Before I begin, happy holidays to everyone! I'm going to try to finish all my Europe posts TODAY. Uh huh, you read right, TODAY. There have been a few interruptions --- like my Father's snake getting into our couch and the ensuing chaos as everyone tries to get it out --- but I hope I'll get this series done soon. Like in a few hours.
And hopefully, the snake will come out of our overturned couch with the sign Do not sit. SNAKE inside. on it soon. Like in a few hours.
OK, so we're still in Italy, people!
In Pisa, actually. Can anyone tell me what everyone goes to see in Pisa?
My sister shows us the answer.
The tower doesn't lean as much as we thought it would though. Apparently, the government has been hoisting it up as much as possible to prevent the inevitable fate of any building that becomes increasingly unbalanced: utter destruction. According to our witty guide, "we are lucky to see it now since it may collapse tomorrow". That was a direct quote.
up close and personal
We didn't climb it though. For one thing, a ticket can only be gotten two months in advance. There are also very strict rules on anyone who enters its leaning halls. First, you only get to stay there less than 30 minutes. This means one must run up all those flights of stairs, take a photo on top, then run back down said flights of stairs like one is competing in a foot race. Only a little more than a hundred people at a time are allowed to have this privilege of extra exercise since overcrowding could cause --- see above for the fate of all unbalanced buildings --- utter destruction.
I think the building's actually quite pretty.
the pretty building
It's also an architectural mistake. Is this all we came here for, ladies and gentlemen? To see a slightly drunk-looking tower?
Apparently, it is.
We moved on to look at other buildings in Pisa, dear Reader.
the other buildings
We started with the baptistry.
I think it's pretty too.
In the olden days, the unbaptized heathen was refused entrance into God's holy house without first having water poured (or sprinkled?) over him. Thus, it was convenient to have a building for this rite beside the church. So, you know, people could go at it as quickly as possible.
I'm not sure if it went as speedily as my commentary seems to indicate, but that was the general idea.
We couldn't get into the baptistry --- or maybe the tour group didn't bother; I'm not sure --- so we continued on towards the church.
See that maroon pillar near the top that sticks out like a sore thumb? The guide announced that it was pilfered from a temple of Venus, and used here instead. Apparently, there is an old tale about how looking at said pillar for five minutes would keep your lover faithful. That's right, just five minutes.
The powers of the pillar would fade after twenty-four hours though, so keeping your partner from straying would involve staring at that column for five minutes every single day. The guide helpfully added that we could take a photo of it to bring home and look at for the required amount of time every morning.
The church doors tells a story.
I forgot what the story was though. Something historical. I was too busy being fascinated by the detail on the doors. I can imagine some long-forgotten artisan hunched over that hunk of metal and pounding for hours on end.
His body must have been pretty sore after all that work.
Everything was just so cool.
Check out the ceiling.
That's gold leaf at the top, and a really beautiful painting on the other side.
The lamp of Galileo is also pretty known. It's supposed to be the one Galileo, the famous scientist of the 16th century, used to figure out the swings of a pendulum (Physics talk, people). Legend goes he would watch it sway during mass.
That probably meant he wasn't listening to the sermon, but it's still quite an accomplishment.
mosaic work in front
and more detail at the sides
There was just so much to see. Large wall murals were colorfully splashed on the sides of the cathedral, but they were too dark to get on my camera right. At least without fiddling my camera more than usual, and following the tour group didn't leave much time to fiddle.
Here's the kicker though: the baptistry and the church are also leaning. It's not as clear as the tower because they both have bigger foundations, but they are. The guide explained that the soil in Pisa was quite soft, and foundations there needed more work than in other parts of Italy.
We emerged to sit on marble steps and enjoy the view. I actually have some pictures of myself at that moment --- very rare since I'm usually behind the camera --- since my sister was taking the shots.
The weather was fine enough to remove my coat.
My sister also enjoyed the breather.
My parents were actually running around taking shots of the tower, but I'll always remember goofing off on the church steps with my sister.
We also did take the prerequisite tourist shots with the tower behind us. It took a lot of work to get the whole tower into the pictures though.
My sister doing all that work.
My Dad tries out the same thing.
The pictures weren't half-bad though so it must have been worth all that effort.
We left Pisa to the tunes of a flutist playing in the square. It was wonderful.
See the flute?
We stayed only a few hours but it was one of the most memorable parts of our trip.
Daisy on 12/31/2007 12:58:00 PM
Happy Birthday, Jesus
original untweaked photo by Erik Rudolfs
To quote a certain book, "the baby Jesus' birthday" found me on the balcony of my Grandmother's house watching the city burst into fireworks. Of course, the whole baby Jesus thing is figurative; he must be pretty old right now. I also hear December 25 wasn't even his real birthday, but that's a whole other irrelevant piece of trivia.
Anyway, the fireworks display was pretty good. But then, it always is since my Grandmother's house is on a hill overlooking the city. Not to mention I'm always surrounded by my cousins, some of the closest friends I've ever had.
