Monday, March 28, 2005

Happy Easter!

Florence, Italy

Florence is a very exciting place for many reasons, not the least of which is that it's my middle name. The train on the way here from Venice was insane. I guess that everyone wanted to travel to get home or to get somewhere else for the easter holiday but the train was jammed. There are compartments that are supposed to fit 6 people...well, we had 9 in ours, and the hall way was so full that you couldn't even walk through it.

It's been a very arty weekend. I'm here with Anne (yay!) and yesterday we stood in line for three and a half hours to get into the Uffize museam. It has the most famous collection of any museam in Florence. It has stuff by all the ninja turtles that painted (michelangelo, rafael and leonardo) as well as lots of other famous italian artists like Fra Angelico and Boticelli. My favorite paintings where the birth of venus and the allegory of spring, both by botecelli. You see pictures of them in books and they don't look like anything special, but when you see them up close, they are incredible. I think it's a combination of they're size (big) and the fact that someone painted them 500 years ago, and the fact that they're actually real. I don't think I've ever been that impressed with a painting before.

Today the art continued, and we waited (only an hour and a half this time) to get into the academia. That's where THE david is. The one that michelangelo sculpted. In the hall leading up to him are 4 of michelangelo's unfinished sculptures. Because they're unfinished you can kind of see how he was making them which is really cool. And THE david is amazing! That's one good looking guy (yes I know he's 5 meters tall and made of marble). His hands are a bit too big I think though.

The coolest thing in florence is San Marie del Fiore which is the big cathedral. The outside of the cathedral is decorated in white and pink and green marble (not the colors I would have picked) but it's amazing looking nonetheless. And on this cathedral is the dome designed by brunalleschi, which happens to be the biggest masonry dome in the world. I read a book about it over christmas break. He made the whole thing without any wooden centering, and to get the 2 ton blocks of marble up to the top he invented some completely new machines like an ox hoist. It's actually two domes, the inner and outer shell. And I'm going to climb it tomorrow! I get to climb in between the domes and see how it was actually made! I'm really exicted if you can't tell. Anyways, we went to easter mass in the cathedral this morning which was all in italian. We missed the fireworks for the festival of the exploding cart though because daylight savings time started this morning.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005


Venice, Italy

I'm sick. I think I might have the flu. I hate being sick! I've been drinking orange juice out of a juice box (the 1L size). On the bright side the guy at the farmacia gave me some drugs to take which seems to be helping some.

I'm staying in Foresteria Valdese which is a hostel that's connected with some church. It's a really old building right on a canal and the room that I stayed in last night had a fresco on the ceiling. Well, as it's such a small world I met this group of people staying in my hostel from Raleigh who work at the cheese cake factory. They had all decided that they needed a trip to italy. So I kind of joined their group and hung out with them all of yesterday. We went to murano which is the island that the glass blowers got put on after they started too many fires in venice. There was a guy doing a demonstration, and he made it look so incredibly easy. But it takes 15 years working under someone before one becomes a master glass blower.

Venice is an amazing city! There are no cars at all, or even bicycles in the city. The streets are all narrow and it's really easy to get lost. And the public transportation is all boats! I got a pass for all the boats for 3 days, so I've done a lot of riding around on them. They only go around the island or down the grand canal though which is kind of dissapointing. And I did go on a ride in a gondola (across the grand canal which took about 2 minutes but I did ride in one). We also fed the pigeons in San Marco. They're so tame that they will jump up on your hand and eat out of it. Such a hard life they lead.

Last night I saw the most amazing street performer ever. It was a guy playing yesterday on the water glasses! And then he moved on to classical stuff. It was the coolest thing ever to watch. I don't think they were actually filled with water, I think it was something clear and solid to make for easy transportation. But it was still really amazing.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Warm and Sunny

Rome, Italy

I felt a bit like I was hurling myself off a cliff as the plane landed in Rome. Because in case you didn't know, I don't speak Italian. Not even a little bit. So after landing, getting a bus, a train, the metro walking a very long way, and taking a bus I got to my "hostel" also known as a camping village way the heck outside the center of town. The map they showed me lied. However, since because it's winter it's half off. I have this little bungalow thing, number 92. And it's just me, no company, although there are 2 empty beds.

