Sunday, February 22, 2009

Amazing News!!!

Today Mum called me and told me that I've been accepted into the Graduate program at Washington State University to study Architecture!!! YAAAAAAAY!!! I am so excited I can't even sit still, which is making it rather difficult to focus on midterm presentations for tomorrow...I wasn't supposed to find out if I got in for another two months, and it came as a complete surprise! I even made it onto the 1.5 year track, which is absolutely fabulous!!!!

I immediately called Evan,...forgetting to check what TIME it was over in Washington...oops? Sorry about that, hun. :D And then proceeded to bounce throughout studio. I figured this was probably the easiest way to let everyone else who isn't on Facebook know!!!

Now all I have to do is pass my classes over here, because grades don't transfer back to school!! Don't worry Karen: I promise i'll try harder than just passing. ;)

Just had to spread the amazing news!!!! get back to *work,* Katie....

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Napoli, Vesuvio, Pompei, Eracleo, and Pisa (oh my!)

This weekend was absolutely insane. This is how it started:

Laura and I caught a train after studio on Thursday night to Naples. It took only about three hours on a EuroStar train, and once we arrived we managed to find our hostel for the weekend: Hotel Zara. We quickly discovered that Naples is NOT a nice city. It's almost as if it was built to be temporary, since it is sitting in the shadow of an active volcano, and noone has bothered to try and upgrade it since the last catastrophy. While walking around to find food that night Laura and I were constantly on guard...we here harassed, followed, and called after constantly throughout our entire stay. Needless to say I didn't feel safe until I was back on the train to Florence. We did, however, manage to find a nice pizzaria close to the hostel which had absolutely amazing Pizza! We took our time over dinner and desert, and took the remainder of our wine back to hostel where we quickly fell asleep.

Friday morning we were up and going in time to catch the first train at 9am to the Heraclium Ruins stop, which was also where we needed to catch the taxi to the checkpoint at Mt. Vesuvius! We bought bread, cheese and water at the nearby market to bring on our hike, packed up our sketchbooks and were ready to go! We met a lady traveling with her daughter, and her cousin who lived in Rome. She was born in Italy, but now lives in Austrailia so was easily able to translate for us, and argue ticket prices when needed....We were taken most of the way up the volcano, and then told that our driver would wait for us for 1 hour, and to get hiking! So...we did!!! Laura and I made it to the top of the mountain and even had time for a few sketches before we had to run back down to catch our taxi. It was very cold, and very windy up there, but absolutely gorgeous. Anyone who visits the area when the volcano is open HAS to make the trip!

We then decided that since we were already at the Heraclium ruins stop on the train, we might as well explore them then, instead of on Saturday when we had origionally planned. We both weren't too eager to go back to Naples until we needed to meet Karen off her train from Florence. :) I've decided that being a EU citizen ROCKS especially when you are trying to get into these amazing places! Half price tickets for meeeeeee!!! Laura wasn't as lucky, but I think even she agrees that it was worth the money we paid to see the ruins! This picture is taken of us in the Heraclium ruins, where we decided to stop for lunch. The camera is perched on top of the remains of a column, and set on a timer setting. We were amazed that there wasn't anyone around, like in the United States checking that we weren't climbing on things, or eating in the ruins....Which worked out to our advantage actually. Even the barriers they had put up weren't much of a detterant. They actually came in a couple stages. There was the 2x4-wedged-in-an-opening variety which seemed to say please don't go in here, but if you do just be careful. Then there was the half-hazard-metal-fence variety which was a little more serious, and then the bolted-padlocked-welded-in-place-metal-door variety which said don't even THINK about trying to get in here....All in all we had a fantastic time clambering through the city, sketching and exploring! We were SUCH architects! It was a dream come true to be able to come here!

After we'd got our fill, and the sun had gone down Laura and I caught the train back to Pompei....also another experience...The ticket booth was closed for some reason, but there was a man inside. The sign said that if the booth was closed we should go to another 'vendor' for our ticket back home....Yeah that helps....So i knocked on the door and explained our situation to the man inside. He laughed at us, pinched my cheek and then ushered us up the stairs towards the train???? So...i'm pretty sure we were illegal passengers for that ride! Both Laura and I were much happier when we got OUT of the train station!!!

