Our dirt bikes bring all the boys to the yard. Damn right, they're better than yours.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

coming home, i guess!

Well, as Huey Lewis (and, to a lesser extent, The News) put it, "this is it"--and although they then went on to add a bunch of doo-wops immediately after that, I don't think they're quite as relevant to the current situation, really. So let's just drop that right now, okay? Fuckers?

So yes: this is it. It's almost 9am here in London, and in a few hours, Kristine and I will be back on a sweet, sweet Air Canada plane that doesn't give a fuck how heavy our bags are, bound for sweet, sweet Calgary. The flight back leaves at 1pm here, and will apparently take nine hours... plus two and a half layover in Calgary... plus half-hour flight to Edmonton. Oh yeah, plus an hour on the Piccadilly to get out to Heathrow. All in all, it's going to be a damn long travelling day--yet still, we're going to be landing in Edmonton somewhere in the late afternoon/early evening, which will require a Herculean time-zone-adjustment effort on our part, I'm sure. But we're looking forward to home, kind of.

Anyhow, we should probably be getting ready, so I'll sign off early here by quickly saying our bus from Stansted took twice as long as we thought yesterday, so we didn't make it to the Surgery Museum. But the Tate Gallery of Modern Art was open late so we checked that out instead. Dali, Picasso, Monet, a whole bunch of awesome Soviet propaganda street posters... it was great. Followed that up with a few pints somewhere in Victoria. Four pints each; the most we've drunken in one sitting in more than two weeks.

Okay, gotta go! The next time we meet, it'll be on Edmonton time.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Little kids stealing things!

Well, since this may or may not be our last time posting during this trip, I figured I'd add something too so I could feel important (the last time I'll be able to do so until I go to Quebec--feel important, that is--at which point I'm sure you'll all want to follow my French-learning exploits intensely).

Anyway, the highlight of my day was almost getting pick-pocketed by a 10-year-old girl on the metro, who tried to reach into my purse, but luckily I had my hand on it so she couldn't. By that point she had already stolen someone else's bag, which an old Italian man tried to grab away from her before she ran away with it--all this before the doors closed at one station. Fascinating.

Despite this, I'm really loving Rome and don't particularly feel like going home. Sure, the sites we saw today were a tad on the touristy side, but it still fascinates me that you apparently can't walk around a corner here without running into some ancient ruin or medieval church--it's so unlike anywhere else in Europe, even Paris (sorry Dave, but I guess you shouldn't have spent so much time in France and checked out Italy for more than two days instead).

Anyway, I really don't have much to add to Chris's post: things were old and ruin-y, but still incredibly interesting. There really is nothing like wandering through the ruins of Caligula's palace and discovering a section of the marble floor tiles that's still perfectly intact.

But, sadly, I'm apparently running out of time here at this lovely internet cafe. Hopefully it won't start pouring on our way home like it did last night. And if we don't post again before we get home, hopefully we'll get to see some of you at Dave's barbecue on Saturday. If not, you suck.

the food!

Regarding my dad's last post, yep, the food really is different here than the Italian food at home. Over the last couple nights, Kristin and I have indulged in two fantastic meals here in the Piazza di Spagna area; last night we ate a fixed-course meal at this place on Ripetta street which prides itself on the freshness of its seafood and the simplicity of its preparation.

We sat down and received complementary flutes of champagne, after which the owner of the place came up and explained how he prepares his food: very simple, no excessive herbs or garlic--just lots of fresh-pressed olive oil from his own property to accent the natural flavour of the foods. After ordering a bottle of white wine (Pinot Grigio, which they do phenomenally well here), Kristin had the seafood menu; I don't really recall what she had, but I went with the meat menu and received an appetizer of air-dried beef, arugula (a peppery, stringy lettuce) and parmesan cheese. Then came the primo course of pasta (mine was a fettucini alfredo with mixed seasonal veggies) and then the meat course, of which mine was incredibly tender veal cutlet with mushrooms. After that, they brought four bottles of apertivos to the table for us to choose from; there were three grappas--one licorice, one juniper and one crazy herb one that tasted awful--as well as some homemade limoncello, and I tried em all. As the couple of North Carolinans that were sitting next to us put it, they all tasted like moonshine--but still, I thought they were pretty good. Except for that one. And in case you're curious, three courses with wine and a whole bunch of complementary champagne and grappa came to an even 100 Euro for two (about $160 CDN), which for here is pretty damn good.

Tonight we had another excellent meal at a seafood place (lots of fish here, which is a side of Italian cuisine that gets neglected in the West) which featured tons of pasta, shellfish, wine and limoncello. But it's not like we've been eating like this every night; if you're not up to spending that kind of money, the rest of the food here is actually pretty stereotypical; there's a ton of pizza places that cut your pizza into two squares and then put then together cheese-side-in for easy portability; then there's the grilled panini, stuffed with tons of proscuitto ham and whatever cheese strikes the owner's fancy, and, of course, there's gelato, which must all be made in one factory worldwide, because it comes in exactly the same flavours here as they have at Block 1912 on Whyte.

