Thursday, January 28, 2010

Part Three: Venice

Venice had the most potential to go horribly wrong, but it was the smoothest part of our trip.  There’s not much to do other than wander, and we had seen just about all of the art our little eyeballs could handle.

We got off the train and were relieved to see Maura waiting for us on the platform.  We caught the shuttle train to the island, and then we had to master the art of vaporettos.  Basically, Venice is a fish-shaped island that has a Grand Canal going down the middle of it.  There are no cars on the island, so to get anywhere you either have to walk or catch a vaporetto—the public transportation boats.  Thankfully, this segment of the journey went perfectly.  We got off at the right stop, and our hostel was right on the water.

We checked in, had minor drama with some woman sleeping in my bed and her stuff sleeping in Annie’s, but luckily they had some beds to spare.  After getting our things all settled, Annie and I went to the bar next door—the only place to get any food nearby.  I had the best grilled ham and cheese of my entire life.

Moods drastically improved, we just lounged around the common area of the hostel, keeping Maura company while she tried to figure out her travel details for her Amsterdam trip.  We sent our parents e-mails, assuring them of our continued existence, and then went to bed.

When Annie and I woke up around 8, Maura was already long gone for the airport.  The two of us had breakfast and then snuck a vaporetto ride to the main part of the island… don’t tell anyone.  St. Mark’s Square was practically deserted, save for a woman or two who insisted on using their bodies as pigeon feeders.  Disgusting.
               More under the jump.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Part Two: Florence

Wednesday morning we got up early to catch a train to Florence.  The ride ended up being about four hours long, since we bought the cheapest tickets possible, and there wasn’t much we could do besides sleep and watch the beautiful Tuscan scenery go by.
            Once in Florence, we meandered our way through the city to our hostel, aided only by our keen sense of direction and a rough map Rick provided.  While our hostel in Rome wasn’t disgusting by any means, this hostel seemed like a palace.  We’ve since learned it’s a more typical hostel—real front desk, real kitchen, Internet access, clean towels, etc.  When we check in they informed us that they upgraded us to a four-person room—meaning a private room just for us.  Once again we were spoiled and free to leave our stuff all over the room—no need to lock it up.
            We went on an excursion to find a restaurant for lunch, and thanks to Rick, we found a place that was so delicious and so cheap.  It felt like a big family dining room—red checkered table cloths, benches, little English spoken.  I had some minestrone soup that was unlike any I’d had before, and the bread was fresh and perfect.
            When we emerged with happy tummies, we were delighted by the beautiful weather.  Absolutely clear skies, and a bright, bright sun making us squint and sweat.  In the weeks of overcast Oxford I had forgotten how shocking the sun can be.  We wandered our way over to the Uffizi Gallery and walked right in.  Apparently lines to enter in the summer can be over two hours long.  Like the Vatican, the Uffizi is a beautified cattle chute—once you’re in, you can’t leave.  But unlike the Vatican, we all stayed together and the crowds weren’t bad at all.
            The days of AP Euro came soaring back to my memory as I gazed upon Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, and an Oxford lecture from only a few weeks before made me sound like an expert on his Primavera.  We stayed in the Botticelli room for a long, long time, resting our aching feet and gazing on the works hanging all around the room.  He’s by far one of my favorite painters, and his style and subjects are so diverse.  These two in particular seemed even more significant in real life, and they were enormous.  Nothing like the 2x3 image in a textbook.
            More under the jump!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Part One: Rome

I've been feeling guilty for a month now, due to my absolute inability to put words to screen in regards to my Christmas break.  I have words on paper; I kept a detailed journal, but I just struggled to find time to get it on here.  So I'm going to give you what I have, and promise you the rest is on its way.  I wrote the following section on Christmas break while I was still actually at home, which just goes to show that this has been a work in progress.  Read about Rome after the jump.

I've been home the night of the 14th, and I’m going back on the 6th.  It’s been a glorious break of little brain activity and a lot of sunshine.  I’ve baked a ton of cookies, watched movies and caught up on TV, played games, scrambled the rocks in Garden of the Gods, eaten as much Mexican food as possible, reunited with friends, enjoyed a visit from my grandparents, and generally forgotten that I should be reading Paradise Lost or some Oscar Wilde to prepare for next term.  Oh well.

I did read one book for fun: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.  I heartily recommend it to everyone.  Gladwell takes classic examples of success (i.e. the Beatles, Bill Gates, Asians who are good at math, etc.) and picks apart our preconceived notions of what makes someone successful.  I’ll give you a hint—it has little to do with the individual.  It’s a short read, about 285 pages, and Gladwell is a fantastic writer.  I’ve forgotten how good it feels to stay up late reading because I want to—not because I have an assignment due in a matter of hours.

Anyways, I leave the Denver airport around 11am on the 6th, spend a few hours in Canada (eh), and then land in Heathrow around 9am on the 7th.  On the afternoon of the 8th, Teresa, one of my best friends from high school who is spending the year studying in Italy, is coming into Oxford.  And the early on the morning of the 9th, we’re going to Edinburgh, Scotland!  We’re going to see some castle-seeing, and we’re hoping to meet up with a girl who’s friends with my friend Jessi.  It should be a lot more relaxed trip than Italy was—definitely more vacation-y, and I’m really looking forward to it!

In any event, I’ll be back at the grindstone too soon, so I’ll give you the lowdown on Italy while it’s still freshish in my mind.  Luckily I kept a journal, so hopefully I won’t miss anything too important.  It’s under the jump!