Saturday, May 31, 2008

thank you trenitalia

well, today was a special, special, special pile of /"$(&, as jillian put it. i was warned once about the trains in italy, but i thought it was because it was sketchy with pickpocketers around. instead, i learned the truth today.

jill and barbara woke me up this morning and told me we had half an hour to get to the train station in order to ride for three hours to the baths in Saturnia. sanford pulled his blanket over his head and declared that it was going to be a ladies day today. nevertheless we dragged adam out of the apartment and ran down to the station, unshowered and barely dressed.

we got to Grosseto where we were supposed to switch on to a bus to Saturnia, only to find out that the next bus to Saturnia wasn't leaving until 4:20PM, and that there were no more buses coming back from Saturnia, and that the last train back to Florence was also at 4:30, so we would essentially be stranded in eiher Saturnia or Grosseto. neither of these options appealed to us, so we sadly had to abandon our plans to visit the waterfall-decorated hot springs to jump on a train to visit the medieval town of Siena instead. which was beautiful. unfortunately, the man at the train station told us that there was going to be a train strike that night, and the last train we could take back to Florence was at 7:20. which left us with forty-frive minutes to sightsee Siena. so we power-walked through the city with just enough time to get gelatto and espresso while walking. it was, at least, the best espresso i ever had.

these city names may mean nothing to some of you, but essentially it means i spent the entire day on the trains. it was the equivalent of us taking a train to go from Toronto to Ottawa, to stay less than an hour to eat lunch in Ottawa, and then taking a train from Ottawa to Kingston, for coffee and dessert. it was special.

at least we passed the city of Bad Ass.

and indeed, once we got back to the train station in Florence (miraculously...adam jumped off the train and hugged a pillar) we discovered that there was indeed a train strike. i had awful flashbacks of that night when i was stranded in the subway station at midnight during the TTC strike. only this time, my morning route was cancelled, the very route that i needed to take to catch my plane trip to Paris from Milan. i was pretty close to tears. fortunately, adam (who is like my best friend ever and is officially now my little big brother) helped me talk to customer service who managed to find me a route to Milan for tomorrow. the problem is, i may miss the flight because its so close. but, um, i can walk to paris, i suppose...

stupid trains.

oh, i saw a tower of pisa today. it wasnt THE tower, nor was it leaning, but my train did pass through pisa and i did see a tower, so i am going to hold on to that.

other than today nearly reducing me to disturbing bouts of crying and lunatic laughing, my stay in Florence has been wonderfully pleasant. adam, who is italian, has been a sweetheart showing me around. the first night i came here, we took a walk along the River Arno because adam wanted to show me Florence at night, like the bridges and the Duomo, which is absolutely breathtaking. its pretty safe too, the only dangerous folks around here are the drunken (mostly american tourists).

yesterday was Sanford's birthday, and i spent a big chunk of the day relaxing with the boys watching episodes of South Park, which was just what i needed after so much moving around. what i found most fitting for sanford's birthday was that we watched the South Park episode about gingers and the ginger seperatist movement(sanford is very red-headed). afterwards, sanford remarked about how he learned a new lesson about the importance to getting rid of all asian women. i love that kid.

also, YESTERDAY WE WATCHED A EUROCUP FOOTBALL GAME. italy versus belgium. italy won, of course, 3-1. it was pretty mind-blowing. and yes, professor johnson was there. we also happily met up with chantelle, arlene, anton, and john, who are all also studying in florence. we had a few drinks at their amazing flat after the game, along with sanford's melted birthday cake (tiramisoup). that was when we discovered that John thought the bidet was a urinal, and has been pissing in it all this time. oh, toilets. how i miss north america.

wish me luck in getting to Paris tomorrow!

Friday, May 30, 2008

lasagna, bolagna, spaghetti, PIZZA

ive only been in italy for maybe a day but already i can tell that florence is going to make me fat. and broke. i have no idea how food can possibly taste so good here. last night after meeting up with my friends from school who are studying in florence, we all headed out to supposedly the best tuscan restaurant. it was pretty much what soloman calls a tongue-gasm. we ate bunny, goat, boar, all sorts of delicious stuff. mmmm. my wallet is crying.

my friends have a sweet house here, really spacious so it doesnt seem crowded with five people living here. there are even two bathrooms. the girls bathroom has a bidet in it, but jillian and barbara insist that they think it is a foot wash. right now i am sleeping in sanford's room, and he hasnt killed me yet, so thats a good sign.

yesterday was a long day travelling on my own through the french and italian countryside. i took a taxi, train, bus, plane, bus, and a train to get to florence. i stopped off in milan for a few hours; i dont know anything about the city except that its the fashion design capital of the world. my girl friend Gabrielle used to be a model in Milan and once she did vodka shots with the folks from the Smashing Pumpkins, who are, in her words, apparently some big band or something. i didnt see anything particurly amazing, just a lot of rain.