So yeah: the food is pretty much what you expect Italians to eat, except there's way more seafood and twice as much olive oil. Which, of course, is way better than the split ox shins those crazy bastards in Paris were eating. And I'll totally bring you back a bottle of limoncello, Dad. If nothing else, it's a good conversation piece. :)

As for everything else--Iain: that's totally crazy! I forgot that Vue did the Pyrogy House. And then there's your one. Why is Edmonton killing itself? It's not even especially dry this spring, is it? Weird. Dave: Oh, sorry to catch you off-guard with the suggestion for Saturday; it just seemed logical, as it's the day we're coming back. but if you're game we're game, even if we'll still be eight hours ahead and totally crying. But thanks for sending out the invite to everybody; whatever happens, we're really looking forward to it. Except for the coming home part, in a way. you know.

Today, we went to the Colosseum (it's big) and the Forum (it's old) at the Palatine (it's pretty). In all a touristy day, but the last one we plan on doing. tomorrow, it's a little more shopping, a day in Trastavere, and then to bed, for the next day we sail for London to check out the 19th-century medical operation museum for Rue Morgue. And then, home. and work. AND YOU GUYS! WHOO!

Except Collin and Dave Alexander and Ken and Sunita and Mike Winters and Julie and Jody and Heather. You don't live in Edmonton.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Quotes from Rome!

1. "So you love money more than her?" (Last night at the Trevi Fountain, when one of the omnipresent flower-sellers tried to get Chris to buy a rose for me and he refused. His answer was "yes.")

2. American man: "Ewww, that's disgusting!"
American woman: "It looks like a cartoon."
American man: "Well, it's gross." (In reference to a tapestry in the Vatican museums depicting the slaughter of the innocents.)

3. American girl 1: "Who built this?"
American girl 2: "Michaelangelo."
American girl 1: "Well, he obviously never tried walking to the top." (In reference to the long climb to the top of the dome of St. Peter's Basilica.)

Anyway, it's the end of our second full day here in Rome, and Chris is apparently documenting yesterday, so I'm allowed to write about today. After much frustration involving our hotel (our power went out yesterday afternoon and, thinking nothing of it, we went out, only to discover when we got back around 11pm that it was still out. They managed to fix it this morning, or so we thought until I tried drying my hair and we discovered that none of our plugs were working. This resulted in a very sad Kristine having to go out with unstyled hair. Needless to say, there are no photos of me from today. When we got back this afternoon the plugs were fixed but the water heater was broken. Confusing).

When I wasn't complaining about my hair today we were walking around the Vatican, enjoying (and then getting frustrated by) the endless museum of totally random stuff arranged in a totally random, undocumented Italian kind of way. When we finally made it to the end of the museum we found ourselves in the Sistine Chapel, something that (I hate to say) I remembered being much bigger and more impressive than it was (I was 15 the last time I was in Rome, though, so maybe I was shorter or something. That was Chris's theory, anyway). We then made our way through the shoe-meltingly hot streets to St. Peter's Basilica, which I remembered being much smaller and less impressive than it was (it all balanced out in the end).I really don't know how to describe this, so I'll just use a string of ramdom words: ornate; aweing; huge; Pope-tacular; nuns-on-pilgrimages-crying-at-the-sight-of-it; Catholics-sure-like-spending-money-on-their-churches-tastic; dwarfs-anything-else-we've-seen.

Right. Rad, in other words. We then went back to our hotel, where I watched Chris yell at inanimate objects some more (if I've learned nothing else on this trip, it's that when Chris gets mad about something, like our water heater not working, he takes it out by screaming at things that can't hear him. Better than screaming at me, I guess). After he got that out of his system, we went out for a fantastic dinner (courtesy of my mom, who was unnecessarily worried about us running out of money), which included free champagne, a choice of several kinds of grappa or limoncello at the end, and conversation with some dumb but friendly North Carolinans (North Carolinians?). And now, apparently, there's a thunderstorm outside. Time to go drink huge glasses of beer at the strangely common Bavarian restaurants around here, methinks.

so you guys like rome, right?

Well, here we are, in the evening of our third day is Rome, and I have to say, this is easily my favourite city we've been through so far. Not only is the weather totally perfect (well, hot as the bowels of hell, really... but it's a good heat, you know?), but you can't swing a swarthy Roman guy anywhere in this city without hitting some amazingly historic and beautiful architecture. Our room's location certainly helps, of course, being a block away from the Spanish Steps and a million other things, but seriously; there's so much to see that you don't even really see it anymore. When we were in London and seeing all the crypts of a thousand years of English kings and queens in Westminster Abbey, I was floored by the history of everything. Here, though, we routinely walk by churches and statues that are hundreds of years old, and most of the time we don't even stop. It's weird--and it makes me feel silly for ever having marveled at a 100-year-old building in Edmonton.

