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Sat, Oct. 1st, 2005, 07:30 pm
Naples

September 12 - Left Rome for Naples. Note to self, bad idea. Even before we left the train station people were trying to solicit things and when I say they were “in our face,” I mean whereas a “go away,” or “not interested” would generally work, these people are undeterred. I think it was the “gratzie” at the end of “no, gratzie” that threw them. These people don’t say “thank you.”

Anyway, at the train station my game plan was to get to the information desk (as train stations generally have the most comprehensive ones) and to figure out how to get a group tour to the Amalfi Coast as I’d only found private ones online. So I get to the information desk….and no one was there. I mean it was open… there was no note or anything… they guy just stepped out apparently. Having no choice BUT to wait since the only two things I needed to do in Naples was to get to Pompeii and Amalfi and I needed more information to decide which to do that day, Russ and I waited around for him. Ten minutes later, he comes strolling along with a cigarette and a small dog. No worries. Oh, and for some G-d forsaken reason, there is no public tour, just private ones with sketchy drivers.

From the train station we walked to our hotel. It was only 200 m (the best decision I made was to book a B&B by its proximity to the train station) from the station, but I kid you not, those 200 m were a battlefield. Apparently, Naples has a casual relationship with the law. This is most easily evidenced by their driving. Despite its size, the city of Naples has for some reason, found no need to install traffic lights. At all. There were a few zebra crossings, but as Russ pointed out, “right of way means you’re in the way, and they have a right to hit you.” The cars stop at the zebra crossing… as long as they aren’t going to fast. Luckily, we only had to make the trip across the street six times. I shudder to think about navigating a city that looked like that.

After dropping off our things, Russ and I went back to the train station and caught the commuter rail to Pompeii. While it was both fun and interesting walking through what felt like a life-sized maze, I’m not sure I have that much to say about Pompeii. It was nice? The views of Vesuvius were breathtaking? There were too many stray dogs? I don’t know. Maybe my views of the day are tainted from getting sick a few hours later, who knows.

Getting sick: yeah, not much on that. It’s pretty self-explanatory. I don’t get sick a lot as most of you know, but when I do I make it count. I was light-headed and dehydrated, and I had a sore throat, etc. I was a lot of fun. Russ took care of me and made me drink, so that was good. We went across the street and had some soup although that didn’t agree with me all that much either. The next day I felt better though, that was good. Of course Russ didn’t though, because both us feeling good in Naples simply wasn’t possible. Luckily, I’d saved some tea bags from our apartment in Florence so we made ourselves tea, and the women at the B&B brought us toast/croissants to take for later.

September 13 - While there was no way we were making it to Amalfi/Positano feeling that way (it’d be adventurous for two perfectly healthy people), after dropping off our things at the train station, we did make it to Sorrento. It honestly worked out really well. Sorrento was only a commuter train ride away (the same one as Pompeii, just further), and since it was more of a city to “be” in, we didn’t even miss out on anything. We just walked around some shops, (bought some souvenir liquor/candy) and just meandered from one shady bench to another until it was time to go back.

At the station we got our bags, got on the train to Bologna. Once in Bologna we walked straight to the first B&B we had planned on staying the first night. After all, we already knew Davide and knew that if anything went wrong we’d still have somewhere to stay.

When we got to the B&B Davide treated us as if we were his best friends. It was so funny. He’s like “how was your trip, actually, don’t tell me know, we’ll talk.” See, I took that to mean we’ll talk later, not I’ll be in your room on the third bed talking to you like a teenage-girl-at-a-slumber-party. With him it was hard to separate gay from just plain Italian.

September 14-

Walked around Bologna. Yeah, that’s about it. Took the plane home. :(

Sat, Oct. 1st, 2005, 06:35 pm
Rome

Where was I? Right, walking through the rain. So we were walking through what can best be described as a flood and when we finally get to them temple (which is so large and beautiful one’s first inclination is to assume it is a church), we realize that there is no way to get in. There is a guard with a gun at the door (there’d been a terrorist attack there in 1982) and when we asked about services, he shrugged and motioned for someone who spoke English to direct us. He told us to go through the back entrance but we didn’t understand how since it was locked. After coming back around to the front (to ask them more questions?), we saw these two Jewish women with an umbrella yelling at the security guard to get under it. I don’t even honestly remember how we knew what they were talking about, but their mannerisms were soooooooooo Jewish that honestly, it was already worth walking through the rain for. I mean honestly, who but two old Jewish women would boss around a security guard?

Anyway, at around 6:45 people started to line up near the back, (they only let people in for fifteen minutes) but Russ and I didn’t think we’d actually be allowed inside because of the backpack we had. The security guard told us that we’d have to get rid of it, or “leave it in the car,” but when I explained that we’d walked and didn’t have a car he just told us to stand across the street under the awning of the police station. Finally, still unsure if he’d let us in, we lined up and after taking my digital camera for safe keeping and checking our backpack, he let us in.

Services - The services were different from any of the ones I’d ever attended before, even those in Europe. While there was the standard orthodox split inside (women above, men below), this synagogue was kind of eerie in that it was so grandiose it felt like a church, but the same time, really empty. Also, rather than sing in unison or have a cantor, almost the entire service was sung in unison by these three men. The acoustics were great and they knew what they were doing – they literally conducted the whole thing in both ¾ and 4/4, but at the same time, it was odd for me because I suppose that being able to sing in temple is my favourite part and the way they did it was beautiful, but kind of isolating as well. I suppose I just love the heartfelt cacophony of the way it’s done here. Oh, and if you want to see what the shul looks like: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synagogue_of_Rome

After temple we took a bus halfway to Termini and ate around Barberini. The most amusing bit was right before when Russ or I (can’t remember which) asked Zoosya, the German girl I’d met in temple (read: German, not German Jewish….), to teach us something in German, and she replied “why would you want to learn German, it’s such an ugly language?” The look in Russ’s face was sooooooooo good. I mean I was amused, but it was just too good. (Just as an aside, for anyone reading this, I apologize for how scattered and vague I’m being. I’m just really tired and mad at myself that I’m updating this roughly three weeks after I should have.)

