Thursday, December 23, 2010

April in Paris (10th and 11th)

Saturday, April 10th

Rise and shine! We charted out the day with the key museums to hit (becky was our key seeker of legit must-see places. Stopped at the bakery down the street, picking up some fresh pastries (I got enough for breakfast and lunch). We started at the Orsay museum, with all the impressionists and some abstract/cubism...I don’t really know. But it ROCKED. Degas, monet, van gogh!!! *AH!* screams and giggles** loved seeing it in real life! I mean, replicas are legit, but there is a beautiful enchantment to seeing the original that the artist painted onto the canvas.

Emerged somewhat not glazed, but sat on the steps in the sunshine for a little before walking down by the river to go to the Orangeree (sp??) okay the downstairs was very cool, with a continuation of specifically impressionists. But the absolutely fantastic part was going into the room with Claude Monet’s Water Lilies. There were two rooms, with a canvas on each wall that stretched across each side, a few feet off the floor, and above our heads. Each painting showed the water lilies at a different time of day. Sunrise, sunset (with the colors from the sky reflecting in the paint streaks) we sat on the benches in the center and me (slouching a little) sitting in the center scooching around to see each side. From the middle, instead of up close… the water took on a whole different appearance. and the depicted reflection showed so much more. Not like shapes, but more than just the blending and smearing of color. I was completely enchanted J the little tiny pictures and reprints just aren’t going to capture me the same way ever again. Next, we meandered over to the Rodin museum!!!!!!!!!!! The sculptor who carved the famous Kiss, among many other forms..girls caught in the ocean waves, lovers forever reaching into each others arms. It was abstract and real at the same time. I was so happy we went, and spent the whole time absorbed in the shapes and motion captured in the stone.

Much needed lunch break…I had some sort of barley, or bulgar wheat in a cream sauce with (very raw) salmon pieces. Delicious. Nutritious. culture momentous! haha

LAST MUSEUM was the Clooney museum…with medieval everything. We were rather glazed as we wandered around. Note-able highlight, the statues of apostles and such that once decorated the front of Notre Dame were in there! Other statue pieces….We got startled by warning alarms for hopping up on the platform and posing with our smiling faces where the bodies ended at the neck. Jill and I searched in a somewhat meandering manner (less purposefully then the norm for us) for the Unicorn Tapestries. We walked into a low lighted room, where the walls were hung with 6 or 7 beautiful, vivid tapestries that featured a noblewoman and a unicorn. In each hanging the unicorn was holding a musical instrument or something that indicated the use of one of the senses. It was interesting how every image and its position indicated a part of the meaning. The last tapestry, featured on the wall behind the doors going in, had an additional ethos (emotion?) sort of sense…and it was described in a complicated way the sense a woman has about whom she chooses to love..with symbols of empowerment of her free will. ( Maybe? Perhaps I have it confused…) anyways it was very interesting and Jill and I joined Becky, plopping down on the bench by the entrance triumphantly!

While meandering towards the metro stop, we came across a guitarist with a an amp setup and singing into a microphone, with his back to a bakery and restaurant wall and a growing crowd in a semi circle in front of him. Becky loved the song playing, so we stopped…and quickly got caught up with the rest of the crowd, humming and toe tapping along. The guy (luckily) spoke in multiple languages…mostly English (*phewf*) and had a pleasant smile and nice tone of his voice. I pretended that he wasn’t just playing to the crowd and really was a nice fellow. He sang a lot of songs we knew, some English and a few French favorites too J (from Hotel California, to la vie en rose) It was cool seeing the faces on the crowd, and singing along at some parts. An older guy jumped into the middle and totally pulled out these sweet Michael Jackson meets chris brown type moves. We snagged a CD and grabbed a picture of us girls with the multi-lingual performing cutie-pa-tuttie.

Off to the Eiffel tower!! We got there just as the sun had set and hopped in line. I hadn’t planned on going to the very top, though everyone else wanted to. I contemplated not, then considered the fact that I am IN PARIS. For goodness sakes, why should I pass up going to the point?!?! So I joined the line, munching on my fresh pear snagged from a fruit stand. Then dug the crackers out of my purse and dipped into the brie cheese I had bought (in a little wooden box.) More lines, and smushed elevators, we went up and up, watching the city shrink, and the metal beams crisscrossing in front of our eyes. We were greeted by a chilly blast of wind, but we rushed to the side..absorbing our aerial view of the city ( through the chickenwire type barrier.) We split the Lindt dark chocolate Crème Brule bar I had picked up..a treat to celebrate! We tried to take pictures, but most just so Jill and me, cheek to cheek with big grins from ear to ear…and some sort of sparkly background behind. Going to the side, we peered between the gaps of wire to see the city unobstructed before us. The river snaked off to the side, framed in lights. We spotted Sacre Cour, Notre Dame, the arch du triumph..each claiming their distinct part of the skyline. Lights were trained on them; making their peaks, edges,and gapping arches become architectural pieces of art. The buildings are witnesses of history that remain as a reminder, and perhaps continue to contentedly watch Paris.

Have you ever heard the stereotypical comment “and the city lay before them like a glittering blanket”. It is commonly used for a reason... because that’s what the city looked like, with the winking little pinpoints amidst the grey and black carpet.

Descending once again, I watched those beams flashing in front of my eyes and considered the architecture. Pappy would have loved seeing how it was built (originally intended to be a temporary structure to be dismantled) and I was kind of oblivious to what I was looking at (engineering wise), but appreciative anyways. It was easy to be enchanted.

Sunday, April 11th

Last day in Paris!

We initiated by loading up our bags nice and heavy since we wouldn’t be returning to the hotel room. We made our morning stop at the Patisserie …getting enough for breakfast, lunch and snack! Oh, and I got a little strawberry fruit tart too. It was everything a girl could hope for deliciousness wise. flakey bread, creamy filling, ripe berries, and little flakes of chocolate in others too.

First stop was Sacre Coeur. We hoofed it up the stairs that crusted the hill to reach the onion shaped domed church. Rather new, but set atop a hill with a flair of Middle Eastern style. Then we circled around Montmarte (following Ricky Steves) I enjoyed this walk because it went through residential areas, quiet streets, musicians (strings and brass). Let us see the shops (though mostly closed for Sunday). We got to see places like Picassos studio, along with so and so apartment. They were just houses…blended right in with the rest of the numbers on the street, but housed these minds/artists who somehow made a difference in our culture. One of the busiest streets had those open markets and everything. For lunch, I convinced everyone to chip in a few euros for a big basket of strawberries (fresh from the countryside) Possibly the best strawberries of my life. (could have been the location though).

