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...

Thursday, November 22, 2007

la bella parigi.

What a surreal day. Went to sleep last night at like 10:30, woke up at 3 am; fell asleep in the cab, woke up at the train station; fell asleep on the train, woke up in Pisa; fell asleep on the plane, woke up to a breathtaking view of the French countryside out my window; got off the ghetto plane and onto a ghetto bus (thank you, RyanAir), fell asleep again to the soothing greens and yellows of the autumnal French farmlands and awoke to the jarring industrial factories issuing columns of smoke along the outskirts of the city, which rapidly transformed into the gorgeous Parisian architecture that we all know and love. Talk about disorientation.

The fact that this trip was planned a mere 72 hours ago (and by "planned" I mean flights being bought - I really can't pretend I had any "plan" beyond that, including transportation to or from the airport. I know my goal for this semester was to loosen up but my God, this is getting a little excessive) did not help with the disorientation factor. Especially because my gracious hostess, Arielle, is notoriously hard to reach even in the States, so of course that gets exponentially worse once you cross the Atlantic and leave the world of "can you hear me now? ...good!", so by the time I had to get on the bus from Beauvais to Porte Maillot in Paris, I STILL hadn't managed to get in touch with Arielle to figure out what the hell I do once I get to the train station. I had no address, no map, and absolutely no French. Yikes.

But obviously it all worked out, as I am sitting here alive and happy in a little café after a glorious day of frolicking rather than dead in a Parisian gutter. I managed to get a hold of Ars on the bus and got some vague directions to "find the Metro, take the 1 to Concorde, and meet me by the big ferris wheel." Um, okay?? But with the help of my New Yorker subway intuition (and a few signs with arrows), I managed to get my ass to "the big ferris wheel", which was indeed big, and also in perhaps the most beautiful square in Paris. Good job, Arielle!

And despite our rocky, non-communicative start, Ars jumped into her classic hostess mode - she is so cute and enthusiastic about having someone to show around and was pointing out all the landmarks and history of the streets we passed and within 30 minutes of my arrival, she had already managed to fill me with two forms of chocolate (the most glorified, goo-filled Parisian version of a brownie, called a moilleux chocolat, and a tiny, incredibly expensive box of SUPER high-quality chocolates from Michel Chaudun), teach me the key French phrases I needed to survive here ("I'm sorry, but I really don't speak French", "where is the bathroom", and "I would like..."), and led me directly to the foot of the Eiffel Tower. And this was all four hours before she had a paper due of which she had only two out of six pages written. What a champ.

So after our delicious chocolate picnic in the Champ de Mars, beneath the crisp autumn sun (which, according to Arielle, I must have brought with me, as it had been really gray the previous few weeks), in the shadow of one of the most breathtaking piles of iron in the world, Ars left me to some solo exploring while she dashed back to the library to finish her paper.

I took a leisurely stroll along the Seine towards the Musée d'Orsay, stopping at a cool outdoor photo exhibition hosted by the eccentric nearby Musée du Qaui Branly, and couldn't help wishing Danny was here with me to witness all of this crazy-beautiful stuff. It's amazing how quickly things can change - I've lived so long being a pro at alone-time, having a grand ol' time on my solo strolls through Vienna, Amsterdam, Barcelona, and back home in Florence, but now that I've gotten a taste of that novel experience of having someone around who wants to share everything with you, even if it's just a walk to the grocery store, it's surprisingly hard to go back. It's not that I CAN'T enjoy my alone time anymore; it's just that all of the sudden, it takes some getting used to at first.

But anyway, the Orsay was unbelievable - but god damn this stupid metro strike, because usually on Thursdays the museum is open until 9:45pm, but today it closed at freakin' 5pm so that museum employees would have time to get home before the few remaining forms of transportation shut down for the night, so I ended up with only about an hour and a half to soak up some of the best art in the world. I mean, the sheer number of Degas they have! And the Van Goghs! I swear, the Van Gogh ROOM in the Orsay was about as impressive as the entire Van Gogh MUSEUM in Amsterdam. Going to a really established museum like that always re-ignites my amazement at how truly massive the canon of so-called "masterpieces of art" really is - that one museum can house that many famous works and still have some left over to stock all the rest of the museums in the world never ceases to amaze me.

Right now I am chilling in a little café (in which I conducted my first all-French exchange - woo hoo!) waiting for Ars to finish her paper, and after that, who knows what the night will bring. I'll keep you posted... bisoux!


I have been having SO MUCH fun hanging out in this café, reading my little art history article in English, listening to the French exchanges at the counter, and eavesdropping on this table full of Spanish girls who I swear keep slipping into Italian. GOAL: fluency in Italian and Spanish by 2010; fluency in Italian, Spanish, and French by 2015. Ready, set, GO!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

the end has no end

AHHHH everything is so damn amazing right now. I can't BELIEVE I have to go back to America in a month! Com'e possibile??? I have so many updates. All fantastic.

