unrequited narcissism

Archives: travel
Archives: travel
September 01, 2006
September 01, 2006
going, going travel

I'm only about 20 yards (sorry, meters) from the departure gate, so it seems like I'll actually be able to leave as planned. But, for the record, Gatwick Airport is terrible. It's understaffed, indifferently designed, and it costs $25 to ride the train out to it (each way). I miss Stansted.

But it's not all bad. The airport staff have been uniformly pleasant. And security, although thorough, did me the favor of failing to locate the eyedrops I was smuggling. If anyone has any suggestions for how to terrorize a flight with about half an ounce of saline solution, please leave them in comments.

I'm glad to be going home, simply because at this point I've been exhausted for as long as I can remember — certainly dating to well before this trip. But I'm sad to leave England, too. I like this place. The people are nice, the beer is great, and if you can avoid getting hit by a car barrelling down an unexpected side of the street, you can have a pretty good time.

Mostly, though, I just like the Englishness. The urinals flush when you use the sink! I think it's that sort of sweet-natured belief in mankind's capacity for civilization that makes this country so admirable (while simultaneously dooming their empire from day one).

So I'll be back soon. Ryan and Lisa have a pull-out couch, I still have a pocket full of inscrutable coins, and there may be a training session for GPUK — I pretty much have to come back.

For now, though, I'm looking forward to seeing you all back in the colonies.

comments [6] trackBack [0] posted by tom - link
August 31, 2006
August 31, 2006
insert requisite clash reference here travel

So, I've been in London. Need proof? Here's a shot of me with one of their ridiculous electrical outlets.

it's so big!

Word to the wise: you can shove an Italian power adapter in there just fine if you use a pen cap to trip the safety latch on the ground plug. It works like a charm, and provides a bracing ozone scent to liven up the air in the room.

You would think I'd have more blog fodder, what with being in a foreign country and all. The truth is that I've been much too busy and jetlagged to observe anything, much less write it up. See also: the enormous bags under my eyes in the photo above. And that was taken after a solid, 11-hour night of sleep. It's been a taxing week, for a variety of reasons.

But everything is working out, I think. I'm over here with my coworkers/friends/fellow cult-members (depending on the time of day and who you ask) Michael and Cristen, doing a strategy session and website kickoff meeting for Greenpeace UK.

It's stressful, trying to appear clever enough to justify being flown across an ocean — particularly when you have to do it for several days in a row. But the GPUK people have made it a breeze. I can't recommend working with smart, passionate clients highly enough — it's definitely one of the great things about this job. And if those clients will take you out drinking after a day of meetings, so much the better.

Anyway, there are some photos up on Flickr, including some shots of GPUK's awesome headquarters. Today's Michael's birthday, so additional drinks will be had (with Ryan & Lisa, no less!), and photos taken. Will there be moblogging from the airport? If British security takes away as many of my electronic entertainments as I expect (but not as many as they could), it's a definite possibility.

comments [3] trackBack [0] posted by tom - link
August 21, 2006
August 21, 2006
doin' d.c. D.C.  - travel  - weekend report

as you may have surmised from the millions of new flickr photos pouring in over on your right, i was in d.c. this weekend for a visit. and it was great. but like tommy, this summer has just been Too. Much. Travel. it's always worth it to go to d.c., and my trip in two weeks to the outer banks and my move back to d.c. right after will be good, but. christ. may i recommend something? don't move FOUR TIMES IN ONE YEAR. i mean, i know budget truck and the airline industry appreciate me single-handedly supporting their revenue, but, oh my god! i'm tired! and broke!

still, though, d.c. all the fun. i got in thursday night, and tommy knew how to cure what ailed me: he took me straight to crisp and juicy. what's so best about that place - besides the hot sauce - is the cashier lady totally has a crush on him and remembers his order every single time (mine too, now, but i don't feel lesbianistic overtones from her). tommy always gets green peppers on his sandwich, but this particular evening they were out. and before we could even tell her what we wanted on the sandwiches, she looked at tommy with mournful eyes, shook her head, and said, "no green peppers tonight." very cute.

comments [1] trackBack [0] posted by catherine - link
just in time to be useless tech  - travel

For me, anyway. Farecast now provides airfare predictions for a whole bunch of markets, instead of the handful it had during its testing phase. Of course, the Summer Of Neverending Travel is just about over for me, so I no longer have a huge amount of use for it — I still have an epic, four-consecutive-weekend death march ahead of me, but all the ticket-buying is done. But I imagine this might be useful for travel in the future. Assuming that I survive.

comments [0] trackBack [0] posted by tom - link
August 01, 2006
August 01, 2006
what do you miss? travel

having lived in italy for a year (though it was three or so years ago) i still get the question from time to time of, as an american living abroad, what did i miss most from the states? the people asking this are inevitably either moving abroad themselves and want to prepare, or are sending a care package to loved ones abroad. problem is: i can NEVER REMEMBER WHAT I MISSED. i missed the convenience of american stores; i missed american tv and pop culture; i missed, of course, my friends and family. but otherwise all i have are happy fuzzy golden memories of my time spent there, even though i obviously must have had moments when i was like, "oh damn, i really miss _________ from america." but nothing tangible ever comes to mind.

anyway, i'm writing about this to ask those of you who have lived out of america for extended periods of time: what did you miss? if you were making a care package for somebody, what would you put in it? i ask primarily because one of my brother's best friends is moving to africa for two years (a bit more hardship than italy, i would imagine) and he wants to send her some things. so help a brother out.

comments [11] trackBack [0] posted by catherine - link
July 26, 2006
July 26, 2006
out of control travel

i just realized my potential travel plans for the next year are kind of insane. insane in an awesome way. on the radar and most likely if not definitely happening:

  • the outer banks
  • assateague island (admittedly these two locations are not all that exotic or travel-y, but still! beach and sand and sun!)
  • charlottesville (admittedly not that exotic or travel-y either, but still the prettiest college town ever, even if charles does think jefferson was a dandy)
  • san diego to see the soon-to-be-deployed brother

    a little more sketchy but still really want to do!

