Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Day Trips

Day Trips in Italy are the best way to get around. From Bologna, you can catch a train to virtually anywhere. My longest ride for a day trip was Milan ( 4 hours away) and we spent ten hours in the city, exploring the town. Since september, I have gone to Milan, Padua, Venice, Ferrara and Parma, to name a few.

I want to take minute and reject my chronological order of travel posts and Instead post about Parma.

Only an hour away from Bologna, it's a gorgeous small city, well known for it's theatre and heavily for it's food, especially it's proscuito. What made me simply adore it ( and would make me live there when/if I ever live in Italy again) is how unique the city is.
Venice may be the city on water, but Parma is the city on bicyles. Literally more than 85% of the citys inhabitants get around by bicycle. The roads are literally cordwded with bikes passing each other, kids racing and couples who rented bikes. Because it's a bike city, it's amazingly clean and though it has other transport utilities such as bus and car, from our 8 hours there, I wouldn't see the reason for anything other than a bike. As we were walking into the city we spotted a bike rental shop, that only charged .70c per hour. At the end of the day ( we had rented the bikes at 11 and returned them at 4) we only paid 3.50 Euros for the bikes the whole day.
We spent our time biking around the aptly named John. F. Kennedy park, and took photos while on the bike. Then around a town that can boast to be more bike conscious and environmentally friendly than even Vancouver. The heaviest traffic here was the bikes, not the cars.
We visited the church, found eclectic cheese shops, and spent a wonderful day together.


I will always remember Padova fondly, perhaps because it's one of the first places I went alone. I was content to read by the fountain, to spend 40E on an amazing purse from Carpisa, to have Gelato and wander the markets in the mild fog by myself. I fell in love with Padova and it's a shame I never had the chance to return. There's a memory of being in the sun while walking through the market, purchasing a Romance novel for one Euro, simply because I found it hilarious. ( I've yet to read it, 3 years later). I don't remember the book I was reading on the fountain steps, the bag is now tattered and ripping, but I still remember the feeling of that city. 

If I have the chance, I will take a full day, a full novel to describe the mystery and wonder of Padua. How it was a day that I needed, a day filled with being completely and utterly content to wander, to get lost, and to be completely in the moment. Never thinking, do I fit in here? Do I need to be here? Never t all questioning the existential need to be in one place instead of another. Because at that time, and on that day, Padua was exactly what I needed. 

I will describe Venice and Ferrara, and Ravenna soon. Then I will finally chronicle my amazing week in Roma ( and day in Napoli) and perhaps start to get into the description of why Italy is so revered and beloved by everyone who sets foot there. Though, not some Italians of course. ( O quasi tutti) 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Very Versailles

Japanese Art Invades the Castle.

In paris, the girl I stayed with ( a friend of a friend) had to surprise her best friend with a birthday party. So as a distraction while the others could set up the party, she took us to Versailles.
Every year Versailles hosts a modern artist and his works in the castle.
This year's exhibition ( which I was fortunate enough to see for free) was featuring Japanese artist Takashi Muramaki.

He says himself: "{about Europe} “everything is transmitted to us {the japanese} as a fantastic tale coming from a very distant kingdom.”

Though at times the neon colored japanese statues of anime like characters seemed very out of place in the gorgeous castle that holds history and ancient relics of the French Royals, the over all effect was astounding. I cherish the opportunity that allowed me to see the Japanese art work and Versailles, melded together with commentary on history and consumerism ( a certain sculpture of a cola bottle was made intirely of colored diamonds).

Take a look for yourself and decide how you feel about the Japanese art in Versailles.

Vincent and Veronyka

Arguably the most astounding thing in Paris is the museums. Everyone has heard of the Louvre- even before it's infamous use as the setting for Dan Brown's DaVinci Code. It is home to thousands of pieces, which would take a startling 9 weeks to properly see everything.

A huge advantage of living in Italy is the student visa that allowed me ( and any EU students) to get into the museums for free.
However, not surprisingly The Louvre was not my favorite museum. The small museum a few streets down is filled with statues, Monet, Van Gogh, Gerome and it's startling collection persuaded me to revisit the museum 3 times while in Paris. ( It was free after all)

Here are a few of my favorite pieces. After seeing his paintings, Van Gogh instantly became my favorite artist. So now you know if I ever happen to quiz you.

I just adore the story behind this photo: The sculptor took a vow of celibacy yet he fell in love with the statue as he created her, knowing he had created something perfect. He prayed that he could have someone as perfect as his statue- this is the exact moment Cupid brought her to life in response. His intentions and love were so pure!
Jean Leone Gerome

Two fantastic works by Van Gogh- in the second you can see the sadness and the pain behind his eyes in his self portrait.

This painting is my favorite. I cannot look away from it and it just captured me for what seemed like hours. One that is not as well known as his other works, yet a gorgeous recreation of a Cafe in Monmottre by Vincent Van Gogh.