On Sunday, we did some shopping on Via del Corso (I bought a couple shirts, some pants and a jacket, so expect some serious Eurotrash assholery from me when we get back) and then walked down to the Pantheon, which was built in the 2nd century AD and shit, and as such is awesome. And domey. After that, we walked a couple of blocks south and saw this excatvated half-block pit in the middle of the business district called Area dell'Alexandra (or something close to) that houses some of Rome earliest ruins; of four temples in there, the oldest dates to the 3rd century BC. Oh yeah, and it also contained the actual, exact spot where Julius Caesar was murdered on 14 March, 47 AD (or is it 44 AD? It's been a while since Classics). This was great and all, but the best thing was that the ruins double as a sanctuary for Rome's homeless cat population, which meant that there were hundreds of really lazy kitties lounging around, stretched out in the shade amongst all this awe-inspiring history. I don't know what it says about us, but we probably spent more time just watching this one young cat trying to get this old, angry cat to fight with it than we did staring at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel today. What can I say? Cats are rad.

So Rome is a crazy place, so much different than London or Paris--it's mostly the sheer amount of street peddlars that give it that sense, I think. They're everywhere here, selling knockoff Burberry and D&G handbags, fake Prada sunglasses, and most annoyingly of all, roses at night by the monuments. Seriously, these guys are the worst: they walk up all happy and thrust a rose out towards the girl, and if she says no, they're like, "no, it's okay, it's free. Just take it." And then you do and walk away, but then the guy's following you, making small talk and then he starts saying that you bought the rose and asking for pretty much anything you have. And the more you say no, the more they persist, until they're insulting you for being cheap, but really you just don't want their shitty flower you just watched them soak in the Trevi to keep from dying.... Fuck. There's no reprieve. Except the old fork in the eye. That gets 'em every time.

But this is a trifling detail, and otherwise it's been a phenomenal trip. It's hard to believe that we've been doing this for two weeks already and that we'll be back on Saturday--made even harder to believe by the fact that we have a hard time remember what we've done from day to day, but hey. It'll be nice to be back, in a sad sort of way. But one way to make it way less sad, Dave, would be to have a BBQ. Hell of an idea; let's do it up--we're back in the early evening Saturday, so we could use a few beers later that night if that's okay. Just tell us what to bring.

And speaking of bringing, Dad, what do you want me to bring you back? I was thinking of grabbing a bottle of limoncello (a liqueur they make out of the leaves of lemon trees that we just tried at dinner tonight); if that sounds like something you'd like to try, let me know. It doesn't get much more Italian than that, really--unless it's delivered to your door by a sweaty guy with lots of chest hair and a $4000 suit, but I don't think I could sneak him through customs.

Anyhow, we've been drinking a metric shitload of wine over the last couple of days, and I really, really want a pint of beer. So we're going to go find that now. Talk to you all later, and if you run into the guy who keeps burning Edmonton the fuck down, tell him to quit it. Jerk.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

totally in Rome

Hey! So things sure are hard to find in Rome, as things apparently close randomly for no good reason all the time, but after no small amount of wandering, we've managed to track down an internet cafe. So here we are. Great story, I know.

First off, hey mom and dad, we're safe and sound here in the City that Never Stops Sweating; haven't heard anything about a crash in the Italy/France tunnel (nor did I know such a thing even existed. Are you sure it was between those two countries?) No, rather, we got up at 4:45 this morning to catch a shuttle bus out to Beauvais-Tilles airport--which, at over an hour's drive out of town, is only a "Paris" airport insofar as it's in France and closer to Paris than, say, Edmonton. Once we got there, we were informed by Ryanair that the super-cheap discount price we paid would not be the only thing we were paying, as there is a strictly enforced 15kg maximum weight on all baggage; every kg thereafter would cost us an extra seven Euro... which for Kristine and I cost about 91 extra Euro. Stu-pid. But still cheaper than flying a big, far more convenient main airline, I guess.

So yeah, a landing and a shuttle bus and a metro ride later, we got to the B&B, which is right by the Spanish Steps and really, really nice. (It's even got one of thsoe balconies with the opening doors that overlooks the street below; very neat.) But before all that, our last night in Paris was a good one; after an afternoon at Montmatre shuffling around with the attendant sea of tourists, we went out for a Korean BBQ at this restaurant in a out of the way little square full of restaurants in Bastille called Place de Saint-Catherine. Totally had some wine, some great food... after that we walked down St. Antoine and had some more wine. Very what you're supposed to do, I guess. Oh, and the night before, we went down to see the Eiffel Tower again at night, and wouldn't you know it, not only do they light the thing up, but that fucker sparkles. With something like 10,000 strobe lights all going off randomly. It was beautiful, and it made for some great pictures.

BUT! Now we're in Rome, and we've yet to see very much of it besides a quick walk past the high fashion shops of Via Condotti and the Trevi Fountain just a few minutes ago. Yep. Pretty big. Full of water. Really old-looking. This is what we paid for, folks. Old, watery things.

Anyhow, we should probably go get something to eat now, but tomorrow we're going to head to the Vatican (we figured we'd get the big touristy things out of the way early when I still have some patience for throngs of sweaty crowds taking pictures of the entire world. (even more retarded, in my opinion, are the people with video cameras--man, I bet Uncle Steve and Aunt Suzie can't wait for you to get home so they can crowd around the TV and watch you jerkily scan the ceiling of the chapel at Versailles for 15 minutes. After that, I hope they kill you with their fists.) So yeah! More to come, as usual. Can't believe this trip is already two-thirds over.