Dinner was good. Can’t remember too much about it except that we were seated next to Brett, an American eating alone, with whom we (sort of) had dinner. Highlights: getting dry.

September 10, 2005 – Saturday morning was the only morning that we’d be in Rome that the Vatican museum was open and there was no way I was leaving Rome without seeing the Sistine Chapel, Raphael rooms, etc. We got up early, bought a tour bus ticket at Termini and were at the Vatican by 10 AM. Good thing too because the line was around three blocks, or rather, around the perimeter of the museum, and it took us until twenty minutes until closing to really go through. (Closing was at 12:45.)

The Sistine Chapel really was worth the wait, as was in my opinion, the actual experience or feel of the museum. There wasn’t anything for me to see as much as it was necessary to be. The place has an aura of serenity… that’s the only thing I feel that really differentiated it from the Louvre (it’s certainly comparably in that size wise it is roughly 6 times more than one person can ingest…) for me, because I certainly wasn’t taken with all of the religious painting. In fact, I think after the first few churches we’d gone to, both Russ and I were already desensitized…

Nothing to say about the Raphael rooms, (well actually, that I’d like the exhibit at London’s National Gallery better, just because it was more accessible?...), nothing out of the ordinary anyway, but Michelangelo…. Oh, man. To quoteth Russ again, “he’s the game and no one else even knows the rules.” The level of precision and detail in the frescos… frescos that are so far away! really is incomprehensible.

From there we hopped back on the bus and went to the Spanish steps. Not much to see, it was very touristy, but the view from the top was really nice. I found out that that’s where Shelley died, and got to look at SWARMS of tourists gawking at absurdly expensive Gucci, Prada, etc. shops.

From the top of the steps it was only a short hike to the Borghese gallery. I didn’t want to go in, because frankly, after the Vatican any museum is just superfluous, but I had wanted to see the grounds and it looked like it was located in a really ice park, so why not? The park, rather Villa Borghese, really was magical. It was just so peaceful… everything was lush and green, a lot like Central Park during the summer… except that no one was in a rush anywhere. While Russ and I had originally planned to walk to Siena square, a square in the park, we just wound up lying down in the grass instead. It was just too beautiful, green, and lush to not. That park makes time stop.

Post park: Trevidi fountain, the Coliseum/Forum and dinner. Trevidi fountain was okay, once again, really touristy, and so, we were only there for five or so minutes. (The legend is if you throw a coin into the fountain you’ll be back in Rome sometime before you die, and so, I felt that after I’d thrown a coin my job was done.)

The Forum. I think it’s funny that out of all of the people I could have gone to the Forum with I went with Russ, who has the same view on Rome as I do. Mainly, “it was fun while it lasted.” Growing up in a house where my mother manages to extol some function of ancient Rome on a weekly basis, that and well… I was in Rome, I felt obligated to go to the Coliseum/Forum, but honestly, my heart wasn’t in it. I wasn’t quite as bad as the Aussies at our hostel whose suggestion as to the Coliseum was “why don’t they just bulldoze that man… they could but up a restaurant or sumin’, they could have a placemat…. ‘you’re eatin’ where the Coliseum was,’” but I wasn’t too into it either. However, the weather was perfect, and just walking around talking, and taking in the irony that here are two Jews, walking around the ruins of ancient Rome will always make the Forum special for me. Oh, that and we closed it. We were so wrapped up in conversation that we hadn’t even noticed that tourists were being ushered out of the Forum and that we were the only ones left!! Made for good pictures. 

Dinner. We at near Piazza Navona, and while the dinner would have been decent by itself, the best part was when out of NOWHERE, an entire wedding procession walked in. No joke we are probably in all of these people’s pictures. It was a pretty small place, and honestly, I just don’t even get it… in America, there is no WAY this whole restaurant would not have been reserved. Oh, and while this is more of a joke to myself (hopefully when I look back on this journal I’ll still remember what it means,) “weddings, they get me every time.”)

Overall, one of the best/most magical days of my life. And yes, I know that’s a fragment.


September 11, 2005 – Having done everything we’d wanted to do in Rome (frightening, isn’t it?) we spent our third day in Rome in Ostia, a seaside town just west of Rome. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ostia

Ostia Antiqua - I honestly don’t know why Russ and I even stopped there given our love of ruins. Oh wait, yes I do - I though I’d lost my credit card. I realized I’d taken it out the night before when I’d booked a hostel in Naples (which by the way, was no easy task), and while I was relatively sure it was still in the jeans I’d worn the night before, I wasn’t positive. All I’d wanted to do was to call Mastercard and see if they could put a stop on the card without canceling the card. Geez-Louise, was that a hassle. First, I needed to buy a calling card as mine had conveniently, just run out. Then, after they put me on hold they realized that I needed the debit card office as I had misplaced a debit card instead of a credit card. All in all I was on the phone some twenty odd minutes and after I explained the situation to the women with whom I had been speaking, she told me that my best bet was to call the operator and have him connect me to MasterCard as that call would be free. Thinking an operator is not the hardest person in the world to get through to, I hung up. After dialing zero and realizing that the phone had no directions on how to reach the operator, I walked over to the information desk I was conveniently standing next to. Not only did they not know how to get through to an operator – in their own country – but they didn’t have a phone with which they might get through to someone who would know. That’s right folks, an information desk with no phone. The comedy of it was just too good. All in all, it might have been the best thing to happen at that moment because it helped me relax and assure myself that it was probably in my jeans.

Oh, and there really wasn’t anything to see in Antiqua. We walked down to the ruins as they were only a five minute walk down the road, took a look around and decided that it wasn’t worth stopping for. Random aside was that we saw some of our first stray dogs here, although I will get to that in Pompeii. Got back on the train and took it out another twenty or so minutes until we got to Lido di Ostia.

