Our final day of our Athens to Rome Educational Adventure was a day of individual exploration and the pursuit of personal interests... The agenda this day split our large group of Buffalo & Kaycee travelers into two - those who were touring the catacombs, and those who were exploring other interests... Much like our evening in Athens where I watched the sunset with five students and then ate a traditional dinner and smashed plates while Brent led students to the Greek evening, and Roxanne and Tamatha took a group of girls to the sea for the evening, today we split up early, and then again into even smaller groups as the day progressed. For the morning, as a few students went with Tamatha to a bazaar and a good shopping district, the rest of us toured through the dark, windy catacombs to better understand old world burial practices...
Next, those who toured the catacombs moved on to visit the famous and beautifully ornate Saint Paul's Basilica. A mass was in session, and the choir was singing, and it was an altogether surreal experience - much more relaxed than visiting Saint Peter's Basilica the day prior...
before entering the church, two BHS students and two Kaycee students, Jeremiah, Morgan, Elena, & Mataya, showed off their acting skills in a reenactment of the story of Saint Paul while out on the courtyard....
we had one final meal together today as a cohort - a pizza lunch with a seemingly never ending supply of pizza, salad, and ice cream.... Then we all split out in separate directions to explore our interests in Rome. Most student travelers who were traveling with a parent went with their parent to explore the city - whether exploring restaurants, churches, landmarks, or wandering about. The other student travelers divided among their chaperones to explore more. The Kaycee group decided to take it a bit easier today, to sit at cafes, shop a bit, and people watch in central areas. Our Buffalo group went directly to the Circus Maximus, then walked quite a ways along the Tiber River.
our group then went on to view the Castel St'Angelo, relax and get drinks in the Piazza Navona - so that We might actually live by the adage "do as the Romans do" for an hour, and we toured the Pantheon! Afterwards, we traveled north to reunite with our other group of 7 BHS travelers who had just finished shopping so that we could all go out to eat together... Our meal this evening was exceptional, and we had many stories to share with each other.
we had one last gelato together as a group, then returned to meet our Kaycee travelers and the California group we had been traveling with as well to return to the hotel and say Arrivederci to Rome!!
All in all, this was an incredible trip - packed with activities and attractions that we will remember for a lifetime. Although this blog only shows bits and pieces of our trip from my limited perspective, hopefully you were able to get a taste of what this experience was all about. My biggest regret is not having others "guest blog" as we traveled... Perhaps I can have a student, another chaperone, and some Kaycee travelers stop by and share a story or two and photos sometime soon to get a better rounded perspective. But for now, thanks for reading, and Ciao!
It has been a couple days since I updated with more details from our trip.... They have just been REALLY busy days! So let's go back and recap from day one in Rome, all in Pictures!
Today we had a full day of sightseeing in Rome! We toured the Vatican, with the Sistine Chapel and Saint Peters Basilica, and the Colosseum and Roman Forum! We hung out at the Piazza di Spanga, ascended the Spanish steps for panoramic views of the city, ate pasta, pizza, & gelato, shopped, wandered, and so many more wonderful things.... Then tonight we took a nighttime tour of Rome to see the many monuments all lit up at night!! For now, I will just post a couple of pics -- and the rest will all need to come in another post tomorrow - for we are all just simply too tired tonight!
Ciao for now....
Today our group began our day on the sea... After docking in Bari, Italy around 10am, (and after a short-lived "passport scare" from Shea, we de-boarded and met our new bus driver, Carmine, to begin our journey to Pompeii. As we drove, the students kept commenting on how beautiful the countryside is... It is so lush and green right now - a nice contrast to our landscapes back home this time of year. Most of our travelers had a good night on the boat, with a few managing mild motion sickness.
When we arrived in Pompeii, we had our first Italian pizzas and pasta with gelato for dessert, then we shopped and wandered about. Shortly after, we entered the ruins of the old ancient city of Pompeii that was destroyed by the Vesuvius volcano nearly 2000 years ago, then preserved for millennia under over 60 feet of volcanic ash.
there were several lovely moments as we toured the ruins - my personal favorite being when the local guide asked me if we had any good singers - I immediately thought of Ellie, and he requested (with some pressure) that she sing in the ancient theater so that we may all experience the lovely acoustics of be ancient structure as the people of Pompeii no doubt once did.... She did a lovely job on the spot under pressure!!
We wandered through the old city streets, shops, and houses, observing the unbelievably preserved frescos on many of the walls, as well as mosaic tiling, several phallic images which some of our students found especially amusing, and big open courtyards with statures. Perhaps most amazing was the collection we viewed in the end of the pottery, housewares, and furniture that was found within the ruins. We also saw the somber images of a few bodies that had been casted by the ashes and lava from the explosion two thousand years ago.
It is so great to watch our students stare around in wonder and awe at such an incredible icon of human history. After spending four or five hours in Pompeii, we boarded our bus and set out for our next destination.
We are now only moments from arriving at our destination for the night - romantic and restless Rome!
From flirtatious exchanges with Italian boys at a gas station to a pigeon nearly scaring Pake to death, we have also had a ton of simple, fun moments along the way as well.
