Anonymous asked: beautiful cuz!! But where the heck in the world is Santorini? I am so jealous of your travels. I have never been outside the US except to the Bahamas and Virgin Islands. You are so lucky. Such a great and beautiful girl you are. Hugs and Kisses from your cuz, Marci
Thanks! Santorini is an island of Greece. I know, I’m a very lucky girl :)
Miss you Marci!
From Sicily we flew up to Pisa, make a trip to see the leaning tower, and headed to our Couchsurfing host in Florence. Where do I even start with this experience… We finally got off the train, my mom saw this man whom she assumed was homeless and tried to avoid, he turned out to be our crazy host, Leo.
Leo is a habitual Couchsurfing host. He has turned his home into somewhat of a hostel. He is a weird dude. His personal hygiene and social skills are both severely lacking. He is obsessed with numbers and schedules, and has the entire train timetable memorized for every train going in and out of the Florence stations. He pretty much comes off as a total creep. He apparently is only capable of staring at breasts when talking to a female; has his ass hanging out of his pants pretty much constantly. At some point he sat right up next to my mom with his “actual ass” as Robin said, on her bed. It forever smelled after that, so she found alternative sleeping accommodations.
Our time in the city of Florence was beautiful. We walked a lot through the city, and the almost intolerable heat and humidity. A highlight of my day was when we found one of the few air-conditioned locations in the form of a delicious little local bakery, where my mom says she had the best food of the trip, a chocolate eclair. The streets of Florence are beautiful, and it’s often a traveler’s favorite destination in Italy.
Because of our sketchy Couchsurfing experience, we decided to leave a day early, and head to Siena. This was possibly the best last minute change of our trip. Siena is exactly what you think of when you picture Tuscany. When we first arrived, we took a glorious nap, we were exhausted from walking all day everyday in the heat on minimal sleep. When we woke up, we couldn’t get enough of the steep, winding, narrow sandstone streets that Steve Jobs based all the floors of all Apple stores on. We arguably had some of the best and reasonably priced Italian food there, we found while wandering the streets.
After Siena we finished out Italian portion of our trip in the obligatory, Venice. Our hotel was outside of the city, but in the middle of the prostitution district. It was another first for me, seeing so many prostitutes. After finding out about a transportation strike and having to take a taxi onto the man-made island that is Venice, we arrived at the Disneyland of Italy. Pretty much solely a tourist destination, but for a good reason, it’s stunning. We spent our days wandering up and over countless bridges and canals. Also, you can’t leave Venice without a gondola ride. We found one of the hottest gondoliers to take us around the canals, sing, dance, and flirt with people on the streets. It was a great experience, and totally worth it. We ended our time there at Venice Art Night. We found some sort of modern art performance show. To give you an idea, the first act was a woman rubbing ground meat all over her body. My favorite part was when a dog in the audience cleaned up after her.
Goldfarb Girls in Rome and Sicily
They next day we flew to Rome to meet up with my mom, Laura, and my sister, Robin, who had just graduated high school. Lindsey and I had some time before they got there, so we walked around a bit. That night, it was the Euro 2012 cup match between Italy and Spain. We would be walking around then, all of a sudden, hear the whole city erupt around us in cheers and screams. We followed the noise and found a festival erected for the event. It was filled with both Italy and Spain supporters. The energy and enthusiasm for “football” was one of my favorite things I have gotten to know about Europe. They have so much passion for the sport, and pretty much everyone loves it. I love being around that kind of energy; it’s exhilarating.
I was waiting at the corner of the block our hotel was on for a long time for my mom and Robin to arrive, and just gave up to wait inside when they were coming out to find me! They had come in from the other side of the street. It was so nice to see them after 5 months being apart. We went out for our first Italian dinner and enjoyed some delicious red wine.
The next day we took a tour of the Coliseum and Forum. I met a girl in a hostel in Berlin who suggested a specific tour guide, David, and he was fantastic, knowledgeable, with a good dry sense of humor. We then went to the Jewish area to get some food (possibly the best mushroom pizza ever) and walk around. We ended our day on a hop on hop off bus tour, a great way to see big cities. We continued the tour the next day and went to one of my mom’s favorite places, the outdoor market, filled with fresh vegetables, pasta, olive oils, and lemoncellos.
After Rome we flew down to Sicily to go to a couchsurfing event in San Vito Lo Capo, a Sicilian beach town. After a day in Palermo, where I had the best canoli, ever, we took another bus to San Vito Lo Capo where we camped minimally with a tent and sarongs as blankets. There was a big festival going on for the saint of the city, San Vito, while we were there. So, there was live entertainment at night, parades of people in traditional clothing, and a final ceremony with fireworks demonstrating the saint coming into the city by boat.
Besides laying out on the beach, we also took a boat tour to the Zingaro natural reserve with the other couchsurfers there. It was so beautiful. We jumped off the boat to snorkel in the clear waters at a few spots. And, we had a singing performance, where everyone sang a song from their home country. I sang Lady Gaga.
Our next destination was Athens, but we were lucky enough to have a long layover in Geneva, Switzerland, a nice but EXPENSIVE town. It has the largest fountain in the world and a quaint old city center.
We made it to Athens eventually where we couchsurfed and got our own little apartment above a man named Panayontis lived with his parents. It’s pretty common in Europe for people to live with their parents until they get married. Their mothers bring them plates until their wives can. It also can be expensive to live on your own. I found that this trend in Spain resulted in the fact that many people at my university were much more immature than college students in the US. It almost had a high school feel to it.