First of all... I'm going to PARIS for the first time in my LIFE this weekend!! I've been toying with the idea for months now and with some gentle anti-neuroses coaxing from both Danny and my mom, I threw the idea of saving money and my report card out the window and booked up my last free weekends with fantastic vacations - this weekend I'm in Paris kickin' it with Arielle, one of my closest friends from high school who has been studying at AUP for the past two years; next weekend I'm in Rome on a class trip, which AGAIN conveniently coincides with the architecture program's Rome trip (which I am DEFINITELY extending to frolic around with Jen who is studying there); and the following weekend, my last free weekend before finals week, I'm going back to Barcelona with the boy. SO exciting.

But like... that's it. Then it's OVER. I cannot BELIEVE it. I am so incredibly happy here, so unbelievably inspired (my final project for painting is going great), falling in love, traveling all the time... I mean, it would be nice to have my mom here and maybe my dog and obviously all my bests from the States, but otherwise... there is really no reason to leave. Like, AT ALL. The only consolation is that whenever I get sad I can always remember how great it is to be really happy with every aspect of your life and that there is no point to be any other way, and if I can't find that anywhere else, then I can always move back to Europe after college. There's only one more year, after all...

But there are definitely some great things to look forward to back in the States as well. Like, I don't know, maybe the fact that my mom bought an apartment back in our old 'hood in Brooklyn, therefore making me a permanent resident of the best city in the world (or at least America) once again come summer? Or perhaps the fact that Mom and I are taking our first trip to Vegas together where I can actually blow some money with her at the tables for New Year's? Or that I get to see my fantastic family and my beautiful ranch for Christmas? Not to mention the 40+ hours of TiVo my mom has been saving for me back in LA.... So things are looking up all around.

But for now... Paris, here I come!!!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Fiesole frolicking

After the never-ending festaggiando Sunday-Tuesday, I took a much-needed break Wednesday night to try to let my poor body recover a bit. Along those same lines, Danny and I nixed the Barcelona idea for this weekend in favor of really DOING Florence - there are tons of things here that I've wanted to see and do but STILL haven't yet, and since Nicole's boyfriend was coming to town for the weekend and they were going to be doing all the traditional touristy-Florence stuff, and since pretty much everyone was still recovering from fall break and were thus staying in town as well, I thought I'd take advantage and do a little low-key sight-seeing. And maybe a little hard-core partying as well, who knows.

So come Thursday there was indeed some hard partying on the horizon - I ended up going dancing with some friends and somehow throughout the course of the night, my phone must have managed to jump out of my pocket and be trampled on by thousands of drunk people, or so I would assume, since when I went to pick up my purse from the coat-check and realized my phone wasn't in it, the coat guy asked me if it was "il telefonino tutto rotto," or "the totally broken one," to which I obviously replied "DEFINITELY not...", at which point he then presented to me my lovely little phone, pleasantly bent in half, with a gorgeous kaleidoscope of broken shards decorating what was once the screen. And of course, overly-dramatic me proceeded to silently take the phone, make a beeline for the door, and promptly scream at the top of my lungs once outside. Just one concise, forceful yell, and then I put the useless scrap of metal back in my purse, threw on my coat, and threaded my arm through Danny's. He looked down at me, gave me a kiss on the forehead and said "you are such a nut-job," and we proceeded to have the loveliest walk home. Classico.

The next day will most likely go down in history as the most perfect sight-seeing-in-Florence day EVER. Poor, phoneless me woke up and made a beeline to the WIND store, closed my eyes, held my breath, and dropped €90 on a shiny new tri-band Motorola. Shit happens, right? Once re-connected to the world (although completely without ANY numbers), I headed down to school to meet Danny at a designated meeting spot (so old-school; how did people LIVE before cell phones??) and we walked down to the Duomo to meet up with Nicole and her boyfriend Brad, hilariously running into at least 10 of our best friends along the way.

Once we met up, we commenced our tourist-site tackling; first stop, climbing to the top of the Duomo. I've got to say, its kind of embarassing that I had never ONCE been inside the most well-known landmark in all of Florence, the point from which we know how to get to all of the bars but the history of which I know little-to-nothing about. SO lame. But hey, better late than never, eh? And with architectural-genius Danny in tow, we basically had our own personal tour guide the whole way up. Fantastico.

After hundreds of teeny-tiny little stone stairs leading your through the walls and other indeterminable skeletal parts of the cathedral itself, you are suddenly spit out on this circular balcony that lines the entire interior dome, and are thus inches away from the massive frescos covering the entire thing. SO incredible. It's amazing how truly crappy frescos look up-close, and yet how powerful and nuanced they seem from afar.

