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Roaming in Roma

Well I made an executive decision – I was still very sick so I decided to skip Venice and meet my friends in Rome. I am feeling better (so much pasta and gelato must cure anything) and all the trees in Paris now have leaves so it is hard to feel sickly and just want to stay indoors.

Pasta, Pasta

The food in Italy (yes, I am starting with the food) was wonderful. The tomatoes were super fresh and all of the restaurants we ate at were much more reasonably priced than Paris. The gelato was fantastic (twice a day) and it is strawberry season so that flavor was amazing. Now that you are all rolling your eyes in disdain I’ll move on to some old stuff.

Red Ripe

So the Colosseum was rather colossal (pun intended). It was neat to go inside and see it from that angle. It also happened to be cultural week in Rome so all of the entrances to monuments and museums were free!

By Day

Inside

By Night

We also bumped into Julius Caesar and his friends. They still hang around the Colosseum.

The Boys Are Back in Town

We then walked around the Roman Forum and saw more ancient things.

Forum

When exciting the Forum we were on Via Imperial where we also saw some impressive monuments.

Old, Very Old

Blue Sky

The weather was nice and our hostel was super nice. We were actually in a separate apartment which included a kitchen and bathroom. It was called Freedom Traveler. Being in Rome meant we had to pay the Pope a visit. So one morning we headed to Popeland.

He Works For God

The Vatican museums are spectacular and everything is so ornate (Catholics aren’t exactly into minimalism). By the time we reached the Sistine Chapel I was a bit underwhelmed mainly because everything before that had been so over the top. We then went out and went to see St. Peter’s which was the craziest church I have ever been into. It was more ridiculous monument than place of worship.

St. Peter's Basilica

After the whole religious pilgrimage we decided to relax the next day so we went to the Travestere neighborhood. I loved this area it was less touristy and I got the impression that people lived in this area (there was a lot of laundry hanging out of windows). We sat in the main square for several hours and listened to a cello player and then we saw a wedding procession (if I ever get married I think I would pull up in a Rolls Royce too).

Cello Music

Nice Day for a White Wedding

We also climbed up above the city and got a nice view of down below:

View From Above

The Spanish steps were in full bloom (lots of potted plants) and we also saw the Trevi Fountain but this area was tourist packed so we didn’t have a La Dolce Vita swim.

Spanish Steps in Bloom

And of course I must mention Vespas. They were everywhere. Thus I leave you with a few photos of the famous bike and of Tigrou’s rival. Enjoy your week I will be writing papers like there is no tomorrow. Ciao!

Mirror

Ciao!

Tulips, Wooden Clogs and Bikes

So the morning I was leaving for Amsterdam I woke up with a fever and felt awful. I took some medicine and felt a bit better so I decided to head to Amsterdam. Needless to say, if you were expecting a blog on a vice-filled trip which is incredibly hazy that’s not what you are about to get. Instead I was sick the entire time and went to bed at 9 p.m. more than once and I am now in Paris lying in bed with a bunch of medication praying that I will feel better so I can taste food and go to Italy.

Are you?

But Amsterdam itself was nice. My friend Hannah and I bought Iamsterdam cards for 48 hours so we got into a lot of museums and other things for free or discounted. We went to the Rijksmuseum which houses Dutch masterpieces such as Rembrandt and Vermeer; a lot of the museum is under renovation so that was a brief visit. Then we went for a canal cruise which was fun.

Canal

View from the canal

And we were lucky enough to spot a clog boat!

Clog!

Before calling it a day, we went to the Anne Frank Huis. This was where Anne spent her last years in hiding and it was a bizarre feeling to think that she had written her diary within this house and that it was not even that long ago. We made it back to our hostel without being hit by a bicyclist (Amsterdam is like a UC campus, everyone rides a bike).

Bike

The following day we decided to take advantage of more free museums on our cards. So we started out with the Rembrandt House. This was a huge house where he lived and painted and also the reason he went bankrupt. But it was a nice house. Then we wanted to see how the other half lived (not as absurd as the French) so we went to the Van Loon Mansion. Not too shabby, I mean I wouldn’t mind a garden like this in a middle of a city:

Jardin

Then we went to Heineken. Not just Heineken, the Heineken Experience. But sadly my taste buds weren’t working so I can’t say if it tastes any better than in the States. It was a really corporate tour and I must say I enjoyed my Belgian museum brewery tour and the Lvivshke tour in Ukraine a lot more.

