theladyrose: (Default)
Many happy returns to [ profile] gandydancer and [ profile] storybox! I hope you had wonderful birthdays.

Dear X: Semi-feeling me up in front of your mother, even in the guise of a friendly hug, is just awkward. Even if you're slightly drunk. It's especially awkward when we share the same grandmother. But you're my cousin and ultimately one of the most decent guys I know my age, so I won't snap at you this time.

So, within the past week:

I got Kim Cattrall's autograph while passing by some random restaurant in Rome. She's absolutely stunning in person - maybe even more so than the brief glimpses I've seen of her on screen.

The AARP apparently will offer me a complimentary travel kit should I join the ripe old age of 20. Do my web browsing patterns really mirror that of a baby boomer that much? This must be a sign that I should get off my sorry butt and get ready to apply for my gerontology grad program this fall.

Morgan Freeman practically fell on top of my dad yesterday night as we were leaving the theater where we had just seen him perform in the Country Girl. He was quite the gent about it, being very apologetic while being crushed by a horde of autograph seekers right outside the stage door. I also caught a glimpse of Matthew Broderick, who was in the audience that night. I swear these things never happen to me when I'm in LA, although meeting the cast of Finishing the Game last November at the premiere was one of the coolest experiences in my life so far.

It is crazy how much less expensive things seem, even in New York, after Italy. I've heard more French spoken on the street and in the stores these past few days than I did the entire time I was in Europe.

Whenever I finish my two news stories (hahaha, as if I ever turn anything in before deadline) I have a lot to still write about Italy (I know, I know, that's what I always say). I guess I could sum it up as follows:

It was overcast with the vague sense of dampness at odds with the electric bustle of a big city at night. Arriving in New York's JFK last night was, in some ways, remarkably similar to my arrival in Italy at Milano's Malpensa airport.

As much as I have learned of life from the stories people have shared with me, some things really must be experienced to be understood beyond an intellectual level. I won't remember every church and fresco I saw, every note of each piece performed at the concerts I attended or even every lick of gelato I tasted. But what will stay with me is the impact atoms of personalities colliding into each other in transit, with even the relative brevity of contact subtly or significantly altering the trajectory of each party in the encounter.

I've gained enough confidence to at least make some effort to haggle with street vendors. I can navigate subway system in a language I don't know. I've learned that falafel and döner kebab stands are the best deal the other side of the Atlantic. I now know what it's like to be on a train for 13 hours (I spent ~77 hours in total on trains) and hope to never repeat the experience. I've felt the spine-tingling experience of the otherworldly when entering the darkened majesty of cathedrals that have laid witness to thousands like me passing through. I've scrubbed off the dust and dirt of centuries settle on my skin after wandering from one side of Rome to the other.

I don't know if I'll ever return, but I've brought back enough to last me for what I hope to be a lifetime's worth of value. But at the same time, I won't forget what I left behind.
theladyrose: (Default)
Venezia Mestre isn't the worst place to be stranded in the middle of an unexpected transportation workers' strike.

It's just that with less than 12 hours before the first part of your Italian I final and after a good 11.5 hours on the train from Vienna, you really don't want to be dumped overnight rooming with Venice's ugly cousin, hoping that you'll be able to snag the first train to Verona at some unknown ungodly hour.

I could talk about how Vienna was otherwise worth a wonderful weekend of procrastinating on finals and papers by touring Hapsburg palaces and art museums, but I really need to get back to work.

In the meantime, on a more serious note, a former classmate/student of mine (yes, it's complicated) has been documenting the typhoon disaster in the Philippines that has been relatively ignored in the news media. I highly respect his work as a freelance photojournalist and recommend checking out his coverage and his other photographic work here.
theladyrose: (Default)
Just got back from Firenze (Florence) - I didn't realize how far I am behind on writing about Italy and my various travels lately because I keep writing so many letters describing to different people different aspects of my time here. Seriously, I just wrote my 42nd on the train ride back this evening and have killed at least three pens since I've been here. But if any of you who haven't received one yet would like one, please LJ message me an address by which I can reach you and I'd be more than happy to do so.

So, the short and flippant version of Firenze - my mother may be right about inheriting her genes and my not being able to get drunk. That said, trying Chianti for the first time made me finally understand why people enjoy drinking. Apparently it's not that hard to convince older men to give you two bottles of wine on them if you're with two tall blondes, one of whom is celebrating her 20th birthday. The inside of the Duomo, featuring Brunelleschi's famous dome, may be the most overrated cathedral in the whole city (on the inside, that is), which might be why entrance is free. The other cathedrals make you pay, but the frescoes, statues and the interior architecture are so worth it. San Lorenzo, near the Duomo, and the Brancacci Chapel in Santa Maria del Carmine are much more worth your time. Italian mosquitoes find me nowhere nearly as delicious as American or Chinese ones, which suits me just fine. In Verona, the clothes are unaffordable but the food reasonable; in Firenze, the clothes are affordable (at the open air market, especially if you go on a Sunday and if you're willing to haggle) but the food outrageous if you go to most of the sit-down places.

