Tag Archives: opera

The Land of Balisto

I arrived late Thursday night in Paris and so I didn’t do much. My first full day consisted of sleeping in (something that would characterize the majority of my recent trip to Paris) and then headed out into the city. First I went to Saint Denis to buy some slacks for my upcoming appointment at the Louvre, but after that was taken care of, I took a long walk along the Seine. There are a bunch of vendors set up along the river selling old books and it was fun to leaf through their moth-eaten pages. I ended up at Notre Dame as the sun came out and I sat in the gardens around the back on a bench in the sunshine. I walked to the other end of the island to have an early dinner at a restaurant recommended by my guidebook. I sat next to the window sipping French onion soup and watching the sunset behind the cathedral. It was so beautiful. As I left I heard a clarinet/guitar duo playing on the bridge that really hit the spot. I wish you had been there.

When I got home, Elyse and Hugo took me out to a bar that the local preteens frequent. I made a friend on the bus ride home and interviewed him using a twix candy bar as a microphone. (Don’t worry. He was not a preteen.) The next day, I was feeling a little under the weather and slept in again. However, I was determined to see the Musée d’Orsay. So, I turned on my iPod, tuned out the other visitors, and gazed at paintings I have only seen on flash cards. A dream come true!

Me with Manet's Luncheon on the Grass at Musee d'Orsay

Five hours later it was back to Asnieres where I met up with Hugo and Elyse. We then headed back into the city for some much-needed greasy food. Cuisine of choice? Chinese, of course. Hugo led us to the best Chinese restaurant in Paris, Chez Shen. It’s located at 39 Rue au Maire near the Arts et Metiers metro station and it’s absolutely imperative that you dine at this fine establishment when in Paris. I ate there nearly everyday and have no regrets. After dinner we walked to Hotel de Ville, which is where the mayor lives. There is currently an ice skating rink set up in front of his modest home. Elyse, Hugo and I watched wide-eyed as the most talented ice-skaters I have ever seen in person (this includes many years of attending Disney on Ice at Arco Arena) engage in a game of sharks and minnows. It was insane. We found ourselves rooting for strangers and pointing out close calls. We left as soon as there was blood on the ice. Ick.

The next day, we failed to wake up early enough to go to Versailles, so I headed out to the Pompidou instead, which is a modern art museum. Sadly, the 1905-1960 section was closed, which was really what I came for. That means no Matisse, no Picasso, no Rauschenburg. The disappointment goes on and on. I was pleasantly surprised to find an entire floor full of works by women artists. This featured Eva Hesse, the Guerilla Girls, Cindy Sherman, Barbara Krueger, Louise Nevelson, etc., etc. Needless to say, I spent hours at this museum as well. One memory ingrained in my mind: a video of a nude woman hula hooping with a hoop made of barbed wire. She was a damned good hula hooper, that poor girl.

Elyse and I at Chartres Cathedral

The next day consisted of another failed attempt to go to Versailles, but this is because it is closed on Mondays. Soooo not our fault. Still feeling the itch to get out of the city, we took the train one hour to Chartres, home of Chartres cathedral. I read in my guidebook that as you get closer and closer to Chartres, all the eye can see for miles and miles is wheat fields and the cathedral poking out over the top of them. Apparently, you’re not even supposed to notice the rest of the town until you’re practically in it. Lies, lies, lies. I saw no wheat fields. I saw town and lots of it! Stupid guidebook. Aside from the disappointing lack of wheat fields, however, Chartres was amazing. I’m a much bigger fan of small-town France than I am of Paris. The cathedral, which is the town’s main attraction, was our first stop. It was actually really creepy. Most churches have added a lot of artificial light, which really modernizes the viewer’s experience with a church. Chartres cathedral had just a few very dim lights added, which made it seem very close to what you would have experienced at the time it was built. It was dark and dusty inside. It smelt like old, if you know what I mean. Even the chandeliers and pulpit were covered in plastic gathering dust. It was eerie to say the least. It felt like an authentic gothic encounter to me.