Boarded on the metro at Moulin Rouge (interesting street. Sex shops that managed to be in English, selling, showing, advertising. Oh could I rant).

And we jumped in line to go up the bell tower of Notre Dame. yet another tight, . winding staircase to clamber up! Some of the stones were polished smooth from the many footsteps. The first landing had us wait for the maximum number of people allowed to continue up the next set of stairs. We emerged at the level at the top of the church, on the narrow bridge between the two towers that was bordered by gargoyles in various gruesome stances. I itched to be sitting next to victor hugo as he imagined Quasimodo in the bell towers. Instead of squeezed up the last stretch of stairs on the very top of the bell tower. And took in my last look of Paris displayed before me. (oh, and Jill and I unwrapped our Eclaires that had been snagged earlier from a pretty shop with all sorts of sweet delights. )

On our way to the bus stop that would take us to the airport, we paused at the Eiffel Tower. We had realized that we hadn’t actually visited it at all in the daylight! I think I liked it better at night….but it was still lovely in the daylight’s frank lighting. Wandered around that grassy strip that was reserved in front of it…then made it to the bus stop. (plenty early) There was a minor panic when we were informed there were no buses running to the airport….luckily only temporarily. (so unless you had an immediate flight…things were fine). Waiting on the bus. Waiting for the check in for EasyJet to open. Waiting through security. Waiting to board. (time managing: Not to worry! I tackled some of my final paper that had been slightly neglected that weekend. )

Short flight had us back in Rome. Hopped on the bus heading to termini (forget schedules..the only schedule followed is how to fill the bus the most after a late flight’s arrival.

Hustled through termini (and by this I mean sprint through the station and across the bus lot) in hopes of catching the last 90 (to the convent) for the night. Alas…it had already left (missed by just a few minutes) . However, we did manage to figure out the night bus (n##) schedule! And succeeded in navigating the varied route to make it safely “Home in Rome”.

Monday, May 31, 2010

April in Paris (8th and 9th)

thursday, April 8th

Finally! I have been looking forward to seeing The City of Love since I was a kid! So of course the weekend was wayyyyy to short. It was meant to be Jill and I again J but the more the merrier! And so Becky and Jason came along as well. Becky, being the art history chickadee was rather fun to have around! (and not only because in the museums she was totally in the know) but she was a ton of fun, and seemed to enjoy herself..which was contagious when it comes to spreading the life and fun.

The flight was short and sweet! Pit stop at the bathroom at the airport… and there was PINK TOILET PAPER! Seeing Life In Pink already J

La Vie En Rose

Des yeux qui font baiser les miens,

Un rire qui se perd sur sa bouche,
Voila le portrait sans retouche
De l'homme auquel j'appartiens

Quand il me prend dans ses bras
Il me parle tout bas,
Je vois la vie en rose.

Il me dit des mots d'amour,
Des mots de tous les jours,
Et ca me fait quelque chose.

Il est entre dans mon coeur
Une part de bonheur
Dont je connais la cause.

C'est lui pour moi. Moi pour lui
Dans la vie,
Il me l'a dit, l'a jure pour la vie.

Et des que je l'apercois
Alors je sens en moi
Mon coeur qui bat

Des nuits d'amour a ne plus en finir
Un grand bonheur qui prend sa place
Des enuis des chagrins, des phases
Heureux, heureux a en mourir.

Quand il me prend dans ses bras
Il me parle tout bas,
Je vois la vie en rose.

Il me dit des mots d'amour,
Des mots de tous les jours,
Et ca me fait quelque chose.

Il est entre dans mon coeur
Une part de bonheur
Dont je connais la cause.

C'est toi pour moi. Moi pour toi
Dans la vie,
Il me l'a dit, l'a jure pour la vie.

Et des que je l'apercois
Alors je sens en moi
Mon coeur qui bat

Life in Pink

Hold me close and hold me fast
The magic spell you cast
This is la vie en rose
When you kiss me, Heaven sighs
And though I close my eyes
I see la vie en rose
When you press me to your heart
I'm in a world apart
A world where roses bloom
And when you speak
Angels sing from above
Every day words
Seem to turn into love songs
Give your heart and soul to me
And life will always be
La vie en rose
I thought that love was just a word
They sang about in songs I heard
It took your kisses to reveal
That I was wrong, and love is real
Hold me close and hold me fast
The magic spell you cast
This is la vie en rose
When you kiss me, Heaven sighs
And though I close my eyes
I see la vie en rose
When you press me to your heart
I'm in a world apart
A world where roses bloom
And when you speak
Angels sing from above
Every day words
Seem to turn into love songs
Give your heart and soul to me
And life will always be
La vie en rose

Anyways the bus took us into the city center where we went to the metro station, exerting the self control to not go dashing off to the Eiffel tower. 40 minute metro ride later ..with only a few minutes of Jill and I consulting the board that had lights that blinked up to show the different routes and lines. Way cool and easy once we figured it out. Surprisingly crowded for that “late” (11:30) Followed the line all the way to the second to last stop of St. Denis. The stairs led us up to some empty street..though well lit. We wandered in a few wrong directions before finding the sought out sign. For some reason people thought I could figure it out, so there were a few circles involved… Jill and I were unconcerned, it was barely midnight! And we were nearly there, with relatively detailed directions! (Imagine how much less stressed we were ) minor confusion/heart attack when we arrived at said address and it looked like an empty business building. Happily the sign next door for a restaurant was actually the hotel. And the conseirge spoke English! We paid, got our key and went through the courtyard that had no entry except by the lobby, up a flight of stairs, and unlocked our very own, clean room with neatly made beds, clean sheets, clean bathroom and shower of our very own! Including individual fresh towels! Jill and I were practically jumping up and down with glee and relief. We were worried that for the 50 euros for three nights….we would get stuck with a grimy place with little security and an infrequent use of bleach/detergent. We were all three in the same room (cheaper) we layed down the rules for the boy, and I flopped out on the cot neatly made out and plenty comfortable.

