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Buh-Buh-Buh-Buh-Barcelona!

For some reason I had the song “My Sharona” stuck in my head during the entire trip. Except the lyrics were “Buh-buh-buh-buh Barcelona” instead. I feel like I’ve heard this somewhere before, so please enlighten me if you know what I’m talking about. Perhaps it was just the genius of my subconscious. At any rate, it was such a good theme song that it also got stuck in Ryan’s head. We even made jokes that I would come up with a new song for every vacation. My next number one single? Marrakesh sung to the tune of the 80s hit “Maniac”.

On to the actual vacation….

I arrived late on a Thursday night and unfortunately didn’t have time to do anything. The next morning I was up early with a plan in mind; I made a beeline for the Chocolate Museum. As soon as I saw that the ticket was edible (a chocolate bar), I knew I had made the right decision. I learned about the history of Chocolate and saw some pretty amazing chocolate sculptures. The only other patrons in the museum were 4-year-olds on a preschool class field trip. I guess that’s what you get when you go to a chocolate museum at 9:00 am on a Friday.

A scene from Bambi made entirely of chocolate.

The rest of the day I spent wandering around the gothic quarter. I happened upon an antiques fair that only happens once a year. I wish I could have brought some things home, but these vendors really knew what their stuff was worth and that means it was out of my price range. To escape the rain, I ate lunch at a little tavern. I couldn’t understand the waitress at all, so I had no idea what I ordered. It turned out to be some kind of gazpacho soup and mystery meat with fries; I’m thinking lamb.

Tavern Mystery Soup

Tavern Mystery Meat

When the sun came out I headed to the docks and sprawled out on a bench drying my coat and flats. The water was so clear I could see big fish swimming amongst the sailboats. At this point, I was starting to wonder where Ryan was. I was pretty sure his flight arrived in the early afternoon. Back at the hostel, I still had no idea where he could be. Just as I was about to head out for the evening, he showed his face! Turns out he missed his flight out of Amsterdam. Figures. 🙂

So, Ryan and I in the company of two of our hostel-mates took some advice from a couchsurfer and made our way to JazzSi Club. The place was PACKED. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a place more packed than this. It was probably double or triple the fire code allowances (if there were any). People sitting on top of people, people standing in between chairs and tables, people sitting on the stairs and the loft. There is no way we could have made it to the bathrooms if we wanted to. But it was well worth it. We saw a live flamenco performance with a guitarist, singer and dancer. The singer embodied the ultimate stereotype. He wore a white linen suit with a red scarf in the pocket and his curly chest hair peaking out. The dancer was supreme. I wish my body would move like that. After seeing this show, I wanted nothing more than to take flamenco lessons.

Flamenco Dancer

Flamenco Singer

The next morning Ryan and I went on a hike to the top of a hill overlooking Barcelona. Although we were sweaty and getting sun burnt, we had some of the best views of the city. We rested there for a bit crawling on the graffiti and messing with our cameras.

The Destination of Hike #1

Then we climbed down the hill and back up the next one to enter Parc Güell, one of Gaudi’s magnificent creations. His art is so whimsical. Wandering around the park makes you feel as though you’re in a fantasy storybook. We listened to some acoustic reggae and watched the St. George festival parade from above. We paid our respects to the famous iguana before heading for the beach.

St. George Festival as seen from Parc Guell

Gaudiguana

Being exhausted from our hill-filled hike earlier in the day, our first stop in Barceloneta was at a restaurant. We ordered two large beers, some paella (a rice dish) and mixed seafood tapas. God, I love Spain. The beers came out first and since Ryan and I are both small people who hadn’t eaten much all day, we felt them. We laughed over how hard it is to eat paella and why “My Sharona” fits with Barcelona so well.

Then we stumbled out to the beach. Having forgotten our bathing suits, we could only admire from a far. In the heat we wandered back to the gothic quarter where the tall buildings provided a bit of shade. After a nap at the hostel, we took a passagiata (or whatever the Catalan equivalent for a leisurely stroll is) over to La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s unfinished church. The lights around the building make it shine like a mirage and the architecture is so unusual that you begin to think you’re imagining it. To confirm its reality, we returned the next morning in the daylight. This time La Sagrada Familia reminded me of a huge sandcastle. Inside there is an explanation of Gaudi’s plans for the architecture and everything is based on principles found in nature. Amazing.

