Oh what a time I have had the last couple of days!  I hesitate to even write about it because I know it will upset a few of you at home who are checking in on me.  Yesterday after we returned to Madrid from Cazorla, I was pickpocketed on the Metro.  My wallet was stolen, containing my credit cards, driver’s license, and about 70 Euro, which equals about $110.  It has been a 24-hour mess that I have had to deal with, calling all the companies, cancelling the cards (the asshole went to an ATM right away and tried to withdraw 300Euro), getting emergency cards sent to Italy, not Spain, which was from where I was calling.  MESS MESS MESS.  But I think it’s all working out now…my emergency card arrived today at my hotel in Rome, which is pretty amazing considering I was robbed at 8pm last night.  Now I can access my checking account, and on Monday the AmEx office in Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps) will give me an emergency credit card so that I will have access to that account as well.  After it happened in Madrid, thankfully I was with my wonderful new friends from PI, so I had a tremendous network of support.  If I had been alone, I can’t imagine how much worse the situation would have been for me.  Maria and I went out last night after I got everything situated (three hours on the phone!) and met up with our companions from PI…how lovely to meet up with friends in Madrid, Spain!  Some of the Spaniards came with their families and then there were several of us Anglos as well…we had a blast!  Fernando Purple may be one of my favorite people I have ever met.  He cracks me up!  I taught him to say YIKES, and he says it all the time…so funny!  We taught the Spaniards a lot of funny expressions:  going commando, laugh my ass off, holla, I’m done!, sign me up, and other various and sundry curse words, random idioms, and silly things.  They taught us a few Spanish expressions of their own…hilarious!  I hope that was my first of several Pueblo Ingles experiences…

Now on to Italy!  I’m in Italy!  AAAHHH!  I have wanted to visit this country for as long as I can remember.  I landed at 9:30 this morning from Spain and even though I was completely exhuasted (Maria and I got back from being out in Plaza del Sol at 3:15…I had to catch my taxi at 4:45 to the airport…) I made a pretty good day out of it.  I saw Plaza Venezia, had a lvoely sandwich of prosciutto and mozarella, and then walked from my hotel to Campo di Fiori, Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, and finally to the Spanish Steps…then I walked back.  I want to do it again in the evening to see this amazing sites lit up!  I asked my front desk friends to recommend a restaurant for dinner,a nd he sent me to Trattoria Masquerada, right aroudnt he corner.  OH WOW…it was delicious!  I had gnocchi in tomato sauce with slices of veal.  It was my first meal alone, and the restaurant was adorable with its outdoor seating, so I made the most of it.  I read Mark Twain’s travel journal that he wrote when he was in Europe about a hundred years ago, sipped delicious wine, enjoyed my dinner, and even ordered tiramisu for dessert.  I met a lovely old man who was also eating alone who shared with me his wine with peaches, and it was very tasty.  Just be prepared for me to be a little thicker coming home than I was when I left…I can’t so no to the food here!

My only apprehension (now that the money ordeal is passed…) is getting a bit lonesome.  When you round a corner and stumble upon an ancient beautiful monument, you tend to want to have someone to whom you can exclaim, “OH WOW!”  But I did fine today, so hopefully tomorrow and the following days will be the same.  I am so excited that Allison and Maria are meeting me in Florence in a few days…we’re going to have so much fun and it’s good for me to know that I will have them for company in case I do get lonesome.

I think of you all the time…thank you so much for being prayerful and supportive of me as I embark upon the most challenging but most exciting thing I have ever done in my life!

Ciao Bella!