  • maybe hightail it to london and drop in on the aventinis?
  • the amalfi coast?! mrs. gray brought this up in conversation the other evening and i nearly started hyperventilating. if i could get back to that area of italy i'd be one happy camper. one because it's absurdly beautiful, two because my favorite restaurant in italy is located there, and three because it might mean a chance to see naples again. i was reminded of how much exactly i love that city while reading eat, pray, love, a book my dad passed on to me recently (as one third of it is set in italy and i am automatically the repository of all books remotely related to italy, whether they're actually good or not). the book is funny but slight, not mind-blowing but an enjoyable read. and it had a passage in it that reminded me distinctly of everything that is awesome about the city. to wit:
    Immediately, just a few hours later, we are on the train, and then - like magic - we are there. I instantly love Naples. Wild, raucous, noisy, dirty, balls-out Naples. An anthill inside a rabbit warren, with all the exoticism of a Middle Eastern bazaar and a touch of New Orleans voodoo. A tripped-out, dangerous and cheerful nuthouse. My friend Wade came to Naples in the 1970s and was mugged...in a museum. The city is all decorated with laundry that hangs from every window and dangles acoss every street, everybody's fresh-washed undershirts and brassieres flapping in the wind like Tibetan prayer flags. There is not a street in Naples in which some tough little kid is not screaming up from the sidewalk to some other tough little kid on a rooftop nearby. Nor is there a building in this town that doesn't have at least one crooked old woman seated at her window, peering suspiciously down at the activity below.

    the author also goes on to note that "The people here are so insanely psyched to be from Naples, and why shouldn't they be? This is a city that gave the world pizza and ice cream."


    naples and my trip to southern italy here.

  • comments [5] trackBack [0] posted by catherine - link
    June 30, 2006
    June 30, 2006
    alps, here i come travel

    for the ladies over in europe who might not be so into the world cup, switzerland created a fetching commercial full of beautiful men to lure you to their neutral lands. my favorite part is when the guy baling hay uses his pitchfork to dump a pile of hay right where he picked it up from. (via)

    you can see a couple of photos from a trip to switzerland here. i also call that trip the skiing trip of terrifying death where i learned it is almost always better to drink spiked hot chocolate on the lodge then end up with your ski pole stuck through your arm with european children laughing at you.

    comments [1] trackBack [0] posted by catherine - link
    June 28, 2006
    June 28, 2006
    blog abroad blog  - travel

    these blogs are installing some wanderlust in me lately, so i thought i'd pass them on.

    tania: an american living in cortona with her husband and apparently eating incredibly well. when we stayed near cortona last year i took several restaurant recommendations from her blog and all of them were spot on. plus she takes some gorgeous photos. my favorites include her series on "god spots," the weird little shrines you find all over tuscany.

    betsey goes to china: betsey went to china (and the archives are on the site) but now she's living it up in singapore. she seems to go on getaways to india, thailand and hong kong every other weekend, so you're getting quite a bit of beautiful photos with her droll and sweet commentary.

    sarah lane: some of you may know sarah as the adorable blond lady formerly of "attack of the show," which tommy and charles would watch all the time. she recently got married and her honeymoon involves a 13-month trip around the world with her husband (who was also on the show. i read somewhere they met on the show a year ago; was she dating kevin rose at the time? WAS THERE SCANDAL!?!). anyways. currently they're in turkey, and her most recent post features some amazing shots of the capadocia region, whose terrain reminds me a lot of my perennial italian favorite, matera.

    the satorialist: not exactly a travel blog, but my favorite fashion blog (a photographer in new york who takes and posts pictures of beautiful people wearing beautiful and interesting clothing out on the street) has been commissioned by style.com to shoot the men's shows in milan and paris. but when he's out in the piazzas, he's taking shots of the italian ladies. and they are, as usual, stunning. the italians. oi.

    comments [1] trackBack [0] posted by catherine - link
    April 01, 2006
    April 01, 2006
    land of a thousand still-frozen lakes northwestern  - travel

    phew! i'm back from a whirlwind trip to minneapolis, mn with my media management classmates to visit the star tribune. and oh my god, y'all, can you guess what i did: i visited the mothereffing mall of america. i'm just a little girl from washington d.c. i never thought i'd make it out there.

    photos here. my hands are rubbed raw from dragging my carry on everywhere, and my skin is dry from too much airplane air, and now i sleep.

    comments [2] trackBack [0] posted by catherine - link
    February 21, 2006
    February 21, 2006
    beta bleg tech  - travel

    Consumerist brings news that TechCrunch (which appears to be down at the moment) has just reviewed the private beta of a service called FlySpy. It looks fairly neat — enter your origin and destination cities, and get back a graph of fare prices for the coming month. You can overlay graphs for different airports, adjust parameters, and generally short-circuit the airlines' confusing pricing schemes.

    Or that's what it looks like, anyway (there's a screenshot on Consumerist). The site is still in closed beta. So, on the off chance that anyone has invite capabilities... yeah. Drop me a line.

    comments [3] trackBack [0] posted by tom - link
    November 13, 2005
    November 13, 2005
    fly away travel

    most of you probably already know about this site, but i just can't express my love enough for kayak.com. it's certainly the best and snazziest site i've found for looking up cheap airfare. what it is is basically a compendium of airfares from all the sites - you just search your point of departure, destination and date, and it'll list the best prices from across the web. its buzz feature, which incorporates google maps, like anything cool these days does, is also kinda neat.

    comments [1] trackBack [0] posted by catherine - link
    September 14, 2005
    September 14, 2005
    kiss and ride on the my ass, CTA travel

    It's fun to bitch about public transportation in the DC area, but to be honest we've got it pretty good. My lengthy tale of CTA woe is below the cut. Be warned: this is more about catharsis than entertainment. But then, this is a blog.

    comments [6] trackBack [0] posted by tom - link
    September 13, 2005
    September 13, 2005
    leavin' on a jet plane travel

    Sorry, but I haven't got much to say today. This project is stressful, and that our secretary/customer handler just broke her leg badly enough to preclude work isn't helping anything.