La Sagrada Familia

Our next stop was the Picasso Museum, something which Ryan and I had been looking forward to. It did not disappoint. I know Picasso was quite prolific, but I had never seen this much of his work in one place. I guess it would make sense, he did live there and all. One of the coolest things about this museum was its comparison between Velázquez’s Las Meninas and Picasso’s 58 of interpretations of it. Although I’m not a fan of Picasso’s 1950s work, the display was effective and engaging.

Velasquez

Picasso

After Picasso it was time for tapas again. Chorizo! Gazpacho! Manchego! Mussels! Mushrooms! Potatoes! YUM.

Post-Picasso Tapas!

As soon as we were well-fed, we decided it was time to take on La Rambla, but that doesn’t mean we were done eating. We found the pastisserie recommended to me by my co-worker, Laura. Apparently it is the oldest one in Barcelona! Everything was beautiful. Everything was edible. Everything was delicious. I ordered a mix of cookies and Orxata and Ryan had a fruit tart.  Aside from these goodies, La Rambla is famous for its “pet shop” stand and the sales person got me hooked on the bunnies. If only i could have taken one home! Ryan rolled his eyes and reluctantly took photos of the event. Thanks, Ry!

Rambla Rabbit

The last unexplored district of Barcelona was the Parc de Montjuic, another recommendation of Laura’s. We were hoping to get the the Mirò museum, but it closes early on Sundays. So, we settled for exploring the gardens and ordering drinks on the patio of the National Museum of Art. I can’t recall the name, but I drank a kind of lemonade slushy with beer in it. I think of it as the Spanish version of a Radler, but not nearly as good. As the night cooled off, we took the gondola up the hill to the castle overlooking the ocean. We sat next to a canon and enjoyed the view. We were back down the hill in time to see the disappointing fountain show. It was just a few lights and some water. People told us that it gets better, but we didn’t stick around to find out. I had to wake up at 4:00 am to catch my flight the following day.

The Gondola at Parc Montjuic

All in all it was jam-packed, but without a specific itinerary. It felt good to stroll the streets and soak up the city with an orxata in hand. I definitely, definitely want to come back to Spain. It was simply captivating (and delicious).

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Second Chances

By the time I said goodbye to Momma, only a few weeks were left of Spring quarter. So, I took advantage of them by inviting Shannon, an art history student, to Assisi with me. If you recall from an earlier post, my mom and I took a day trip to Assisi, but my camera died within 15 minutes of arriving. It wasn’t going to happen to me this time. I packed the giant digital SLR I borrowed from the UWRC office as well as my hand-held digital. I meant business. Don’t worry, I warned Shannon ahead of time.

Shannon flailing in Assisi

Since Assisi is a rather small town, we followed much of the same track my mom and I did two weeks before. We took the bus to Piazza Matteotti, checked out the ancient Roman amphitheater and then snaked our way through the streets of town ending at San Francesco. For lunch, we actually made it to the restaurant suggested by my good friend Rick Steves, Locanda del Podesta. It was delicious. We partook in some of the region’s specialties, namely sausage. They also had a wonderful Cacio e Pepe (cheese and pepper spaghetti).

Cacio e Pepe at Locanda del Podesta

Before I move on to the wonderful Giotto chapel, I would just like to say that I did not stalk the bride and groom tying the knot in Assisi that day. I just happened upon the ceremony in San Rufino. They drove past us an hour later in a vintage car with her veil blowing in the wind. So, when I saw them later at the Roman temple, I decided it was fate and that I needed to photograph them. The setting was beyond picturesque and the couple was adorable. I couldn’t resist. So, look away if commitment freaks you out. Here’s the shot:

Awwwwwww

After the shameless couple-I-don’t-even-know photo shoot, it was time for Shannon and I to rediscover the Giotto chapel in San Francesco. It was just as glorious as I remember, except this time I came equipped with a camera. So, now I can share it all with you. While we were there (in our hardhats), one of the restorers was touching up a little corner of fresco. “You are so cool,” I wanted to say. He probably already knows it.

(By the way, he’s waving, not shunning us.)

And for no reason at all other than I love food and I love photos, here is my favorite shot of some goodies we found at a bakery.

Mmmmmm.

Returning to Rome brought a few more second chances. Stacey and Brittany, two of Leisha’s friends who had been in Rome the week previous, returned to give Rome another shot. Unfortunately, nature was against them and they caught colds in Barcelona. After sleeping it off for a few days, I met up with them for a tour of Porta Portese market. I bought the most lovely vintage postcards of Rome and Naples. I have plans to use them in the future, so keep your eyes peeled. After the market we were in need of some serious nourishment, AKA gelato. I tried to take them to Giolitti, Leisha’s favorite gelato place, but when we arrived, there was a line out the door. It was the first seriously hot day of the year and everyone was in need of a little ice cream. We walked just a few blocks away to my favorite gelato place, Gelateria del Teatro. What a wonderful way to cool down.

