Friday, March 26, 2010

The Story behind Tweet

Born Tweetsworth Herringbone Yellowhead in the Fall of 1993, he was, at first impression, simply a stuffed yellow "Tweety" bird given as a Christmas gift to a young girl.  Since receiving this bird into her arms, Kristin has taken it to bed with her on 99.9% of nights.  An unbreakable bond has been established between girl and bird, and as a result, anywhere she go, he goes.

So much more lay under his emotionless face and pillowed veneer of simplicity.  His background remains a mystery.  There have been whispers that he came from a small town Fair, sold by a crooked magician to cover dental expenses.  Some speculate that he is not from this planet at all.  I heard from an elder Rajasthani Shaman that he lost his arms in a cockfighting match gone horribly wrong on the busy streets of Kolkata.  Regardless of where he came from and why, he quickly made a lasting impression on a blossoming Kristin Dushman.  Boasting an immensely proportioned head, 1 frail leg (the other was gnawed off by a dog), and a complete lack of any features resembling arms, he had a quirkiness about him that belied his true intentions of becoming the biggest hanger-on travel freeloader that I have ever met.

At Sea

Fast forward, and there I stood, at customs in a one room shack called an international airport.  Limon Province, Costa Rica.  We had just landed on a beach runway, and even the local fire department arrived to greet our harrowing descent.  Dangerous vibes.  These are always best experienced after the fact.  I waited in a long line to have my bags inspected.  Kristin and I had just met a few days prior in Panama, and I was about to be treated to my first bird sighting.  Kristin was holding up the line with multiple bags.  In these days, she traveled like mid-nineteenth century aristocracy, with large bags no fewer than three, taking with her blankets, pillows, curling irons, and all manner of unnecessary creature comfort.  As the customs official pulled a large frumpy yellow bird out of her suitcase, a look of befuddled confusion creased across his sweaty Latin American brow.  The act resembled a magician hesitantly pulling a dead rabbit out of his hat.  He knew not what to make of this creature.

And neither did I.  I was familiar with baggage, but this was my first experience meeting a girl that had a large yellow bird.  And he was large, with a head size doubling that of a human being.  The officials joked about it in Spanish, folding him back into his powder blue luggage home.  I was awestruck.  

Getting sun with Friends in Mexico 

Within the next few weeks, Kristin and I begin falling for eachother, and as a result my fate became inexplicably linked with this yellow fellow.  As we planned out first trip together, I remember asking her, "Really, we are bringing that huge thing with us?"  So far, he has not missed a single trip.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Travel Index

Venice 2010  ( 1 )  ( 2 )  ( 3 )
         Rome 2010  ( 1 )  ( 2 )  ( 3 )
Cairo 2010  ( 1 )  ( 2
Dahab 2010  ( 1 )  ( 2 )  ( 3 )
Florence 2010  ( 1 )  ( 2 )  ( 3 )
Pisa 2010  ( 1 )
New York 2010  ( 1 )  ( 2

Montana 2009  ( 1 )  ( 2 )  ( 3 )  ( 4 )  ( 5 )
Borneo 2009  ( 1 )  ( 2 )  ( 3 )
Bali 2009  ( 1 )  ( 2 )  ( 3 )  ( 4 )  ( 5 )  ( 6 )  ( 7 )
Phi Phi Islands 2009  ( 1 )  ( 2 )  ( 3 )
Phuket 2009  ( 1 )  ( 2 )
Cambodia ( 1 ) ( 2 ) ( 3 ) ( 4 )
Macau 2009
Hong Kong 2009  ( 1 )  ( 2 )  ( 3 )  ( 4 )  ( 5 )

Sistine Gaze

So, I was writing the blog earlier today, and while captioning the Vatican Pictures, realized that we completely forgot to see the Sistine Chapel.  An honest mistake, but probably not forgivable to get that close and not see it.  We raced out the door, grabbed a cab, and were standing there an hour later, taking it in.  You know, things have a tendency to seem smaller in real life.  The Sphinx, Tom Cruise, and Snickers bars all come to mind.  The Sistine Chapel was about twice as large as I thought it would be.  Just huge and beautiful.  Overwhelming, really.  As a whole, the Vatican Museums really blew us away.  The set up takes you through everything before finally leading you into the Sistine Chapel for the finale.

 Very beautiful day today.  Here is St.  Peter's Basilica on a decent day.


 We walked through the outer rings of the piazza, trying to locate the Vatican Museum, which was around the corner and down the street.

 We really needed this weather yesterday.

 The area surrounding the Vatican

 The dome from the museum 

 The museum is stuffed with castrated statues
 A very ornate affair awaited.  This museum was very well laid out and decorated.

 Room after room of treasures

 Everything seems so opulent

 You have to remember to constantly look up.  It is sensory overload.  We were thankful for our necks that they floor was not a canvas as well.

 Statue close-up

 Kristin really liked this piece

 Hey buddy

 This hallway was full of tapestries
 This was our favorite room, the map room. It is full of all types of maps.  Before google maps, you could just roll up in here and map stuff out. 

