Tag Archives: Italia

Content about Italy.

Italia in 40: Day 34…Pope Francis, Rain, and AZZURRO!

Today was once again a perfect day in Italy. I can’t believe everything came together like it did.

SN: I had planned to get tickets to a papal audience later in the week…

I woke up at 9 and met my friend out in front of my building at around 10. We took the subway to the area around Vatican City. He’d never been to St. Peter’s so we were going to go check it out. First, we walked the wrong way and had to navigate back toward the cathedral. There are hundreds of “guides” always asking you to sign up for a tour, but yesterday they kept telling us that the church was closed until 2. I thought about turning back, but thank goodness, we kept walking and we realized the Pope was going to be speaking in only about an hour and a half.

We got ready to go through the medal detectors to walk into St. Peter’s Square and I remembered I had a knife in my bag. I had a boyfriend one time whose dad always carried a knife and I remembered him stashing his in the bushes one time when we went into the courthouse, so I got out of line and went and hid my knife under a palm tree and then we went into the square. There was a gathering of volunteer health workers in the square and although we weren’t sure the Pope would come out, I assumed he would so I wanted to wait just in case. I waited with my friend for about 30 minutes, but then I saw there was a better spot to get closer to the path that I thought the Popemobile would take, so I wiggled my way through the crowed and found an opening to get into the center part of the square and then inched my way down the gates so that I could get a good view. We waited about 40 minutes and were about to leave, but I decided to wait until 10 after noon, just in case. Sure enough, about that time, the crowed started cheering and I could see the Pope riding around on the screens they had set-up at both sides of the square. A few minutes later he drove right past the place I was standing! It was so crazy! I was shocked. He looked older in person, but he also looked really happy and he was smiling, but looked genuinely excited to be there. I’ve always thought that being the Pope would be so exhausting, but he was out there in in 85+ degree weather, no shade in sight, and just looked stoked about life. I am still just so shocked I got to see the Pope! I officially converted to Catholicism 2 years ago, so it’s extra special that I’ve already got to see the Pope. I hope it’s not the last time…I would love to go to midnight mass at Christmas one day! It’s hard for me to truly believe in the complete infallibility of the Pope, but if there ever was a Pope that could be infallible, I think Francis would be it.

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After seeing the Pope, we were super hot and tired, so we went back to my friend’s apartment. We stopped at a little market and bought drinks, fruit, and pasta and it was only 6 Euros! He cooked us lunch and I sliced up the fruit and we just relaxed for a little bit, before leaving to go to Palatine Hill. We just got to Palatine Hill when it started to get really cloudy and began to rain, so we decided to skip that and go to the Pantheon. We rode to the Spagna stop and walked toward the Pantheon, but it was crowded and raining so we kept getting lost.

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We eventually made it to the Pantheon and he went inside to take pictures and I went to a little cafe and got a coffee. After the Pantheon, we went back to my apartment so that he could use my computer and I could rest. He left around 8 and I tried to take a nap, but couldn’t.

Two days ago, someone stole my credit card info and purchased some stuff from Wal-Mart.com. I called my bank and told them that I was out of the country and hadn’t been in the U.S. for over a month, but they can’t do anything until I return to the country because they would have to cancel my card. I called my bank and took care of that and then showered and got ready to go out to watch Italy v England in the World Cup!

I looked online and found a pub near my building called Blind Pig, but on our way there we walked past another place that was more full and had food. We stopped and watched the first half of the game and split some pizza and wine. After the first half, we walked down the the Blind Pig and watched the rest. I really recommend this place. It’s the only place I’ve ever been to in Italy that sells craft beer on draft. They also serve food and it is decorated in a really cool way! I would definitely check it out if you are young or you like beer, or both! I had a beer called Apollo and it was delicious!

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After the game was over, my friend realized he had missed the last train for the night (in Rome trains stop running at 1:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights), so he walked me halfway back to my place and then we parted ways. It was really sad. We met last Christmas at school, where he was a foreign exchange student, so it’s going to be hard to stay in touch and see each other again. He’s the only other person I’ve ever met that is as interested in foreign languages as me, so I am really glad that we became friends. I have really weird interests, so it’s really hard for me to make friends and find people that are passionate about the same things as me. Even though I grew up in the Army, it’s still hard to say goodbye to a friend when you don’t know if you will ever see them again…

I didn’t get back to my place until 2:30 and I didn’t go to bed until 6 a.m…

To be continued…

Italia in 40: Day 33…Roma, Trevi, and World Cup!