After exploring the church, Hugo grabbed a map from the tourist office and took us on a walk throughout the town. Chartres looks a lot like the town that Beauty and the Beast takes place in. I had “Look, there she goes. That girl is strange-no question.” stuck in my head the whole time. We crossed the cute little river a few hundred times before it started to rain. We found a pub for shelter and played cards before hopping on the train back to Paris.

Ready to research!

The next day I had to wake up before noon because I had an appointment at the Louvre for special research. I met my escort, a cute, short old woman with glasses, frizzy hair and clogs, at Pavillion Mollien where the Department of Greek, Roman and Etruscan Antiquities is housed. I started out by apologizing that I don’t speak French and she said that she didn’t speak English……. As it turned out, she did speak a little English. We weren’t having serious, deep conversations or anything, but we were able to communicate when necessary. She first took me to the storage facilities where MA 412 has been sitting in a crate awaiting the reorganization of the Greek, Roman and Etruscan wing. I saw so many famous sculptures boxed up and plastic-wrapped. It was like an artwork graveyard.

MA 412 all boxed up

The next stop was the Wounded Gaul, but wait! I’m sorry, Rick Steves is filming in that room. You’ll have to come back later. So, it was on to visit the Venus Pallas of Velletri which now stands across from the Venus de Milo in a long corridor. Since they are remodeling the antiquities, these were the only two sculptures in the room save for a headless togate figure. I think few people have ever found themselves alone in a room with the Venus de Milo. Okay, so I wasn’t really alone. Agnes, my escort, was there and so were some men fixing light bulbs, but it still made my heart skip a beat.

Way back there is the Venus de Milo

I next visited the Captive Barbarian duo taken from the Forum of Trajan before heading back to the Wounded Gaul. Ahhh, Rick Steves has vacated the building. Another empty room at the Louvre. Incredible. It’s an experience I will never forget.

The Wounded Gaul and company

After finishing up the research, I popped by the opera house before heading back to Elyse’s place. That evening Elyse and I took the metro to Moulin Rouge and then went on a walk to the Arc de Triomphe, which is pretty damn far. Then we forced our tired legs to take us up many flights of stairs to the top of the Arc for a 360 degree view of Paris. It was beautiful, but windy and it was soon time to head back to Asnieres for our homemade fiesta–fajitas, guacamole, salsa made from Uncle Sil’s recipe and mojitos a la Hugo.

View of the Eiffel Tower from the Arc de Triomphe

The next morning I was able to drag Elyse and Hugo to my fourth and final museum of the trip, the Pinacotheque de Paris, for the Edvard Munch exhibition. I’m getting very tired of writing and you’re probably tired of reading, so suffice it to say that it was great. They had the Madonnas Julia and I so loved freshman year.

Pinacotheque de Paris

After the exhibition, we did a little tourist shopping and I came out with a beret. Then we sat together in front of Notre Dame watching children scare the pigeons. My trip had come to an end.

Beret + Notre Dame

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Filed under Asnieres, Chartres, France, Paris

Joey sarà Giovanni, un romano.

On Sunday I woke up bright and early because the Vatican Museums are free on the last Sunday of every month. A few boys living across the hall, Brian, Chris and Tye from the U of O Architecture Program, joined me for their first trip ever to the museums. I kept trying to explain to them how large the museums actually were and if we expected to finish any time today, we would need to speed up, but it didn’t really hit them until we reached what I like to call the “halls of no return”. There’s a point in the Vatican were you can no longer roam around at leisure, but you have to follow a one-way-only track with a group of delusional, exhausted tourists packed in like sardines. My dad equated it to being driven like cattle when we visited two years ago. It also doesn’t help that there’s no AC. By the time we got to the Sistine Chapel, the boys were ready to leave. We snapped a few photos, Chris yelled, “NEXT!” and we were on our way.

The Sistine Ceiling

The Sistine Ceiling

On Monday morning, I finally had to address my sprained ankle from Greece. The swelling had simply not stopped, so Jennifer, my boss, made a doctor’s appointment for me. After running all over town and spending too much money getting meds and xrays, I now have to wear a brace for a month, a MONTH!