    I've got a 9:15 flight to Chicago, though. Assuming I can pack quickly enough after work, make it to the Metro and catch the right bus to Dulles, I'll be staggering from OHare to Catherine's new digs later tonight, then hanging around Chicago until Sunday.

    Given the relative lateness of the flight, I'm desperate to avoid checking any bags... but also a little worried. My carry-on will include a wireless router and a big bag of quarters (from Catherine's abandoned change jar, to be put toward laundry) in addition to the piles of technological geegaws that routinely accompany me on any trip further than a block from my house. What is he planning? And does it involve buying a lot of sodas? will think the TSA employees as they try to inconspicuously edge toward the red button on the wall behind them. I just hope Catherine doesn't send me any emails asking if I can bring the giant ceremonial dagger she accidentally left behind.

    comments [5] trackBack [0] posted by tom - link
    September 11, 2005
    September 11, 2005
    now live blogging!: ohio! travel

    two things of note: ohio has the awesomest turnpike rest stops/food courts i've ever seen. they're practically futuristic, and incredibly clean. also, ohioans are, like, the nicest people in the entire world. we've come across several retail/food service people, all of whom are incredibly friendly, sincere, and chatty, even the teenagers, who by all rights should be terrible, rude and sulky.

    but other than that, OH pretty much sucks. free wifi in the hotel rocks, though.

    tomorrow: catherine takes chicago by storm! with three billion pounds of boxes! she will change the gravitational pull of the planet!

    comments [3] trackBack [0] posted by catherine - link
    August 12, 2005
    August 12, 2005
    sayonara, suckers travel

    We're off to Vermont for my cousin's wedding. Unfortunately, it's supposed to be rainy. Fortunately, it's also supposed to be ten degrees cooler. Plus, summertime Vermont has been so ridiculously beautiful the last few times I've visited that I'm confident a little rain won't get in the way of its scenic onslaught.

    Blogging and shitty cameraphone pics to follow.

    comments [0] trackBack [0] posted by tom - link
    July 31, 2005
    July 31, 2005
    travel tips travel

    the times actually has two travel articles that don't make me want to retch all over a set of luis vuitton luggage: one on ljubljana, slovenia, and one on bologna, italy. you can see my ljubljana experience here and my bologna trip here. the bologna one is funny (to me), because it was written before i really got or knew about blogging. so it's kind of short bus. but the pictures are pretty.

    comments [1] trackBack [0] posted by catherine - link
    June 21, 2005
    June 21, 2005
    hiking in style travel

    just in case you have a few thousand extra dollars to spend and are itching to go hiking in exotic locales, the new york times travel section points you towards a few destinations that should fit the bill. i enjoyed this article because we hiked one of of the spots that they recommend - the gran paradiso park in northeast italy, and it truly was one of the more magnificent trips i've been on. the article ain't shitting you when it says the landscape is about as sound of music-ish as one can get.

    the times recommends you do this with a group that'll run you $1,500, but i suggest following our model:

    1. take train, bus, and walk your ass off for several hours to get to random italian alpine town.
    2. kind of start off without any idea of where you're going; pick up trail off street behind dumpster.
    3. walk for several hours amongst the most beautiful scenery you've ever scene; nearly die because you are hauling ass behind your eagle-scout-boyfriend and rabidly determined psycho hiker friend.
    4. reach a crest that looks exactly like the photo from the nytimes article:


    5. check in at the awesome rifugio tuckett that looks like part of the mountain; eat best alpine meal of your life (think huge glasses of beer, massive bowls of stew, delicious grilled austrian sausages, all while adorable random kittens, apparently owned by the dude who takes care of the rifugio, come visit you); look out over beautiful scenery; think this is best day of life, etc.
    6. go to sleep with half a dozen of your closest friends in cute little bunkbed-ed room. could this day have been any better?
    7. realize one of your half a dozen closest friends is n., who is the loveliest person alive, but who is also NOISIEST SNORER IN THE WORLD
    8. two hours later, throw wadded up socks at n.'s face. no response.
    9. consider killing n. and throwing her body over the mountain crest. whisper this to other people in room. all agree.
    10. do not kill n. due to weak human nature. spend rest of night sleepless in semi-psychotic state. hate mountains. hate nature. hate hiking. worst idea ever. consider finding previously mentioned cute kitten and stuffing it up n.'s nose.
    11. watch sunlight start streaming in room; realize there IS NO SHOWER AT RIFUGIO TUCKETT; realize you have four more hours of hiking, a three hour bus ride and two hour train ride home; consider rolling around in alpine snow outside to get semi-clean and get out of sleepless zombie mindframe.
    12. leave rifugio tuckett in thorougly rabid state.
    13. hike home different way than you came; see most beautiful series of waterfalls in the entire world, many more alpine fields dotted with flowers, snowcapped mountains, etc; fall on butt while crossing stream and don't even care because everything around you in so lovely and you want to go leaping through the fields singing "the hills are alive" at the top of your voice.
    14. take 17 million hours to get back home to milan. airconditionless train gets stuck right outside of stazione centrale while you wilt and die and sweat and stink for 45 minutes.
    15. can't wait to do it again.

    comments [0] trackBack [0] posted by catherine - link
    May 23, 2005
    May 23, 2005
    tuscany will be over when people stop liking wine italy  - travel

    the new york times and washington post out-retard each other in simultaenous, lengthy articles about the new hotspot regions of italy (tuscany is soooo over). the new york times annoints le marche; the washington post annoints puglia. the post must be late to the game, because i was raving about puglia back in '03. i have never been to le marche, but jackie of the long trip home lives there and often blogs appealing entries about the town of macerata.

