Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Tales from Canterbury

So the weekend after York, Cameron and I went to Canterbury, where the Archbishop is and where Chaucer based his play on, although it doesn't happen so much in Canterbury as on the way TO Canterbury, haha.
It's a nice little town, although compared to how beautiful York is, it's not as amazing. But it's still a pretty town. It has it's wall, much smaller overall. I wouldn't spend more than a day there, you run out of things to do. We saw the wall, and of course the Cathedral. So far, it's my favorite in England. SOOOO imposing. I liked it a lot. We also visited two other churches: one were the rmains of an old abbey, although it was closed (the access to the field) so we snuck in through an entrance to the university and pretended to be students so we could se the ruins. The other church happens to be the oldest in England, tiny little thing, but still cool to see the early foundations and different additions to it throughout time.
We walked around town, looked for Chaucer but of course couldn't find him. Had tea at a cute tea house that inspired Dicken's writtings, and saw the remains of a Noramn Castle. That I liked a lot, different and massive.
Sunday was spend in Cambridge enjoying the town. Having seen by now many English towns I still like Cambridge best. It's just so cozy and yet active and still soo beautiful and not run down at all. Canterbury was not looking so good, the people there didn't seem to care. A lot like italy, a lot of grafiti and carelessness for the history and architecture.

In York with the Vikings

OK ok ok, I know it's been awhile. I can't keep up. Clearly I'm doing more things than I have to write about haha.
So lets see, after that weekend of Chinese New Year and Shakespeare's birth place, we went to York for the weekend. It was the viking festival there. it was awesome.
First of all, York is so so so beautiful and I want to go back when it's summer because you can tell it would just be wonderful to sit outside by the river in the tables along there. It's totally a medieval city with its wall and all. It has a rich Viking heritage, thus the festival.
Hour hotel was perfectly located and we could walk around the city. It had all these little markets with lots of yummy food being sold. Half the time we didn't even eat at restaurants we just grabbed food from the markets. There were German sausages and Dutch mini pancakes and Crepes and Oriental noodles and Spanish Paella, i mean sooo much food, sold cheaply at the market, ready to eat, it was like a daily festival. There was also the candy kiosk. They had every kind of gummy candy you could imagine, and then some, Cameron bought himself a ginormous (gigantic and enormous) bag of candy, which added so much weight to our luggage, haha.
We took the train up there, and did I mention I love trains? They're just so amazing, it feels so classy in an old-fashion style. Plus you get to see the coutnryside. The weather was nice, very sunny but freezing cold. Since it's further north it was soooo cold, I had to stop in a store and buy gloves and earmuffs.
As far as the viking festival there were some specific events, like the parade and the battle re-enactment. Tthe battle was fun. Although it's exactly what happens when you allow testosterone to flow freely and uncontrolled. Basically: a bunch of men, dressedin funny costumes, (cloaks, tights, rags, hats) running at each other with their wooden shields and swords hahahahahahaha.
It was a lot of fun to watch. We went to the one at night becasue it had special effects and all, like the soundtrack of the Mummy (the movie) playing as the Saxons and Vikings battled, and a narrator telling us the story, and sounds of swords clashings and women with fire torches all and then of course there were fireworks and a big structure in the shape of a viking ship lit on fire. The men liked that one a lot, Cameron certainly did hahaha. I liked it too, until I realized I couldn't move my legs and feet due to the cold.
Then there was of course York Minster, the cathedral. As with all cathedrals and churches in Europe, you can image what it looked like. And yet, it was still beautiful and so open and detailed. It's the largest Gothic cathedral in the UK. We climbed 273 steps to the top, and the view was stunning. York is so beautfil. I absolutely loved it. It's the typical English town you see in movies and read about in books. The buildings were so old that many of them were crooked and leaning, some of them still kept their foundations from the middle ages. We saw remains of an old abbey from the 11th century. And we walked around the city wall. Like Cameron said, it's a "miniature Great Wall of China", although not really. anyone is interested in seeing pictures let me know, give me ur email and I'll send u a link to see them.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Stratford-upon-Avon and China