The entire time we were on the beach I felt like I was in a European movie: the small, asphalted road, the mopeds…the feel of the ocean…my own private “Lucia y el sexo,” if you well. On the bus, I met a Russian woman and her grandson and they helped us pick a beach (there are eight), and I have to say I was pretty happy with our choice although I can’t imagine they were all really that different from one other. Pretty run of the mill actually, just some beach chairs, a lifeguard area (complete with lifeguard’s topless girlfriend and occasionally missing lifeguard), and a bar.

Perhaps it was even too beachy(?), for while I will never look at the Mediterranean the same way again, I wasn’t able to picture my parents living there. I suppose it looked different in ’79 though. No markets.

Got back, talked with our wonderful Aussie friends, and headed off to the Jewish quarter http://www.romanhomes.com/your_roman_vacation/quarters/jewish-quarter.htm for dinner. We at in a gardened in the back of a restaurant on Via Portico d’Ottavia, the main Jewish street, and caught a part of a private concert from a roped off area above. 

Came back to the hostel and got into a discussion on the merits of McDonald and why, apparently, the one in Rome is the best one in the world: worthy of attending three times in one day, in fact.

Sat, Sep. 24th, 2005, 09:47 pm
Part of the first day in Rome

It’s sad that it's this far after Rome and I have to update about it now. It’s even sadder that I can’t seem to get into a frame of mind that will allow me to write in anything other than joined fragments, but oh well. Time for a MASSIVE (and I mean MASSIVE), post.

September 9, 2005 - Woke up, left our apartment , swung by St. Croce and the Duomo to say goodbye (not sure the Duomo counts since it was on the way though) and walked over to Santa Maria Novella, the train station. On the way, it started POURING and although we walked into a bar to get breakfast in hopes that it would stop, it only got harder. By the time we got to the train station Russ and I were both soaked, but after changing/drying off, it was honestly even nice. There’s something so calming about taking a train during the rain. That pensive, sinking feeling I suppose. The understanding you get that there is no better way for you to be spending your time at that exact moment, a calm regrouping of sorts…

Got to Rome and while it had stopped raining (or had it not started yet there?) it looked as thought it might start at any second. Walked from Termini, the main terminal (Note to self: etymology of terminal. I knew I forgot to look something up!) to our hostel, which was some four odd blocks away. It was the strangest hostel I’d been to in a long time. Rather than being just one free-standing building, it was a HUGE old apartment building or hotel that had been divided into four hostels/hotels, but once again, rather than being divided by flours or sections, every floor had at least two or three hallways – all belonging to different hotels.

The best part of this hostel though was the lift. The lift looked as though it could have broken at any second. It held a maximum of two people and luggage although I’m not sure other people held to that rule. Anytime Russ and I saw anyone else getting on it, we’d just get off instinctively. Simply put, it was not an elevator you’d jump up and down in unless you really wanted to go down. Oh! this is great. Just for kicks, I asked the man at the front desk when the elevator had last been inspected. I knew he wasn’t going to give me a straight answer and preempting that I’d spit out a small piece of the apple I’d been eating. Yup, I’d been laughing that hard.

Anyhow, from the hostel we walked back to Termini and tried to get the bus tour but since it could start raining decided our best bet would be the Vatican. Waited in line, got rained on (right before we were going in too! Bah!), and saw the Basilica. Michelangelo really is amazing but that was more the theme for the next day as we didn’t get to go to the Vatican’s museum that day, even though we were already there because they closed at what time? Right, 3:20 PM. Ack! So after that minor setback we wound up going to the Pantheon. Keep in mind that it is still POURING and I have a small little umbrella and Russ won’t go buy one so he has to keep shouting “Amore aqua!” at the street vendors. (This, in case you hadn’t already guessed was Russ’s concocted translation of “I like the rain so leave me alone because I’m not going to buy your umbrella.”)

Okay, more updating later.

Thu, Sep. 8th, 2005, 09:33 pm
Firenze / Siena

Wow, it's been almost exactly a year since I've started using this thing!

September 7, 2005 -

Yesterday we had as full an art history day as anyone could hope to have. We got up a little later than I'd hoped given that my watch stopped and it was raining outside (which anyone who has ever lived with me knows makes it harder for me to get up), but overall the line to the Uffizi wasn't so bad. We wound up waiting for a tad bit more than an hour and fifteen minutes, but given that the difference would have been 11€ to have reserved a spot, it wasn't too bad.

The Uffizi, obviously, (that was just for you, Lev) was AMAAAZZZZZZINNNNNGG. And enormous. And across the street from our apartment, which I feel, was by far the best part of our visit. Yep, that's right. As beautiful as the paintings in the museum were, for me, the rush of getting out and quite literally staring at your lodging was better.

From there we ate lunch (where Russ only half-jokingly pointed out that all of the signs telling you what NOT to do are in English... yeah...) and strolled around the San Marco market and a local bookshop. (Best near purchase: a book entitled "How to be Idle")

Next, onto the Galleria d'Accademia. Although it has a large number of other works, I'd be suprised if even one out of every 20 people was there to view something other than Michaelangelo's David. That being said, there wasn't too much for me to see aside from the David (and the four "prisoners," and two Lippi's) either given that I too was a bit burned out from the Uffizi. Oh, and if anyone is curious the Accademia is home to the most miserable tour guide ever. Period.

Strolled by the obscenity again (I mean how can you miss it?), went out to dinner in G-d's restaurant (every guidebook since 1022 has rated it, apparently), bought AMAZING Gelato, (yes, I said it) and then took a stroll passed Florence's Synagogue.

Today, September 8, 2005

Siena. We took a bus there at around 11 (we got a relatively late start on the day, but not too bad overall...) and basically just strolled around after that. It was nice not having too much of a plan, and all in all everything went well given that it had started to rain. Saw Il Campo and the Duomo there and wandered into a Dominican church. Highlights include reading how: 1) twice a year the shell-shaped piazza in front of Il Campo is used for horseracing and that at that time the participants are allowed to flaggelate one another with a whip made from a Bull's penis, and 2) The Dominican church holds the head and one half finger of St. Catherine, their patron saint. Love this country.

Came back, studied a tiny bit and then went out to dinner at my favourite restaurant here. :) All is well.