In the meantime, as I try to come up with a coherent entry about Vienna, I'm really not sure what to say about this article claiming that women think about shopping as much as men think about sex. At the very least, the research methodology is probably really inaccurate, but there are so many things that bug me about the implications of this article. Because women have naturally nothing better on their minds than snagging the next so-called bargain...
theladyrose: (Default)
You haven't quite experienced Switzerland until you've pushed someone who weighs more than you do up the gravelly mountainside of a château (Château Gruyère, just like the cheese) at midday.

The short version of Switzerland: It was the most peculiar sense of homecoming I've ever experienced in a country I've never officially traveled to. It's too complicated to explain here in detail, but I'm actually from Switzerland in the most primordial sense. I woke up on the train from Milan enchanted with this isolated, surreal haven of almost pastiche-like European cosmopolitanism. My Chinese relatives spoke perfectly fluent French, and thankfully they were able to understand what I was saying. They were the most gracious hosts anyone could ever want, showing us around the natural extremes of lake and mountain and the fairytale towns and expansive countryside. I came back a day later (yesterday afternoon, in fact) than I expected, but it was well worth it even if I am a little nervous about my Italian midterm in a couple of hours.

Tonight I'm back on the road again after going to class for the first and only time this week. I basically attempted to teach myself all the Italian that I missed (thankfully it wasn't too bad), and I'm taking art history pass/fail. For the record, my parents were the ones who encouraged and supported my playing hooky for an extra day to spend more time with my relatives; thankfully my professor didn't seem to mind as she's been distracted with some of other students, and the scholarship people don't need to know anything about my activities over here.

A sensible person would ask why I'm so hellbent on going to Vienna. Why must I go *this* weekend? If I had any sense (which I don't) I would've actually gotten all of my transportation taken care of before I left for Milan/Switzerland last Thursday, except that I had no time or access to the Internet for the past couple of days.

I've dreamed of Vienna for years. Admittedly, it all started with the Living Daylights (shut up, 007 fans - I can hear your snickering several thousand miles away across the Atlantic), then it was the Third Man that pretty much sealed the deal on the "I must go here before I die" list, which really isn't that long. And after I wrote (and now published) that one short story, I feel even more compelled to see the world I tried to evoke in person.

The truth is, I'm terrified about this trip. I'm terrified of what will happen because there's something in me that says it's now or never, that I may never have the chance to do what I'm doing now ever again because the future is shaping up to be a hectic one that won't allow me the time to do this. There's a 50% chance I won't be able to travel with the ease I can now, and if I'm not careful the window of opportunity's going to fall shut faster than I know it.

It's also the first time I've traveled internationally by myself. Although safety's more of a concern, I'm actually looking forward to being able to control my agenda and travel light, literally and figuratively. The trouble is that I also know no German apart from "danke" and a few random phrases that are probably quite incorrect that I picked up from watching WWII movies with my father.

At any rate, by this time tomorrow I'll be on the train to Vienna. Let's see how it goes.
theladyrose: (Default)
I think I'm officially known at the Verona train station as that strange American girl who tried to reserve a spot on the Milano-Lausanne connection for a flying chair.

una sedia votelle: wheelchair
una sedia volante: flying chair

Ooops. This is what happens when you watch too many Pink Panther/Get Smart-ish things. The good news is that they gave me a refund on the tickets that I bought that were marked up ridiculously, although it was fun trying to explain the situation in my very limited Italian sprinkled awkwardly with French.

The people at the front desk of where I'm living are convinced that I slept with the friend who visited me this past weekend. It was the only way I could figure out how to sneak him in because technically we're not supposed to have guests stay over. Marco now gives me awkward winks, and I find it difficult to stifle giggling (yes, giggling) whenever I'm going in or out now. I've also come to the slightly depressing conclusion that the only way you can keep Italian men from openly oggling/calling you out is if you're in the company of another guy. The more awkward part was going into the cafés and random couples/parents looking at us, totally puzzled as to why we weren't holding hands or anything like that. I know Plato's Greek, but I would've expected that the concept of platonic friendship wouldn't be so novel over here, friends of different genders going out together. Or maybe I was just being especially self-conscious as my friend has a girlfriend but openly admitted that he's always liked Asian girls...and this was before he had anything alcoholic. Still, we did end up having a fun time.

