On September 7 we visited the Tuscan city Siena with our art history class. We toured the Duomo and some other museums there, focusing on pre-Renaissance art. We saw Lorenzetti’s The Allegory of Good and Bad Government in the Sala dei Nove. We got to climb up and get a great view of the city.

Andy and I with the Duomo behind us. I chose a good scarf to wear that day, I matched the church!

That Friday we took a day trip to the beach city Viareggio! Some of our friends were going to the Amalfi coast, which is beautiful, but was more expensive and had to be done over a whole weekend. We were glad we could visit Viareggio as a day trip and it was easier to get to.

In Italy there are not many public beaches, but rather private beach clubs, or “bagni”, for which you pay to rent space and chairs for a day (or a week, month, whole summer…).  We found one that looked good, figured out what to rent and how to pay. We ended up getting an umbrella and four chairs for 23€ for the day, so not too bad between the four of us. We lounged on the beach, swam some even though it was pretty cold and had a great day.

It was a warm, sunny day and so beautiful with the beach to our left and mountains to our right! Perfection!

Arezzo has a great tradition of a semi-annual joust of the Saracen, “La Giostra del Saracino.” It is held in the Piazza Grande in the center of Arezzo, and the four neighborhoods, “quartieres,” compete against each other. It has a long history in Arezzo, dating back to the 13th century in some accounts. The current form of the joust was started in 1931. The four quartieres include Porta Santo Sprito (blue and yellow, in which Andy and I live), Porto del Foro (fuschia/yellow, which my cousin Luca supports), Porta Crucifera (red/green) and Porta Sant’Andrea (green/white). There is a board that the jousters attempt to hit with the lance, with points ranging from 1 to 5. They can win additional points by breaking the lance, or lose points by falling off the horse or letting the balls in the Saracino’s hand hit their back.

The giostra is not just one afternoon, however. Ceremonies and celebrations spread throughout the month, and particularly the week before the joust. Each quartiere has a headquarters location, where parties are held each night and a community dinner at the end of the week. Nearly everyone in town wears his or her scarf that represents his quartiere. The rivalries between quartieres can be pretty intense, and arguments and fights are not uncommon.

Parties in the quartieres

At the joust event they also have trumpeters and flag-throwers (one of the best teams in the world, apparently). They practice throughout the week, and on Thursday afternoon Andy and I walked over to the Duomo and stumbled upon an event where the they were performing for the Miss Italia group.

The city is so crowded and so rowdy on joust day, but so much fun!

The joust started with the flag men and trumpeters who paraded in. There were even crossbows! There was so much energy in the Piazza Grande. Families have lived for generations in these quartieres, and they are very supportive of them. Most of the time these rivalries are peaceful, but the action culminates with joust week. Walking along the Corso, people will yell at each other or start singing taunting songs. Girls will even get into it too, chasing each other and trying to fight. So you can understand that the day of the event is pretty crazy. Down on the grounds people stand divided by quartiere, it’s a little more mixed in the stands. I enjoyed being in the stands because we had a good view over all the action, like the Sant’Andrea guy who kept trying to climb over the stands and fight a Crucifera fan.
After Crucifera won and the joust was over, all of their fans rushed to the Duomo, the main church in Arezzo, to celebrate and see the official presentation of the lancia d’oro. (Fans had already rushed up to the stands and grabbed it in the Piazza Grande, but they do the official presentation too.) I have never seen so much energy in a church. They were singing, counting from one to thirty-six (how many jousts they have won), and some people were even crying.
On Labor Day we had a day off class, so we decided to take the day and visit the Lamborghini Factory! It ended up being a fun day, but had quite the rough start. The factory is located in Sant’Agata Bolognese, a tiny town outside of Bologna, which meant two trains and one bus.

Long story short, on the bus there was no sign or announcement indicating which stop was which, we got off at the stop at 10:36, our expected arrival time, and ended up five stops away. Which also happened to be over five kilometers away.

We started walking in the direction we thought we should go, and start to realize we have a long walk ahead of us. From the bus stop information, I know that we are in the wrong town, we have to get to the next one but had no clue how far away it would be. We ended up walking on the side of a two lane highway in the countryside, with huge trucks of hay zooming past us. When I saw a sign saying that Sant’Agata Bolognese was 4 or 5 km away, I knew we were in trouble. Especially since we only had 15 more minutes to make our appointment! We found a small gas station and asked an old man for a number for a taxi. He didn’t speak any English, but I was able to muster up enough Italian (I speak some because of my last trip to Italy, but this is the first time taking any classes.) After a while of searching in the white pages, he finds a number, I call it and arrange for the taxi to come.
Five minutes later, the taxi pulls up and takes us to the Lamborghini factory. Most expensive short taxi ride I’ve been on, but we made it and were only 10 minutes late. I had called ahead and said we were going to be late, and they brought us into the factory to meet the tour once we arrived. It was crazy and awful and stressful, but we made it~

Point A is where we started at, B is where we walked to when we got the taxi, and C was our final destination.

