Wednesday, December 12, 2007

fine art and friendships

Oh, man – this is really going to end, isn’t it? I just got back to Sam’s after the Fine Art school’s end-of-semester student exhibition and everything is just so bittersweet. The show was really great, SO satisfying; I was kind of worried about how my final piece would be received, since it’s kind of, well, out there, but once it was finished, with all the layers of drapery finally materialized, it just came together exactly how I wanted it to. And I’m so happy that Kirsten asked us all to write artist’s statements as well, because in all honesty, mine really did need an explanation to be fully understood and appreciated, and just knowing that people would actually have the opportunity to UNDERSTAND the piece made me feel so much more relaxed and allowed me to enjoy the show in a way that I just wouldn’t have if I knew that everyone was going to be walking around being like “yeah, the show was cool, but what was up with that one freak-show piece with all the red satin??”

And luckily it WAS received pretty well – I overheard some girls who I had never met before being like “yeah, that one was definitely my favorite”, and my professor told me that the director of the entire Syracuse in Florence program LOVED my piece and was trying to find me to introduce myself but had to leave before she was able to track me down. So flattering! All my bests came to see my stuff and DJ even brought me a little rose (red, of course, in the spirit of the piece haha); just a great evening overall. Host mamma Elisa came and despite my broken attempt to explain abstract artistic concepts in my limited Italian, she seemed to really genuinely love the piece. So cute.

But now I’m just hanging out at Sam and Tyler’s apartment, doing homework while they cook their dinner, and it’s just been a really nice night. I feel like I have such a family here, and as the trip winds down, we just want to be with each other 24/7 – we seem to have all loosened up on feeling the desperate need to do everything and see everything we originally set out to do and see from the start of the semester, because we realize now that Florence will always be here for us, relatively unchanged, but what IS fleeting, what IS really unique about this whole experience is getting to do it all with THIS particular, dynamic group of people. We can always maintain the individual friendships and can always return to the city of Florence, but the integrated experience, the combination of THESE people and THIS place, is something we really will never have again. And it’s not that we have no interest in trying that one last restaurant, or crossing the Arno one last time, or finally seeing that church; it’s just that, instead of being destinations, they have been recast as the extraordinary settings in which we get to experience our last week all together.

Monday, December 10, 2007


Oh, man. Where to begin. Barcelona: still amazing. Being with Danny: even more amazing. I really don't know what else to say. Except maybe, DO NOT try to stay in a hostel with your boyfriend and 6 strangers. It's just awkward.

Ok, I can't ACTUALLY leave it at that. We ducked out of class early Thursday afternoon to catch our lovely RyanAir flight. (Another FYI: RyanAir's no-assigned-seating policy is totally fine for single flyers. For two or more, it is MISERABLE. You run to get in line, which doesn't matter anyway since everyone cuts you, only to stand there for 30 minutes in order to get on a tram that takes you to the plane. Meaning, your place in line did not matter AT ALL. Meaning, you could have been sitting down comfortably, waiting for your seat like a civilized person. Guess no one told the Italians that...) But once we arrive at hour-out-of-the-way Girona airport, it was relatively smooth sailing; we got to snuggle into a comfy bus, and could walk to our hostel, Kabul (apparently famous, although I found it pretty damn grimy in comparison to the glorious Wombats in Vienna), in Plaça Reial.

After checking in, I led Danny immediately to the heavenly Buen Bocado for a revisit to the fabled spicy-falafel-with-mint. Just as good as I remembered. We hobbled our stuffed selves over to nearby Oviso for some killer mojitos and called it a night after a couple of hours.

Friday was awesome: after essentially a hunk of bread and some butter and a little coffee sludge at the hostel (oh, how I missed the chocolate coffee and peanut butter of yore...), we wandered over to the Boqueria marketplace and found a stall bursting with color and fruity fragrance - it was a juice vendor, who sold a cup of inconceivably fresh, pure fruit juice for €1, in TONS of flavors - mango, strawberry, orange, kiwi, pineapple, coconut... We finally settled on a raspberry and a kiwi and were endlessly happy with our dirt-cheap breakfasts. We stopped at Richard Meier's sleek MACBA building for some sketching/photo-shooting on our way to Danny's first encounter with the famed Barcelona Pavilion. He was, to say the least, awed, and so psyched to be there - it made me appreciate it all over again. After hiding from the cold in the cozy book shop for probably longer than is culturally acceptable, we set out in search of La Champañería, a boisterous cava-and-tapas bar in Barceloneta which was recommended to me by Arielle's Spanish roommate Paola. All I have to say is : THANK YOU, PAOLA.

