Monday, September 07, 2009

Ghosts of Holidays Past - Europe

London at Christmas, London/York/Edinburgh trip, excavating in Greece, backpacking around Rome. It's too bad I wasn't blogging back when I did most of my travelling around Europe - though I have a journal of the trip, it's in Canada.

A room with a view
I am at a cafe in Pompeii with not much time. The keyboard is really annoying, you really have to hit the keys so if this message ends up being a bunch of nonsense, you'll have to bear with me. This computer keeps talking to me in Italian-very odd.

Well, I am having a wonderful time, it is very hot and sunny though my first day in Milan it was miserable-tons of rain and I wandered about lost looking for my hostel. I had a bit of a time getting to Milan. I thought I was flying there directly, but ended up in Bergamo instead-I will have to pay more attention when flying cheap airlines. In Milan I really only went to see Da Vinci's last supper and then went to Venice to escape the rain where I had to get a hotel room as the hostel was full by 10 am. It was two minutes walk from the grand canal, not particularly nice or anything, but I loved Venice, especially the islands around it. The gellatto is very, very good. I got very lost at one point trying to find a church, but even that was fun.

I headed down to Florence, where I learned to walk across the street in front of cars, since there aren't any lights. It was a bit of a shock after Venice, so after seeing David at the Academia I escaped to Cortona. I ended up meeting one of the uni of Georgia students (they have a summer programme in art) and so stayed a couple of days to hang out eating and drinking late into the night. I bumped into Jenny's friend Gwenyth-small world. When I went back to Florence, I fell for a scam-quite literally actually. One man knocked me over on the steps of the train station, while the other helped me up while pickpocketing my money belt-but all he got was a credit card and my passport. Not much of a big deal, and I got the opportunity to have a cultural exchange at the police station, where an officer didn't even see me at all, they just stamped my handwritten report.

I went to the Uffizi-wow!!! However, as wonderful as it is, I must admit to an exhaustion with gold medieval art. They are all just in about four different poses and I must say that it gets a bit much eventually. I also went to the Bargello, which I loved.

I came down to Naples, though I am staying in a hostel at Pompeii. I saw the excavations there yesterday and then went into Naples to see the museum, including the erotic secret room, for which you must book a special tour. Pan certainly does some interesting things with those goats! However, it was half closed, so I missed the Egyptian stuff entirely. It was a long day, and while walking back to the hostel (a half hour walk) I was stalked by a middle aged Italian man on a moped who kept offering me a ride. Up until Naples, I hadn't really encountered the dodgy male Italian phenomenon, but here they are. This city is full of them!

Today I went to Herculaneum, which was spectacular. Possibly better than Pompeii itself, since I didn't get so tired! However, I could not drag myself to yet another touristy thingy, so today I am going to just read in the hostel courtyard, instead of madly wandering about. This is the first day I have stopped being touristy at 4, and it's a nice feeling. Tomorrow I think I am going to take the train down to Paestum and then I have to catch an evening train to Rome, to meet Alan at "the store that sells only water"-we'll have to hope that works out, cause I lost my little notebook with addresses, phone numbers (including his mobile number) when my passport got stolen. So, if you haven't received a postcard yet, you'll have to wait until I get back to Scotland.

Rome & Other Adventures
So, I skipped Paestum, because the day I wanted to go there was a train strike. I was worried about meeting up with Alan, as it was a sketchy meeting to begin with, and I had lost all of his contact numbers. I spent a day getting to Rome, had time to pop into the Capitaline Museums, and then went to meet him. But he didn't arrive.

The next day I was really worried. I did do some touristy stuff during the day (Colliseum) and went back at the same time we were supposed to meet the day before and ta-da! he was there. Seems he had gotten the days mixed up - which caused my near heart attack!

We had fun in Rome together. Ate a lot of really good food.

Then we did a bus tour in London and headed back to Edinburgh. The train was delayed several hours as the result of someone committing suicide by jumping in front of a train.

Stymphalia, Greece
I am in Kiato right now, which is an hour away by very rickety bus from Stymphalia. Email is a bit dodgy, since I probably won't be trekking out here regularly. The dig is ok, but the heat is insane and I have a cold. I share a tent with two other
girls and it is so small, you would not believe how crowded it is.

Stymphalia is great-one payphone, a shop that sells crisps and cokes, 5 tavernas, and a fish farm that turns into a "disco" on weekends. Oh, and the 25 campers share two toilets and a shower in the alleyway behind the hotel which is walled in but has no roof. The next village is a 30 min walk and has a post office, bank, and a very small grocery store. I am in the middle of nowhere!!!