The Factory

Here is a portion my husband Andy’s description of the time at the factory. He loves cars more than I do, and is better able to explain what we saw!

So after arriving a few minutes late, we are rushed through the museum (full of amazing cars explained later) to doors leading outside to the factory entrance. As we walk through the door my eyes are greeted by around 30 beautiful Lamborghini Aventadors and Gallardos parked fresh from assembly…..at that point I know how this day is going to be. To my momentary displeasure we are rushed into the factory away from the incredible grouping of Bulls. That’s when we enter the factory to see the many stages of Gallardo production. I’m like a fat kid in an all you can eat buffet specializing in sweet treats at this point, my eyes linger on every single aspect of the amazing spectacle in front of me.
First, we are shown the process that the Gallardo is assembled, the engine and various interior pieces are brought in from outside sources. The engines are from Audi (who owns Lamborghini, for those of you that are not obsessed with this brand like myself) and interior from a local upholstery shop. This is an amazing sight but I’m looking for the new bull, the incredible Aventador. As the tour guide finishes talking about the Gallardo production line we walk around a corner and there’s an Aventador resting right there….it is amazing. I’ve loved Lamborghini since I can remember, they’ve always been the insane member of the supercar group, and this new car does not disappoint. From the sharp edges at every corner to the huge center exhaust this car just screams “If you don’t respect me I will kill you”, which of course is the Lamborghini way haha. As the tour guide mentions that we can have a look of course I get up close and personal to observe this piece of art on wheels. Sadly, we are told to move on but it’s on to the Aventador assembly line, woot woot! Oh and by the way, every car is hand assembled; there are no robots in the factory. Which brings me to the awesome part of the Aventador assembly, everything is made in house from the engine to the interior; a new thing for Lamborghini.
As we are walked past the testing booth where they run the car at 200km/h (~124mph) for an hour and a half I saw a Gallardo Tricolore awaiting testing. The Tricolore is a special edition (only 150 being made) that celebrates the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy, which explains the green, red, and white strip running over the top of the car.

We got to see the President of Lamborghini show off the new Aventador in front of some Audi execs.

First, I must preface this by saying I have an amazing set of Italian family here around Arezzo. They are somewhat distant (one group related to my great-grandfather, and the other group we don’t even know exactly how–just know that we are indeed family). I call them my “cousins” because it’s easier than figuring out and explaining the exact details, but I also call them that because it is how they treat me. It doesn’t matter that we are a bit distantly related, they treat me as immediate relatives. And they have taken Andy into la famiglia and told him that he, too, is now a Carnesciali. They are the best hosts, and the sweetest people.

Summers and falls in Italy are full of “sagre” or festivals. Often they focus on a certain food or drink, but offer full meals of great food and a fun sense of community. My cousin Luca and his family live in Ponte Alla Chiassa, a small town about 10 minutes north of Arezzo. This weekend Ponte Alla Chiassa hosted a sagra, and Luca invited us to attend it with his family and his girlfriend Martina. One of the specialties of this sagra was a pig’s nose.
When you attend a sagra, you stand in line, order and pay for your food, and go sit down at a table with your ticket. The tables are long, bench style tables under tents. It is crowded, and the service takes a while, but that is part of the beauty of the sagra. It is about community and talking with those around you, having a great time.

Here is a picture that shows an example the table area. This was later on, so not as crowded as the peak eating time.

Andy and Luca ordered pizza with prosciutto, I ate maccheroni, Martina ate trippa, Chiara and Francesco ate antipasti and steaks… There is a large variety of food, and you can’t* (for the most part) go wrong!

Here is my maccheroni. As you can see, it is not what we think of when we hear macaroni in the US. It consists of long flat noodles topped with meat sauce. (Note: there are other forms of maccheroni in Italy too, but this is the type I have eaten at two sagre.) It is tasty with good flavor, and filling. I made Andy eat about half of mine. (And his pizza was delicious too!)

I was also told I act like a northern Italian because I eat my salad before my pasta. In Tuscany the order usually goes: antipasto, pasta, salad, meat (and then dessert if there is some. or fruit for dessert.) I got used to this during my last trip, but haven’t broken my American eating-salad-first habit yet.

Martina ordered trippa. In Florence, it references the cow’s stomach, often pressed into a sandwich. But in this case trippa is cow intestines. It was a peasant’s meal in the past, while the noblemen got to eat the actual meat/muscle off the cow. Andy and I both ate a bite of trippa. It tasted good, but the texture was a bit chewy for my taste. I am glad I tried it though!