Dead-on delicious gelato.

A few days later Shannon and Shayna returned to Rome to stay with me before catching their flights back to Seattle. Shayna came back from Rogliano (southern Italy), with all the most wonderful stories of small-town life. She became a part of her host family and everyone shed tears when she left. Back in Rome, her final meal was spaghetti and meatballs. Goodbye Seattle friends! See you soon!

Always with a fanta.

After tying up spring quarter, it was time to pack and head to Barcelona…..

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Buone Feste & Arrivaderci!

My last week in Rome was filled with last dinners, final exhibitions, packing and Christmas shopping.

On Sunday I headed out to the Porta Portese flee market again to pick up some things for friends. Unfortunately, it was too early for the Christmas markets to open. Although, Rome does seem to be getting into the holiday spirit! There are Christmas lights stretched across alley ways and garlands in the store fronts. They also began selling Christmas ornaments in the Campo and down Via del Pellegrino. But to be honest, I am really excited to spend the holidays in Seattle and California. I can’t wait!

On Tuesday night Leish and I had our farewell to each other dinner in Trastevere at Otello. Yum, yum, yum. It was a great way to send her off (to Amsterdam and the Wok to Walk). On Wednesday morning she left for the airport. Don’t worry though! We have plans to see each other in Seattle next week.

As far as the final exhibitions go, the architecture students converted the conference room into a gallery space for their show on Wednesday night. While the rest of the Rome Center was a complete mess with their scraps of paper and cardboard, the conference room looked lovely. I wish I had the ability to understand their advanced architectural renderings, but I did enjoy the sketchbooks they had on display.


Architecture Student Sketchbook

On Friday it was the art program’s turn. They used both the conference room, all the classrooms on the first floor, the two small classrooms on the third floor and the medieval tower for their exhibition. There was artwork all over the building. I think I took a photo of every single piece. Some of my favorites were the angel mobile by RaShelle, the horse by Gini, the erased Colosseum by Sam, the chandelier by Kate and everything by Stefanie. (You can see all of these in my facebook album.)

Art girls in front of Stefanie's grafiti piece.

Roberto, the door man, came up to see the exhibition and his favorite was a distorted image of Christ by Ashton. If you stand in a particular spot, the image compresses into its correct perspective. Roberto went on and on about it while I translated. I really like Ashton’s work as well. In fact, I bought a small watercolor that she painted while in Murano, a small island near Venice. It was hard for Ashton to part with, but I’m glad she did!

Ashton's watercolor of Murano

On Saturday, I ran around taking care of last minute things. For example, I went to the biscottificio (cookie store) in Trastevere to pick up some fresh cookies to bring to Chad when I land in Seattle. In the evening, I went out to dinner near the Colosseum with the girls from the food program. We had a wonderful dinner with shared appetizers. We also shared our pasta dishes by passing around plates and trading bites. Afterward, we took a long walk around the city through the Campidoglio and then to enjoy the Christmas lights. Rome is so beautiful this time of year.

Christmas lights down an alley in Rome.

We got home kind of late and it was originally my plan to stay awake until I had to catch a cab at 4:00am to the airport, but I am feeling pretty sleepy and I think I may get an hour or two of shut eye before I start the long journey home. See you all tomorrow!!!!!!!

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Ce n’est pas comme Ã§a.

Disclaimer: Prepare yourself for art dorkiness. I apologize if some of my ramblings don’t make sense to you.

After months of waiting, weeks of worrying and days of preparing myself with movies set in Paris, I finally arrived last Wednesday night! Elyse and her Parisian boyfriend Hugo met us at the bus station and escorted us all the way to Asnieres, the suburb where Elyse lives as an au pair for an adorable family with triplet 5-year-old boys. Since it was a late flight, we had a little wine and cheese, pulled out the futon and called it a night. The next morning Leisha and I met up with Mia at St. Denis. An amazing little church that spring boarded some of the Gothic architectural style’s claims to fame, namely ribbed vaulting. After exploring the church, we walked through the flea market and nearby stores where I purchased my first set of heels that aren’t attached to some kind of event, such as prom. We decided to continue our heavenly theme and headed towards Notre Dame. We met up with Elyse here for some lunch before exploring the depths of the church. It was so beautiful. I hope to go to the top next time I am in Paris.

