A Travellerspoint blog

"Don’t worry, that strap pops open only because it's broken"

Paragliding off Mount Grappa!

sunny 70 °F

I jumped off a mountain!!
Yesterday, one of my professors offered to take us paragliding off of Mt. Grappa, a mountain near campus. We decided to go ahead and try. OH MY GOD, what an experience. We pull up to the place and they basically give us work boots and send us in this van to the top of the mountain…. No safety videos…. No lesson….. no waiver…. Like pull up and go!

So we are driving up the mountain and there are 22 zigzag turns, so basically when we get to the top I am already nauseous because of the car ride! The driver pulls over a few times, looks off to the side, and finally decides on his destination. “should we jump here? Ehhh fine.”

We look out of the window and see a steep steep hill leading down, a patch of trees, and then a free fall. We immediately regretted our decision to go paragliding haha. We got out and started walking down the hill when the driver yells out the window “don’t you guys want helmets?” Needless to say, the safety procedures here are a litttttle bit different than the US.
So one of the instructors asks “who wants to go with me?” I figured because he spoke good English, it would be a good idea to go with him. Jumping off a mountain is not a time you want a language barrier. So the other instructors start giving safety instructions and he goes “you come over here, I do things a little different.” He puts my harness on, tightening all of the strings. One of them pops open and he says “Oh don’t worry, that strap pops open only because it is broken.” I am terrified. My professor gets all of this on film.

So he says we need to take a big step back, then three running steps forward. He tells me to start when I feel a light breeze against my face, that would be the best time to go. I feel like a light breeze is completely a matter of opinion, and therefore do not move. He finally takes initiative and tells me to GO! So I followed his instructions and literally ran off the side of the mountain.

The take off was really smooth, we were really lucky. Off we sailed into the sky. We were able to go up pretty high. It was sooo beautiful. There were mountains as far as the eye could see and the beautiful Italian country side. A few other students got in the air while we were up there, so we flew around each other. The instructor let me drive and showed me how to do some maneuvers. Turned out he was very nice and gave me a really unique experience! He had been paragliding since he was 4, spoke 5 languages, and has been instructing people from all over the world.

He told me the location we paraglided from is world-renowned. People come from all over Europe because it has unique air temperature that allows you to paraglide longer and higher. We ended up paragliding for about 20 minutes and had a smooth landing. I watched from the bottom as the other students came down. As the day went on, more and more people came to paraglide. There ended up being hundreds of paragliders off the mountains, it looked like birds there were so many!

It was such an amazing day, I have a video link for a quick view of the scenery!

Next up… sky diving with Uncle Gregg ☺

Posted by stephgrebe 01:56 Archived in Italy Tagged air_travel Comments (3)

Merci... wait Grazie? um Gracias? Ok, Thanks

Paris, Barcelona, Madrid, oh my!

sunny 70 °F

IMG_1990.jpgIMG_2044.jpgIMG_2049.jpgIMG_2163.jpgIMG_2234.jpgIMG_2212.jpgAs I write this, I am sitting on a bench in Paderno in 70 degree sun ☺ It has been a long time since I’ve updated, but it has been filled with some amazing amazing experiences.

We had our 9 day travel week where I went to Paris, Barcelona, and Madrid. Paris was the most beautiful city I’ve ever been to. The food, the art, the energy, it is just hard not to fall in love with Paris.

We wasted no time when we got there. We went straight to the Eiffel Tower and got in line to go to the top…. About 20 minutes later we realized we had been waiting in the line for the stairs, not the elevator. SO we wound up walking up 43 flights of stairs…. 782 to be exact…. To the second floor of the Eiffel Tower. The views were soooo beautiful, you could see the entire city. We went back later to see the light show, which we watched eating banana and nutulla crepes on a bench by the river ☺

We saw Notre Dame, the Seine River, Sacre Couer, Moulin Rouge, Red Light District, The Arch de Trumph, and last but not least, the Lourve. I think I could have spent the entire week in Paris. I loved the food, the pastries and bread and steak was UNREAL, and Paris also had the best looking guys I have ever seen. All of them. They were all clean, polished, and put together. They were all so handsome, it was hard to leave! I really want to learn French after going, it was such a beautiful language. Even like the announcements on the Metro sounded beautiful in French.