Luca’s parents, Babbo Carlo and Mamma Ambra, bought us four desserts to share and sample. They were all delicious! Clockwise from the top was blackberry, jelled fruit with some cream, chocolate and apple. Andy and I were asked our favorite, but it was an impossible decision. The pastries were all so good!

In addition to food, the sagra also hosted music and little carnival games. We played this and Martina won a little cow toy.

A lot of Italians are intrigued by cowboys, the Wild West, Indians, etc. I already knew this, but it was revealed even more when I saw them dancing after dinner. You know how Americans take classes and learn how to do foreign dances such as the tango and salsa? Well, they were dancing intricate square and line dances to country-ish music and songs from the movie “The Last of the Mohicans.” (Note: when we were at a restaurant/bar last Thursday night we also danced to Cotton Eyed Joe and Oh Susanna, so it doesn’t seem to be a completely rare occurrence.) It’s so funny and cool.

We went over to Chiara and Francesco’s house and hung out with some of their friends, Luca and Martina. We got to drink homemade limoncello produced by Chiara’s parents. It was delicious! We had a wonderful time and are so grateful to call these people our friends and family.

Andy, Devon, Luca, Martina

Andy, Devon, Luca, Martina

Francesco, Chiara, Devon, Andy

On Monday, August 22nd, around 11:00 am, we departed Rome. Or at least we were supposed to. We had gotten to Termini (Rome’s main train station) early, all ready to hop on the train and head to Arezzo, but the binaro (the train line) number never came up on the board. We stood there, assuming they would put it up soon (and forgetting there was a departures board that listed which binaro it usually comes in. Not always right, but would have helped us.) Well, 10:58 passed and the train went off the board, as in it had departed, and we were left standing in the station. Some stress, a few tears due to the stress (or was that just sweat? It was so stinkin’ hot it was hard to tell), and a phone call later and we decided to take the next train two hours later to Arezzo. Our tickets were general ones for that route, so we didn’t need to do anything to switch them.

I should have known the ride was going to be an interesting one when we had to walk out to Termini’s new terminal, 1 East. Far, far away. Dragging our heavy suitcases the whole way. Before departure, a man came on board with a bucket of cold water, juice and beer. We already had a bottle of Gatorade and a bottle of water, and thought there was no need to buy more. We would regret this decision immensely.

Our train lacked air conditioning, and I was surely sweating off all the gelato pounds I had gained in my few days in Rome. Halfway through our journey, with about an hour and a half left until Arezzo, we were making sure to ration our water. We had brought some bread and prosciutto onto the train to make sandwiches for lunch, but knew we could not eat because the saltiness of the prosciutto would only make us more thirsty. I decided that if we made it through this train ride without fainting, we definitely deserved a spot on the television show “I Shouldn’t Be Alive.” There was a reason this trip only cost us 12 euro each. I was sweating, exhausted, and not entirely sure I would make it.

But, alas, we did. We got into Arezzo, walked over to the main part of the station, and met up with Lucio, OUA’s local student coordinator . He recognized us because I had “Oklahoma colored luggage.” These bags have been in my family for years, and even since attending OU I have never made the connection that they were crimson-colored. I was glad they were Crimson though so that he recognized us! We grabbed our stuff, walked over to our apartment and starting moving in. Even after 5 long flights of stairs with heavy luggage, and no air conditioning in our apartment either, I was ecstatic to be off that train.

Tuscany in general is beautiful, but I love Arezzo. I was so happy to be back, and so so glad that this time my husband could join me. Thankfully, he loves it too! I am blessed to have relatives here that love to show us around the area and take us to sagra (festivals, more on that later!). We are living close to Piazza Guido Monaco, which is a nice location because it is inside the city walls and close to the train station, only about a 10 minute walk from the OUA classrooms and not too far from anything. Arezzo is a nice city, but small and walkable. It makes it really easy to manage without a bike or car.

The beautiful Tuscan countryside, viewed from Il Prato

The beautiful Tuscan countryside, viewed from Il Prato

Il Prato, the park in Arezzo

Il Prato, the park in Arezzo

Golden Sky

Golden Sky

We were glad that gelato is one of the main food groups in Italy. The three best gelateria around Arezzo are Cremì which is located on the Corso, Il Gelato on Via Madonna del Prato and Gran Caramel which is about a 20 minute walk out of the city from our apartment, but so so worth it!

Another main food group here is caffé, or espresso. The little, mini, really strong coffee. Sometimes I drink it three times a day.. Italians generally have some caffé with breakfast, sometimes in the afternoon, and then after dinner as a digestive. (Other digestives include grappa, amaro and limoncello.) They actually really do help make you feel better after eating a huge pasta meal!