Notre Dame

Mia and I at Notre Dame

On a tip from Mia’s dad, we headed over to Shakespeare and Co. bookstore, which is where they filmed a scene from Before Sunset. The walls were stacked floor to ceiling with books and the entire store was a labyrinth of literature. My favorite part was the small reading room on the second floor where there were books to be borrowed, not bought. After downing some crepes we walked up to the Pompidou and then to the shopping center…

The next day Leish and I met up with Mia at the Louvre. Wow, a full day at the Louvre for an art historian is like heavenly torture. It is ecstasy seeing things you’ve written about and studied for years. Okay, maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration, but imagine only having seen something on a 3×5 flashcard suddenly blown up to 20 feet wide on the wall before you. It’s so surreal. Anyway, we spent hours looking at art. I made some progress on my research and in general filled my heart with happiness.

louvre

Mia, Leisha and I at the Louvre

After the Louvre, we mustered up enough energy to walk the Champs Elysees, seeing the Vogue cover sidewalk and doing some shopping before ending up at the Arc de Triomph, which is way larger than necessary, in case you were wondering. That evening when Leisha and I returned to Asnieres, Elyse had prepared a wine, cheese, bread and fruit spread for our dinner. Yum! Later that night Elyse took us to meet another one of her friends who attends the most prestigious school in Paris. There was a bit of a party at the school, so Hugo, Elyse, Leisha and spent the evening meeting Parisians.

I spent the next day getting some well-deserved rest. In the evening we went to Belleville, which is like the international district of Paris. We ate at this Chinese restaurant called Salon de The Wen Zhou, which I read about in a magazine article. Afterwards, Liesha, Mia and I went to see the light show at the Eiffel Tower. Then we met up with Hugo and Elyse again and went to a bar with some of Hugo’s friends.

On Sunday Leisha, Elyse, Hugo and I visited Pere Lachaise, the famous cemetery where Jim Morrison is buried. His grave is actually not very impressive. My favorite gravestone was that of Oscar Wilde. Going against tradition, I did not kiss the grave, because being an art nerd, I know that lipstick is destructive towards stone.

Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde's kiss-covered gravestone

After Pere Lachaise, Leish and I headed to Sacre Coeur. A scene from Amelie, the one with the carousel, was filmed here. We also went inside the church where booming organ music was playing. I sat and ate roasted chestnuts and we watched some street performers. We ended the evening at KFC (for you, Mom!).

Monday morning was my dress-like-a-professional-and-pretend-you-know-what-you’re-doing day. In other words, I headed to the Louvre with the intention of visiting the research center. When I reached the offices, the receptionist did not speak English and I do not speak French. After a few minutes of confusion, he called my Louvre contact, but she didn’t answer. I waited for an hour and a half, but she never showed. So, I decided to visit the galleries again to catch all the things I missed. Yes, one day in the Louvre is not enough. I also learned that two days are not enough. I still haven’t seen the Egyptian collection, which is about a quarter of the museum! There’s always next time I guess. After lunch I met up with Leisha and she took me on a surprise trip to the park where Before Sunset was filmed. We walked through the park and then caught a bus back to the Notre Dame neighborhood for dinner. We had a three-course meal in a rustic-lodge themed restaurant that began with French onion soup and ended with creme brulee. I still think Momma Skeers makes the best creme brulee!

Fun Eiffel Photo

Elyse and I goofing off at the Eiffel Tower

On Tuesday, it was finally time. Elyse and I headed to the Eiffel Tower. It was a gorgeous, warm, sunny day. Dare I say, the perfect day to visit the Eiffel Tower. We had fun goofing around with our cameras and making jokes about other visitors and the city below. Leisha met up with us afterwards and we visited the bridge from the opening scene of Last Tango in Paris. We ended our half day in Paris with a crepe and then said our goodbyes as we headed toward the airport. It was a wonderful week away from Rome, but I was also very grateful to be back in my beautiful city.

Eiffel Tower

At the Eiffel Tower

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Winding down from Summer

I have been very busy over the past two weeks as Rome has finally begun to cool off. The weather is starting to feel like fall and we’ve had our fair share of thunderstorms.

The last two weeks have also been the final two weeks of the early fall start programs. Last Saturday I watched the final videos from the Cinema Studies program. The five films covered a wide range of skill, genre, theme and mood. One of my favorites was a film constructed like a parody of a “behind the scenes”/making of a hit blockbuster. They even used the vans from when Julia Roberts was filming as props. One of my favorite scenes from a different film takes place in front of the Colosseum with two girls reenacting a gladiatorial combat and a random Asian lady spontaneously joins in with kung fu moves. Hilarious! I wish I had the links to share with you.

