Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Florence etc...

I have no idea where i left off on my last blog since im pretty mentally exhausted. Since all the big museums in Florence are closed on Monday we went today. We stated with the Galleria Dell' Acedemia where Michelangelo' David is displayed. It is an amazing staue and it's height alone was impressive. It's 17 feet tall. Ginny and I were a little dissappointed in his hands. They seemed disproportionally big. Oh well, still beautiful and mind-blowing. After the Acedemia, off to other adventures around town and finally to the Uffizzi. Not sure about the spelling. They don't let you check your coat or luggage here so a warm museum plus my coat and day pack made walking around for a couple hours exhausting. Can barely remember much i liked besides Michelangelo's Holy Family and ....can't remember anything else. It's been a long day. After we escaped from the museums, we tried to get down to the river and relaxe and try to escape from the noisy busy city. But there are street vendors everywhere you go trying to make you buy their junk and noisey cars and scooters, so relaxing was very difficult. We walked home and immediately i collapsed in bed with my ipod. I think i deserved that nap after all that walking. Oh yeah, speaking of walking, ginny and I climbed the 414 steps to the top of the bell tower next to the duomo. Not bad. Ok, sorry of the poorly organized blog, but it's the best i can do in my current state. Why bother writing this, you may ask? well, this hostel offers free internet, so i saw a unoccupied computer and sat down. It-s very difficult to get a seat since there are only 5 computers. Ok, that's enough of that. Must eat some more pizza for dinner.



Saturday, January 28, 2006

Lost in Rome

Got separated from Ginny and Kelty in the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel. No big deal, some lunch and internet can solve anything. Just got an email from Ginny and i know they are ok.

Turns out that the vatican owns a lot of stuff. I just walked through 4 miles of galleries and rooms. Now my own personal problem with loooking at the Sistine Chapel ceiling is that i have seen it thousands of times and in quite good detail from the 8,000 piece puzzle that Peter and I have been working on. And that means picking up the box over and over and scanning our puzzle a millions times. So, the ceiling didn't offer me much. Plus it was extremely crowded with security guards yelling at people to be quiet and to stop taking pictures. But they never stopped, so i left pretty quickly. The one thing the sistine chapel was able to offer me was the walls. I had never seen those peices of fresco before. Off to the Metro to meet Ginny. Ahhh, the wonders of technology. Once was lost but now i'm found.



Friday, January 27, 2006

Roman Ruins

Went to the Borghese museum this morning. It requires reservations as they only allow certain amount of visiters in at once. That was really nice. I wish more museum did that. But then i guess you couldn't just walk in....oh well. So the big items at the Borghese are Bernini's Apollo and Daphne and The Rape of Proserpina. In Apollo and Daphne, he is chasing her and the moment he reaches her, she turns into a tree. Bernini somehow captures this which is really insane. With the Rape of Proserpina, Hades has kidnapped Proserpina and the most amazing part of the sculpture is his grip on her leg and how it succombs to his strengh. It is a awfully real experience. She is crying and you can see the veins in his arms. Click here to see the close up. Oi vay.

On another subject, also went to the Colloseum and the Roman Forum. Using Rick Steve's walking tour we ended up in the ruins of old palaces above the forum. We were wondering about for so long, we ended up being the last ones to leave the whole forum. We hadn't seen anyone for a while which was great since its rare to explore anything without a group of tourists and their tour guide getting in the way. I hadn't heard as much english as i did today.




Thursday, January 26, 2006

checking in

In Rome currently. Went to St. Peter's and that was completely insane. Ginny and i met a nice canadian girl from calgery. She happens to be a very good catholic and knows lots about everything catholic. So we got a good history standing in front of all the statues and all the tombs of various popes. The craziest part was in the the center of the basilica with four huge statues around this 70 ft bronze canapoy by Bernini. I am not sure what it was, just that it exusted all the bronze in Rome to build. They melted everything they could get their hand on to complete it. But the statues around it were of St. Helena (who found and excevated the jesus's cross), St. Veronica (the woman who wiped Jesus's face as he carried his cross and the imprint of his face appeared on her veil), St. Andrew ( who was crusified on a sideways cross) and St. Longinus (who stabbed Jesus in the side when he was put on the cross). The best part is the reliquaries above them. Above helena is a piece of the cross. Above Veronica is her veil, above Andrew was his head, and above Longinus is the spear he used. That was the most amazing part for me.