I must admit the place was COMPLETELY overwhelming upon first glance - the crowd was spilling out onto the street and there wasn't an inch to move once inside; you had to push and elbow your way to the bar for a good 15 minutes before you could even find a square foot to get an order in. But once we found our little spot, wedged between our neighbors, we managed to order a greasy, sloppy bocadillo stuffed with jamón serrano, queso manchego, pimiento (a giant grilled green pepper) and cipolla (grilled onion), a plate of glistening chorizo hunks, and the house specialty, a €3 bottle of cava rosada, or pink champagne. The chorizo - greasy, snappy, all around phenomenal. The sandwich - I mean, just read the ingredients. HEAVEN. And the cava was so delicious that we promptly bought two more bottles to go, and I FULLY intend to order a case of it back to LA when I get home. It was THAT good.

Buzzed, stuffed, yet determined to go on, we took a lengthy stroll along the coast, stopping to watch the sunset and again to admire Frank Gehry's enormous fish sculpture. Finally, we headed back to the Barri Gòtic, stopping at a teeny charming bar, who's cozy atmosphere ALMOST made up for the too-sour, made-from-a-powder-mix mojitos. Hey, you win some, you lose some, right?

Saturday was architcture overload: having never seen any Gaudí before, Danny set off to see the Sagrada Família, as well as the Fòrum, a modern building housing hundreds of models of the city of Barcelona, as it is now and as imagined by different architects, while I opted out of the architectural biznass in favor of some good, old-fashioned self indulgence: a trip to the major flea market, Mercat del Encants, followed by some clothing- and chocolate-shopping in the Barri Gòtic. After some near-perilous loss of communication (the map-less Danny's phone died, leaving me to basically panic, imagining him dead in a gutter), we were happily reunited at Gaudí's famous Parc Güell (SO exciting for me, as I'd missed it on BOTH of my previous visits to Barcelona), where we shared on of our precious bottles of cava rosada while overlooking the entire city and coastline of Barcelona, iced in pink frosting due to the unusually spectacular sunset. The city was sure showing off for us...

We headed back to the hostel to recharge and get primped before a balls-out evening of authentic tapas - tortilla española, champiñones, pimientos, gambas al ajillo (or garlic shrimp), chorizo (far inferior to La Champañería's) pan con tomate, and a pitcher of sangría, to be specific - followed by Danny's virgin voyage into the magical world of absinthe, experienced nowhere other than Marsella, of course. We managed to snag a table and by the time it was sufficiently crammed with people and laced with tobacco smoke, we had mutilated enough sugar cubes for one night and headed to bed.

Sunday turned out to be a longer day than expected - we didn't realize that our plane didn't depart until around 9pm, so we got a full extra day of sightseeing in. We packed up in the morning and grabbed a strawberry-banana-mango-pineapple-orange juice at my old standby from fall break, La Bordinys, on our way to check out the wavy, technicolor roof of the Mercat d'Santa Caterina. Next we wandered past the Gaudí housing projects, the Casa Battló and La Pedrera, and by the time we made it back to the Barri Gòtic, we had worked up enough of an appetite to inhale probably one of the richest street foods you can find, who's saccharine aroma had been beckoning us the whole weekend - a belgian waffle (but a REAL one, the kind that are small but super-dense and buttery) topped with chocolate sauce, a sprinkling of candied hazelnuts, and a giant scoop of dulce de leche gelato, the one flavor that the Italians refuse to tackle. You'd think we would stop there, but oh no, we made a special trip down to Buen Bocado to grab two MORE falafel to go, to eat later at Parc de la Ciutadella.

After a substantial amount of bench-parking and rampant gluttony, we still had a good couple of hours to kill, so Danny decided to take me back to the Fòrum, becuase he couldn't stop talking about it and was dying for me to see it. And boy, was I glad I did - that place was SO amazing. The building itself was so inventive, and the interior was basically an ode to the awesomeness of Barcelona - countless models of different plazas and proposed building projects throughout the city, including one expansive model of the ENTIRE city, from mountains to sea, from river to river, which occupied an entire ROOM. Plus, there was this awesome project called 24-Hour Barcelona, in which cameras were set up in ten major locations throughout the city (for instance, there was one filming the Plaça Reial, one filming the Boquería market, one filming the turnstyles in a major Metro stop, etc etc) and the footage was sped up so that one 24-hour cycle could be viewed in one minute - SUCH an innovative way to look at the rhythms of a city. One second it would be dark and empty, then suddenly the sunrise would come splashing across the screen, along with floods of people, only to taper down after the flash of sunset until a moment of stillness the moment before the sun rose again. It really was quite beautiful.