I’ve also been spending a lot of time with the friends I’ve made from the Design and LSJ programs, particularly Ben, Anthony and Rain. Last week Leisha and I went over to the design students’ apartment for a pot luck where I met Ben’s girlfriend, Kristen. Kristen and Ben remind us so much of Lily and Marshall from How I Met Your Mother. They’re too cute! They even have their own joint blog that Ben designed, of course. Anthony has been my LSJ gossip informant sharing the scoop over glasses of wine. He’s going to come back to visit me this Sunday! Over the past couple weeks Rain and I went back to the Porta Portese market in the rain making some excellent discount purchases, found ingredients to make some Asian noodle creation from scratch, treated ourselves to McDonalds way too often, and nerded it up with some Star Trek TNG while downing cracker after cracker with cheese on top.

Crazy Roma Fans

Crazy Roma Fans

On Sunday a group of the LSJ students, Leisha, Mia and I went to the Rome vs. Florence soccer game at the Olimpico Stadium in Rome. It was a cultural studies lesson for sure. When we arrived, there were people in our seats and I politely asked them to move and they laughed at us. When we talked to one of the guards, he just told us to sit somewhere else. Later when I watched a man break his leg right before my eyes, I realized that the guards are there to call ambulances, not to help the poor little American girl get her rightful seat back. Soccer fans are CRAZY. At one point fireworks started going off in the stands and then people started rushing in, hopping walls and yelling. When the fireworks went off, Corddaryl yelled, “Run!” We were kind of caught off guard, so he explained: “If the Romans run that way, we need to go the other way!” It really wasn’t that serious at all, but funny in retrospect. One of the best parts about the game was getting a beer and a hot dog. Now that’s what I call some sort of sports event. Rome won 3 to 1 and everyone celebrated on the bus ride home by singing victory songs and pounding on the bus windows. I was a bit worried, but the LSJ kids and I made it home safely.

Cory Rain and I rocking Roma Gear

Cory Rain and I rocking Roma Gear

It has been a pleasure getting to know all the students and I am so sad to see them go. Separation anxiety, here I come. Maybe we can all meet up again over Christmas break!

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Dana in the Land of Pizza

The Campidoglio at sunset

The Campidoglio at sunset

Dana came to visit Leisha and me this past week. She was a nanny in Spain, but it didn’t work out, so she did a “nanny and dash” and headed to Rome. She arrived on Wednesday night and we took her to all the sights in the neighborhood: the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, and the Trevi Fountain.

On Thursday morning while Leisha and I were at work, Dana and Joey bonded while visiting the Vatican Museums together. As I suspected Joey’s favorite part was the map room. I suppose getting kicked out of the Sistine Chapel was pretty memorable as well! That night we went back to the bar in Trastevere and had another giraffa of beer together.

Day of Morbidity: Jenn, Dana, Joey and I in front of the Capuchin Crypt

Day of Morbidity: Jenn, Dana, Joey and I in front of the Capuchin Crypt

Joey designated Friday as the “Day of Morbidity” and forced us all to dress in black. Then he took us on a surprise adventure to Parrochia Sacro Cuore in Prati, a small Neo-Gothic church near Castel Sant’ Angelo. There is a small Purgatory Museum here with objects marked by people stuck in purgatory. They burn hand prints into bibles so that people will pray for their souls. The creepiest one was an altar that caught on fire and a face was charred into the frame.

Capuchin Crypt

Capuchin Crypt

That evening Joey and I escorted Dana and Jenn to yet another surprise location to bring an end to the day of creepiness. We took them to the Capuchin crypt where bones are arranged decoratively. The sign in the final room reads, “What you are now, we were once. What we are now, you will be.” To lighten up the mood a little, we visited the Spanish steps and Piazza del Popolo.

Saturday was Leisha’s last day of work so Jenn, Joey and I met Leisha and Dana down at the Colosseum. We walked along the forum and up to the Campidoglio before having dinner at the worst Irish pub ever.