Today I woke up early and checked out of my hotel. I definitely recommend Hotel Berti if you ever go to Assisi. It’s 200 meters from the Basilica of St. Francis, has free WiFi, is CLEAN, there is a full bar downstairs, breakfast is included, and it was 150 bucks for 3 nights (I’ve paid 80 a night at Hampton Inn, so I feel like it’s a good deal)!

After checking out, I went down to the bus stop, but after waiting a few minutes I looked more closely at the schedule and although the bus arrived at my stop at 8:42, it didn’t get to the train station until almost 12, which meant I would have missed my train. I panicked a bit, but I asked a cab driver how much a taxi would cost and he said only 10 Euros! I took a taxi to the train station and then check out the schedule and saw that the next train left at 9:40. There was an old-timey bar at the station with about ten 60 year old men drinking coffee and shootin’ the shit, so I got a pastry, some juice, and a cappuccino while I waited.

The train came and I went to Foglino where I had to transfer and wait for about 40 minutes for my train to Rome. The train to Rome arrived on time and the ride was gorgeous. We went through several sunflower fields, which reminded me of Under the Tuscan sun-they were just so beautiful. At some point the train was delayed by over 20 minutes! I had originally called the owner of my B&B and told him I would be here between 12:45 and 1, but I didn’t arrive until 2!

After getting off the train at Termini, I was supposed to go to Tuscolana. I went down to the metro station and the map didn’t show a Tuscolana stop. I asked a two train employees and they had to go ask their superior what stop it was. It turns out it was at the Ponte Lungo stop. Although my ticket from Assisi showed Tuscolana as my final destination, I had to buy a separate metro ticket.

I didn’t know where to go and ended up having to walk across 5 lanes of traffic >_<I made it to my place and dumped off my stuff and then I went on to meet my friend from France (the one I hung out with in Verona). I went over to an apartment he rented and he cooked us lunch. We hung out for a bit and decided what we wanted to do, then set out to explore Rome!

We went to the Trevi fountain and it was CLOSED! Scaffolding was everywhere and people were just chucking money towards the fountain. I felt so bad for everyone trying to take pictures over the fences…that would suck so bad if you dreamed of visiting the fountain and traveled all that way for it to be dry and under construction!

After the fountain we walked to the Spanish Steps and went into Dolce and Gabbana and Prada. Ugh. I wanted so many shoes at Prada. I love that area and all of the luxury shops. I was SO shocked that the Chanel store had moved. It’s been there since the first time I visited Rome and now it’s moved to another place in the city.

We got a gelato and sat on the Spanish Steps and talked for a bit. He needed to use my WiFi to book his ride back to Verona, so we came back to my place and I tried to fix my phone (which apparently doesn’t work at all in Rome) and he played on the computer for a while.

After an hour or so of relaxing we decided to go to dinner so we rode toward Piazza del Popolo and went to a German place called Lowen (like the one in Bassano del Grappa-sans the AWESOME bruschette). We had pizza and beer and watched Spain get annihilated by Holland (sad face), before coming back to my place. He walked me back to my place and thankfully.

Tomorrow we are meeting up at 10 to go do some more exploring. It is SO hot here, so I will definitely be wearing shorts and dresses the rest of the week. I only have 6 days left of my trip, so I want to do some cool stuff.

Pictures tomorrow!  Buona Sera!

Italia in 40: Day 32…A Castle, Some Ruins, and Prayer!

Today was a perfect day in Assisi!

Assisi is my favorite place in Italy. Since the first day I came here I have always felt like this is where I’m supposed to be. My soul just feels at home here. Also, if you believe in God at all, I highly recommend coming here for a little spiritual retreat at least once in your life. It’ll shift your consciousness in crazy ways, at least it did for me…even as a teenager.

