Carrie’s Friend-ey Trip to Italia!

[Disclaimer: I apologize for having some trouble with photo uploading in this post.  Please CLICK on photos to make them bigger!]

Buongiorno!  Guess what?  I’ve been traveling across the pond again!  I never expected I would get back over to Europe so soon after our fall backpacking trip, but a combination of a friend studying in Rome plus a super-cheap-flight was too good to resist! Sadly, Zach couldn’t get out of work to join me for this one.  Instead my travel companions were Kelsey and Colton (a long-time friend and her awesome boyfriend).  Together we teamed up to find our mutual friend Amanda in Roma!  Having a friend already know the city and speak Italian made our trip so much easier!  We didn’t plan a lot ahead of time and relied on Amanda to show us the sights.  She was the best tour guide ever!  On our first day in the city, after sleeping off enough of our jet lag to be functional, she gave us a whirlwind, 22-mile walking tour of so many famous spots!

First we stopped at La Bocca della Verità (“the mouth of truth”), located outside the church Basilica di Santa Maria in Cosmedin.  This ancient sculpture of the god Oceanus has been used as a “lie detector” since the Middle Ages.  Apparently if you tell a lie with your had in the mouth, the god will bite your hand off!  I don’t know, but I didn’t try it…

Italia

Italia

This small church had some throw-backs to the pagan practice of skull-worshipping.  The supposed skull of Saint Valentine is even enshrined there!

Italia

Next we climbed the Aventine Hill to Rome’s famous Orange Garden.  We found a great view of the city and the Tiber River (“Tevere” in Italian) up here!

Italia

On top of the hill is Basilica di Santa Sabina, another small, old church with a beautiful pastel-colored ceiling.

Italia

Also up there is the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, a UN-recognized sovereign state and the world’s oldest existing chivalrous order.  Woah!  I had never even heard of these guys, so learning the history was mind-boggling!  Rome has so many ancient secrets!  The Knights of Malta don’t allow visitors, so all you can do is peek through a tiny keyhole into the garden of their church headquarters, Basilica di Santa Maria del Priorato.  When you do, you get a very awesome and surprising view!

St. Peter’s Basilica seen through the Aventine Keyhole (Source: Wikipedia)

One of my favorite things about Rome was the super-old but still-maintained free water fountains all over the city.  Clean, fresh, cold aquifer water!  Amazing!

Italia

Ice cream and snack trucks for tourists were also abundant.  (Sorry for the stupid spot on my lens in this photo!)

Italia

Down the hill we went to the famous Circus Maximus chariot racetrack.  It’s basically just a field now.  We still had some fun reenacting the races.

 Italia

Italia

What would a trip to Rome be without the epic Colisseum?  It was thronged with tourists, of course, and we opted not to go inside.  The beast of a structure is definitely impressive enough from the outside!

Italia

Italia

And with that, I’m only about halfway through our marathon Rome day, so check back tomorrow for the rest of day one!

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The Bordeaux Adventures

After wandering through Paris for three days, we caught another Blablacar rideshare to Bordeaux, capital of one of France’s most famous wine regions!  The small city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, fun university town, and a great place to depart for a wine tour to the surrounding countryside.  It also has the longest pedestrian-only street in Europe!  The surrounding streets also prohibit cars, so it’s a great place to walk around freely, stopping at any of the myriad shops and bars.

Ancient architecture with modern train
Ancient architecture with a modern train system

Bordeaux-6

Basilica de Ste. Michel
Basilica de Ste. Michel

We didn’t end up forking over the cash for an official tour because we had heard there were many opportunities to taste the local offerings at the many wine bars in town.  That was true; although we couldn’t find anywhere that actually did small 1-2oz tastings, there were always many local glasses on the menus.  The first night in Bordeaux we did a blind tasting of two different reds from nearby and I guessed mine correctly- Cab Sav!  It was massive and tannic.  Zach’s merlot was also great.  The highlight though, was the best cheese board I’ve ever had in my life!  We got cream cheese, goat cheese, brie, and camembert.  “Oh la la,” indeed!  I never truly understood cheese until I went to France.  My waistline, however, is not appreciating this newfound understanding.  Oh well, Europe is not the place for diets, I keep telling myself.

Bordeaux-4
Very happy Zach
Best cheese in the world
Best cheese in the world
Cheesy paradise
Cheesy paradise

On our second day in Bordeaux we wandered around a bit more, tasted some more wine, had a wine and cheese picnic, walked through a huge and beautiful park, and made some friends at Grizzly Bar, a Quebecois bar with a delicious hefeweizen on special–Edelweiss from Germany.  All in all, the town was very nice and mellow, while still having enough entertainment for two days.  Next time I’m sure we’ll explore the surrounding villages more, as we definitely got our palates excited about Bordeaux varietals!

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