Joey, Dana and Leisha at the Colosseum

Joey, Dana and Leisha at the Colosseum

On Sunday Dana and I woke up at the crack of dawn to experience St. Peter’s before mass started, before the hour of tourists dawned and before the heat set in. It was wonderful to get there so early because it seemed like the basilica was ours alone. We even saw the Pietá without having to elbow through the crowd. After seeing the church from the ground level, we climbed the hundreds of stairs up the cupola. Dana kept saying, “Slow and steady wins the race.” And sure enough, we made it. First we walked along the inside of the dome where we saw the mosaics up close and personal and heard the Sunday sermon echo through the building. After a few more stairs we were on top of the dome enjoying the view of city and examining our sweat stains. Dana won.

View of Piazza San Pietro from the top of the Dome

View of Piazza San Pietro from the top of the Dome

After the church I went with Joey and Jenn to the Porta Portese flea market. It is here that I was swindled. There was a pet store booth selling bunnies, guinea pigs, love birds and all sorts of furry friends. Being me, I naturally bought a companion for my year here in Rome. He is a miniature turtle about the size of a silver dollar. When we got back to the apartment, I was excited and began looking up information about caring for my new pet. I quickly found a website with some sobering news. “There is no such thing as a miniature turtle. If you were sold a turtle under this pretense, then you have been fooled. Your turtle is a baby and it will grow.” UH OH. In other news, my soon-to-be-gigantic turtle still has no name. Please vote below to help me choose one for my friend.

Turtle without a name

Turtle without a name

After the market, Leisha met up with us and we all watched Amelie on the big screen lying on my mattress in the middle of the conference room underneath the air conditioner. Afterwards we shared a few beers in the Campo before saying goodbye to Leisha and Dana. They will be traveling in Italy and Spain together for two weeks. Then Dana will fly home and Leisha will become my roommate.

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463 steps and no wheelchair.

This past weekend Jenn, Joey, Patrick and I went to Florence. We hopped on the cheap train and hours later ended up in the city. On our walk from the train station to our hostel, we saw almost the entire city. We stayed at Soggiorno Pitti across from Palazzo Pitti, which is actually a fairly ugly palace concealing gardens that cost ten euro to go see. We did not see said gardens. On Friday evening Jenn, Joey and I met up with Patrick, who was staying at a different hostel, and we walked to the loggia outside of the Uffizi gallery and listened to a one-man-band play covers.

Titian's Venus of Urbino

Titian's Venus of Urbino

Saturday was a sight seeing marathon. Jenn and I woke up early and waited in line to visit the Uffizi gallery. It’s one of my favorite museums because it has one of my favorite paintings in it, Titian’s Venus of Urbino. For the same reason, it is also a very frustrating museum to go to. For some reason, tour guides like to think (and tell people) that the painting is a private portrait of a faithful wife made for a loving husband. Why can’t people accept that she’s a courtesan?! Argh.

Joey and I on the top of Brunelleschi's dome.

Joey and I on the top of Brunelleschi's dome.

After the gallery Jenn and I met up with Joey and hiked 463 steps to the top of Brunelleschi’s dome on Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, the main cathedral in Florence. Don’t worry, I made it with my ankle brace! The view from the top was amazing, but one thing made it very special. There was a big yellow butterfly pacing (if something that flies can pace) next to the dome. All three of us kept snapping shots back and forth, trying to get a photo of the butterfly. This is my best one.

Florentine Butterfly

Florentine Butterfly

After the dome, I went into the baptistery while Joey and Jenn waited outside. Even though I have been to Florence twice before, I have never been inside. The ceilings are decorated with gorgeous mosaic work. If you go, I highly recommend it!

Baptistry Ceiling

Baptistery Ceiling

Then somehow Jenn and I convinced Joey to go to the open air market. She bought scarves for herself and her mom and I bought leather gloves. YES! In the evening we tried to find an English bookstore for Joey, but ended up heading to Piazzale Michelangelo instead, another place I have never been to. Unfortunately, it involved another huge set of stairs. Fortunately, it offered a wonderful view of the entire city from a hill top. After that we all crashed. Jenn even fell asleep in her clothes!

Panorama from Piazzale Michelangelo

Panorama from Piazzale Michelangelo

On Sunday morning we had Italian coffee together at a bar, spent some time on Ponte Vecchio and did a lot of shopping before catching our (delayed) train back to Rome. It was a wonderful weekend for sure.

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Adding visitors to visitors.

On Saturday Joey and I took the bus out to Tivoli to visit Hadrian’s Villa. Joey had learned about the villa in sixth grade and has been dying to visit ever since. However, after we got there, Joey seemed confused. “Where are all the fountains and gardens?” Turns out he was thinking about Villa d’Este, also in Tivoli. We made the best of it in the heat, touring the ruins, looking at the cute turtles and stopping for a short nap on a bench.