 More of the map corridor 

 Each map is painstakingly detailed

 I believe this is in the Sobieski room

 This was in the Immaculate Conception room


 Front and center by Immaculate Conception by Podesti

 Very very busy, could spend a day following the action in this one.  Room of Constantine by Raphael.  Does not get much better than this.


 Raphael and the room of Heliodorus, which contains the art of several masters
 SO you pass through room after jaw dropping room and begin to wonder,

 When do we see the Sistine Chapel?

 They make you come down from the second or third floor to the entry level and then you turn a corner and,

 there it is

 Pictures are forbidden and there were about ten or so guards in the room,

 I carefully squeezed these off from around my neck while Kristin coughed 

 Definitely worth seeing

 The exit stairs 

 We got lost, and then boarded the subway.  I saw a lady nursing her kid smushed in a totally full car
 Circo Massimo - where the Romans once held chariot races 


I do not know what to say about Rome.  I was fully prepared to have an underwhelming experience, but really have no concrete gripes with this place.  Sometimes going into a situation with built in low expectations is the best thing that can happen.  Some day, I may even get around to employing someone to travel around with me and talk about how much everything sucks, just so that my expectations would always be exceeded.

The food has been outstanding, the people a tad miserable though not necessarily rude(Italy has the most unhappy people in the West according to a recent poll by Cambridge University), and the sights are obviously world class.  I cannot think of a more grand way to spend an afternoon than skipping along from the Colosseum to the Pantheon to the Vatican.  Everyone should definitely visit, once.

We like Rome, but have definitely been in Italy for long enough.  I have eaten so many cured meats that my stomach itself feels as though it is in the throes of the early curative process.  I have perhaps said my last gratzi, though I may have a Ciao or two left in reserves.  I could not imagine why anyone would want to live here, but The main thing that bothers me about Italy and Europe in general, is costs.  Europe is an expensive place.  Sure, we try to stay in local areas and eat with the local people, and this does cut down on costs considerably, but not enough.  Food is just really damn expensive here.  Our daily budget has decreased by about 5 euros each day due to dwindling reserves.  I will provide a few rules on saving some money eating and drinking in Europe.   The tourist price will usually be double a local price.

 Our hotel has a shuttle that dropped up off here in the old area of Rome.  And while I wish this strange little yellow van was our shuttle, it is not.
 Some statues outside of the Capitoline Museums, one of these museums is the oldest public museum on the planet 

 The Capitoline Museums at Piazza del Campidoglio

 A fountain

 Rome is one of those places where you can seriously just wander aimlessly and just stumble upon massive amounts of history.

 Looking out over the ruins

 We decided to walk along Via del Fori Imperiaii to the Colosseum

 Some more statue

 Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

 The Colonna Di Traiano.  A column built it 113ad and covered in reliefs of early Rome victories 

 Foro Traiano

 The column with some more recent historical buildings in the background

 For the first hour or so, we really though we were going to have a pleasant day

 The rains seemes to have stopped and some blue peaked out

 Some Caesar dude.  I wonder how it feels to be a country that once ruled the world, but has really really come far off its 2000 year highs.

 The "you already know"

 Krispin reading about Rome.

 I believe this is the arch of Constantine, situated on the Colosseum grounds 

 In the Colosseum
 Messing with perspective

 It is very interesting to walk around this old structure.  The seats are all long gone.
 The grandness of it all really translates how great this place was 

 Kristin told me that animals came out of here

 A cross section
 The weather had changed for the worse

 Florence, Rome, and Venice all have this wow quality, where, when you are in the right area, there are impressive sights in every direction.  Rome definitely is the most impressive in this regard, but also the least charming.

 Some mossy steps

 The outer ring

 Rome subway, complete with live music 

 Piazza Barberni.  Kristin and I were wondering if this is the fountain where Tom hanks rescues the Cardinal in "Gods and Demons"

 Kristin spending hard earned loot on wishes at Trevi 

Trevi Fountain

Rococo at its finest, Neptune at his most impressive

Crowds were not too bad

 The Pantheon, and its perfect dome

 Outside, we build up our anticipation 

 Entering the naturally lit chamber puts most entries to shame 
 Hard to believe it has been around for almost 2000 years

 a column of rain fell through the center

 The Pantheon was originally a burial chamber for the exalted, and now has essentially become a word that implies you are in very rare and talented company at the top

 The tomb of Raphael 

 Pantheon Interior 

 More interior statues

 Directly outside of the Pantheon, rain was really starting to get on our nerves.  We wanted to see as much as possible though, so we headed towards Vatican City.

 Tiber River

 I liked how these trees along the Tiber sort of formed an interpretive tunnel

 Castel Sant' Angelo 

 I have not shaved in weeks, in fear that all of the rich food I have eaten has completely taken out my jawline 

 Castel San Angelo seems perfect in this weather

 More views of the Tiber

 Ponte Sant Angelo and Ponte Emanuele II

 St. Peter's Basilica 

 St. Peters Square

 Not too busy 

 It really feels like you are being watched in here

 Obelisks are everywhere in Rome

 Bird Head

 Fountain and Dome

 Some detail

 Bell tower

 Swiss Guard 

 The very large entrance to St. Peter's

 From inside 

 Place was pretty crowded 

 but not too bad

It is really so so big

Epic as it gets here on earth, and I suppose that is the point