Wednesday, November 21, 2007

after thoughts

the final day was filled with insanely close 'just made it's". beverly dropped me off at the paris train station where i 'just made' boarding time on the train to london. then i took the tube to the airport where i 'just made' check in time for the flight. and later realized i had 'just made it' to the gate 8 minutes before it closed.

and with a sigh of relief/nostalgia... im back home. and i return to a thanxgiving feast. planning doesn't get much better.

i missed my cat. and new york. and big breakfasts. and my pillow. and netflix.

im excited to have a variety of wardrobe again.

i have to learn french. and go back to paris.

and i just might move to spain at some point.

the only things i lost were my driver's license and a bag of toiletries. and maybe about 6 pounds.

i have selected my favorites to add to each blog but i have posted the full collection of photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/34682630@N00/sets/72157603273033999/

enjoy.

bliss and beverly



bliss is paris after dark.
actually ... it's in the morning and through the day as well. but only when the transit is not on strike.

my friend from the previous visit had offered me a free stay at his apt. which is located in montmartre, the place where picasso and van gogh had been inspired. it's magic, really. in exchange i offered to cook him dinner, in which, he refused because...well... he's italian. and thank god. he made me pasta that i may, in the future, have dreams about. he shared stories about his family in napoli and told me how there is only one place you can find true buffalo mozzarella. a small city half way between rome and naples. where they sell it hot, straight from the cow. all others are comparable to pre-packaged lunchmeat. he told me how you can never throw bread away in italy. its an insult to god... as bread is his body. he's not even religous... in fact, he's an atheist. but he nevers wastes bread out of respect for what his mother taught him.

beverly is the name of his motorbike.

Monday, November 19, 2007

cinderella





i have a new boyfriend, his name is cataluyna. but i´m cheating on him with paris. yes, i´m going back to france for my final night in europe before returning home, yet another spontaneous decision. although after last night, i kind of hope i miss my flight. my new friend the gentleman- was just that. we met shortly after siesta... which btw is my new favorite cultural activity. we walked the town and he showed me some places i never would have found on my own. (you see, as a tourist you are handed maps with a list of highlighted 'to do´s': restaurants, nightclubs, shopping, etc. which guides all visitors to gather at only tourist hotspots and causing them to miss the real entertainment.) we went to a bar on a street so tiny, slightly obese persons may not have fit between the alley walls. the name of the bar translates to something like forest of the ferries. there are no walls. no ceiling. only trees and ponds and vines. like a secret garden. no traditional house music playing. only bird and insect sounds and about every few hours, you get a thunderstorm effect... it was something out of a movie. and vacant of tourists. from there we wandered the famous las ramblas which is equal parts street performers and pickpockets. later, we stumbled upon the center for contemporary culture. it was open late and we walked into free movie time. the room was huge with a projection screen to match. no chairs, only a floor filled with young people, couples, groups... laying together, drinking beer, in silence. the show was of short films all based around countries at war. the only american-iraq documentary was an actual video taped attack on iraq. it was taken from a helicopter and the sight was through the target which was dropping bombs. you get full subtitles to the muffled voices. no one in the room was outwardly upset. no random crowd commentary. no arguing. only listening. it was unlike anything i had witnessed before. but we had to leave early for i had to make bedtime so i could make my flight the next day. back to paris to say good'bye.

i heart barcelona

i have to live here. period.




while in paris, i met a girl who was from spain, so we went out last night. we started off with a nice dinner at a restaurant that literally looked like ¨vampires could be hiding in the basement. instead of seats, there were couches and satin pillows. i think i had curried duck and pears. and we shared a bottle of delish red spanish wine. afterwards we found a club and the bouncer let us in for free. we danced our ass off for what was only supposed to be a few hours.... we stayed til last call, which by the way was 530 am. we met a few gentleman, one of which is going to be my personal tour guide this evening. ps europeans love when youre from new york.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

scratch that...

