Venice Carnevale!

Sorry for the delay on this entry…I just finished whittling down the 680 or so photos that I took in Venice to a slightly more manageable 480.  What can I say? Venice during Carnevale is a very visual place! …I’ve never seen so many expensive cameras in such a small space in my entire life!

img_83431

I spent a lot of time in Venice just wandering around a soaking in the atmosphere of beautiful, sunny, celebrating Venice. I spent an entire afternoon wandering around in Piazza San Marco photographing people in their incredible over the top costumes.

 

img_8700

img_8742

img_8851

San Marco was set up to look like a fake garden  through which performers strode on stilts dressed and giraffes, playing with the crowd. Other people were dressed as topiaries and would leap out at unsuspecting people then pick up their pot and run away.

img_8674

img_8682

As the sun began to set, an acrobat attached to giant airballoon rose above the square, tumbling and bobbing through the air.

img_8916

They had performances each night (one night we saw a drag queen dressed as Elizabeth I strut the stage to the strains of “God Save the Queen”) ranging from musical bands to strange modernist mini-plays using ET like little men in suits (who then ran around hugging people after their performance). We ran skipping and bouncing out to catch the ferry home, like Cinderellas at midnight.

img_8556

Ciao Venezia, Ciao Ciao!

img_8977

Barcelona

So as most of you know, last week Dad came to visit me in Florence, which was a lot of fun! Then on the weekend, we took off to Barcelona for a fun week full of crazy architecture and Spanish food! Really, the food and the architecture were OUT OF THIS WORLD. Hot chocolate con churros is a typical Spanish treat (need I say more?), tapas are also a specialty (we had deepfried squid rings, potatos bravas-spicy potatoes-, sausage and more!) along with seafood.  Dad and I practically *ate* our way across Barcelona!

As for the architecture, Gaudi is my favorite architect. He has such a sense for the fun and absurd but still manages to make everything work in a practical fashion!

img_6919

Casa Batllo

img_6977

img_6979img_7028 Sangrada Familia

img_7007

img_7228

img_7292

img_7443

Roof of Casa Mila

img_7463 Dad and I on top of Casa Pedera/Mila

Barcelona is a city that has a lot of spirit, fun, and full of music even with the rain. I’d love to come back sometime when it is warmer!

Innsbruck

A lovely little Austrian town famous for its skiing! A beautiful place that was also a major cultural center involving the Hapsburgs. I spent the weekend exploring the city and the Castle Ambras (which used to belong to Archduke Ferdinand II and houses his collection of weapons and oddities).img_6520

On my way out of town up to the Castle!

img_6712

One of the 20 statues of Maxmillian I funeral monument in the Cross Church.

img_6486

img_6490

img_6784our Traditional Tyrolese Dancers. They did circle-dancing, leaping and yodelling ! And were having a great time and we did too! Pancake soup and wienersnitzel!

Belated Christmas Tour

Yes, I know….its no longer anywhere near Christmas…or New Years….What can I say, things have been busy! :)

But now you will finally hear how Christmas tour went.  Thanks for being patient.

I’d have to say that my favorite place was probably Sweden. I wasn’t expecting to like it best but Stockholm is a beautiful city made mostly of water and green spaces (anyone who knows me, knows I love that). While in Stockholm  we went to Skansen, which is like the Swedish version of Williamsburg, where we ran from house to house in order to stand by the fireplace and learned about typical Swedish food and house construction and the history behind that families that had formerly lived in each building. They also had an attached zoo/farm so we got to see wolves, seals, horses and geese (which bit one of my friends on the knee…geese are just universally MEAN). We also went on a Ghost Walk where a gentleman lead us on a tour of one of the many islands that make up Stockholm (that’s another thing- all the cities we visited were made up of islands!) and told us creepy historical stories about thieves, ghosts, murders and more. He had  us leaping and screaming!

img_60891img_6062

We celebrated Christmas in Copenhagen Denmark-the highlight of which was going to the absolutely charming Tivoli Amusement Park (which is over 100 years old!) where we wandered twinkling roads with trees hung with heart shaped lights beside us, eating candy canes and watching the roller coasters rocket by. They go all out for the decorating in that park! A beautiful Christmas memory.