Bier!

We ended our afternoon at the Van Gogh Museum which was great. There was a special exhibit Van Gogh and The Colors of the Night which was an interesting chronological development of his style and paintings. So by now you are probably wondering when I am going to talk about the good stuff. Well Hannah and I wandered the Red Light District (here is a shot of me blurring the red colors):

Red Light at Night

The Red Light District doesn’t really feel sketchy at all. There are lots of tours walking around and just tourists in general. Everyone knows it is there; it is legal; it is a clean and pretty safe area. The women in the windows look pretty bored – a lot of them were texting or talking on their cell phones (although I am sure in high summer season they don’t do this). And as far as marijuana, you can buy it in designated “coffee shops.” You will be carded as you must be 18 or over. Again there is nothing sketchy about it. Locals come in, have a smoke and leave. Honestly if we did that in the US and just taxed it really heavily…but maybe Europeans are just more open with drugs and alcohol and we will always have Puritan roots in our political traditions.

But enough on all of that, the real fun came the next day. My aunt Jackie (always great with suggestions) recommended the Keukenhof Gardens. This garden is only open for two months of the year while all the spring bulbs are in bloom. It was like Disneyland for tulips.

Flower Fields

I had a lot of fun using the macro setting on my camera:

Tulip

There were just so many beautiful tulips in every size, shape and color that it seemed really unreal. It is actually interesting how back in the day fortunes were made and lost off of the tulip bulb in the Netherlands:

Endless

As far as food, sadly my taste buds weren’t feeling this trip. But I did try a traditional pea and ham soup which was good. And of course a Dutch pancake, also not bad.

And before we left Amsterdam we went to the Sex Museum (figured we had to). It actually wasn’t anything too shocking but it was a fitting end to our trip. I am now on my fourth cup of tea and crossing my fingers. I leave you with a crazy little Dutch song I somehow stumbled into the middle of at the Keukenhof Garden (my life is ridiculous sometimes):

Chartres is Charming

Ah I am officially on spring break (although the thought of the amount of writing I will have to do when I return is not pleasant). So today I decided to hop on a train with some friends and head to Chartres (22 Euros aller-retour); this small town is about a 40min to 1 hour train ride from Paris and it is home to a magnificent cathedral (Monet did a series of paintings here).

Cathedral 1

Cathedral 2

The cathedral is famous for many reasons. One: it is very old. Two: the stained glass is a special color of blue that really has not been recreated in other places (thanks to the oxidized cobalt) and because of this there is a blue Mother Mary stained glass window. Three: there is a cool labyrinth pattern on the floor which is actually a reference to Greek mythology, but of course the Church added Jesus to the story somehow.

Biblical Scenes

Blue Mother

Floor Maze

Prayer Candles

So after looking around in the Cathedral and eating lunch in the jardin behind it, we decided to stroll. Chartres is a cute town and there are canals:

Bridge

Kayak!

There are a lot of nice parks in Chartres and all of the flowers are in bloom. I have noticed that the French love trimming their trees:

Square Cut

And of course in a town where people come for religious pilgrimages I would stumble on this:

I Spy a Sin

We also stumbled into a beautiful old building that had an art exhibit that was book themed, so all of the artwork corresponded accordingly:

Livres

As far as regional dessert specialties (yes, yes I did look in the guide book to see if there were any) there are these peddle shaped meringue covered praline filled small candies called Metchikoffs. We bought them at Au Bon Croissant de Chartres which was a nice bakery and they tasted good. And I leave you with some colorful shutters (another addition I want in/on our home, hope you’re reading this Mom). I won’t be writing for awhile as I am off to Amsterdam and Italy for spring break. So enjoy your week!

Pastels

Burning Bright in the Streets of Paris at Night

To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower/Hold infinity in the palms of your hand and eternity in an hour. -Auguries of Innocence, William Blake

The last few days have been busy ones full of school work, babysitting, teaching English and my salsa dance class. But as the weather has reached perfection (mid 60s = perfect strolling weather) staying inside and focusing is difficult. So I decided to go to the Petit Palais. The building is magnificent and I saw some of the permanent collection which is quite the collection. But the main draw for me was a new William Blake exhibit. I enjoy Blake’s poetry and seeing his drawings and etchings was very cool (especially a miniature Tyger, Tyger Burning Bright).

