Tag Archives: italy

Go Do 2016 Video – My Overseas Adventure

On my last adventure in Italy 2014, I compiled all of the video footage I had taken and created my European Adventure video.

This time around, I took the same idea, but twisted it a bit. Last time I showed you all the things I did, but this time I wanted to let you see through my eyes. The things my eyes have seen, and my feet have touched, have left me scared, brokenhearted, lost, overwhelmed, hopeful, inspired, and speechless. Most importantly, it has left me wanting more, and wanting to share what I have experienced thus far with anyone who will listen.

As I have said many times before, my initial goal with this blog, was to simply keep my family updated in my major activities while abroad. Since then, my dream behind this blog has expanded. I love to write, I love to inspire, and I love to travel. So, why not put it all together. From my keyboard in 14 different countries, I have been able to not only keep my family updated, but also share my favourite stories with friends, fellow travelers, and internet enthusiasts.

I have a love for writing. However, I also have a love for videoing, especially my feet (They are my most photographic feature). I hope this video compilation will explain to those I met along my journey, as to why I was always staring at my feet.

Clearly, my dad had the same idea (where I obviously get my home videoing joy from). Thanks to him, and a behind the scenes friend, I was actually able to capture my homecoming from 3 different perspectives. Thank you to everyone for your love and support.

Walk on,

You Armstrong Abroad (at home)

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Give Me Florence and a Little Italian Drama

Ciao Firenze! I have arrived! 
  Although I promised myself I would blog more often to keep things shorter…. As usual things have been hectic and this will be a catch-up post. So buckle up here we go.

Let’s start with the positives of the trip over: I think I had the easiest flights in the history of my travels, the terribly creepy hat guy in Saskatoon was NOT on my flight, I had a row to myself on each plane, I made it to all of my flights with time to spare which never happens, and… my bags made it with me! Smooth sailing from Saskatoon to Vancouver, Vancouver to Frankfurt, and Frankfurt to Florence. Even the bus from the airport to the station, and taxi from the station to Annie’s was cheap and easy…. Too easy. Yeah sure I cried through security when they took away half my liquids, through boarding as the tiny lady from the bag check-in asked me if I said goodbye to my parents okay, most of the way to Vancouver, throughout the flight to Frankfurt as I opened the goodbye cards from the amazing Laura and Kelsey (who drove all the way to Saskatoon just to be with me and say goodbye. Precious friends I love you dearly!), and when Kelsey sent me the pictures she took of my goodbye with mom and Emory. But all in all, much easier than anticipated. I honestly thought to myself, wow, maybe I’m just so accustomed to Italy and this whole travel thing that I’ve got it all figured out now. WRONG. Big fat wrong…. But I’ll get to that soon. 

  
Sorry, I’ve already strayed from my first topic; Positives, right. Getting to Annie’s and seeing a familiar face after travelling over 21 hours, 8 time zones, and carrying a giant blue whale of a backpack on my poor old back was so comforting. (side note: on top of having all my shoulder problems prior to this trip, the day before my departure I went to the emergency room for some crazy back pain which they believed to be a slipped disc in my lower back… Totally typical… But nothing a shot in the butt won’t fix) It was great to see Annie, even though she’s a die hard Kansas City Royals fan (poor Blue Jays), I love her to death. She allowed me into her home, every nook and cranny let me tell you, for a gracious week! That poor girl had to deal with jet legged, missing her family and friends, sore, cranky and stressed out Jody for 6 days! Yup, there’s the kicker. 6 days people… Now we’re getting to the big fat wrong part I mentioned earlier..

  
My original ‘plan’ was to land, stay a night or two at Annie’s, and find a room to rent ASAP. That last part did not happen as per ‘the plan’. Day 1 and 2 I got to see my babies at the school right away and casually started looking for a place. It was nice to be back. Day 3 and 4 were a complete 360 of Holy Jesus of Italy where are all the rentals at?! Those of you who have had to look for a rental before, whether it be for vacationing, school, whatever, it sucks right? Now try doing it in a foreign country, in a foreign language, with a ticking clock breathing down your neck and your bank account shaking its fist at you. Try that for an image, am I right? This brings us to day 7…. After walking 15 Km a day (I’m not joking at all, my feet and calves are dying) all over the city looking at apartments, meeting potential roommates, and realizing what my price range actually got me, I was stressed to the max. And I mean max. I trekked an hour and a half across the city to a sketchy neighbourhood that I didn’t even feel safe during the day in to look at a room where the landlord didn’t even show up (I cried on his front porch) and then used my best Italian to score a viewing of a “cute little room” in the centre only to find out the bedroom was just a mattress on the floor (I cried shamelessly walking down the street). Finally it was time to leave Annie’s so I checked into a hostel. After contacting an uncountable number of people in the morning, I returned to my hostel and wifi on the evening of day 7 to find I had been accepted! I have a room, ladies and gentlemen, I’m not going to be homeless! Sure I had to up my budget a bit, but it’s much better than sleeping on the streets of Italy in the winter during a financial crisis. Thanks to my sister for helping me search from back home, mom and dad for continually telling me it’ll get better, Annie for offering everything to me, the random girl in the coffee shop that sent me room listings, and Emory for continuing to Skype me even though all I did was cry and complain. Needless to say I ate, drank, and slept better that night than I had in a long time.  

So, what now? Well, I’m still in the hostel for a couple more sleeps until my room is ready. November 1 marks the beginning of my adventure when I can FINALLY unpack my bag, maybe wear a new outfit, and definitely wash the 3 outfits I have been wearing on a rotational basis. I haven’t cried in 2 days, so that’s a big deal, as you may have noticed there was a trend going on above. Things are looking up and I am sitting in a little coffee shop with a fellow Canadian right now planning a few adventures I have up my sleeve. Amen for wifi and espresso.

Today I am meeting up with some Italians to do a conversation exchange and tonight is my first run with FirenzeCorre ( a running group in the centre. Wait till you see the sexy vest I get to wear). Next week I will be extremely busy with the kids at the school. Halloween is this weekend and I got myself invited to a little party. Thanksgiving is just around the corner and with the plethora of Americans that I have here with me, I’ll be eating well that night. 

So far I have had my favourite schiacciata from Puggi, a real espresso macchiato (suck it Starbucks), gelato from De Neri, pocket coffee, ricotta cheese (no, it’s not the same as home), breadsticks with fennel, bought a jar of fig jam, and I had a glass of limoncello (terrible, but like a right of passage). I’m going to be okay I think. 
  
So who wants to come visit? Taking applications.

Until next time,

Once your Italian Armstrong, now your Armstrong Abroad.

Xoxo

My European Adventure

Here is my final video. A compilation of all the wonderful memories I have that were caught on video. Its a little long, and I apologize, but so was my journey. This is for all of my family and friends that I have not yet had the time to talk to and tell you about my travels, and to all of my friends I left behind. Without those I met along the way, this trip would have been filled with feelings of homesickness, but you all became my family, and a family I will never forget. Ciao, cheers, salute, enjoy ❤

Fiesole for the Win!

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Ciao tutti!