    if there's one thing i can't stand, it's articles that a) try to discover the "new tuscany" and b) claim the best part about a region is that there are no tourists and it's undiscovered, then publish their articles in a newspaper that only gets about 2 billion readers a day. NOT TO MENTION the post also does a blurb on matera, which i also visited in 2003. you can read my account of the town here. you know what really gets my goat? back in my too-ambitious days of attempts at freelance writing, i queried the post with an article about matera. of course, nobody ever contacted me back. so they can go shove a a big ol' trulli up their butts.

    comments [0] trackBack [0] posted by catherine - link
    May 10, 2005
    May 10, 2005
    entry numero due italy  - personal  - travel

    wherein i get a bit of the frances mayes disease. really - it's full blown later on. oh dear.

    comments [0] trackBack [0] posted by catherine - link
    italia italy  - personal  - travel

    so, i started typing up my 4 or 5 entries on our trip to italy. this one is staggeringly boring; the only thing remotely italian about it is that i was flying on alitalia. mostly it's me bitching about the flight, the wine, the [fake] forgetting of the camera battery...so be warned.

    comments [0] trackBack [0] posted by catherine - link
    May 04, 2005
    May 04, 2005
    for le voyeurs italy  - photos  - travel

    for those who missed the earlier post:

    naomi's italy photos are here.
    sara's are here.
    and now, teresa's are here.

    sorry for the lack of blogging. i really do want to write about the villa and creepy cortona and creepier etruscans. but a week sans catherine, and work is falling apart! well, minorly. well, not at all. but there is stuff to be done. see you at the DCist happy hour!

    posted by catherine - link
    May 02, 2005
    May 02, 2005
    le foto! italy  - photos  - travel

    the first of the photos have started to trickle in - naomi's 184 are posted here. enjoy!

    PS - it seems a couple of flickr posts have decided to republish themselves. i'm not sure why, but take a second to reread the english translation at the agip gas station in cortona. if it hadn't cost me 30 extra euro, i'd find it HYSTERICAL. select the wanted bomb!

    PSII - deleted the repeated flickr posts.

    PSIII - the lovely sara, one of the three ladies on our trip who drove stick for hours on end without complaining, has posted her photos here.

    comments [0] trackBack [0] posted by catherine - link
    alitalia film school travel

    speaking of christopher walken, alitalia showed "around the bend," a film he stars in, on the flight back home. i seriously question their judgment on this, because i don't think this movie ever even MADE IT TO THE THEATERS. has anyone ever even heard of it? in fact i question their judgment on most of the films they showed; the second movie on the flight there involved roberto benigni and a pal traveling back to the middle ages. needless to say, it was seriously disturbed, and appeared to have been made in the mid-80s. besides getting lost in the middle ages, the movie also includes benigni's plot to prevent christopher columbus from discovering america, because nothing good ever came out of there, and also he wants to stop slavery or something. it's called "non ci resta che piangere," which is interestingly a very appropriate title for the film, because it translates to "nothing left to do but cry" which is exactly how i happened to feel after watching it.

    comments [0] trackBack [0] posted by catherine - link
    where to eat in italy food  - italy  - travel

    i already posted about several of my meals, but i'm going to go into a more extensive description here. prepare yourself for a post that ruminates on the philosophical beauty of italian pizza or the truth revealed by a perfect plate of pasta!

    UPDATE: i just finished writing the post, and rereading it, it's terribly boring and more of me saying, "this restaurant was good, and so was this one. and THAT restaurant - OHMIGOD, so good!" so forgive the repetitive nature. i guess i intend it to serve as a guide for anyone searching around the internets for italian restaurant advice, especially of the cortona variety.

    coming later: my impressions of cortona and our villa, next to a monastery built in 1211 and owned by a couple who delivered us fresh eggs every day. i HATED it!

    comments [4] trackBack [0] posted by catherine - link
    where to buy things in italy italy  - travel

    since i didn't take pictures while in italy, i figure the next best thing is to take pictures of all the stuff i bought afterwards! and believe me, this pile could have been MUCH LARGER. but i used my famous self-restraint and only spent euros on things i really needed.


    the purchases pictured in this photo, starting more or less clockwise from the big white box at top:

  • vino nobile and two bottles of extra virgin olive oil from the contucci cantina in montepulciano, tuscany. montepulciano (see some photos here) is a small, renaissance-era town perched on a narrow ridge in southern tuscany. in recent decades it's become pretty famous for its wines, especially its vino nobile. a few of us made the drive there last tuesday. the scenery from cortona to montepulciano is pretty much what you expect: classic rolling hills, small hill towns marked by church towers, crumbling farmhouses, blah blah pretty whatever. montepulciano itself is lovely - incredibly hilly, views for miles, and a beautiful classic piazza, framed by two palazzos and a facade-less duomo. we spent some time walking the narrow streets, then stopped for lunch on the piazza, and eventually winded up walking past the contucci shop (one of dozens of cantinas we passed) and decided to go in for a tasting. i normally don't buy wine in italy to bring back to the states, but this bottle ended up not being drunk during our debacherous week, so i took it home. i don't know much about wine (i tend to think either "hmm, this is delicious alcohol! give me more!" or "ugh, this wine tastes horrible. give me more!"), but if i had to describe it, i'd say it's rich and, um, velvety? a tiny bit fruity and pretty smooth. so, you know, good. olive oil, on the other hand, i like to bring back from italy whenever i can because i think it's much harder to get good olive oil in the states than it is to get good wine in the states. and this olive oil was magnifico! peppery and light, and only like 7.50 euro for a bottle.

  • honey and limoncello from the mercato centrale in florence (not for me, for coworker gifts). the mecarto centrale in florence is really a wonder of the city. you can find it a little bit north of the san lorenzo church, and it looks fairly unassuming from the outside - big, but plain, marked by green accents, a red roof and lots of dumpsters surrounding it. but on the inside, you will find some of the best produce, meat, and cheese to grace tuscany. from early in the morning till about 2pm, the dozens and dozens of vendors (there are two large floors in the mercato) hawk everything from fruit to whole skinned rabbits to blocks of percorino twice as big as your head. even if you don't intend to buy anything, it's certainly worth it to just go and look around. a must see for any self-professed wannabe foodie, or any silly boy who likes to look at cow stomachs and brains (interestingly, tommy turns out to be both). there are an excellent article and photo gallery about the mercato over at the food section.