I always feel really blessed when Christmas rolls around. For one thing, I get to be with both my paternal and maternal sides of the family (about 70-130 people depending on who's around). I get to enjoy the riot induced by screaming and excited children who get to run around all night while their parents have cups of coffee in the kitchen. I get to watch my cousins and nephews --- no nieces just yet --- get all googly-eyed over how perfect the gifts we gave them are. It was worth every shopping trip, and every headache over what each kid would want without him knowing he'd want it.
I know there'll be times in the future when I won't be with them for Christmas, so I'm milking these moments for all they're worth.
Times will also change; people get old. My cousins joke that we'll stop screaming one day, and our children will do it instead.
I am just so glad to have the family I have right now. I love every one of them, and it's so great to have everyone home for Christmas.
And like I've mentioned, it is "the baby Jesus' birthday". It's amazing to remember how he morphed from Almighty God to Squirming Baby just for us. Talk about doing pretty crazy things for love.
The fireworks are still going off outside, but I think I'll just drop off now.
I'm spending Christmas day with my large family at the beach. Then we'll be heading to church in the evening. This is the country with snow-less Christmases after all.
Goodnight, everyone. And a very merry Christmas.
Note: The Europe posts will continue after this post.
Daisy on 12/25/2007 01:54:00 AM
Some people have been asking me when the Europe posts will ever end. Well, including this post there are three more places on my list.
I'm actually itching to write about what's been happening to me since Europe but I guess that'll have to wait until after this series is over. Because if I start now, the Europe commentary will never be finished. :D
Let's start with a beautiful view, shall we?
said beautiful view
Stopping in Florence, Italy for two days was wonderful. The buildings were mostly built with brick and stone; they practically had Renaissance written all over them. I guess that's understandable. Florence practically began the Renaissance.
a few of those old buildings
We began our stay in Florence by imbibing cups of gelato.
That's right, folks. Some clever Italian made gelato out of Kinder chocolate. It seemed weird at first, but it turned out pretty good. My sister practically inhaled all that creamy chocolate goodness.
Tiramisu & Cookie Dough
The Tiramisu in my cup was genius. It had cake crumbs and a slight tinge of alcohol buried in all that creaminess. It was quite good. The Cookie Dough flavor wasn't that bad either though pretty forgettable. In fact, I don't remember much of how it tasted like.
It was still a lot better than most gelatos I'd tried back home. But still, it was disappointing.
We followed behind a tourist group and saw the sights.
The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore is striking, isn't it?
The name is a bit of a mouthful though so I shall refer to it as Duomo --- the Italian word for a cathedral church --- from now on. It was this large building with more detail on its walls than my camera could handle. As often happens in Europe, there were loads of tourists. This immediately took away the desire to go in said church and walk through its hallowed halls. The Girl Who Ate Everything did post about huffing and puffing to the top of the Duomo though, so you can check her out for more details.
But the outside was already so cool. Even the doors of the baptistry --- where people were baptized before they could go in the church --- were meticulously done.
Each panel on the door was a story, and made out of metal besides. That must have taken a lot of effort.
the Duomo in the fading light
We also saw some other old stuff. We passed through the Medicee Chapels, a testament to the glory days of one of the greatest patron families of Florence. It housed the tombs of the Medici family, and even a few glass ornaments containing their brown bones and teeth. I don't think it was very good photo material, but I guess I wasn't allowed to take any pictures anyway.
The marble sculptures by Michelangelo blew me away though. I mean, every figure was so detailed down to the veins on a person's arm. And marble is hard to sculpt. It was also fascinating to hear about the different themes and hidden meanings behind all the art. I couldn't get my mind around some of the ideas; I think I was just surprised those deep ideas would be lurking behind marble positions and faces and whatnot.
one of the statues I was allowed to take shots of
No, that last one wasn't in a museum. It could be though. Statues like that dotted the different squares and intersections of Florence. It was so cool.
We also looked at what people were peddling in the markets.
a really interesting chess set
I would have bought the set and brought it home. Except I didn't want to carry it back almost half a world away.
Then there were the usual cookies, cakes, and baked goods. We didn't get any though; we were trying to save space in our stomachs for dinner. We hoped it would be as good as this guy's dinner seemed to be.
I just had to snap a picture.
Dinner did come along eventually at a cafe by a square.
It won't surprise readers that I have forgotten the cafe's name.
My Dad opted for a pizza and a beer. My Mother, for some reason, was not feeling very hungry. I think I remember her getting dessert. But my sister and I had the most amazing meals.
Daphy, my sister, found the lasagna delicious. It was also extremely cheesy; I helped finish it since Daphy later found it too rich to continue gorging on.
Risotto with Salmon
My risotto was darling though it came in twice the amount I'm used to eating. That's always been my main peeve about eating abroad; the servings are all so large. Maybe tourists who visit our area also get nitpicky about how small the dishes are.
Either way, little bits of salmon in a warm pillowy bed of risotto was a wonderful way to go. It also helped that salmon is one of my favorite kinds of fish.
Unfortunately, the amount of carbohydrates in that dish --- and my sister's besides --- made me too full to really enjoy a good dessert.