Canada for the win! I am proudly the only Canadian on the trip, and guess who takes home the prize for the ultimate Florence scavenger hunt. ME! Briefly here’s a few of the best things I had to do: drink a “cioccolato caldo” (hot chocolate the Italian way, basically a melted piece if dark chocolate similar to the thickness of pudding) at one of the fanciest places in Florence, and when the man found out I was from Canada he said “where? Toronto? Montreal?” (Typical guesses) “No, you’ve never heard of where I’m from” (my typical response). “Saskatchewan?” He guesses… My jaw dropped, and he spent the next ten minutes hysterically laughing and telling the other customers I was from Saskatchewan, to which they obviously had no idea what he was talking about. Onwards! I had to bite into a Panino con Lampredotto (pictured below). A panini with cow stomach… Apparently a very traditional Florentine dish (throw up in my mouth), and after I did this I was featured in Studentsville Italia as “the intern who actually did it”. For those of you at home in complete disbelief at this, to defend my image a bit, I didn’t eat it, but just bit into the bun :). I also had to climb the very steep hill to Piazzale Michaelangelo to view the entire city at sunset (molto bello!!). I had to find one of the illegal “secret bakeries” in Florence, only open between 2 and 5 am, and purchase a freshly baked pastry (probably the best night of my trip so far…. Totally worth having to walk for 2 hours in the pouring rain at 4 am with 3 amazing people pictured below). My final voyage was to take a bus to the top of Fiesole and take a picture with Florence in the background… Soooo picturesque (pictured at the top)! What is the prize for winning such a contest you may ask? Well bragging rights of course, AND a free Tuscany wine tour to Chianti! Ohhhh mama mia! I cannot wait 🙂

So aside from finally finishing the scavenger hunt, I have spent the last week with a nasty sore throat. It got worse and worse until I finally made the decision to attempt a visit to the hospital (Guardia Medico). As I was assured there would be an English doctor, me and another sick friend ventured into the streets on a very very wet, cold, Florence night. To sum things up, he was not English, but was so nice, speaking slow enough for me to understand and translate for my friend. By the end we discovered that we both had a very bad case of laryngitis and that I was contagious (who wants a free kiss?). After telling us a 15 minute story about his travels to America and Canada, questioning me on my musical talents (obviously I resemble Louis Armstrong), and bonding over the fact that his son has the same birthday as me, we were sent on our way to pick up some crazy Italian drugs. So in my first week of practicum I missed 3 days due to my contagiousness… Great first impression. I am finally starting to feel better now, have a voice, can physically function, and am beginning to eat solid foods again, but am sitting here on a Saturday night doing homework and writing to all my lovely readers instead of going out with my classmates. Being responsible, so difficult sometimes.

I have started my practicum, as mentioned, and so far don’t have much to write about other than there is nothing more adorable than Italian babies. Maybe my suitcase will just be filled with toddlers on my way home instead of souvenirs. Or is that illegal? Anyways….

Though language barriers can be difficult, stressful, and exhausting to try and conquer. They can also be extremely entertaining. Especially in class where we are all on a beginner level and, for many, this is their THIRD language. As I only have one week left with this class, I will finally introduce you to some of my favourite characters:

– La ragazza Cinese: Italian is her second language, And she does not speak English. She is training to be an opera singer of some sort, she meows at me every single day, and communicates with the rest of the class through broken Italian and extreeeeeaaaamly over exaggerated body language and gestures. She eats a McDonalds doughnut or two and a Coke for breakfast every day and offers to share with me every morning. When paired with the Columbian boy for group work the other day, she hugged my arm and in completely clear English yelled at our teacher, NO, Jody is my best friend!! Lui cattivo, cattivo, cattivo. (He is bad, bad, bad). She also once tried to tell our group that she had a picture of her sister… She accidently told us she wants two sons and that she had pictures of what she wants them to look like. Miscommunication at its best. We absolutely died laughing. As over the top and difficult as she is some days, I will miss her entertainment so very much.
– Il ragazzo islandese: this little ball of energy is the highlight of my day and one of my closest friends here. He is silent all class, and then will randomly shout something obscene, or some completely inaccurate English phrase that clearly did not translate well. He once told his host mother that he didn’t want to eat the salad she made because it was “insalata vecchio” .. Old salad. When you don’t know much italian, you just make use of what vocab you have, and it usually ends up offending someone. He is also fifth cousins with Björk (the singer), which is kind of cool. But then again, everyone there is related…. Literally. There’s an App for that…
– Il colombiano bambino: This youngster is my partner in crime, is attached at the hip to Old Salad (see above), and finishes off our wonderful group of four (Roommate Lauren included). “baby face” is our “in” into Italian culture as he speaks the language at a higher level than the other 3 of us combined. His hobbies include imitating our accents in a British voice whilst whipping his head from side to side. Not sure why, but it is always entertaining. He became my official best friend when he called me “Jelissa” last weekend and helped us cross off many things on our scavenger hunt list including leading us to the secret bakery where we enjoyed savoury chocolate croissants together.
– L’insegnante: i dont know how he deals with us every day, but he is one if the greatest humans ever; quote me. He told us about a wonderful little restaurant we must go to in order to remember the sentence “a casa mia” (the name of the restaurant). When we decided to try it out one day I asked him “dove è a casa mia?” His reply… Ohhhh, Jawwwdyyy!… I really had no idea why I had received that reaction until I realized I hadn’t specified I was looking for the restaurant, but instead just basically asked him to go home with me…. Jody’s Italian Fail #84, but who’s counting. He has taught us more than just language, but life skills as well. He even gave me a “whiteboard medallion” for coming to school when I was sick. We share a sense of humour and I want to stay in his class forever. He is like the flamboyantly Italian brother I never had. Mom, whyyy??

In other news, I have mastered “the look”. What is “the look” you may ask? Let me elaborate a bit. Something I have learnt since being here is that I wear my emotions on my face. My classmates find it hilarious to watch me tell a story because even if they can’t understand all of it, they can watch my face and get the gist of things. Even when I am at the other end of the corridor at school, I often hear one of the Brazilian guys laugh and say, Jody! Your face! Because of this, I am such an easy target when in the streets. “Here madam, buy my purses!” “Nice boots, would you like a jacket to match them?”, “Come back please, We can start a family.” Uhh what? And one of my all time favourites so far, “hey there, do you speak italian?”… You literally just said that in English, sooo obviously you’re already aware that I don’t speak it. I have decided I am no longer to hold the “tourist” status, but rather the “temporary resident” status. Because of this, I must no longer look like a tourist, and thus we begin mastering the skill of “the look”. I will describe this to you once and only once, but those of you who are just so curious, feel free to ask me to send you a more descriptive picture (as I have it completely mastered and it’s well worth having a picture of for future reference).

Okay. The look:
– Let your face go blank. Don’t show any emotion.
– Now slightly life your forehead/eyebrows, like you got Botox. Who! Not that high, release a little bit… Remember still emotionless. Too high and you’ll just look surprised. They will pounce on you with that emotion.
– Now stare straight ahead and have a partner, or random stranger I guess, stand on either side of you and wave, dance, yell, or whisper dirty things (like how they havent washed their clothes in a month!) any of the above will work. You’re goal is to act as if they are not there and continue to stare blankly ahead.
– If your partner takes things over the top, you may glance in their direction (without making direct eye contact!!) and give a slow blink as if to say, “you are causing me slight discomfort” and then resume the blank look ahead.