Coming soon: Very Versailles: Japanese art invades the castle.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Paris, Je T'aime.

This is a long delayed post. I couldn't get over the hang ups of how to describe the city of love. The city that is always described, that you feel like you know even before you step onto it's streets and yet you are blown away because you feel everything that has been told to you over the years.
You walk through the streets, spotting the Metropolitan signs, the bakeries, the french people sitting outside, with coffee and cigarette in hand, speaking a mile a minute and you forget everything else. Paris seems unique in the world that's becoming a copy of a copy of a copy. Everywhere you go you can find the same things, you see a photo of Cambodia and you swear it's actually Thailand, that you've been there.

Paris lives up to everything. Then blows it away. You walk down the streets carrying a Baguette, trying to remember your french, wanting to feel submerged in the city rather than another tourist brought on my the mystique and magic feelings of Paris.

It's perfection, expensive, changing, immortal, ancient, modern and you fall in love instantly. You can't believe you are there. You're inside the Louvre, looking at the most beautiful statues when it starts snowing outside. It fills you with love, hope, promise.
You wind down the streets of Momontre, wanting to be swallowed whole by the city, planning the next time you'll come. Knowing you'd love to be here for a honey moon, as unoriginal it is, the city is drawing you in, entrapping you with it's illustriously seductive grasp.
Paris has hold of your heart. It's only been one day.

It snows when we're in the Louvre. It's more special, more amazing. SNOW IN PARIS! We yell, snapping a thousand photos. Wanting to be part of the city, but taking in every moment with our cameras, the tourists like the city has seen before us. We revel at the shirtless flame throwing man near Notre Dame, as we bundle up in scarves and gloves, freezing in the barely there snow.
We feel illuminated by the culture, saying outlandish things.
"If i were to get married in a church, it would be this (Notre Dame) one because of that window"

You're infatuated by the city already, the allure of the past, the promise of the future. Looking forward to Sacre Coure, Paris souvenirs, Musse D'Orsay, the shopping, macarrons and Arch of Triumph.
You walk past Champs D'Elises and travel through the christmas market stalls, getting hot cider, over priced crepe, buying french tea and imagining the perfection of the city year round. Missing it while you stand on it's streets adorned with the most beautiful balconies, that define the city and it's over powering lure.

You opt out of going to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Telling yourself you'll do that when you come back with loved ones. What's the fun of standing at the tower alone, asking tourists to take photos of you? When you wish you could pretend you're not a tourist. You don't want to acknowledge the other ones. You want to get lost in the city, throw away your map, have perfect french over night and get swallowed by the city. Who would miss you?

Vincent and Veronyka: A trip into the Museums of Paris.
Very Versailles: Japanese art invades the castle.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Perfect Padua

Padua was just what I needed. Though before I dive into describing the wonder that is the city of Padua, I must describe what I was needing.

The novelty of Italy had worn off. ( SIN, I know) and I was having troubles related to living situation, laws I didn't agree with, exams and (of course) the exam system. I was missing Vancouver and Victoria and Bangkok all at the same time. My mind would flash me to Siam Paragon, one of my favorite malls in Bangkok and I would hunger for a Starbucks from the UBC SUB basement, or imagine eating Cupcakes down Robson street in Vancouver.
Then I told myself that next year I will inevitably back in Canada and will be missing, regretting and wanting Italy. I decided a day trip to Venice would be the best way to get rid of the blues.
Who needs a man when you have a country?

However when I informed my friend about my blues, they immediately said we should go together. For weeks we've had the plan to go to Venice together. Finding that Padua ( the illustrious setting for Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew) was only an hour and a half away, I packed my bags, settled into bed at 1am and wondered how I would be able to sleep, let alone get up for 7 with all this excitement surging through me. I had decided a mere 20 minutes before.

I contemplated riding the train the whole way. An extra half hour and I could just get off at Venice. Since the conductor had already seen my ticket ( and tickets are rarely checked at that) and it would only be 3E extra. However, I opted to go to Padua, as I had planned, as I had purchased. Since I'm going to go to Venice in two weeks for CARNEVALE.


Padua is picturesque and idyllic. It's the epitome of an Italian city. It feels vibrant, with history and modern lifestyle surging through the winding streets. Tall buildings soar overheard, a young architects dream as street musicians play an accordion and clarinet of music that reminds one of the Romance of Italy ( as seen in old films).

Padua seems to capture the old, new, enchanted and romantic in a single way. A tiny city that still has the main shopping centers, miniscule streets that have been there for ages, marked with time and modernly artistic graffiti.


Fountain in the middle of a circular park, lined with a moat like river and statues.
Church of San Antonio
Graffiti man spotted all over the city.
Market stall of cheese.
River around the city.