Searched out the internet from the lobby to message back Kristin in Rome and assure her of a safe arrival via facebook. Cranked out some of my paper, and slept better than I had since spring break. Twas fabulous.

FRIDAY, april 9th

Didn’t run that morning (or any of the ones there). No one wakes up before hitting a series of museums and chooses to go for a run. We had formed the game plan the evening before and woke up ready to Love Paris in the Springtime.

I love Paris in the springtime.
I love Paris in the fall.
I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles,
I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles.

I love Paris every moment,
every moment of the year.
I love Paris, why, oh why do I love Paris?
Because my love is near.

First stop, Notre Dame!!!!!!!!!! The sun was up, the sky was blue! We went inside the church first. The interior was darker than what I expected, the light that filtered through the stained glass only entered the select uncovered windows on the far side of the church. A choir was singing in the center, but people moved along the shadowed edges. It wasn’t what I was expecting (darn you disneys hunchback of Notre dame cartoon). But still absolutely lovely. I could have stared at the pair of rose windows all day, and the little images that made up the petals of the stained glass flower. We walked around the (annex?) (I don’t know anymore) with wooden carvings surrounding the front area behind the alter. And little alcoves to pray at, with candles and paintings and statues. I didn’t really want to leave…it was full of shadows and had patches of colored light throughout the place, the classic high ceiling with the flying buttresses.

Walked around the outside of the church was unbelievable as well! The flying buttresses continued outside the structure. The gothic peaks tapered into the air, with the many decorations and..well whatever they are called spiking out from the narrow ones. Gargoyles were set around the roofing, to spout the water. Their horns, ears, teeth, and gapping mouths mostly still defined in the stone (though some crumbled away without features. Along the top and in between the two towers various Gargoyles hunkered along the edges, fiercely (or comically) overlooking the courtyard before the church.

Next, in search of the museum passes recommended to save us money. They are also slightly magical, because when we showed them to the staff at the front of the line, we were immediately shown through ahead of the masses anticipating their entrance. Cutting time and opening doors for us!

So we jumped ahead at St. Chappelle Chapel. The lowest level was from medieval times , with the fleur de lys and castles painted on the walls and beams. The colors were still vivid in their contrast. We imagined what it would be like to be a peasant walking into this chapel and its décor.

Up the tiny stairs, we came to the stain glass of St. Chappell…The alter was covered up, but the arched apex was covered for restoration. The rose window there designed differently then Notre Dame, but elegant and intricate. The windows were series from the Bible, with each window stretching up almost to the ceiling, sometimes the whole window would be dedicated to a book in the Bible (like Esther). It was hard to pick out all the stories, because of the teeny detailing and pieces of colored glass that formed each image. The light made designs on the floor, and my new favorite thing to do was to stand in a little patch of the light and let the colors slide over my skin and dance in the patterns made on the floor.

Next, the Louvre!!!!! It was impressive seeing the glass pyramid in the center of the Louvre’s many wings (okay…there were three total…but hoofing it around those halls FELT a great deal longer, farther and more numerous). Ps: inside the pyramid..(which is the entrance we cruised into thanks to the slightly magical tickets.) it was like a greenhouse, warmed by the sunlight. We gathered at the base with the map to get together a game plan. We attacked the museum excitedly and enthusiastically. With frequent breaks, several oooooohs and aaaaaaahs, and serious pinching of self to realize what we were looking at.

Note: there are some seriously awesome artists there whose names I can’t remember.

Observation: looooooove da vinci’s paintings

Keep in mind: the mona Lisa is not that big. And you can’t get close enough to see details.

Secret to success: CHOCOLATE. (and hydration) seriously, why women carry purses…I just slipped a bar in there and when I started to seriously glaze, broke off a piece and tossed it back. Also, drank water at the inbetween halls where there wernt paintings.

We emerged triumphant and finite with museums for the day! Wandered a little stunned at what we’d seen, out to the fountain that was surrounded by flowers and people in chairs relaxing in the sun. Wandered slowly down the Avenue Des Champs-elysees. Which starts with trees and kind of parks on either sides, and intersects a road that has tons of shops and expensive stores! But trendy and begging for me to wander in. We tried to go farther away from the “main drag” to find dinner, but every place in the area was pretty pricey. So we stopped into one, had to pick and chose what was actually available from the menu. I had canard e potatoes (duck!) which was like really tender roast beef, little greasy too... also got a rose house wine,( a pink wine…that was sweet and goooood). Sparkling water with the meal too! It was legit good, got to try some French food . J ate early…which confused people. But we were hungry!

Headed back to Champes-elysees, and made it to the arch du Triumph! Oh, and that road around it..we couldn’t find the underground metro walkway. After wandering for a while, I got frustrated and just dodged traffic across (much to Jill’s horror and everyone elses dismay). How I (or any of my dear friends) did not get hit…well… it’s an argument for God’s presence in the real world. And a red Ferrari went past, what a better way to go!?

Magic tickets got us in the door and up the stairs. I have begun to lose track of all the narrow stair-wells we have climbed/crawled/panted/ huffed and puffed up. (I can almost keep track of the differences amongst them, because you start to memorize the shape of the stairs and spiral angle). The higher we got, the more narrow the stairs. Once we came out on the top though, whew! It was pretty awesome! First full, uninterrupted look at the Eiffel Tower, (just like the postcards), it dominated the skyline. It’s grey silhouette was the only thing occupying the sky which was tinted pink by the setting sun. Other sides looked upon a developed city of paris, with the narrow, tall rectangular office buildings, and low apartments, business buildings…funny how if you narrow your field of vision, a city looks so similar to the many others across the world. Ahead of the Arch du Triumph, the entire road of champes elysees was lined with the lights, faintly lit by the dimming evening that led toward the Louvre (hidden behind another arch, that one with winged angels atop it.. I think, or was that a different one). Little people filled the sidewalks, and cars were constantly circling around the base of the arch, and streaming down the road. Atop, it wasn’t cold, and the friendly breeze lifted my hair from my face.