But alas, it was time to go pick up our bags and head back to the reality of midterms, packing, and saying goodbye. But what a fantastic memory to have and experience to have shared with such a great companion. Adios, Barcelona - until we meet again!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

barcelona, take two

Oh. My. God. I’m on the train, on my way to Pisa airport, to go to BARCELONA, my favorite city IN THE WORLD, with my BOYFRIEND. Could there be ANY better way to spend my second to last weekend on this heavenly continent? I think not. I am SO excited. That is all.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

la VERA toscana

So I just got an adorable email from Lorenzo, an Italian boy who I met this summer (in L.A., ironically – Pat, Paul, Shannon, Maris, you guys met him too, he was at the fish-fry) who was staying with my mom’s friend David Warren, looking for work (he wants to be an actor; all I have to say is GOOD FREAKIN’ LUCK). He lives somewhere in Tuscany (he says he’s from “Florence” the same way Long Islanders say they’re from “New York City”) and we’ve been trying to meet up all semester but he studies in Rome, so it’s been kind of hard to coordinate (the one weekend he was home was ironically the same weekend I was in Rome, haha).

But last weekend, after I had emailed him about Rome and he told me he’d be home, he sent me this cute email:

"Io abito in un paese che si chiama Stia. Per arrivare potresti prendere un bus SITA dalla stazione degli autobusa vicino a santa maria novella. Ci metteresti 1 ora e 45 minuti. Questo finesettimana probabilmente saro' li'. Mi fa molto piacere se mi vieni a trovare prima che torni in america, e anche i miei genitori e i miei amici saranno molto contenti di conoscerti.
Se accetti il mio invito questo finesettimana o un altro giorno puoi benissimo portare una amica o un amico per non fare il viaggio ad sola, e se avrete bisogno vi posso anche ospitare a casa mia per una notte senza problemi nella mia bella campagna toscana. I'm very proud of this and every time I can invite a friend there I'm very happy!

Let me know.. my phone number is XXXXXXXXXX (what, you think I'd publish his private phone number? pshh!!)
Text me, it's better than use mail.

Anyway I can't send you back without have meet you.

Bye Bye Lorenzo"

Which, for the non-Italian speakers, is essentially directions to his house in Tuscany and an invitation to come (with a friend, if I’d like) and stay with him and his family for a night in his small town in the Tuscan countryside this weekend. Um, COLOR ME THERE.

Of course Danny came to mind as travel companion of choice, but it just seemed awkward bringing a boyfriend to go stay with a hardcore Italian family who I barely even know, especially considering the extent of his Italian is pretty much “ciao” and “va bene.” So I invited my girlfriend Sam who is not only super fun and outgoing but essentially fluent in Italian. Va BENE. I wrote back and told them that I will be in Barcelona this weekend but if the offer is extended until next weekend, Sam and I would love to go (tutto in italiano, certamente). I’m SO excited. What a perfect way to spend my last weekend in Italia, no?

Sunday, December 2, 2007

so little time...

Blaaahhh my insides are a giant stew of emotions right now, and I think it’s giving me heartburn. No pun intended. Everything feels like SUCH a blur – I feel like I’m running down a hill and have reached that point where you kind of lose control of how fast you are going – I cannot make these next three weeks slow down for the LIFE of me, but I desperately want them to.

So anyway, ROME – God, it went by so fast, you can’t even imagine how much they crammed into those two days (which I obviously extended to three, thanks to Alex’s-adventures-in-hotel-sneaking, volume 2…). Just for the sake of solidifying it all in my mind, I’m gonna do a quick run-down, so bear with me.

Friday morning: we stepped off the bus and into a miraculously empty Vatican Museum. Granted, it WAS 9am on a Friday and all modes of public transportation were on strike, but still, this was ridiculous. There was NO line. Whatsoever. Sweet. In the two or so hours we were there, we saw so much Raphael you wouldn’t even believe (the Transfiguration, the tapestries, the Stanze – hallelujah for art restoration, those things were astounding), and… dum dum DUM… the Sistine Chapel. Talk about sensory overload.

