The past few days have been pretty insane! First of all, starting last Wednesday we had a 2 and a half-day leadership training program called LIFE which was SO intense. At first, all of my friends and I really, really disliked it but by the end, we were so happy we did it. It was pretty helpful and interesting but most of all, it helped us all really get to know the other kids on our trip! There were a lot of public speaking, leadership, team building, etc. exercises that were pretty tough but we all did well!
Then Friday afternoon, after we "graduated," we left for Venice for the weekend! We took a bus to the train station, then a train into Mestre, where we caught another bus to our hostel. Our hostel was interesting and pretty funny actually- it was called Camping Jolly, but luckily it was cabins and not tents! Once we got there, we were all exhausted from the past few days of LIFE so we got dinner and went to bed. We woke up early and left for Venice! Our hostel was actually on the mainland, not the island of Venice, so we took a shuttle into the dock where we then had to get on the "People Mover" which looks like a tram car in Disney World, that brought us right in. When we got our first view of the canal and buildings, we all were sooo excited- I couldn't believe we were actually there! Being on campus has been so beautiful but since we've arrived we've been so busy that we haven't had that much time to actually soak it in- so getting to Venice actually made me realize, oh my God, I'm actually in Italy! We spent the majority of the day roaming around all the little streets and alley ways, with the intention of ending up in St. Mark's Square. We sat outside and got pizza for lunch, sitting right next to the canal, stopped in a few shops... we really just took our time. It sounds cheesy but the only way I can think of to describe it is magical- it's such an old city and there is so much charm and beauty to it, it's impossible to feel anything but happy when you're there!
We finally made our way into St. Mark's Square and it was actually breathtaking. You're surrounded by all these amazing, huge buildings- all I could do was stare. We just looked around for a while and then ran into some other kids from our program so we just sat by the water and hung out with them for a while. Then, Mandy and I really wanted to go into the Basilica so we split from the group and went into there. (We had planned ahead for our clothes- Mandy did some research and made sure our knees and shoulders were covered so that we would be allowed in ). It was absolutely stunning- the ceiling is entirely made of these tiny little tiles that create beautiful mosaics and scenes. We went around 4pm so the sun was starting to set- it was a perfect time to be there with the sun pouring in. I am SO happy we went in- definitely worth wearing my jeans in the hot weather! We met up with the other girls in the Square where all the pigeons are... SO GROSS. Those stupid birds literally walk right up to you and fly so low they almost hit my head multiple times. This only furthered my hatred for birds. I sometimes had to look away because you would see these crazy people with food in their hands fully covered in pigeons- all over their arms and head. I almost gagged. A few of my friends even fed some of them... yuck. But it was funny to watch and we were all running around screaming and laughing like idiots. Our last stop in Venice was a gondala ride! It was so fun and our gondalier told us some really cool things as he rowed along. Like sometimes, the water in the canals gets so high that the sharp point on the front of gondalas actually scrape the bridges that they go under!
Next, we boarded a water taxi to the island of Lido. We had dinner there (Paul- I had gnocchi- your favorite!) and then went to search for the International Film Festival that we had heard was there! (Some kids from our program were in Venice the weekend before and had told us about it!) We walked for a while but found it! At first we saw a ton of people coming in and out dressed really formally, but we went in anyway and found other tourists just checking out the scene. We found the red carpet which was so exciting and just stood there for a little but no one was coming out yet. We heard a few American girls talking next to us and we turned to say hello and I realized it was my friend from home who is studying in Rome for the semester!!! Such a weird and funny coincidence! Her and her friends were staying to see one of the movies that were premiering but my friends and I kept heading towards a beach party that we had heard about. Sadly, my friend texted me ten minutes later that Adam Brody (a cute American actor) had just come out on the carpet! Wahhh, I was mad but oh well!
We then got to this beach party which was so much fun! All of my friends and I met so many cool people from all over the world- Brazil, London, Australia, Amsterdam, etc.- and everyone is so friendly! The other kids we had met up with from our program earlier that day met us there too. We stayed our pretty late but finally got home via water taxi and bus! We were exhausted from walking so much and being out so late so we all passed out. We got up the next day and went back to the island where we took a water taxi to the island of Murano- which is known for it's glass blowing. We were trying to go see a demonstration but they told us they don't do it on Sundays so that was dissappointing but it was still so beautiful and I'm glad we went! We went in and out of a lot of shops to see the glass which is SO cool! (Kate- you would love it there!) By then we were all so tired so we took the water taxi back to the train station where we boarded to come home ( and do homework ). It was such an amazing weekend- Venice is definitely one of the coolest places I've ever been! Such an awesome experience! :)