This my friends is “the look”, also sometimes called the stink eye, or stank face. It is most effective when paired with the “I’m a boss” walk, or the “my hair is on fire and I’m trying to put it out” dance move if you are at a club. Both of which are too advanced for beginners like yourselves. Now that I have this mastered, nobody messes with me. Heck, nobody even talks to me anymore. It’s… Great?

Sickness and scavengering have been my focus for the last week, so instead of more updates, here’s just a look at thoughts my brain has had and random information I feel like sharing with you today.
– Canadian fact: we say sorry too much and in too many situations that do not require thou to feel truly apologetic. There isn’t even a word in the Italian language that resembles our “sorry”. Rumour has it that there is also no word that directly translates to mean privacy in Italian either…. Which I can believe.
– Took a “field trip” to a wonderful library that use to be a convent. Got to sit at the rooftop caffe with university students. It was a very nice outing…… Then we went to the children’s section and sat with books labeled 1-3 anni and had story time… Nothing kills your confidence more than reading a number book for two year olds, and not understanding it.
– there is a legitimate law here regarding everyday actions. It is illegal to: speak in the stairwell, wear high heels after 11 in the stairwell, have unregistered guests stay the night in an apartment, drag furniture without picking it up, make noise between 2:30 and 3pm, turn the heat on during the day, and sell pastry at night to name a few. I’m probably going to get deported for sneezing in the hall after 11…

Update on words easily confused:
Colore is colour, Collare is Collar, and Coccolare is to Cuddle…. I give up! Also, want to order penne? You order one penne (uno penne), or two pennes (duo penni). Want to ask for a pen? Ask for one pen (uno penna), two pens (duo penne). Careful what you order or you my be eating ink for supper. In addition, ordering la pasta, or uno pasta are completely different. You might be ordering spaghetti, or you might be ordering a croissant (pasta is the singular for pastry). They distinguish the difference by what time of day it is…. Omg… Who, who came up with this? Lastly (for now) when working on listening, and the people are talking about pomeriggio, they’re not talking about Pomeranians. I win idiot of the year in Italy for sure.

Having a blast, learning a lot (although this post might not make it seem like it), meeting so many wonderful people, and looking forward to the coming weeks.

Ciao, Alla prossima volta,
The Italian Armstrong

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Things that should be simple take the most time

Well it’s only been a week and a half and I feel like it’s been a month! Feel like I’ve been here for a month, and feel like I’ve been away from home for a month. Even though it’s only been a short time, I’ve learned more than I ever expected I would in this time. But it’s the things that should be simple that end up taking the most time and energy, mentally and physically. For example, irregular verbs are the most mentally exhausting thing ever, and finding a store that sells towels is the most physically exhausting thing ever (still pretty unsuccessful with both).

In a quick summary since my last post, I have experienced my first night out in the city with new friends, explored different areas of the city including the terrace of Michelangelo that overlooks the whole city, attempted to make my first italian coffee using the moka, got lost and found again without a map or companion, attended a museum tour in full Italian (had to nap after my brain was so tired), won the Italian version of Bingo, and had my tour and interview at Canadian Island where I will be doing the next ten weeks of internship. I will be working with babies and children from 1-8 years old. Nothing more adorable than bilingual babies! At school my class ranges in ages from 20-44 from China, Korea, Israel, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, America, Iceland, and then myself who fits in basically no where, but at the same time feel like I fit right in with everyone 🙂 Mi chiamo Jody. Sono Canadese di Tisdale. Io ho ventuno anni.

Things I miss: not being able to see for miles and miles, the oven being in Fahrenheit, people knowing what a toque is, turning the lights switch down to shut off a light and up to turn it on, having a dryer, having low humidity, people picking up their dogs poop, coffee, cranberry juice

Things I don’t miss yet: English, ice, driving, glass buildings, elevators, having a phone… I think I’m surviving pretty well.

I have officially asked for directions, ordered a coffee, ordered a meal, bought groceries, and described the weather in Saskatchewan successfully in Italian. Something interesting is that here they don’t say negative or minus 10 degrees, they say less 10 degrees. I’ve also come to the conclusion that English is a silly language. Once you look at it from another perspective it is so obvious that we speak ridiculously. I understand why they say everything here the way they do… Except explaining what you do as a job. It seems weird to me to say that I do the social worker. No. I AM. I shake my head daily.

Aside from the big events, there have been little things that I would like to share with you, incase you ever choose to make the journey to Italia (as you all should):
– to all my blonde people out there, relax! They’re going to stare no matter what you do. I could sit, cigarette in one hand, espresso in the other, at a small panini shop mid-afternoon with my Vespa parked right outside (everything typically italian) and they would still stare at me. This can be a total positive once you figure it out! This also means you can do some pretty ridiculous things and people will stare just the same. Take advantage of it, I will be.
– on that note, if you so choose to run. This isn’t as common as it is in Canada, but people DO still do it, but the majority of their physical activity comes from, well, just walking up and down the stairs here I’m sure. Try and get out of the super touristy and cobblestoney places… You’ll regret it if you don’t (ask me how my ankles feel..) and of course they will stare, but simply keep your gaze ahead and giver. If you’re blonde… Remember to take advantage of this and wear something extremely flashy and inappropriate, they’re going to stare either way. Have fun.
– don’t talk in the stairwell (Basto!)
– oh and those amazing heels you brought because it’s such a trendy place…. Hahahahaha, refer to prior sentence about cobblestones and once again ask me how my ankles are.
– on the topic of shoes (kind of a big thing here) from my experiences, red shoes are a sin to wear. While wearing my red Toms I had more people look at my feet (and not my hair for once) than I could count! My friends also noticed, that’s how open they were about it. Good thing I’m in one of the most religious cities around, ten Hail Marys and a trip to the Duomo might be in store for me soon.
– learn your Italian, people! Or at least let me help a few of you out. Try and avoid mistakes I’ve already made: 1. pesca is peach, pesche is fish. Avoid asking for pesche flavoured gelato. 2. Prosecca is a dry sparkling wine, prosciutto is ham. A glass of ham is probably the least desirable thing ever in this world, ever. 3. Uomo is man, uovo is egg. It’s weird when you try to explain how you ate men for breakfast…..

To sum things up: I get stared at when I wear red shoes, when I run, when I speak, when I take out the rubbish, when I exit my flat, when I’m ordering un espresso, when I’m crossing the street, when I’m on the train….. It’s unavoidable. I’m a spectacle. And it’s becoming entertaining.