So the ferry boat's wifi is up and working now and several students bought access. The views leaving Greece were spectacular - a beautiful goodbye to a country we enjoyed so much! We just passed by an area of the Mediterranean that came up listed on our gps as Ithaca... Which launched a few of our students into discussions of Odysseus' journey in The Odyssey.
it is nearly 10:30pm here now and the students are turning in to bed - or at least the few who are still awake.... Although the pool was closed for the season on the ship, the kids found good old fashioned ways to connect and wandered out to the decks to appreciate the beauty of the islands and the sea.
notice to all parents following the blog: there is no phone reception or wifi on our ferry boat tonight!!
All travelers are here, safe, and having fun! But you may not hear from them for the next 12ish hours...
When we wake up - we will be in Italy!!
Today we spent the morning and lunch time in Olympia, Greece. After breakfast, we visited a local producer of olive oils. We participated in an olive oil brief introduction and tasting session. Students used toothpicks and small prices of bread to taste the wide array of olive oils produced throughout Greece!
We spent the latter half of the morning until 2pm exploring the original Olympic stadium and the ancient Olympic Village. After learning about the history of the area and quite a bit more Greek Mythology, we were able to walk throughout the site, run on the original Olympic track, and marvel at the ruins of the temple of Zeus.
After our tour of the Olympic Village and Stadium, we toured the museum (where the students found ore wifi ;-) and we ate lunch at a delightful little outdoor Greek restaurant before loading the bus to travel on to Patras. This is our last day in Greece, and we will spend tonight on a ferry boat on international waters. So Goodbye Greece!! It's been fun, but Italy here we come!!!
From Athens, to Corinth, to Epidaurus, to Mycenae, to Olympia..... Today was a full day of travel through lush landscapes, iconic landmarks, and short stops and visits to an ancient theater, palace, tomb, and modern Grecian pottery shop!
our first stop was at Epidaurus - the most complete example of an Ancient Greek amphitheater that still exists... It was amazing to walk up and down the stairs, relax in the seats, and listen to the acoustics that the Greeks had designed so many centuries ago!
Our next stop was in Mycenae... We visited the Acropolis of Mycenae - the palace and stronghold of King Agamemnon. This site dates back to the 14th century BC!!! The surrounding landscapes were unreal. At one point, Ellie turned to me and exclaimed that there was so much incredible farm land in every direction. I smiled and thought - that was a very thoughtful "Wyoming" -like observation to make! We had quite the lesson grounded both in history and mythology by a clever local guide where we learned that Morgan has quite a bit of background in Mythology... :-) When we finished touring and learning, we had an opportunity to enjoy the best fresh squeezed orange juice imaginable! We then ventured on to Agamemnon's father's tomb where we faced a swarm of bees head on to enter the dark, swampy-smelling cave/tomb. We then ate lunch at a rather posh Greek restaurant in Mycenae and said goodbye to our local guide, Theodore - who Garrett, Jack, & Jer seemed especially attached to... :-)
After leaving Mycenae, we ventured forwardtoward Olympia, stopping along the way to visit a lovely artisan shop full of handmade pottery and statues where we also observed a brief Greek pottery demonstration! We are still in the bus, closing in onOlympia where we will stay for the night, and we are surrounded by beautiful landscapes out of every window!! When we arrive, we will enjoy another dinner together and settle in for the night!
today we began our day with breakfast and an introductory tour of the city or Athens. After stopping at important buildings, a former leader's mansion, and the Olympic stadium, we visited the Acropolis, the Parthenon and the Museum Acropolis....
After the museum visit, we broke off into small groups and explored various parts in the city. Some students went shopping, others went to the pier or the beach, but all were back on time! Half of our group enjoyed the "Greek Evening" tonight, complete with a traditional Greek meal, music and dancing - and the other half spent time with one of their chaperones to either take in the beaches with a seaside dinner or go watch the sunset from the Rocks beneath the Parthenon and eat lamb souvlaki while listening to live Greek music and "smashing plates." ☺️
All in all, today was an exciting day for all, and we are turning in to bed quite thoroughly exhausted!
Tonight was a stress free night... We met the tour director, Artin, at the airport and took a bus into the city center to our hotel. As we drove into the city, the cityscape spread out before us, glistening and ivory-colored. Athens truly is a beautiful city! We checked into our hotel and had some rest time before a buffet dinner at the hotel... Complete with delicious Greek olives, salads, stuffed peppers, and local meats.
After dinner, travelers had two options - return to their hotel rooms to rest up for tomorrow, or to enter further into the city to explore at nighttime with Brent, Tamatha, and me... 5 BHS travelers chose sleep as it was difficult to sleep on the plane, but the other 12 ventured into the city to see the Parthenon, plaka, and a few famous squares all lit up for the night. While out, we found shops, gelato, desserts, delicious coffee, and several landmarks, artifacts, and pleasant scenes... We returned to the hotel by 10:15 and called it a night.
Wake up calls are at 6:45am tomorrow morning, and we will hit the ground running to explore the beautiful city of Athens!