Yesterday was one of those bad days. I guess it's one of the first bad days I've had. The city seemed dead (maybe because it was sunday), I couldn't find a sim card, I couldn't talk to anyone...and the metro closed way early for a little while I was stuck. I did end up in a church at the right time though and I heard this random opera/organ concert

Today was much better though. It's warm (compared to the UK) and sunny! There were these two women speaking in english on the metro, so I talked to them. And after they discovered I had no guide book and didn't speak Italian, one woman handed me a phrase telling me that she had two. Then, in front of the coliseam, this guy who was trying to get me to take a tour an I started talking, and he started telling me where to go, and then circled everything he thought I needed to see in the city on my map for me. He's been traveling for over 4 years. He even told me I could get a job with his boss and start tomorrow if I wanted. I saw the circus's crazy walking where you know there were chariot racers driving a couple thousand years ago. The neighborhood on the other side of the river, Trastevere, is really amazing. It has narrow coblestone streets and lots of old churches and piazzas and lots of people walking around! Not that I could talk to most of them, but there were still people. And can I just say the Italians really know how to make gelato (ice cream).

Saturday, March 12, 2005

My Theater Addiction

London, England

I realized today that I've been traveling for a month...exactly. That's pretty crazy. It seems like I can't possibly have been gone that long, and yet when I think back to oxford that seems worlds away. Anyways, I've been on a big theater kick. Not like that's much different than normal or anything. Tuesday I went to see the producers. It was brilliant and so so funny. The costumes were great, especially the chorus girl that was wearing a big sasage on her head. He (mel brooks) managed to make fun of everyone possible. It was disturbing though that as I walked out I was humming one of the songs and then I realized it was "springtime for hitler."

Wednesday I decided to have an upper crust brittish experience and had tea (the meal) in Kensington gardens in the orangery. It was built for Queen Victoria in the mid 1700s and it's all white on the inside with ornate ceiling trim and big windows. The gardens were really nice, although I imagine they'd be even nicer in spring when it's warm. There were a lot of dogs out running their owners though. So back to tea. There was of course tea, in a little pot with a tea cup and a little pitcher of cream. Then the food part...a cream cheese and cucumber sandwich on white bread with no crust, a scone with clotted cream and jam, and orange cake with frosting. It was all very cute, and yummy.

Thursday I returned to the theater because I can't stay away. I even got up way early to wait in line for tickets. I went on a tour of the Royal National Theatre which is an amazing space!! They have 3 theaters, and the mid size one has 800 lights!! The stages also have side and rear stages so they can have 3 sets on wagons, and theoretically they can do 3 different shows in a day. They also have a huge paint workshop, set construction area, and props workshop. You have to have at least 5 years of professional theater experience before they'll even consider you for a position. Later that evening I went back to see His Dark Materials: Part I based on the phillip pulman novels. It was absolutely amazing! They had puppets for the daemons and the people operating them wore all black. The set was amazing. It's a circular stage and the outside ring rotates, and the inner part rotates, and then the two halves go up and down (it's called a drum revolve). Oh it was so cool.