After a few more claustrophobic flights of stairs, we are spit out once again, this time to a churning, black sky, threatening rain over an incomparable panorama of the entirety of Florence, Fiesole, and all surrounding countryside. It was simultaneously terrifying, breathtaking, and incredibly romantic. And OF COURSE it started to rain, which OF COURSE to me made the whole experience even cooler and more unique. SO awesome. After like 50 pictures of basically the same thing we finally made our way back down to Earth, changing our minds like 30 times about what to do next, and ultimately splitting up to do our own thing until meeting back up for a jaunt up to Fiesole for dinner.

Danny and I ended up checking out the Duomo's Baptistry, which I had no idea was completely decked out in gilded mosaics (if I have learned nothing else from my time here in Italy, it is that I am ceaselessly drawn to anything shiny, sparkly, or otherwise "pretty." What am I, a freakin’ raccoon?). Very cool. We were gonna try to swing by the Uffizi for a minute since he'd never been yet, but alas, the line was too long and we decided to check out the Palazzo Vecchio instead, Florence’s main government building, which was so overwhelmingly covered with crazy frescoes and gilding and random little rooms that it just made me tired. However, Danny did tell me a crazy-cool story about how when the Medici family took over the Palazzo Vecchio - Florence's freakin' town hall - as their private home (pretty ballsy, if I do say so myself), they asked the architect, Mr.-Renaissance-man Giorgio Vasari, to build them a secret passageway that ran all the way from the Palazzo Vecchio (and perhaps even from the Uffizi, which was originally built as an office building - hence the Italian word for offices, "gli uffizi" - to replace the no-longer-functional Palazzo Vecchio), across the river along the Ponte Vecchio, all the way to their "country estate," the Palazzo Pitti and Boboli Gardens, which, thanks to urban sprawl, are no longer so much in the country. The whole passageway is apparently lined with portraits, and you can still traverse it today, with a reservation and most likely a hefty fee, starting in the beautiful Uffizi and ending up in the even-more-beautiful Boboli Gardens. But alas, we'll save that for another day.

After sufficient Renaissance reminiscing, we stopped for a much-needed caffè on our way to meet back up with the lovebirds for part 2 of our Florentine adventure: sunset exploring and dinner in the neighboring hill town of Fiesole. We hopped on the good ol' number 7 bus at Piazza San Marco and watched my house go by as we took it all the way to the end of the line, up through the hills to Fiesole's central piazza. Tyler, Bryan and some of the boys wanted to come up and meet us for dinner, so while we were waiting for them, we wandered up a windy street to check out some ruins that we had heard about, stopping along the way to ogle the unimaginably beautiful and expansive views of the entire city of Florence, all twinkling lights and romance. We eventually had to admit that we were all freezing, however, so we headed back down to a cute little pub to wait for the boys. Nicole's boyfriend is currently studying in Dublin and thus recommended to me a KILLER cider, Strongbow, which was cool, since I am really not much of a beer-drinker but always feel like such a loser ordering a vodka or something at a pub.

When the boys arrived, we headed over to the restaurant Tyler had in mind, but alas, our party of 13 would have overwhelmed the tiny hole-in-the-wall of a restaurant, and so we were directed across the street to a restaurant called Perseus. Upon looking at the menu, it all made sense - not only was this the restaurant that Irene had recommended to me for great bistecca alla fiorentina in Fiesole, but it was also a 2nd branch of the Perseus in Florence where my foodie Italian professor recommended that I take my friends Mike and Ani for - you guessed it - bistecca alla fiorentina when they came to visit me earlier in the semester. So not only was in the company of great friends but we were guaranteed great food as well. And the atmosphere didn't hurt either - between dinner and dessert, the boys discovered an old piano hiding in the corner and proceeded to serenade the entire restaurant, with Valenti and Tyler on the keys and Danny on vocals. Adorable. I love my friends.

After plates and plates of crostini, pappa al pomodoro, various pastas, and steaks in all shaped and sizes, we headed back to the pub for a drink while we waited for the hourly bus back to the city, which conveniently dropped my food coma-ed ass off right at the bottom of my hill (dear number 7, how I love thee). All I can say is - what a day, what a fine, fine day.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

the carousel of life

Man, what a fantastic birthday. It's so funny, last year was the really serious year, where for the first time in I can't remember how long, going from 19 to 20 felt like a HUGE leap - I felt so much older waking up on November 5, 2006 than I did the day before.

This year, on the other hand, was the joyful, jubilant, celebratory year. I didn't feel any different when the clock struck midnight last Sunday, except maybe a little tipsy from all the drinks that my amazing friends here freely showered me with. Maybe the gravity of turning 21 would have set in more if I had been in America, but being here, this birthday really just made me realize what amazing people I have in my life, and that there is never a cut-off to the flow of great people you get to meet; after only two months here, I found myself surrounded by a table of incredibly genuine, fun-loving and life-grabbing people, who were all gathered together to celebrate my birthday with me. SO amazing.