Our second stop was Barcelona. Now we booked our flights with RyanAir again, who had a special deal on flights. We ended up getting our flight from Paris to Barcelona for 4 Euros, and from Barcelona to Madrid for 9 E. However, these were the most ghetto flights I have ever been on. They land in airports that are about an hour outside of the city, so it is really a long journey going from one place to another, however it was extremely cheap.

Barcelona was BEAUITFUL. We walked off the plane and were greeted with 70 degree, sunny weather. We spent the day walking Las Ramblas, which is a big street down the center of the city FILLED with street performers, vendors, artists, and some very very bizarre merchandize. I could have bought my groceries, a painting, a rooster, and some turtles in the same 20ft stretch of land. Then we walked down to the beach and took a cable car ride over the entire city.

The next day we went to the beach in the morning. We got some Malibu and sat out by the shore. Then we went to see some of the architecture built by Gaudi. I had no idea how beautiful his designs were. We first went to Park Guell which looked honestly like candy land. The houses were so beautiful, just like ginger bread houses. The park had tiled walls and staircases that lead up to a beautiful view of the city where you could sit and listen to this great live band! We then went to La Sagrada Familia, a church designed by Gaudi that has been under construction since 1882 and isn’t expected to be done for hundreds of years. It was stunning! We also went to the Picasso Museum in Barcelona that was one of my favorite stops.

The last stop on our trip was Madrid. Unfortunately the weather was not as nice there, which is a bummer because Madrid is all about the architecture. We walked around the city and went to a lot of the sights. We ended up meeting up with our friend Ryan from CIMBA who took us out boating on this beautiful pond and showing us around Madrid. Our 3 days were filled with Sangria, Mojitos, Sangria, Tapas, and Sangria. Spanish food was very different. I tried Paella, ate a lot of sea food, and had some questionable tapas. We really enjoyed Spain!

The trip was just wonderful. We had 3 very unique destinations and I feel like the 9 days honestly went on forever! I would go back to all three places in a heart beat, but I think Paris ultimately won out.

Life back in Paderno has been really busy. I’ve never been so busy before! We have activities, certifications, and seminars almost every night, and the classes are really starting to pick up. There is very little down time when I’m on campus.
This weekend I had a class field trip to Trieste. I had no idea what to expect. Turns out Trieste is on the other side of the Adriatic Sea, about 2 kilometers away from Slovenia. It was like a beach resort. I felt like we went to Maui for the day! First we went to a war memorial that was hundreds and hundreds of steps with names of Italian soilders on them. It was really neat, I’ve never been to a memorial like this before. Then we went to the sea shore and explored the castle and the surrounding gardens. I can’t say I’ve ever been on a class field trip like that before!

Posted by stephgrebe 14:27 Archived in France Tagged round_the_world Comments (2)

Palermo, Sicily Vacation

sunny 65 °F

I’m writing from my sunny balcony in Paderno, recovering from our weekend vacation to Sicily, Italy! We had such a wonderful 3-day vacation out on the beach! It was very different than our other trips. We usually try to sight see and cram as much into every trip as possible, but we decided to relax and slow down for our trip to Sicily.

I traveled with Jake, J.J., Colleen, Chris, and Jessica. We rented an apartment in Palermo, Sicily. It ended up being in this sketchy ally, with Louis Vuitton around the corner. Colleen and I took the private room and shared a big bed, while the other four slept in the main room in bunk beds. I think we got the better end of the deal. We got there really late at night on Thursday, so we didn’t do much exploring.