Once on the ground again (advantage to enclosed stairs…no need to confront those height phobias!) we SAFELY went UNDER the main road via metro stairs to the other side! We decided to check out the Eiffel Tower at night, since museums were closed. It was also somewhat of a crime that we had been inParis and not managed to make it to the tower yet. We walked in the general direction of the last sighting of its peak. Then were tantalized by the reflection of the tower in the office building windows…but when you turned around, there was no tower! Just a wall of concrete! The closer we got, the more I danced around excitedly ahead of everyone else. We finally rounded a corner of a building, and there it stood across the river! Little flashing lights were making it like a sparkler in the middle of Paris, crossing the river and coming up close to it, I realized…it IS like all the pictures! Only in real-life, you can take in the billions of other things in your field of vision. We got nutella filled crepes and wandered underneath its base. Of course, all kinds of men were selling little cheap Eiffel Tower key chains and such, or little light up things, and blinking replicas. *grumble growl roar*. Beneath the tower, a line snaked around for people to go up into it, and beneath it, tourism seemed to meet festival feel..almost. There was music and someone was dancing michael Jackson style (for money) and a crowd of people were around another group who were break dancing (from what we could tell.. being 5ft 3 there was really no way to find out)

When the lights finished blinking spastically, the night sky softened the edges of the building, turning it into an elegant piece of industrial work. The structure of the beams and bolts crisscrossing each other looked like steel lacework . *sighs* it was rather romantic, actually.

We took the metro back to the hotel…I was incredibly tired and ready to shower and curl up in bed. While walking from the metro to our hotel…we passed a couple cars with people all around, and a guy in handcuffs. (in the middle of a road, quiet only for the time of night). Sketch. We just strolled casually past, though I went all mother duck on people trying to keep everyone together and not leaving a stray, absentminded, oblivious duckling wandering away from the group..where it would be much harder (but possible) to knock some creeper’s lights out if anything was attempted.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Easter Sunday, The Vatican

I’m not catholic and have only been to one other catholic mass in English..possibly in my life (Oxford). But one can not avoid getting legitimately excited over the Vatican at Easter. It is the capital for the Catholic church, the center of their system. It is the oven that makes that cookies…burnt, undercooked, or perfect ( okay…maybe that last one doesn’t make sense. It does, sorta, if your baking)

Frank Pagani (useful last name for the trip) God bless him, wrote to the Vatican some weeks ago to get our group tickets (free..but recommended to handle the incoming crowds) and then he stood in line to receive the tickets for the group. (they didn’t even check them when we arrived....gah)

Easter Sunday was the ONLY day it rained all week. And oh my, cats and dogs did it rain!

We got all dressed up..looking appropriate with knees and shoulders covered. And put on my rain coat (Frank looked too appalled when I had the hiking boots on with the dress pants, so I did have on my thick, low heels) everyone else fought the crowd with umbrellas. The single advantage to the crowd was that one persons umbrella ended up covering like THREE people. ..the forth got stuck with the offshoot water dripping down their collar or forhead. (it provided amusement). Line for a couple hours..the closer to the front, the closer you were pushed against the people around you. Some of us got to be good friends with the people we knew, or the stranger whose shoulder your nose was next to, and the lady behind me who kept me warm by being frequently jostled against me by the crowd.

Once in (only one person fainted near us, and I nearly trashed the stroller a cranky dad was pushing while the mom carried the fussy kid) through security…confronted by an ocean of people, with their multi colored umbrellas held at varying heights. The Pope was in front of San Pietro (st. peter) with a canopy, a gigantic plush chair, trees and yellow flowers in an arch around the front..and serious people dressed in capes, hats, and assorted formal church wear. It proceeded in Italian, with some latin. (or was it vica versa) I discovered that if you crouch down a little, or bend forward, you could peer up through the umbrellas to get a less obstructed view of one of the giant screens they had set up, filming close of shots, and panning wide of the area. We left at the passing of the peace. (an hour in) it was one of the few times I knew precisely what was happening and was pretty cool. left mostly to beat the crowds, but also because I got separated from everyone and got a text saying they were waiting for me outside. Even though I was FINE..but it was sweet to be remembered.

That afternoon we did a group easter egg hunt around our floor of the convent. Brilliant discovery of divine peachy ring Italian version. Also best chocolate found in eggs..EVER. It made me miss home a little. I know I missed my church (HZUMC) a lot more too. Not that the catholic mass wasn’t meaningful. But it was not the same joyful, loving celebration surrounded by friends and “family” that I am blessed to have when at HZ. (spoiled rotton I am by those people. They love-th me)

Dinner was prepared by Kristin and Dr. Szabo!!!!!! With the table set all nicely with tulips of pink and yellow, paper plates and napkins, chocolate bunnies and smarties at each place J. They DO love us!! Lamb in some awesome sauce, vegetables, and fruit salad for dinner. With meringue and chocolate cheesecake (not set exactly right, but still greaaaaat!) for a molto deliciouso dessert!!!!!!!!

Being around those friends, brought together by our studies was rather awesome. Not the same as being home at all. But certainly with much affection, love, care, and appreciation of one another J

Sorrento! March 26-28th

We left early afternoon (friday)…with most of group along as well as Dr. Szabo and Kristen. It wasn’t a Geneva event/academic trip (though the us..paid 10 euros of the overpriced hotel). Watching the change of the land from the windows was tantalizing! The appearance of lemon trees, and glimpses of the ocean through the stacked houses (with balconies airing the laundry).

The first afternoon and evening we unloaded our stuff in the spacious, clean, sheets and towels included, hotel/hostel (depending on how much you paid). Then found a free beach (pretty pebbly on the toes) but stand in the (very very cold) water long enough..and it wasn’t a bother at all! The rest of thegroup went shopping or whatever, Jill read on the beach, and I tossed on my shoes and went for a run!

Headed out of town, following a sidewalk as it snaked it’s way up the Amalfi coast. The sidewalk disappeared, leaving a shoulder of what seemed like hardly a foot of space between a white line on the road and a wall that lined the hill/cliff drop offs. The road didn’t seem busy, but after a few turns (that’s all the road was…twists and turns!) and cars puttering/speeding past inches from my left ELBOW..i began to wonder. Spotted an Italian guy running and asked him if it was safe to run on the road…he assured me he’d been on these roads for 30 years, and it is fine..I was told though to always stay on the right side, by the ocean.