We spent the next day at the Acropolis, one of my favorite sights in the whole trip. It’s an ancient temple surrounded by amphitheaters used for religious holidays. Our luck continued as we got into the Acropolis for free for being students in the European Union. We also enjoyed our first real Greek meal; I got mussaka.
On our way home, we were getting onto the bus (cheap transportation for students in Athens, only 70 cents for 90 minutes of travel) and Lindsey almost got pick-pocketed. Luckily, they weren’t too skilled, and Lindsey caught him in the middle of trying to take her cell phone. She got onto the bus before me, and I was trying to get on too, but his accomplice was blocking me from getting on. Then, I hear Lindsey saying, “Hey! Hey! Hey! No!” and he dropped her phone. After she got it back and we realized what was happening, one of the pick-pocketers insisted on standing right next to our seats on the bus. I just stared him down, until a man told started yelling at them in Greek and they got off at the next stop. Luckily, our only incidence of pick-pocketing.
After Athens, we took a ferry to Santorini, a group of islands famous for their white buildings and blue domes. There, we stayed at a nice hostel with our own pool for 10 Euros per night. We were walking distance from the black sand beach, where we spent most of our time sun bathing and I gave Lindsey a pretty awesome full back henna tattoo.
In Santorini, we also took a full day tour around the islands. We hiked a volcano where we could feel the steam coming out of the Earth and got a nice view of the other islands. After that we took the boat to some hot springs that we first had to swim through the cold water to get to. We stopped for lunch at another island, and finished the trip in Oia to watch the famous sunset. Once we got off the boat we took a CRAZY donkey ride up the cliff. They ran up the hundreds of steps like it was a race. . This intense adventure turned out to be a bonding experience with the two Canadian girls about our age who were also on the boat tour. We walked around the picturesque Greek town with them and got some drinks while we overlooked the sea.
By the time it was close to sunset, the ideal spot to watch it was packed with other tourists. There, we met a friendly Australian man andchatted with him about his extensive travels with his family. After the long day, we hopped on a bus back to our part of the island and walked around all the bars along the beach. We found these nice big beanbags in the sand and lied down for a while when our luck kicked in again and a firework show started right above us. Almost scarily close since they were being shot off from about 50 feet away. This sent Lindsey and me into a giggling fit, it was a pretty perfect end to the day.
Our next stop was another island called Paros. We reserved a pretty inexpensive apartment there, but it was on the other side of the island from the port. We found out too late that we missed the last bus of the day there and ended up taking a taxi. Our upset over the expensive taxi was quelled once we arrived and had dinner at the restaurant that the family who own the apartments ran. A charming teenage boy, Emil, helped his mother, Betty, run the restaurant. They treated us to some extra fried eggplant with super creamy tiziki sauce and a flaky and creamy desert. When I asked what the desert was, Emil replied, Betty made it. So of course it was all delicious.
We spent our time here on the beach as well, just soaking up the sun. We swam a lot here, too as the water seemed much warmed. Getting in, as always, was the hard part. But it’s impossible to resist the crystal clear turquoise waters.
We then made it back to Athens where we took a day to rest and hung out with our new Moroccan friend, Josef. We also ate twice at the slovaki restaurant down the street where you can get delicious 2 euro Gyros filled with pork or chicken, French fries, the best tiziki, onions, tomato, and lettuce. It was a great ending to a beautiful stay in Greece.
London in a day
Our next stop was London. We had issues at the airport when dealing with some Ryanair boarding passes. Ryanair is a very low fare airline with strict limitations that come with high fees when broken. Lindsey and I have famous good luck when ever we are together, so we were able to evade the Ryanair fees of 60 Euros each, and sprinted to the farthest gate in the airport, since we wasted so much time figuring out the boarding passes, to wait in more lines and make our flight on time.
We couchsurfed in London with an awesome Israeli, Aviv, who lived in this crazy flat in Camden above a bar with 7 other roommates from around the world, including Spain, England, Israel, and the US. The apartment was sold and going to be torn down, so they had free rein to paint murals and tear it apart. Aviv made us dinner and we drank and talked with him and his friends for hours. My cheeks were sore from laughing so much. We only had one full day in London, which was definitely not enough, but we got plenty of fun activities and sightseeing in. We were staying just a few blocks from the famous Camden Market. An amazing place with a variety of delicious ethnic foods, liquid nitrogen ice cream, shops, and clothing stands. There was a lot of goth culture there, as well, with shops filled with black clothing covered in chains and fishnet material. After spending most of our day there, we went into town to Piccadilly Circus and walked around the fancy shopping district. Later, when we went back to the apartment, we met up with our friend Harry who studies at ASU but is from London. We had to leave early the next morning for a full day of traveling.
I didn’t have enough time or Internet access to complete a blog about my backpacking trip through Europe so the following are delayed entries.
After I left Northern Ireland, Lindsey and I went to Dublin for one day. Dublin was nice, but after seeing so many beautiful and culturally rich parts of Ireland, it wasn’t too exciting. I did have an unplanned run-in with some friends from my program in Spain in McDonalds there, though. I knew they would be in Dublin when I was there, but it was too expensive to communicate via phone. But, the whole day, I kept saying that I had a feeling we would just run into them, and we did! We got a chance to catch up on each other’s travels, and she had just got back from Greece, my next major destination, so she provided us with some helpful tips.