img_6002

img_6005

St. Petersburg was bitterly cold and since our hotel was a 20  minute bus ride from the old town things were rather difficult, but we still managed to have a good time. The Russians take Christmas and New Year’s SERIOUSLY. There were decorated trees and Christmas carols (mostly in English) everywhere.  The most incredible things we saw were the Hermitage Museum and the Church of Saviour on the Blood. We went to the Winter Palace for 3 hours and got a whirl wind tour that included Rembrant, Reuben, Picasso, Matisse, Renoir, Cezanne, Velasquez, two da Vincis and three Van Goghs I had never seen before (!!!). And there are SEVEN MORE BUILDINGS. I nearly had a hernia imagining how much wealth the Russian royalty must have amassed in order to collect all of that art! The Church of Saviour on the Blood was built on the site where Tsar Alexander II was murdered (thus the on the Blood thing…the Russians are somewhat blase about the deaths of their tsars since patricide was a common way to the throne). The Church looks like something out of a fairytale. Green, blue and gold domes with arched windows on the outside. Inside every inch is covered in gorgeous, colorful 19th century mosaics. We weren’t allowed to take pictures, but dear lord-I just stood there and stared.

img_6290img_6336

New Year’s Eve was fun, dancing, liberal vodka and multiple entertainment shows from juggling, Las Vegas girls, hula hoop. Along with Christmas the Russians also take partying seriously and there were fireworks ALL DAY LONG. And the next day too.

This is what I saw on New Year’s Day on the river Neva.

img_6357

Croatia and Bosnia

img_5351

The shrine on Apparition Hill in Medjugorje in Bosnia where the Virgin Mary was said to have appeared to 6 children.

img_5377

A mosque in Mostar. Mostar was invaded by the Turks in the 15th century so even though it is in Bosnia there are a lot of muslims in the community and lots of mosques in the city. It lends a very distinctive flavor to the city.

img_5378

The famous Old Bridge of Mostar-a replica of the bridge built by the Turks in the 15th century which was destroyed during the war in the 1990s. There are all sorts of legends about why it was built in this shape-some say that it is because when you look at it plus the reflection in the water it makes a circle for infinity, others that it was meant to look like the wings of a bird, others say that the Emperor wanted a bridge shaped like his mistress’s eyebrow, but really it is arched like that in order to distribute the weight equally.

img_5423

Dubrovnik in Croatia. A beautiful city all decked out for Christmas, made of white and cream stones.

img_5448

Beautiful view off of the walls of the city at a nearby fortress.

img_5452

n1016070044_30038704_2254

img_55371

Adventures in London

Frankly, we were having adventures before we even managed to make it to London. We caught a train to the Pisa airport Wednesday afternoon, expecting to catch our flight about 4:30, but Pisa was socked in with heavy fog. About an hour after our plane was supposed to take off (during which we had no news and they don’t have information boards in Pisa) they canceled the flight.  In fact, they canceled just about every flight in the airport, so the whole place was just CHAOS. Eventually we got piled on a bus and driven over two hours to Genoa where we caught our flight to London, arriving at about 1 am. We caught the Gatwick express to the Victoria Tube Station and caught a Black Cab (the cabs in London don’t have boots (trunks), so you have lots of leg room and put your luggage where ever).

The next day we moved out at about 10. Highlights? The National Portrait Gallery where I got to see the original portrait of Richard III, a wooden copy of which has been somewhere in my house for all of my life. The British Museum is like the London version of the Met and shows off the British’s unparalleled skills at stealing artifacts from other countries during the Imperial Era. I got to see the Rosetta Stone which was highly exciting along with an enormous Egyptian collection…What was also neat was the room full of things taken from the Parthenon-a frieze from there wrapped around the entire room!