Athens was experiencing a heat wave when I arrived (two hours late due to plane delays-it was still in London!) and I only went to the National Museum before collapsing in a heap. We did a few stops on the way up to the dig, but with a prof acting as tour guide who spoke in a monotone voice.

York has Authentic Viking Smells!
My trip to York & London was fun-it was nice seeing Jenny again, and finally I have been to Trafalgar square-though I didn't actually feed the pigeons. I also went to the Tate Modern (very trendy) and to the British Museum. Jenny and I went to Portobello Rd market in Notting Hill and then shopping on King's Rd, Sloane Square-so some of the best known bohemian and classy shopping all in one day. That evening we had dinner at her cousins' flat and had drinks at a pub along the river Thames. WE also went to a trendy Italian restaurant in the West End and then had a drink at a pub-or in front of it, as most London pubs are too small, and you have to just stand around on the pavement in front of them. York had two really cool museums-the Viking one and one where you had to walk through the whole thing in one direction, which had a bit of everything, including a working mill, recreated streets and a history of chocolate.

The tattoo this evening was really good-lots of pipe bands. The Canadian Mounties were there, as were both the Scottish and Canadian Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. There were also displays by the Maoris, the calypso band from the Dominican, the Australian police band (that did the can-can), the Zulus, etc. It's a special year to celebrate the Commonwealth.

How to kill the British Government with Peanut Butter
My email to C:

> Hi,
> Yes, still waiting around on the home office. very annoying and very
> boring.
> > Want to come to London and kill some time waiting for your reply from
> > the British government?
> perhaps, yes. could i come and stay with you early next week? i
> realise you leave on the 15th, but i would maybe come for the 12/13th?
> or perhaps the end of this week, but i would have to get my arse in
> gear and organise!
> > Would you like
> > me to bring anything back for you from Canada? Like peanut butter (I
> > find the peanut butter so strange here...or maybe it's me!).
> yes, peanut butter would be lovely :) I hate British peanut butter,
> but used to be able to buy skippy in edinburgh. now, it is not around
> and i had resigned myself to no peanut butter until vanessa's wedding
> (and the trip to it).

C's response:

my junk mail keeps picking up this email saying that something in it is "offensive", I am trying to think of what was offensive.

Could it be saying "kill" and "british government" in the same sentence? Or Arse?
Or maybe even "peanut butter"

I dunno.

Only Two Photos
Having gotten very, very annoyed with everything breaking in our flat and receiving an email from Christina about visiting London, it took about five seconds to decide to go. Without a visa, I had to take the train, and after a bit of examination of various dates and times, I managed to get a ticket for £40 round trip-not bad for only one day's advance purchase.

The trip down was uneventful, and as I've taken this train trip many times, the looking out the window thing has lost it's appeal. I mostly listened to music and it is such a pain to still own a Discman and have to carry around all those CDs. Lady Sovereign's "9 to 5" kept me amused.

Upon arriving in London there was the mad dash to meet up with Chritina, Louise and friends, to go see a one man show. Of course, I queued up to buy a ticket for the Tube, only to find that the machine only took English notes (bills for the North Americans). The Northern Line was confusing, so I found an alternate route and ended up in Leicester Square. We had dinner at Wagamana's, an amazing Asian chain restuarant. Then... A Christmas Carol, staring Patrick Stewart, of Star Trek fame. It was really well done. At one point he played a doorknob-just picture the shiny, bald head lit up by a spotlight.

One odd thing: we were asked at the beginning not to use cell phones, camcorders or CANDY WRAPPERS! But the only candy they sold there was Minstrels. Just try eating them quietly, I dare you.

The next day, I wandered off to Trafalgar Square to go to the National Gallery. It took me 5 hours to look at everything because I started off reading all the descriptions. The 1400s to 1600s rooms, mostly be religious subjects, were about the same ten subjects, by different painters, so eventually the process sped up as I was able to recognise Jesus leaving Mary, Saint Sebastian with the arrows, pictures of John the Baptist, etc. Then I just got a bit arted-out, so started only reading the names of the artists and perhaps the titles of the paintings.

Those are the only two photos I took in London. I know, I know, ME! ONLY TWO PHOTOS! However, I seem to have spent my time in London eating. That night Christina and I went to Brick Lane for an Indian meal-very yummy.

Friday, I met up with J. outside of the British Museum and went again to Wagamama's. We ended up spending the whole day eating lunch and drinking coffee, with a brief break to find a little Korean shop, where I bought some red pepper paste. Some day, I intend to make my own bibimbap. I think the Korean owner was surprised to hear me speaking Korean, though not much of it ;)

That evening I watched Christina make gingerbread men and Saturday morning watched her and her friends start to make a turkey dinner, before heading out on the train again.

1 comment:

Sandi said...

I hope you're feeling tip top and Tina says HI! Sandi