22 January 2009

I'm as free as a bird now!

22 January 2009

I’M FREE! BARACK IS PRESIDENT! MUFFINS! BASILIO IN A CAR! PUPPIES! SUNSHINE! NEW HEADPHONES! YAY EVERYTHING!!! ITALY SOON, STAY TUNED!!!!!

here are some classics for you!





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11 January 2009

I CAME, I SAW, I CONQUERED!

2 January 2009

Had a BLT at the bagel shop. It was tasty.

11 January 2009

Aaaaaah Rome. Here we go!!

Sunday night/Monday morning the girls and I watched Roman Holiday in preparation for our trip. I had seen parts of the movie in the past, but I wasn’t really paying attention, so it was new to me! Umm, what the hell is with the ending? That’s not how it’s supposed to go!!! I know, it was what would realistically happen in this situation, but come on! Gregory Peck walking alllll the way out of the room was not necessary to show, it just made me think the end would be happy and she would come running out. Booooooo! Great movie though, haha! So I got up about 3 hours later even though I only slept for about 1 since I was thinking about the Single Ladies dance (as usual). So we went out and got a cab to take us to the bus station since our bus was at 5:15 and the metro doesn’t open til 5:00. Our driver was so adorable. Firstly, he totally looked like Max, our sub from Cine class a while back. But he was asking us where we were going and then he was asking if we liked pizza and stuff. He started telling us that its easier to take a train to the airport, and then we realized he was talking about El Prat, not Girona. When we told him we were flying out of Girona, he says “¡MADRE MÍA!” I agree. It’s quite far. Oh well. Bus was fine, we got to our gate and I thought we were boarding in a half hour, but it turns out we had an HOUR and a half. Boo. So we giggled slap happily in our seats til we boarded. After landing, we had to take a half hour bus ride into the city and then we found out hostel. SO GHETTO! All the toilets had something wrong with them. Some just legitimately didn’t work, one was constantly running but would flush randomly, and the other didn’t have a seat cover. We used the last 2 of the 3. 2 of the 3 lights in our room were out, and the cleaning ladies hadn’t changed our sheets yet. Once that was remedied, we took a 2 hour nap or so since we didn’t want to go out and be crabby/unimpressed. Once we got up, we wandered and realized that everything is SUPER close to each other. You can totally see everything in Rome without getting on a bus or train. First we got some pizza since we hadn’t eaten since the night before and then we set out. We found a church (Basílica de Santa María la Mayor?) and then kept going. We set out in search of the Piazza della Republica, went too far, and then realized that we had already gone through it AND taken pictures of it. That’s how close things are. They look farther on a map, you walk semi far, and you’ve already passed it! We meandered down Via Nazionale and stopped at The Vittoriano Monument in Piazza Venezia. It’s so pretty! As we continued, we came across some ruins! We thought it was part of the forum and decided to walk down Via del Fori Imperiali. Oh heeeeeey Colosseum! It was at the end of the road! How one stumbles upon the Colosseum is beyond me, but we did! We took a bunch of pictures by the Colossuem before going to meet up with Amy’s friend. We wanted to try out this restaurant called Del Luigi’s that one of Amy’s friends had suggested, so we went to where we thought it was and found out we were waaaay off. We went into a hotel to ask for help and the guy was sooooo nice! He asked us a bunch of questions about it, looked things up online, called them, made reservations for us, sold us bus tickets, and told us how to get there! What a nice Italian man! When we got there, we practically had the place to ourselves, so no need for the reservation anyways. We all got penne a la vodka because we heard it was good. We also got some brushetta and tiramisu. I enjoyed it, but that’s apparently not what penne a la vodka usually tastes like? Oh well! We slept well that night!!