I hope this helps all my future travellers and dreamers out there. Not trying to be negative, I’ve loved every one of these experiences and can’t wait for more. You never know how much you are capable of learning until you allow yourself to exist in a completely vulnerable state. (Bam. Quote me. Thought of that line during my painful cobblestone run) oh! And I’ll leave you with a little taste of Italian education. Goodluck getting this out of your head … Ci Vuole Un Fiore

Ciao Amici, until next time

Jody

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Rosa and Zelda visit Estelle

I’m sorry, sorry, sorry! I am alive, I swear to you this. Okay, it’s been a long time. I have been busy. But, do you know why? My Momma and Auntie came to visit me! Okay, but woh, let’s back things up. After Naples and Rome on my last blog, I returned to Florence and took a new class at the school: two kids from Korea learning both English and Italian. They were such a treat and such a good learning experience for me before I head off to Japan. I got to see the little boy I babysat take his first steps and got to be around as he started to talk, such a proud momma moment. That’s one of the best things about working with babies. You get to be a part of all of their firsts and you feel such pride when they accomplish things, as if they were your own. We had a traditional Christmas dinner before everyone left to go home, and so the goodbyes started.  

 I thought I was going to be alone for the holiday, but it just so happens that I wasn’t. By chance, I was introduced to Brad, originally from America, who reached out and invited me to a Christmas dinner for everyone who basically had nowhere else to go/was not going back home for the holidays. I had been so sick before Christmas that I could barely eat anything for Christmas dinner anyways, but it was so nice to get out of the house and meet some people. Once you know a few people, you start meeting their friends, and then their friends’ friends, and soon you have a circle of people who all know you and somehow all know each other. It is a wonderful thing to feel a part of a group. I thoroughly enjoyed my holidays in Florence, even though I didn’t get to go to Germany (the original plan). I basically owe it all to Brad, so thanks Brad!

 
 New Years was a blast and a ridiculous experience. I rang in the new year with 3 new friends in Piazza Della Signoria with about 500 other crazy people setting off bomb-like explosions while a proper orchestra played in the background. Apparently this is totally normal and it eventually became funny, but we decided to head inside when everyone in the piazza started throwing their empty glass bottles into the crowds to smash them. Only 165 people went to hospital….  
 Over the holidays, I also found three different skating rinks in the city. And you better believe I went to all three of them! I felt so in my element. Sometimes you just need a little piece of home every once in a while to make you feel okay again about being away from it all. My companions were all learning to skate, so this was pretty fun. California, Missouri, and England… Might I add that watching Jack skate was like watching Bambi take his first steps. Painfully beautiful.  

  I also participated in my last FirenzeCorre and it was a blast. Everyone was wearing Santa hats and I made my own personal goal of finishing with the top runners and being the first woman across the finish line. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you just put your mind to it, and knowing this was my last run made me work that much harder. I did it! And I’m not ashamed to say that I was super proud of myself. First woman to cross the finish line after 9km and finished with the pace makers at the very front of the group. I will sure miss this. 

 
Finally it was time to move out of my place, move into a new place, and head to the airport to pick up my family! I’m so lucky to have a family that supports me in whatever I choose to do and wherever I choose to do it, but not only do they support me, they also fly halfway around the world to come visit me. I’m such a lucky girl. It’s always fun to watch people go through a bit of culture shock, but it’s hard to resist shoving this new culture I have come to know and love, down their throats immediately as they step off the plane. 

We spent 8 nights in Florence and I was able to take them to different markets, take a field trip to my school to meet all of my babies, take a ride on the glittering carousel in Piazza Della Republica, and even trek through the pouring rain up to Piazzale Michaelangelo. One of the main cultural struggles they faced was in the kitchen. Why doesn’t everyone own a toaster, a microwave, a dryer for goodness sake? We went for coffee every day and got on a bit of a schedule with our coffee breaks: frequent and indulgent. They also learned how to make coffee on the stove top, how to make toast without a toaster, how to live without a microwave, how to work a laundromat, and how to layer clothing because the heating systems suck. It was fun for me to be able to live the “tourist lifestyle” for a bit, while still getting to show off my language and ‘Italy’ skills on the daily.  

 We climbed the tower in Piazza Della Signoria, took in the Cascine outdoor market and purchased matching sweaters, went to the parade for Epiphany, and finally went to apperativo at Kitsch with my work friends to say my final goodbyes (tears were shed by many, but mostly by Mom). I even tried to take them to have the most epic gelato of their lives (read my page about suggestions for Italy to find out what it’s called) but it was closed that day. We managed to find some gelato just fine (I mean it is still Italy), however they never did get to taste La Dolce Vita. We indulged in GustaPizza and cheap wine. Mom accidently played knock knock ginger on the neighbours and we proceeded to run out of the building and drink our wine in the street. On one random night, mom also decided to inform us she was writing a ‘memoir’ (her name for notes about our journey) we decided we needed fake names, and so I introduce you to Zelda (Auntie Corinne), Estelle (myself) and Magenta/Rosa (Mom goes by either). These stuck for the remainder of the trip. 

 With our time in Italy we also managed to go and visit Cinque Terre and Rome. Cinque Terre is, as many of you know, is my favourite place in the world. Unfortunately it was a cold and rainy day and the water level was so high we didn’t get to go down on the rocks or visit the hidden beaches. Weather aside, it is still a beautiful place and I’m glad we got to go back. If you read my blog last time I traveled, you know that on our way home from Cinque Terre we had to train hop to avoid the ticket control as we didn’t have tickets… Well this time we made absolute SURE we had return tickets ahead of time… Unfortunately, Jody forgot to validate them. After about 20 minutes of panic (between me and mom), a nice man told me I could go find the train staff and have them initial my ticket instead as validation. Thank you sweet man, and let this be a lesson to everyone. Validate your damn tickets if that’s the only thing you learn in Italy! Rome was very quick. We hit all the major attractions and then spent some time relaxing in our comfy, warm bedroom packing for our flight to Croatia.  

    
 Alas, we all got to check another country off on our world map: Croatia. The land of new tourism, no? We got there and it’s truly possible we were the only three non Croatian people in Dubrovnik. Pouring rain, we walked 300-and-some steps with our luggage to our flat. Our flat… Let me paint a picture for you of the next 5 days. Cold, windy, and rainy, no heat in our house, three women huddled around the hot plate in the kitchen. Oh, and did I mention that the toilet was IN the shower? Like literally IN the shower. As it was the off season, we were more or less the only people in the city, but we still managed to keep ourselves occupied. Walking the city walls was beautiful and we lucked out with a clear and sunny day. Although the cable car was closed, we managed to find really cheap alcohol, so that occupied some time. We learned quickly that we didn’t have a bottle opener and managed to open a few caps and a cork with a spoon and a knife. Who says we wouldn’t survive in the wilderness. After several days of boiling coffee on the stove and then straining it with toilet paper (not joking), we stumbled upon a coffee shop… And it had heat!! We considered sleeping there.  We spent our five days mostly drinking coffee, playing cards, drinking cider in every flavour we could find (even one that tasted like perfume), and just enjoying being together. On the last day (of course it was sunny and warm) we headed towards Kotor, Montenegro to hit another country

     

  
When we arrived, literally the first thing we found was a coffee shop! How marvellous. When we finally made it to our flat, we fell in love. Heat, a shower and separate toilet, real beds, and a full kitchen! We called the owner immediately to tell him we would be staying an extra night. We spent 3 nights in beautiful weather along the harbour, climbing to the top of the fortress, and eating multiple times a day at our favourite cafe, Mamma Mia’s. We tried all different types of food and I even tried liquor made from lemon leaves, which was absolutely terrible, but I did it. We even acquired a dog. I know what you’re thinking, “Jody, you hate dogs”. This is still true, but Boo was something else to me. We found this homeless dog, or rather he found us, who followed us around for the rest of our time in the city, waiting for us outside of any shops or restaurants, and chasing away all of the pigeons, cats, and drunk people in the streets. Safe to say he is my favourite dog. I named him Boo and he broke my heart as he walked with us to the bus station only to sit in front of the bus until we drove away.
   