When I was in Arezzo in summer 2010, I made friends with some of the local Aretines, and they have been just as welcoming to the new OU students this semester! They are a fun group to hang out with and practice our Italian, while teaching them American slang like “y’all.” Plus over the past few years, OU students have converted them to being Sooner fans!

Boomer Sooner with Iacopo!

Boomer Sooner with Iacopo!

Andy and I arrived to Rome three days early for a little honeymoon before heading to Arezzo to begin classes.

I was disappointed with our taxi ride to Rome. I had told Andy about last year when there was a traffic jam on the highway, and everyone was just ignoring lanes, fitting through whatever small spaces they could find. I saw some of the worst Rome driving. (See what I mean with this video.) Unfortunately, it was a pretty smooth ride. We made it to the hotel around 11. Amazingly, our room was already ready at that time, and they had upgraded us from the annex of the hotel to a room with a view of the Pantheon!

View from our room at Hotel Abruzzi

View from our room at Hotel Abruzzi

It was perfect! W were right there in the middle of everything. It was about a 5 minute walk to Piazza Navona, a little more to Campo Di Fiori, 15-20 to Colosseum, etc. Lovely, except for the fact that it was deathly hot. I think I was sweating more in Rome than I had been in Oklahoma. The nice thing with Rome is that they have public water fountains all over! You buy a bottle of water once, and just keep refilling it whenever you need. Saved us so much money to be able to drink out of those.

Our first stop after dropping our bags off and cooling down for a bit was Tazza D’Oro for coffee granita! It is so delicious. Shaved ice and coffee with some whipped cream (this one had too much but I scraped it off haha). Perfect way to cool down a little.

Granita from Tazza dOro

Granita from Tazza d'Oro

Pizza lunch at Mercato in Campo di Fiori

Pizza lunch at Mercato in Campo di Fiori

We walked around and explored all day, and went to Piazza Navona that night to eat some tartufa, a delicious dessert from Tre Scalini.

Tartufa from Tre Scalini

Tartufa from Tre Scalini

Piazza Navona at night

Piazza Navona at night

In Rome, you feel like a true gladiator. Your life is a constant battle. A battle against foreign vendors trying to sell you random toys, knock-off purses, roses, singing cat dolls, toy rabbits, bubble guns, laser pointers and more. Most spoke English to me, but a few chose Spanish thinking I was a Spaniard. Interesting. I would say, “No grazie” or “No thank you,” but if they were pushy, I would start saying random things in Russian because I knew that was a language they would not speak, and they would leave me alone. At one point, a guy near the Colosseum started following me trying to push roses in my hands so I had to loudly say “Lasciami sta!” or “Leave me alone!” That did the trick.

Rome has its vendor problems, but the monuments and scenery outshine anything else. The big government building Il Vittoriano, the Colosseum, Trajan’s Column, the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, La Fontana di Trevi… the list goes on and on! The eternal city has some pretty amazing history.

Trajans Column

Trajan's Column

Il Vittoriano

Il Vittoriano

Il Colosseo

Il Colosseo

In Rome there is an ancient ruins kitty park. That is not the official name, but sounds good enough to me. Basically, in the middle of Rome there is an area of a bunch of old  ruins, and 50-100 (in my estimate, but probably even more hiding) cats live there. The city pays for them to be vaccinated, etc, and they are available for adoption. There was one that looked just like our kitty back home in St. Louis. We miss him a lot, it was fun to see his Roman twin.

The Roman kitties

The Roman kitties

What a life, lounging around on ancient ruins!

What a life, lounging around on ancient ruins!

At night we did a tour of the Colosseum. Incredible! It is so beautiful at night. We also got to go down to the bottom level of the Colosseum and explore around a bit. We didn’t get to walk out in the middle, but it was amazing to think we were standing where lots of animals and gladiators used to stand, to consider the history of the ground upon which we were walking.

Underground tour of the Colosseum

Underground tour of the Colosseum

On Sunday, we woke up and explored some more. We walked out to the Villa Borghese and visited the Galleria Borghese (full of paintings and sculptures, particularly some of my favorite Bernini scuptures). Rome is a fun city and we will definitely be back during the semester!

Hi! I am Devon, a junior in International Studies at OU, I work for Sooner yearbook on the photography staff, a huge OU sports fan and a waitress at a restaurant in Norman. Typical college student… but I am also the “M” word. Married. Crazy, right? I got married this past summer to my best friend, Andy Kysor. We are both from the St. Louis area, met at a concert my senior year of high school, started dating a few days later, got engaged and then married! We made it through one year of long distance when I was at OU my freshman year, until he transferred to OU and is now also a Sooner! In summer 2010, I visited Italy with OU’s Honors in Italy summer program. I loved it, had an amazing time, and really wanted to get back. Good thing Andy likes to travel too, so he was interested in going, and we made it work so that we both are studying in Arezzo, Italy this fall!