Didn't make it to the sistine chapel in time. It closed at 12.20. Very strange. Will have to go tomorrow.

Ta Ta For Now



PS. Also went to the crypt and saw Pope John Paul's tomb. Crazy.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Italy so far...

We arrived in Milan at night and made our way from the train station to the hostel using the Metro. We mastered the Metro with ease, even if we had to ask for help the first time. Luckily, we both bought memberships to an International Hosteling group, so we were able to stay at this place. We met a crazy french-canadian named Hugo (pronounced Ugo). He is working in a hostel up in the Alps in France, so Ginny and I really want to go to now. The hostel is situated between to mountains where most people go skiing, but we can only afford to go snowshoeing. But shoeshoeing in the Alps seems like a great way to end our trip. So if our schedule works out, we are definitly going. Oops, i kinda got sidetracked. Right, Milan...

Went to the Duomo which was pretty insane. After seeing some many cathedrals in Paris, i thought i had seen them all. But i was terribly mistaken. The Duomo in Milan is so huge and ornate that it almost seems like too much. You can only stand there and think about the work that went into building it. Apparently, it took over 500 years to complete.

We went to go see the Last Supper, but the church where it is kept was closed. So then we went and visited a castle which was very exciting, even if the museum was also closed.

We left Milan for Monterosso, which is one of the cities that makes up Cinque Terra. These 5 cities are all connected to each other by trails along the cliff where no cars can access. We found a hostel online the day before and once we successful arrived, we found it closed for the season. I would like to state that i did try calling first, but it just rang, which seems to be normal for some hostels. Like the hostel, the city was pretty much closed. Everyone who owned a hotel came out as we walked by and asked if we needed a room. There were absolutely no tourists there but us and one american who directed us to where he found his hotel. But we settled on a hotel which was run by a very nice old italian couple. It was their grand daughter's first birthday that night and she was very small and quite captivated by my gloves. Since Cinque terre was pretty dead we decided we ought to move on to our next cities since we have only 2 weeks left and the rest of italy to see.

So we hopped on an early morning train to Pisa and walked over to the Tower which is very funny once it is right in front of you. That builing should never have existed. Aparently they noticed the lean after the third floor was put together but then the decided to keep going. Those crazy italians.

We off to Rome in only a few more minutes so i must go and walk to the train station.




Sunday, January 22, 2006

train rides

A few interesting train experiences

Jan 18th. Leaving Dijon for Aix

Try to speak with woman behind counter about reservations and how to get to Aix. She holds up a lot of signs with one including Aix and the time 18h15. So Ginny and i settle in to wait for 4 hours until our train leaves. About a half an hour later i take out the ticket and notice that we are doing some transfering and that we end up in Aix around 1800. And that we leave Dijon in 5 minutes. So we figure out the track and run upstirs. I ask a guy which direction is car 6 and all he says is, "Hurry! Go go go. " We run and just barely make it on the train before the train pulls out of the station. There is a little confusion about which car we end up in and which seats are ours, but we eventually settle in.

Next stop in in Lyon where we have to switch trains. We have about a half an hour so we go and find the restrooms. As we are walking back, the clock says we have 5 minutes before our next train leaves. So more running and hopping on the train.

