Wednesday, June 22, 2011


            The last full day is here already, and I can’t believe it. The time has gone by way too fast! Yesterday may have been the one that flew by the most quickly. We spent the day in Hydra, an island that is a one and a half hour bus ride and a twenty minute ferry ride away. On the bus there, I tried to sleep as much as I could, but it was a little hard when every five minutes the bus driver gave a little honk and then swerved around other cars. The ferry was fine, since I sat in the front where things weren’t too shaky or wavy.
            When we arrived in Hydra, I was amazed at my surroundings. Donkeys covered in colorful fabrics lined the streets. A variety of shops and restaurants took up the left and side of the main road, and it is a harbor city so all kinds of boats, from sailboats to yachts, were docked to the right. If you looked up, mountains spanning the horizon were scattered with typical white stucco Greek houses. It was a beautiful scene.
Almost immediately after arriving, we were given an assignment by our National Geographic leaders. We had to take portraits of people and include in them an element that represented the person or showed something unique about them. I enjoyed the assignment a lot and really liked getting to know the people I was taking pictures of. I met couples of every age, seamen, and shopkeepers.
Once we all finished the assignment, we all went to lunch together. Then we went to the “beach,” which was really just boulders on a cliff above the water. I think some people were disappointed, but I was honestly excited because sand isn’t my cup of tea. While we were there, some of us jumped off of a cliff into the water. The ledge wasn’t terribly high but it was still a lot of fun diving into the freezing, clear blue water.
That night, we caught the ferry back home to Nafpleo, and it didn’t sail as smoothly as our trip there. In fact, it was miserable. Nearly everyone sitting around me began to get seasick. When we finally got off of the boat, matters only got worse. We boarded the bus. On the bus, winding roads came way too frequently, and about five of us took turns passing around a barf bag. No one actually got sick, but there were countless close calls. Luckily, a simple dinner of plain pasta and coke got me to feeling better.
After dinner, we went back to the hotel to organize our final projects. It seems so weird that after so many days of taking photo after photo it is finally time to choose our favorites, etc. I am looking forward to showing my family and friends what I’ve got!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


            Napfleo is so much fun! It’s MUCH quieter than Athens, and our group is happy about it! Today, we had a pretty relaxing day and went to the beach. Wait. I take that back. Before the beach, we climbed 999 steps up a mountain (ok, hill) to the castle Palamidi. Working my legs until they shake in the heat of the summer is not exactly what I would call relaxing. The breathtaking views made it all worthwhile, though. My friend Holly and I walked around the castle and explored it’s deserted jail cells and rooms. It was unfurnished other than a few dusty, wooden beds. We also ventured out of the castle grounds to a small coffee stand where a local man was selling trinkets and snacks. After unsuccessfully searching his knick-knacks for a gift for my brother, I ordered a glass of orange juice, and I loved it! Unlike most places where OJ is advertised as fresh-squeezed but comes straight out of a Tropicana carton, this stand sold juice extracted from locally grown oranges. The man took six brightly colored oranges, cut them in half, and squeezed them right into my juice glass. It was filled with pulp, very flavorful, and the perfect thirst quencher after the climb.
 Later in the day, we headed to Pebble Beach and enjoyed the sun and cold water. I am proud to say that I did not get burned! While we were there, I tried to do some of my summer reading assignment and read Jane Eyre, but I got bored after less than a paragraph and took a nap under a big sun umbrella that David, one of our leaders, generously treated all of us pale people to in order to prevent sunburns.
After the beach, we shopped around for a while, ate dinner, and went back to the hotel.  After enjoying some movie watching with Caroline and Erin, my current roommates, I am about to go to bed. In the morning, we will take a ferry to hydra, and I am extremely excited to see the beautiful island, ride a donkey, and go cliff diving! 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Athens {In depth for my mom}