Tue, Sep. 6th, 2005, 05:26 pm
Bologna y Firenze

It's been so long since I've posted that I have almost forgotten the format I used to use! That and the keyboard here is a tad bit different.

Sunday, September 4th -

Flew out. Not much else. Spend the first few hours of the day packing and getting last minute things. Actually, now that I think about it, I should fly out at night more often. There was so much time to remember what you forgot. lol. It's sad that I need that time, but what can I say, I do.

The flight on the way here was good. I was a bit uneasy/curious using Eurofly because they are so new but everything worked out well. Los Parents dropped us off at the airport and Russ and I talked/prenteded to sleep our way through the flight (their movies weren't that great).

Monday, September 5th -- (but really the same day)

By the time we got off of the flight/got our luggage it was already nearing 13:00. Exchanged money, bought phone cards, called home, the usual. (Why I can't stay in one tense or decide on formal or informal, I don't know... lol) Anyways, when we FINALLY get to the hotel (since Italy still to some degree observes le siesta we had to check in by 14:00), by EXACTLY 14:00 if I may compliment myself so, David, the man at the front desk, tells us he does't have a room for us because it was leaking from upstairs, etc. He claims he tried to contact (I might add that I STILL have no such email from him --- which is sad as I'm slightly compulsive about checking my email) but that he didn't get through. Luckily, because he felt genuinely bad about the situation not only had he already reserved us another hotel room at a better location for the same cost (he had to pay the difference), but he offered to drive us there. Yay! So that was good.

The hotel was located on Via Del Calle which is one of their larger, or rather, more central streets. Just down the road were the two towers (whose 498 steps I decided to forgo) and a bit further the Piazza Maggiore. For the first time I'm not going to post about every thing I saw because honestly, rather than head into every single museum and church, I'm trying to enjoy just BEING in Italy. For there is something to be said about just watching the people, and seeing the sculptures outside rather than hunting down every signle illuminated manuscript or every last painting influenced by Giotto.

Today, September 6th --Firenze

That being said today, after we got here we have still already been inside Santa Croce, the town Hall in the Piazza della Signorina, and walked by Ponte Vecchio, the Uffizi, Santa Maria Novella, and the Duomo (whom I have affectionatelly started referring to as 'the oscenity' for nothing, I repeat nothing, should be SO large).

Fri, Jul. 8th, 2005, 05:29 pm
DC

I'm sitting in the Washington School of Law's library right now. Yay for free internet! I came down here to tour DC with Andrew but also to look at the two law schools I am/was (haven't decided if I'm not interested in American anymore) interested in applying to. George Mason was nice. Anywhoo... here's a recap so far.

Thursday: Got up, showered, researched George Mason, Georgetown, GW, and American (Washington) online and then called to set up appointments. Spoke to Marina for a bit (found out I didn't have to drive her to LaGuardia, which was nice as it gave me time for a more relaxed morning), packed, ate lunch and went to the city. Bought tickets at the Greyhound (for $35 dollars A PIECE when they were $35 ROUNDTRIP online) so I got to be mad at myself for a good long while about that....) and then got on the Greyhound with Andrew (and Michelle who was meeting us at Port Authority).

Just a random note about my travel philosophy (frankly, I wasn't sure I REALLY had one until recently, but yeah, I do):

1) Know what you want to do ahead of time. Your first day, take in ideas. Just get an impression or overview of the place. That way you can find a park or a good sunny spot and sit there with a map planning things out.
2) Once you've decided what you want to do, things should be accomplished with the utmost efficiency. I'm not quite as bad as a Ruski tour guide (I stop to use the bathroom and to eat...well, sometimes) but I'm certainly more of the accomplish philosophy than the relax. Effectively, I like to get up early and go go go until I know that I am mentally saturated.
3)While arriving early is good you shouldn't have to arrive too early anywhere --- you should know how much time any given task should take beforehand and arrive with only enough time to fix/deal with a small forseeable error. (This does not include anything concerning an airplane, only transportation that comes frequentely.) This way you don't lose valuable time somewhere else.
4) Band-aids. Always have band-aids. The amount of blisters I get is special.
5) Never plan anything that is fixed unless it is really necessary. You miss out on too much that way. Life should be a game of speed scrabble.
6) Always leave earlier than you intended.

Right, anyways... on the bus we met a girl named Stephanie who goes to school with BEAKER (said in the squeaky tone) and started talking to her. She could have graduated in 5 years total (for hs and college). Bah me. Beaten again. No, I'm just kidding...she seemed really cool and was on her way to DC to work for a congressman so she, Mich, Andrew and I hit it off talking and the like. I really love meeting people randomly on buses. Especailly when it is so evident that if we lived near one another we'd probably be friendly. Oh, and she's from Kansas which, frankly, although not Nebraska, is up there on my list.

Got out of the Greyhound into relatively sketchy DC. Walked up the street and passed the American Psychological Association. For such a grand organization all I have to say is what an ugly building. Then again, no matter how nice a building is in DC it seems to be situated in the singal ugliest manner it could be. Sometimes I feel as though they are trying. But really.

It was pouring when we got out so I was obnoxiously whiney and sticky. Doubt I was a pleasure to be around. We got Mexican food (except for me who hates beans) and then went back to Haddie's dorm. Andrew and I started working on her papers with her (in between a discussion of general hygine standards), and went to sleep.

Today: Got up, showered, worked on Haddie's papers and then took the Metro out to GMU. Overall, I liked it. I mean I don't REALLY have a sense of it and it isn't the same ominous sense I got walking into the Cornell law library but overall, it was okay. (Perhaps one day I will stop discriminating against modern architecture...) I got a personal tour and asked questions and was a good little applicant. ::pats self on head in a condescending manner::

From there (after much discussion), And and I went to Arlington cemetary as the weather had cleared up.
For those of you who don't know why I love Arlington so much, read the pasted part below. Which is not to say that I don't respect our National Cememtary on its own merits... but come on. To so brilliantly haunt someone you hate...that takes balls.