God and I got closer as I rounded each bend, that I would crane my neck to try and see/hear if a car was coming, then sprint around the blind spot as quickly as possible while hugging the wall and thinking narrow thoughts. (sweating from the run, or from the nearness of traffic?)

Split off and took a road that wound down the hill to the right. A lemon grove was to my left..and a few homes nestled among the trees to the right. Each tree (with nets bound up amongst them, for catching the fruit?) was weighed down with lemons that fit from the base of my palm to the tip of my fingers. The smell of the lemons lingered through the damp evening air. (and not the fake, sugary kind that we smell with lemonade or fake flavoring. But like someone had painted the wind with fresh squeezed lemon juice).

Down the side of the hill the road turned. It ended at a parking lot, where a narrow, single paved road continued to bend and twist towards the ocean. I followed it (passing a Villa Hotel Anna…it’s a sign!!! I AM supposed to be here J and a place to stay next time too). I honestly wouldn’t have believed that cars used the lane if I hadn’t seen it for myself. The road ended at a point that met with the road that separated the town from the beach. It was a little fishing town, in a valley that was nestled in an islet between two rocky outreaches that extended farther into the ocean. I walked for a few minutes the whole width of the houses and restaurants there. The little boats were drawn up onto the sand for the night, and other ones were bobbing, anchored in the water. A dog with matted hair wandered up to me. A group of gentlemen were standing around and talking, nodding to me and returning a Bouna sera (good evening) An older man was sitting on a chair, mending his fishing nets that were in a pile next to where he sat.

I ran through it the next two days…not even doing anything besides saying “Buongiorno!” to a few people I passed. It was yet another layer of Italy I was so excited to discover.

Dinner with the group…a cute little place, crowded with locals (good sign!) and we all got to sit at one table. And I splurged (with some help of encouragement from Willie) on getting a dish of fresh fish in a red marinara sauce with fresh mozerella. The flakey, delicious fish was in a bowl of the sauce.and the cheese melted inside. I can’t say how good it was, because it simply and irrevocably was.

Dessert was at an outside patio, under some lights that were stretched overhead among the trees. I just had a Limoncello …makes face…twas good. Strong. Sour. Tangy. Burned a little going down on the first sip (because there would be no gulping) just straight up lemon-liscious-ness.

Saturday morning:

I went the same route as before for the morning run, only going a few turns farther in the road before turning left, up a hill. I didn’t plan on going the entire way, but as the road worked its way up, doubling back and forth…I figured why not keep going? As the road went up, the ocean began filling more and more of the horizon, the trees opened up a little for a vineyard to cover the steep hillside. (that I had was half crawling and panting up) A big old house was sitting there, with animals all around the yard and in pens. A few people were working but seem unbothered by my intrusion. I followed the (comparatively wide) road a bit farther, On each side the Lemon trees extended in neat rows. The road abruptly ended at an empty military building. (complete with barbwire fence) It was just a big white empty building with barbwire and signs. But if one peered around it… the land gave way abruptly before the ocean, leaving only the tree tops to obstruct the view of the ocean and sky that kissed in the horizon.

Wandered back down the hill and walked/jogged to visit the same little fishing village as before then headed back to the hotel/hostel!

Chowed down with breakfast , changed, and the group followed Rick Steve’s suggestion of a beach! Stopped at a grocery store (picked up one of the..cheese..sack things, yogurt, an orange from breakfast, and water!) found a place to buy bus tickets and we were on our way!!!

A short 40 minute bus ride away (at the end of the route) we reached the beach… a major improvement from yesterday evenings pebbly sand, this was dark, black sand that glittered in the early afternoon’s sunlight! Lots of Italians were gathered there. (not in a crowded way. But in a chill, hangout way). The girls spread out the blankets we had snagged from our rooms at the convent/palazzo (palace J hahaha).

Changing rooms were rows of wooden boxes/huts. With doors and locks as well! If we didn’t stick out at first, once the girls had changed into our bikinis and laid out on the blankets for sun, there was no doubt. (perhaps due to my pale, luminescent skin. Which is valuable for camaflouge on most white sandy beaches.) We set up near the water, while farther down the beach the Italian guys in speedos were out sunning as well..a charming and exciting thing to see..if you have an appreciation for the style (which I do not,partially due to the lack of quality in their physique..which I feel should be required for such apparel.)

A couple volleyball nets were out, with different teams, and onlookers lounging about in clusters. Later in the day, a couple of our guys teamed up with another group of American students to play US vs. Italia. Guess who got creamed? Oh well, it was fun to watch anyways! (especially with no comic relief in the form of yours truly on the court).

Played Frisbee until I was warm enough to shimmy out of the jeans for the purple bikini ;) let me say…”those Italian boys” ( not the hot ones…just the stereotyped “ciao bella” *wink wink* ones) yeah..found them. So I didn’t worry or feel self conscious about my new, Italian based, curvalscious-ness because within several yards, there were several comments..and I didn’t need to know Italian to translate those!

More Frisbee in the soft black sand, under the cheerful sun. The cliffs partially curved to make a shallow dish for the beach, some boats, and a concrete wall that branched into the water to fish from. The water was absolutely divinely blue, sparkling in the sunshine, and reflecting slivers of the light off the tips of the waves

I jumped in (encouraged by the already submerged Phil) It wasn’t a giggling, eased in jump. But more like me hurtling into the water yelping and screaming at the cold water.

Struggled out of the embank, soaked, shivering, and totally jazzed at having just swum in the Mediterranean .

Sipping from a cold drink (the best had thus far mostly due to location) we walked to a little cluster of restaurants/hotel a little further along the cliff lining the ocean. Frisbee games and stretching out on the blankets and reading or writing in the sunshine took up most of the afternoon. Though I did drag Jill into the water twice. The first time, holding hands as I pulled her along; until we tripped over the pebbly drop off and pitched into the water..shrieking at the cold and shouting words of encouragement for bravery ! wasn’t THAT cold. The second time, later in the afternoon, we held hands in order to build up the strength to face the chilly water. And when we jumped in that last time… we managed to say submerged until our teeth stopped chattering and the limbs and extremities had a pleasantly fuzzy, numbed feel. Then it was rather pleasant in the water, with the still empty vast sky above our heads, the sea stretching limitlessly in front of our eyes, and the cliffs that towered resolutly over our heads with their streaks of color, caped by only a few trees and a church.