Tuesday we got up for big day numero uno! On the way to the Colosseum, Kelly realized she had left her camera in the hostel, so when she ran back to go get it, Amy and I searched for San Clemente, which is a little cathedral with an excavated older church below and a pagan temple below that. It’s supposedly one of the only places where you can hear the river that runs under the city. We found it, but when we went inside, they were having mass so we couldn’t go down. Oh well…next time! We wandered over to the Colosseum where Amy and I decided to take pictures with the people dressed up as gladiators. It was so funny—after taking a normal one, they said we were taking a silly one and the gladiator next to Amy says “do you love me” do her and she started laughing. So in the picture, she’s smiling as we’re killing her! We decided that he would be Amy’s lover for the trip since he was obvi in love with her, haha! We sat around some more til Kelly got there and we were able to go on our Colosseum tour! Our tour guide was a little old man named Aldo. We walked around the outside and he told us that the Colosseum only took 8 years to construct (starting in 72 AD!!), mainly due to the fact that thousands of slaves were working on it. In 1349, there was a huge earthquake that caused the outer part of the south side to collapse, which is why it doesn’t look complete. There is a ring of white stone circling the south side which shows how far the exterior wall used to extend. The majority of the fallen stone was used to build other places around the city, including the “Spanish Steps,” so it all didn’t go to waste. The marble façade that had been ripped off over the years is also on a lot of the churches and such. There are also a lot of holes in the brick walls because they wanted to get the bronze out and use it elsewhere. After being abandoned for years, it was taken over by prostitutes and drug dealer-ish people. Apparently a lot of guys stumbled into the wrong part and got all battered up which is why they had to carve signs up to let people know which area was used for what! After years of the being exposed to FIAT (fix it again Tony) motos, the exterior walls have been blackened. They’ve started cleaning sections off slowly, but the difference is drastic! When it was in full function in the past, there were events about 15 times a year and they would last about 8 days. The tickets were distributed to everyone in the city for a different day and were free! Seats were arranged by class and you can still see the roman numerals over the arches denoting where your seats were (unless you were one of the head honchos, then you came through an unmarked arch). Roman sailors were in charge of working the velarium which was a retractable awning. There were big posts sticking up out of the Colosseum with big canvases attached to them which helped keep spectators in the shade in the summer and out of the rain on other days! The hole in the middle allowed the sun to shine in on the arena so everyone could see it! The Colosseum could hold over 50,000 people in it, so all of Rome was able to see part of the games every time. Aldo gave us some very barf-worthy descriptions of the violent stuff that happened inside. I believe he said something like “…tigers with their teeth in the necks and flanks of the warriors, whipping them violently from side to side, tearing their flesh, blood spilling everywhere, while the gladiator screamed in pain, being ripped to pieces like a ragdoll.” Okay Aldo, we get it…it was horrific. Inside, the sand covered stage is no longer present, so the hypogeum is completely visible. The hypogeum consisted of a two-level subterranean network of tunnels and cages beneath the arena where gladiators and animals were held before contests began. There are about 80 elevators (by means of pulleys) which provided instant access to the arena for caged animals and scenery pieces that were contained underneath. It also apparently has tunnels connecting it to exterior stables and the gladiators’ barracks. Someone said that they had, on multiple occasions, flooded the area and staged famous sea battles? That’s just ridiculous. They must have really had nothing better to do back then. The gladiators were all slaves who were trained how to fight. If they won 8 or so fights, they would be granted their freedom. Aldo said they would no longer resemble themselves, but at least they had their freedom. It’s so crazy to think that I stood in the place where all of that happened and that it wasn’t considered highly inappropriate at the time…it was all in good fun. That creeps me out. I cant even begin to imagine how scary it must have been to be in there and have 50,000 people screaming at you as you are being ripped apart by starved animals. Yeesh! I just want to watch Gladiator now. We were able to wander after the tour until 3:00 when we started the next leg of our tour. We went up the incredibly steep stairs to the next level to get a better view. Man, if I lived in that time, I could totally see myself falling on the stairs and being trampled to death by the plebians! We left the Colosseum, grabbed some huge donuts and Pringles and sat around til it was time to meet our next guide. Amy’s man saw her and gave her a winky-kiss face. It was great. We met David at 3:00 and turns out he’s a Kiwi! At the same time, the 6th or so person to tell us about the pub crawl came over, told us about it, and David was like, “I’m going on the pub crawl! You want to go now don't you?” We all laughed. What a ridic accent! We ran into some people who were all, “All you from Illinois?” Yes. “Are you studying at the UB?” Yes… “Do you go to U of I?” Yes! What?! They were from Knox, the school that shares an office with us. Small world. On a side note, we were sitting around with Amy’s friend at her bed & breakfast and Kate Ruttenburg walked in…WHAT?! Okay, back to the story. We go to Palatine Hill and we get the whole “Why is this hill more famous than all the other hills in Rome? Well, we’ll have to CLIMB THE BLOODY THING before I tell you!!” AHAHAHAHAH! Kelly and I had a hard time taking anything he said seriously since we just kept thinking of Flight of the Conchords! It was especially hard when he said “frisk-oh’s” instead of “frescos.” So Palatine Hill is supposedly the location of the cave, Lupercal, where Romulus and Remus were found by the she-wolf. According to David, that’s where we get the statue of the two infants “sucking on the hoo-ha’s” of the she-wolf. They grew up, decided to start their own cities, Remus on one, Romulus on Palatine Hill, they got into a fight and Romulus killed his brother. Rome, Romulus…yeah? What is left on the hill is the ruins of several large villas that belonged to wealthy Roman families. There is grand sports arena where they would “get drunk and watch sports like it were sports center,” a temple dedicated to Apollo, and lots of ruins of huge houses. The end of the tour led us to a great view of the Roman Forum. David told the group to get drinks with him, but looked at us. If it weren’t for his wacky teeth, he would have been cute! But we wanted to go through it again, so we nixed that idea. Around 4:20 they told us it was closing and that we had to leave, so we didn’t get to walk through the forum =( SADNESS! At least we got a little description earlier. The Roman Forum is the ruins of the most powerful seat of government in the world. We got to see the Temple of Caesar, where Caesar was killed and the people were addressed, and lots of other temples, basilicas, and arches. It was so mind boggling to think that we were walking all over and around history. It still weirds me out that the stuff we always read about took place in a place where I was standing. We got some gelato later (rule was 2 gelato’s a day). I didn’t believe that there were cats all over Rome until I mistook a cat sleeping on the seat of a moto for one of those goofy, furry hats! I legit said, “someone take that furry hat!” walked up to it, and then realized it was a cat. Oops! We went to the Trevi Fountain later that night. I had no idea it was that big! Holy crap! It was sooo gorgeous! We went over to Piazza di Spagna and hung out at the over crowded Spanish Steps for a while. It was ridic crowded there so we left and got some dinner. We get to this place and the waiter was so excited. He kept saying things like “so beautiful,” “how perfect,” and “are all girls from Chicago so beautiful?!” I felt like every time we told someone we were from Chicago, they got all excited! Like earlier at the Colosseum when we were waiting for Kelly a random guy talked to us. Asked if we spoke English. Yes. But then he continued to ask if we spoke French, Italian, or Russian. No. When we told him we were from Chicago he said “Ah! Tough guys!” Riiiiight. But this waiter was EXACTLY like the Italian guy from Europtrip (Fred Armisen). Great day.