Today, we headed to Nafplio after a very interesting three days in Athens. The excitement started on day one as we were getting off the bus. Immediately after dragging my luggage to the street, I saw a huge market filled with fruits and other foods, and though it smelled like sweat and fish, I enjoyed the scene. That is, until people started to notice us. As I explained in my previous post, the vendors here are extremely aggressive, so it’s no surprise that when a coach bus full of American girls stopped traffic in the middle of the narrow street that they are stationed in, they had a fit. Whether they were yelling at us for stopping traffic or simply to harass us like many of them seem to like to do, I am unaware, but one thing is for sure: it was overwhelming.
After our bus incident, we went to a small restaurant and had a lot of trouble ordering food. It amazes me how although most of the people here speak English, hardly anyone understands our food orders. The issue on that specific occasion was whether each of us wanted a gyro that was already wrapped up in the pita bread or gyro meat with a side of vegetables and pita. Not that there is a huge difference or that it matters, but it was odd how despite the hand gestures, verbal descriptions, and pointing at the menu, we all received the opposite of what we ordered. Whether it was on the side or in a taco of sorts, we all enjoyed the hot chicken with warm pita bread, and cold tomatoes and sauce. Another crazy thing about the meal was the entertainment: the streets around us. In the span of thirty or forty minutes, I watched a man be pick-pocketed and then taunted by the thief, along with countless other unusual scenarios.
Full from lunch, we then headed to a market district in groups of six(ish) students and two leaders. Our first stop was the butcher shop, and for a second, I thought I would never eat meat again. As soon as we walked into the indoor street, the smell of rotten poultry entered my nose. The mixture of the scent along with the June heat and overall business of the city had me feeling pretty queasy. The view didn’t help at all. Skinned goats complete with eyeballs and teeth hung from racks on the ceiling. Another meat that appeared to be typical was rabbit. It might not have bothered me, but somehow I guess the locals find it appetizing to take off all the fur other than the tail and feet. To make matters worse, they had a pet shop with baby rabbits for sale just outside of the market. 
After a little bit more exploring of the shops and kiosks, we went to the Acropolis. It was packed with tourists, but it was beautiful. The huge ancient buildings were a sight to see. I’ve really enjoyed seeing people from all over the world gathered around the same monuments. I feel like it is one of the few things that unifies all of us.  
That night, we had dinner at a Greek restaurant, where we got fried cheese as an appetizer. It is very different from the fried mozzarella I’ve eaten in the past, but it was every bit as yummy. Unfortunately for my health, it has become a group habit to order it at nearly every meal. When it came time to order an entrĂ©e, I learned that my experiences earlier in the day didn’t have a significant impact on me as I requested lamb chops. They were really tasty. After we ate, the restaurant had traditional Greek dancing. Four professional dancers started the movement and before long, a couple of my friends and I joined the fun. Opa!
After dinner and dancing, we all gathered in our hotel lobby to say goodbye to our teacher, Ms. Hartman. She had to catch a flight back to Houston for a family emergency. We were very sad to see her go. She was such a great leader!
Yesterday, we started our mornings with the usual Greek yogurt and honey. I miss fresh fruit in the mornings, but I am nowhere near being sick of the thick, sour yogurt with gooey honey and crunchy granola or almonds. After breakfast, we headed off to a museum. On the way there, we witnessed a violent riot. Just Kidding! We did see a peaceful protest, though. Hundreds of men and women carrying flags and banners marched the streets, chanting and yelling. At the museum, we saw many neat works of art (mostly sculptures) from ancient Greece. It was very cool. After the museum, we went to lunch, and because the menus at every lunch spot include the same foods, most people ordered gyros once again. I got a Greek salad and it’s cool vegetables were a nice change from the heat outside.
After lunch, we went to another part of town to shop some more. On the way, we stopped by the changing of the guards. I was impressed with their identical movements and memorization of such a long routine. When it was done, we continued on to the market.The shops sell a lot of leather goods and glass beads. It’s all very cute but some come at surprisingly high prices. In the U.S., I would expect leather bags to cost more than even the most expensive ones here, but I always thought Italy and Greece would have really nice, really cheap goods.
In the middle of shopping, we saw a pack of about twenty men running down the street with knock-off merchandise in their hands. They were the black market dealers and had just been busted by the police. Their laughter and “you can’t catch me”s reminded me of two things: a four year old and the thief from lunch the previous day. The authorities’ inability to catch them made me a little fearful of what would happen if I was ever put in a 9-1-1 situation.
Later that night, we went to dinner where I ordered stuffed tomatoes, which were delicious. It was my friend Caroline’s birthday, so they brought out watermelon for all of us. I appreciated the fruit more than anything else I’ve eaten. It was sweet and juicy and cold. I loved it! After that, we decided to make a little birthday surprise for Caroline. We walked around asking anyone who was willing to say happy birthday into a camera. If they were cooperative, we also told them to say the craziest thing they did when they were sixteen. We got some really good ones! Later, we are going to combine all of them and present it to her.
   Today, we got up and packed, ate breakfast, and boarded our bus to Nafplio. We are at the hotel now, and it is very nice (well, relatively speaking at least), although I can’t wait to get home to my bed, bathroom, AC and family. Speaking of family… HAPPY FATHER’S DAY, DAD! Thanks for all you do for Connor and me! You’re the best dad anyone could ask for. I can’t wait to see you soon!