When we got back to Naples we decided to explore a little bit before Karen's train got in, so we set off to find some major sites. Mainly the Castle, and the Duomo. The Castle was interesting from an architectural standpoint simply because it had been sectioned off, had streets laid through it, and had been turned into (very run down) housing. We got out of there as quickly as possible and decided to again give Naples the benefit of the doubt, and started off down a very large, well lit street. Didn't do much better on that one, but we did eventually find the Duomo. That pretty much cemented our decision NOT to go into Naples again, and so when we met Karen off the train we took her straight to the Hostel, and then to a restaurant around the corner we had seen the first night. We called it an early night again, and quickly fell asleep.

Saturday also started off relatively early (for us!!) and we again caught the 9am train, this time headed towards the Pompei ruins!!!!! I was so excited I was practically bouncing! It took about twice as long to get there this time, but still only was about a half and hours train ride. We were in the ruins and exploring by 10am, where Laura and I quickly got separated from Karen....still not quite sure how that happened....We spent the next 7 hours or so wandering around seeing as much as we could. It was actually a good thing we had been to Heraclium the day before, because it meant we could gloss over the things we had kind of seen, and focus on the parts unique to Pompei. Even then we didn't have enough time to see everything and we had to save about 3 buildings for the next trip. :) We ate lunch at one of the ampitheaters, and got some sketching in before we again had to rush to catch the train back in order to grab a quick dinner at the pizzaria from the first night. On that train ride we were serenaded by a clarinet wielding Italian man! First time for everything I suppose....Since it was Valentines day, the pizzaria had laid out Bacio for each of us! Bacio are little 'kisses' kind of like Ferro Rochers, that Italians give to each other (mainly just their significant other) on Valentines Day. We grabbed our bags from the hostel, and RAN to catch the train! We got there with 2 minutes to spare, and then realised that our train was 20 minutes delayed....It took about 5 hours to get back to Florence, since we were on a slower, cheaper train and so we got into town about 1:45am on Sunday morning. We then had to walk the hour back home. None of us had thought to bring a map with us of Florence, so it was quite an adventure finding our way back to the center from a strange train station!!! It just goes to show how much better of a town that florence is, however, that we didn't get harrassed even once during that whole walk. :)

On Sunday Laelle organized an Abroadco outting, which is so happened that only Mitch and I were able to go to. I quite liked the smaller group, however, and Laelle's boyfriend Antonio was able to join us. We had quite the task actually GETTING to Pisa, as our train was stopped at the station, as the local police forcibly evicted Florentine football fans from the train after it was found out that they didn't have tickets. Apparently there was a game between Genoa and Florence being played in Genoa, which meant that all the trains were stopped, and police were patrolling up and down doing crowd control....Quite the experience....Finally the train did start moving, and we did managed to get to Pisa around noon...only an hour and a half late. We were met my Laelle and Antonio's friend Tonino, who drove us to a beautiful national park where we had lunch at a famous 'catch-of-the-day' restaurant. We met two more friends of Laelle and Antonio, and here is what we had:

Appetizer: Bread topped with a vegetable spread, or with lard(!), and an assortment of thinly sliced meats all made fresh there from the wild boar they had caught....Fresh bread, and Foccatia.
First Course: Pasta with both wild boar, and ...fat pig? Apparently there was a difference, but I don't think it quite translated. :) Either way it was surprisingly good....
Second Course: ...this doesn't translate either, but I was told to imagine a small version of a deer with small horns? and Roasted Potatos!!!!
Dessert: Gelato with Carmel. :) Mmmmmmm

And of courses we had amazing wine along with all of this...I am STILL full!!! Quite the experience....Mum and Dad should be proud of me, I tried a little bit of everything! ;)

We went straight from this to horseback riding. My horse was called Marchellina, and was very easy, thankfully. You can see her up above! Especially since all the directions in Italian, and I had to rely on what I remembered from horseback riding in Napa this summer. I must have done something right, however, since Laelle said that the guide said I looked like a natural. HA. At least I *looked* like I knew what I was doing! We had a really fun ride though, through a few different types of forests, and past lots of field, and along the river. Very, very pretty!!!!