We took a taxi to the apartment and immediately noticed the first difference between Paderno and Sicily. Now, normally the way Italians drive is terrifying. The roads are thin, they go close to 100mph around small corners where you cannot see if anyone else is coming…. Basically every instinct you have while driving, they do the opposite. Like when you would instinctively step on the break to avoid hitting someone, they hit the gas to intimidate and swerve around said person…. It is terrifying. Now in Sicily, not only do they drive at insane speeds, but apparently lanes are just decoration. Our taxi driver drove down the middle of the highway, between two lanes, for a solid 20 minutes. He just moved in and out of lanes as he pleased, no checking, no turn signal…. I feel lucky to be alive.

On Friday morning Jessica and I went out to the market down the street to find breakfast for everyone. It was such a different lifestyle than northern Italy. First off, we were the only tourists in sight, so we were just stared down everywhere we went. The market had fresh fruit, veggies, and fish everywhere. We got a ton of fresh fruit and stopped at a Pastaria for some fresh pastries. We got everyone up and moving and caught the bus to Mondello Beach, about 20 minutes away. The beach was just stunning, incredibly blue water surrounded by mountains and fountains. We layed in the sun for hours, getting some fruity drinks, and just taking in the warmth! We walked up and down the beach where there were vendors selling all sorts of jewelry and accessories… the boys didn’t enjoy that much.

We stopped and got Sicilian pizza, which was very different than we expected! It was very thick crust, thin cheese, barely any sauce, and tons of toppings. I got one with eggplant, proscutto, and tomatoes. It was so different but SO good. We left the beach and the girls went to the strip of shops by our apartment. It felt like Worth Ave in Florida… warm, sunny, palm trees, and shopping ☺ After our long day of shopping and beaching, we got all dolled up for a night out in Sicily. We really wanted traditional Sicilan food, but we found that English was not very common. We had trouble finding somewhere open with authentic food. We settled on a small pizzaria where we tried Risotto and some local wine.

We went back to our apartment afterwards, meeting up with a bunch of other guys from the program who were staying at the same complex. They all came over and all sorts of shenanigans went down. It is very different traveling with guys, they are not quite as clean and respectful as girls. Their first inclination was to remove all of the mattresses from the bunk beds and create a “superbed” in the common room… needless to say it was an interesting weekend.

After a night of nonsense we went out again Saturday morning to the Market. We decided we wanted to take advantage of having a full kitchen in our apartment and cook a meal for our group. Easier said than done! In Italy, quality is extremely valued… applied to wine, food, clothes cars ect. So nothing is really as Mcdonaldized as in America. In order to cook our meal we had to go to the fruit and veggie stand, a spice stand, a meat store, the bread shop, and the grocery store. It took over an hour of shopping and planning. This really speaks to their culture and how important fine food is to them. We then went to the beach again for a few hours, came home, and started cooking. We sent the boys out for wine and cheese and while they were gone cooked: Pasta with homemade meat sauce (with fresh mushrooms, ground beef, and basal.) We made fresh grilled peppers and mushrooms, a big salad with tons of veggies, wine, and cheese. It was SUCH a good meal, and just so much fun to cook again, I’ve missed that. After dinner we had another night of hotel shenanigans, resulting in another superbed. It was just a great group to travel with, we all get along really well and had a good time. We came back late Sunday, exhausted but proud of our tans and relaxing time!

Over the past week we’ve done a lot of cultural Italian workshops through CIMBA. I did a “Date with a professor” night where a professor took a group of us to a local pizzaria where we got to learn and try making our own pizza from the owner. He only spoke Italian so it was very interesting! We also had a night out with Italian students who took us to a pizzaria and bar in town. This week we have a tiramisu making workshop, formal dinner, and Italian company shadowing. They just keep us crazy busy, which is awesome, but it really makes time fly. I cannot believe we have our second travel break starting Friday, I feel like that means the end is near ☹ We are going to Paris, Barcelona, and Madrid for 9 days, so I’m very excited, but also getting upset that our time is running out!

