Sitting on my couch with three puppy dogs gathered at my feet, back in Rockford, IL for almost twenty-four hours.
The combination of jet-lag and the shock associated with coming home and leaving a foreign country and a semester abroad have me writing at a snail’s pace and wondering if the words I’m typing make any sense whatsoever. I’m just going to hope they do and keep tapping away.
I last wrote from the airport in Prague, about to leave behind the place I lived for four months, but not going all the way home quite yet. Because a good adventure always has multiple parts—as my friend Claire pointed out to me this morning over frozen yogurt, my “trip” was really a series of trips. The last leg began the day I left Prague behind, and a day before my big brother boarded a flight for Dublin where we would meet.
One of the greatest pleasures of these past months is undoubtedly the opportunity I had to get to know my Irish relatives, Aidan and Rita, and to spend time with them in their home in Dublin. I tearfully boarded my departure flight, but Aidan’s smiling face greeting me at the airport terminal lifted my spirits. Leaving one home behind, I felt like I was returning to another piece of my heart in the great green land of Ireland.
It was a brief visit in Ireland, as David joined me the next day and we boarded a plane to Rome to begin our own excellent adventure, which we dubbed as “Megan and David doing stuff in Europe.” The ambiguity of that title matches the “fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants” approach we took to the trip. This was our first sibling-duo trip in a foreign country, and for that matter, one of the first times in years we had a solid two weeks to spend together just the two of us. It could have been disastrous of course—two kids who haven’t spent a huge chunk of time together in ages taking off in a foreign country without any plans except a departure flight in Barcelona on the eighth of June—but it’s the Schneider siblings we speak of. So we didn’t waste our energy worrying. We spent it having a blast.
We had two weeks together in Europe. We landed in Rome on the 26th, and flew out of Barcelona on the 8th. In-between we visited ten plus cities and three countries, ate twenty-something baguettes, covered 850+ miles, rode nine trains and two buses, made a bundleful of memories to take back with us. And we managed to do it without going broke or crazy!
Some of the places we visited: Rome, Assisi, Florence, Lucca, Pisa, Cinque Terre, Nice, Marseilles, and Barcelona.
Our favorite big city: Barcelona! We couch-surfed with Federico and his two flat-mates, Vasco and Carlos. A great group of guys who opened up their home to us and showed us the city.
Our favorite little city: Assisi. Talk about a city on a hill! We arrived right after a rain-storm and we took a walk in the evening with new friend Anna Mae, an American taking a biking holiday through the valley and surrounding Italian landscape. The sun dipped the idyllic stone town and its green hillside in golden light. We visited St. Francis’s grave beneath the cathedral the following day and were moved by the opportunity to walk the same streets of the man whose mission and passions have shaped our lives in such a profound way.
Over the next couple weeks I’m going to post more stories about our trip since quite a bit happened, but for now just one brief story we both have been sharing with friends and family asking about our trip:
We arrived in Pisa at about 2 pm one day to find that our hostel didn’t exist. So after our obligatory photo-op at the Leaning Tower and an interesting encounter with an Italian youth techno-weed-fest, we boarded the train to La Spezia and then to Monterosso (the fifth and final town of Cinque Terre). There we camped out under the stars up off the beach beneath some trees. Yes, it was a bit chilly. No, we don’t know if it was legal. Would we do it again? In a heartbeat.
‘Til next time