Last weekend was chill, and fun. Lots of walking, walking walking. Friday, I didn't have class, so thursday night I took the train to Cambridge. Cameron had work during the day, so I stayed at his place watching Grey's Anatomy (anyone who has been keeping up with Season 4, I would be more than happy to share opinions and comments, hehe) and doing laundry. Afterwards, when he got home, we went for a walk around Cambridge. It's such a beautiful town. It doesn't matter how many other towns we visit in England, everytime I walk around city center in Cambrdige, I feel such peace and tranquility. It's a great place, small, manageable, pretty, it has history, it has high and low culture, it has the very convenient chains providing everything, as well as small locas stores. And a marketplace, selling everything from fruit, cheese, clothing, boots, jewelry, fossils and even tailoring and clothing adjustments. 
So we walked around, bought some stinky cheese (anyone who has seen Family Guy will know the quote "that's either bad meat or good cheese" haha), some fruit and continued walking around. Since I mentioned the other day that England gets no sunshine, there has been, of course, only sunshine. It's been great, it's lovely to walk around when the sun's out. 
The following day we went to Stratford-upon-Avon. It's a small, turisty town where Shakespeare was born and grew up. Of course it's turisty, hahaha. They still have the house where he was born, and it's silly and a bit lame, but it's still the original structure which is cool. But the best part is not the Shakespeare part, but rather, the town itself. It's a beautiful town. That's the best part of Europe, the small towns. They're so cute, it makes u want to put them in your pocket. It was a nice drive up, we had lunch there, walked around, saw some interesting shops, took pictures (i'll put them up soon) and then went home. That night, we went to London. 
My roommates were conveniently in Edinburgh that weekend so Cameron and I were able to stay in my tiny bedroom so that Sunday morning we could enjoy a quick day-trip to China , or China-town. As some of you may know, the Chinese new year started last week. The year of the Rat. London has the biggest celebration of Chinese new year outside of China. It was great. There was a parade a few blocks from where I work, in Trafalgar Square, then a celebration, and fireworks in Leicester Square and lots of things going on in Chinatown. We saw the parade. Oh and the British don't know the concept of arriving early for a free, public event that is expecting 300,000 visitors. We got there 40 minutes before the parade was suposed to start, we thought we were late. But no, there was NO ONE, ok, no one, in the streets yet. Actually the police had not even closed or blocked off the streets yet. So of course we had great spots. I took tons of pictures. It was a bit strange, getting all excited about seeing Chinese cultural icons when i'm supposed to be experiencing European culture. But I suppose when Europe's ambition drove the empires to expand so much, the consequences are being expeirenced now: there is no such thing as purely European culture, it now has African, Arabic, Asian and Hispanic influences.  
So we spend the day in China: had Dim Sum for lunch, got tons of free fortune cookies, although instead of telling me my fortune, they informed of curious tidbits of Chinese-related facts, hahaha.  We even got paper-mache little dragons that expand for a pound, hahaha. I had fun. Again, the weather was beautiful, so walking around was very enjoyable. We also left the crowd a bit and I showed Cameron the building where I work, and there is an art exhibition going on so we went in and saw the art work, and the building hehe. We had a pint and tea at a pub that opened in 1400-something. Then Cameron returned to Cambridge and I went home to get ready for the new week. 
This comming weekend, since it's Valentine's day, we are spending saturday and sunday in York (yes, as in where New York gets its name . . . haha). Apparently the Viking Festival is going on this weekend. Not exactly my idea of romantic, but they say York is very pretty. Off we go, we are taking the train to York. I love trains, haha. I'm not sure what to expect of the Viking Festival, so I looked it up online. Here's what it says: 
"The Festival sees hundreds of Vikings descend on the city and demonstrate battle-drills and training routines . . . " 
That scared me a bit: Vikings descend on the city?????? I didn't know Vikings were still around. I thought that was from like back in the day. It would be like saying that hundreds of Aztecs descend on Mexico City, and while there are people who are the descendants of the Aztecs, I didn't know there were Viking descendants . . . plus weren't the Vikings brutal? It shall be interesting. Ok, dinner time. 