Wednesday we got up super early to try to meet up for Dave’s Vatican tour that started at 9:30. We get over there and just as we’re looking for him, this frazzled guy runs up and asks if we want to go on an English speaking tour. We waved our flyer at him and he said he was from the same company and that the tour was leaving RIGHT THIS MINUTE! Afraid we’d miss the Pope, we assumed it was Dave’s tour and followed him. Wrong. It wasn’t Aldo either even though he told us it would be Aldo while we were walking there. Instead we got asshole Luigi. He was rushing us along and we asked if we were going to see the Pope (since that’s what we were promised) and he says “maybe.” Ummm, that better be a yes or I’ll rip your freaking little head off! The Sistine Chapel was closing from 10:30 til 12:00 so he gave us an unnecessarily long speech, showed us a bunch of unnecessary stuff on the way, and by the time we got there, we had about 5 minutes. The girls from Knox were in our group as well as the most adorable Australian family I have ever seen. Since it was nearing Pope time, we asked Luigi if we were going to see him and he said, you can go by yourselves if you want to. Umm, we did not pay you for 5 minutes of the Sistine Chapel! We paid for a full 3 hour tour, which would include seeing the Pope! So us 3 and the girls from Knox started getting mad at him (we got some nervous stares), because he said if we leave now, we cant get back in. What a little piece of shit! So we demanded our money back, he got mad, there was a lot of “I’ll leave them and take you” and then “oh I tried to find you” which was all very annoying, but we ended up getting the shortest tour ever. We practically sprinted through the entire building. While running we passed paintings by Bosch and Dalí and lots of other famous people, but we couldn’t stop and look because Luigi gave us a pissy face when we weren’t right behind him. So we ran through those rooms in about 15 minutes, we ran outside, he got us passes and pointed to where the Pope would be. While I realize we never would have been able to see the Pope or get those passes without him, I really hated that man! Trying to put it in the past, we went to see the Pope! He’s such an adorable little man! He blessed all of us and our family and friends in about 6 different languages. So cool! We saw lots of brides and nuns in the plaza…it was cool. In an attempt to put the morning’s fiasco behind us, we got some pizza and went on with our day. It was raining on and off, so we decided to take a bus back to the main area. We went back to The Vittoriano Monument to take some pics since we could walk up it this time. We found a better, closer vantage point of the Roman Forum so we spent a lot of time there. Afterwards, we went in search of the Mouth of Truth (from Roman Holiday). It took a while to find, lots of walking through the cold rain, but we found it! We took some pics and headed back towards the Colosseum. We passed Circus Maximus, which used to be a huge ancient stadium, on the way. It held at least 270,000 spectators, even more if people were standing and was mainly used for chariot racing. Amy’s umbrella kept breaking off at the handle and she got so frustrated that she threw the ENTIRE thing away. Not sure what she was thinking considering it would rain the rest of the day and the entire next day (which she knew). Oh well! That night we went to an Irish Pub, listened to some good music and had good chats!