The market
The Acropolis 
The view of Athens from the Acropolis 
My friend Claire dancing with her new friend at the restaurant 
The Protest 
At the museum
Beads at the market 
The changing of the guards
Happy belated birthday, Caroline 



Saturday, June 18, 2011


We are in Athens now, and it is absolutely nothing like what I expected. I know I sound stupid saying this, but I always pictured it to be filled with ruins and men adorned in togas… I was obviously completely wrong. Instead, I am reminded of Slum Dog Millionaire. Old, run down buildings line streets filled with vendors of fruits, fish, knock off Ray Bans, and army clothes (they literally have camo uniforms on display). The men running the little shops aren’t very shy, and lucky for us, my friend Dena who speaks a little bit of Greek is here to let us know that their shouts and whistles aren’t exactly friendly or respectful. Another thing that I’ve noted is that there is a large homeless population, much of which can be seen begging on the streets.
Judging by the settings around me, I was a little fearful of what our hotel would look like, but it is actually quite nice. It is very modern and has dark wood floors. It even has a desk complete with a Domino’s Pizza flyer (just in case someone traveled half way around the world to have American chain food). The only downside is that the aggressive salesmen outside can be heard loud and clear. We are about to head to lunch, and, sadly enough, my opinion of the food will probably be the largest contributor to my overall view on the city. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011


      After about a week in Italy, we have arrived in Greece, and believe it or not, I am enjoying it way more than Florence, Rome, or even Cinque Terre. From the transportation, to the food, to the people I've met, Greece is surpassing Italy in every category. While we road subways and trains in Italy, we have only ridden private buses here.  I like them because 1) they are more quiet/less crowded, 2) we can watch the Lizzie McGuire Movie on them and sing along with no shame, and 3) we each have our own row of seats to sprawl out on. Another big difference is the hotel. Though I've yet to stop saturating my sheets in anti-bedbug spray at night, here, it's only a precaution. In Italy, bedbug bites could be found on many of my friends every morning. Gross, right? The shopkeepers here are nice and friendly, and pretty willing to bargain which is always a plus. On top of all of that, Greek food has proven to be amazing. Their vegetables are really fresh and everything is extremely flavorful. This morning's breakfast of Greek yogurt with honey was the best.
      Our time here has been pretty eventful. It all started with the lunar eclipse last night. The bright red moon surrounded by tons and tons of stars made for some really cool pictures. Today, we went to the Oracle where we toured a museum and explored some ancient ruins. We also got to do some shopping where I got a really cute ring for my mom and I to share. Tonight is my friend Abby's sixteenth birthday, so we had a toga party on the roof of our hotel. We had cake, watched Mama Mia, and enjoyed the view of the "navel of the world,"as Delphi is nicknamed. Tomorrow, we leave for Athens, and if it's anything like Delphi, I know I will have a good time.