History of Arlington:
Arlington was for many years the estate of Colonel Robert E. Lee. Lee had graduated at the top of his class at West Point and had faithfully served his nation as an Army Officer throughout the Mexican War and then in Engineering and Cavalry assignments throughout our young nation. At the onset of the Civil War, after first refusing the command of all Union forces, he volunteered his services to his home state of Virginia. During the course of the war, his former estate was seized by the Union Army, which made it a headquarters. In 1864, with Union dead piling up throughout the Washington area, the search for a suitable site for a military cemetery resulted in a recommendation from Major General Montgomery Cunningham Meigs (the Union Quartermaster General) that Lee's former estate be converted to a burial ground. Meigs, a Southern native, had remained loyal to the Union and reportedly hated Lee for his service to the Confederate cause. Out of the death and destruction of the Civil War, and from this personal hatred, was born Arlington National Cemetery.

After Arlington we went in search for food and wound up in the Old Post Office near the mall. Ate, walked around for a bit and made it into the National Gallery. (No trip anywhere is complete without a nod to Rembrandt or Vermeer...besides, Andrew hadn't seen these so it's justifiable.) Walked past the Capital and then here, to AU's law school.

About to catch a bus to AU's main campus. Haddie should be home from work soon so we can get in the room. After that? Dinner? Who knows. More tomorrow.

Sun, Dec. 12th, 2004, 07:36 am
The last 2 weeks?

So, the last two weeks: Since Mama and Andrew left mostly I've just been tying up loose ends of things. Writing papers, going to work, taking finals, the like. Oh! And I saw His Dark Materials and went to Stratford to see Julius Caesar... (yeah, so I just decided I should attempt an order of things, however, it is going to be unusually flawed)

Sunday, Nov 28 - Wednesday 1st : Preteneded to write papers. I was so tired from shuffling about that the only things I think I genuinely accomplished was getting into Hollyoaks, a BAD BAD British soap aimed at teens. Then again, with one of the plotlines being a character called Lee discovers that his friend Bombhead (his actual name) has been keeping his dead mother in house for months. The dialogue is superb. For example, one Lee is telling his mother that he "should have been a better friend to him. [He] should have known something was wrong with his mother. [He'll] never let him down that way again." Maybe it wasn't this EXACT phrasing(although it was close), but the way he delived those lines made it seem as though he'd be discovering another one of his friends with a dead mother in his/her living room very soon. Like I said, spectacularly bad television.

Thursday, December 2nd - Went with the group to Statfrod-upon-Avon. I was giddy the whole day. The idea that I was going on a trip that I didn't have to plan, drive to, etc, was overjoying. Visited Shakespeare's birthplace and saw David Farr's production of Julius Caesar. It was bad. Just plain bad. He tried to make it very Brechtian (complete with little beeping noises in the background that one feel as though they are in the middle of a hearing test) - which is a disaster in a play in which the audience should connect emotionally to the characters. Brutus was played as if he was Hamlet and Mark Antony as if he was Herman Goering...it wasn't good. What was good though was I found a second-hand bookshop when I was there (when didn't I?) and it was a bit pricey but their selection was awesome. I bought Winnie-the-Pooh books. :)

Friday, December 3rd - Visited Shakespeare's burial place and then went to Warkwick Castle. I didn't expect to like Warwick Castle as much as I did. It was in many ways less authentic than Corfe Castle, however, the grounds were more complete and beautiful. Warwick couldn't have been TOO good as a defense post....but they had peacocks!!! I a whole garden of peacocks!!! They are such amazingly regal birds that just looking at them made me happy. After that we came home and I spent most of the night at the computer lab.

Saturday, December 4th - Queued for His Dark Material Tickets in the morning and then decided I didn't really have time to go to a matinee. Left, walked by Somerset House to buy ice skating tickets and went back to the computer lab. Thankfully, I wound up getting half my paper written. Yay.

Sunday, December 5th - Made breakfast for my flatmates. Fire alarm went off as a result. Oops. Anyways, the breakfast was good and we watched Hollyoaks and then I went to more or less finish the paper. It wound up coming out okay, which is remarkable as it started out AWFULLY. Having almost no work this semester didn't help.

Monday, December 6th - Finished up last minute paper things and then went to class. In class we had a liberal Democrat MP come talk to us (I forgot his name :( -- I'm telling you, if I lived in England I'd be a liberal Dem all the way. They're like the Ralph Nader party that's slightly less over-the-top except equally unelectable. I don't know anyone living in England who'd actually vote for them. Then again, I don't know anyone who really likes Labour although they keep voting them into power...

Monday Night: His Dark Materials. I'm not usually into fantasy but that show was just incredible. Since the book is over 1,000 pages it took two three-hour parts to stage. I only saw the first part on Monday.

Tuesday: Work and then a final afterwards. I could have been more together on the final but it wasn't due to a lack of studying, rather, I was just in a galaxy far away. Also, I find it increasingly more difficult to write by hand as I very rarely have to. I can't say it matters too much though, I probably did fine.

Tuesday night: Drinks at Chiquitos in Leicester Square to celebrate being done!!

Wednesday: My last day of work. It started off basically the same (Martin had me cross checking footnotes on Page Maker since the book had been reset) except that right before lunch I gave Martin the Thank You note I wrote him as well as the bone I intended for Oskar. When I came back from lunch Martin wasn't in (which wasn't unusual as I had a key). When he finally did come in though he brought me a book and said "thank you." It was a nice, albeit a tad bit awkward. Later in the day, (when I finished what I had been doing and intercommed to tell him) he came down with packadges for me to deliver and said that would be my last task. He said some really nice things to me, ie, that I was one of the only interns he has had that he would actually hire, lol, and that it had been nice -- which I think is more feedback than I thought Martin was capable of so I was happy.

Wednesday night: Had a VERY fake pot-luck Channukah party. It was upsetting, we didn't even have a Menorah to light or Latkas to fry. We was that po'. :0) After our "party," I packed some eighty per cent of the stuff I had left.

