Saturday, July 23, 2011

Italia, Day 1 (Venice)

Dear world,

I am pretty lazy about writing blog entries. So I present to you, straight from my journal in list form, my first (and part of my second) day in Venice last April. I am aware that it is now July. sorry about that.


  • Boarding the Alilaguna boats to get from the airport to the city-- just barely didn't make it onto the Orange line boat (which would have taken me directly to my hotel) and instead of waiting another hour decided to take a different line that dropped me off in the touristy but scenic San Marco Square.
  • Live orchestra?? What?!
  • Venice is breathtaking. Like Frederica (my seatmate on the plane) said, the whole city is a museum, a throwback. It's like it just... stopped. Somewhere in the fifteenth century.
  • LOST on the way to the Hotel Belle Epoque
  • rain. gross.

  • This meatball is spectacular. Wow. What did they DO to it?
  • Heavily seasoned pasta in red sauce with shrimp. Big shrimp. With heads. And claws. Kind of a musky taste, entirely reminiscent of everything that is the sea... the kind of salty heaviness of it, but also a bit enigmatic. Shrimp of Mystery.
  • Bread: dry and not good. Disappointing.
  • Tablemates: Randy and Maureen Reddington from Jersey City (holy Jersey accent, Batman). Visiting daughter studying abroad in Rome. Very nice and talkative dinner companions, from basketball to contract law.

  • Walked around all day, but thoroughly explored San Polo and San Croce via getting lost a lot. It seemed like mostly locals in these areas.
  • You can get un-lost by following tourists! They are all going to the Rialto bridge. Or San Marco square.
  • Rialto produce markets! mmmmmm. also gelato.
  • Museum Scuola Grande di San Rocca-- breathtaking baroque art. Just another beautiful building in venice, except the walls are almost entirely covered with dramatic Biblical paintings by Tintoretto and his studio. A spiritual experience, for sure.

First view of Venice from the Alilaguna ferry boat

And then there was a live orchestra in San Marco Square. For some reason.

A canal, as viewed from the Vaporetto (water bus)

First view of the Rialto bridge!

The ubiquitous gondolieri

My room at the Hotel Belle Epoque-- just big enough to fit this bed, with a tiny bathroom attached


Continental breakfast at the Hotel Belle Epoque

Lobby of the Hotel Belle Epoque

Picture I snapped at the Scuola Grande before getting yelled at by a docent

The tasty-looking Rialto produce market

Look at that! I guess they have a summer home.

Monday, April 4, 2011


It is always a little unnerving to strike out into totally unknown territory… but there is nothing quite like the feeling of satisfaction and contentment that only comes after you have successfully navigated a labyrinthine tangle of strange streets and found yourself happily peoplewatching, cappuccino and journal in hand. So I found myself this afternoon in the curious city of Amsterdam, which seemed to be blissfully unaware of my meddlesome presence. I had only a few hours to spend-- an unexpectedly quick run through customs had left me with a rather long layover and only a twenty-minute train ride between me and a city (and country) I'd never before visited.

So, I boarded the train to the Amsterdam Centraal station, with no plans but a vague idea that I might walk around for a bit and get lunch. I had no map, nor any idea of the city's layout, so I simply walked wherever I thought would be interesting. As it happens, steps away from the railroad station is the center of the red light district, which I of course chose to meander into. In my defense, part of the reason Amsterdam is so bizarre is that this setting (at least by the light of day) coexists quite peacefully with all the trappings of any quaint, historic European city-- quiet cobblestone streets, the occasional canal, friendly cyclists whizzing by, a plethora of cafes and charming restaurants, and dozens of lurid sex shops. Obviously.

The strangest thing to me, in keeping with this odd juxtaposition of scandalous and sedate, was the great diversity of the tourists wandering the streets. Even on the roads that were completely devoted to sex and drugs (including one shop that had about ten different varieties of marijuana seeds-- grow your own!), there were men and women of all ages. It was a far cry from the sad-looking middle aged men and disreputable UK college boys that I'd expected to be Amsterdam's exclusive clientele.

However, in the middle of the day I wasn't too concerned with my surroundings, approaching the whole idea of Amsterdam with the eyes of a curious traveller rather than a somewhat squeamish twenty-two-year-old with a tendency to avoid public displays of sexuality. I made my way through the narrow streets with no particular goal. On one pathway, I nearly tripped over a golden cobblestone that was raised from the others; on a second inspection, it was a small bronze statue of a single hand fondling a pair of breasts. No torso, just a disembodied chest rising out of the ground outside a mom-and-pop-looking pizza place. In any case, I suddenly found myself in Dam Square, which I guess is a hub for Amsterdamians. There was an obelisk and a piazza, a few churches and an official-looking government building, flying what I think is the unofficial amsterdam flag (see below). The myriad accordion players and organ grinders made me think I was in Paris for a moment.

It was here that I found three things: a good cup of coffee, a generous allotment of words to write, and the long-lost feeling of slow, exuberant joy that seeps into me whenever I am exploring a new place. Welcome back, my friend.

(Here are some pictures-- I don't have a camera cable with me, so I stole them from the internet)

Dam Square

Flag of Amsterdam
(I got this image from the Amsterdam Church of Christ website. I kid you not.)

Amsterdam Centraal Train Station

Spain in pictures

Hey everyone-- I am currently sitting in the Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, in the middle of a long layover on my way to a scientific conference in Venice. I'll hopefully be blogging about my experiences there but in the meantime here are some pictures from my July/August 2010 trip to Los Canos de Meca, Spain... sorry there's no story to go with it!

Sunset by the beach near the Kooy home

R-L: Juan, Raphi, Elke, Gianlucca

Norma and Angel walking to the beach

Half-liter (?!) mojitos

Norma and I relaxing out of the hot sun in Seville

Beautiful Norma

Two children outside a fountain in Seville

Cathedral in Cadiz

Norma pointing out where we live!

Beautiful Elke

Sunset at El Palmar