  • ceramics (the lemon bowl underneath the honey and the fish bowl to the left). in june of 2003, after i'd finished teaching at the american school of milan, tommy and i stayed with charles' molto generous family at their rented villa in panzano, tuscany. one day, while checking out a winery with charles, his sister johanna, and tommy, i noticed a pitcher sitting on one of the walls. i thought it was really beautiful - it had a simple, slightly abstract painting of a yellow, red-roofed church surrounded by cypress trees and a blue tuscan sky (the same pattern in this hysterical picture of the store's owners). the woman at the winery told me she'd got it in florence, but couldn't remember exactly where or the name of the store. big help. anyway, a few days later tommy and i went on a mad shopping mission in florence, and i was lucky enough to stumble across the store, cheba. i bought the pitcher immediately and have bought something there every time i go back. last year it was a small pomengrante plate, this year it was the limone dish (and tommy bought the bowl with cute fish).

  • a vespa t-shirt, blue scarf, and, um, rabbit fur-lined leather weirdo hat, all from the mercato di san lorenzo. the san lorenzo market is unavoidable in florence - hundreds of outdoor stalls with agressive vendors, asking for your hand in marriage if you so much as look at a leather coat or pushing "penises of florence" posters on you as you walk buy. overall, it's a totally awesome thing. you can spend hours there looking at jewelry, clothing, cermaics, stupid souvenirs, CDs, and glorious, glorious leather, all at fairly reasonable prices. i didn't buy any leather myself this trip, but several of my friends did, and they all got great jackets and purses for under 100 euros. aside from the santa croce leather district, it's definitely the best place in florence to buy leather products, especially if you're good at bargaining. this time around i bought myself a blue scarf (8 euro), that twisty red-beaded necklace (10 euro) and the blue vespa t-shirt (7 euro). i love those vespa t-shirts - i already have one - and they make pretty good gifts for friends back home. for those of you who know that tommy's uniform is his ted leo shirt - well, his backup is his black vespa t-shirt. i also bought that crazy leather hat because, well, it's AWESOME! and since i'm moving to the north pole in september, i needed something to keep my pretty little head warm.

  • the last thing that you can't see too well are several bars of baci perugina chocolate. um, i got these at the milan malpensa airport when our flight was delayed like three hours (which is not necessarily a bad place to go shopping; you can get cheap liquor at the duty free shop - named dufry - and other cheap chocolate things). however, the best and most authentic place to buy chocolate is perugia, a very medieval looking town in umbria. it's the head of the nestle-perugina chocolate empire, and every year they host the eurochocolate fesitval, which i attended in 2002. unfortunately this time around when we visited perugia, it was kind of disappointing - windy, cold weather and no chocolate festival :( but tommy got several bars of fondente chocolate (dark chocolate) which we later used in a chocolate zabaglione. yum.

    next up: where to eat in italy! (answer: anywhere!)

  • comments [5] trackBack [0] posted by catherine - link
    May 01, 2005
    May 01, 2005
    l'idiota grandissima travel

    you realize you've reached the heights of idiocy when: that camera battery and charger you left at home on your perfect tuscan vacation? the one you were sure you left plugged into the bedroom outlet? has actually been in some super secret pocket of your suitcase the whole time, the one you checked like 33 times, and you find it the night before you leave. BAH.

    anyway, everybody else took billions of photos, so i shall pick and choose and violate copyright stuff to post theirs later. we are officially back home, and i have officially not gotten sleep in near 40 hours, and i am officially going to bed now. everything was lovely, but i'm glad to be back in the city.

    comments [0] trackBack [0] posted by catherine - link
    April 24, 2005
    April 24, 2005
    idiota travel

    In wine bar. Love wine. Forgot camera battery at home. Hate entire
    world. (Charles, can you unplug it and maybe express mail it to me, eh?)

    comments [2] trackBack [0] posted by catherine - link
    April 05, 2005
    April 05, 2005
    back from chi-town travel

    hullo, d.c. world! back safe and sound from my adventures in chicago with susan. and oh, what adventures we had...joe, a friend from college, was kind enough to let us stay at his apartment right in the middle of downtown. our first day in town consisted of walking around millenium park, up and down michigan avenue, up and down the magnificent mile, eating large quanities of deep dish pizza (verdict: awesome. anything made almost entirely out of cheese is just fine by me) and strolling around the lakeview area. later that night we headed out to matilda's to hang out with some of joe's friends, and carl was also able to drop by. sunday, susan and i headed out check out wicker park, where we spent like six bazillion hours shopping and just walking around after an awesome breakfast at the bongo room. we then made the fatal mistake of sitting down at pontiac, where we made the even more fatal mistake of going on a TOTAL BENDER. and as susan said, "some people get weepy when they're drunk, or angry - you and i get PATRIOTIC." we spent like two hours waxing on about how much we loved america and democracy and musing about ways the democratic party can not be afraid of nationalism or patriotism and take on the mantle more of supporting the military and..god knows what else. i'm lucky i didn't end up on top of the table singing "god bless america" and tap dancing. one beer and three *strong* margaritas later, i nearly died before forcing myself to go to a second city showing. thank god for the restorative qualities of boston market macaroni (yeah, i didn't eat as well during the trip as i would have liked).

    monday susan and i split up to go visit our respective schools - she to do an orientation/reception thing at uchicago, and i was off to chat with the director of the new media program at northwestern. we talked for almost two hours, and it was really gratifying - i think he totally gets new media and is directing the program more towards a business model/structural idea of new media rather than worrying about traditional journalism. not that i don't enjoy traditional journalism, and god knows i'm going to have to take a lot of reporting/writing classes, but i don't want to be a newspaper reporter. i want to be a JOURNALISM FUTURIST. i just made that up. i don't really know what i want to be - something along the lines of a media consultant who can figure out how to help traditional media outlets adapt to technology and use said technology to better serve the public. and i think northwestern can help me do that.