For a lunch, food that I’d picked up (the cheese rocked) and then a later lunch/early dinner was the BEST Panini I’d had the whole entire trip. Fresh bed that was still a little warm, thick, freshly sliced tomatoes with fresh mozzarella cheese J It was soft and each bite was delicious. (and not expensive either) why did I not have like 10???

I ate it just before leaving, the rest of the group had left so it was just Jill and I on the beach while I sat there with the cold drink in the sand, eating the tasty Panini with my toes buried in the sand watching the sun take on the golden, vibrant color that it adopts while setting.

Walking along the rough stone wall (mistakenly barefoot), after we clambered along some giant rocks propped against it. Also there was a father and his 9 year old daughter. I helped her up onto the higher wall and we stood there watching the quiet waves and breathing in the soft breeze. I was talking with her father, who knew a little English, and then she started to teach me Italian. Never a more demanding teacher!!!! J yet completely capable!! She would point to something than say the word, have me repeat it until I got the pronunciation correct (which took some time). Some of it I knew from what our Italian teacher (Lucy) had taught us. Some of it was new. She would get impatient if I didn’t get it right quick enough, but would carefully correct and without hesitation or annoyance, go over the words. It was only a few minutes, but it was an cheerful, happy encounter. She would ask her father “come sai dice….” “How do you say….” He informed me that she really likes me (which is the highest compliment I feel I could receive)

After that we took the bus back, showered..and jill and I looked cute in the singular articles of Italian clothing we bought. And Jason came along as we walked around looking for food. Ended up eating at a nearly empty place along the quiet waterfront. We ate on the cool patio, on the edge near where the water was lapping softly onto the sand, and rocking the boats anchored there. We were served by a cute Italian waiter who knew no English, or who didn’t bother talking to us.

I joked that he was secretly awed by my existence and felt in his heart that I was his soul mate. (more guy) It was destiny that we should meet, and he would sweep me into his arms and proclaim his undying love and adoration to my existence. Upon this realization, I would give up the silly wish for wealth and splendor and allowed myself to be carried to his small house where I could meet his mother and she would teach me how to cook divine meals the Italian way. Oh, and he would take me out on his boat and I could to sun myself and swim in the ocean while he fished. As we walked away, with my heart still beating tragically alone…I realized it couldn’t possibly be fate… since I get sea sick.

We paused for a moment on the road up the hill (everything is up and down here) and overlooked the little front of the beach, with the boats with the red, green and blue stripes on the wood that sat tilted to the side on the sand Overhead the full moon emerged from behind clouds and seemed to fill the sky, then it’s sister reflected in the water, the only light on the dark, quiet waves. The only sounds was the waves on the sand or against the cliffs. It was lovely J

Sunday Morning..March 28

Before catching the slightly later bus we walked around some. Wandered through a lemon grove, where the bright lemons seemed to have captured the light from the sun. Past one of the many outdoor fresca (fresh!) fruit and vegetable markets, I paused at one on the way to the station and bought 5 oranges (each the size of grapefruit!) and 5 lemons (each the size of my HAND). A lady was at the stand, and her son, (who spoke only a little English) helped me put the fruit in the brown bags first, then the plastic ones. He smiled a lot and was patient with my bumbling Italian and inexperience of the system for buying fruit, bagging, weighing, paying etc.

Jill and I also bought two little canoli from a bakery…the owner spoke some English and joked around about Jill owing me exactly a euro and twenty nine cents. And not to forget to make her pay me back! (which is hilarious because there are so many times that I don’t have any euros and only like 50 bills…which makes cashiers look a little panic stricken at having to make change…or sometimes angry )

We ate the delicious slightly melting canoli (with nutella filling inside the flakey crust that folds around it) while on the beach that at that time of day was washed with sunlight. Watching the ferry boats come onto the dock, the bigger boats “parking” at just the right angle, and the sail boats with their sails tightly bound to the mast and tied in the bay (ish..type) area.

Mildly depressed to leave on that bright sunny day. Slept and caught up on homework on the train ride home. We made the connection at Milan like pros.

Comforted myself in the return to the city by making lemonade ….with freshly squeezed lemons. J *sighs* life is forever altered! (the pitcher came back with me to my room after sharing some a few glasses)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tuesday, March 23 -Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel!

Vatican Museum!

If visiting said museum, call ahead and make reservations or whatever. Because the line that we cruised past was RIDICULOUS! Piling up halfway around the building. And the inside was madness with how crowded it was ! not only teens and school groups everywhere, just people. Everywhere! Which is not so bad, until we were funneled into the (I believe somewhere said 3 miles of hallways and corridors)

Cool rooms…hands down the Egyptian collection. The mummy lady STILL HAD HER FINGERNAILS!! And she was a couple thousand years old!!! Paint on the sarcophagi was still detailed and vivid. The Egyptians were incredible.

There were Etruscan artifacts, greek pottery (looked just like the ones in Hercules, the Disney cartoon) and sculptures galore! (including some well known classics)

Something to note, some famous dude’s bathtub was there..made of porphyry..a red marble with no known natural source left. It is used in a lot of alter pieces in churches around Rome. Anyways, I informed Jill that I would bring that back and make it my personal bathtub..with bubbles incorporated as well! (it Is on a stand a couple feet in the air and could pass as a Jacuzzi with jets installed. )

Low point: when everyone was funneled into these hallways and we greatly resembled herded cattle *moo* with all the jostling and bumping.