hostel party

sunset on flight from rome to barcelona

i decided not to stay as long in italy. not that i didn´t love it, but i wanted to see more and it didn´t help that my hostel was the worst ive seen yet. the shower was barely a dribble and there were only 2 toilets and showers for about 50 some odd people. the water was better than that of florence, but the plumbing in the old building didn´t help. this is the consequence of not booking ahead. its liberating to not know where you´ll be the next day but most likely the place youre staying will show for it. however, not so pleasant circumstances bring people together. in fact, the entire 3rd floor (the one without a working bathroom) were all hanging out in the lobby. this included 2 frenchman, 2 canadians, 2 hollanders, 3 aussies and myself' the american. we shared about 9 bottles of wine and more than a few bottles of beer. we spend most of the night laughing to the point of stomachaches.

speaking of not knowing where you´ll end up, i bought a last minute flight ticket to barcelona. i just HAD to go. the first 2 hours i spent walking around lost in the dark due to inaccurate directions from a poor website. thank god i can get by with my little spanish. so far i haven´t spoke english except for in the hostel. its quite fun actually. and most people here speak catalun, but i get around. i went to the picasso museum and wandered around las ramblas. so far, the people are the most friendly that i have found... always smiling. or maybe their secretly laughing at my attempt on a spanish accent.

Friday, November 16, 2007

when in rome.....











i had this pending curiosity to see if the tours in the big cities are really worth it or not. my answer came in the first 5 minutes after i made the 18 euro purchase. all i did was inquire at the ticket booth and immediately a young salesman took me by the arm, "ciao bella, ciao bella". (they expect you to tear your clothes off when they compliment you in italian.) he spoke very fast, and before i knew it he was buying us espresso. i went on my way to continue the tour and he was insistant on having dinner with me. i told him i was gay. it made me giggle to myself later in the day. anyways, the tour wasn't a complete waste of money as i got to sit atop a double decker open roof bus and get some good shots. but the audio information wasn't anything wikipedia doesnt tell you in the first paragraph. and when it rains, the open roof is no longer a deal. lesson learned: always better to wander around yourself.

romans are a warmer group of italians and very hospitable. the meek beware: at first you feel like you're getting yelled at... until you realize thats just how they talk. and they appreciate when you return the emphasis.

it has rained for most of my days here except for about 3 hours on thursday, when the sun peeked, the temperature rose... and i saw what was, for me, the most amazing part of rome. there are ruins alongside the colloseum that aren't even highlighted on the maps. i must have taken about 50 pictures. the remains have paths where you can walk through- and entrance is free! you feel the size of an insect and you can feel the history when imagining what this place once was.

the highlight of the trip was meeting a cousin whom i've heard about for so long but never got a chance to know. he's the one whos always missing at the holidays and you only hear bits and pieces about. the family considers him, you know... the one who made it. and we are very proud. he's a pianist who sstudied at prestigous universities and now lives/works in rome. after i tracked down his email a few months ago and alerted him of my visit, he welcomed me into his lovely apartment. the table was set....red wine, olives, cheese. he cooked a meal which i could probably only get in italy: veal short ribs. and they were fantastic. as if the side of roasted potatoes wasnt enough, dinner was followed by clementines, little liquor filled chocolates, and a traditional italian cordial called lemonciada (spelling is wrong im sure) which is basically grain alcohol, marinated lemon, and simple sugar. tastes just like a lemonhead. yummmy. if i were to stand at the point, i might have tipped over. after we figured out exactly who's kid who whoms and how we are branched in family, we just chatted over more wine. and he revealed a little family secret: the famous lasagna which we credit his mother for making every year at the reunion is actually his recipe. shhh.....

