outstanding. With broken English and big smiles, they eagerly ask where we’re from, delighted with both the answers of “Hawaii” or “the States”. They’re overjoyed when Lindsay shares some of the Greek she’s learned this semester, and attempt to pull her into full conversations.
Though the calm of Santorini was lovely, I am most definitely eager to embark on our Italian portion of our adventure. Italy has always fascinated me, especially its food and romantic nature. We are barely halfway through, but time is flying, and I’m eager for more.
Aloha and cheers,