We did as the Romans did.

Rome. What a city! I’ve been there before about 9 years ago and swore I’d only go back for one reason. Although this city is filled with charm, history, all kinds of people and great wine, I couldn’t get past how dirty it was and the constant smell of urine. Sorry Rome, you’re on my not favorite list. Get comfy with Paris on the “don’t go back” list.

So, as I said I’d only go back for one reason and that was to see the Vatican museums, specifically the Sistine Chapel. You see, 9 years ago we opted to go to Pompei one day and the Vatican the next. Well, unbeknownst to us 3 catholic girls, that the day we were planning to go to the Vatican was the Epiphany and the Vatican is closed on holidays. So, Kirsten and I made a pact to come back.. Only for that (and maybe that pizza in the corner at that one place).

The day we got there we went to the Vatican. Kirsten’s good friend from college, Tif, is some amazing guide in Rome (seriously. She was voted guide of the year) and got us cheap tickets and a tour if the museum. This may sound awful, but aside from the history, I hate looking at art (I sound so uncultured). When I traveled years ago, all we did was go to museums and look at art and I think I became a little desensitized. I mean yeah, Da Vinchi, Michelangelo, and Goudi are great, but nope. Just tell me the history. Anyway, it was neat to hear the history about the Vatican and its art.

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I didn’t sneak any pics of the Sistine chapel, but I did get some dirty looks. In the chapel you’re supposed to be silent. Well, it starts with people whispering and then it gets a little louder as people continue to file in. So the guard gets on the speaker and says in a deep, slow voice “silencio”. I immediately responded my quietly saying “that was God”. Kirsten could barely contain her giggles and the couple around us gave me a disapproving face. Whatever.

After the Vatican we went to back to our favorite place and got dinner.

20130711-153718.jpg Kirsten walked away with a waiter completely in love.

Then we went back and got ready to go out at our hostel. That hostel is another story, but it’s completely different from what it was years ago. We couldn’t have alcohol in the rooms and there was no common room or kitchen (there used to be both and it was encouraged to hang and drink). So, your only choice was the bar downstairs or leave and still pay to drink elsewhere. Well, I got a bottle of wine and with the help of Facebook I got it open by shoving the cork though. That chianti was gooooood. Then we went downstairs for drinks with every 18 year old ever. Also they put our bottle of wine in two cups. Whaaaa?

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We were kind over that scene and went to bed. The next day we saw the colosseum, and the Fountain of Trevi before meeting up with our friend Tif for dinner.

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Dinner with Tif was great. We had amazing food, awesome cocktails and some really nice wine.

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She took is to The Drunken Ship where all the Americans go because there is beer pong. I lost. Kirsten also spent her 21st there when we were last on Rome. We also went to Cheap Bar where’ll the Saint Mary’s study abroad girls go.

Then she took us for a walk and toured us around. We saw Piazza Navona.

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And the Pantheon

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After that it was about 1am and Kirsten and I needed to get our slightly drink selves back to pack and get up at 5am to head to Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Thanks, Rome. Start cleaning yourself up and getting public toilets and I might come back.

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London, Dublin, and a Galway Wedding

We finished London with a few sights, some pizza, and some pints down at some ancient pubs on the River Thames.

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The next day, we flew to Ireland.

Ireland holds a special place in my heart. I never thought I’d go abroad until I found a study abroad program in the Green Isle. I was a little reluctant to go. The thought of leaving the friends I’d made my first year of college and quitting the basketball team was a little scary to me. But, I bit the bullet and went. It was the best decision I ever made. Seriously. This is much bigger than the best decision ever made was to bring flip flops to change into, or the best decision ever made was to get the grilled cheese and bacon over the ham and cheese. It really was the best decision.

I walked (more like dragged to the gate) out of Ireland with friends that I would have for a lifetime, not only from my program, but my Irish roommates and other Irish people I had met. Hence the wedding I was invited to.

Although I had an England trip planned with family before I got the wedding invite, I had planned to stop over in Ireland and meet up with friends. When the invite came, it worked out perfectly. I could travel with family, see my Irish friends, and that sparked a longer trip.

On our first day we kind if just hung out. I think we were all exhausted from non-stop sightseeing. Hence, having a drink to chill out.