SO WORTH IT THOUGH. Because the mass crowds all dumped into the “holding pen” in the SISTINE CHAPEL!! I could have cared less about the (annoying) amounts of people. And I was strangely grateful for the museum staff who would give frequent loud “sshhhh’s” or come on a speaker and say in 3 languages to please keep a respectful tone and take no photography or use video cameras. (not that it did any good in stopping the hordes from continuing their “filmed” documentations. ) So I just kind of anchored myself in a spot and craned my head back so I could see the masterpiece above my head. Michelangelo may have thought painting was for women..but he did it exquisitely! The man was such a proportional genius! In how the layout makes the flat ceiling have depth and life… and how their size was accurate, even from the ground. The genesis story unfolds directly overhead…with the famous outreaching hands of God and Adam. The prophets are posed on all sides of the ceiling with their arching bodies and flowing cloaks. The Judgment scene was painted upon the whole wall, with Christ Jesus at the top and familiar figures of mythology at the bottom (the river in hades and it’s guardians). Okay..shutting up about that. Needless to say, I was a bit giddy standing there.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Saturday, march 20th

Oh my goodness!! Actually got to sleep in! I didn’t have a bus to catch and got to wake up, and sit down while sipping on my tea and toast (with strawberry, raspberry, or peach) jam. Susie and Francois took me around Cambridge. I wish I could have spent more time here actually.. (don’t ask me where such time would materialize from) It was like a certainly a college town feel..only not like the ones here…

They showed me Emmanuel College (where he is the head chef) and showed me around the tiny campus and explained how it worked! It is SUCH a difference from here. The dinning hall, set up..gardens and small pond (that is common for most of the campuses there in Cambridge) There’s only like 600 students, and there is hierarchy system of professors, fellows (like, really distinguished alumni?), the President, dean of students etc. I will not explain all the things they told me about here…because I will seriously botch it up.

I really enjoyed just the few hours I got to walk around Cambridge with those two, they both explained things so thoroughly and answered my questions patiently.

Plus I got to see a lot or colleges AND hear what they were about/how they worked and all.. some of those gardens and such ROCKED.

Also the kings college has a church, that is lovely and intricate goth on the outside, and the inside had a high arched ceiling, lined with intricate pieces and slivers of stain glass all the way to the top. It wasn’t sunny outside, or else the whole inside would have been dancing with light.

They drove me (I still got in on the wrong side of the car, since they drive on the opposite “wrong” side of the road) to the train station (so I could get to the airport). I had wanted to go to the cemetery nearby with American soldiers buried there… but we ran out of time.

And I really doubt I could have handled it anyways.

I got the right ticket I needed and arrived early enough to catch an even earlier train! *begrudging thoughts* I really didn’t want to go. Saying goodbye to the pair was honestly really difficult. Not that I was reluctant to return to Rome and the city. It was just so wonderful to be supported with such love and care. (not just there in London, but Switzerland too) a home to return to and leftovers to heat up.

So I sat on the train, wrinkling my nose and face in different directions trying to avoid tears.

A few parting comments from England:

1. I have nearly mastered going to the bathroom in moving transportation such as (but not limited to) buses and trains. This does not sound like a feat until one is in the back of said vehicle while it is in motion, rocking, swaying or jolting through traffic.

2. I did buy tea!

3. The men really and truly are attractive (with their accents as well) ((sorry, shallow observation))

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Friday, March 19th-London City

Last day in London! I really enjoyed being in the city. Not just because the majority spoke English, which offers a feeling of ability to function.. I really enjoyed everything the city offered (even though I didn’t have time in any sense of the term)

Started the day at the Embankment, and walked down toward St. Pauls. It was a nice walk and a great day out. Paused at the bridge before walking across, turning to the left you could look up the stairs and see the towering church. Then turning to the other side, I walked across the millennium bridge to the British Tate Modern Museum. Before entering the Tate Modern, I walked around the replica of Shakespeare’s Globe!!! It is right on the water, and has a thatched roof!! Could only see the outside… had to pay to get in. Even though not the real/original structure, it was cool to see and imagine what it would have been like, drawing an audience to attend across London.

The Tate Modern was pretty cool, and I wandered through it for a while. I used to really like abstract art, I still do (just not as much). Though, the first few rooms left me more than a little disgruntled and annoyed by the art there. Perhaps I just started in the wrong section, jumping straight into abstraction and surrealism from the great classical renaissance and baroque I have been visually saturated with recently. There were a few rooms that I completely enjoyed! Including some of Picaso’s work and some other for real legit people’s work too!! So it wasn’t a complete waste in any way, just moments of serious irritation. I mean really, some ideas are important and however they chose to express that inner angst is valuable. In some cases it’s educational for me to look at and understand (with the help of the descriptive caption). But there are some works that I just hope it helped them feel better inside to create the pieces.

I left with the emotional turmoil that was often displayed in the pieces. Love and attraction to some of the art. And disdain and disregard to others. Rather abstract feelings eh? Haha

Set out walking back across the bridge, circled around the church (it cost to get inside. So I just appreciated the outside). Located the “Tube” entrance (which I now have practically mastered at using!!)..and set off to the National Gallery! I really enjoyed the National Gallery. I only got through a few rooms, but they had it set up starting in the middle ages and on up through with the painters. (including a da vinci!) I left to meet up with the girls after only walking through a few of the widespread rooms. While waiting, I ate lunch in the plaza in front of the gallery building. Kinda munching (standard of figs, hazelnuts, dates, sandwich(sharp cheese and “pickles”/chutney!), apple and kit kats!) while watching the people around me who were leaning on the fountains, or taking pictures next to the four lions at the base of the pinnacle statue in the center.

The rest of the girls (who came from watching the changing of the guard at Buckingham palace…which sounded pretty legit. But I had other places to check out! ) and I then went to Abbey Road. That was rad J Simply for seeing/standing where these awesome musicians were so famously photographed! Abbey road is a well used road, even without rush hour it’s a busy road, in fact, one could maybe use the word highway. It took crossing the street several times because of traffic or other people, but there was enough of us to take the pic with the right number of people. (I did not take off my shoes, though I would have if not for the conscientiousness of others).

Following this real life fame locations, we went (by my insisting) to nearby Baker Street. 221b Baker street to be exact visit the location of a fictional character. It was a normal street, with only one sign telling where we needed to go, but when I asked directions..they knew where to point me. Why would 221b have significance? It is WHERE SHERLOCK HOLMES RESIDES!!!! Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote this detective as residing at that address in London, so getting to visit the home (though imagined) was pretty great. I did not take the tour, I don’t need to see the arranged inside of a house that I know even better by my own readings. I also resisted buying a copy of the stories there, though the illustrations were nice, with fresh, thick pages bound between embellished covers.

After that the girls went out to dinner, and I went back to the National Gallery. I only I had an hour, and it was not nearly long enough!!! I felt like I sprinted past whole sections of art (which I may have). But I also stood in front of some paintings with my jaw slightly unhinged. There was one artist (of course, cannot remember the name. though in my defense…I have seen so many names and images/sculptors/ buildings it’s a good excuse) anyway he painted a lot of ocean scenes, with detailed ships and a lot of emphasis on light and the motion of the water. I really liked his work.