  
Unfortunately family couldn’t stay forever and it was time to return to Dubrovnik so Rosa And Zelda could catch their flight back to Canada. Time we spend travelling and seeing the world together is some of my favourite memories with my family. It wasn’t travelling with my family at all, it was travelling with friends. We gossiped, we joked, we drank and ate together, and we shared new experiences. I will forever be thankful they were able to come and help break up my time away from home.  

    
   
And so, I continue on my own now. And since they left its already been over a week. Again I apologize this is so late, but as you can see, I’ve been on the move. Since then I’ve country hopped 5 times…. But that’s to come in my next blog.
I’ve also put up the final updates on my Bucket List page for Italy, so check it out. I’ll be posting another blog soon just to keep things actually up to date before I head to Japan and things get stressful and crazy again. 
As a side note: Remember when you’re travelling that there are down days. You can’t have a life changing day everyday. On those days where you feel like you can’t get up and go on, that’s when you meet the people who are going to have the biggest influence on your life. This is how it’s been for me lately anyways. And those people, they know who they are. Even if you can’t find a way to tell them, and even if you never ever see them again, they know how they helped you in that moment. 
Much love as always,

Your Armstrong Abroad

I Survived Naples 2015

The title says it all really. I survived Naples.
Okay back up a bit. After writing last, I ended up deathly (at times I literally thought it was the end) sick… Again. I didn’t get out of bed for 4 days, at the end of which, I gathered myself together and attended my first American Thanksgiving. Although only 4 Americans were in attendance, 14 of us from around the world enjoyed whatever excuse we had to eat, drink, and spend time together. I met some awesome people and was able to spend some ‘out of work’ time with colleagues. Sometimes you have to make more than friends when you’re traveling on your own, so we made family. Looking forward to Christmas dinner gatherings with this crew as well!  

 The weekend rolled around and for a friends birthday we hit up the town in style. Seriously: private suite above a fancy restaurant on the river overlooking the Ponte Vecchio. Feeling rich for a night, as tourists from the bridge took photos of us drinking prosecco on the terrace, most likely wishing they were us. Is this real life? An opera singer sang happy birthday while a Swedish girl played the background tune on a recorder… I’m not kidding this actually happened. My friend Mickael from France had also returned to the city and it was so nice to see another familiar face. We enjoyed the Christmas markets and took a trip to Fiesole for his last night in Florence…. And then, we went on a little “vacanza”… And heres where the excitement begins…. 

 About 2 weeks ago, as I was saying goodbye to him and another guy from The States, I said hey, let’s all meet up in Naples sometime… Everyone casually agreed. Now I was pretty excited because, well Naples isn’t the safest place on earth, especially for a single female travelling on a holiday weekend. But, I feared it was one of those agreements where someone says like, “We should totally all die our hair green sometime” and everyone agrees simply because it sounds like a good idea at the time, but it never actually happens… Well guess what, we pulled it off! In preparation for the trip I decided to try and fix my boots. The bottom is falling off and I’m too cheap to buy new ones, so superglue it was. In my attempts to open the tube, I ended up super glueing my fingers together….. Sometimes I don’t know how I get through the day. But I still had some glue left and was able to patch up my boots. So Mickael and I headed off to Napoli, but were unable to find anywhere to stay in the cit, so we hopped on the train to the next town of Porticci to stay at a hostel there. Okay, first impression here: excited to be out of Florence, bus ride was beautiful… Then we got to Naples… Well this is sketchy… Then we got to Porticci… Dear god where are we? The town, covered in graffiti, looked like there had been a garbage strike.. For the last month and the only people around looked like they were going to rob us or stab us. We finally found the hostel (Fabric Hostel) and were thankful it was actually decent. Pool table, ping pong, clean rooms, and best of all they had a cat named Betty that took a liking to us. 

Our American friend Chase was to meet us in Pompei the next day where we would all take a bus to Vesuvius… Okay pause right there. So I’ve been obsessed with Vesuvius since I saw volcano week on the Discovery channel in like the 5th grade. The story of Vesuvius, Pompei, and Herculaneum are part of the reason I love Italy. “Why are you only going to see it now if you’re so obsessed?” You’re probably thinking… Well, I have tried twice before, each time something came in the way of me actually getting to the historic site. “Third times a charm” I said. I was then corrected by an Italian friend who said well no, “non c’è due senza tre” (not two without three). Determined, I said shut up… Anyways, the day proceeded as so: Chase missed the train to Pompei, so instead of Vesuvius in the morning we decided Mickael and I would do Pompei and Chase would meet us there before going to the volcano. We finally met up and walked the ruins for 4 hours. Just a heads up, you can spend a full day there for anyone planning. At 3 we headed to catch the bus to Vesuvius only to find the last bus left at 1:20. Denied a third time! And the Italian wins. After explaining to the guys very carefully that I wasn’t going back to Florence until they got me to Vesuvius, we decided to do it the next morning without Chase as he had to go back to work. Honestly, at this point I didn’t care who joined/didn’t join. I would climb it myself with a pack of wild dogs if I had to. So we took the train to Naples for the evening and got Chase back to his ferry. After attempting the traditional blind folded walk in Piazza deal Plebiscito, we went for some famous deep fried pizza before heading back to our sketchy village. So we hop on our train, get to the first stop, doors open and bam, gunshots, women screaming outside, doors close, Jody’s heart starts beating like the Energizer bunny is pounding on it. Nobody says a word. Second stop, doors open, gun shots, doors close, but train doesn’t start again for about a minute. I don’t think either one of us blinked for that entire minute. Turns out it was some kids with poppers throwing them as the doors opened… Hey kids, I want you to know that I hate you. First time I saw my life flash before my eyes… Anyways, So the next day we headed to Pompei to catch a bus to Vesuvius…. Onto the next adventure 

    
 After finally finding the bus, only the two of us on it, we soon realized our driver was a psycho…. This was the second time we thought our lives were about to end dramatically. The 30 minute drive up to the top of the volcano was a mix of tiny mountain roads and one lane highway shared by traffic travelling in both directions. The ride was a combination of our driver cursing under his breath, slamming on the breaks so hard that we hit the seat in front of us, accelerating where nobody in their right mind should ever accelerate, passing vehicles along the side of a mountain as our bus hit the trees along the side of the road, and violently honking every 6 seconds at nobody in particular. This was no casual back road people, we are driving on a volcano! We went through an array of emotions: uncomfortably laughing, crying on the inside, and repeating “oh my god no, no, no” over and over again. But, we made it! Crazy. The only word to somewhat explain what we went through. We started the hike to the top of the crater. Legs, butt, lungs… Everything got a workout. Totally worth it, so amazing. Like come on, i stood ON a volcano! No words. Give the ol’ bucket list a check mark. (Speaking of bucket list, check out my new page coming called, well, the bucket list) Left the selfie stick at home as per Mickaels request, but managed to still get a couple of good pictures. 