I always go back to certain experiences in my memory whenever I am discouraged with life and need motivation to keep going or I create daydreams of experiences I hope I will have one day. I wrote a blog a while back about my daydreams, but there are a few experiences in my past that keep me pushing forward on bad days; my first visit to Assisi and the clarity it brought, is one of them. Other’s include swimming with the Honu on the North Shore when I was a kid, exploring the woods in Georgia when I was little, and other fun things I did as a child, before life got so complex. But Assisi will always be special to me because it really helped me mature spiritually. Before coming here the first time, I never really had a place in my heart for spirituality and especially religion. My relatives are all Christian, but after about the age of 7, due to some things I witnessed in churches and saw Christians doing, I was really skeptical about religion and very pessimistic about the existence of God, until coming to Assisi that first time. I went down into the tomb of St. Francis and just knew immediately that God existed. It’s weird, I know, but that’s the main reason I love it here.

Since then, I’ve dreamed of winning the lottery and building a villa in the valley below or retiring here and living in a little studio apartment near the San Rufino or the basilica.  Anyway, enough of that mess, let’s talk about today!

I got up pretty early, but didn’t leave my room until 10:30, when I decided to walk up to Rocco Maggiore. It was a spur of the moment decision, but I just started walking and going up any incline I saw that was leading to the top of the hill. Some weird looking young boy tried to talk to me in Italian and followed me for like half a mile up the hill leading to the city center, but thank God I ran into my conversation partner from yesterday and he stopped to say hi and remind me again about the concert tomorrow, so the weird boy kept walking.

In the center I got a water, coffee, and a cookie. Then I just started walking. I walked up a bunch of steps and ended up on some dirt and rock nature trail. I didn’t know if it was leading in the right direction or where I was going to end up, but thankfully it took me right up to Rocco Maggiore. It’s a medieval castle that is AWESOME! I bought an all-inclusive ticket to the Roman Forum museum down in the city-center and into Rocco Maggiore. I walked around the inside of the castle and went up a few of the towers. I took lots of pictures and GoPro footage (again, will upload when I have good internet). It was SO HOT OUTSIDE! I was up at the castle for over two hours. I had never been up to the castle before, but I highly recommend going if you are up for a little hike and some beautiful panoramas!

I had to pee really bad and couldn’t find a bathroom, so I went down nature trail and almost got caught popping a squat, so I ran down the hill…:P

I made it back to the city center and decided to go into the Roman Forum museum. I’ve been there on my first visit to Assisi, but the last two times I’ve been here it’s been closed. I found out today why it’s been closed: major renovations. It’s really well laid out and really nice. The ticket for Rocco Maggiore, the Roman museum, and another attraction I didn’t visit was only 8 Euros!

After the Roman museum, I decided to walk toward the basilica, but it was after 1 and everywhere was closing for lunch, so I stopped and got a bite to eat. I stopped at a cafe on the main road to the basilica and it wasn’t very good. The food was meh, the service was bad, and the prices were high. I got a small bowl of plain salad, 3 pieces of bruschette (one just had olive oil on it, the other had canned tomatoes, and the other had truffles), and half a liter of wine (screw-off cap) and it was 17 Euros. I sat at the restaurant for an hour and a half or so and it was kind of fun. At first, two Irish ladies sat next to me and they were hilarious. I don’t like complaining at restaurants when the service or food is bad, I just go on and pay for what I bought and just don’t eat. But these ladies were going off the chain. They got up and went to the waitress to order because she wouldn’t come over to our section and they didn’t leave a tip because the cover charge was 4 Euros. Their accents were so funny and they were so spunky.

After they left, a Chilean couple sat down and I spoke Spanish with them and took a picture of them because they were taking pictures of each-other and I felt bad they had no one to take a picture of them together. They were really funny and sweet. Around 2:30 I walked down the basilica and went in to the upper church. I really wish you could take pictures inside, but there was a sign forbidding it (I usually ignore them, but I didn’t want to disobey the rules here). On my way into the lower part of the church, where the tomb is, I saw a bookshop and went in. It is the best place in Assisi to get souvenirs. The regular stores around town charge crazy prices, but I got like 20 things (postcards, crosses, medals, and prayer cards) for 11 Euros!

After buying my souvenirs I went down into the temple and left a donation and dedicated 10 candles to my friends, family, and departed loved ones and then I recited the rosary and prayed a bit. I walked around the tomb and then went back upstairs.