That afternoon, Joey flew into Rome and I met him at the airport. He said he wanted a “decadent night”, so I took him to get gelato (of course), which we ate by the Pantheon. Then I took him to Piazza Navona where an Estate Romana (festival called Roman Summer)  event was taking place. We saw a group of opera singers performing on a stage in front of one of the smaller fountains. After the opera singers, a group of dancers came on stage.

On Wednesday Joey and I took a short walk to the Trevi Fountain and ate the best gelato of our lives–San Crispino. In the evening Leisha and Jenn, the new library intern at the UW Rome Center, met up with Joey and I to go to Letture d’Estate at Castel Sant’Angelo. It was a book fair that surrounded the castle with vendors selling new and old books alike. I didn’t bring money on purpose.

On Thursday, I had the morning off, so Joey became the tourist and I became the guide. First I took him to the Campidoglio, designed by Michelangelo. Then we walked out the back to see the beautiful view of the Forum from the Capitoline hill. We walked along the Forum (you have to pay to get in now) all the way to the Colosseum. We sat up on a hill there, looking at the Arch of Constantine. On our walk back to the apartment, we saw Augustus’ Forum and Trajan’s Forum. What a full morning! After work, Leisha, Jenn, Joey and I went to Scholar’s Lounge, an Irish Pub to see a Beatles cover band play. Italians faking Liverpool accents. Wonderful.

Arch of Constantine (note the ankle brace)

Arch of Constantine (note the ankle brace)

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Letzte Woche

My Last Week in Vienna:

After getting home from Salzburg we went straight to Centimeter to meet up with Billy. He got out of the hospital on Saturday and wasn’t able to come on our class trip. He had his appendix removed and he is doing much better now.

On Monday I finished up my project for Cultural studies class. Each of us were assigned a different district of Vienna. I explored Vienna’s 16th District, Ottakring. I decided to make a video using the photo burst function on my camera. So, this video is like a flip book of still shots or a really fast slide show. The song I chose was Matt Costa’s Vienna. To watch my video click here.

I also had my presentation for art history this week. We went to the Secession building just down the street from my dorm and I talked about Gustav Klimt’s Beethoven Frieze. Here is part of the panel entitled Hostile Forces:

Klimt's Beethoven Frieze at the Secession

Klimt's Beethoven Frieze at the Secession

After my presentation, we took the bus to Hundertwasser Haus for our final art history excursion. It was so amazing. I wish it wasn’t raining so hard, so we could have explored more. It’s just a normal apartment complex, but the architecture is wacky and colorful. Michelle said the architect, Hundertwasser, hated straight lines. Even the floor was uneven. After art history, I had my last night with Sasha as a nanny. Wooooooooo!

On Wednesday we had our final day of Cultural Studies class. Verena’s mom came to talk to us about her experiences growing up during WWII and during the Allied occupation of Vienna. She told a cute story about receiving chocolates from American GIs on her walk to school. That night we all met up for dinner at a traditional Austrian Keller before running to the opera house so we wouldn’t miss the show. This time, the opera was paid for by our program and we saw Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute). We learned about this opera in German 103, but this version was very modern. The whole opera took place within a white gridded cube. Some of the grids were trap doors, pedestals, windows, etc. There were also some quite funny animals in the opera.

Since then I have been trying to pack and eat as much Asian food as I can before getting to Italy. I had Chinese with Andrea on Wednesday, Japanese with Sarah, Rebecca and Billy on Thursday, and all-you-can-eat Asian buffet with Diana on Friday.

Friday night we had our farewell dinner at a Heurige in Grinzing. We were short a few people (Joseph, Amanda, Kirstin, Sara, and Ina), but we were joined by 30 IKI students from North Carolina. It was wonderful to be able to say goodbye to all our teachers and to the office staff at IKI. It was also wonderful to enjoy some free traditional Austrian food. (I needed a change from Asian.) That night we gave Dr. O, our art history teacher, a scarf and a card and she just about cried. It was so cute.

At the Heurige with Dr. O

At the Heurige with Dr. O

Anyway, I should finish packing and say goodbye to Vienna. 😦 I take the train tonight to Berlin.