Jan 22nd. Leaving Aix for Milan

Have to wait in the Marseille waiting room for our Connection to Nice, where we connect to go to Milan. As we are sitting and waiting a junkie approaches Ginny and asks for fire. No luck here since neither of us smoke. So he sits on the other side of the waiting room for a while and then returns all creepy like and sits next to Ginny. She is busy pretending to read a newspaper and thus ignores him until he offers her some drugs. We stay a little longer since i notice that everyone in the waiting room has their eyes on him. But we make our escape shortly and get on the train very easily since we leave the waiting room half an hour early.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Aix and Marseille

We have been staying in Aix-en-Provence for 4 nights now but i will say we've only been here for 2 days. Today we did a day trip to Marseille. We went with a friend we met here in Aix and he showed us around and got us around on all the right busses and metro. It's kinda crazy trusting someone you just met, but he has been very nice and we trust him completely.

I have really enjoyed Aix. Thank you to Aunt Rickie and the swedish girls from Amsterdam for recommending it. The town is really old and is kind of based around water. They have natural hot springs and have set up fountains all over town. One of the oldest ones, runs through the large city center square. It is fed by a natural hot spring and therefore all this moss has been growing all over it for hundreds of years now. you can't even see the fountain, it's just moss with water coming out of it. I went out tonight looking for some last minute post cards (no luck) and the fountain had steam coming out of it. I tried to take a picture but the light was low and my camera couldn't handle it.

The city streets here are very old in the center city and very confusing. But they are filled with shops, boutiques, and restaurants. Also, since there are a lot of student here, there is more of a night life. So restaurants are open later and there are a lot of people on the street. One night we went to a jazz club and a french band played a whole lot of crazy covers. Below is their crazy set list,

First set:

Radio Head (Fake Plastic Trees)

Eagle Eye Cherry ( Save Tonight)

Aretha Franklin (Chain of Fools)

Beatles (Ticket to Ride) / Them (GLORIA)

spanish reggea/ french reggae/ Sunny and Cher ( I got you babe)/ Shaggy (Bombastic)/ Bob Marley (Stir it up)/ Shaggy/ Sunny and Cher

Second Set:

some french rock

Rage Against The Machine (Killing in the Name)

Blur (Song 5)

Nirvana (Rape Me)

White Stripes ( Seven Nation Army)

Pretty crazy, n' est pas?

As far as Marseille goes, the best part was reaching the ocean again. We did some walking and saw some parts of the city, but took a bus out of town and walked to a nearby area just as sunset approached. I found a place to sit and took some notes as i watched the sun dip below the horizon. The most surprising thing was how green the sky became and how long it stayed that way. The white sea birds became black against the bright back drop of sunset and the light from the island light house finally became visible and I became much colder. But it was incredible to sit out there until it got dark and cold and i loved every moment of it.



Wednesday, January 18, 2006

New French Cities

New French Cities
Current mood:

I hope this email ends up spelled correctly. I am sitting in a cyber cafe in Aix-en-Provence and many of the keys are switched. So please forgive me when I mix As with Qs and etc...

Ginny and I arrived in Dijon yesterday and it rained all day. We really felt like we hated the city. But we found a nice pizza place and we were the only customers, so we ended up staying longer and having another glass of wine before we left. After our nice dinner, we walked home and didn't hate Dijon as much.

We didn't find a hostel so we got ourselves a cheap hotel. But it did have a shower, so that was pretty exciting.

The next morning, it did manage to stop raining so we went to the Museum of Fine Arts. It was quite good but going into any descriptions will take too much energy to figure out how to type.

Next stop, Aix-en-Provence where we went on q never ending hunt for a resonqbly priced hotel. Our first try was in a plqce where we got co,pletely ignored. Ginny peaked into one of the rooms, saw the crappy, dirty room and we were out of there.

Picked another hotel, and ate some cheese and bread in bed. Then off to find some dessert and maybe some wine. But everything is sooooo expensive. Found an internet cafe and here we are. Our next job is to find a youth hostel near the center of town.

Maybe i will be able to write more at another cafe where the keyboqrd isn't so crazy.