    ANYWAY. i'm going to try to put up my flickr stream later, and i know susan took a bunch of pictures, too - one sure-to-be classic is the miniseries that should be called "why tequila is evil"; it consists of one photo of me in the cab looking absolutely smashed - you can pratically see the words slurring out of my mouth - a second photo of me sort of hunched over, and a third photo of me near passed out on my own lap, eyes closed, looking like death would be a welcome respite.

    as for general impressions of chicago - i liked it quite a bit. the buildings there are VERY TALL, which after living in d.c., land of the midget skyscrapers, was continually freaking me out. we had gorgeous weather, so i repressed the ideas of nuclear winters, and i thought all the little neighborhoods were adorable. but i was also homesick and half-freaked out for a lot of the weekend - the trip just made it that much more of a reality that i'm going to be moving halfway across the country in less than six months, and i'm not really ready for that at this point. but i'll get over it. i'm excited. i know this is what i want to do, and even though it means leaving d.c. behind for a year, i'm ready.

    comments [4] trackBack [0] posted by catherine - link
    October 19, 2004
    October 19, 2004
    back from bostonia photos  - travel

    i'm back from boston! back from a lovely, perfect new england weekend! back from spending time with dear friends, some of whom i haven't seen in a year and a half! back from eating clam chowder and italian food in the north end! back from wandering around taking pictures of beautiful foliage! back to...rainy d.c. and work. oh well. anyway, excuse my absence. and excuse any future absences as i decide to move permanently to boston because i just loved it so goddamn much. of course, the pefect fall weather and excellent company had something to do with it, so i'm probably looking at the city through rose-colored glasses, but it was still wonderful. a few pics behind the cut, along with some more commentary...

    comments [5] trackBack [0] posted by catherine - link
    June 03, 2003
    June 03, 2003
    slovenia shlomenia photos  - travel

    wow, i am not timely at all. please, if you haven't yet seen them, go back in the archives and check out my two big spring break entries.

    these pictures were taken from a lovely four-day trip to slovenia, which, i am happy to say, is one of the most beautiful and interesting places i've seen. go there before it becomes all cool and touristy.

    we first stopped over in the italian port city of trieste, which is right near the border of slovenia. it's an alright town. the coolest thing i saw there were some giant killer jellyfish in the sea.

    not jellyfish, but trieste's main piazza, nicely lit up at night.

    then we trained it over to ljubljana. loo blee ann ah. it's such a beautiful city, with a lot of students and interesting architecture.

    yay canals.

    yay rooftops.

    this is the style in ljubljana. no not really. we were wearing these three-d glasses to watch a very interesting and quite informative three-d presentation of the history of ljubljana. yawn. that dark-haired male would be mike. his is an interesting story. we were all taking the hours-long train from trieste to ljubljana (on which we got asked to a party by the hot customs guys), and we've literally got the entire car to ourselves. then this one guy walks on (we assume he's slovenian or something), and cynthia meanwhile is changing into a skirt by putting it on over her jeans (this is our favorite ghetto method of changing in public; we've done it on boats, trains and buses). then the random guy comes over and says something about cynthia's william's t-shirt. yeah. it turns out he's american. and went to williams. with cynthia and erin. of all the people to walk onto an empty slovenian train...turns out it's someone half of us know. it really is a small world.

    from ljubljana, we moved onto bled, located in one of the most fantastic natural settings i have probably ever seen. just gorgeous -- lakes, fields, alpine backdrops, tons of forests. just a lot greener than italy.

    pretty field!

    more pretty fields!

    we also went on a long hike through a gorge. it was amazing. no, i will not say it was gorges.

    gorge again.


    some old church. on a hill. (sorry, my caption-writing abilities are drained today for some reason.)

    the big bled lake had this cute little island in the middle of it. we visited it on a rowboat.


    so on the way back to italy (after coming thisclose to missing two important trains and then crossing the italian-slovenian border in a taxi) we took a three-hour break in venice. here we are at some nice little cafe.

    and here is another view off of my apartment balcony. not snowcapped mountains, because it's summertime, baby.


    more comments! i love them.

    comments [4] posted by catherine - link
    May 20, 2003
    May 20, 2003
    spring break round II italy  - photos  - travel

    alright. this is actually the second parter of my spring break, so please go back to the one entitled something silly like "spring break bonanza" and check out those pictures before looking at these. not that it really matters, but being chronological is nice, don't you think?

    i believe we ended up last on the island of ischia. that night on the beach was great, but later that evening, trying to sleep in the hostel, an army of mosquitoes attacked us. it was miserable, and since my face was the only thing not wrapped up in my cocoon sheet, i ended up with 8 bites on my cheek. very schifo. so i was kind of glad to get out of ischia. next stop: sorrento.

    sorrento is, like basically everything in southern italy, very beautiful. lots of dramatic cliffside, stunning sea views, endless groves of lemon trees, blah blah blah etc. we settled into our amazing hotel, il nido, which i highly recommend to anyone staying in sorrento, as it's cheap, has a huge breakfast, and FREE INTERNET!!! so, www.ilnido.it if you're interested. the hotel itself is actually about 10 minutes up in the hills beyond sorrento. great vista of the sea, the town, and vesuvius!

    only i would make vesuvius look small by comparison.

    sorrento also had the best restaurant EVER. yes, ever. :) we wandered around the cobblestone streets for a while that night until we happened upon l'osteria del buonconvento, which, by the way, was never mentioned in any of our guidebooks, so shows what those retards know.

    we settled into the cozy little place at our cozy little table in front of the pizza oven and proceeded to have our food orgy. first, the cutest old pizza man ever made us this great sort of crispy foccacia thing, free of charge. (i think he thought we were hot.) then we had lots of white wine. then i had insalata caprese (mozzarella, basil and tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil), then i had pasta with fresh swordfishmmmmmmm. then the best chocolate tiramisu. by the time we finished the three hour meal, we were best friends with everyone in the restaurant and had already decided to come back there the next night. how loserish are we?