Thursday we decided to hit all of the things we had missed. First up was the Pantheon, a temple to all of the gods! Since it was raining that day, we got to see the rain coming in through the hole in the top of it. It was so cool to see rain falling inside of a building, yet not being able to hear it hit the ground. Much to my surprise, the Pantheon contains Raphael’s Grave! Crazy! Next was Piazza Navona which used to be an ancient stadium where they would have theatrical shows and horse races. There is a very cool fountain by Bernini in the middle of it now. The market that was held there for some time was moved to Camp di’ Fiori, which was next on our list. When we got there, there was only the remains of the day’s market and they were in clean-up mode by that point. After getting some lunch and trying to get warm (fail since they left the door open), we went to Castel Sant'Angelo across the Tiber River. I guess it was used as a prison til 1870? It was very different. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a circular castle before! Since our feet were frozen solid (holes in our boots and shoes made them pools of icy water), we decided to go to a café to get some hot chocolate. The waiter managed to convince us to get some tiramisu as well, both of which were absolutely delicious! Then was Piazza del Popolo, which was pretty! We went to Giolitti’s, as suggested by Amy’s friend and apparently the late Pope John Paul II. It was tasty! When we went out to dinner that night, we had a waiter who looked like an older, Italian Baldwin brother, hahah! It was so bizarre, it wasn’t even that late and when we ordered he’d be like “we’re out” or “we’re not making that anymore.” Bizarre, but the food was good when we eventually got it! Another night at the Irish Pub was called for as well.