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The next day my mom drove me out to Galway to the B&B we were staying at for the wedding. We parted ways there. I met up with my traveling buddy, Kirsten. Her and I did a big trip back when we were studying abroad, it seemed fitting we’d be at it again.

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The wedding was wonderful. We asked a few questions about an Irish wedding and all of it sounded similar to an American one aside from the fact that it starts earlier and goes all night.

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We were up until 5 in the morning dancing and talking with old and new friends.A highlight was this traditional irish dance we did at the wedding. it reminds us of that scene in Titanic where they were down in 3rd class dancing, stomping and spinning. At one point the groom’s father got a hold of me on a spin and sun me so fast I got a bit dizzy. That meant that we spent most of Saturday recovering from such an amazing night. On Saturday evening, we went out to the groom’s family pub for some low key fun. That one also went until the wee hours. Although an exhausting weekend, it was so great to see people, celebrate Maureen’s wedding and have the craic.

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On Sunday we ventured out to Dublin for two nights. We stayed in Temple Bar. Which reminded me a bit of Bourbon Street with all the people being out all night, and puke on the street.

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We met up with another Irish friend for drinks. We crawled around Dublin. Had the craic. We even went to a cocktail bad that made crazy drinks for 5euro. So cheap!

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We opted to not go to the nightclub that night. Wedding weekend had done a number on us. The next day our friend, Clodagh took us out to our college town, Maynooth. We went around campus and saw our old apartments.

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We sat out in the grass in the college green chatting with Clodagh about life. It was so nice to be able to chill out like the old data. We never did anything there, so lying in the grass without a care was pretty normal.

Then we went for a pint and dinner at our favorite pub, The Roost. We had dinner with our program director and shot the shut for a few hours. It was so great to be back even though so many things had changed.

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I can’t wait to come back.

We head to Rome today for a quick visit before Croatia. We’ve been up since 3am for an early flight. our aerlingus friends tricked us into thinkIng we had to be there obscenely early. The airport want crowded at all! The trip has been amazing so far.

Wales, Oxford, and the beginning of London

We did a lot of family research in Wales. My grandma’s father was from Blaina. We walked a few cemetery’s trying to find her grandfather’s and great grandfather’s graves. Many of the site were over run with tall grass, and stones that had been knocked over or dilapidated.

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We did end up at one cemetery that held promise. It was much easier to search because it was actually maintained.

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The only grave stones we found were my great grandfather’s. we only found that after enlisting the help of my (now deceased) great uncle’s wife.

The next day, I left Wales and headed to Oxford for a day to meet friends. It was really wonderful to spend time with them. We laughed a lot and even went on a trail run along the Thames.

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I left them around 5 to catch a bus to London to meet back up with my family. I thought I was prepared to find the place we were staying. I had the address, and the bus was supposed to have wifi so I could google where it was to my heart’s content. It turns out that the bus didn’t have wifi. The bus also took a whole hour longer than expected. So, communication about where I was and when I would get to the flat we were staying at was non- existent. I had googled the direction of where I should be and even took a screen shot before I left, but that only got me so far. When I got to a place with some free wifi, I jumped on google maps and types in the address. Surprise!!!! Nothing found. It kept wanting to send me to a Holiday Inn or completely across town. Where was this mythical Nightingale House I was supposed to be staying at? I asked some servers at the restaurant if they knew where Thomas More street was. They were clueless. So, I googled it. I found it and started walking. At this point I had been walking for an hour and a half with a 40lb pack (the green monster) on my back. I walked that whole frakin’ street and found nothing. Zilch. I was upset. Now I was at 2 1/2 hours with the green monster and no end in sight. So, I walked back to the restaurant where I found the wifi and emailed the guy that set us up with the flat (no one was answering my texts back at the flat because they were not there. They were out on a walk, rather than worrying if I got there. It’s fine.) I also put up an S.O.S. on Facebook.

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I finally got into talks with the guy who was helping us out and he gave me walking directions from the free wifi restaurant. 10 minutes later, I was still upset but in a creepy elevator on my way up to out flat.

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We are here. And, good morning, London!

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P.S. that’s not the first time I’ve been lost in London. Last time was a little more dramatic because of the missing persons report that was filed. But, that’s another story for an other time.