Thursday: Carpe Diem! Went ice skating at the Sommerset House!! There weren't too many people when I got there, (which was good) and then all of the sudden, BAM: sixty primery schoolers. It worked out okay though, they were so cute and English...when they saw that I could skate backwards (which itself was a miracle as I was in hockey boots) they formed a queue and came up to me and were like "you're teaching me first, and then those two." They were so serious that I tried to not laugh. Of course I wound up helping kids who had fallen around the rink and I did at least attempt to teach those three how to skate backwards. And they only fell on me and bruised both my knees twice!! I was relatively unscathed! At the end of the session the people who worked there came up to me to offer me a job. If I was going to be there longer I would have jumped at the chance!! The Sommerset Ice Skating Rink is their equivalent of Rockafeller Center.

From there I went to say goodbye to the National Gallery. As usual, it was spectacular and saying goodbye was difficult. Just for fun I filled out a job application there. Lets see if they get back to me. :)

After that I effectively said goodbye to every major bookstore in London and all of the little ones on Charing Cross. I was in search of a book that I miraculously, did not find. We're not talking about it.

Boat Party! Our groups last function was a boat party that left from Embankment Pier and went about a mile past the Thames barrier and all the way up to Westminister before coming back to Embankment. London at night is INCREDIBLE. As is the fact that I floated by the green laser that is the Prime Meridian. :)

Friday, December 10 - Carpie Diem (on steroids)! I get tired thinking about Friday. Woke up and darted out of bed to the National Theatre for tickets for His Dark Materials II. Then for some inextricable reason I just sat at the NT doing nothing for almost forty-five minutes. Chatted with some people I met on the queue and then went to Camden Market to find a shirt/bowler hat for Andrew. Dissatisfied with the prices, I left and from there went to?...oh, right, Harrods. Their food hall really is incredible....it had everything. Unfortunately, all I had time (and money for) were some teas.

From Knightsbridge I zipped over to Covent Garden and then back along Charing Cross, into Foyles. Bought my book and then went to Oxford Street to pick up some Pashminas. She only have me 11 when she should have given me twelve but I did'nt count them so it was my fault. From there, I went to the British museum (once again, to buy a book...because I didn't have enough of those...lol), back to the flat (I still hadn't eaten all day), and then down the street to UCL to buy a jumper. Of course, I didn't get the jumper because they closed five minutes early and wouldn't let me in. ARG!!!!!! Ran to FSU to check my email and return library books and then went to Royal Festival Hall to return my books from the Poetry Library. Get this: THEY DON'T CHARGE FINES!!!!!! Apparently, it just isn't part of their system...they just write you a guilting note.

Dinner at the National Film Theatre Cafe and then across the walkway to the NT for His Dark Materials II!!! I think the exclamation points said enough. It was spectacularly done.

Parted with Waterloo bridge (which is hard as it is the most amazing view ever) and then went to Covent Gardern to buy Mama the Cornish pastry she wanted. Walked home the LONG way just to soak everything up.

Saturday: Got up really early, got everything together and had Ryan come pick us up. The flight was delayed for three hours because of engine trouble (reassuring, right?) and so I literally spent all my daylight hours in the airport.

Got home.

Mon, Nov. 29th, 2004, 10:28 am
Thanksgiving Week

Saturday, November 20th - Picked up Andrew and Mama from the airport. I woke up late so I ran the whole way but in actuality had to still wait around 15 minutes for them. Came back to the flat and let Andrew nap as he hadn't slept on the plane and was so tired he was falling asleep on the tube. Took Mama on a walk down Charing Cross and to the National Gallery for a bit. On the way back home we bought food and came to wake Andrew up. After dinner the rain stopped (it had been cold and miserable all day) and I gave Mama and Andrew a grand walking tour of the city.

Tour Route: Covent Garden – The Strand – Somerset House – Royal Courts of Justice – Waterloo Bridge (NT and NFT)– South Bank (London Eye & Saatchi) – Westminster Bridge (Parliament & Big Ben) – Whitehall – Trafalgar Square (National Gallery) – Charing Cross – Leicester Square (Soho, Dinner, etc) – Home = 2.5 Hours.

Yes ladies and gents, I rock.

Sunday, November 21st – Took Mama and Andrew up to Camden Market. I wanted to go up there to show them what a general market looks like but really because I figured Andrew would find his souvenirs there. Mama got frustrated at the size but Andrew did find two things he wanted. One, a pocket watch he bought, and the second a bowler hat we decided cost too much at £30.

After Camden Market we took the 88 down to Trafalgar Square and that National Gallery. We bought a ticket for the Raphael exhibit but since our entrance time was in two hours we took a walk into St. James’s Park to get a view of Buckingham Palace and to catch the bi-annual Veteran’s day parade. Honestly, you really have never seen so many bowler hats and poppies in your life. J

From there we walked to Westminster Abbey (but it was closed so we couldn’t go inside) and then back to the National Gallery for the Raphael exhibit. It was splendid. Only the National Gallery could have amassed such a complete collection of Raphael’s works. We had dinner in Covent Garden and from there walked home and watched TV.

Monday, November 22nd – I split up with Mama and Andrew in the morning, agreeing to meet them at 11:30 in front of the Elgin Marbles in the British Museum. While they were exploring that monstrosity of a museum I went to get a History Boys ticket at that National Theatre for Mama, tickets for We Will Rock You for Andrew and myself, and up to Camden Market to negotiate the bowler hat down to £20. All objectives were accomplished minus the bowler hat for which I had to pay £21.10.

After the British Museum we went over St. Paul’s and explored The City. Had Marks & Spencer’s sandwiches in the garden outside the Cathedral and from there tried to go over to Tower Bridge but the Circle & District lines had a bomb threat so they had to evacuate everyone from the station. (I have to say, despite the London Underground being 18,00000 times cleaner I feel safer in a New York Subway. The Underground is soooo far underground that it takes work to get out of there. In New York you have one set of stairs – not three escalators.) We wound up getting out at Bank and from there we saw Monument before walking over to the Tower of London. Honestly, I’m glad we didn’t pay to go in – especially since the view is better on the outside and there is no real point in seeing the Queen’s jewels (although I did see one set of them when I was in Edinburgh Castle in Scotland). Walked over Tower Bridge and then town along the bank to London Bridge. From there, we took the tube to Westminster Abbey.