     
 We returned down the volcano with a much calmer driver. Sadly by the time we made it to our next stop, Herculaneum, it was closed for the day. We just could not catch a break. So we walked, yes walked, from the town of Erculano back to Porticci, just to feel like we were living life on the edge… And because we were too cheap to pay for the train again. We picked up our bags and headed to Naples for our last night, as we were finally able to find accommodations at a little place called “6 Small Rooms”. Perfect location, awesome people, great price. As we were sitting planning our trip to Roma for the next morning, we happened to meet two people who worked at The Yellow Hostel Rome… Ok, this is my favourite hostel ever. I’ve been there twice already. I was so excited and they helped us get a room for the next night. Making connections is half the reason I travel.  

 Our last night in Napoli offered me the best pizza of my life (yes, better than Gusta Pizza, barely). I ordered una pizza con ricotta e noci (a ricotta and walnut pizza) from al’22 Pizza. Nommmmmm. As we walked around that night we witnessed the weirdest things. A group of children playing soccer in a mall while older kids on motorcycles drove in circles until they fell off their bikes… Also in the mall… At 11pm on a Monday.. With no parental supervision. What? We ended up at a bar where we proceeded to talk to some younger people… When they mentioned they were 15 (and some younger) we decided it was time for us to leave. So basically that was Naples. 

 Onwards to Rome. Oh Roma… Every time I say I will never return, somehow I end up back in your ruins. It’s that damn wishing fountain, I know it. 4 wishes to return, 4 times in Rome. We walked all day, ate some gelato, had pizza at my favourite place, and met up with Mickaels friend visiting from France. Now I was the minority language wise. Although my French is a disappointment to Canadians, I can still sing Jack and Jill, tell you I like black cats, and count to 100… Apparently that doesn’t count as being fluent though. Pamplemousse, escargot, un chat noir. No? We stayed at the Yellow that night. That’s all I will say, as the Yellow needs to further explanations. The next day was slightly scary, as it was a holiday in Italy and there had been terrorist threats against the famous landmarks in Rome. We accidentally ended up at the Vatican on our walk and it was surrounded by armed military, carabinieri, police, civilian assistance workers, helicopters, and multiple multiple ambulances and Red Cross workers. This terrified me and we got away from there immediately. Finally it was time for me to head back to Firenze and say goodbye for the last time to Mickael.  

 When you travel, you have to allow yourself to become vulnerable. By doing this you allow people into your life, some for a day or two, and some for longer. When you allow yourself to be the vulnerable traveller, you get to know people so well so fast. And I mean really get to know them: you become attached to them and rely on them. Some people walk in and out of your life so quickly, but there are a select few that make such an impact and become a real friend. It becomes so incredibly difficult to say goodbye knowing you may never see them again in your life and all you will have is the pictures and memories you have created together in that short period of time. This was a very difficult goodbye, as we have been experiencing Italy together for 6 weeks now and we have become such great friends. Thank you for the companionship and the adventures Mickael, and if you ever visit Saskatchewan you know you have a place to stay. I swear it’s safer than Napoli.  

  

And so I am back in Florence where I belong I guess. I have accepted a new class and will be teaching two Korean children English for the month of December. Always something new. Finally went to the Accademia to see the real statue of David, which just proved to myself that I don’t understand art. Last night I ran with my running group and moved up a level. Accomplished one of my goals and ran with the fastest group. I finished in the top 20 (about 200 people running) and as I came across the finish line they stopped me and requested I speak in the microphone…. In Italian… Panic… And suddenly I forgot how to Italy. All I could manage to say was “non, parlo Italiano” (I do not speak Italian) – lie, I could have understood what they were saying if I wasn’t in such a panic/blur from running). He asked how the course was and what I thought of the run. I answered in a mix of English and very poor Italian. Ugh. He finally asked for my name – Jody. Jovi? No, Jody. Ahhh, Jobi….. And he proceeded to make a song out of my “name” Jobi Jobi Jobi… All of the embarrassment.  

 With Christmas around the corner I am open to suggestions on ways to make it less lonely. Anyone? I am also accepting gifts from my wish list of the following: new shoes, a Christmas tree, Tim Hortons while hot chocolate, a name tag – Jody, groceries, and lots of wine. Goodluck to all my friends/readers who are prepping for finals at home. Also congrats to the University of Regina cheer team for winning gold at PCA Nationals, proud alumni. As always, don’t forget to keep me posted on your lives as well. Much love from the safety of Florence.

XoXo

Your Armstrong Abroad

   

 

Home, Now I Call it Home

One month! Hello there my beautiful followers, how have you been? Oh me, I’ve been alright.. Ok I’ve been great! Busy, busy, I can’t believe it’s already been a month. Time really is flying by.

Before I say anything I want to say thank you for the concern from family and friends after the attacks in Paris, Beirut, and Baghdad. I am safe. It is scary being so close to something like that, but it is important when travelling, anywhere, to educate yourself on the risks. Safety is a basic human right and the violation of this right is happening all over the world, even at home. Don’t fall into this. Stand together with those everywhere who are hurting as this fight rages on. Keep love in your heart and teach peace wherever you travel. Stay safe friends at home and around the world.   

Since my last blog I have done a lot… So here we go. I moved into my apartment, got to teach my first English class, met some really cool people, travelled to Sienna, got really sick, escaped the Pope, travelled to Milan, accepted my very own class, did some running and here we are. Ok well I’ll talk to you all again soon, ciao. Oh, you wanted some more detail, ohhhhh okay. 

So, I left off last time as I was just about to go for a language exchange with a strange Italian man (the opening scene to any Liam Neeson movie, just kidding mom). Well I’m alive and fine, surprise! It is wonderful to have someone local to chat with. He is also a doctor which, if you know me at all, is the greatest person I could have around me while travelling. Ive been here a month and he has already assisted me in getting the right medication and not poisoning myself. So I now have a really rad language partner who knows some pretty awesome gelaterias and coffee shops, so I’d say it was well worth the risk. At our last meeting I got to try La Dolce Vita chocolate gelato which was voted best in Italy! Chocolate coma. Speaking of chocolate, if you haven’t had Nutella mixed with ricotta cheese you haven’t lived yet. Don’t try this at home though, ricotta cheese in Canada tastes like dying goat… Hope I painted a nice picture for you there. 