 

That night Kristina and I went to go see Wicked at the Victoria Apollo, which was INCREDIBLE. We bought reduced tickets that morning that had great seats. A fabulous evening.

img_5633My very excited roommate Kristina

Friday we did the major site seeing-Horse Guards, Buckingham Palace, Parliament, Big Ben, King’s Cross (Platform 9 and 3/4!),  several random parks, the London Tower, the Tower Bridge and Westminster Abbey. We spent a lot of time wandering around heading in the general direction of sights and getting surprised when we ran into them. The British Parliament is one of the prettiest government buildings I have ever seen and it is absolutely MASSIVE. It turns out that the London Tour is not in fact a tower, but is really a castle-like looking thing.  We tubed up to King’s Cross Station just so that we could go to Platform 9 and 3/4’s to take a picture of us pushing the cart through the platform wall. :) Yes I know, we’re silly.

img_5785

Westminister Abbey was absolutely STUNNING. We spent at least two hours in their wandering around listening to the audio guide,-there is so much to see! The amazing fan style Gothic ceiling, the many, many chapels, the choir loft, Poet’s corner….Queen Elizabeth I is buried there and I have to admit that I definitely did a little dance of glee upon seeing her tomb and monument-she is my favorite British monarch. I also got the see the graves of Bloody Mary and Mary of the Scots among others. Practically everyone is buried in Westminster Abbey from Tennyson and Blake to Newton and Handel. A place of amazing history that still manages to be relevant even though it is over 800 years old. There are monuments all over the church to the brave British men who fought in the World Wars as well as those who died in India and France, those who fell to Hitler, to Napoleon,  and more.

img_5763

We had a rather interesting experience at the changing of the guard. People were crammed up against the gates of Buckingham Palace and on the island in the traffic that is Queen Victoria’s monument. Kristina managed to find a spot at the gate, but Megan and I were too short so we went over to the island to see if the view was better. As time went on, first columns of soldiers in furry hats playing instruments went by and then later, men on horses swords unsheathed. Megan and I peered through the golden gates, “Are they setting up *music stands*?” Yes, they were. We stood there as the British guard starting playing songs from West Side Story-*badly*. We both agreed that this HAD to end, but how to get away? We were trapped on an island around which the roads were blocked off so the guards could come by and the police weren’t letting anyone pass now and Kristina was on the other side. We determined after some scouting that sneaking wouldn’t work…the British police were too vigilant and far too into obeying traffic rules (unlike the carabinieri in Italia!)…eventually we found a spot where we could cross, found Kristina and the three of us ran from that place before any more pomp and circumstance could trap us!

img_5685img_5691

Other notes: Red Telephone booths are everywhere and adorable. Charing Cross Road has been renamed Book Shop Lane by me and I love it. Painted before every crosswalk is “Look Left” or “Look Right” so that we American tourists don’t get run over.

img_5744

img_5712

Overall, had a lovely time!

PS, someday I will figure out how to make vertical pictures vertical rather than horizontal…gahhh

Running through Rome

Our weekend in Rome was beautiful, but freezing. We hit all of the highlights moving at a dead sprint-the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Roman Forum, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps and more. While I had seen quite a few of these places, it was neat to see them again and in a different light. I got to go up to the second level of the Colosseum which I had not been up to before-there was a little sculpture display on that level as well.  We went into the Roman Forum, (last time Mom and I just walked by) which was awesome because it really helped me picture how ancient Rome might have looked. SPQR was emblazoned on everything. It is an acronym for a phrase that translates as “the Senate and the People are Rome.”

Worthy of note: San Crispino Gelateria by the Trevi Fountain-the ginger cinnamon gelato with the chocolate was mind blowing. :)

img_5019img_5042img_5090img_5190

What I was really thrilled about was the three hours we got to spend in the Vatican Museum…As most of you know, I love museums so I ran around filled with glee through all of the treasures of the Vatican.

On Sunday I went wandering with myself and ended up sitting in Santa Maria Maggiore during mass, drawing. The priests who were helping in the celebration had amazing voices! And while poking around through the church I nearly walked into the priestly prep room where I saw a deacon pulling out vestments in a room full of smoky incense before I backed out hurriedly.

img_5338This is the Basilica of Santa Maria Angeli -a church with a very interesting facade and a surprisingly modern collection of art in Piazza della Repubblica.

Also of note the Grand Cafe by the Termini Train Station has 32 flavors of hot chocolate. The extra fondente hot chocolate I had was incredible!

img_5300 Our little group on the top of Castle St. Angelus, built by the Emperor Hadrian. It had the most amazing views of Rome!

All in all a great time and I threw a coin into the Trevi Fountain so I know I will return.

hey, it worked last time, didn’t it? :)