The lunar eclipse
Happy birthday, Abby! 
Our beautiful view! 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Florence, Rome and Cinque Terre

I have a ton to fill everyone in on, since I have failed to post anything for the last three days, so I'm just going to do a quick recap! Sunday, we went to the famous gelato store, Grom, visited Il Duomo, and went to an olive oil tasting at a vineyard. Yesterday, we took a day trip to Rome where we went to the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, and the Pantheon. Today, we took a harry potter-esque train to Cinque Terre and took a hike along the coast. I'll post pictures of all of my adventures some time tomorrow (hopefully), but the internet is being freakishly slow and I don't exactly have time to waste since it's 12:57 AM and I have to be at the lobby of the hotel at 3:30 AM so we can catch a bus and then a plane to Greece. Oh, and did I mention I still have to get packed? I'm just depending on there being Five Hour Energy at the airport tomorrow.
Holly, Me and Rachel outside of Grom
Il Duomo

The olive oil tasting

Holly, Ellie, Me, and Erin

I know my pictures aren't covering too much of what I've done, but the internet here is very slow so downloading them takes a VERY long time and I can't put them all up! Sorry! 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Una Bella Giornata

I know I keep posting about first days, but today was our first real day in Florence. Here are some of the things I enjoyed most!

Michael Angelo's Statue of David- this isn't the real thing. We got to see the real one but the museum in which it is located doesn't allow photography. 

Everyone rides vespas or baby cars around! 

Our cooking class! We made ravioli ricotta e spinaci al burro el salvia, pollo alla cacciatora , and tiramisu (It was so good I forgot to take any pictures, though I did help make it!)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Good morning, Florence

I just woke up to the sound of church bells. At nine (tomorrow morning), we will all meet to begin our first day in Florence, and hopefully I can get a much-needed cup of coffee. I’m looking forward to the food we’ll eat, the places we’ll explore, and the people we’ll meet. Wish me luck!
P.S. Sorry for my erratic posting habits. We don’t always have Internet but I’ve been writing entry anyway and just posting them once we find service. 

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Finally, after hours upon hours of traveling, we are in Florence. It took two planes, two trains, a cab (just for the luggage-we were on foot) and a lot of walking, but it is definitely going to be worth it. When we arrived at the airport, we met Carolyn and David, our group leaders. They are both from the United States but speak Italian so they can communicate with the Iocals for us, which is a real perk. I think we will have a lot of fun with them. We also met Mossimo, another leader who will help us with photography. He is from Italy so I’m hoping he’ll be able to show us some things that we might not have known about otherwise. All the leaders have a lot of background in photography so I know I will be learning a ton! We just went out for gelato, which was completely delicious, and now we are back at the hostel for an early night. There has been talk of cooking classes, cliff jumping, and other endeavors later in the week so I know I’ll want my rest!

Getting There

I’m almost done with my first day of the trip, and although it’s been nothing more than security checks, turbulence, and back pains from my luggage (I might have over packed slightly… oops!) I can already tell the trip is going to be a blast. The plane has a good entertainment system: I’ve already watched tidbits of a few movies and completed the airplane stress course. I thought it would be a good diversion from the sound of crying babies around me, and I’m glad I did it because the man from the TV telling me to “calm down” was pretty funny! My friend Abby (she’s sitting next to me on the plane) and I laughed at it for a good five minutes. Other than that, the ride has been uneventful (I guess that’s a good thing!) but I’m having fun getting to know everyone and can’t wait to see what the next two weeks have in store for us! 

Monday, June 6, 2011

First Day of School

Though sophomore year ended less than a week ago, I'm back in the classroom already. I am in the Spring Woods library preparing for my trip to Italy and Greece. Twelve other girls and I are learning the basics of photography for our National Geographic student expedition. I am so excited to go to Europe!!