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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

And That's How Rome Was Left in a Day

5 AM  shuttle to Fiumincio airport in Rome +
8:55 AM flight to Amsterdam +
12:40 PM flight to Chicago +
3 hour bus ride to Madison +
7:20 PM bus back to apartment =
14 hours of travel time and one woozy lady.

On the Amsterdam airplane, I got seated to two Wisconsinites, a retired school librarian from Two Rivers and a lady whose daughter also worked for Forest Products Lab, like I do. It's a small world after all.

Italian internet was indeed difficult and pricey to procure. Both hostels charged 2 euros for 30 minutes of internet, so that didn't allow for much blogging time. Italy was a blast, though, and it was a busy and exciting end to my study abroad trip in London. Keep checking back for updates on what it was like. In four days, I saw the Italian cities of Sorrento, the Isle of Capri, the Amalfi Coast, Ravello, and Rome!

I have just today to rest up and get life back in order, and then I go back to work tomorrow.  It will be fantastic to see Daniel again this weekend, too. This trip is one of the best things I've ever done, and I regret nothing. :)

For my last multimedia project:
Rosie Rex's London Photobook

And two teaser photos:

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The End of London

It's the final day of my official study abroad trip, and  I'm really depressed about leaving. My classmates are at that point where missing home is getting the better of them. While I've been missing people back home more and more, I've also become completely accustomed to this new life. I had absolutely no idea I'd get so attached to London after only three weeks. How do my friends who have studied abroad for three months or a year handle leaving? Having every day bring something new is so attractive.

The three weeks haven't gone fast or slowly, but not like normal life, either. More like a time warp? A discovery of a British parallel life that I've been meant to live all along? Studying abroad in England has been a strong desire for years, and's done. People keep saying I'll return someday, but financially, I know it will be a long time from now. I'm twenty-four and a pretty capable traveler, no house, no husband, no children, but no full-time job or big savings account, either. I just want to go and go and go and not stop.

So, I'm heading to Italy tomorrow on an Italian adventure that was on special at the travel agency when I booked my trip. I'll land in the Rome Fiumicino airport at 7:40 pm tomorrow, take a shuttle to the hostel, and then for three days, I'll see Pompeii, Sorrento, Amalfi, the Isle of Capri, and ride around southern Italy with 39 people, mostly Australians. Talking about this trip, only a day away, still sounds like an elaborate fantasy to my ears, but I'm going.

Not sure how much Italian internet access I'll get, but I'll post about it when I arrive home next week, on Tuesday or Wednesday. So dear reader, check back soon. And thank you immensely for reading about London. As class assignments go, this blog has been one of my favorite, most public things I've ever done. Cheers!

Multimedia Project

For my final multimedia project for this class, I created an Animoto video of my Sunday in Montmartre, Paris. Big thanks to my lovely roomie, Aubrey, for encouraging me to try out Animoto. It's a very easy program to use.

The music is Coquetry by McKenzie Stubbert, which is included with Animoto.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Hampton Court and Heading Towards the End...

Today is the day that I finally felt our group's usual energy fizzle out. I've been wondering when that was coming. With several of our group members ill, and one having to go to the hospital today (feel better, Cassie!), we're worn out. While I don't mind walking around all day, exhaustion is catching up with me. Lately I've been only getting six or less hours of sleep at night, and if I have no protein at breakfast, I have absolutely no energy for a full day of touring, photographing, and learning. With a sunburn, trying to wrap up classwork, trying to pack and plan for my Italy trip on Thursday, this beautiful trip is speeding toward its conclusion. I'm so sad about it. Just give me a quiet weekend to catch up, and I could continue this lifestyle for months and months.

Today's tour was for Hampton Court, which is where the infamous Henry VIII lived, as well as Queen Mary, William III, and several other kings and queens. I toured young King Henry's and William III's apartments as well as the Wilderness gardens. There were several other apartments and gardens, but I only had energy enough for those few things. The gardens were almost as lovely as Versailles's.

Hampton Court loans out these sweet tunics for you to wear around the grounds. I was the only one in my group to actually wear one longer than the photo op. Goes well with dresses!