Blake Exhibit

Sadly as it warms up, the tourist season is starting to swing into full force. I admit that I am a tourist of sorts myself but not hearing any French in France makes me sad, so I suppose I will start avoiding certain areas from here on out:

The Americans Are Coming!

As far as interesting things I have seen lately, there are the cartoon-like bubble signs near Paris 7 where I take one of my University classes. I think this is from the comic Asterix et Obelix. The following proclaims “It is fresh my fish! It is fresh!” The French are silly.

Fresh Fish

I also stumbled on the Paleontology building which had a very interesting facade with monkey sculptures:

Climbing Vines

This was a building that immediately caught my eye because it didn’t fit in with the rest of the 19th century street facade. Interestingly enough it is a church:

Triangle

Also I have been taking numerous photos in the Metro lately because I am giving a presentation in one of my classes on the culture and arts in the Metro. So check out this new painting. I should practice some Russian and translate it exactly but I got the main gist (always a baba and dido in every story hehe):

Kak Dela?

And I leave you with the Marais at night. Ah it is spring which means one thing: sitting out late into the night. C’est la vie!

Marais Moon

Cafe at the Cafe

Springtime means strolling

In the last two days I have walked for eight straight hours. After walking out of Liberation the other day, my phone rang and I was informed I didn’t need to babysit so I decided to walk home. I have to say that I really enjoyed the short internship. All of the people were very nice and French journalists have a sense of humor. I was working in the foreign desk so of course they had the TV on to watch the NATO summit in Strasbourg. When Sarkozy and Obama were standing next to each other one of the journalists said, “Look small man, small country. Big man, big country.” In case it’s not clear, Sarkozy is short (which sadly limits Carla’s shoe selection).

My walks had some goals but it was mainly to walk, look around, and just relax. I love Paris because you always see something new and the people watching (and style-watch) is spectactular. So the following is mainly a photo recap of neat things on strolls. After leaving the paper I headed in the wrong direction but I am glad I did because I saw this:

Bridges

Then I walked back in the correct direction (stopping along the way at a department store, because there is a week long sale. I may or may not have bought a fabulous coat for half off). But then as I crossed a bridge heading towards Notre Dame I stumbled on a few performers:

Cello

I have to say that the French have a thing for puppets. Guignols as they are called are featured a lot in plays and there is a TV show that uses just puppets to make fun of politicians:

Puppet Time

Sorry this next one is a smidge blurry. By the time I turned around and took the photo the classically clad children with their awesome backpacks were pretty far down the street:

Old School Backpacks

I was very tempted by this next photo (but I have self-restraint). The macaroon on the far right is also the biggest one I have seen to date:

Heaven

Okay my stroll today did have a goal. I wanted to go to Dalloyau (yeah, it’s a macaroon store) and I also wanted to go to a museum. I was successful with both goals. On my way to the chichy macaroon store I walked along the Seine because there is a scultpure garden at the top of the 5th.

Seine through sculpture

People were fishing. Although I think a fish from the Seine might be a bit fishy (pun intended):

Poisson

The flavors I bought today were caramel, cognac, some kind of tea, and the best one was an abricot rice combination. I took my treats and went to Place des Voges and sat on a bench and chilled for a little:

Place des Voges

More Macaroons

The musem I went to today was Musée Carnavalet also known as Musée de l’Histoire de Paris (Paris History Museum). I really enjoyed this museum. It went through the history of Paris starting from Roman times. Some of the rooms were replicas of old hotel ballrooms or rooms of famous Parisians. The building the museum is in is historic and beautiful itself. There are also jardins in inner courtyards. The museum is very easy to get lost in as it winds in odd ways (like Parisian streets!). When I finally found the exit the museum guard applauded and congratulated me.

Carnavalet Garden

I then strolled home through the Marais. I was extremely tempted to stop at Legay Choc (a bakery that specializes in baguettes in “interesting” shapes) but I will wait for another day for that one. After passing Notre Dame I saw some interesting people:

Tippy Toes

Cow?

I often saw couples in Ukraine take photos near famous monuments after getting married. I wonder if this is a Parisian tradition. I’ll wait and see as it continues to warm up.

Nice Day for a White Wedding

And I leave you some flowers. Enjoy your day.

Women smelling flowers

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