I have to say I was pretty adamant about not going into Westminster Abbey. Why? I can’t really tell you – perhaps I have been to so many cathedrals as of late that I didn’t see a point, that I found it touristy? Whatever. It was worth it. So many interesting people are buried there and have memorials – it’s worth it for that alone. Andrew’s favourite was Darwin, Mama’s, unsurprisingly is Newton and a mathematician whose name begins with an F I think (not Fermat) whose name I can’t find. I don’t know who mine is although I loved the poet’s corner.

From Westminster Abbey we walked home and just had dinner at the Jack Horner, the corner pub.

Tuesday, November 23 – Woke up, had breakfast and went to Stansted. From there flew to Venice Treviso. Most of the day was spent in transit as we had to get from Treviso to Venice and we finally got to our hotel at around 7. Took a waterbus ride to get to our hotel and then just walked around near San Marco square before dinner. That’s about it.

Wednesday, November 24 – Covered all of Venice. No, really, we saw all of it. Venice is for the most part a city in which atmosphere matters more than any of the sites you will see, but just for good measure we walked around San Marco Square and saw Rialto and Rialto bridge, stopped by a market, walked through the new and old ghettos, and went out to Murano. Oh yeah, and we bought an obscene amount of glass and nearly drove Andrew crazy although none of the things we bought were tchotchki (except for possibly a tiny tiny paperweight I bought because I wanted a simple piece of glass). From there we took the train to Florence at around 4:30 and got to our hotel in Florence at a quarter to 8. Since our Hotel was in the CENTRE of the city, we passed Duomo on the way and then St. Croce on our way to dinner.

Dinner. Oh, Italian food. Our dinner in Florence was spectacular. We walked into this small restaurant where in the span of an hour-and-a-half: an argument broke out, our waiter walked around singing, and all the lights were extinguished as the entire restaurant proceeded to sing to someone celebrating a birthday. When Mama complemented the food, the waiter/owner kissed her hand. It vaz stupendous.

Thursday, November 25 – Mama had these delusions about going to Siena and so Andrew and I were joking that our Thanksgiving feast would be me trying to resuscitate him with Nutri-Grain bars while we shuffled ourselves from one place to another. Luckily, Andrew convinced Mama that going to Siena at 6:25 in the morning so as to be back in Florence by 10/11 and then leaving by 4 was sheer madness. So by comparison, we had a “relaxed” day. J

We started with Piazza della Signoria and then Palazzo Vecchio. From there we walked the ten feet it was to the entrance of the Uffizi Gallery. The Uffizi was spectacular. Not Mauritshuis good for me as it was mostly Renaissance art, but amazing nevertheless. They had incredibly good quality Memlings, and obviously the crème de la crème of Raphaels, Michaelangelos (well, aside from the Vatican), and Botticellis. I also discovered that I really like Lippi and Perugino – at times in fact, more so than some of their more famous contemporaries.

From the Uffizi we walked to Ponte Vecchio and from there we went to St. Croce. I loved St. Croce; it really is a beautifully simple Church. Well, simple in terms of anything built in Florence. lol. Two interesting things about St. Croce, one, it has a Magen Dovid on the front because the guy who built the front was Jewish. Two, Galileo is buried inside and Dante has a memorial there although since his body was never returned to Florence, he isn’t buried there.

Picked up our stuff from the hotel and from there swung by Duomo (the thing is ENORMOUS) and went to the Train Station to go back to Florence. The Hotel we had stayed at on Tuesday and were supposed to stay in again gave away our spot to someone else and so after we complained they put us up with a different hotel. After all the commotion it was almost 9 and in Venice during the winter, that is just about shutting down time. We quickly found somewhere to eat and settled in for our “Thanksgiving feast” of pasta. Mmm Mmm Mmm. J

Friday, November 26 – Hung around San Marco during the morning and then made it to Palazzo Roma to catch the bus to Treviso. Probably got there too early and were bored as it is the world’s smallest airport but I figured it was better to get there early than to get there late and miss the flight. The only downside was that we had promised Andrew a gelato and we hadn’t gotten one figuring we could at the airport. The closest gelato to be had though was 3km away. L Flew home and with commuting time got to my door somewhere near 8 pm. Had dinner and then just walked down to Piccadilly Circus, as there was a café that sold gelato on Regent Street. Or rather, they sold Gelato on Regent St. until Thursday, November 25, the day before. When we got there they had decided they weren’t selling anymore until the summer. Bastards. Walked down the rest of Regent’s St relatively miserable and then decided to walk towards Leicester Square on rumour there was a gelateria near there. I must have asked 50 or 60 people – this was a quest. At one point Andrew pointed to the third floor of a building with lights on and said “Nat, I heard there is a rumour that those people know where the gelato is. But their lift is broken and you have to scale the building.” I have never laughed so hard as I did at that – mostly because I realised I was insane. Nevertheless, after an hour and a half we found it – the one gelateria in all of London. (Seriously, it was. We asked.) Keep in mind that by then we had been walking around forever and it was almost midnight. From there we walked home and I still had two hours of packing ahead of me as they took most of my stuff home for me.

Saturday, November 27 – Woke up/had breakfast and went to buy scarves at the Scottish shop in front of the Museum. From there we went to the Portrait Gallery and meandered through there for about an hour. Ate at Covent Garden again and then bought me boots J. Walked home and then dragged all of our things to the tube to go to the airport. Sent Andrew and Mama off with a British plane package: The Guardian, The Mirror, and The Daily Mail and a Cadbury bar.

After I came home I was too tired to move and so I watched the Dead Zone and fell asleep. I’m just a party animal.

Sunday, November 28 – Pretended to write papers for most of the day. I probably only spent half the day actually working and the other half just thinking up ideas, but then again, that isn’t so bad either. Watched Jack Frost, a mediocre movie, on TV with a bunch of my flatmates.