That table, by the way, was a table for 12 at the celebrated La Giostra ("The Carousel" in Italian - how fitting, right, Mom?), a fantastic restaurant that has been recommended to me by everyone who has ever eaten there, that I've been DYING to go to but never had the occasion until now. Everything about whole experience was incredible - the food, the hospitality, the beautiful dining room strung with tiny twinkling lights (Marissa, you would have died), the amazing people I was with - my friend Sam actually turned to me at one point and said "how did we manage to find such great people in our time here, and how fantastic is it that they are all here tonight to celebrate YOU?" And it really was so amazing.

As for the food - now, La Giostra is that kind of place where they know that you are ready to drop some big bucks for a lovely, leisurely meal, and they definitely treat you accordingly. As we were getting settled into our seats, taking our first glance at the mouth-watering menu, the waiter came by and poured a full glass of Prosecco for every one of us, completely free of charge. After we placed our order, out came two ENORMOUS platters of mixed antipasti, with at least one piece of every variety for each person, again, on the house - bruschetta topped with the most deliciously basil-y and olive oil-y tomatoes and others with a rustic pate; delicately fried and generously stuffed eggplant; grilled peppers and thinly sliced zucchini; and mysterious little vegetable croquettes that were of course fantastic as well. Once our actual appetizers arrived, we were blown away by the quality - Jess ordered the most amazing platter of fresh burrata cheese, dressed with grapefruit marmalade, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of black pepper, and Danny ordered a fantastic tuna tartar laid on a bed of zucchini and pomodori carpaccio, and just those two appetizers were large enough to make at least two trips around the table with at least half left over for the true owner of the dish.

Next came the primi: Sam and I decided to split two pastas as our main course, and I couldn't have been happier with our decision - we ordered a fantastic tagliatelle with fresh porcini mushrooms (probably my favorite two food items on earth, together on one plate.... ahh, the glory), and the house specialty, ravioli filled with pear and fresh pecorino cheese, dressed in a delicate butter sauce - the STRANGEST flavor combination upon first bite, but indescribably subtle and complex and UNBELIEVABLY addictive. And of course, being MY birthday, I enforced a strict open-plate policy to ensure that everyone got to taste the bounty of deliciousness spread across our table, so in addition to our fantastic pastas, I also snagged a bite of Ali's equally strange-yet-delicious pennette (little dwarf penne) with pistachios, pears and gorgonzola; Tyler's perfectly-cooked risotto with langoustines; and yet again, mooched way too much of Bryan's order, gnocchetti with baked ricotta and spinach (that boy sure knows how to order Italian food).

And leave it to the men to hit up the secondi menu as well: I managed to score an ENORMOUS bite of perfectly cooked Chianina beef laid over a bed of rucola and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano from Danny, and ANOTHER bite of Chianina, this time dressed only with olive oil, garlic, and rosemary - another buon'ordinazione di Bryan.

Three hours, four courses and countless bottles of wine later, I assumed it was time to make our way to our next leg of celebration, but no - out comes an ENTIRE chocolate cake, decked out with birthday candles and the whole she-bang. After some bi-lingual serenading, we chowed down and finally called over the check...

Which NO ONE let me pay for. It was the sweetest thing, I 100% intended to pay like everyone else since it was me who suggested such a crazy, balls-out restaurant in the first place, but they wouldn't hear it. I've got some good friends.

So I grab the giant bouquet that Sam, Jess and Tyler had brought for me and we head out to dance the night away. Couldn't have been a better night. Happy birthday to me, indeed.

Monday, November 5, 2007


Ok, it's been taking me FOREVER to copy down the MASSIVE entries I've written about my fall break into this damn thing, and it's been preventing me from updating you guys on what's been going on in more recent news. And there's been a LOT. So I've decided to just go ahead and post the more recent stuff and you'll just have to backtrack a little once I get my fall break entires up. Mi dispiace.

So ANYWAY..... holy shit. What the hell just happened. I just got back from Barcelona yesterday afternoon and was planning on taking it easy, unpacking, getting re-settled back in Florence, resting up before my birthday... but I somehow managed to go out until 3:30am and, where I received a profession of love, more or less. What the fuck.

Ok, let me back up a little. So I was chilling back home, recovering from my whirlwind traveling, and I see that my friend Nicole is online and I realize that she is home, as is Danny and all the boys that I traveled with in Vienna. Nicole and I have been wanting to just chill out and watch movies and order takeout with them for WEEKS, so we decide that this is a perfect night to do that because everyone is excited to see each other again but we're all tired from traveling and will jsut want to take it easy.