Family Time in Bristol

My grandma is from Bristol. She was born and raised there. She left when she was 19. She had met my grandfather, the G.I. Joe and moved to Montana where my mom was born. My grandma has been back, including living outside London when her second husband was stationed there in the Air Force. So, my mom also lived in England. It’s really cool to see them both come back to a place they lived.

We went to my great grandmother’s house, where my grandma grew up.

We went to the church where my grandma and grandpa were married, St. Lukes. We even saw the spot that they met.

We went to her mother’s old house where her aunt lives (her deceased uncle’s wife) and we got to meet her.

We went to cemeterys to see her mother’s memorial spot and her father’s grave. We couldn’t find it, but we are hoping to have a better location when we go back this week.

We stopped by Bath, but it was closed. I kept saying that everything is closed by 6. Especially on a Sunday.

So, we headed home and got Chinese takeout for the evening and relaxed.

The day was really good. The only thing that’s a little rough is driving on the wrong side other side of the road. It’s a bit stressful for the driver and the navigator. Ugh. No more, please.

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A Big Church and Some Standing Rocks

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We set out to go to Salisbury Cathedral. Salisbury has the oldest working mid evil clock, tallest spire, delicious coffee, a cloister only used for socializing, and the first person buried there was buried in 1216. So old. Like ridiculously old. We wandered around and read about all the dead people buried there and some of the history.

After the cathedral we headed over to Stone Henge. I love the mystery behind atone henge. I’ve been here before,bit it’s always nice to hear about it and see it again.

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The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

We made it! When starting our trip at Indianapolis’ Airport we hit a hiccup right off. Our flight to Chicago was cancelled because of stormy weather. Luckily it was cancelled right as we were checking in, so the guy was able to quickly reroute us to Newark and then to Heathrow. We had to wait an extra hour. That hour was filled with two craft beers and some conversation on how to get us sitting together on the London flight. Mom and j had spent hours trying to find flights that matched up and picking seats. So, when pur principal plan was changed because of storms, all that hard work went down the drain. We were split up on the Newark flight, but mom and Igot exit rows together and Erica and my grandma got to sit together. It was all working out….two things about exit rows- 1. More leg room! 1. They don’t recline. It felt like we were flying on a Chinese restaurant booth. You know what I mean? All those straight back chairs and booths that aren’t comfortable at all made outer o weight flight kind of miserable. Also, homeboy on the P.A. System loved to hear himself talk. He kept interrupting my movie, Guilt trip. Oh, and when were on our Newark flight, I was watching Bad Teacher on my iPad and things got very awkward when she went in for the boob job consultation. I was all like pleasedontlookatmyscreenomgsoembarrassing.

We rented a car…I made my mom drive first. We were very lucky to get to the place we are staying without getting in a wreck. Driving on the other side of the road is scary!

We went to the store and got groceries and picked some clothes up for my cousin. We are hoping her bag gets here soon. My mom and I went and checked out “the spa”. I swam about 500 yards, sat in the hot tub and read the book It Only Gets Worse, and learned how to use the sauna and steam room.

We went to bed kind if early. Jet lag had finally set in.

I have my Flickr feed posting pictures as we go. I’ll try to do a picture post soon.

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Packing

Man, packing is hard. I think I’ve been packing since February. I packed to leave my apartment that I lived in for over two years. I packed to live in a friend’s basement for about two weeks before I could get into my new, temporary place. I packed up that place, and moved again to live on an air mattress at a friends new apartment. I’ve been living out a suitcase for about 3 weeks and am getting ready to live out of another bag for 5 weeks. Is this what a vagabond feels like?

I’ve got this 85 liter pack that is already filled. 5 weeks in two different climates is not easy to pack. It’s been chilly and rainy in England and Ireland these past few weeks and completely gorgeous in Croatia. What do you pack? More importantly, how do you fit it all? I also have a wedding to pack for. That means 2 dresses and at lease one pair of heels. So much to plan for! Not to mention the work out clothes I’d like to bring.

I got an 85 liter pack from REI. (It’s only sold there). It has a detachable daypack that is 10 of the 85 liters.

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I’m not only packing that pack, I’m also moving home the last of my things clothes from Chicago. It seems a little stressful, but I’m sure it will all get done.