After the basilica I went back to my room and napped and tried to cool off. After my nap I walked around for a bit and searched for a restaurant. I stopped at a restaurant with a GORGEOUS view and got grilled sausages, with Brussels sprouts and rosemary potatoes. This restaurant was great. I got mineral water, Prosecco, a side of potatoes, and my sausage and Brussels sprouts main course, with the awesome view for 22 Euros! Obviously proving that the cafe I went to for lunch was a rip off! The menu wasn’t very large, but I definitely recommend this place in every way!

After dinner, I walked back toward the basilica because I storm was rolling in and the sun was setting, so I knew it would be beautiful. Unfortunately, I left my main camera in my room to charge, but I had my Sony video camera and my iPhone. I got some great panoramas and it was SO beautiful. You could see the rain and lightening on one side of the church and the beautiful sunset on the other side. I would have paid a million dollars to have a DSLR tonight!

Once I was done taking pictures I walked back toward my hotel and got a beer and a gelato and went back to my room. I repacked, showered, and uploaded my pictures, so I am ready for Rome.

I can’t believe I am on the last leg of my journey! The first 7 days flew, the middle 5 days dragged by, but it has FLOWN since then! I’m scared of all of the things coming my way when I get home, so I want to enjoy this last week I have! I am going to hangout with my French friend again and I get to watch Italy play their first match of the World Cup on Saturday night, so I am very excited for the coming days.

Let’s finish this off with a bang!

Italia in 40: Day 31…Pizza, San Rufino, and Sleep!

Today was a VERY uneventful day! I slept all day…I was so tired and sore and just beat.

I woke up at 7:15, again at 9, again at noon, and then finally got out of bed at 3.

I got ready and walked up to the center of the city and went to this pizza place I’ve gone to every time I’ve been to Assisi. Unfortunately it’s been remodeled or come under new ownership so it wasn’t that good. I got my standard piece of pizza and a beer (the pizza was really just rosemary focaccia bread). I sat down on a some steps and ate my pizza. This guy came up to me and started talking to me. He was in his last 40s or early 50s and didn’t speak much English and knew nothing about the U.S. (he didn’t know if Texas was in the north or south and asked if Dallas had a beach). We spoke Italian and English and talked about this concert that was going to be in Assisi on Saturday, where my next destination was, how long I’d been in Italy. He wasn’t creepy so it was nice to talk to someone that was not weird and genuinely cool!


After we finished talking I walked into the Tempio di Minerva right across the street. It was SO hot out today, so going into the church was nice because it’s so cool in there. I took pictures and walked around and then left to walk further up the hill.

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I walked to Assisi Cathedral which is dedicated to San Rufino. I took some pictures and went into a little art exhibit dedicated to John Paul II. After that, I went into the side chapel and there were a couple of nuns in there and some old people. I decided I would stay and recite the rosary, but just about that time the nuns began reciting the rosary and lots of old people came in. I don’t know the prayers in Italian, but I could tell which was which, so I was able to go through the rosary with them, just saying the prayers in English in my head. I think they were about to start mass, so I left and walked back down the hill.

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Only my way down the hill there was a little section of road blocked off with a plaque that said it was a basalt road from the 1st century BC! I tripped and fell and a bunch of people saw me, so that was fun. My ankle hurts now, haha…

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I got some gelato and water and just sat and watched people for a while. When I walked back down to main square and my conversation partner was still there, but I didn’t make eye contact as to avoid an awkward second encounter. It was about 6, so I decided to walk down to St. Francis’ Basilica. I went in, but the tomb where I always go to pray when I’m here was closed because it was late. RAI was already setting up for Saturday’s concert, so the entire piazza below the Basilica was filled with people setting up the stage and sound equipment. All of that stuff really messed up the view and so that kind of stinks, but I’m still glad to be here, of course!

After leaving the Basilica I walked back toward my hotel and got a small personal pizza and some drinks from the little cafe I went to last night and then went back to my hotel.

Tomorrow should be a little better. I plan to wake up before noon (HA!) and walk up to the top of the hill. I’ve never been to the top of the hill and I think there is a fortress or castle up there. I am also going to check out the museum in the city center because there are Roman ruins inside!

Sorry today was so uneventful!

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Italia in 40: Day 30…Creepers, Sweat, and Complete Chaos!

Today was INSANE. In every sense of the word.