Monday, January 16, 2006

A Walk Through the Middle of Nowhere

After visiting the flea/ farmer's market this morning in San Florentine- where Ginny tried on a sweater in the back of the guy's white, windowless van and i kept a look out- Ginny and I packed a picnic and headed out of Vaudevanne to the town of Chailley where there is this cemetary on the side of the tallest hill in town. And on the very top is a chapel. So we did a long walk through farmland, got our shoes covered in who knows what, hiked up the hill, and enjoyed our lunch with our freezing fingers. It's awfully hard to eat an orange with gloves on. After some fun pictures we headed home, got a little lost, walked through someone's backyard and found our way home. It was so nice coming back to a warm house and clean clothes.

a few notes

I forgot to mention that yesterday we visited one of Anna's freinds here who lives in a chateau. Her son is a big deal at Shell and bought the place. The house even has a moat around it. Well, it could have a moat, they had it drained while they do construction. It's official name is Chataeu de Percey

Visited Noyers and Chablis yesterday

Took a great shower today. Felt like i was emersed in the warmest water. Extremely hard to get out of.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Aunt Anna

Many thanks to Benny's aunt Anna who has been taking great care of Ginny and I here at her home in Vaudevanne (not sure about the spelling). She moved at here about 4 years ago at the advise of friends and doctors who told her she needed to live more stress free or she would have a heart attack. So now, she lives in the country and lives stress-free.

Today she took us around to some really old villages. Noyers was really amazing. Everything was very old, starting from the 12th century. A small river runs through the town and we were there around dusk so it was even more beautiful.
Im still sick so i was coughing a lot and drinking a lot of water on our little excursion so my bladder filled quite quickly. But it being Sunday and all, everything was closed. So i had to do something i haven't done since i was a child. I peed on the side of the road. Luckily i had tissues and Anna had little sanitary wipes. The funny thing about doing it was that i had to pee so bad that i couldn't be modest or embarrassed about it. I just let it go =)

Tomorrow Ginny and I are going to go on a hike through the woods nearby and pack a picnic. It's so incredible out here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

more walking

So, more walking today. Ginny, Mayra, and I left the hostel around 10 this morning and took the metro to the Pablo Picasso Museum. That was really great, except it was too short. We went around the place and then ending up back where we started. The upper levels were roped off for some reason. But it was wonderful anyways. After that, off to the Pompidou where there is a modern art museum. That was a little hard to negotiate to get to the right floor, but once we found it, it was huge and took a couple hours. For me, modern art can be really exciting and interesting, but i really can't remember anything in paticular that i really liked. Oh well. Next on the list was some shopping on our way to the Louvre. The day before, Ginny and I found some great coats at this one store but decided to buy them later on our trip when we return to Paris. But today, every store, and i mean EVERY STORE, was having a huge sale. The store only had two coats left, one in gray (the one i liked) and one in brown (which Ginny liked) and they both happened to be our sizes that we tried on yesterday. And to top it all off, they were 50% off. It was fate. So Ginny and I came home with great coats and at an unbelievable price. After some more shopping and not purchasing anything, we went to the Lourvre. It was pretty empty. No lines at least. We were able to walk right up to the Mona Lisa. But my favorite was the Wingged Victory stature (not sure about the name there) and Cupid and Psyche sculpture. It was so soft and delicate looking. We didn't get to see everything since that would take days, so we headed home knowing that Ginny and I would return next month and finish it.

As far as the Eiffel Tower goes, aparently the top is closed for a month, so Ginny and I will try again when we come back.