On our last day, we wanted to hit up our favorites on last time. We started our day at Piazza di Spagna, which was much less crowded during the daytime. We got to see the painters out and spent more time on the “Spanish Steps.” Next was Trevi! We all made wishes before sitting down to eat some gelato by the fountain. Amy and I saw our buddy from the Colosseum (the one who asked if we spoke Russian). He had his portfolio stuff with him again, so we figured he was painting. What a cool wanderer. We went back by the Roman Forum again before heading to the Colosseum. Crazy story! So we’re sitting down and this older gladiator comes up and says to Amy “I like your legs.” We were all like “huh!?” but then remembered that that’s just how Europe rolls. Then he took his sword and poke through Kelly’s coat and says “I like your boobs.” Ummm, what?! Then he looks at me and says “I like your ass” and then hits my hip! WHAAAAAAAAAT?! Then he made out with Kelly’s hand, kissed Amy’s cheek, and made me kiss his face before he kissed mine. I hope to god he was drunk or drugged. He sure thought he was cool. Then we ran away to find Amy’s gladiator boyfriend. Check. We took pictures with him and his buddies again. He asked Amy if she loved him again and then chatted with us. He said his name was David also and that he had a girlfriend back in the day from Chicago. Strange. He asked Amy out for coffee, she hesitated, and then he went back to work. Oh well! We sat around and just took it all in. There was a guy kind of dressed like a pirate who was making bubbles with sticks and ropes tied in between them. I was totally mesmerized. I mean, who doesn’t like bubbles?! I felt bad for the horses that were pulling all the carriages…they all looked so sad =( Since it was getting late, we got some lunch, a cannoli, and headed on our sad way home. Flight was fine. Busses were fine. All in all, Rome has been one of my favorites--it's definitely contained some of the more surreal moments of my life. Barca was cold. Apparently it snowed while we were gone and all the people ran to Corte since the world was coming to an end.

We rewatched Roman Holiday Saturday night, but this time we were able to recognize almost everything—so cool! That movie still upsets me though! There are ridiculous sales going on in Barca (and I guess everywhere else too), so I got some clothes and accessories! Go me!

I don’t want classes to start back up tomorrow. I don’t want to take finals. Why cant it just be semester break so I can go back to Italy?! Oh well. All in good time!

If anyone reads this, I'm sorry it was so long and unorganized.

More Pictures
Rome

Here's a bit of Kiwi David!

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01 January 2009

Happy 2009!

1 January 2009

LETS ALL PARTY LIKE ITS 1999 2009

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE! Yeah, let’s backtrack a bit!