Hadrian's Villa

Hadrian's Villa

On Sunday Leisha, Jenn and I went to Porto Portese, an open air flea market in Trastevere. There are vendors selling beautiful antiques, walmart-quality clothing and a charger for every cell phone ever made. Leisha was pricing Olivetti typewriters, I was pricing accordions and Jenn was just along for the ride. In the end, I left with a present for Joey, two original uncut prints of playing cards from Naples for only one euro each! One print is a card game called Briscola that we are utterly addicted to. It involves vying for points with four new suits, including one trump suit. It is so much fun!

While we were at the market, Joey was picking up his friend Patrick at the train station. Patrick will be staying with us/entertaining Joey all week.

That night I gave Joey a haircut and now he looks like he should be in the air force. Better or worse? You decide.

BEFORE

BEFORE

AFTER

AFTER

Monday night Leisha, Jenn, Joey, Patrick and I went to the festival on the river, Lungo il Tevere. We walked up and down the river looking at all the shops. We had dinner there and followed it up with gelato, of course. Afterwards we went to a famous pub in Trastevere for happy hour and shared a giraffa of Pilsner. A giraffa literally translated means giraffe, but it is a tall thin 4.5 liter container of beer with a faucet at the bottom for pouring drinks. We had a great time playing the celebrity name game Joey made up, although I probably named artists more often that celebrities.

Me, Joey, Leisha and Jenn with our empty girafa.

Me, Joey, Leisha and Jenn with our empty girafa.

Lately we have been absolutely addicted to the TV show LOST. Joey, Patrick and I cope with the day’s heat by huddling together in front of my laptop with an episode. Every once in a while Jenn or Leisha will join in the festivities.

Tomorrow after work Joey, Jenn and I will meet Patrick in Florence for the weekend. Leisha is staying in Rome because her parents will be in town!

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Filed under Italy, Rome, Tivoli

Is everyone else melting or is it just me?

Well, we quite nearly missed our plane to Greece. We forgot that the bus schedule is different on Saturdays, so Joey sprinted for a taxi at the last minute and we just barely made it to the check-in desk on time. We arrived in Athens and then proceeded to sweat immediately. We took the bus to Syntagma and then the metro to Monasiraki, the public market in Athens. We did a little shopping while a thunderstorm rolled in drenching us with rain drops, lighting up the city with lightening bolts and shaking our bones with thunder. It helped us cool down a bit before we headed out to Moschato, a district of Athens, to meet our friend Dimitris. He welcomed us with home cooked Greecian delicacies made by his mom. That night he took us out to Gazi, where he was DJing in a bar that night. Gazi has a little bit of Seattle flair because it is built up next to an old gas factory like Gasworks park in Seattle. Dimitris’s bar was a bit of a let down for him because Greece just passed a law that bans smoking indoors. It seems all the patrons were outside having a cigarette instead of inside dancing to his music. Considering Joey and I didn’t get much sleep, we headed home before Dimitris. It was a good thing too because Dimitris didn’t get home until 8:00 am. WHOA.

The next day we decided to devote to the “biggies” as far as Athens sight seeing goes. We started out at the National Archeological Museum near Victoria station. This is a huge museum full of mostly Ancient Greek sculpture. We saw the famous bronze spear thrower that was lost in an ancient ship wreck and rediscovered in the early 20th century. It was here that I got in trouble for posing with the artwork. Apparently pretending like you are also throwing a spear is disrespectful to the ancient culture. My bad. I also saw the triangle posing soldier from Attalos II’s Pergamon Victory Monument that I wrote about in my thesis on images of suicide in Ancient Roman Imperial art. I had trouble finding a good photograph of this while I was writing, so I made sure to get at least 4 or 5 good ones.

Joey and I at the gate to the Acropolis

Joey and I at the gate to the Acropolis

After the museum, Joey and I, dying from heat made our way towards the Acropolis, making a few stops along the way to rest, get ice cream, water, etc. When we finally climbed up the hill, we were impressed by how huge Athens is and also by how similar the architecture all over the city is. Each house looks about the same: a tall white building with 4 or 5 floors, each floor with a balcony as long as the wall, every balcony with a cover with scalloped edges. The ancient architecture was a different story. It was all so beautiful, but unfortunately most was hidden under some scaffolding due to conservation. My favorite part was seeing the Karyatids, the columns in the shape of female figures. After the acropolis Joey and I splurged on dinner so that we could have the traditional Greek tavern experience. When we headed back to Dimitris’s place, we met another couchsurfer, Paul from Poland, who would be staying with us. That night Dimitris took us all out to a bar around the corner to meet up with his friends.