So we get our takeout and head over to the boys' place, and after we eat they are like, um... lets go watch the Patriots game at a bar downtown. Which - I'm not gonna lie - sounded really appealing to me for some reason. I've been scorning all the super-American bars like the one we were heading to ever since I got here, but for some reason, after all that traveling and sight-seeing and language confusion, nothing sounded better than a bar full of American kids watching some good ol' football americano.

The place is packed so I ended up squeezed on a bench next to Danny, kinda separated from the rest of our group, but it was really fun; I'm dying to go back to Barcelona this weekend and was showing him pictures of the trip and was like let's go! And he was like, no seriously, I'm down. He's never seen it and it's basically an architect's dream; we'll see if it actually happens but that would be so fun.

Then all of the sudden, midnight rolls around and we all realize, oh wait, Alex is 21... I had totally planned to take it easy that night to save up for partying tonight and tomorrow night with the rest of my friends who are trickling in over the next couple days from their various trips, but when everyone started buying me shots and singing "Happy Birthday", what am I supposed to do, say no?

So we're all having a great time, but it's getting late, and everyone's remembering that we actually have class tomorrow for the first time in over a week, so everybody starts making their way back to Piazza Savonarola, the central meeting point where most of the apartment-dwelling Syracusers live, and where I usually call a cab from. Me and Danny are talking and then all of the sudden we realize that everyone else is gone (they most likely stopped to get a kebab a few blocks back at their favorite late-night munchie spot, Mesopotamia), so we just keep heading back towards Savonarola and figure they'll catch up.

Me and this kid are so weird - I know that he likes me, he's told me before and I can just tell, and it totally intrigues me, because I can tell that it's not in an "ooh she's hot" kind of way, but in a much more sincere, "she's really cool" kind of way, but it's weird because we don't ever really get the chance to talk one-on-one and he still seems to be vaguely involved with that girl he was with before, Tamar - they are still broken up but they are doing that "maybe-I-still-like-you" flirtation thing, so I have just assumed that whatever crush he thinks he has on me is not any big thing.

But that was before last night. I don't even know how the converstaion turned, but all the sudden it got super serious. I know I won't be able to do justice to what was said, but more or less, it came up that he still really cares about me and feels that there is some weird, inexplicable connection between us, which I definitely think is true and equally strange, but that I have such a guard up all the time that he almost feels like pursuing me in any way is pointless, but that regardless of if anything romantic ever comes out of the relationship, he just wants to know me, to understand where I am coming from, to be there for me even if it's just as a friend. It was really moving and kind of disorienting because I have never met a guy who was able to - or wanted to - care about me like that, without any expectations. It totally overwhelmed me, because he hit the nail so precisely on the head, about me being guarded and not really trusting the male race in general and not believing in their ability to ever be sincere, especially in expressing their emotions and particularly their feelings towards me. I don't even know what more to say about the whole experience, it was just really intense and overwhelming and incredibly comforting and relieving at the same time and now I have absolutely no idea what is going on in my life at all. I feel like this is a person who would do anything to make me feel safe and loved, and for that I am totally attracted to him and feel like I should let myself be taken care of for a little bit. But I'm worried that I may not actually be attracted to him otherwise, which would not be fair to him at all. Oh man this is so damn confusing. But the very most exciting kind of confusion ever. I am so excited for the coming weeks.

Sunday, November 4, 2007


WHAT a fuckin' vacation. Ho-ly Jesus. Where to begin, where to begin...

Ok, so I forgot to mention in my Amsterdam entry the fact that much of my time there was spent sitting in front of Katie's computer in a desperate attempt to find some sort of shelter for my time in Barcelona. EVERY hostel in Barcelona was booked - no joke, every HOTEL was ridiculously expensive, and my phonelessness prevented me from being able to get in touch with any of my other friends who I knew would be in town to ask if there was any way I could crash with them. So if it weren't for my guardian angel/best friend from preschool who was studying abroad in Barcelona at the time, I would have been completely fucked. She gave me the name of an obscure little "hostal" (more expensive than a hostel but more bootleg than a hotel) that one of her friend who had visited her a few weeks ago had stayed in (unfortunately the NYU program through which she is studying is really bitchy about not allowing overnight guests), which I promptly sent a desperate email, literally BEGGING for any type of accomodation that they had, and by a stroke of luck, I got a response within a few hours notifying me that there had been ONE cancellation of a double room with a bathroom, which they would give to me for the price of a single since they knew I was only one person. VA FUCKIN' BENE. Needless to say I promptly booked it, laughed that I would be staying by myself in Barcelona with no way to know if my phone would work once I arrived, and hopped on my plane. Oh lordy...