Today – Finished one of my papers, have two more to go, one big one and another small one. Going to class and will either go see I <3 Huckabees or My Summer of Love later tonight.

Fri, Nov. 19th, 2004, 04:53 pm
Oh, and this

Just wanted to include an article I read in the Guardian on Election day. I think I mentioned that the Daily Mirror ran an article saying "how could 59,054,087 people be so stupid." Well I just found an article in the Guardian (even though it's more than two weeks old now) that ended with "On Nov. 2, the entire civilised world will be praying, praying Bush loses. And Sod's law dictates he'll probably win, thereby disproving the existence of God once and for all. The world will endure four more years of idiocy, arrogance and unwarranted bloodshed, with no benevolent deity to watch over and save us. John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr - where are you now that we need you?" Just thought I'd post that for kicks.

Fri, Nov. 19th, 2004, 03:29 pm
Amsterdam (Part II)

It's bad when you are struggling to remember the specifics of what you did last Saturday. Luckily I'm sure that when I remember I'll remember things in excruciating detail. ::proceeds to sit and wait for this revelation to hit her::

Saturday: Woke up early and went to the Van Gogh musuem. There'd been so much confusion as to what we were doing on Friday night that I had a full hour to map out my day's plans. Saturday was mechanically efficient as I'd had time to decide which trams to take and where to go first, second, third, etc. :) Anyways... I'm glad I got to the Van Gogh museum early as it was PACKED and there was a line out the door and half-way up the block when I was leaving. The museum itself was interesting in that the paintings were arranged in chronological order. Also, they had an ungodly collection of his letters to Theo on display. Definetally worth going to.

Clearly at this point my entries have reduced themselves to sketches. Why lie? So, in sketches I:
1) Left the Van Gogh Museum and caught the tram to the Bloekenmarkt or the flower market
2) Went from the flowermarket to near Rembrantsplein and took a canal tour
3) Walked to Rembrantsplein and saw Rembrandt's house but didn't go in
4) Walked to the HUGE flea market near Waterlooplein and bought a Delft vase
5) Went to the Jewish Museum there which was interesting in that it was SO interactive. Also had a really interesting photography exhibit on the Diaspora.
6) Walked accross the street to the Portugese synagogue (dressed in jeans :o/)
7) Took a tram back home as again I was freezing and wet.
8) Went out with Alexis, Ariel, Erica, Greg, and Jackie for dinner
9) Came back to the hotel and watched TV (aka, "chilled")

Maybe I should do this sketch bit more often, certainly gives me more time.

Sunday: Went to Centraal Station and took a train to the Hague. Met an interesting Sweede on the way but didn't have too long to talk to him as my train got there in just under three-quaters of an hour.

The HAGUE: http://home-2.worldonline.nl/~aarde01/royal.htm It's just an amazing city. Moreover, it isn't only beautiful but I like what it represents (however idealistic that is). I went there to go see the Maruitshuis House museum, but I must say that by the time I left I just loved the whole city. The International Court of Justice and the Peace Palace are beautiful, and the city isn't as touristy as Amsterdam is...which was nice.

The Mauritshuis Museum was incredible. By far the best two hours I have spent in Europe. By the time I left I was ready to BURST with joy. It has everything!!! The museum is like the Frick on steroids. Vermeers, Rembrandts, Ruysdael, Cuyp, Hals...OH MY G-D. It was lush, and grand...and oh. ::sigh::

From there I went to Delft as it was only a 20 minute tram ride. Walked into the Markt and well, just had a well-rounded Vermeer day (just as a sidenote I only have 5 left to see in the world...4 in Germany and one in Vienna). The tourist agency was closed but to be honest, there wasn't THAT much to do there at four o'clock on a Sunday so I doubt I was missing much. Walked around shops and walked into a factory where I saw some Delftware being handpainted and then got on a train back to Amsterdam.

Met a quasi-drugged out girl on the train. Spoke to her for a bit as we passed Haarlem.

Got back to the Hotel and just hung out with the group. Got a little stoned, walked around the Red Light District and then just went to sleep.

Monday: Got back to London earlier than I left (We left at 9:10 and touchdown at 8:55), which was cool, and then went to class. (Considerably less cool.)

Tuesday: Work for the first two-thirds of the day and then since the book launch for Frith Powell's "More France Please, We're British." It was held at the Royal Court Theatre in Sloane Square and Martin was really nice and sent me over there in a cab early (I had way too many books to carry although I was willing to attempt) so I had time to explore and such. I don't know quite what to make of it as I haven't been to too many gatherings of that sort before. It was interesting though, watching everyone mingle...I never realized how inclusive in some ways publishing was. Oh, and I didn't have to sit through three hours of Shakespeare so that was a plus.

Wednesday: Work. It was a good week overall, particularly Wednesday as Martin and I spoke more than usual and there was just a relaxed vibe to the place. After work I came home and finished up the cooking for the Thanksgiving party we were having. I'd finished everything up the night before (by the way, I think Kurt Cobain would kill himself if he knew I thought he was good potato-peeling music) but Tara had gotten sick so I offered to do her share after work on Wednesday. The meal was homey and the food was good, I was just unbelievably frustrated with everyone by the end because since our phone was broken I needed a phone to call from (I had a calling card) and no one would let me use theirs.

Thursday: Work. I stayed late because I hadn't finished typing up what I needed to type up and as a result showed up to Hamlet unfed. Hamlet was REALLY REALLY good. Regretfully, I was freezing as my shoes had soaked through, and hungry, and well, unbelievably cranky. After the first act I decided to go home and get dry. I would have stayed had I had any hope that it would have ended in the next hour. Of course this is Hamlet we are talking about and I didn't have three hours to wait for everyone to finally die.

Friday: Today! I went to work to finish up some of the stuff I didn't finish yesterday, but I didn't have to stay the whole day (yay!) because Martin let me go early. Argued with Acorn about how they should fix my broken phone, and came here to update this thing before Mama and Andrew get here tomorrow. Hopefully going to see History Boys. If not, I have enough cleaning to keep me busy for a good long while.

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