I also wandered around brixton which is the afro carribean neighborhood. They have this big market with butchers with whole chickens including the head, and whole sheep hanging from the ceiling, and fish mongers, and people selling vegetables some of which I had never seen. The butchers kept trying to hit on me which was a little dodgy (good brittish word). And I think I was the only white person in the market. I got food from this little stand and I was standing inside (there were no chairs) eating it as the guys working there were watching a football (soccer) game. And when a goal was stored guys than I thought should fit came out of the dish washing alcove, and more came in off the street and they started yelling and jumping around and getting all excited. It was pretty funny. The're really into their football here. Wow this is long. I'm going to stop now.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

I love to walk

London, England

I walked around for almost 5 hours straight today. I went all the way down charging cross road (great name) and to leicester square and covent garden and soho and fleet street and other places. It's great, since it's england there's a twinnings store just full of different kinds of tea. There was also an entire store devoted to peter rabbit. I visited scenes from at least two musicals, My Fair Lady and Sweeny Todd. And there is a hair cutting place on Fleet Street, but it's not a barber and it looks like it's much cleaner. It seems as though most of what I do in London is walk. Oh, and yesterday I saw the Tate Modern, which is brilliant. I'm not sure I understood a lot of what I saw though.

So this was a few days ago, but it's so crazy that I have to write about it. Mattheaus (my random roommate) wanted to go dancing I guess it was Friday night so I went with him. And we were standing in this crazy long line in the cold waiting to get in and who should walk by but Jennine Heiser!! I used to be on the farm swim team with her back in the day. It was absolutely crazy! She was going to the same club that we were going to. It really is a small world.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Random roommate

London, England

Lesson 1 - find a hostel and get a room in it before you show up in a city at 6pm

Rachel has even showed me how to do it online. Oh well. So I got to London and followed Anna's directions to the hostel that she had stayed in, Ashlee House. However they were out of rooms. So they sent me to another hostel. However, me being one of those people with a very bad sense of direction I couldn't find it and went back for help. As I was trying to look at my bad map the guy in front of me that also couldn't get a room walked up. So we asked for directions and tried again. Either we both have a bad sense of directions, or the directions were bad, and after asking for help again we still couldn't find it. But we did walk past this inexpensive hotel. And so I slept with (you dirty minded people, in the same room as, not in the same bed with) this random guy. He's german, but his family is from the syrian turkish boarder, and he also speaks this language that might be aramaic, but I'm not sure. His name means mathew. He's very nice but he snored.

I think I've fallen in love...with camden town. It's the coolest place ever!! It's where all the punks and hippi people hang out. There are all these crazy stores with great clothes and jewlery and other random stuff. And they also have really cheap indian, chinese, vegetarian, etc. food. I also went on the london eye which is like a huge ferris wheel, but you stand in these little capsules that have clear sides and ceilings. It goes way high and the view is good. It was a little nerve wracking when I thought about how high up I was, so I tried not to think about it. I got a day pass for the underground and the busses, so I've also spent a lot of the day just riding the busses around and looking out the window. Can I say again how much I like the top level of double decker busses? Well, I said it anyways

Tuesday, March 01, 2005


Findhorn, Scotland

I'm now at Findhorn visiting my Anna. It's great to see her. Findhorn is a really cool place. It started out as a spiritual community in the 60s, but in they've also gotten interested in sustainability and other environmental stuff. As far as I know everyone in the foundation does some kind of work for it. So you can work in a garden or a kitchen or in maintanance or something else. The work is 3 a day, and Anna works two days a week. I'm here as a working guest which means that I get to work every day. They told me I could either work in the kitchen or the garden and since it's winter I decided to work in the kitchen. They start all their work shifts by tuning in and introducing themselves and focusing I guess. I got to chop lots and lots of onions, carrots and broccoli. I also got to use this cool pealing machine that peeled the carrots. They have a tea break in the middle of the work shift, and everything just stops for twenty minutes.

This morning I was wandering around and went into the weaver's building. I made a friend there who is short and has black hair and decided that I was okay after jumping up on my and licking my face. She told me that she wanted to go for a walk, and which was fine by me since I had planned on walking anyways. We walked up through the woods, past the wind mill and over the dunes to the beach. Findhorn is on a bay of what I guess is the north sea. Yafa went into the water, and looked at me, but I told her it was too cold and I wasn't going in. In case you hadn't guessed Yafa, my friend, is of the canine variety. It was very exciting to meet her since I haven't walked a dog in a very long time.