I love you all very much and will write again soon! Xoxoxo

Posted by stephgrebe 03:52 Archived in Italy Tagged round_the_world Comments (2)

Ireland and London

First travel week

sunny 60 °F

blog.jpgblog2.jpgblog3.jpgblog4.jpgblog5.jpgblog7.jpgI feel like it has been so long since I’ve written, but there has just been so much going on! I went on a 9-day trip to Ireland and London and had the time of my life. I am going to do the best I can to describe it, but there are no words.

I have fallen in love with Ireland and completely understand this PS I Love You nonsense because not only do you fall in love with the country, but the cute Irish boys with the accents…. No elaboration necessary. I’m going to start by outlining the Irish culture a little to give you a feel for the country. They have the most sarcastic, witty, cynical sense of humor that is just charming. We learned from our tour guide that in order to be Irish, you need to master the art of “telling someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the journey.” Their food is described as simple but sincere. Irish stew, potatoes, cabbage, corned beef, Irish soda bread…. Just delicious. Once you get use to the accents and the driving on the other side of the road, you really feel at home in Ireland. The food feels home cooked, the charm of the pubs…. I could go on forever. But I’ll talk about the actual trip now.

We arrived in Dublin on sat. afternoon after a long morning of travel. We flew the discount airline, Ryan air, which was a great deal, but a bit of a ghetto flight to say the least. We found our hostel pretty easily riding in a double-decker bus, after adjusting to driving on the other side of the street! It was a very nice hostel. We shared our room with three Australian students who asked "where abouts are you from" and "is university in America really like the movies ?". They were taking a year off before college to travel, which we found out was a common practice in Australia after meeting tons of students doing just that. How amazing would that be.

Our stay in Dublin was filled with Irish Cider, shopping, pubs, live Irish music, and a tour of the Guinness Factory, which confirmed my disliking of Guinness. However, it was so interesting to see the history, how it was made, and the 360-degree glass bar at the top of the factory where you could see all of Dublin. We made some great friends at our hostel and managed to find a valentine to take us out on Vday. He surprised us by having the Irish band at the pub dedicate *Galway Girl to us (*see PS I Love You).

The next 3 days we took a tour down the west coast of Ireland. It was just breathtaking. We booked our tour with Paddy Wagon tours, so we had a tour guide from Ireland driving us around, explaining the history and the sights. His name was Conrad and he definitely loved having us girls on his tour. He took us to Galway, The Cliffs of Moher, Cork, Limerick, Kilkenny… my favorite by far being the Cliffs. They were so beautiful, I can’t describe them, you need to see the pictures. We also kissed the Blarney Stone at the Blarney Castle which entailed leaning backwards over the edge of a castle to kiss the historic stone, AH. We learned so much about the history of Ireland and it was amazing to see where everything took place. I would go back to Ireland in a heartbeat, I really enjoyed it.

The next day we went to London. When we got there, our hostel just wasn’t what we were looking for and we were pretty disappointed. We looked everywhere for a new hotel and found ourselves kind of stuck with nowhere to stay. Luckily, Colleen’s parents had credit card points that we used to get a very nice hotel in the center of London, we really lucked out. So once we got settled we immediately headed to Leicester Square to find theatre tickets for the night. We decided to see Jersey Boys, which was INCREDIBLE! We had such a great night at the show and they were SO talented. I felt like we were at a live concert. We went out after with some of Colleen’s friends who were studying in London and got a good feel for the nightlife. It was easy to adapt to London, we felt like we fit in a bit more and didn’t stick out as tourists…. Well until we crossed the street and looked the wrong way ☺

The next few days in London were filled with sight seeing! We saw London Bridge, Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace, The changing of the guards, Notting Hill, Big Ben, The London Eye, Westminster Abby ect… we took a boat ride through the center of London, it was just beautiful. London was exactly what I pictured it being and we had a great time learning to use the Tube and the double-decker buses! We got to see Les Mis the second night, which is my favorite musical of all time. It was SO good, we just cried. I could have spent all of London seeing shows, it is just in such a great area of town with all the theaters and the lights.

