I studied abroad in Grantham, England for a semester in the spring of 2010. Start from the first blog post to follow my adventures throughout Europe!

Leaving Harlaxton & Rome and Capri, Italy

Just when I had accepted the fact that our Italy school trip would not be occurring, just when I hadn’t packed a single thing, and just when I got out of our very last British Studies exam at 11:30 am, I discovered that we were, in fact, going to Italy as scheduled. It was awesome news but at the same time caused me to panic. Clay panicked even more because he and Molly had to leave the manor at 1:10 to catch their train to the airport that afternoon since they decided to travel to Italy separately. So I returned my books for a big payback of about five pounds and rushed to Clay’s room to help him pack. We literally packed up his entire room in less than two hours. That sounds like a lot of time, but when you have four months of messiness, it’s cutting it close. We made it up to the manor by 1 and we sprinted off in different directions—Clay went to get tags for his luggage as I ran around the manor, getting his checkout sheet signed in the business office and library. It was absolutely insane and he barely made it onto the shuttle, but we got it done.

I then turned my attention to my own issues, which included saying a tearful goodbye to Alex and Susan who were leaving that afternoon for home. I hurried back to my room and tried to figure out where to start packing—which I learned had to be done by 5 that evening, even though we weren’t leaving until 2 in the morning. I began by packing my Italy suitcase, which was kind of fun to pack because it included all sorts of summer clothes and sandals, which I hadn’t seen in quite sometime. I decided I probably ought to eat something for the first time that day and made some Easy Mac. I went back to my room and began unloading my drawers and closet when there was a knock. I didn’t even bother to look because I couldn’t think who would be coming to my room to see me when we were all in a panic to pack. Then I saw someone out of the corner of my eye—it was Clay! “What are you doing here?!” I said, and he told me he had missed his train by a minute. But he was determined to get to Italy, so he got in touch with Molly, who had decided to stay back at Harlaxton until then, and they found another flight to book.

Meanwhile, I continued to pack up four months of my life in two suitcases (and a carry-on and a backpack), which I barely got finished by 5. We lugged my luggage to the manor and put it in the proper room and ordered one final time from Pizza King, which was absolutely delicious. Since everything was basically done until checkout began for me at 12:30, we had the rest of the night. So Clay and I walked “the mile” and took a few pictures of Harlaxton with the sun setting on the building, which was gorgeous. It was strange to reflect on how quickly the semester passed, as I knew it would. I couldn’t believe all the places I’ve been to in the past four months. It seems like it was some other person who experienced all those things. I still feel like the same girl, but maybe just a newer and better version. I’ve experienced so many things that are hard to convey in words, but that have opened my eyes in countless ways. This semester has far exceeded my expectations and I couldn’t be more blessed to have had the opportunity.

Everything went pretty smoothly that night for checkout, not to mention I found my room keys that I lost at the beginning of the semester, so I didn’t have to pay 25 pounds! I signed the pipes in the downstairs laundry room as a permanent mark, and then I woke up Sarah and Rachel at 1:30 who happened to have fallen asleep and didn’t get up in time for checkout. It was a bit stressful, but we made it onto the coach in plenty of time. I stuck in my iPod and slept for the three-hour ride to the airport in London. We got there at about 5, went through security just fine, and waited to board our plane until about 6:30. As soon as I sat down, I’m pretty sure I was asleep. I wasn’t even up long enough to hear all the precautions from the flight attendants (not that I haven’t heard those plenty of times this semester). I woke up once as we were flying over the Swiss Alps, and I think my thoughts got as far as, “Oh, the Swiss Alps, I should probably take a pict…” and I was fast asleep again.

We landed in Rome (ROME!) and loaded a coach to our hotel. We got settled in, changed clothes, and met Molly and Clay outside, who had made it there no problem after so many complications, and grabbed a quick bite at a pizza parlor around the corner. And when I say pizza parlor I mean to say delicious. This pizza was seriously unlike any I have ever had. All I can say is, they know what they’re doing in Italy. Sarah, Molly, Clay, Chelsea and I hopped on a bus toward Vatican City and checked out St. Peter’s Basilica, which was really awesome, but I thought it looked totally different from the outside than I expected. The Pope addresses his people from there and the inside was so gorgeous. It’s really interesting to see the trends in churches, cathedrals and basilicas all across Europe. They are all essentially of the same structure and ideas. We even got to rub Peter’s foot, which is apparently something most people do once inside.

We did the next most Italian thing we could aside from pizza, and that’s gelato. Gelato is seriously out of this world—even better than ice cream, and if you know me, that’s a big deal. I tried chocolate and tiramisu and it was heavenly. We also found a drinking fountain statue type of thing, which we all drank out of, and it was wonderfully cold water. Next we headed into the Vatican Museum, which was full of beautiful artwork, statues and tapestries. The coolest thing in there was by far the Sistine Chapel. I loved it so much. It was so surreal to me to be in the actual room where Michelangelo painted his ideas of religion on the ceiling. It was absolutely gorgeous and my breath was truly taken away when I saw “Creation.” I’ve seen that image hundreds of times in my life, and there it was, the original thing. So neat! We also saw the monument to Emmanuel II, which was a huge white building with statues at various points. It was very White House-ish. On the way back to the hotel we spotted a pretty fountain area in the middle of the road so we checked that out.