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Between Danes and Czechs

The day I got back from Denmark, Doris gave me a call and invited me to a couch surfing event. So, a few minutes later Billy and I met Doris and some other couchsurfers on the steps of the Opera House for a game of Twister. Yep, that’s what I said. Twister.

The next day Andrea, Billy and I planned on heading out to Mayerling and Heiligenkreuz for a day trip out of the city. Unfortunately, the bus doesn’t run on a holiday, so we went to the Augarten instead. It is a beautiful park where they have huge anti-aircraft towers left over from WWII.

Augarten

Augarten

On Tuesday we had a class field trip to the movie theater to see The Third Man. It’s an Orson Welles film from 1949 that takes place in occupied Vienna after WWII. It was wonderful to see at this point in our trip because each scene takes place somewhere I’ve been in the city. “Oh look! They’re near our school! “Oh! There’s a great ice cream shop there!” “Oh! We had a picnic there once!” Then on Thursday our teacher Verena took us on a tour of the famous cemetery in the movie. Ethan and I recreated the final scene for a photo that will hopefully be posted soon! We also saw the graves of famous musicians like Beethoven and Schubert.

Later that day we went back to the Belvedere for art history class and finally saw some Klimt and Schiele! I can’t believe I’ve been in Vienna this long without visiting Vienna’s most famous artworks. One of my favorite paintings from today was Egon Schiele’s Embrace. It apparently “grossed out” Andrea, but I think it is quite beautiful. Judge for yourself.

Egon Schiele, Embrace, 1917.

Egon Schiele, Embrace, 1917.

Wednesday was my first day on the job as a nanny. I will be babysitting Sasha, an 8 year old half-American half-Russian girl, for the entire month of June. I guess it’s been a while since I’ve worked with kids. I am a little worried because even day one was a bit frustrating. She kept hanging up when her dad would call and homework that should have taken 15 minutes ended up taking 2 hours. I have to keep reminding myself that I’m being paid for this…

Now, it’s off to Prague. Unfortunately, Billy won’t be joining us. He may have an appendicitis and is on his way to the hospital now. He will be missed!

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All Things Viennese

Apparently I don’t write often enough for the McDonald family, so I will try to post twice a week instead of once. 🙂

On Tuesday after class a small group of us decided to attend the show at the opera house across the street from our school. You can get cheap standing tickets for only 3 or 4 Euro. Unfortunately they over-sold the standing area and we had to stand on the stairs. The Barber of Seville was playing. (Remember this episode of the Looney Tunes?)  It was very fun even though our feet hurt at the end of the night.

Rebecca, Andrea, Sarah and I waiting in line at the Opera.

Rebecca, Andrea, Sarah and I waiting in line at the Opera.

On Thursday our whole program got together and headed off to school for dinner. Brigitte, the school secretary, and Traudy, one of the teachers, taught us how to prepare the typical Austrian meal. A few students were assigned to making Wiener Schnitzel, which is like fried, breaded fillets of meat. They also fried up some mushrooms and zucchini in the same breading. Sarah and Rebecca tackled the Sommersalat, which means summer salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, basil and onion. I started out cutting potatoes for the Erdapfelsalat or traditional potato salad, but then the girls needed help with the Apfelstrudel (apple strudel), so I moved over to that. I was amazed at how easy those dishes were to make! If you would like the recipe, let me know and I will send it to you!

The group enjoying the dinner we prepared!

The group enjoying the dinner we prepared!

Today I wandered around the city a bit and saw some beautiful things. I went to the Belvedere, which is a palace as well as a museum and saw the exhibition on Alfons Mucha, a Czechoslavakian Art Nouveau artist. It was really amazing. They even recreated the pavillion he designed for the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1900. I hope to do my presentation for art history class on Mucha.

I also wandered down a street that was the site for public art. There was a cement wall that bordered the west side of the street that had several individual panels on it. The introductory panel was titled, “Kunst Projekt: Erdapfel”, which means Art Project: Potato. Each panel had a different work of art that had something to do with potatoes. One of my favorites was simply a hole cut in the cement wall in the shape of a potato. When you looked through the hole, you could see a beautiful park on the other side. This one was also great:

Potato Art on Argentinierstrasse

Potato Art on Argentinierstrasse

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