I am convinced that we might've found the best gelateria in the heart of town near the Arena, but I think I need to go there more before I can be sure :D
theladyrose: (Default)
Thanks so much for all of the birthday wishes - I feel so lucky to have such a thoughtful f-list :) I'm writing bunches and bunches of letters and am slowly getting around to mailing them out, but it'll be a while as I have over two dozen people to whom I'm writing. If you want a postcard, though, leave a comment here (all comments are screened for privacy). [ profile] horosha, yes, I'll accept the raincheck :)

Last Saturday I started off the third decade of my life in Venice, living out a dream that many older than I fantasize of experiencing. My roommate India - the most perfect traveling companion I've ever had who isn't [ profile] eyepiece_simile - and I trekked from one end of the city to the other, through endless calles (alleyways) and across countless bridges big and small. We visited numerous cathedrals with Maria and Marco featured in the title and the highlights of the Piazza San Marco, although sadly. Boiling our visit down to these set points, though, misses out on what you actually experience as a visitor to the city.

As I wrote in something that I'm currently working on: Venice allowed him to find refuge in eternal beauty and the allure of intrigues past, to hide away in the shadowy calles and the ebb and flow of glass green canals. The city restored his faith that even when besieged by change and decay, human achievement could stand against time and still rejuvenate the spirit. It wasn’t the ubiquitous presence of churches, as awe-inspiring as they were, but the grace of cultures melding, the serene congruity of centuries in architectural form simply existing that instilled such wonder. Il Palazzo Ducale exemplifies the tranquil riot of contrasts that is this city, the imposing paneled, gilded and frescoed splendor of the legislative and judiciary quarters juxtaposed with the cool dark jails for criminals of all stripes just behind the walls.

And this rarefied world is slowly sinking into the lagoon that had shielded its initial development and growing pains as a city, lending just the right touch of romantic melancholy amidst the tourist kitsch.

More musings about being in Italy )

On a completely unrelated note, [ profile] lilbabiangel888 tagged me for the following meme:

List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they're not any good, but they must be songs you're really enjoying now, shaping your spring. Post these instructions in your LJ along with your 7 songs. Then tag 7 other people to see what they're listening.

Technically, these aren't all songs because as an unabashed soundtrack geek, I still find the whole concept of music with vocals and words rather nifty. I'm more of a spirit rather than the letter of the law kind of person, anyway. You can download these if you click on them.

Songs to listen to when leaving Venice:

This is Gallifrey: Our Childhood, Our Home: Doctor Who Series 3 (Murray Gold)
Ratatouille Main Theme (Michael Giacchino)
Theme from the Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Paul Cantelon)
Broken Hearted Melody: Sarah Vaughan (taken from Infamous)
Same Mistake: James Blunt (taken from P.S. I Love You)
Suzanne: Noel Harrison (courtesy of the ever-generous [ profile] wiccagirl24)
Kissing Through Glass: A Very Long Engagement (Angelo Badalamenti)

Meme 2, snagged from [ profile] swashbuckler332 and [ profile] lehah:

Post a reply and I will:

A) tell you why I friended you,
B) associate you with something - fandom, a song, a color, a photo, etc.,
C) tell you something I like about you,
D) tell you a memory I have of you,
E) ask something I've always wanted to know about you,
F) tell you my favorite user pic of yours,
G) in return, you must post this in your LJ. (More like highly recommended, because I don't like coercing people.)
theladyrose: (Default)
Apologies for the lack of posting lately - finals, moving out of my apartment, getting last minute things done before Italy, traveling and then finally arriving yesterday evening in Verona basically ate up my time. There's so, so much that I want to write about it all, but unfortunately my adapters don't work and someone else is borrowing my roommate's power cord, so I have to wait until tomorrow before my computer's been recharged so I have enough time to write something substantial.

Verona reminds me of Bath: centuries of history in architectural form sandwiched next to each other, but the effect is aesthetically mind blowing rather than incongruous. I have my first day of classes tomorrow right behind the Arena di Verona, one of the largest outdoor performance venues in Europe. The supermarket here is the equivalent of a foodgasm; thanks to the magic of pictures on labels and fuzzy memories of the one semester of Italian I took in high school, we got by. The shopkeepers are voluble and and mistakenly guess my ethnicity with endearing inaccuracy. I could be easily lost among the cobblestoned alleyways, but it's only my first 24 hours in this city, so I figure I'll be able to find my way within the next two months.

I have a bit of a cramp after writing ten letters today, but if you want me to write you from Italy, I'd be more than happy to do so. Really, I like finally having the time to write. (I can't guarantee it'll be a postcard, though, because strangely enough, I haven't found any places that sell them yet. I'm nowhere touristy enough, I guess :D). Comments are screened for privacy.


theladyrose: (Default)

June 2010

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