Walking on History (or Roamin’ in Rome)

We’re all bummed about leaving Florence, but Rome is calling. On the way there, we stop in the town of Orvieto, situated majestically atop a mountainous chunk of volcanic stone. We have to take a funicular to get there, and at the top we’re treated to a breathtaking view across the hills of Umbria.

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View from the fortress.

Antonio leads us to the cathedral, whose immense and imposing facade draws us inside. The cathedral’s nave is both vast and quaint, striking and charming. I light a candle for my grandmother like I do at every cathedral and wander around in awe.

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Wining in Florence and Whining in Pisa

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Juliet and I.

Have I mentioned that I love Shakespeare? I’ll say it again. I love Shakespeare. So when we stopped in Verona on the way to Florence, I had to visit Juliet’s balcony. The two Emilys, Megan, and a few others came with me and we posed dramatically for a few seconds before relinquishing our spot to the next eager visitors in line. In the pictures Megan took of me, it looks  like I’m gazing serenely down at my one true love. In reality, I was looking down at a courtyard packed with a heaving crowd of tourists, all waiting to grab the breast on a statue of Juliet (a tradition I can’t begin to understand). I’m thankful that photographs don’t represent reality.

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I’m Not in Epcot Anymore: Exploring the Real Venice

I forgot how much I hate flying. Once on the plane from London to Venice, I suddenly remembered how terrified I am of dying in a fiery crash, and I nearly asked to hold the old woman’s hand next to me when we took off. When I got to Marco Polo Airport, I couldn’t find anyone in my EF College Break tour group and had a healthy panic for an hour or so, my head spinning from all the Italian I was hearing. Finally, they appeared and we headed to our hotel in Mestre, on the mainland across from the island city of Venice.

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Alone in Ireland: Discovering Galway, Doolin, and Belfast

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So much art in Ireland. Even in the hostels.

I have a real fear of buses. Not of riding them, just of figuring them out. Bus schedules are nightmare inducing. Luckily, the bus from Dublin to Galway is common knowledge and I was able to find and board it without difficulty.

I knew the worst part about the lack of trains in Ireland would be the bathroom situation. Over two hours on a bus and I was bursting by the time I got to Galway. There was an “emergency” toilet on the bus, and I’d rather have peed in my pants than made a spectacle of myself by using it.

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Beer, Bravery, and Backpacking in Cardiff and Dublin

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My five hour train to Cardiff got me here just after noon. I’ve brought only the small backpack I used for my hike. I’m wearing jeans, a long sleeved burgundy shirt, and sneakers. I plan to wear the same thing every day. In my backpack I have only the essentials: chargers, toothbrush, and a few pairs of underwear. I rolled up a couple shirts to layer in case it gets cold in Ireland, which Mischi aggressively insisted it will. I feel like a true backpacker. This is the meaning of adventure!

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No Net Ensnares Me: My Brontë Pilgrimage to Haworth

 

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I couldn’t get over the street names in Haworth! Others included Branwell and Brontë.

 

I began to dream of visiting Haworth the year I started studying the Brontës in college. When I read Villette by Charlotte Brontë, I was taken aback by the artistry of the writing style. I fell in love with the poetic flow of her words, and I adored her character, Lucy Snowe. I saw so much of myself in Lucy and was amazed that I felt such a connection to a fictional woman created in the 1850s.

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The Devil and the Downhill: Days 8 and 9 on the West Highland Way

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Day 8

My determination to finish this thing renewed as the sun rose. I had come too far to give up on the last 23 miles. Today I only had to do 8 miles, from Kingshouse to Kinlochleven. I’m glad that, when I set out, I didn’t know that it was 4 miles uphill and 4 miles downhill. That might have dampened my spirits even more than the rain.

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Pain and Moor Pain: Day 7 on the West Highland Way

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Ha! Look how fresh and hopeful I was at the start of the day!

I have never in my life pushed my body as hard as I did on this day. Before the hike, I had no concept of what walking 10 miles felt like, let alone 20 miles. The way I looked at it, it had to be done and I would just get up and do it. I would see beautiful sights as I hiked farther into the highlands. I would ignore the extreme pain in my feet.

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Rain and Raspberries: Days 5 and 6 on the West Highland Way

Day 5

On this day, I suffered a painful loss. Let’s start at the beginning. It was raining from the moment I woke up. I had some delicious porridge at the inn and then struggled to put on my poncho and head to the trail. I felt a bit deceived. It hadn’t rained like this for the first four days. Standing there on Day 5, I had no idea that this would be the weather for the rest of the week.

I set off for the last time with my group of four new friends. This was one of the easiest days in terms of distance and terrain. Only about 7 miles to walk and no crazy climbing or scrambling. So I got confident. I walked quickly. And then it happened. My beloved stick, now with a sock taped around the top, got very waterlogged with all the rain. It bounced off a rock as I was walking. It very calmly split in two.

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Sunshine and Swimming: Days 3 and 4 on the West Highland Way

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Looking like I’m on a damn quest.

Day 3

This day was an absolute dream, and probably my favorite day of the whole hike. I only had to do about 6 or 7 miles from Balmaha to Rowardennan. Nearly the whole section of the trail hugged the shores of Loch Lomond. When I first got to walk onto the sandy banks, I felt close to tears. I had never seen anything so beautiful. I sat down by the water and felt overcome with emotion and gratitude. I couldn’t believe where I was, that I had gotten myself there, and that I was still alive and functioning after what I’d been through a couple months ago. I felt more grounded and connected than I had in weeks. This was real. It was unreal, but it was real.

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