From there we headed back into Pisa, and to the Tower, which Mitch had not seen yet. Once we got back to Florence, which thankfully took nowhere near as long as getting TO Pisa, Mitch and I got Gelato at my new favorite Gelateria and I headed home.

That was my weekend! Midterms are next week, so this weekend is going to be spent staying in Florence, working on everything that has to get done! However! As soon as those are done, I will be headed to Viareggio on Sunday for the end of Carnivale, and then to Athens and Berlin for Spring Break! All I have to do is get through my presentations.......

Sunday, February 8, 2009


This last week went by quickly, and was again filled with torrential rain, but we still managed to have lots of fun despite that! Monday and Tuesday were filled with a mad dash to get projects finished, and presented. After that was over, however, the rest of the week passed quite peacefully!

On Wednesday the group of us went out to a little bar called Mayday. We had lots of fun talking to the co-owner, and promised to be back the next night to get some free cake! On the way to a club, we met three Spanish students and had great fun talking in a mixture of Spanish, Italian and English for the rest of the night trying to make ourselves understood...

Thursday my Architecture in Italy class toured the Instituto Delgi Innocenti (Foundling Hospital) in Florence. It's a beautiful building, and it was a lot of fun to see, especially after studying it at WSU! It was an orphanage back in the day, and what's fun is that the building has always been used by organizations for children. Even today UNICEF has a headquarters there, and it is used as a conference space for meetings about Children's rights. Up the top of the building is a Museum space, which just held a competition for the redesign of the space. We got to see all the entries, and although I don't think my favorite one was the one that was selected, I liked most of what they had decided to do. We were also able to go inside Santissima Annunziata, but mass was in session and I didn't want to disturb the service by taking pictures, so I'll have to go back at another time. It was absolutely over-the-top decorated, definitly baroque style!!! Funny that my Music Theory lessons are coming back to help me now....A nice old man let us into the cloister space, however, and I was able to snap a few shots in there! After classes on Thursday Karen and I went to family dinner, and then I met up with Mitch and Laelle from Abroadco at a cafe for coffee and Pictionary. After that I met back up with friends to go to Mayday, where we had our promised treats! We finished up the night at another favorite hangout of the architect crew here, the Joshua Tree.

On Friday Karen and I were up bright and early to catch a train to Bologna! A new friend Laura came with us and we spent the day exploring the city center. We visited two Basilicas, a giant Piazza, and these two towers! The Tower was my favorite part of the day, and I climbed the one on the right! It is 97.6 meters high (about 320 feet), and has about 500 steps to the top...Be very amazed. And it was only 3 Euro to climb! Completley worth the money, and the climb to see the view at the top. Quite a scary climb, however, since it was rickety old wooden staircases, with even more rickety handrails....We kept reaching the 'ceiling' climbing through, and realising that we had yet MORE stairs to climb!!! We all made it eventually, however, and managed to snap a few pictures before the rain and the wind forced us back down the tower. Incidentally, the picture isn't what is making the towers look like they are leaning -- they ARE leaning. Not too much, at least with the one we climbed, but definitely on a slant....We also found a colorful medival market, and Laura and I wandered off and found a giant head!!! See my pictures for more on that adventure...:) All in all I had a wonderful day out. I wouldn't necessarily choose to go back there again, but I had a fantastic time being a tourist for the day.

Next weekend Laura and I are going to Naples, and Pompeii!!! On Sunday i have an outting with Abroadco to Pisa again, where we are going to climb the tower (piece of cake after this!!!) and go horseback riding. Alright, better go and study for my Italian Quiz tomorrow!!!

Monday, February 2, 2009


Just a quick blurb! I thought you might like to see who i'm spending all my time with. :) These are all my architecture classmates! This picture was taken on top of the Colle dorm at Urbino. If you look really closely you might be able to find me in the back, on the left next to Karen.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Weekend Trip to Urbino!