ALSO! Saw Van Gogh’s Sunflowers!!! (Like, that piece of art in grade school that the teacher talked about and we all tried to imitate. ) And, my very first Degas dancer J I asked, probably a little obliviously, if the works of art in here were all originals or copies. The museum lady said with a little smile that these were all original paintings. I bounced out of that gallery I was so jazzed at what I had just wandered though.

Went down to the Westminster Embankment for the boat/ferry ride that we got with the bus tickets yesterday. (no one else in the group wanted to) so I hopped on the boat, just as the sun had let the sky fade into a pastel grey. I just sort of zipped my jacket up, pulled the hood over my head and ignored the chill to stay on the top, open part of the boat. It went up the river, past Big Ben and the Abby…beneath the London eye wheel…beneath the bridges that I had walked past this morning and ending at the Tower of London. (I got off the boat, tripped over the edge of the dock…landed on said dock, but nearly took out one of the crew members. *sighs* I will never get a hot Englishman at this rate)

Meandered around the Tower(s)..reading all the posted signs around it about the castle. How it used to be The Entrance to the City. And all the bustling activity that was once such a major part of its core existence and defense.

It was dark by the time I walked across the Tower Bridge…which was awesome because the lights fabricated the towers from the darkness. Scooted down the stairs on the south bank and walked along the river back towards the bus stop. It was a lovely walk! An hour and half, a light drizzle (true London experience) And along different parts of the walk, lights were strung up in the trees. Some just white lights. Though there was one section of big bulbs up in the cluster of trees that were tinged a blue light. It was awesome. (even though I was by myself suffering a mega romantic moment with no one to kiss. It was still awesome) Because you could look up through the trees and they looked like the stars were dangling lower in the sky, or like fireflies had been caught on strings.

I did deviate from the river walk to go on the main street/avoid construction. I got to see the area that used to be the docks (which is disappointingly tall buildings). Took a few turns and ended up in the closed down market area, with the smells of rotting fruit behind closed door stands. Then I turned into another narrow ally, with the buildings leaning together above, and the street lamps leaving pools of light on the slick cobblestone. (to avoid being alone, I sort of chased down a woman ahead of me and vaguely looked like my head was on a spring I was looking around so much). Back by the river,all was peaceful by the water, busy with foot traffic, but quiet and still with just the buildings on the other side stretching wavering reflections in the water.

That walk was one of my favorite in London J In the evening with the many buildings and edges softened in the lighted backgrounds. And always the sound of the river!

Hop skip and a jump back on the bus to sleep until Cambridge. Cheers mates.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

thursday march 18th London City

The song that came to mind was the one that Phil walks around always humming, tic tok… “wake up in the morning…I grab my jacket I’m out the door I’m gonna hit this city!”

Breakfast… toast and jam and tea. And lunch/dinner sandwiches packed. And I brought along my mix of dates, figs and hazelnuts (that I bought in Switzerland). Served as lunch, dinner and snacks supplements.

Hopped off the bus to meet up with Abbie, Sarah, Monica, and Mel! We decided to do the “original bus tour” It was a pretty good choice, because we had an (English speaking) tour person on each bus that you could hop on and off.

First stop, BUCKINGHAM PALACE!!!!!!!! We did not see the changing of the guards that day. Non the less it was still awesome to walk past the gate with the guards dressed in uniform standing on the inside. The middle monument area had some stairs, and fountains around it. With that extra got the best view of the plaza area, the palace, and the gardens to the side. Oh there were so many lovely gardens all throughout and around London. I wanted to run through them, make picnic lunches with friends and spread out a blanket. (also, new intention for life: when I have a house and a family, I shall also need a park where I can walk my baby in a carriage. I have seen so many doing so in the parks, and I think it’s lovely J )

Next! WESTMINSTER!!!!! And Parliament..with “Big Ben”! Which is correctly called the Great Clock of Westminster. We were told the names of some of the statues enclircling the courtyard outside the great church. (Martin Luther, Winston Churchill. And Lincoln was even there across the street too) Oh! Also passed a statue of King know, the good king whose country Robin Hood preserved until his return.

No one else was interested in going into Westminster…and I didn’t make it back. Plus, it was 15 euros! I doubted the inside of the church with the little plaques over the graves of some (serious) greats was worth it..this time.. Besides, I was there! (just outside the walls, instead of inside). We got an unexpected tour of the courthouse. (With pleasant security people!) there were three different main rooms for varying levels of trials. It was really interesting.

Big Ben! Was more than I expected!! With the delicate gold colored embelishments! Though all I could think about was Peter Pan, Wendy and the boys alighting on the clock hands of the big clock. I also gave a shout out to the clock for a couple friends!

Hopping back on, and finally succeeded in getting a seat on the open, top. We drove over one of the many bridges to the opposite bank… Which used to be the docks.

Across tower bridge to drive around “the Tower of London” ..which is misleading because there are actually four towers on this old fortress. It was all such a blur, and I spent every moment clinging to railing and craning my head (without a window finally) to see everything. We left the bus at Piccadilly Circus.

Piccadilly is not actually a circus, and the streets to not have entertainment on them besides what the crowds bring. Which was actually pretty exciting!! Just the hustle and bustle of people in the city and the activity the crowds bring. We walked back to Harrods, just to walk through. The front display windows were sort of trippy with the colors and the manikins dress and the “set” design. But a couple brought to mind Alice in Wonderland. Though only one had the mad hatter in it…

Inside were floors and entier levels devoted to things like perfume, clothes (expensive clothes) and a notorious toy department. It was crazy, but really spiffy and nice. ( Though If the place sold out and donated all profits..we could probably solve world hunger/find a cure of cancer or AIDS.)

Next we walked to a corner restaurant, up a narrow, carpeted stairwell to the upper part of the restaurant for food. Since I had packed food, I just had a light ale (English style) with some help from the bartender/server in picking! It was nice and relaxing.

Off to the metro then to Victoria Coach station to safely board the bus. Slept like a champ for most of the ride back. Picked up by Francois in Cambridge, and once “home” curled up in that big, soft, warm bed (yes I have said this already. The novelty will doubtfully ever fade.