    the next day we ferried on over to capri, island of the rich and famous. i was *so* hoping to see a celebrity there. well, it's a pretty island, but otherwise i would say it kind of sucks. it does have some natural amazing sights, though, like the natural arches and the blue grotto. the blue grotto is actually fantastic -- you take a boat out to this little hole in the side of one of the island's cliffs, and then a scary rowboat man will row you in (after you tip him like 12 euro). the hole is really kind of a small entrance -- i was convinced my head was going to get smashed if a wave came up so i cowered in the back of the rowboat as robin laughed at me. but once inside...well, look for yourself.


    the amazing natural light is created...somehow.

    after the blue grotto, we took a two hour hike around the island.


    these arches were also created somehow.

    the other girls went on to anacapri, a second town on the small island, and i decided to ferry it home. that night we did indeed go back to our wonderful restaurant and they forcefed us everything on the menu. also, during dinner, the girls told me they had seen suzanne sommers in anacapri and i got really jealous they'd seen someone famous. then they told me they were lying. evil whores. i guess i am not really that upset about not having seen fake suzanne sommers.

    onwards! after the pleasures of the amalfi coast, natania and carly went on to pompeii and vesuvius, while robin, cynthia and i decided to get an early start on to southeastern italy (the heel part of the boot). we took several crazy forms of transportation to matera. at one point we ended up in a completely desolate train station, and i am pretty sure we are the only non-italians to have ever come there.

    the train station at ferrandina, where the only person happy to see us was a dog.

    matera might be a town you've never heard of, but you should. it's completely amazing, visually and historically. until the late 1950s, people there lived in caves. yup, caves. six to a cave on average, most of the time with a horse and a few chickens thrown in there for fun. the caves are called sassi (stone), and are carved into two sides of a ravine that splits the town.

    here are some of the sassi, although they were of such scope that it is really hard to convey what they looked like and how stunning they were in my photos.

    nowadays, a lot of the sassi are being renovated into new bars, stores and even homes. it is pretty cool.


    by far one of the coolest things we did in matera was to go on a tour of the rock churches -- several churches that had been built directly in natural caves. now, i've seen a hell of a lot of churches since being in italy, but nothing has impressed me as much as these. they have low, craggy ceilings, little light, are completely damp, covered with rotting byzantine frescoes...it felt really raw. unfortunately, photos weren't allowed, though i sneaked in this one:

    these are the dead monk chairs. there was one room in one church were there were a bunch of seats carved out of the walls. when a monk died, his body was placed in this chair. to be gross and rot. and then other monks would come in and see the gross rotting body and were supposed to meditate on death. i bet they mostly just threw up. anyway, i sat down on one of the seats in order to take this photo, and got some white stuff on the seat of my pants. therefore, through the rest of the trip, if you had anything on your butt, it was, "you have dead monk on your ass!"

    alright...the length of this is becoming epic. next, we went on to alberobello, which is a town famous for its trulli structures. the trulli are buildings of indeterminate origin that have conical roofs and are built without mortar. they are very cool looking. i mostly liked them because i knew they would enable me to take many artsy fartsy photo shots, as i love doing.





    and that was alberobello. next, we went on to the beautiful, beautiful town of ostuni. it was all white, and up on a hill, and it was what i imagine deserted greek towns to look like. of course, my camera card was filled up at that point, so i took pictures with a manual, and they're not scanned yet. so you'll have to do without. but i had the best meal of my life there. l'osteria del tempo perso. you know, if you ever happen to be in puglia. which i highly recommend you do.

    next entries: long-overdue pics from a trip to slovenia, and pictures of david okano's and heather johnson's wedding in charlottesville! i spent 24 hours traveling in order to be in the states for 72 hours. that's how much i love them.

    please leave some comments. no one ever does and i feel so sad.

    comments [13] posted by catherine - link
    May 07, 2003
    May 07, 2003
    spring break bonanza italy  - photos  - travel

    well, once again the bottoms of bottles of wine has lured me away from my lovely blog. but i'm making a triumphant return with a slew of new pictures from some very interesting places. for my spring break, i traveled with several apartmentmates to southern italy, hitting naples, ischia, capri, sorrento, matera, alberobello and ostuni (the first four are in western southern italy, and the latter three are on the eastern side, down by the heel of the boot). i really have to say, southern italy sure is pretty. the wine's good, the food's great, it's sunny, and you GET HARRASSED CONSTANTLY BY SKETCHY MEN.

    our first stop was naples, which might be fairly called the smelliest city in the world. but i did really like it. it's chaotic, basically, and enormously dirty, and severely smelly, as i said, and the people there are just weird. also, the men are a little forward. i took the train down with natania and carly, and soon as we stepped out of the station, we received several offensive comments in about 15 minutes. for example: "very goooood, very goooood" was the first we got. then came a man barking at us, very realistically might i say, from a car. but the winner was (directed as natania as she took off her jacket): "yes baby. it is very hot. you need some children."
    now, it remains a mystery as to if this were an insult, a direct statement, or an offer to be natania's child-bearing partner. i suppose we will never know.

    this was on one of the most ancient streets in naples, which was about three feet wide. i really did think that my last view of this life was going to be a vespa running over my stomach. naples is vespa mad.

    not only is it vespa mad, but it's got some really bizarre, yet strangely beautiful things going on. for example, on that same street, we heard firecrackers and music coming off from the distance. we waited, and several men dressed all in white and playing horn instruments came marching down the street, with this float behind them. the men carrying the rather large float were swaying back and forth and singing, their movements evoking the sea, as i think the float was something to do with mary star of the sea. we just watched for a while, and then they were gone.

    okay. so people like to dress identically in naples. i don't know what it is. we saw maybe three pairs of people dressed exactly alike, just meandering around. we saw these army girls once, and just stood with our mouths agape. but then i saw them down the street again a few hours later, and i stopped to point and shout, "THE ARMY GIRLS!!!" to carly and natania. then we proceeded to tail them for several blocks and secretly take pictures. i think we scared them, cos they kept looking back and eventually crossed the street.