I also finally moved into my flat! As I was getting ready to leave my hostel, the workers came to the conclusion that my new place didn’t actually exist and that I was being scammed because my street was unfindable on Google maps. I persisted. A friend helped me take my bags to the bus (which we finally found after what seemed like an hour… Stupid construction) and as we were waiting for it to arrive, standing with all my bags sweating like mad, my purse ripped. It just fell off of me. My first thought was someone had cut the strap and was trying to rob me, but apparently the strap had finally seen its final journey and I had one more bag to carry. I crammed myself and all my bags onto an already full bus, and after 2 hours of struggling and sweating, I finally found my house. And let me tell you, it exists (apparently Google Maps decided to abbreviate and change the spelling of my street name to make it unfindable – cool thanks). It was so beautiful and I was so relieved that when my landlady let me into my room I just laid down on the bed and cried… Then I unpacked, showered, and did laundry. Amen. I have two roommates, German and Italian, both pretty cool guys. I have only met one neighbour, a sweet little old lady who I share a wall with. The walls are incredibly thin and each night when she enjoys her 9 o’clock news I also get to listen to it. She also has the voice of Mrs. Doubtfire.. With an Italian accent of course, so I love her a little bit more. Every morning I wake up thinking I have a rash or breakout of some sort on my hands and face, only to realize that no, I was just the appetizer for the 47 mosquitos living in my room during the night. I finally bought a mosquito killing contraption of sorts, so here’s hoping I finally can sleep at night and stop looking like I have a disease.

Last week I had a some free time and decided to get out of the city. I travelled to Sienna for the day and oh, the bus ride was sensational. I mean not the actual bus ride, that was terrifying of course. (Italian road rage in a giant bus speeding down winding Tuscan highways that haven’t been patched up in, I’m sure, 100 years.) The view, though, was worth It. It was like Canadian fall mixed with everything I love about Italy. The vineyards still had their leaves, but they were all yellow and orange. Fields and hillsides of Tuscan valleys lined with rows of this, amazing. Siena itself was also beautiful, small and quiet, but beautiful. I had a peaceful day of climbing towers and enjoying some people watching in the centre. I wasn’t allowed to take any bags up into the tower, only my camera. Once I got up there I realized I forgot the picture of Grandma, so on my way down I asked the guard if I could get it from my bag and go back up the stairs without buying another ticket. I explained the picture, grandma, and the significance to me, and she thought it was so adorable and let me go back up. She also told me, in broken English, that he sister would totally do something like that and that she would pass my story on to her. Feel good moment of the day.  It also happened to be the “Fat Lady” art show across the city. It was hilarity and brilliance combined. I joined in the fat lady fun before returning to Florence.

   After spending the weekend in Florence with a new friend from France, enjoying the beautiful weather, and attending a baby shower for a colleague, I ended up sick in bed for two days battling a gross fever – typical. The Pope was scheduled to visit Florence on November 10 and I had already purchased tickets to leave the city and go to Milan for two days to avoid all the crazy. So I got my disgusting butt out of bed at 5am and caught the bus to Milan. I have been to Italy 3 times, and each time someone asks me if I went to Milan… I figured I better go this time. So worth it, Milan is beautiful! I spent some time alone taking in the sights, the amazing Disney store and discount chocolate warehouse (was totally tempted to buy the 3kg bucket of Nutella and take it as my carry on). I met a nice guy from Argentina at my hostel and he accompanied me to the top of the duomo, the chapel, the park, and didn’t even complain or make strange when I went crazy over the possy of kittens in the park that we found, when I spent way too long in the Disney store again, when I asked him to take a picture of me doing handstands with a street dance crew, or when I whipped out a picture of grandma. Pretty cool. So Marco if you ever stumble upon this, thanks for agreeing to do whatever I asked of you and for playing along so well. I had to get up at 4:30 to catch the bus home on the 12th, which was gross. A large group of foreign men were making their way to work at this time and we all got on the same night bus together. After asking them for directions in my best Italian, they not only cleared a seat for me on the bus, but also helped me switch busses, check schedules, and get me to the bus station on time. I am always astounded by the helpfulness of strangers. I won’t soon forget our nonverbal goodbye we shared through the window of the bus as we silently gave each other a smile and a nod as we parted ways. The ride back to Florence was amazing. Tips to seeing Toscana by bus: get on a bus in Toscana, sit back, don’t bother taking any pictures because it’s impossible to capture it, and just enjoy. Apparently if you are an engineer interested in bridges, the Tuscan countryside is the place for you. So many amazing bridges and hillside sights, I was in awe. Driving past massive country houses with pools and tennis courts in the backyard thinking, like, who are you, and do you need any more friends? My mouth was actually open, gaping open. Not my most attractive moment I’m sure, but worthy of the reaction. There was also a guy in a team Canada jersey on my bus. I chatted with him for a bit, only to realize he wasn’t from Canada at all…. Portugal actually… So that happened..

   
 In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been able to get some experience at the school here teaching English. My boss had some wonderful compliments for me and they have now offered me my own class… 2 weeks with 4 year olds… Oh boy oh boy this will be interesting. My class will consist of children from Scotland, Switzerland, Japan, and Colombia… Diversity at its finest… Looking forward to the challenge. I’m also doing some lessons for older kids. So I’ve been studying up on my English grammar, you know, adjectives, possessives, past continuous, objective verbs, articles… All the things we chose to forget after school. To all my English teacher friends, or friends that have English as another language, props to you. English is actually the stupidest language ever. If there’s a rule, there’s an exception to it…. And probably an exception to the exception, and an irregular on top of that. I met a guy here who speaks French, Spanish, Italian, and Arabic, but no English. When I asked him why he didn’t learn English, he simply said, it’s too damn hard. And now I get it. 

On that note, I will say arrivederci! 

  “Hey good lookin’, why the frown? You always look better when it’s upside down. You say you’ve got nowhere that you’re going to, can I go nowhere with you?”

Xoxo,

Your Armstrong Abroad

Oh, It’ll Fit: Airport Struggles and Many, Many Giggles

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Exactly two weeks to go in this adventure of a lifetime and I am now completely alone. Alone, however not lonely. I can’t wait to make some decisions completely on my own and just get up and go every morning.

The last two weeks have been some of the best memories I have ever made with my family. We did things and saw things together that I never would have ever imagined we would get the chance to do together. It was so much fun to be able to play tour guide and take them all around Florence, and then join in with them to be tourists in Rome and Barcelona.

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Having them with me in Italy made me realize how much I have learned since being here. They made all the classic “you’re clearly not from here” mistakes. As we walked into the cafe for breakfast Wendy says to me, “the lady working here is French” when I asked how she knew that she replied, “well she said bonjour when we came in, so I replied bonjour”… No, no she said buongiorno, which is Italian for good morning… She’s definitely Italian. Translating for them was one of my favourite things. I really got to show off my less than outstanding language skills. We had some terrible luck throughout the trip, but what else is new with the Armstrong family. Riding the train two and a half hours to Naples only to find out that our next train to Pompeii wouldn’t be running because of flooding underground. So, we went to Naples for lunch, turned around and went back to Rome.