Tuesday, January 10, 2006

sore feet

Today Ginny and I went on a walking tour, thanks to Rick Steves, of Notre Dame and the surrounding area. Jesse and I started this tour when we were here last week but never finished it due to a lack of daylight and a lot of snow. So Ginny and I walked around Notre Dame. I gave here the few tidbits that i rememebred from the audio tour i took. Then we walked around the neighborhood, she went to Saint Chapelle, then more walking and ending near the Lovre. So we decide to continue and walk to the Lovre. Turns out, the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays. So i take out the map and the Pompidou isn't very far so we walk there and stop and try on some great coats. We make it to the Pompidou and that is also closed. Then after some more walking around the neighborhood we decide to take the metro to the Eiffel Tower. So we walk back to the metro and arrive at the Tour Eiffel after sunset, so the tower is all lit up. We deciede to take the stairs up instead of the elevator even if our feet are already sore. In addition, Ginny has got some sore calves and my knee and acheilles heal are hurting. But we take it slowly and eventually arrive at the 2nd floor about 400 feet up. The top is 1000 feet up. Now, im not sure if the stairs don't go to the top at all or what, but we couldn't find any stairs. Then we wait by the elevator but nothing shows up. I asked a guy in the souvenir shop about it and he said the top was closed. I was extremely upset. We walked almost halfway up the tower and get DENIED. We stood around for along time feeling like idiots and then had to head back down. So we opt for the stairs since there is a massive crowd waiting for the lift back down. We get down to the first level and find the stairs closed to get to the ground floor. So then we had to wait for the elevator anyways to get down all the way. That made me even more upset. So after that we retreated home very tired and not have accomplished much for the day except a lot of exercise. I guess our litttle adventure today is definitely worth remembering if only for how unclimatic is was. Anywho, im not sure what we are going to do tomorrow since everything will be open. So many choices.




Monday, January 09, 2006

Dublin (in review)

This is in fact the second time i am posting this blog. Somehow i lost the first one. So i will try and recapture the magic of the first.Right now I am writing from Paris as I have just arrived from Dublin his afternoon.

We arrived in Dublin on the 5th and Casey, our fearless leader, got us from the airport to our budget hotel. It was more of a hostel than a hotel, except the fact that they didn't kick us out during the day. The four of us shared a room with a guy named Ben, an american studying guitar in Brussels. We also shared our room two of our nights there with a really smelly dude. We barely saw him as he appeared in the middle of the night and left early in the morning (not showering I should add). We did manage to smell him, even if we couldn't see him. The second night we made sure to sleep with the windows open despite the cold weather and the noise outside. We stayed in a very busy neighborhood with lots of great food and lots of pubs. People were out late and all the noise came through our windows. The worst past was this guy downstairs who was emptying all the pub's glass bottles into the recylcing. He would toss one botle at a time into the conainer. So it was a constant clang/crash every 5 seconds.

We explored the city mostly on foot and some by bus. Our first day we started with the Modern art Museum and then we went to an old jail that housed common criminals and the political prisoners during the revolutions for indepence from the British. After that we went to the Guinness factory and took the tour. The tour ended in the bar at the top where you can see all around Dublin and drink your complementary pint. I couldn't finish mine since i just had a hot chocolate minutes earlier. We also saw Christ Church, the oldest curch in Ireland from the 12th century and the National Art Museum. Our last day we took a tour ouyt of Dublin to see old tombs and old celtic sites. We went to this one tomb that was older than the pyramids. We learned a lot about old Irish history and the current history between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The tour was great and our guide was this great old man named Patrick who even played us a tune on his flute. It was a great experience.

The next morning, we packed left for he airport, took a bus for an hour and a half into Paris, took two metro trains to the hostel and found Ginny safe and sound waiting for me here.

Tonight is Jesse's last night here in Europe and I have to continue without him, which is going to be really sad. He's been a great travel companion and guide. Im sure we will all go out and celebrate Jesse's last night.




Tuesday, January 03, 2006


Jesse and I arrived in amsterdamn in the late afternoon on January first. We met up with his friends Casey and Mayra and went out for dutch pancakes for dinner. It's just a weird pancake with food on top. It was a little weird, not the best thing ive had along my trip (the food in paris was wonderful). Casey, who has been living here for a year, said that the Dutch are known for their bland food. After dinner we went back to his studio where the 4 of us are sleeping. It may sound cramped, but it's better than a hostel. Later that night we went to a local bar here whose walls were covered in great graffiti art. Aparently they change the art on the walls constantly. It was really nice hanging out in the the amsterdam bar except that most of the beers here have twice the alcohol content as the beer back home, so i definitly had to slow down. I only had 2 beers the whole time we were there.