After a much-needed lunch break, we got St. Peter’s Basilica and Michelangelo’s Pietà. Quite possibly the most beautiful church I’ve seen so far – that LIGHT! I must say, though, the display of the Pietà is almost as disappointing as the Mona Lisa – you can’t even SEE the intricate latticework of veins in the figure or the high sheen of the marble from so damn far away! Bitches.

They then bussed us to the Church of St. Peter in Chains but I think we were all too delirious by that point to really appreciate much of anything. In all honesty the Moses just looked like he had some seriously bad gas.

Saturday was even more intense: in the morning we got not one but TWO private pleasure villas – the first, the Villa Farnesina, featured Raphael’s Galatea, which, in its unrestored state, appeared flat and rough in comparison to the gorgeously restored works in the Vatican; the stark contrast was a total testament to the value of restoration in revealing the true quality of an artist’s work as it was originally intended to be seen. There was also another room in which the ceiling was intricately frescoed with a garden scene depicting of the bounty of spring, complete with the equivalent of a Renaissance dirty joke – a particularly phallic zucchini accompanied by two humorously placed figs. Horny bastards.

Next up was the Villa Borghese, a once-pleasure villa, now-museum, and most definitely my favorite sculpture collection on Earth. OH MY GOD I want to BE Bernini. I’m so pissed they made me check my bag – I would have KILLED to sketch those sculptures!! Aenus is officially a hottie and the Pluto and Persephone was straight-up scary; that man really knew how to work his marble.

After lunch we backed up a few centuries to antiquity, checking out the Colosseum (there are NO WORDS to describe how utterly awesome that thing is), plus the Forum and the Pantheon, both of which were conveniently closed (good planning, Syracuse). However, on my own time, I managed to hit the Pantheon during its opening hours the next day (one question: where the HELL did they find all that colored marble??), plus I took a peek at the Trevi Fountain (overwhelming/reminded me of something Hugh Hefner would have installed in his backyard), and checked out the massive Christmas market in Piazza Navona, as well as obliquely saw the Spanish Steps and Richard Meier’s Ara Pacis (a.k.a. met up with friends on the Steps for some pre-clubbing wine, and watched my arch friends hiss and boo the Ara Pacis as we passed it on our way to a bar... I guess it was kind of ugly…).

And speaking of the archies – not only did I get to see acres of oil paint, fresco, ancient marble and brick, but I got to share the whole experience with my best friends: the ENTIRE architecture AND pre-architecture program were on the same trip, which means I got to frolic through glorious Roma with Sam, Tyler, Jess, Bryan, Ali, and the whole gang, including Danny. SO nice. I swear, that boy makes me so happy – he just LOVES me so much, man, it’s crazy. He ran all over the freakin’ city to meet up with me on any break he had (the arch kids had a different agenda than the ahis kids; I smell discrimination…), even if we only had a few minutes and even for something as unexciting as sitting on a bench. It was really sweet. We had a particularly idyllic lunch break just chilling out and picnicking on smuggled hotel-breakfast goodies in a sweet little park in the shadow of the Colosseum. And even though MY trip only included one night in a hotel, Friday night, the arch kids were staying Saturday too, and thus I had my second opportunity to exercise my stealth skills and sneak into their hotel for a free bed Saturday night (or I guess it was more like half a bed…).

Good thing, because today I had a glorious, rather extravagant lunch date with my friend Jen (the one I met in Capri who studies in Rome). The last of the Syracuse kids left EARLY this morning, so I took a nice shower, packed up, and confidently asked the guy at the front desk where I could leave my bag for the day. So badass, haha.

I spent the morning wandering through the rainy, deserted, Sunday-morning streets, unintentionally found myself at the one coffee shop in all of Rome that I was specifically told to visit (Caffè St. Eustachio; I was actually waiting in line at a caffè across the street but the line was too long, so I popped into the nearest alternative, right across the street, which turned out to be THE place to get a fantastic cappuccino. Sa-WEET.), so I got myself a delicious cappuccino and my favorite kind of apple-raisin pastry and set off to stroll by the sights I hadn’t seen yet. Come lunchtime Jen and I met up for an incredible, unexpected brunch BUFFET at an acclaimed restaurant she had always been looking for an excuse to try, called Gusto, and OH MAN. SO good. 15 minutes and €60 later, the two of us had shoveled veal piccata (animal-lovers, don’t kill me! It was my only offense!), rigatoni pesto baked with Romano cheese, MOUNTAINS of every variety of fresh, grilled and sautéed vegetables that you can imagine, plus 4 different kinds of cake onto our plates and into our mouths, and spent the next three (yes, THREE) hours gabbing and finishing the bottle of Pinot Grigio we ordered (it was past noon, okay??), ultimately catapulting ourselves into the deepest food-coma I’ve experienced in a good long while. Our grand plans to check out the well-received Rothko retrospective at the Palazzo di Exposizioni went straight out the window, but we couldn’t have cared less – the food, the wine, and the fantastic conversation made a perfect end to my Roman holiday. Now nothing sounds more enticing than stepping off this train and snuggling into my nice warm bed. Va bene? Va bene.

