Snap Judgments for the Undeserving

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Strange Foreign Signs, part 7

Warsaw, Poland
Pssssst!!! The car next to you is a Commie car!

Warsaw, Poland (again)

Hurrah for Poland! The land of free internet, movies, and pizza!! Now that I think about it, that's probably not the universal Polish experience, but it is if you are lucky enough to stay with Lissa. It's nice to have a little island of americanism before what I'm sure will be an interesting tour of Eastern Europe.
What's more, Katie arrived this weekend, and so the three of us have been skiddeling around Warsaw together.

Katie and Lissa, after visiting The Royal Castle in Old Town

The arrival of Katie, a true chocoholic, merited a visit to the boutique store of "Ewedel", Poland's national chocolate company. There you sit in elegant parlors and sip ridiculously decadant chocolate drinks, and occasionally you even attempt one of their desserts.
Katie and I get into lots of trouble:

Lissa also had her first wedding anniversairy while we were visiting her, although her husband (the much talked of, but elusive, "Dave") is in the states! Katie and I did our best to keep her entertained, but Dave really saved the day by sending her gorgeous flowers.

We celebrated at "Sense" the which specializes in hip pan-asian fusion cuisine*
(*I am not making this up)

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Rome, Italy

Bridget and I finished off our travels together in Rome, where I also met up with the lovely Amelia (living in Rome for the summer) and fabulous Susanna (who flew to Rome just to see me! And, um, I guess Rome too).

We all traipsed around Rome and got into loads and loads of trouble. But instead of boring you with the details, here are some pictures.

The Coloseum was very impressive:

Bridget, who left after only two days, had a whirlwind tour of all of Rome one simply has to see. Here she is in front of one of the two best preserved small temples in Rome (like most temples that survived, this one was converted into a church).
The temple of Hercules (maybe):

Me and the Trevi fountian, which is extremely gaudy but still somehow very pleasant:

One of my favorite sights was the Pantheon, which is truly awe inspiring. The view of the dome from the inside is almost overwhelming. I also learned the answer to the age-old question: what do you do when it rains, and your dome has a 9 meter oculus? Then answer, fairly predictably is: lots of holes in the floor.

The oculous of the Pantheon, and all of us admiring the system of drainage.

And here's a picture of all of us, on the last night that all of us were still in town. Amelia organized dinner at a fabulous restaurant in Trastevere
(The meal was delicious, but I didn't realize that the restaurant was so very red until I saw this picture)

Strange Foreign Signs, part 6

Assisi, Umbria

Assisi, Umbria

Ah beautiful Assisi ... the town you should go to if you ever want a medieval panel painting to speak to you. And before you get really worried, this isn't me we're talking about, it's Saint Francis. We actually saw the painting that supposedly awakened Frank to the religious life, which looks a bit like a friendly cartoon Jesus, and Bridget described it as "The most likely to talk to you" which it really is.
Here's me in front of the Basilica of St. Francis
The frescoes in here are amazing (more Giotto*!)

Assisi is also just a very charming town, although some might find the religiousness a bit overwhelming (I've never seen so many Priests and Monks and Brothers and Nuns together in one place, let's hear it for religious pilgrimage!!). All of the houses are done in this beautiful creamy stone, and the little streets wind up and down the hill.

The pretty streets of Assisi

The main Piazza, with a fountain that (like many in Italy) is fed by a Roman aqueduct

*Well, in my opinion, not really Giotto, but interesting none the less.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Siena, Tuscany

Siena, is a gorgeous gorgeous city, and the perfect combination of art and big things to climb up! The city just seems steeped in tradition, and is also just architecturally charming. My friend Amelia just went to the famous horse race "Il Palio" here (which I missed by a couple of weeks, and sounds wonderful, but I don't think would have been a good first trip for me to this city as there's so much that I wanted to see already!)

It just seems like everywhere you go, there's a great view.
Here's the view of the main piazza and the palazzo publico from a tower atop the Duomo's museum:
And here's a view of the City from a cafe just a stone's throw from our hotel:
I remember the food being really good there, but honestly it could have just been the scenery.

And yes, of course there was fabulous art. Here is me, illegally depicted in complete awe before Duccio's masterpiece, the Maesta:

Remember what I said about tradition?? Well, Bridget and I kept running into these mini "parades" that usually involved guys with drums and flags doing elaborate routines (practicing, I assume, for events like Il Palio). They are from different districts (or "contrade") in the city, and each has a different symbol. We actually literally broke up a parade with our cab on the way into the city.
These guys seemed pretty macho, and their symbol is the goose:

Florence, Tuscany

Florence is insane ... seriously, just insane. I'm having complete art-overload, and I'm loving it. I made Bridget go to four churches and one museum, and that was only the first day we were here!
I think we might have done everything that I "needed" to do while I'm here, but I've probably forgotten to do something pivotal, so maybe it would be best to just let me blather on and not ask me if I saw anything in specific ... just a warning.

Yeah yeah, I know this isn't the "real" David, but naked men in public squares just seem to do something for me...
Here's the Duomo with the amazingly pink marble exterior put on in the 19th century.
Napolean did a lot of strange things to Italy, it turns out...