We showered once back in the room and Chelsea, Clay, Molly, Ali and I went to a restaurant around the corner from out hotel. It was awesome because it was legit Italian—the real deal. I got four-cheese sauce pasta and it was amazing. We crashed fairly early that night and woke up the next morning to find it was raining outside. We had planned to spend the day in Rome and go to the island of Capri the next day, but as the weather worked out, we decided to go to Capri that day. So Sarah, Clay, Chelsea and I went to the train station to figure out what we needed to do first. We bought a train ticket to Napoli (the REAL Naples) and spent about two hours on the journey there. Once we arrived, we learned we needed to take a bus to the ferry station and after at least thirty minutes of trying to find the right bus in the rain as well as where the heck to buy the tickets (the “tobaki” store, apparently), we made it onto the bus. The problem was, although we pressed the stop button, it went about half a mile too far before it dropped us off. So we had to walk through this car tunnel, which was swirling with dirt and dust and made me feel so disgusting, but we found the ferry port eventually. And once we found that, we discovered that the next ferry left in four minutes. So Chelsea basically threw her money at the cashier and we all sprinted onto the ferry as it was literally pulling away from the dock. It was such a close call, but it was hilarious since we made it. The joys of traveling!

The ferry ride was hysterical because the waves were absolutely massive. I felt like I was on a jet ski on the lake. My stomach was doing that weird flippy thing like it does on roller coasters, but we were all cracking up and it was so funny. Finally we made it to Capri, and our prayers were answered as it quit raining upon our arrival. We walked down to the beach where the water was so clear it looked fake. We took a tram to the very top of the island and the view was so beautiful from there. The pictures can only do it justice. We looked for a place to eat for much longer than necessary, and finally settled on a little restaurant overlooking the water. Clay and I split ravioli and pizza, and they were both amazing. The pizza was way different from the first kind we had, but it was mouthwatering all the same. We looked in some of the shops close to our restaurant and, of course, had round two of gelato. This time I got After Eight, which is the same as mint chocolate chip, and an almond chocolate combination, which was so so good.

We went back to the bottom of the island to get our ferry ticket back, which was far less eventful than our journey there. Although we didn’t get to spend much time on the actual island, I’m glad to be able to say I went there and saw its beauty. We got back on the bus through Naples, which I must say was a pretty disgusting place. We were not in the touristy part at all, and it was covered in trash and sketchy people. We made it back to Rome at about 9:30, and Chelsea, Clay and I decided to go see the Trevi Fountain at night. We got a quick piece of pizza from our faithful place around the corner, and began our journey. It was a bit of a walk there, but it was worth it—the fountain is this massive white structure with all sorts of carvings and statues all over it. The water runs into a big pool below it, and it was lit up and beautiful. Clay and Chelsea got some more gelato (I decided to sit this round out), and we headed back to the hotel. It was a tiring but awesome day.

Saturday we woke up to more rain unfortunately, but we went through with our schedule anyway. It was kind of a bad day for me personally because all sorts of things kept going wrong for me. I definitely wore the wrong shoes because they had zero traction and the entire city is covered in stones that become ultra-slick when wet. I was sliding all over the place all day, the ATM didn’t give me my money, the souvenir place wouldn’t take my card, and I was just a little bit frustrated. I can’t complain about all the awesome things we got to see though.

First up on the list was the Colloseum. Like, THE Colloseum. I know this goes without saying but it was so OLD. It was such an awesome feeling standing in a structure that has been standing for almost 2,000 years. There were signs explaining the way the Romans used the building, and that was basically their entertainment. People and animals alike would fight and chase each other around the maze underneath the floor that would be removed. Gladiators would fight their opponents and people watched from the seats surrounding the center. There were broken pieces of rock with Latin engraved in them—that is just so cool to see. We also saw Rome’s special arc thing, which was just like France’s and Spain’s.

Next we checked out Circus Maximus, which was a huge oval track where the chariot races would be held. It was kind of strange because there were no signs or anything holding you back from just walking on the track. Next we walked through the paths that took you past all the ancient ruins that were still standing. We also did an experiment to see how well I could get around without my glasses on—I’m pretty blind, as it turns out. But once I put my specs back on, it was really cool to see. We got to see where the first democracy was held at the Roman Forum—how cool is that? I tried my first honeysuckle (weird) and got to smell real lavender flowers (yum). I also invented the adjective Molliest, which I intend to use daily.

Now you can’t forget that this entire time, everyone’s feet are getting dirty from the mud and rain, and I’m slipping and sliding all over the place. My legs were seriously about to die from keeping them so tensed up all day. But we trekked on and went inside the Pantheon, a church famous for its hole in the ceiling. It was just raining all over the ground in the center, but I bet it’s beautiful when the sun it out and it’s shining through. We got some more gelato (so tasty) and checked out the Trevi Fountain in the daytime. The sun finally came out, so the marble looking beautiful in the daylight, but there was such a ridiculous amount of people there. But we all made wishes by throwing a coin with our right hand over our left shoulder, and kept going.

We made it to the Spanish Steps as the sun became really strong and we all heated up pretty quickly. The Spanish Steps are literally just a bunch of steps leading up to a beautiful building. The Steps had rows and rows of purple flowers covering them and we enjoyed the view by relaxing there for a bit. Apparently if you live in Rome, that is the place to “be seen.” We walked up and down the streets near the Steps and went in several shops. All the stores were very fancy and expensive for the most part. Finally we made it back to the hotel, got another slice of pizza from our next-door favorite place, and called it a night.

Sunday morning our coach was leaving at 1:30, so we planned to get some sleep in the morning, get some lunch and head out. Unfortunately for us, we were awoken at about 10:30 by Kyle who said that checkout was at 11. Panic ensued as we showered and cleaned and packed in order to get downstairs as soon as possible. We were late but we placed our luggage with everyone else’s, and Clay, Sarah, Kyle, Nick, Andy, Rachel and I got another piece of pizza (I told you I’m living like an Italian!) and sat on the sidewalk in the sun. We all just chatted for a while before we had to load the bus, thus ending our adventures in Rome!

Katie KnechtComment