The next day we got a late start. We left the house around 2pm. We went out walking around the neighborhood and all the popular streets around here. The funny thing about the streets here is that there is the road for cars, a bike lane for bicycles or a sidewalk for bicylces, and then a sidewalk for pedestrians. Everyone here rides around town on one-speed bicycles. For dinner that night we went to this great restaurant with great food with some swedish friends of Casey. Sweden sounds really great. Beatiful country, free health insurance, they pay you to go to college. Later that night we rode our bikes over to the casino. I had a wet bike seat and walked around all night with a wet butt cheek. Maybe it brought me luck though, since i won 50euro at roulette. After the casino, time for the late-night snack around here. French fries. Mayonaise is pretty popular with your fries, but Mayra and I opted for ketchup instead.

It is now tuesday around noon, and my butt is very sore from riding aorund town last night. Not sure what today holds for us. I think Casey has some museum passes, so i think we are going somewhere. I really don't know much about Amsterdam so it's kinda nice just having a tour guide tell us where to go. TTFN. Ta ta for now.


Monday, January 02, 2006


New Years Eve in Paris was much different than I expected. During the day, Jesse and i left early and went to the musee d'orsay, napaleon's tomb, and the eiffel tower. After a day of walking, i opted for a nap. Jesse skipped his. Turned out to be a bad choice. Later that night, we found the least expensive restaurant on our street (everything was marked up 35%-50%) and i ordered escargot and enjoyed it as long as i wasn't looking at it. Jesse was soo tired he could barely hold his head up. He left me at the restaurant to take care of the bill while he tried to take a power nap since everyone else in the hostel was ready to go to the eiffel tower. I came back to wake up Jesse and he can't be budged. So i went out with 12 other people to the eiffel tower.

The metro was packed, just like expected. everyone in town is going exactly where we are. I was pushed up against a pole with some people packed in so tight they had nothing to hold to. That meant that every time the metro started and stopped, i had the weight of 2 or 3 full grown adults pushing me into the pole. The best part of the train trip there was the soccer calls going on through out the car. Everyone was chanting and yelling.

Once all 13 of us met up at the station we immediately got separtated. So i spent the evening with a french canadian girl from Montreal, two mexican surgeons who work in spain, and a guy from argentina.

Once it was midnight, the eiffel tower lit up and sparkeled. And then everybody started to leave. We stayed for maybe a half an hour because i refused to believe that there weren't any fireworks. And then we learned from people there that the eiffel tower lights up every night at every hour. So new year's eve did nothing differnt than any other night. It was a huge let down.

The night really began once we tried to head home. The french canadian had to pee so bad she asked some SWAT looking police where the bathrooms were. We eventually found an empty street and she peed between to cars while i covered with my jacket and the boys stood on the corners looking out for people. After that we headed toward the next subway stop. On there way there, the eiffel tower lit up again since it was now 1 o'clock. Great.....We finally found the subway but it was so full of people we decied to walk home instead of being crushed to death in the metro station.

Once we left, it was a long walk home, since all the taxis were full. While walking we came across the only open restaurant we saw all night. We all decided a cup of hot chocolate or coffee sounded good. turns out, the didn't have anything hot there, only cold drinks. So i ordered an orange juice. When we got the bill, i found out that my OJ was 5.40 euros. That's like 6 bucks.

We finally got home around 3:30 and met up with everyone who we got separated from the night. Everyone walked home since the subways were either to crazy or closed. Some girls from Vancouver Island had an even worse night that included seeing a dead body and being accosted by an algerian kissing party.

That sweetest part was that jesse had woken up and come downstairs looking for me and apparently got very worried i wan't home yet and walking the streets of paris. So thanks jesse for worrying. =)

The next morning, Jesse and i headed to train station for Amsterdam. More on Amsterdam later when i get a better chance.