Okay, so the Duomo looks a little doofy from the outside, but the inside is amazing! Especially Brunelleschi's dome, which was an architectural feat at the time. He constructed the largest dome of his age over the apse of the Duomo using a double-dome structure. This is mostly fun because when you go up the the top of the Duomo, you get to walk between the domes!!

Here I am between the very slanty walls of Brunelleschi's two domes...
It gets crazy towards the top where the stairs are just cut into the side of the dome!
And once you get to the top you get a great view! Here's Bridget right in front of our neighborhood:

And finally, in front of the Duomo is the Bapristry with Ghiberti's famous bronze doors.
So, on to the Uffizi and the Palazzo Vecchio and the Palazzo Pitti and I don't even remember what else ... wheee!!

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Padua, Italy

My life is now complete ... We took a day trip from Venice to nearby Padua, and I got to see Giotto's Arena Chapel (aka Capella degli Scrovegni)!!!!! For those of you who haven't heard of this late Medieval fabulousness (and who care) you can go here and see the frescoes that decorate the interrior. My mentor in college was a Giotto scholar, and so I took several classes centering on his work, thus the big deal for me.

Here's me, outside the Capella (they, of course, don't allow pictures inside)
Thank goodness that this was taken from far away, because I have this problem where I get really emotional and cry when I see stuff like this ...
Also in Padua is the Basilica di Sant'Antonio, which is really dome-y and actually has the remains of Saint Antonio within. It is actually a fairly active pilgrimage site, with tons of vendors selling religious kitch outside, and lots and lots of flowers and etc left in front of the tomb...
Look, I'm large and made of brick!

Monday, July 11, 2005

Venice, Italy

I love Venice ... despite the hoards of tourists and the overcommercialization of it all, I still love it. It is just full of these tiny winding streets that are so narrow that you have to walk single file, that suddenly open onto these gorgeous unexpected piazzas, or onto beautiful bridges over hidden canals. And the sky seems so much more luminous that I have ever seen it, it must be the combination of the sea and the mountains ...

Oh dear, I just waxed poetic. This is probably a bad sign ... let me just skip on to the pictures:

Here's a veiw of the grand canal from a Vaporetti*
(*that's a Venetian "bus" which of course is actually a boat)
And here's Bridget, enjoying the canal ride
We also visited Piazza San Marco, which was completely huge, and filled with people and pidgeons. Actually, I think there were more pidgeons than people, they just take up less room...
Here's the view of the Doge's palace from the balcony of St. Mark's Basilica:
And me, on top of St. Marks
The Basilica was really cool, by the way, it is done in a Byzantine style (which means lots of mosaics and gold) and the floor which is done in a beautiful marble pattern is actually WAVEY because it is sinking into the lagoon. This makes a very interesting visiting experience, especially in the half-light of the church...

Strange foreign signs, Part 5

Milan, Italy

Could I really make this up?

Milan, Italy

Well, due to a wardrobe (um, I mean, train) malfunction, I accidentally visited Milan!! Although Bridget and I didn't really do what you're supposed to do there (shop) in our one whilwind day there, we did see some interesting sights...

Here's me in front of the incredibly superfluous Duomo:
The guidebood describes it as "fantastic" ... but I prefer "ridiculous". Don't worry, it's hideous on the inside too!!
Leonardo DaVinci also spent some time in Milan, and the science and technology museum has a great exhibition on his inventions ... including lots of little models, most of which are interesting but highly improbable.
Bridget enjoyed the model of the first fully automated loom ...

And we saw some art too ... but I won't get into it because as soon as I hit Florence I'm sure that's all I will talk about ... now, on to Venice!!

Monday, July 04, 2005

Chamonix, Savoie, the Alps

The Alps are absolutely lovely, I've decided ... we've been in Chamonix for 4 days, and each day we've taken a hike that has been extraordinarily beautiful, and yet each has been completely different.
The first day we walked along the mountain ridge facing Mont Blanc. The terrain was very steep, and covered with gorgeous flowering underbrush, because we were above the treeline.

Me, up really really high, with the Mont Blanc mountain range in the background
Bridget discovers an alpine stream

Then, the next day, we took several cable cars in sucession, in order to go all the way up Mont Blanc. This, of course, wasn't enough for me, and once at the top, I insisted that we also ride in these tiny eggs, hundreds of feet about two huge glaciers. This ride actually took us to Italy and back!
Here are the tiny eggs that we rode in!!

And here's me on Mont Blanc, notice I'm wearing a jacket. I was sweating in a tank top in the line for the tickets at the bottom of the valley. The weather here is weird.
Bridget actually hated this, but puts up a good front:

After the mountain-scaling, we went on a hike through boulder-filled hills, to a tiny lake. Here I am, carefully not touching the water, which was extremely cold.
And then yesterday, we went on a hike along a lower ridge outside of Chamonix. This was supposed to be the "pastoral" hike, and we actually saw (and heard) cows!! The hills were absolutely covered in beautiful wildflowers (although we saw several small white flowers, and thus can't positively identify any as edlewiese).

Here's B, reinacting the Sound of Music .... you can see she's escaping to Switzerland, which you can see in the background.