Ok. It's been a few days or so. I know. It's been crazy though. I can't have time go by while I sit here writing about what I should be living out there.
This was venice:
We got in friday, and took the long, scenic route from Piazzale di Roma (Bus Station, from the airport, we took a bus) along the Grand Canal to our hotel. It was fantastic. The best little boat ride I've ever taken. I had seen Venice in pictures, but nothing, nothing, can ever capture what it really is like. When I was younger and learned that Venice was "a city in the water" I thought "ok, sure, so there's a couple of islands with a large canal in between and in order to make it easier humans built a couple of smaller canals going into the islands" WRONG! Here is how it happened: there was water, and several tiny islands, humans dumped dirt and logs into the water and built land around the water, then proceeded to establish and entire civilization there. With water, EVERYWHERE! Usually, first the land was there, then water-ways are opened up by humans. In this case, it was the other way around, first there was water, and THEN there was land. Which explains why it's sinking. So my first views of venice were from the Vaporetto along the grand canal. It rained the entire weekend. but it was still breath-takingly beautiful.
We had enough time to get to the hotel, and by the way, if anyone is thinking of going there anytime soon, I recomend the Hilton Stucky something somthing. It's brand new, and VERY nice with its own private shuttle every 30 min to Piazza San Marco. We just checked-in and had to rush, put on costumes and masks and go to an old hotel near San Marco for out opera/dinner/party event. It was no more than 40 guests. All dressed up like it was the court of Louis XIV, drinking Bellinis (Prosecco and Peach Juice, soo good). There was an opera performance in the lobby, just 4 singers, and it was the one with the Figaro song in it, I can't remember the name. Sooo beautiful. Absolutely fantastic. Then we had dinner and dancing in the ball room (look at the pictures). it was a great night. The next day we spend in Murano. We saw glass-blowing demonstrations, walked around all the shops, and were told how a lot of the smaller pieces are actually brought in from China, but claimed to be made in Murano which is in turn destroying the Murano glass industry, had lunch at a Pizzeria, mmmmmm, and then went back to Venice where we had dinner at a wonderful, and expensive (although the Consierge said it was "not so expensive") restaurant. Venice is known mainly for their seafood, and that's what we had, delicious seafood. So good.
The last and third day we spend in Venice, enjoying of all the events of Carnevale. People parading their costumes. A huge show on the stage in Piazza San Marco, well it was a city-wide party, and we were most certainly invited. We had lunch at a wonderful little tea room right in San Marco where the spectacle was happening on both sides of the glass windows. Inside: The room decor dated to the 17th and 18th centuries, the solid marble tables were still original, the food was served in silver trays, AND if you had costumes on you could skip the waiting line, resulting in everyone inside having elaborate costumes, the scene being as if taken straight out of a Versailles movie. Inside: people looking in, people walking with their costumes, people, people, people, and more people. The coffee was great too. Then we proceeded to walk all around the city, looking into all the shops and churches and streets and bridges and canals. It was fantastic. Afterwards, we returned to the hotel to pick up our stuff and left for the bus station again.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

I put some pictures on snapfish and sent emil invitations. if you didnt get an email, let me know. I think the pictures came out great. I wanna know what you have to say about them!!!!!

Monday, February 4, 2008

It was a long and wonderful weekend. Venice, well, it's Venice. 
What can I say? 
Venice during Carnevale, well there are no words for it. I can sit here and type away until my hands go numb  and my wrists writhe in pain, but it still wont be enough. all i can is you have to see it for yourself. 
It's a surreal experience: old, traditional, sophisticated meets modern, euphoric, worldly to make a flamboyant, exhilirated extravaganza of colors, lights, people, costumes. The costumes, oh my god. SOooo amazing. Not halloween style costumes. No. There's a style to Venetian carnevale. It's Louis XIV's Court meets Star Wars' Queen Amidala and company. When put in a setting that originates from the Renaissance, you have what a true fantasy would be like: surreal, a futuristic time capsule. 
It was amazing. beyond amazing. Not just romantic, as in love, but Romantic, as in the ism (Romanticism) with the fear/craziness/extreme happiness. 
It was Venice. It was Carnevale. 
Nothing tops it, not Mardi Gras in new orleans, not st. patricks, nothing. Why? because no other huge city-wide party has venice as its backdrop. 
It's late, and I haven't slept much. tomorrow I will go into detail as to what we did and all. this weekend I will try to upload pictures, or put a link for pictures. 
Let me know how you are all doing. 
Ciao ciao!

Thursday, January 31, 2008

I don't know how to turn the pictures. let me try. 
anyway. i'm in cambridge now, at Cam's and we were trying on the costumes so here it is!!!
Every piece was acquired separately. Actually the dark red outer skirt i had custom made for this outfit. you guys like it? we leave tomorrow. 
i'll let you all know how it goes. 
jealous anyone? hehehe. don't worry i'll enjoy for everyone back home.