To answer a few of the questions I always get: 1) No, I never planned on getting married at a young age. Wasn’t even interested! But when I found Andy, I knew. 2) No, I didn’t get married because I was pregnant. 3) Why yes, I am going to stay in school, finish a degree and find a career!    It seems laughable, but so many people thought that since I was getting married I would let my hopes and ambitions fall away.

Anyways, now that you know a little bit about me, I will talk about OU in Arezzo! When I came to OU, I knew that I would definitely be studying abroad at least once during my time here. I had originally considered Honors in Oxford, but once I heard that OU had a program in Arezzo, Italy, I knew I had to go. This is because my ancestors are from Arezzo, and I still have family there! My last name is so rare, even in Italy, that anyone who has it is related to me. When I came last summer, my relatives were so warm and open, I knew I had to make it back to Arezzo in the next five years. I didn’t think it would be possible to study again here, but when the opportunity presented itself, I jumped on it! Now Andy gets to meet my family (spoiler: he loves them too!) and get to know the Italian culture I cherish.

Fall 2011 was the perfect semester to choose because it suited my class needs perfectly! I am able to complete my honors requirements taking my Colloquium class and writing my Honors Research here with Dr. Julia Ehrhardt, and Dr. Suzette Grillot, the Associate Dean of my college, College of International Studies! Not to mention Professor Kirk Duclaux’s Art History class is phenomenal. We are having a great time in Arezzo and I will post more soon!

Andy and I on our rooftop terrace at our apartment

Bella Toscana — a gorgeous view from the park at the top of the city, Il Prato


Before I had even left the states to study abroad I knew that I wanted to spend my 21st birthday in Ireland for a few reasons, 1. because I’d never been and it was the top of the list of places I wanted to go, 2. because it actually matters at some of the bars in the Temple Bar section whether or not you are 21 so I might actually get carded, and 3. my family is Irish which has made me familiar with the country since I was little and had a soft spot for it!

We woke up early on Friday and took a plane from Pisa to Dublin and arrived at 8:40am. Instead of staying in a hostel, I found an apartment for the 5 of us to stay in which was so much nicer and more fun for my birthday and also my roommate Alison, whose birthday was the day before mine.

The first thing we did after checking in was visit the Guiness Factory which was down the street. Like I said in my Munich post, I’m not exactly a big beer fan, let alone Guiness the darkest beer out there! But it was not bad and for the experience you obviously have to have one. The tour was huge and showed how it was made, the history, how to pour a proper pint, and then a great rooftop bar overlooking all of Dublin. We had fun sitting around up there and got some great advice from the workers there on where to eat and what to do. They told us that the best fish and chips in all of Dublin were right down the street from our apartment and also to go visit a small fishing village outside Dublin called Howth if we wanted to experience the real Dublin like people picture.

Next we got some food and did a little wandering around the Christchurch area and Trinity College. After, since we’d had a long day of travel, we just sat in our apartment appreciating couches (we don’t have any in our apartment at home) and american television… in english! Watching friends and drinking Dr. Pepper may have been one of the biggest highlights of the weekend….

That night we went down to Grafton Street which I had heard is supposed to be the big pub scene with typical irish people but I was sorely disappointed. Most of the “typical pubs” turned out to be clubs and they were full of lots of old people…. who weren’t even Irish!! We had fun anyways and I did find a nice Irish couple that Alison and I were able to chat with for awhile that was fun, but we decided we needed a new location the next evening for our birthday celebration.

In the morning Alison and I went to get breakfast and found bagels! Something I had not even realized I missed. They were delicious and we sat drinking hot chocolate for awhile deciding what to do with our day. This was actually Alison’s birthday so we had to make it special. We headed back to the hotel, got ready and then headed out to the bus station to go to Howth. Along the way we were not sure where we were so we stopped and chatted with a sweet little Irish lady who gave us even more great information about the best ways to get there, where to go when we got there and even told us some cute stories. The irish hospitality was really unbelievable, the next day we had 2 different people give up their places in a starbucks so that the 5 of us could sit together!

We drove along the coast on a double decker bus out to Howth and got out at the port. We walked along the water and what did we see but several sea lions! They were playing and looking at the people on the dock. They were so cute! We walked to the end and took some pictures and then it was lunch time. We went into this little restaurant called the Oar House not expecting much because it didn’t look to crowded or fancy, but on the inside it was so cute and full of people! It worked out perfectly because apparently you need reservations to eat there, but they just so happened to have one 4 person table left just for us!