I woke up about nine and took a shower and packed my stuff. I folded all my clean clothes and pack them up and then my friend and I went to her local coffee shop one last time. I got a pastry and some cappuccino and then we went to her favorite deli and I got a sandwich for my trip to Assisi.

I got to the station in Aversa around 11:40 and used the ticket kiosk to get a ticket to Assisi. Oddly, it routed me through Naples (south of Aversa) then on to Rome and on to Assisi. My train was scheduled to leave from Aversa at 12:09 and arrive at Napoli Central at 12:29, but it was 5, 10, then 25 minutes late. Right before it was supposed to arrive they changed the platform and announced it in Italian (obviously). I wasn’t super confident that I heard it correctly, so I went back downstairs to check the monitor and then ran to the correct platform and jumped on the train. So, before my real journey even started I was hot, sweaty, and 30 minutes late.

On my way from Aversa to Naples to men were sitting in my compartment and they began talking to me and asking where I was going, so I told them. They asked why I was in Italy and we spoke Italian and English, but then one of the guys started getting weird. When the train started to slow, everyone got up and left their compartments and walked to the corridor of the train. He was standing behind me and offered to help with my bag and I just smiled, but then he asked for my number and Facebook and told me to come visit him in Ferrara, where he was going. I just laughed and pretended I didn’t understand what he was saying and stopped making eye contact with him. The train finally stopped and we happened to walk in the same direction and he tried to talk to me again when we were walking toward the departure board, but I had to hurry past because my train was about to leave.

So, my train to Rome was supposed to leave Naples at like 1:10, and I didn’t get there until like 1:05. I had to run up to the departure board, passively glance at it and then run to the right platform. I got a second class ticket and of course the car I was in was at the end of the train so I had to run all the way down the platform and jumped on the train. Since I wasn’t at the station more than 5 minutes I couldn’t validate my ticket, so when I got to my seat I started to freak out about getting another on the spot fine. I wrote out another script, like I did on my first train ride, to prepare for the validation nazi that was going to check my ticket. Thankfully, when he came by he just hole-punched it and moved on. Later, I found out the entire train system was delayed, so I’m sure they were more lenient today. I was on the Frecce (high-speed) train from Naples to Rome, but in second class, and I didn’t have WiFi. I tried to sign into the system and it wouldn’t let me. I don’t know if it was because it was actually down or 2nd class passengers don’t have access to the system. So, keep that in mind when booking tickets on Le Frecce.

Once I got to Rome, the real trouble began. My ticket from Rome Termini to Assisi was just a generic ticket. It didn’t have a time, train number, platform, or any information, other than my destination. So, I went to the electronic departure board and saw no trains for Assisi. I then went to the paper departure schedule and again saw no train to Assisi. I examined the schedule really closely and saw a train to Perugia via Assisi. I looked at the departure board and saw that it was leaving from platform 1E which was outside of the station, off to the side-in the complete opposite direction of where I arrived. I looked down at my phone and it was 1:17 and the train was leaving at 1:23. I tried to haul ass, but right before the platform I stopped and validated my ticket so that I could jump right on. I literally got 15 yards away and the train pulled away. I said the F-word and a few others and then I walked back toward the station. I stopped at the paper departure board and looked for the next train to Perugia and saw that it didn’t depart Rome until 6. I kept looking saw NO other trains that stopped in Assisi.

I decided to go to the kiosk and look up the schedule on there, and I saw a train stopping in Foglino and then another train going from Foglino to Assisi, for only 10 Euro. I bought it, but when it printed out it was the exact same ticket I got in Aversa: a general ticket to Assisi with no time, train, platform, line-number, or anything.  I went to the help desk and asked to get a refund and the lady directed me to a long line of people changing their tickets (since so many trains were delayed today). I was dreading the line, but it moved really quickly and thankfully the employee working spoke some English. She wrote on my tickets and told me to go to ticket office in Assisi to get my refund. I asked her what was the next train going to Assisi and she said the 3:58 to Foglino. So I asked her what the train would be called on the departure board and she said Foglino. I waited around, bought a water, and then saw trains start to come up from 3:50 to 4 on the departure board. There was no train to Assisi, Perugia, or Foglino. I started to panic a bit and went to the paper schedule and didn’t see any trains for Foglino, Assisi, or Perugia on the paper one either. I went to another paper departure schedule and examined it closely and saw a stop at Foglino on the line to Ancona. The Ancona train left at 3:58, so I put 2 and 2 together and decided to get on that one. Of course, I look at the electronic departure board and that train is leaving from platform 2E, right next to the platform I had to run to right when I got to Rome, when I missed the train to Perugia.

