November 20, 2006
It was so nice to see the whole group again after free travel. We all had plenty of stories to share; snorkeling in the Mediterranean, riding donkeys up to Ia, Santorini, figuring out a way to make it to Madrid when the trains are full, sleeping in train station after train station to save money, the different people we all met, and the time I got my finger licked in London (when I was approached by a magician making a documentary). *not all of these examples are from my free travel*. Free travel definitely pushed all of us, trying to get to one place after another, figuring out schedules, flights, and budgets on our own. I think we all came out more confident in traveling after this experience. And we all made it to Florence, some quite a bit exhausted, such as me and eight others, after a 22 hour ferry ride, 15 minute train ride in the wrong direction to Torino, and then a nearly 2 hour train ride to Florence (with a 30 minute stop in Bologna to let someone off after a fight to go to the hospital...at this point we were a little weary in our first impressions of Italy). But Villa Aurora welcomed us with open arms, and delicious food.
Italy so far has been amazing. (First impressions were a bit off, maybe we were just tired at that point...) We stop for gelato often. We are learning a lot about Italian culture, and the Italian language, from Milena and Pietro, who have an amazing amount of energy which we love. Villa Aurora has some amazing sunset views, and Tuscan hills in the distance (and the hill we have to climb is no Bienenberg hill, which is good.) The market in Florence is where many of us spend our free time shopping and bargaining. And we have climbed the Duomo in Florence, where I read my paper on the "architectural genius": Filippo Brunelleschi. We have seen the preserved 700 some year old head of Catherine of Siena. We are seeing endless amounts of Renaissance art, such as Michelangelo's David. And it is amazing how I see God everyday, in the connections of history in the past and present, as well as when I just simply look at all the beauty around me. Europe is full of amazing places! We have seen and done so much, time is flying by, and I am loving each moment I am here.
- Jessica Newman