I ate the more fresh and delicious salmon for lunch as well as oysters with Alison. AND! The water was even free, with ice, and free refills! This is a big deal in Europe! After finishing one of the best lunches I’ve ever eaten we went to the tourist office and got a map of hiking the cliffs.

I didn’t exactly realize we were going to be hiking on scary tiny paths along steep cliffs that day, so I was wearing my heeled boots that are several inches high. It was a bit scary, and not the most comfortable, but you sort of forget about pains and scaredness when you turn around and see beautiful cliffs, hills, old walls, and green just all around you. It was truly breathtaking and something I’ll never forget. It was also a very long hike and we needed to meet up with our fifth friend that came with us so we had to book it for the last kilometer or so which was a little on the scary side!

We got to the end of the trail, found the bus and just collapsed on the way back because we were so mentally and physically exhausted. We started chatting and laughing about the silliest things and being the one thing I seriously try to avoid being…. loud americans, but sometimes it is unavoidable when something is funny enough! I had been laughing till I cried about silly little comments Bevy had been making about a “swamp” that was outside the window and eventually everyone joined in. Taylor said she heard an irish man behind us say, do you think they’re drunk? By george it’s only 2pm! Obviously we were deliriously tired so we got back and took a long break before going to dinner.

For dinner we got chinese food which was the first I’ve had since leaving the US and it was pretty good! We had a good time talking about our days adventures and Alison’s birthday, then we went home and got changed to go out and celebrate my 21st and Alison’s 22nd. My mom had sent me a large Happy Birthday banner, a black and gold boa and an obnoxiously huge crown to wear on my birthday, so I pulled them all out, hung up the banner, put on my outfit and headed to temple bar.

We first went to the actual Temple Bar and it was packed! We had fun just pushing through to the bar, getting a beer and then finding a place to stand. As we passed we met a lot of people from all over the world. Obviously when you’re wearing a huge crown that says 21 on it people notice and start conversation so that was fun and interesting!

As it got closer to midnight we moved to a different pub with a live band and I had my first official drink of my 21st birthday which was a beer…. who could believe it?! The band played lots of songs we knew and we had a lot of fun watching them and chatting until the place closed at 2 and we went to sleep.

On our last day, and my birthday, we had to wait till 12 to get any of the things we wanted done because it was Sunday and nothing was open! First we had the best fish and chips of all time, they were sooo greasy but amazingly good! Then we toured Christchurch which I loved! I had been getting a little sick of the Italian churches lately. Finally we went to Trinity College where I was able to go to the Library and see the Book of Kells!! This was a big deal for me since I did so much research on illuminated manuscript last semester so I spent probably a solid 20 minutes just staring at the pages they had open. The ticket also let us into the library above which was seriously the most beautiful library I’ve ever seen!

We still had a few hours left so we went to Starbucks and then I bought the book Pillars of the Earth because I have been talking to my dad about reading it for some time now and with all of the focus on cathedrals now. After the past 2 weeks of traveling I am through 740 of the 1100 pages if that tells you how much time we spend on the road!

Leaving Dublin was depressing because it is just never enough time but I was comforted by the fact that I would spend the next weekend in Scotland which should be equally beautiful!

Last weekend in Barcelona was so fun because we had a huge group there! Kara’s best friend from home is studying abroad there so we spent the weekend with her and her 4 roommates who also had several guests so it was a packed house!

Kara and I left Thursday night and got into Barcelona around 11:30pm. We stayed up chatting and getting to know her roomies then went to bed so that we could wake up and see most of the city the next morning. When we got up we first headed to the main square of town where the main shops and road are. We walked along looking at crazy street performers, tents selling cute little bunnies, chicks, and ducks, and then stopping at the coolest food market I’ve ever seen. It had all sorts of exotic fruits, veggies, baked goods from around the world, fresh seafood, and lots of other great stuff. We walked around the whole thing sampling different kinds of fruits and exploring all of the different stands.

Next we walked to the gothic district where there were a lot of artists tents set up along the road and I decided to buy a piece from one of them that was really interesting and reminded me of Barcelona. It was a picture, framed in a wide frame of a Gaudi building with the windows cut and pushed back to make it look 3D, it’s a little hard to explain, but I’d never seen anything like it so I really wanted one!

Next we wandered and saw some local sites before stopping at a delicious tapas restaurant where we ate friend camembert, chicken, mushrooms, mussels, and the most amazing lemon sorbet with sage. We also obviously had to try our first Spanish sangria which was also very good. At this point I was very content with my trip to Barcelona and was surprised by the food because everyone always says that Spanish food isn’t very good!

