Archive for March, 2008

Now it’s Istanbul, not Constantinople

By 4:00 tonight, I’ll be on a plane to Istanbul. Istanbul! (Am I packed? Nope. Flatmate Kathleen and I just had a discussion about how this semester has utterly changed our perspectives on travel, namely re: our respective tendencies to overprepare. Never before would we be this lax about it. Throw some clothes and a toothbrush in a suitcase, done. It’s kind of nice, really.)

This means, of course, that we’ll have to take a break in the ongoing Spring Break Chronicles. I’m sensing a pattern here: whoops, have to go on break, I’ll talk about London when that’s done. Whoops, have to go to Istanbul, I’ll finish telling you about Italy when I’m back. But when do I post about Istanbul? When will I have the time to get caught up?

Apparently, I’m the world’s worst blogger. Awesome.

Hee. But no, I’m beyond excited for this weekend (Istanbul!), and I’ve determined not to let the scary amount of classwork I have upcoming distract me from having an awesome time. I’ll take far too many pictures and buy too many souvenirs and eat too much food and it’ll be perfect. And I totally have the They Might Be Giants song stuck in my head. I think I need to go listen to some Dvorak while I pack or something. Away! See y’all Sunday.

Istanbul! (Not Constantinople.)

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Roman Holiday (Part Three)

Saturday, 8 Mar: There’s No Place Like Rome

Today, apparently, is our Vatican day. We spend the morning in the Vatican Museum, which…well, it goes on pretty much forever. There’s just so much stuff in there – so much stuff – that it’d be impossible to actually study it all, to give it the attention it deserves, and the museum is a constant mass of people. We pick a lovely day to wait outside in the line (sunny, blue skies, finally), and get there early enough to gain entrance pretty quickly. Once inside, I’m totally fine through the Egyptian and Greek and Etruscan collections, but by the time we reach the endless galleries of Christian art, the endless rooms with magnificent carvings and painted ceilings, I’m hungry and I have to go to the bathroom and my body is rebelling against the Museum Walk – you know, the terrible slow shuffling motion that, after a few hours, becomes unbearable. We keep turning corners and seeing more and more seemingly infinite series of galleries, and even though I pride myself on having a greater museum attention span than most, by this point my brain has totally shut off. Even worse, the crowds inside the museum are making it impossible to just rush through to the Sistine Chapel (the anticipation of which is the only thing keeping me sane), forcing us to move at an infuriatingly bovine pace. Let’s go, I want to shout at the tourists, forgetting, of course, that I’m one too.

Finally, just before the Sistine Chapel, we find bathrooms (sweet relief), and book it through the last few rooms to the grand prize awaiting us at the end of the line. The Chapel, of course, is jam-packed with people, but after a couple of minutes we find spots on the long bench at either side of the room. Sitting down, I’m much more able to appreciate the ceiling – which is, of course, incredible, and thanks to its most recent restoration in 2000 (or thereabouts), is exactly as you would hope it to be. The ceiling is impressive purely by its scale, of course, and by association with Michelangelo, but the more I look at it, the more details I start to notice, the more I start to appreciate it. Michelangelo’s sense of humor comes through in the most subtle touches – the expression of a face here, the angle of an arm there – and the overall composition and rendering is textbook Renaissance. Religious art has never been my favorite field, aesthetically speaking, but the Sistine Chapel is really incredible.

Continue reading ‘Roman Holiday (Part Three)’

Roman Holiday (Part Two)

Friday, 7 Mar: Romeward Bound (which I really should’ve used for the title of the last entry, but oh well)

Friday dawns grey and…wet. Again. Some more. Always. Great. But we have Big Plans, and I for one certainly don’t plan on letting a little rain stop me – I mean, I usually live eight months out of the year in Syracuse, New York, which is the Unfortunate Weather Capital of the World, so what’s the big? After a croissant and cappuccino from the café down the road (here’s a hint: when traveling, find a hostel that gives you breakfast vouchers) (and here’s another one: Italy makes great cappuccino), we set out to buy a three-day pass for the Metro and head for the Pantheon.

Public transportation in Rome serves as an interesting comparison to other cities’, especially after living in London for two months. The subway system has two lines (London has at least a million) that create a giant X under the city, at the center of which is Termini station. The problem with this? The X, while it’s an attractive enough shape, leaves huge swaths of the city out of convenient reach of the Metro. The Tube in London may seem a mess of lines and stations and buskers, but by golly it gets you where you need to go. I’m sure the buses in Rome supplement the service provided by the Metro, but it’s just…interesting, to see a completely different approach to mass transit. The Metro stations tend to be dimmer and generally sketchier than in London, the trains more…I don’t know, sketchy. It gets the job done, I suppose, but it certainly makes me appreciate (and I’m almost homesick for, in an odd way) the London Underground.

Whoo, tangent. Anyway: the layout of the Metro means we have to get off at some stop that’s really nowhere near the Pantheon. I like a walk as much as the next person, though, and even though it’s cold and wet, we splash our way merrily through the streets of Rome. No, it’s fine. My fingers are supposed to be purple like this. No, really.

Continue reading ‘Roman Holiday (Part Two)’

Roman Holiday (Part One)

So I’ve been back in London for a few days now, and it’s taken me at least that long just to wrap my head around the past week-and-a-bit (and to get over the cold I picked up on Thursday; “thanks,” woman sitting behind me on the plane back from Venice). But now, spring break is winding down – classes start up again tomorrow, and as long as I can be productive in studio today, I’m actually pretty ready to get back to work. It’s been a good break.

Speaking of which: Italy. Oh man, you guys. It was so awesome. If you know me at all, you’ll know I’m a huge classics nerd (taking Latin for four years will do that to a person) – Roman history is probably my favorite, and certainly the era about which I know the most, so you can imagine how much fun I had, especially in Rome. We were champions, packing our days tighter than I would have thought possible, but that means that the resultant retelling is going to take a while. And involve reeeally long entries. I think we’ll do this in installments, again, because it’s not November yet and I’m sure you have better things to do than read my novel-length ramblings. Heeere we go.

[Also: pictures are coming soon. “But you said that last ti…” I KNOW JEEZ BE PATIENT. They’ll be here. Someday. Promise.]

Continue reading ‘Roman Holiday (Part One)’

See, here’s the thing

It seems that Weeks Five and Six are going to have to wait a while (it’s okay, they weren’t particularly exciting weeks; mainly they involved a lot of schoolwork), because tonight, after I get home from class at around 8:30, I am going straight to bed until around 2:00 tomorrow morning, and the reason I have to get up at such an ungodly hour is because I am going to Italy. On a…7:30 a.m. flight. Oy. Back-timing it from there, we want to be at the airport around 5:30, which means we have to catch the Gatwick Express from the Victoria station at 4:30, which means we have to get to Victoria (by bus because the Tube isn’t open that early) by around 4:00, which means we need to take a bus from Hyde Park Corner at…oh, some point before then, which means we’ll be out the door of our flat and walking down Knightsbridge with our stuff at around 3:30. These are all a.m. times, remember. It’s…going to be a rough day.

Continue reading ‘See, here’s the thing’