So I arrive in Barcelona to a desperate text message from Sam and Tyler, who were also going to be there that weekend but had told me that they aleady had their accomodations booked a while back. However, the girl who booked their hostel dropped off the face of the Earth without ever telling them the name of the hostel where she had made their reservation, so they were left totally homeless and freaking out. And let me tell you, seeing that I was that person only a few hours prior, it felt SOOO great being able to say "hey, I actually have an extra space in my room if you guys need it", which they DEFINITELY did. Hostal Levante to the rescue!! They had some friends from Vassar who were in town for the weekend as well who were able to add one of them to THEIR hotel, so in the end we all managed to party it up in Barcelona without anyone having to resort to sleeping on the street. Not too shabby...

What was a hilarious twist in the story, however, was that apparently Tyler and one of the girls in the other hotel had an, ahem, INTERESTING history, and therefore instead of Sam staying with me in my double bed, I got Tyler instead. Hahaha. And although he's incredibly attractive, he's just such a man-whore that there was never any risk of us becoming any more than the "estranged married couple" that we began to call ourselves by the end of the trip. Hahah, gotta love it.

And needless to say, the trip itself was IN-FUCKING-CREDIBLE. I do not know WHAT it is about that city, but the second I step foot on those windy streets in the Gothic Quarter, or look up at one of those crazy Gaudi creations, or find myself suddenly face to face with the Mediterranean, I just know that at some point within the next five years, I NEED to live here full-time. There is just something about the people there, the pride they have for their history and the unique culture that has sprung from that is just so damn cool. And having spent several weeks here a few summers ago, the dawning sense of familiarity made the whole experience just that much better - I actually got to play tour guide a bit since I had so many great memories of this place.

And since I was literally sharing a bed with Tyler, it made coordinating with them a complete no-brainer. So I got to spend my weekend in an architectural theme park with a bunch of relentlessly passionate architecture geeks. Who just happen to love food. And dancing. And are just generally hysterical. So needless to say, I had a freakin' great time.

My first evening I was flying solo, as Sam and Tyler's flight arrived a good five hours after mine, so I had plenty of time to get settled, actually UNPACK a little, get showered, and do some serious exploring and re-familiarizing with this incredible place. And thank you, Nina Moffitt, for directing me to a hotel in my absolute FAVORITE neighborhood in the whole city, the Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter), so that all I had to do was step outside my door to be amidst the best boutiques and most beautiful, tiny streets imaginable. I grabbed myself a KILLER falafel with fried cauliflower, roasted mushrooms, super-tangy hummus and tabouleh (for €3, mind you - thank you, street food) and wandered the 'hood in garlicky bliss.

The next morning, our architectural tour of Barcelona commenced: Tyler and I set off to meet up with the girls at the Sagrada Familia, stopping by the most incredible juice bar a few blocks from our place for a kiwi-honeydew-banana-strawberry concoction, only to arrive with 20+ minutes to kill, during which time we dashed a few streets over to ogle yet ANOTHER Gaudí masterpiece, La Pedrera. When we finally met up with Sam and their two friends Whitney and Maria who were also in Barce for the weekend, we gabbed incessantly about the first 7 days of our respective trips (final conclusion: I NEED to make it to Morocco ASAP. Perhaps it will be my first vacation once I get myself settled in Barcelona...), and then commenced the "ooh"ing and "aah"ing once inside the Cathedral. It's so crazy to conceive how incredible it already is, yet how much further they have to go. It is projected that the Cathedral won't be completely finished until 2040! Crazy man. Quite possibly even cooler than the unfinished Cathedral itself, though, was the museum below it, which I had missed on my first trip to Barcelona; it displayed all of Gaudí’s original architectural plans and drawings of the project, completed and signed in his hand, plus this whole section that reveals all of his direct references to nature: the columns inspired by rainforest trees, tiny geometric details in the façade reminiscent of honeycomb, etc etc. SO cool.

After the Sagrada Familia we grabbed some bocadillos (Spanish panini) and set off on a lengthy wander through town: down Passeig de Gracia past La Pedrera and Casa Battló, and down through Plaça Catalunya for a little pre-dinner shopping. There we met up with their OTHER friend Kate, who was actually spending the semester in Barcelona, plus Jess and her friend Harry, who had done a different 1st half of the trip but were all meeting up in Barce for the last weekend. PAR-TAY.