Well I could go on forever about this trip! We got back to Paderno and have been crazy busy studying and writing papers. The classes are so intensive here, we really have no down time! But we are very excited for next weekend. Me, Jake, Colleen, Jessica, Chris, and JJ rented an apartment in Sicily for 3 days and are going to go lay out on the beach and relax a bit down south. We are sooo excited! Then the following week we are working out the details of our next 9 day trip going to Paris, Barcelona, and Madrid. Time is flying so fast here and I cannot wait to keep traveling! I love you all and hope you are surviving the cold weather at home! Xoxoxoxxoxo

Posted by stephgrebe 08:49 Archived in Ireland Tagged round_the_world Comments (2)

Ventuno in Italia....

sunny 50 °F

So it has just been a wonderful week! On Wednesday we had our first formal dinner. Before the dinner, we had a European Etiquette seminar where we learned how to properly dine in Europe. We learned about napkin placements, toasting, and how to use 12 forks in one meal. Your hands always need to be above the table, you cut with your right hand and eat with your left, never putting down the silverware, you never fill your glass more than a 3rd of the way…. All things I’m glad I knew before we got to the restaurant.

We all got dressed up and got on coach buses that took us to a fancy restaurant in Castelfranco, which is like 45 minutes away. The ballroom we were in was sooo beautiful. There were probably 20 tables set and waiting. The first course was antipasta, where we got this bread with tons of vegetables and cheese, then a stuffed artichoke with cheese, then a stuffed pastry. Then we moved on to the risotto which didn’t necessarily look appealing, but oh my gosh it was delicious. We then had a pasta course which were thick noodles with a white sauce and I guess it was duck in it, we found that out later. After that we had a beef course with these little potatoes, which were delicious. THEN my favorite part was the dessert. It was a pastry with hazelnut ice cream inside and whipped cream on top. Then the waiters walked around with hot chocolate sauce that they poured over the top. OH it was heaven. Then the espresso course, then home! It was the most delicious food I have ever had, and it was so nice to have good wine that was matched perfectly with the meal. I cannot WAIT for the next meal. I also got inducted into the honors fraternity at dinner, Phi Beta Delta. We got certificates and medals. Overall it was just such a nice evening and really nice to get away from the cafeteria food!!

The next night my friends arranged a birthday party for me at La Piazza, a small bar here on campus. We got to make our own mix cds for them to play (which is a big deal considering the American music here consists of shaggy and MJ). Everyone was just so sweet for my birthday! I didn’t pay for a drink all night and had my fair share, they got me a birthday cake and had everyone sing, I just felt so appreciative to have met such wonderful people here. They did everything they could to make it a good birthday and I had SUCH a wonderful night.

They came and woke me up this morning for my 8am Italian exam and my 10am Vis com test…. Coca Cola Light in hand. It was such a beautiful day today too, 50 degrees and sunny. Colleen and I sat out in the sun and made valentines for our guy friends here. All the boys ended up making us valentines and Jake even went out and got us girls these delicious home made chocolates from the pastry shop! I’m telling you, I could not have made better friends here! Tonight we went out to a new Pizzaria for birthday dinner. I got a pizza with artichoke, preschutto, and mozzarella…. Needless to say I ate the entire thing.

We are now just finishing packing for our 9 day trip. Tomorrow morning we will leave for Ireland. I am so excited to see a new part of Europe and explore! I will not be back until the 21st, and until then have to live off of 10kg of luggage. Thank you so much for all of the birthday cards and wishes. I love you all so much and will report back about my findings in Ireland and London!

Posted by stephgrebe 14:01 Archived in Italy Tagged living_abroad Comments (2)

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