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

the homeland part 2




from venice i went to florence, which is the heart of tuscany. i also stopped in siena, which i couldve done without. its very country, quiet. if i had lost any weight from all the walking ive done... im definitely gaining it back here. there must be coke in the gelato. ive had like 2 a day since i got here. and the food is ridiculous. all the carbs you can imagine, pasta, bread, pastries. so its basically my christmas. italians speak with such emphasis ....and they never shut up. i dont know if im missing the appreciation gene or if everything is just starting to look the same... but the galleria dì uffizi just wasnt what i was expecting. especially after waiting in line for it for about 2 hours and 20 minutes in the freezing rain. i actually wasnt going to go in the first place until everyone in my hostel looked at me in disgust. i thought maybe i was misinformed. the same thing happens in the louvre. everything starts to blend into the same. its more like history than art. although its awesome to see the pieces youve learned about for so long... it becomes less moving after the first 100 examples. everything before post-impressionism, with a handful of exceptions, just goes over my head.

rome is where i reside for the next few days. i have an appt to meet a cousin that i never have before. that should be interesting.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

the homeland










whos the prettiest island of all?? little venezia... only 2 days here but thats all you need. the first day i met up with my former roomie who has now moved to slovenia. me, camille and her bf spent the day getting lost, searching for the venice biennale, getting more lost. it was fun. but the next day i knew exactly where to go. i took a public transport water bus and spent 4 hours consuming contemporary international art. then i felt like i might pass out. art overload. canada definitely represented. however i found out the artist lives and works in long island city... hmm.






Wednesday, November 7, 2007

the beauty that is praha











the czech republic is quite refreshing. prague is quaint and pretty and seems surreal. its like something only found in exquisite doll houses and toy train sets. you know, moveable pieces. and american exchange students are in love with it. i met one while i was in berlin. he's playing host to me and other travelers he found along the way.

it's bitterly cold though. wet-cold to be precise. i thought i would be able to rough the whole trip without proper winter accessories... i don't even have a winter coat. only layers and a light fall jacket. my freezing cold ass broke down and ran to mall today to get ear muffs and gloves. i walked all over town. my nose was beyond runny. they have a f*cking castle here. and you can't imagine what it looks like after dark.

the best thing about prague is the price. of everything. we're talking dirt cheap. they use crowns here. my beer from the grocery store cost 9 crowns each. 20 crowns is equal to about 1 us dollar. thats right. i can feast here everyday for about 5-10 bucks. and you aren't even expected to tip.

its funny how you meet people... when you dont expect to i mean. i was doing laundry and so i was wearing my least valued of the 3 or 4 outfits i brought. 2 new roomates arrived in my room and we randomly decided to grab a drink down the street. after about 2 minutes walking and what some would consider "conversation", i knew they weren't my type. i found out they were about 19 years old and mommy and daddy was paying for their schooling. luckily some british pedastrians needed some directions. BINGO. we headed with them to the bar they were so desperately searching for, which happened to be decent. they bought our drinks the entire night, and one of them even offered me a job. we had the kind of conversation that had nothing to do with attraction and everything to do with "why don't i know more people like you." apparently its big in the uk to drink absinthe and red bull.... in other words, cough syrup. not recommended.

Monday, November 5, 2007

every positive comes from a negative




today began as a 'downer' day. i'm sick. it's cold. like really cold. euro is burning quickly through all of my pockets. today i went to this artist studio exhibition building. its rugged and covered in graffiti and posters. you can basically walk through and check out some art while the artists are working. they are about 3 floors and many wings and hidden rooms. the artists were very pleasant and welcomed you thru. in the final top room, the artist was just about to walk out and take a break, then he saw me. he was about early 50s, well dressed with a cigarette and coffee in his hand. he greeted me with 3 kisses... 1 on cheek, then opposite cheek, then back to the first one. this is common here. i told him i'd come back after his lunch but he insisted. he didnt speak or understand english. he thought i was spanish, but couldnt speak that either. he was russian if i was to guess the accent. then he asked if he could take me to lunch. he did this thru hand motions. i said no and that i would leave and come back in 10 minutes to see the art. then he approached me with both hands and reached into my scarf to caress my face and hair. i figured he was gonna do the cheek thing again to say goodbye. he tried to kiss me. i pushed him immediately and said no. he apologized and offered coffee to make it up to me. again with the hands. to please him i said i would return to see the art after his break. then i ran in the other direction.

the night didn't seem to get any better. i'm done with berlin.