In less than 2 hours, It was already my favorite city. I'm not sure if there's one reason for this, or just that it was exactly what I needed. It wasn't anything I hadn't seen before. Though after a while, the cities bleed into one and you can find candles that were sold as authentic Thai souvenirs in Bangkok in the Christmas market in Bologna or a free trade shop in Vancouver.

However, Padua was blissfull. Maybe it was the way the sun shone down or the way that I was completely exploring, adult and independent and yet child like at the same time. Running free in a place I had never seen before, a new culture, a new experience all for me.

The city is full of contrasts, with rich stores and giant markets with dozens of stalls selling clothes or fresh fruits. Perhaps it was the fact that Padua was so small it wasn't even mentioned in my guide book and I was completely on my own.
No map.
No prior knowledge of the place at all.
Just walking the endless streets, snapping photos and unable to rip the smile off my face.

Some people get a high from...well getting high. Others from shopping or playing sports.
Mine is definitely from traveling. I'm obsessed and addicted. It's costly but makes up for some great stories.

As long as you've got batteries in your camera, money in your wallet and a smile on your face.
You'll have a great time.

Sure you might be an annoying tourist and drive the natives insane. Worry about what they think, these people you'll never meet again, or you can always just enjoy.

Enjoy life and cherish these moments. Soon they'll just be memories.
Make them great ones.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Fondling Juliet

So, bear with me. I have not yet delved into describing the mystical adventure of going to Paris alone for 6 days in November, but I must describe the nature of my true trip to Verona ( when I saw a little more than just the Arena)

Paris and more ventures to come, though perhaps this blog lost all chronological significance months ago.

Fondling Juliet.
So as I have aforementioned, I've been to Verona. This time, Nina ( and I went to Verona for a Baha'i Conference for 5 days. We arrived back home on the 31st of December. While we were in Verona, we had the chance of during one day of free afternoon ( the rest of the conference was in a hotel 10km away from the city and spent most of our time meeting new friends, discussing faith and drinking up the festivity spirit) we visited The House of Juliet. It was strategically placed on Via Capello. (Like Capulet!)
Though we meant to find it hours earlier and kept turning left when meant to be turning right, using a silly little map from a guide book ( after trying to get by without it) and asking random passerby's in Italian that had clearly faded over the course of the English Youth Conference. ( Nina speaks sexy french and I sexy Italian. Sadly we have no other secret languages, but she will soon be Russian, so the future holds opportunity)

So once we finally did find the Casa di Giulletta, it was very dark. It's effect was still magnificent. I'm not sure if this house existed and Shakespeare saw it or if it was built to be attributed to a fictional ( or did she once live?) character?

In any case, it's become a symbol of love and her left breast ( I mean this very literally) can be stroked to offer "Better luck next time" Luck in love I'm guessing. Perhaps she needs it more than others. She did fall dead at the hands of her first love.

As you enter the beautiful home, the walls leading towards the coutryard, where the statue of Juliet ( note the shininess of her left breast) the hallway is covered with thousands of confessions of love, hearts, lovers vows. It's quite overwhelming and lovely and you can't but help and smile at the sheer true love and naiveté-

For never was a story of more woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo

Coming Soon...........
Burning Frogs!

Burning Frogs and other New Years Traditions

"What did you do for New Years!", a common question that I just don't really know how to answer.
I was with my darling friend Nina! We dressed up crazy and got pumped up to Rihanna and Teenage Dream ( We'll be young forever) and headed to the Piazza with the promise of Fireworks, we got a lot more than we bargained for.

As we walked along, people set off loud fire works with limited color or fire even, so they just sounded like gunshots or bombs chasing us. (Insert Mafia jokes here)

When we arrived to the Piazza that is my favorite place in Bologna, behind the Dazzling statue of Neptune, we saw what appeared to be a large green statue. At first I thought of GODZILLA. But on further inspection, a frog. We came nearer to the gigantic statue ( made of wood and covered with paper) of in fact A FROG.

A prince, no doubt.
We were overheard laughing and talking about the frog loudly. ("I just dont understand why there is a giant godzilla in the Piazza!") by some American girls from Belgium ( spending the holidays in Bologna) and they assured us that the Frog was made of wood and would burn down at Midnight. ("Why would Italy burn a giant frog? Another argument with the French?" I wondered aloud to Nina, who's now living in Corsica)

So does Italy Hate the French?

And as for that "burning" business, I would have to see it to believe it.



EVENING and Shadow

and as midnight struck,

And a sparkler set off in the top of the Ranocchio's(frog) crown and HE BURNED
As fireworks blasted behind us and then to the left and then even a few to the right. To make sure everyone can see something, if not the giant Frog, then at least some fireworks as the band plays on into the night and the drinking and partying true Italian fashion.

And 5 minutes later, we're in scorching heat and Firefighters are swarming near the frog, to extinguish the fire when it gets to the remains.

BUON ANNO, here are some great photos.