Friday, November 30, 2007

roman holiday...

I am on the train to Rome right now and I am so, SO excited for this trip. It is the crack of dawn but the train is bustling – all the teachers seem to have brought their spouses and kids on this trip, and our entire car seems to be filled with excited Syracuse kids - quite a sight at 8 am. I have a feeling that this trip is really gonna be a culmination of my time here in Italy - all of my best friends are coming, we are finally going to the city where I was originally hoping to study in the first place, I get to see some of the most gorgeous art EVER, in the presence of some incredibly knowledgable professors, AND this is the last weekend of Syracuse-organized trips, and the last of four trips to Rome; after this weekend, there are only two weeks left before we all get on a plane and head back to reality. HOW did this happen.

I can't imagine what it's going to be like leaving this place. Just thinking about the flight back makes me so, SO sad. Even though I know that the people who have meant the most to me here are people I will definitely see again (most of them go to Syracuse, where I get a funny feeling I will be visiting several times this coming semester... and those who don't will be working in NYC this summer), but still - it will never be the same. Maybe that's a good thing though. We shall see... for now, a Roma!!!

Sunday, November 25, 2007


Yep, I'm screwed. My career choices keep getting narrower and narrower now that I know that there is nothing that makes me happier than packing up and going to a new city, soaking it up and getting to know it, then doing it all over again. The amount of traveling that I want to be able to do just necessitates me being in Europe, but also kind of cuts any steady career out of the picture. Looks like I HAVE to be a writer, as it's the only thing I enjoy that I can do on the run (I'm on the plane home as we speak). Or maybe photography. Maybe a little of both.

Paris. is. magical. I hate myself for falling for all of these touristy-as-hell cities, but God damn Paris is cool. It probably didn't hurt that I was staying with a local (Ars has been living in Paris for two and a half years now) and her kickass Spanish roommate, Paola (from Mallorca, lived in Barcelona for four years, cool as hell in all ways), in the picturesque, quaint-village-within-a-big-city Montmartre. It's weird, as my time here in Europe is winding down and I'm coming closer and closer to the conclusion that I will be back here at least semi-permanently within the next five years, I have started to feel less rushed to see EVERYTHING, to taste EVERYTHING and do EVERYTHING that everyone recommends to me. I was perfectly content to spend a good chunk of my weekend exploring Montmartre with the girls, to go back to le Marais twice because there's just so much to see there, to walk past the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame and feel no pressing urge to go up/inside either of them this time around, and to eat multiple meals of homemade coffee, fresh baguettes with butter and jam, and creamy yogurt at the house. Because I am finally realizing that this IS Paris, the Paris that is appreciated by those who know and love the city for what it REALLY is. Going to one of Arielle's French friends' party instead of a trendy, impersonal club gave me such a better feel of the city and the people in getting to talk to other people my age who live there (and it's not like we didn't all make it to a trendy club AFTER the party; I mean, come on, don't you guys know me at all by now?) There were actually a few Italians there who totally charming and it felt SO GOOD not having to speak English for once (although, at least for the simplest of exchanges, no one ever questioned my limited French unless I did, which was cool).

But yeah, that night at the party, and even today just wandering through the Centre Pompidou (AMAZING collection, by the way), I am BLOWN AWAY by how stunningly gorgeous the people are here, particularly the men. OH. MY. GOD. Why will I never learn that gorgeous, arrogant men are NOT a good idea? I have an incredibly sweet boy waiting for me back in Florence who just wants to love me to pieces but I couldn't help spending an obscenely large chunk of my day planning out in my head my strategy to learn French and move to Paris and be swept of my feet by a Pierre or two. If nothing else, all this traveling I've been doing has really made me realize how incredibly far I am from being anywhere near ready to settle down. I don't know if I ever will, really. All I can hope is that I can find a job that allows me to travel and find someone as wander-lustful as me so that I won't have to do it all alone. We shall see...