After lunch we headed to the Picasso museum, which was interesting, but I’m not too into modern art so I didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have something else. But the fact that the museum was opened within his lifetime and he got to see it was pretty cool to me.

Next we went to one of the coolest museums I’ve ever seen! I’m not sure of the name but it was all about manufacturing textiles and all of the exhibits were mind-blowing! It only cost us 3 euro to get in and they gave us the fanciest digital guides I’ve ever seen which explained each piece and how it was made. They had so many things I never would have even thought possible! There was a chair and lamp constructed from some sort of digital pen that draws in thin air and is transcribed into a 3D printer. There were also little balls that showed the different kinds of sounds that music makes in 3D form, shoes that were scanned from peoples feet to fit them perfectly, 3D ultrasounds, and so many other cool things! I was in awe.

At this point we met up with Jacqueline’s roommate Alicia and went to get a delicious mojito and then I found a store that sold Dr. Pepper! You can imagine my excitement so I obviously had to buy 3 of them.

After my great find we walked down the port down to the beach and watched some surfers for awhile. It was a little cloudy and cold to go in the water, but it was fun to see the beach since we’re landlocked in Arezzo. Then we got some chinese food and headed back to prepare for the evening because the night doesn’t start till 12 or 1am in Barcelona.

Going out in Barcelona was so fun but there is no way I could live there! People stay out till 6 or 7 in the morning and then sleep till 2 or 3 in the afternoon. It was not my lifestyle but was fun to experience once!

Needless to say we got a late start the next day. We headed over to Park Guell where Gaudi did all of the construction and looks out over all of Barcelona. It was really pretty and quite a hike to the top. There were all sorts of artists and musicians playing and there was this one instrument that I’m not sure the name but looked like a big turtle shell and I made the most gorgeous sounds!

After this we got a little lost and just wandered the city for about an hour in the general direction of Jacqueline’s apartment till we found the antique district with lots of cute shops and places to eat. Again I found Dr Pepper AND nerds! Another great find, then we looked through the shops and went to eat at a Lebanese restaurant. The place had great tea and delicious food so again I was very happy with it even though this wasn’t technically Spanish food.

That evening we went back to the Gothic district where all of the locals go and danced at a local club called Magic where all they played was literally music from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s in America! So funny, we had a great time dancing around to music that they would never play today in the States.

On our last day we went down the fancy shopping area and looked at the different buildings, then we went to the Barcelona cathedral and the main street but this time it was really empty because it was a holiday so it was weird to see it that way! Eventually after walking half the city we found our other friends and ate some more delicious tapas (best fried artichokes I’ve ever had!) then we got some sweets and Kara found Horchata (some non-alcoholic dessert drink that she really wanted to get ever since she heard we were going to Spain) then we went to the biggest American pub I have ever seen and I legitimately felt like I was back in Norman because every single person there was American (probably around 2-300) and they were playing all of the football games on huge screens around the different levels of the bar with people singing karaoke on the first floor. It was really fun to feel at home again, but Kara and I had to be on a 5:45 bus to the airport so we headed back to get a little bit of sleep before we left!

Barcelona was so fun but it also made me appreciate my small town of Arezzo where things aren’t so big and crazy and cheaper also!

So Oktoberfest was easily one of the coolest things I’ve ever been to in my whole life!

It started Thursday night when Kara, Kate and I had to take the train to Pisa and stay the night there to catch our 7:30am flight to Memmingen, which is 2 hours by train away from Munich. Since you can only carry on one bag, it’s a bit difficult to fit a lot of things, so I went ahead and wore my dirndl (traditional dress) on the plane and basically never took it off the whole weekend! The flight from Pisa to Memmingen was just one hour and it was our first experience with RyanAir. We were a bit nervous because the flights are so cheap that we weren’t sure what to expect. But it turned out to be a great experience which I am happy to do again when I travel to all of the rest of my destinations!

When we arrived in Memmingen we found a taxi to the train station and made friends with 2 other American travelers (the plane was all American students studying abroad!). We had 30 minutes till our train so we all got sandwiches and our first beer of the weekend at 9AM! Not exactly my idea of a delicious breakfast, but for this weekend it had to be done!

Bavaria has a pass where it’s only 28 Euro all day to travel by any means for 2-5 people, so my friends and I split it with these other 2 girls and it made it very inexpensive to get into Munich! One of the best parts was getting on the train and at every stop seeing all of the locals get on in their lederhosen and dirndls! There was hardly anywhere to sit, so one group of guys just camped out in the passageways placing their cartons of beer between the doors so they could still chat with each other, I found that rather funny and clever!