We emerged the restaurant to find the city of Florence lighted up. I especially loved passing by this really cool merry-go-round. It's been a long time since I've seen one of those. In fact, the last time I rode one, I was too short to climb on the horse.
Isn't it pretty?
the carousel up close
All in all, Florence was a great place to visit. Every place we went to was a great place to visit. :D More on the rest later!
Daisy on 12/18/2007 06:17:00 PM
Oswegan described Europe as a photographer's candy store. And I totally agree; I had my camera looped about my wrist most of the time I was there. There were too many shots I could miss.
This is my roundabout way of apologizing for the large number of photos in this post. Does the apology make you feel more goodhearted towards me and the rest of the photo-chasing generation? Will you forgive me for how long it'll take to scroll down if you see nice pictures?
a nice picture
I hope so.
We arrived in Venice about 9 or 10 in the evening. Tired? Extremely. Plans to immediately fall asleep at our beautiful tucked-away-in-that-itty-bitty-corner hotel? Absolutely not. When you're in a new place with so much to see, who wants to sleep?
Not to mention we hadn't even had dinner yet.
Daphy and her Spaghetti Bolognese
We stopped at a little restaurant a few bridges away from our hotel. It had photos of celebrities splashed all over the walls, and a small TV that showed us what the rest of the world was doing. We didn't watch much TV though; we watched our food.
my Aglio Olio
OK, so Aglio Olio's a pretty simple pasta dish that even I could make in my kitchen. It's still my favorite, along with great vegetable soup.
I say great because that's what it was. The vegetables were wonderfully soft and chewy while the broth was delicious.
Silly captions aside, we did enjoy our meal. The food wasn't half-bad.
Dad and the pizza he felt we had to order
We emerged from said restaurant at peace with the world due to our comfortably full stomachs. There was a surprisingly large number of people strolling about at 12 am so we decided to join them.
Check out how the moonlight looks on everything.
We ended up in a really large square with a church we were going to visit again in the morning. We also ended up terribly lost. Venice makes me feel like a test hamster in a maze.
It's an urban jungle out there.
We did eventually end up in our beautiful tucked-away-in-that-itty-bitty-corner hotel for some much-needed shuteye.
I wish I could remember my breakfast's name but all I recall is that it started with arrio and sounded really Italian-ish. I console myself that it is perfectly natural to forget a meal's name more than a month after I've eaten it. This is another sign that my mind isn't going anywhere just yet.
Breakfast was good though. The vegetables protruding from it were lightly grilled and fit each other quite well. It was a bit sour, sweet, salty, and bitter depending on the vegetable I happened to stick between my jaws. Extremely flavorful and highly satisfying.
We did a little shopping the next day. The displays were very pretty, and my sister and I needed to buy a few trinkets for friends back home.
Ooh, look. Small people.
Who has the patience to arrange all these little beings in said arrangement? I don't.
Yet another reason to start painting again.
The pigeons of Venice were very much like their other European counterparts. They hopped about with their vapid stares in hopes of receiving peanuts for their trouble.
Pigeons line up at their version of a soup kitchen.
The pigeons were occasionally disturbing though.
Their large numbers could mean the conquest of Venice! If they actually had plans, that is. Their primary aim in life seems to be the conquest of peanuts and other tidbits. They seem to like peanuts but are obviously not very picky.
We went on to the Piazza San Marco or St. Mark's Square. This was the square we ended up in the night before.
Check out the tourists in the foreground. They look pretty awed.
And why wouldn't they? Especially with buildings like the one below to see.
Isn't the arch of St. Mark's Church jaw-dropping?
I wish I had more pictures of the interior but photos weren't allowed. I guess it's a church, after all. How could anyone be reflective with the incessant clicks of camera shutters in the background?
It was beautiful though. Think mosaic floor patterns of different colors and intricate ceilings. You can also think of St. Mark's bones ensconced behind the table for the Mass. I know people consider his body holy and everything, but wouldn't it be creepy to stare at it during the whole service?
To each his own.
more gorgeous carvings with hidden meanings outside
Did I mention we were following a tour? Hearing about all the carvings and historical whatnot was pretty cool.
The tour continued to various smaller squares and churches. We got to hear about how people lived in this city (Where do they get water? How about the marketing?) with some cute little folk tales about generals, Casanova, and Marco Polo's Chinese wife to spice things up.
one of those smaller churches I mentioned
artists sitting on top of a well and sketching said church
I can understand why so many sketches and paintings of buildings keep popping up in Europe. When you're surrounded by them and have a remotely creative bone in your body, you just can't resist imitating them on paper. I drew some sketches myself.
all water and blue skies
Venice was pretty romantic. I'm not getting all mushy here; it seemed just the setting for lovey-dovey movies. A lot of couples seemed to think so; I passed quite a few walking around in their respective dream worlds. Some pairs seemed right out of the movies; I remember a teary-eyed couple shouting at each other in impassioned Italian. In front of the train station, if you can believe it.
And I thought all those emotional confrontation scenes in movies didn't resemble reality.
Of course, all beautiful things come to an end and our Venetian excursion was one of them.
What can I say? It was lovely.
Daisy on 12/10/2007 11:32:00 AM