So on Jessie’s last night, we hit up the Chino restaurant, taking her trip full circle. Gotta love that place! Not only is it cheap, but there are Muse lyrics written in one of the bathroom stalls! Unfortunately, no presents at the end but that’s probably because we were some of the last people there and they just wanted to go home! We decided to take Jess to the Fountain of Canaletes (I might have made that name up), but legend has it that if you drink from it, it is a sure thing that you will return to Barca at some point in your life! We also told her she had to buy an Estrella off one of the street vendors. We decided she needed to go the shot bar (let’s call it Espit), but on our way, we ran into a group of young Italians who just walked up, took a picture with us, and then started walking away. There were a lot of awk moments where they followed us and we ran but then we stopped and they were going the other way. Yada yada yada, they asked if we wanted to hang out, so we let Jessie decide. She said “ohhhhhhh, why not?” So we followed them because they said they might be going to the absinthe bar. But once on the Rambla, they were like, “where are we going?” Umm, what? I thought we were following you!! Whatevs, so we took them to a real shot bar (cheaper shots with more alcohol content, let’s call it Grouchos). We went in and they lingered outside, probably since they were too young to even be drinking in Europe, bahahaha! No, but then they came in and left like a half hour later. So then we were looking at the shot list and didn’t know what to do next, so we asked the guys next to us what they suggested. He was like, “you’re speaking Spanish but I don’t understand it.” Bummer? WRONG! He and his friends were also Italian and he just didn’t speak Spanish. One of the guys who looked a tad like Emile Hirsch spoke Spanish so i spoke it to him, haha! They ended up joining us and out of the 10 or so shots I had that night, I only paid for 3! Nice! Shots kept appearing, so why not stick around?! We had a particularly nasty one involving both vodka and tequila…YIKES! They were fun though. We had nice chats about Michael Jordan and how they liked the Celtics. Pschhh, whatever! Since Allie has these new rockin bangs that Jessie cut for her, I would ruffle them and say, “guaaaapa!” The Italian who was totally in love with her thought that you are always supposed to ruffle the person’s hair when you say it to someone so he did it to all of us, ahahahah! Silly Italians and their non-comprehension! Some random dude asked me at the bar where I was from and I said Chicago and he went, “CHICAAAAGO! University of Illinois!!!!” At that point I was like, “whaaaaa?!” He said he wanted to go to U of I and when I asked him which one, he said he didn’t know yet and that it depended on what he studied. I of coursed vouched for Urbana-Champaign. I guess people like Chicago because I got lots of high fives just for being for there? We headed back to the leaf’s hotel room where we ended up talking about how cool our family is for about an hour. Before we knew it Jessie was like, “HOLY CRAP ITS 4:15!!!!!” So I said goodbye and peaced out. Poor little Jessie had a very rough plane ride home. Poor girl. She’s just so tiny!!

As for New Years Eve, we were all rather conflicted. We’re all used to going to a friends house and then just crashing there for the night. What were we supposed to do here? Spaniards don’t even go out til after midnight! What was going to happen tonight? So we had a Mexican feast, got ready, made some lovely drinks, and then had some chips, salsa, & cheese. Once we were ready to go out, we grabbed our fake champagne glasses filled with grapes and headed out in the general direction of Grouchos. Once we got on Carrer Pelai, we realized something was going on because there were people pouring onto the street from every possible p lace and heading towards Plaza Catalunya. There were police guarding all the entrances to the Plaza for some reason. I don’t know, it didn’t really make sense to me. So we got in and then were confused because there wasn’t even a countdown going on there. There was one clock at the top of a building, but most people couldn’t see it and no one actually counted. Oh well! We ate our grapes and that’s when people started coming up to us saying, “Happy New Year,” in English and then proceeding to kiss our faces. Okaaaay. Right. Moving on! We ran into Karen, her BFFL, and these two random germans they had just met. We were going to go with them, but we lost them in the crowd. So we went to Grauchos instead. No one bought us drinks that night (probably because their price had been raised by a euro for the night). We sat next to various groups of boys who all just wanted to take pictures with us. Whatevs. There was this guy later in the night who had been eying Amy and then he came over and was like, “she’s real pretty!” So I of course went on being all, “omg, I KNOW! Isn’t she pretty!?” Amy looked all nervous/confused as we discussed her. Ahahaha! They love Amy!! I tried to make friends with the bartenders so we could get stuff for cheaper. One wore a funny hat, another’s name was Ali and he came over from one of the middle eastern countries, and the dude in the suit wore a schnazzy jacket’s name is Victor. I swear to God, there is a Victor at every bar I frequently go to. What’s the deal with that!? We got home around 3:00 and Allie got sicksters. I knew Mexican food would make for interesting…yeaaah. But that’s now New Years went! Yay Barca!!

I hope you all had a lovely, safe, & happy New Years!! Bring it on 2009!

Resolutions that I will never follow through on:

Stop swearing

Be more generous and giving

Being less of a Negative Nancy when life slams doors in my face


MORE PICTURES!

New Years Eve