    i do love the artsy, blurry, black and white shots. i took this shortly after we went on an underground ancient acquaduct adventure tour, where we were lead through narrow caverns with candles and we saw a goonies-like cave room filled with water. it was cool! except for the german superdork journalist on the tour with us.

    so, naples being finished, we moved on to the island of ischia, which is where a lot of "the talented mr. ripley" was filmed. it was purty, though way too traffick-y. the first part of our trip there was spent at the most fantastic castle ever, and of course i had forgotten to bring my camera, so too bad for you. the evening after the castle, however, we spent on the beach. boy. that was an experience.

    here's myself, robin and cynthia on our little beach patch. let me explain something to you about the beach. no wait, about italians. italians are freaks when it comes to temperature. they feel no heat. starting in october, they swaddle themselves up in down jackets and scarves beyond belief, and these don't come off until the end of may. so there were tons of italians on the beach with us, and even though it was beautiful weather, they were ALL in jeans and sweaters. so we come tromping onto the beach in our bikinis, and basically, madness ensues.

    first, boys behind us start chanting, "USA USA USA" and will not stop. i attempt unsuccessfully to pretend i am deaf-mute, and then i give up on that and just put on my frigid bitch face. sorry, i'm mean, but agressive italian boys are a pain in the ass to deal with.

    a few of the girls near sunset.

    it gets even worse when carly decides to actually go in the water. god forbid! it's seventy degrees out! she's going to die! when she takes off her shirt and enters the water, i swear, the entire beach went silent. one of the guys talking to us says, in fractured english, "she is much like a submarine!"

    to deal with all of this, we begin imbibing wine. we run out. oops. so carly and i decide to take a trip to the little mini-market down the road to get a couple more bottles. we are way brutta figure (which, by the way, means "looking ugly" -- pretty much not fitting in or following societal rules or whatever). cos she's only got a towel and a t-shirt on (that has wine spilled on it, of course), and i'm wearing my button down plaid shirt and jeans rolled up to my knees. we also have THIRTY GUYS following us at this point. how this happened, i do not know. carly turned around and said something like, "when did we get a posse?" i was actually talking to one of the guys, who was decently nice, and i complained that our little road was really narrow. he says, "the narrow path is the one you should always take in life." i tell him that's very deep and that he has a lot of thoughtful quotes -- where does he get them from, i ask? he replies, and i swear this is true: "depeche mode."

    our last shot of ischia. bellissima. the madness of that beach will never be forgotten. i had a blast.

    alright, my fingers are cramping up, and even though i have dozens more photos, they will have to wait till later and you will have to be satisfied for now with these nuggets. i also have to go home to deal with the trauma of the fact that a student's mother asked me today if i was HAVING A BABY. aiya. time to go on a diet.

    comments [3] posted by catherine - link
    April 08, 2003
    April 08, 2003
    the five lands photos  - travel

    a couple of weekends ago, my friends becca and jamie came to visit me from the US! despite their getting basically screwed over in the flight and luggage department, they got here on a friday and we took off on a long train ride for the italian riviera. we were headed for cinque terre, five villages on the coast of the ligurian riviera that are rapidly becoming famous tourist destinations because they are just so damn beautiful. see for yourself.

    we stayed in the southernmost town of riomaggiore in an adorable apartment that had the worst shower i've ever experienced in my life. it was not really a shower; it was basically a trickle of water on your head. this is the little alleyway outside of our door.

    the five towns are linked by a long hiking path (about 12 km [i've started thinking in the metric system; this is an awful thing]) that goes through a national park. this is right near the beginning of the path. i think riomaggiore can be seen a little bit in the distance.

    from riomaggiore, we hiked to the next town of manarola. there we encountered this cat. i generally dislike cats, but i wouldn't mind being this one. i also think cinque terre, along with the ruins in rome, is one of the coolest places in the world to be a cat.

    convo over the balcony in manarola. those pace flags are everywhere. no, they are not gay pride flags. they mean "peace". the italian public is totally and completely against the war.

    i believe this is the view of manarola from a hill up above. what makes the villages so astounding is that they are basically built directly on cliffs that stop right at the sea. it's amazing to think that anyway could live such a steep life, but they manage to do it. they also cultivate tons of gardens and lemon trees and olive trees and vineyards on the cliffs. in fact, it's actually too steep to walk around and harvest the grapes, so the people invented these weird things...i wish i'd taken a picture of one, because it's hard to explain...but they are basically little motorized chairs on top of what look like little rollercoaster tracks. they strap themselves into the chair and follow the twisting tracks through the vineyards, stopping to collect the grapes. make sense?

    here's jamie and me, precariously perched on the path between manarola and corniglia (i think. the villages are starting to get mixed up in my head). the water really was that blue, and completely clear.

    i am a sucker for pretty flowers.

    i normally don't post pictures of myself, because i'm horribly unphotogenic, but i consider this one decently flattering, so i'm okay with it! it's on the path between corniglia and vernazza, which kicked our asses. this was at the beginning, and we're all like, ooh, look at the pretty flowers and olive trees. let's put flowers in our hair and dance around! at the end we were panting and sweating and cursing, etc.

    the same path. one of the few pictures of all three of us, because i refused to ask anyone to take our photos because i'm lame and hate annoying italians with my subpar language skills. jamie becca and me!

    this is a view from far above vernazza, the fourth town, and probably the most charming (therefore also the most touristy). there's a pirate ship! and that little outcropping contains the remains of a castle lookout tower. we wandered up there in the afternoon and took an hour nap. we stuck around in vernazza most of the afternoon and unfortunately never made it to the fifth town, monterosso, because we suck.

    boats! in the main waterfront piazza of vernazza. they just keep their boats in the tiny piazza and i guess take them out on the water when they want.

    my last shot of cinque terre...it's the sunset as viewed from the harbor in vernazza. is anyone else getting sail away stuck in their head? i would highly recommend a weekend in cinque terre. it doesn't get much better.

    comments [0] posted by catherine - link
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