Relaxing in front of the Parthenon

Relaxing in front of the Parthenon

On our final day in Athens, we tried to visit as many sights on our 6 Euro student ticket as possible. This included the Roman Agora, the Ancient Agora complex and Kerameikos. I also stopped by the famous Poet Sandle Maker’s store to pick up some shoes for mom. This guy is so cool. Apparently the Beatles came to buy shoes from him in the 1960s and he didn’t ask for their autographs. Someone asked him why and he said, “Why should I? I’ll be around longer than the Beatles.” Guess what. He was right. In the afternoon we were so beat from the heat and sunshine that we simply had an ice cream after our late lunch and then headed home. Now we’re going to have a small nap before grabbing our bags and taking the metro down to Piraeus, the port of Athens. Tonight we have a over night ferry to Santorini, a beautiful island in the south of the Cyclades.

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Filed under Athens, Greece

Prague Blogue

Prague Castle, Saint Vitus Cathedral and Charles Bridge

Prague Castle, Saint Vitus Cathedral and Charles Bridge

This weekend our class had a field trip to Prague. Sadly, Billy was in the hospital for his appendicitis and wasn’t able to go, but we were thinking of him the whole time! The rest of us woke up bright and early to catch the train on Friday morning. We arrived in Prague around lunch time and set out exploring. Andrew, Sarah, Rebecca and I found a cool market and then took a walk through Old Town. We were head bent on getting to the castle, so we made our way there pretty quickly. We paid to get into the castle and stood on the balcony where martyrs were thrown off, saw the dungeon where prisoners were held and tortured and visited one of the oldest churches in Prague. We also explored the most beautiful Gothic church I have ever been in, St. Vitus Cathedral. Sarah was very excited because Vitus is her mother’s maiden name. After visiting the castle, we went to an outdoor wine bar and shared some rose wine while enjoying the view of the city.

Looking through the grape vines toward the city center

Looking through the grape vines toward the city center

Then we were in a hurry to get back to the hotel so we wouldn’t miss dinner! We had a group dinner that night (paid for by the program, thank God!). Andrea and I couldn’t decide what to get, so we split two dishes. Being a bit courageous, I ordered the rabbit and Andrea got the veal. It was actually quite delicious, but Andrea had a hard time eating because she kept thinking about a cute little cotton ball bunny.

The next morning we had a walking tour of Prague with our whole class. Our tour guide’s name was Susanne and she was so knowledgable and funny. She took us through Old Town, Josefov (the Jewish district) and back up to the castle. We were a little bummed that there was so much overlap from our wanderings the day before, but it was nice to have someone explain what we were seeing. One of my favorite parts of the tour was watching the famous Prague Clock do the procession of the disciples when the clock struck 11:00. Apparently many tourists come expecting so much more, but it was still interesting. After the tour, we headed to the Art Nouveau cafe for a cup of coffee and a slice of cake. This is the first cup of coffee I have ever enjoyed! I ordered Argentinian coffee, which is coffee with eggnog in it. I also added a couple packets of sugar to make it delicious. Afterwards, Sarah, Rebecca and I dragged Joseph and Andrew into a little shopping. That night we went on the famous Prague Pub Crawl that ended at the largest dance club in central Europe. It is five floors and each floor has its own music. Rebecca and I ended up walking home after the sun rose with her high heels in hand.

The next day I headed out with Ethan and Bobby, who were both pretty exhausted from the night before. They were in “follow mode” so I led them around the city. I took them back to the market I went to on the first day and then across the famous Charles Bridge where we touched the cross for good luck. We went to a bagel shop for lunch and ate our bagels in a park with a live band playing in the background. Ethan tried to take us to the woods where they have a miniature version of the Eiffel tower, but we couldn’t figure out how to get there. So, we crossed the river again and headed to the Dancing House, a building designed by Frank Gehry, the same guy who designed the building for the Experimental Music Project (EMP) in Seattle.

Frank Gehry's Dancing House

Frank Gehry's Dancing House

Then Ethan, who is Jewish, wanted to head back to the Jewish district so he could buy his own Gollum figurine. We walked along the river the whole way there and then got caught in the rain. So, we decided it was time to head back to the hotel, get our stuff and head to the train station.

I decided that Prague is one of my favorite cities that I have ever been to. I love Gothic architecture and it is plentiful in Prague. The hills also make it more interesting. I hope to go back sometime.

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Filed under Czech Republic, Prague