With the gang in tow, Kate let us to a cute little plaza in the Barri Gòtic called, no joke, Plaça George Orwell, where there were a ton of little tapas bars and apparently the “best falafel in Barcelona”, according to Kate, but falafel was gonna have to wait – Sam, Maria and I had been DYING for tapas all day so we found ourselves a little outdoor spot and commenced a veritable feast: fried potato wedges smothered in a Spanish spicy sauce (“patatas bravas”), stuffed olives, grilled mushrooms (“champiñones”), Serrano ham and Manchego cheese, grilled bread rubbed with garlic and fresh tomato (“pa amb tomaquet”, in Catalán), and an omelette layered with potato and onion slices (“tortilla española”), this time with sliced zucchini as well. DEE-lish. Our first Spanish faux-pas of the trip, however, was committed by yours truly, when, having been ripped off several times during the day (they messed up our orders several times at lunch and tried to charge us for the extras, etc – the Spanish are particularly snooty towards tourists; probably why I love them so much), I expected the same treatment from our waiter at dinner, so when our regular sangría tasted suspiciously bubbly (they offered an €8 pitcher of regular red-wine sangria, and a €13 pitcher of sangria made with cava, or Spanish champagne), we were convinced he had given us the cava version to try to rip us off, so we sent Maria, the most advanced Spanish-speaker of the group (she is currently studying in Madrid) to complain to the waiter, who walked her back to our table and with quite the snarky look on his face, said “Querría enseñarte algo – en español, ‘cava’ significa ‘champagne’; champagne no es rojo. Comprendes?” Which translates to “I would like to teach you something – in Spanish, ‘cava’ means ‘champagne’; champagne is not red. Understand?” And sure enough, looking down into our pitcher, we turned about as red as the nice vino rojo. SO embarrassing. Sorry guys!!

After dinner, we all reconvened back in Plaça George Orwell, to wait for some of Kate’s “friends” to finish their drink at a nearby bar so they could join us at our next destination, Marsella. Well, these “friends” turned out to be none other than Miss Nina Moffitt, my best friend from PRESCHOOL and fellow Park-Sloper, and her best friend Sara Scott, Smith classmate of my best friend Kate O’Connor and ANOTHER Park-Sloper. Talk about a small freakin’ world… I knew Nina was studying in Barce but was having a hard time getting in touch with her with my shotty phone, and had NO IDEA that Sara would be in town, let alone on this side of the Atlantic, but it turns out the she is doing her junior year in – get ready – FLORENCE, ITALY! What the flip!?! The SMALLEST world. LOVE it.

So our big happy family migrated across La Rambla to Marsella, the favorite absinthe bar among the likes of Pablo Picasso and company, which didn’t open until 11:30 pm and by midnight was sardine-can packed. Being right on time, our monster group scored three out of the 12 or so tables in the place, and within 10 minutes were already constructing the perfect absinthe: they serve the full-deal, complete with sugar cube, mini-fork, and mini-water bottle with a hole poked in the top for a more even stream. You soak your sugar cube in the absinthe for a few seconds, then balance the fork across the rim of your glass, place the sugar cube on the fork, and light it on fire, letting it burn until it starts to melt; you then dunk the melty cube in the absinthe again and stir it like your life depends on it with the little fork, simultaneously squirting the water into the mixture until it turns cloudy. Et voila, a delicious, licorice-y, hallucinogenic treat. I must say, I think the whole hallucinogenic-properties rumor is false, but it DOES hit you pretty hard; after two or three, my friends managed to not notice that I wasn’t on the train with them as the doors were closing on our way to our next destination (some crazy dance club), and I managed to NOT freak out – uncharacteristic behavior on all parts. But it all worked out, I got on the next train, made it to the club, and have absolutely no recollection of the whole debacle. Hahah, ohhh man. But I DO remember that the club was crazy-fun, and SOO Barcelona, in the sense that it really didn’t pick up until about 2:30am and would have continued clear until morning if we hadn’t all been exhausted. I swear, I love these people more and more every day – they wake up at 11, go to work til 2, take a 2-hour nap/lunch break, go back to work, grab drinks and snacks at 10:30, drink til 3 and then dance til 6, and then do it all over again. Whoever routes the reincarnation highway must have been distracted when I came along – I’m pretty sure I was supposed to be Spanish.

We made like the Spaniards and slept in until noon the next day, and then made our way over to the Picasso museum. LOVE that place, almost as much as the chocolate store you pass on the way (Xocoa – best place ever. Meant to stock up before I left but alas, it was CLOSED; almost cried about it, but then realized that it’s just another excuse to come back to this awesome city). After the Picassos, I finally got a falafel from the fabled Buen Bocado, in Plaça George Orwell, and oh Jesus, was Kate right – that thing was like a fluffy cloud of heaven. The softest, moistest falafel I have ever eaten, dressed with crispy slivered cucumbers, tomatoes, onions and PICKLES, fresh lettuce, a generous squirt of spicy sauce on request (“picante, por favor”), and a handful of FRESH MINT – subtly elevates the whole thing into a whole new realm of deliciousness – all wrapped in a warm pita slathered with tangy hummus. OH. MY. GOD. I could have died right then, but then I wouldn’t have gotten to see the look of pure joy in the eyes of Sam, Jess and Tyler when we made it to our next destination: Mies Van Der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion.