On Thursday my AII class toured the Santo Spirito church, which was beautiful, and then this weekend my AIC class went to Urbino! We all met at some awful hour like 6:45am Friday morning at the train station. Once everyone had arrived, the bus left for the 3 hour drive up to Urbino. Urbino is east of Florence, and we had to drive through the mountains to get there. It was a very twisty road, but what I saw of it was very pretty. I even saw a few minutes of the sunrise before I fell asleep completely! I do remember waking up once, seeing snow outside of the window, and quicky deciding that sleeping was much more favorable. :) The picture here is looking up at the Palazzo Ducale, and the big rounded thing is actually a ramp which the Duke had built, so that he could walk his horse up into the city...We used it the first day to get up to the main street level. The whole city is on MAJOR hills....quite a workout. :)

Once we got to Urbino, and got off the bus we went to the Palazzo Ducale, which is where the Galleria Nazionale delle Marche is based. The Palazzo was origionally where Duke Federico IIda Montefeltro lived. There was lots of really amazing paintings, but the best part of it was the basement!!! There was a whole system down there for collecting rainwater, and heating the palace. The whole thing was made of thousands of bricks....I really want to know how many make up the town of Urbino.......We then split into groups and wandered off to find lunch. A group of about 6 of us found a hole-in-the-wall restaurant that had really good pasta, and quickly ate and then ran back to the bus.

From there, we were driven a few minutes up the hill towards the University housing. Urbino is a University town, and the dean of the University, Carlo Bo, hired the architect John Carlo de Carlo to transform, and preserve some of the existing old buildings of the town for the use of the University. The dorms are on one hill overlooking the rest of the town. Once we hiked the rest of the way up the hill we were given keys for our rooms. We were each given a single bedroom, complete with bathroom to stay in that night! *And* they had turned the heat on in preparation for our arrival!!! This was probably the best part, because it was COLD in Urbino. It must have been at a much higher elevation than Florence...

Once we had left our bags in our rooms, we were taken on a tour of the 4 dorm buildings, where we proceeded to try out every chair in the complex. My favorite parts of all the buildings, however, was always the roof. All the roofs were green roofs, and most of the rooms had terraces that they opened up onto. I'm sure the students of the university were rather amused to see all of us running around on their roofs, taking in the sunshine, and relaxing in the grass.

Once the tour was over, we had about a 2 hour break to do what we wanted. Laura, Karen and I headed back up to the roofs to take pictures, and then we all met up to walk down into Urbino to get dinner at one of the University cafeterias. Cafeterias in Urbino??? MUCH better than Hillside Cafe!!! And only 4 euro for 2 HUGE plates of food, bread, and 2 pieces of fruit!! After dinner we walked up to a bar that the university radio DJ had told us about, and relaxed for a few hours before heading back to the dorms to sleep.

On Saturday we were up at a much more sensible hour, and were allowed to eat breakfast at the cafeteria in the dorm. I had a croissant, and a cappucino. :) And anyone who knows me, and how I am on caffiene can imagine what I was like for the rest of the day.....LOVED the cappucino. Once we had finished, we loaded our bags back on the bus, and then headed back into Urbino for a tour of the University buildings. All of them had amazing views, and were really fun to tour around. The library in one of them had this saying in...Latin? maybe Italian....either way I couldn't read it. :) "May this building last as long as it takes for the ant to drink the sea, and the turtle to circle the world."

Once we had finished our tour, we went back to the cafeteria from the night before for lunch, and then had the rest of the afternoon free to do what we wanted. Christine and I decided to tour the Duomo (big surprise. ;) ) and then walk around the city walls.

At 4:30 we met at the bus, and at 5 we were on our way back to Florence! It was a really fun trip, even though I was exhausted when I got home. :) How all I've got to do is decide what I want to do next weekend....

Pictures from the weekend are up on Picasa. I tried to narrow them down a little bit!!! But I took over 500 pictures...:) oops?