I am not sure if I have ever laughed so hard as I did in Rome getting ready for our plane ride to Barcelona. Oh Ryanair, as long as you continue to sell scratch and win tickets during the flight, I will never consider you a real airline. After reading the “luggage requirements” the night before our flight, we came to realize that there was no way we were within the size and weight restrictions. For those of you who don’t know my family, we are literally the cheapest people ever and go to great lengths to save money anywhere we can, because we would rather spend it on fun things than extra luggage costs. That being said, we attempted The funniest thing we have ever collectively come up with. Can’t fit your clothes in your bag? Why no wear them all? And so collectively on a 26 degree day, we wore: 6 sweaters, 3 jackets, 3 bathing suits, 2 pairs of leggings, 3 pairs of pants, a pair of shorts, 2 tank tops, 2 shirts, 2 scarves, socks, underwear, headbands, sunglasses, 2 pairs of runnings shoes, and a pair of winter boots. After a 15 minute metro ride, an hour bus ride, and being sent to the wrong terminal twice, we finally arrived in security where we had to take everything off, and put it back on again. Oh, and mom got a pat down. Finally, after our flight was delayed and we were forced to sweat for an extra hour, we were on the plane and soon arrived in Barcelona where we immediately stripped.

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Barcelona was amazing and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, and our Starbucks. Thank you Spain! We laid on the beach where the two of them found out quickly that their skin was still in winter mode and not ready for the sun yet. However, despite the crisp skin and blistered feet, we walked and walked and saw so many beautiful things and enjoyed amazing food. We then saw all those sights again from above as we took a gondola across the port. It was amazing.

I was so sad to see them go, but I am so glad they came. I will never forget the last thing Mom said before they left, “thank you, this was MY trip of a lifetime.” This meant more to me than I think she will ever know. I hope they have both caught the same travel bug that I have. 🙂

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Since I have been on my own I have decided to stop making a list of things I want to do, and start crossing things off instead. I have gone for a midnight swim in the ocean, been rollerblading from one side of the beach to the other, eaten more coconut than is probably healthy, went for a run down a street lined with palm trees, and watched the sun set over Barceloneta. What a wonderful last day I had there. I am on the bus on my way to Madrid. What will I do there you ask? I literally have no idea, but I am sure I’ll find something to do!

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Although not in Italy anymore,
Still your Italian Armstrong

Bitter Sweet Goodbyes …. And Gelato

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The last few weeks of March were bitter sweet. I am tempted to say more bitter than sweet, but in all reality, they were simply amazing. Although I had to say goodbye to everyone I met in January at Linguaviva, co-workers I had learned so much from, and roommates I had grown to treat like sisters, I also got to make some memories I will never forget. The amount of goodbye parties, dinners, socials, and outings I attended lately always left me feeling a little bit emptier inside after each one, as I could finally see the end in the near future. We have built a little family here. A multi-cultural, multi-lingual, diverse in every way possible, family. Allow me to introduce you to my roommates who were forced to spend three months by my side. As I infested our apartment with my multiple sicknesses, they bought me chocolate bars, picked up my prescriptions, and continually bought toilet paper as I used it up roll by roll blowing my endlessly runny nose. Most of this was even done without complaining and I love them for every memory they have helped me create.

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First, Ella, the one who gets to share tea and crumpets with the Queen (AKA British) This spunky young thing is out to make her mark on the world and, if I do say so myself, seems to be on her way to doing just that. She sleeps like a log, never waking as we dropped plates in the kitchen at 4am, she likes “CHIPS AND CAKE!”, and told me one of the best “we know, but she doesn’t know we know” stories I have ever heard. Thanks for the tons of laughs, being so laid back, and joining in on my ridiculous behaviour sometimes.

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Next, Sofia, that girl from Mean Girls (AKA South African). This avid tea and hot chocolate drinker survived life in Italy without eating pizza OR pasta… You poor gluten intolerant people. Her delicate personality and appreciation for a good art exhibition made her a wonderful person to have around in this historic city. We got along perfectly despite our differences in food preferences… Never have I ever seen so many sardines eaten by one person, you go girl. You are so smart and talented in everything you do, I can’t wait to continue following your travels via blog.

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Last but not least, the mysterious one. There’s always got to be that one roommate who you only ever see like once a week, who only ever mumbles a quiet “good morning” or “hello” as they pass you in the kitchen. It was never a mystery, however, to whether she was home or not (except for that one week…). We could blame “thin walls” for a few things, but we won’t. I don’t really know you, so I’m going to go with the classic high school yearbook quote and simply say “Goodluck in your future endeavours” oh, and take that damn sign off the bathroom toilet. Cheers. (No picture available at this time)

That only leaves Lauren, the desensitized American with a brother named Kevin. Without this girl, let me just say, I think I would have ended up like the above roommate… Huddled in my room for days on end yelling into my Skype. Alone. I could devote an entire blog to our events as a team and the developments in our ‘relationship’ ;), but I won’t. I will simply say that in three months this girl became my best friend, my partner in crime, my comedic assistant, my dinner date, my study buddy, my right hand man, my left hand man, the person I discussed life with, my sister, even my daughter at times, my photographer, my pick-me-upper, and my most favourite American of all time. At many times it was just like hanging out with myself, but in the best possible way. They say when you travel on your own, no one will ever understand because you’re the only one who has seen what you’ve seen, done what you’ve done, and felt what you’ve felt, but we shared even those things. In fact, on most occasions, nobody understands our conversations… I can’t image what my life will be like without her by my side in everything I do. As our favourite Italian proverb goes: “If you can’t live longer, live deeper”, I think we lived very deeply for the last three months with the help of each other. And even took a few crazy chances, which is sort of unlike us… But hey, Sopravvivere.

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My last day in Florence was perfect. Walking the streets casually, having a delicious lunch after visiting the market, enjoying free champagne, taking in one final apperitivo, getting gelato from Neri, riding the carousel, sitting on the bridge with Sebastian for hours, and then finally hitting up the secret bakery before saying a very teary goodbye. Although I hate all of the goodbyes I have had to say, I wouldn’t change the fact that I met so many wonderful people, even if it meant having to say those goodbyes. I now have so many places I can visit in the future all around this beautiful world.

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Finally, as you all may be wondering…. YES. THEY’RE HERE! Wendy and Mom are finally here to take in the rest of this adventure with me. We have been so busy having such a wonderful time. From spending Mom’s birthday in Cinque Terre, to silly pictures in the Boboli Gardens, to markets in Parco Della Cascine and San Lorenzo, making several mistakes while also doing so many things absolutely perfect, and climbing thousands of stairs (literally) to see every view of the city including Fiesole by night, the famous Duomo and Bell Tower, and the panoramic views at Piazzale Michelangelo. Needless to say, they deserve a break. We have discovered new calf muscles on Wendy, guilt-free indulged in pastries and gelato, band-aided and re band-aided blisters (amateurs), taken more ridiculously hilarious pictures than most people take in their life time, and became masters at uncorking wine bottles (not so much champagne bottles). Mom has learned that the men walking up to her pushing flowers in her face are not actually GIVING her flowers. Wendy has learned the importance of cardio and that “it’s only a few blocks from here” doesn’t always hold true. I have learned that not everyone sees beauty in the same things, but that sometimes the smallest things are more beautiful and create better memories than the big things.

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We are currently sitting on our train to Roma, spending a rainy day travelling the countryside, soon to arrive at our destination. We will make sure to keep in touch with people and try to not get too out of control. You know us, always getting into some kind of trouble….

Until next time,
Your Italian Armstrong(s)
(I also have no idea why half of the writing is red. I apologize)

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