What a BEAUTIFUL, serene place. Even my un-architectural self could really appreciate the clarity and simplicity of the design and the overall effect of utter tranquility. The archies promptly plopped down to sketch, while I took the opportunity to write some postcards and take some great photos. One woman actually approached me and gestured toward her camera for me to take a photo of her, and when I instinctually replied “Si, certo”, her eyes lit up and she asked excitedly “Sei italiana?” (you are Italian?), to which I obviously replied “Si!” She sighed with relief and we proceeded to make the whole exchange in Italian. SO cool.

After Mies we stopped off at home base to regroup and get dressed for dinner. We were on the hunt for paella, so we headed south towards the beach neighborhood of Barceloneta, popping into some cool little boutiques (records, clothing, jewelry) in the Barri Gòtic along the way (I snagged two fabulous scarves). We ended up at a semi-touristy place that nonetheless had DELICIOUS paella - we got one regular saffron one, and one "paella negra", or paella dressed with squid ink. Dark, rich and SO yummy. After sufficient seafood and sangria, we headed over to the Spanish equivalent of Florence's Shot Cafe, called Chupitos, with a list of shoots at least 200 strong, including "The Harry Potter," complete with flaming cinnamon that shoots up sparks, and some crazy green one who's name I forgot but clearly remember it entailing the inhalation of vaporized crème de menthe... oh my.

And just like that, fall break is over. I had to wake up at the ASS CRACK of dawn this morning to catch my plane, and after some minor travel-induced delirium, I am now back in my warm bed, the night before my 21st birthday, in Florence, Italy. This really is the life, isn't it? A presto...

Thursday, November 1, 2007

the 'dam.

What a weird week. My Amsterdam trip ended up being NOTHING like I imagined it - I mean, it's AMSTERDAM, I assumed I'd be out all night and asleep all day, window-shopping hookers in the red-light district, perhaps doing some things that would really damage any potential future that I would have had in politics, but alas, I spent most of my time either shopping, eating pancakes, going to museums, or hanging out in a dorm room. WHAT??

Ok, so I guess the whole saving-money-by-staying-with-friends plan kind of backfired upon learning that said friend, Katie Ryan from USC, would be in the middle of midterms the whole time that I was there. During the day it was totally fine, I had a ton of exploring I wanted to do and it was great getting to wander between the winding canals on my own and stumble upon some FANTASTIC vintage stores and boutiques, as well as check out some really great art, particularly at the Stedelijk Museum of contemporary art, where there was a super-thorough exhibit on Andy Warhol and particularly on the inner-working of The Factory, complete with photographs, audio recordings, and a screening room of ALL of the movies he ever made. However, I feel like I missed out on the whole part of the city that makes Amsterdam so controversial and such a tourist attraction - I mean, I never even SET FOOT in the red-light district, for God's sake! That's just WEIRD, no? I went to Amsterdam and: caught up on my sleep (??); did some laundry (???); ate lots of peanut butter, as dorm-style living absolutely necessitates it (????); and went shopping. I mean, I had a great time, but I definitely didn't feel like I was in the same place that all my friends said they went to when they described their visit to Amsterdam.

Now. Granted, a LOT of this was a result of the fact that when I stepped off the plane in the Schipol airport, my phone suddenly stopped working. This obviously made it VERY hard for me to coordinate with the 10 or so other people from the Syracuse program who I KNEW were in Amsterdam that very same week but who I really had no way to contact since our Italian phones for some reason had a particular vendetta against the Dutch. AND, I have conveniently left out the couple of times that Katie did manage to pull herself away from her work for a couple of hours to show me a fun, albeit low-key, time. One night as a quick break from homework we decided to go on a photo-taking journey of Amsterdam at night, and only made it about 3 blocks before some cute Dutch boys convinced us to meet up with their friends at a local bar, where they were all celebrating the end of their - get this - KINESIOLOGY exams. I mean, there was literally a bar in Amsterdam, that Katie and I went to, that was FULL of Dutch kinesiology students. What??? But it DID make for a completely spontaneous and fun good time.

Another night we went to meet up with some of Katie's friends, including an old acquaintance of mine from freshman year who was also studying with Katie through USC, Beth Liberty, who I had forgotten was really cool, and we had a pretty good time that night. It was kind of a bummer though, because I knew two of my good friends had arrived in town that night and were celebrating their birthday that night at a certain club, but no one from our group wanted to go with me to meet them there and without a phone, it seemed kind of shady to just show up to a random Dutch dance club with no way to figure out where they were, let alone whether or not they even ended up sticking with their original plan in the first place. Bummer.

But all in all, I WAS able to gather from my trip that Amsterdam is a really cool place, somewhere I would DEFINITELY want to go back, especially if I had some travel partners with me who were there for the same reasons I was, to soak up the art and the culture AND the nightlife.

But regardless, I am currently sitting in an internet cafe in Barcelona, and the second I stepped foot off the plane here I was bombarded with a familiar, welcoming feeling of "Hola, welcome back to the best place on Earth. We've missed you." I cannot express how happy I am to be here. Let the games begin.