Hyde Park and Tea Time

After coming in late from Paris the night before, it was great to have a day to simply enjoy. Hyde Park is beautiful! We visited the Princess Diana Memorial Playground (open to adults only before 10 am, then the children show up), strolled through the flower walk, went to the Diana, Princess of Wales Fountain, which is more like a lazy river for children and the public to enjoy, visited the Peter Pan statue in tribute to its author, J.M. Barrie, and finally ended up at Kensington Palace for high tea. Today I was the group photographer, so I took a shot of all of us at tea. It was delicious-four crustless sandwiches like salmon, cucumber, and ham, a sultana scone, chocolate cupcake, an apricot tart, English tea, and water with lemon.

Hyde Park reminded me a lot of my Grandma and Grandpa Schmidt, who kept two swans and owned a paddleboat for their small pond. Grandma would have loved Hyde Park, I am sure. I really missed her today. Maybe my grandpa still has the paddleboat somewhere in the shed or the gazebo.


Montmartre and Amelie's Cafe: the Paris Weekend (3)

On Sunday, I finally went to a section of Paris that I've always dreamed about going to, even more so than the Palace of Versailles, and that's Montmartre, where the film Amelie was set. In the movie, Amelie waits tables at Cafe des Deux Moulins (Two Windmills), and it's a must-see for fans of the movie. My friend Tiffanie and I really enjoyed our Sunday lunch there. The cafe looks very similar to how it looked in the film, except that there's no tobacco (tabac) counter and the restaurant is smaller. Yet the cafe embraces its Amelie fame, with posters, menus, pictures, and placemats bearing Audrey Tatou's face. It's not overwhelming, though. The other tables seemed to be full of tourists taking pictures, too, but it'd be a nice place for a regular to have lunch or a drink.
Outside the cafe

Close-up of the portrait they have of her.
You get a beautiful placemat! I bought a clean one for a souvenir.

The food was simple and good. I had some baked chicken, chips, mixed greens, an Orangina, and the namesake creme brulee. My friend had the breakfast brunch with eggs, jacket potato, amazing sausage, bacon, and a creme brulee as well. The little French diner played everything from the White Stripes's "Seven Nation Army" to Aretha Franklin's "Respect." I confess that I hoped it'd be Yann Tiersen instead.

The rest of the day, we walked around Montmartre, browsing the shops and sitting outside when we could. We found used bookstores, clothing stores, a store that sold nothing but angel merchandise, a carousel, nice gift shops, fruit stands, and bakeries. I bought a bin of red currants and dipped them into my lemon tart. Fantastic. If you know anything about Montmartre, you know that I'm skipping over the porn shops and signs advertising erotic dancers. But hey, we were there on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Everything looks more innocent in the sunlight.

Keeping in part with our nap in front of the Eiffel Tower the previous day, Tiffanie and I relaxed on some park benches and dozed on the gorgeous Sunday afternoon. It was a relaxing day, and it was grand. I know I should have gone to the cathedral, the museums, and other big landmarks, but really, I was just happy eating a citron tart in the sun and finding a cafe with significance to me. I love landmarks, but I've been feeling overwhelmed lately.

We returned back to London on the Eurostar at 10:43, and that was that.

My favorite foods from this weekend:
Tarts (apple, lemon, pear, strawberry)
Pan aux raisin
Berry panna cotta
Italian pasta with tomatoes, chilis, and basil
Limoncello ice cream
Six escargot
Three crepes (Nutella and red currant jam, a chantilly with Nutella, banana, and whipped cream, and sugar)
Tuna and hard-boiled egg sandwich

French words I kept running into:
Chantilly-whipped cream
Fromage-cheese (I said it while taking photos)

Versailles and the Eiffel Tower at Midnight: the Paris Weekend (2)

Saturday in Paris brought Versailles, which was two metro rides and a 25 minute RER train ride away from my hotel. Since seeing Sofia Coppola's lush renedition of Marie Antoinette's life in Marie Antoinette, I've always wanted to see the palace. After we got off the RER, our group just followed all the tourists from the train station to the golden gates.