Only my way to the platform, I saw a Despar supermarket at the station and decided to run in and get snacks and drinks since I had a 2 hour ride to Foglino, on the slow train, ahead of me. I bought some chips and two individual boxed wines. I got to the train and sat down and tried to find a place to put my bag, but it wouldn’t fit in the designated luggage storage areas, so I just had to put it in front of me. The train was packed and there was no air, so people were really mad that my bag was taking up so much room, but I didn’t care at this point. One girl offered to help me put my bag in the overhead area, but I explained it was too heavy and apologized. She was really nice and offered me one of her candies. The crowd on the train thinned out as we kept stopping so I finally got to move to a section by myself and move my bag out of the aisle. I drank a box of my wine, had some chips and took some pictures. I had taken a pictures of this trains schedule on the paper departure board at the Rome station, so I kept looking at it so that I would know how far away and how many stops I was from Foglino. Once I was one stop away, I put my backpack back on and moved to the exit area. The train to Foglino was delayed by 15 minutes so I was really worried I was going to miss the last train from Foglino to Assisi and be stuck in this small town I had never heard of or been to. The minute the train stopped I jumped off and there was already a train on the next platform with its doors open. I didn’t want to take the chance of going to the board and missing the train if it was indeed to Assisi, so I just started tapping people on the shoulder and asking if this train was going to Assisi. They told me it was, so I jumped and the doors closed. I just stood in the compartment between trains because I didn’t know how many stops I had until Assisi and I didn’t want to take my bag off and put it back on if I was just going to get off at the next stop. I heard people talking and Assisi was only two stops from Foglino.

There was a man in the corridor that began talking to me and he was weird. He was Tunisian and he asked me where I was from and said if I told him where I went to school he could “use his technology to find me in the U.S. when he visits” and I said no and that I was moving to New York in August. He did tell me about some cool places in Tunisia, including an ancient amphitheater that is better than the Colosseum, and about a bunch of universities and an island that’s supposed to be cool. Even though he kept trying to get me to come to Perugia to visit him and I wouldn’t oblige. Thank goodness the train stopped about the time he pulled out his phone to “show [me] something”. I jumped off and decided to call my hotel.

I could have sworn I paid a small supplement when I made the reservation regarding a shuttle to a from the station, but when I called he told me to take the bus. I read the posted signs and when into the bar in the station (it was really neat-like a real antique train-station bar) and purchased a ticket for the bus (it’s 70 cents cheaper than purchasing a ticket on board the bus). I read the schedule and counted the stops on the map from the station to the piazza where my hotel is. The bus arrived a bit late, but thankfully there were two attendants on board and I asked one of them if this bus did indeed go to my piazza and he said yes. The ride up the hill to Assisi was gorgeous, of course, and the attendant was nice enough to let me know when to get off. I would have gone past my stop because although I counted 7 stops from the train station to my destination, the bus doesn’t stop at all of the stops unless someone rings the bell, so at the point he told me to get off I had only counted 4 stops.

SN: I was shocked to see a McDonald’s, with a drive-thru, that serves breakfast and is open 24 hours a day on the weekends…

I got off the bus and bought a map out of a vending machine and tried to find my hotel. I saw a sign pointing up a street for it and ended up walking around, up and down the hills of Assisi, for 30 minutes with my heavy bag, trying to find it. It turns out I walked right past it before I went up any of the big hills…I finally saw it and went to check in. I was so tired, but it was 7:30 and I knew if I didn’t go find food and drinks I would be SOL until the morning, so I dumped my stuff and walked up the hill a little further and got some drinks and a slice of zucchini pizza (this is my favorite thing to get in Assisi-I don’t know if it’s a regional specialty, but every place I’ve been to in the city offers zucchini pizza).

After buying my dinner I came back and showered and organized my stuff before eating. Tomorrow is going to be a major relaxation day, but I’ll definitely go to a church or two in the afternoon.

I am so exhausted and sore, but I’m glad I was able to finally get here, no matter how challenging it was!

Until tomorrow, y’all!