When we got to Munich we walked to our hotel, noticing the difference in the air there and in Italy, it just seemed fresher and with less cigarette smoke, which we appreciated. Then we checked in, did a quick refresher and headed out to the city center to show Kara and Kate around before we went to Oktoberfest since they had never been there before. We went to the Glockenspiel, Hoffbrauhaus, Cathedral, and wandered around the streets for several hours getting fruit and snacks along the way.

When we were too tired to keep going we took a taxi back to the hotel and took showers to get ready for our night at Oktoberfest. Most people will tell you that you can’t get into any of the tents without reservations past midday, but that proved to not be true for us!

We followed the crowd, in the rain, to the festivities and had a bratwurst at one of the stands. We asked a group of guys around us to take our picture and we started laughing when after they took our picture they came back a few seconds later with little roses for us, that was sweet but also awkward while we were trying to eat a very unattractive food!

Next we set our sights on getting into one of the tents and decided on a side entrance to one of the bigger tents that had some servers on break outside. We went and chatted them up, saying we were from Texas and we were only there for the weekend. After a minute or two one of them went and talked to the guards, got us in, brought us beers and put us at a table with a bunch of his friends! It could not have worked out more perfectly! We had a lot of fun standing on the benches watching all of the local Germans do their beer chants and what not. We also bought on of the biggest pretzels I’ve ever seen and got to know the people around us. Kara met some Americans sitting behind us, one of which worked for some company that has to do with her major and talked to her about jobs for a long time which was awesome! Kate and I talked to our new German friends about Oktoberfest and all sorts of funny things.

When we left Kara somehow snuck out her beer mug, only to have it taken away when we tried to find a cab though, so that was her goal for the next day!

By the time the tents closed (around 11pm) we were all so exhausted that all we wanted to do was sleep. We could never find a cab so we just walked back to the hotel and fell asleep with the intent of waking up very early to get back into a tent the next day.

Well… that did not happen considering how tired we were, so we didn’t wake up till around 9:30, get ready, go and eat one of the most delicious pastries I’ve ever had in my life! They pulled out hot chocolate croissants when Kara went to go get sugar for her coffee and she literally stopped dead in her tracks saying…. are those hot?…. can I have one? almost stuttering from her excitement. It was the best one I’ve ever had by far and was a great start to our day even though it was starting later than we would have liked.

Next Kara went to meet her friend at the Hoffbrauhaus tent while Kate and I went to buy our train tickets back to Memmingen for that night because I booked a hotel there that night so that we could wake up and not have to worry about getting back to the airport. Then we went to meet Kara with her friend Jacqueline who we are going to stay with in Barcelona next weekend! We tried to get into the Hoffbrauhaus with her, but they were pulling people out and arresting them during that time so we didn’t think that it was probably our best option for the day.

So we stopped for some coffee, and decided to look for a small tent. There was a little (in comparison to the others) gingerbread house behind us so we went up to the reserved entrance and asked where to get in, he told us there was no beer in there and we said that was ok, and so he just went ahead and let us in! Easy peasy!

Inside was the cutest thing you’ve ever seen, tons of little sweets hanging from the ceilings and a band was playing on top of the bar with people standing in their seats dancing around. They even had little crowns for everyone to wear. We walked around, met a few people, had a drink danced to the band and then decided it was time to move back to a more traditional beer tent.

Across the street was Lauenbrau so we went to one of the guards there and chatted him up, asking where the entrance was, what to do if we didn’t have reservations, and when we could tell he was thinking about letting us in, we pulled out one of Kate’s CD’s and told him that it was her and shes very famous in the states and she would sign it for him if he let us in. He didn’t believe us at first so he made Kate sing for him, then he said Ok go on in! So thanks to Kate we got into our third tent of the weekend easily!

We walked around to find a table (you don’t get served unless you’re at a table) and being three girls it’s pretty easy to find a table with a few spaces and guys that are willing to let you stand there to get a beer. So we stood with one group for a little bit, got our beers chatted with them about where they were from, and then moved on. We met some Americans from Alabama, some German girls who were sweet and let us sit and eat a little bit with them, then we bought another pretzel, met some italians, more germans, more americans, more germans, stood on the benches and participated in the songs as much as we could (some were even american!) then it was getting late enough that we needed to catch our train back to Memmingen. We said bye to all of our new friends and then Kara was able to smuggle out her mug like she had wanted from the beginning

We got on our train to Memmingen, fell asleep, woke up, found a taxi that took us to the quaintest little hotel! That was when we were sad we didn’t have an extra day to explore the little town of Memmingen before heading back to Pisa, something for the future maybe!

The next morning we got to the airport, found our friends we made from the first plane ride, exchanged stories and went home. It felt good to come back to Arezzo and it really does feel like home now!

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