And tourists there were. Unsurprisingly, Versailles is crowded with tourists on a summer morning on Saturday. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't go, though. You should just learn to politely push.
Your first view upon Versailles.

These tourists I mentioned. We bought tickets ahead of time, but had to wait in an enormous line.

The golden gates.

The Hall of Mirrors. Very famous and very, very beautiful.

The Queen's bedchambers. This was by far the most popular room, but the detail was exquisite. So much gold.

For some reason, my friend and I weren't able to buy a 1-day passport, so we weren't able to personally tour the famous gardens. However, we could view them from the palace windows.

Exploring palaces is my thing, even if they are totally unrealistic living spaces. There were several paintings at Versailles that measure 600 square feet. My apartment, with two people in it, is about 515 square feet. I could live in a painting.

 After touring the palace, the 15 euros pretty well worth it, Tiffanie and I picnicked outside. We sat atop a small stone pillar, eating ham baguettes, pink lemonade, and fruit tarts. Despite the bees (rampant in Paris), it was a perfect Saturday afternoon.

After a great dinner at a little Italian restaurant near our hotel, I convinced some friends to go visit the Eiffel Tower after dark. Getting off at the Trocadero metro stop gave us such an excellent view of the tower at 11:30 pm. It was the most romantic sight I've ever seen. Pictures do no justice; one day you just must go and see for yourself. Then, get in line right before the tower closes at midnight, pay your 8 euros (6,60 if you're under 25), go to the second floor (or the top if it's still open), and just watch the two million Parisians finish their days, as couples around you over-enthusiastically kiss and get proposed to. There is absolutely nothing else I'd rather be doing on a Saturday night. It did make me miss Daniel a lot, though. Yeah.

Then, ride the carousel with your friends and eat crepes and cotton candy at 12:30 am, and you'll have just had the most beautiful day of your life. I'm over-romanticizing, but I couldn't care less. Paris is magical.

Monday, August 1, 2011

I Ate Escargot, and I Liked It: the Paris Weekend (1)

Four little words, one beautiful phrase: A weekend in Paris.

All I can say is, I'm thankful I've been to Paris before, in November 2008, because this weekend was a crazy whirlwind of trains, metro stations, lines, food, and maps. In short, it's a good thing I've been to Paris already. There was so much I saw, but still, I didn't see everything. Yeah, traveling is like that.

Our itinerary for Friday was to take the 5:25 AM Eurostar to Paris to see the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, a city tour of Paris on a hop-on, hop-off bus (aka "enormous tourist bus"), a boat cruise on the Seine, seeing Notre Dame, and dinner. We had two short hours for the Louvre, took a group photo in front of the tower, stayed on the bus for an hour or so, and had peach champagne on the Seine ride. Touring Notre Dame didn't happen due to our dinner reservation. The line was tremendous, anyway.

My absolute favorite part of the whirlwind Friday was our dinner. It was in a interesting little area of Paris, near a bunch of comic shops and bakeries selling enormous pieces of meringue, and the experience was absolutely fantastic. The meal had already been paid for from the tuition bill, so we had more options on what to order. I had escargot, chicken in wine sauce, roasted potatoes, broccoli, baguettes, apple tart, and the tastiest champagne I've ever had. I don't even like champagne, but the rosé changed my mind. Escargot was better than the first time I tried it. Also, I've recently learned to appreciate mussels, and the two taste similar. Garlic butter always helps.

What made this meal so interesting were the guitarist and accordion players who came around, waggled their eyebrows at you, made sounds, snuck up on you, and played everything from French music to La Bamba. They were a combination of French charm and creeptastic.  However, they turned the atmosphere of the cozy restaurant turned into a party, with music, singing, clapping, dancing and the rest of the restaurants' patrons smiling and enjoying themselves. As the wine flowed, our group of students began to enjoy themselves a little too much...but everyone made it to our hotel, the Campanille near the Place de la Bastille, safely. A nice hotel, by the way. 95 euros a night for two twin beds, nice bathroom, and it was a typical cute European room, everything a little smaller. My roommate Angela was sick with a cold, so she appreciated the tea maker. I just really liked having a non-lumpy bed.

Saturday-Monday posts coming right up.