adam and i are going to try to get tickets to see the italy-belgium football game tonight. hopefully it will work out, and hopefully my tendancy to attract riots wont repeat itself here in italia...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

the irish are taking over the world

so dublin was awesome, even though there were gingers everywhere. annie and i did a tour of the guinness brewery which was very educational...and by educational i mean
we got a free pint and that was awesome. dublin brewed guiness simply cannot compare with the stuff we get in canada. it was a beautiful thing. the first night we were there, it was a saturday night so it was essential to head down to the temple bar area where EVERYONE goes to drink. see, in every country i have visited, there has been an irish pub, so i was excited to visit an irish pub IN IRELAND. and it was pretty great. afterwards we took a stroll home along the river liffey, which i did not realize was in dublin. all i had heard of it was from a radiohead song

that there, that's not me
i go where i please
i walk through walls
i float down the Liffey

i'm not here
this isn't happening

but then, i was also the one that didnt realize that Ireland and Northern Ireland were two separate political identities. also, the first thing i asked when i got to dublin seeing all the bilingual signs was, does anyone actually speak gaelic here? its a wonder i didnt get lynched in ireland.

afterwards, we took a plane back to France and met up with annies friends in Nimes. my guidebook says that Nimes is significant for two reasons: the roman ruins, and the fact that denim was invented nimes. when someone elses culture and jeans is what you have to boast about, you dont expect much from a place. but i rather enjoyed Nimes a lot. it was a very quaint city and the Roman ruins was actually pretty cool. most of my night was spent in an irish pub. you really cant escape irish pubs. come to think of it, i spent most of tonight in nantes in an irish pub as well. ahhh, who cant help loving the irish.

my french gets better with beer.

i am totally perplexed by the toilets in france. many of them dont have toilet seats. its not because i am a spoiled north american girl; its just because ive only encountered seatless toilets in third world countries like Cuba. i mean, i travelled eastern european countries struggling to rebuild after communism, and even their toilets have seats. so what is the french excuse for forcing me to squat? nous sommes trop occupe avec nos revolutions?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

je veux une fourchette

just arrived in nantes tonight taking the train from nimes. yes, i am alive. too tired to post. its been a crazy last couple of days. it was a good time but let me just say that i hate fleas and all italian transportation websites. and i am getting tired of trains.

wrote a couple of poems on the train though.

BAD HAIKU 1...yeah i was tired and trying to sleep
thy snoring is my
calming ocean sounds; tis my
soothing lullaby

so sick of the train
damn breathtaking landscapes. so
sick so sick so sick

bah, un homme francais
j avais voulu une fourchette
tu me donne un spoon.

that last one is dedicated to the bartender in marseilles. i asked him for a fork in french and he insisted that i meant a spoon.

more bad poetry to come later.

Friday, May 23, 2008

travelling with annie has been that i get to hear the pearls of wisdom that she shares every day. last night she woke me up in the middle of my sleep to tell me, 'dont you think that if we used paper hot dog style instead of hamburger style, we'd save a lot of trees.'

other tidbits of genius she has shared included, 'something smells mummified in here' in St. Stephen's Basilic. Also, her discovery that the paper towels here in Eastern Europe are softer than the toilet paper.

annie and i went to the opera again last night to see the Marriage of Figaro, which we enjoyed much more. not only were there English subtitles so we could follow along, but this opera was a comedy rather than a tragedy, with a lot of hilarious hinjinx that involved cross-dressing and sexual innuendos. oh mozart. Cherubino was played by a woman - im not sure if thats normal, but it definitely added to the fun of it. we used to play the Marriage of Figaro in concert band in high school, so i was bummed out that we missed the opening number when we came in late. i had been humming the tune all day in anticipation of it and was sorely deprived of the chance to sing along.

in other news, annie and i gave into temptation last night. we have gone an obscenely long time without any asian food whatsoever, and our cravings finally took over last night, so we hit up a chinese restaurant for dinner. IT WAS SO GOOD. not particularly gourmet or anything, we have just been missing grandma's cooking that much. mmmmm. tofu.

we also got to try some czech absinthe as well, complete with the whole lighting sugar in a spoon on fire bit. i hate licorice, so the taste was only so-so to me, but it was definitely strong - the czechs are known for their absinthe. i felt a sort of minty cool burning down my esophagus. annie said her tummy felt like it was getting its teeth cleaned. no hallucinations a la Oscar Wilde, of course. interesting stuff, although not as weird as the cannabis vodka they love selling around here.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

something you gotta czech out

conclusion: i approve of czech beer. especially 1 euro beer.

prague is pretty amazing, despite the chilly weather...the clouds have been threatening to rain all day. annie and i took a long stroll down the river Vltava which offered a rather breathtaking view. other people in prague appeared to agree, seeing how most of the riverside benches were filled with couples sucking each other faces off. oh, i will never understand european public displays of affection.

annie and i had lunch today in the Cafe Louvre, an old restaurant from 1902 where Franz Kafka and Albert Einstein and other famous folks used to dine. hopefully the restaurant didn't try to rip them off the way they did to us. the food was pretty good though.

our hostel is a pretty neat place too. we are pretty much down the street from the Fred and Ginger dancing building that famous architect Frank Gehry designed in Prague. it's a fun thing to stare at, even without the help of czech absinthe.

big jazz dude john mclaughlin was playing in town last night. i hate john mclaughlin a little less than pat methany but i sat outside the concert hall for a while and listened in anyway. despite my big hate-on for his adult contemporary elevator music style, it was pretty neat stuff to hear..for free.

in budapest i decided to take advantage of the free laundry, and as a result, all of my clothes -and annie's- have been dyed pink. i think i will commence a TAP system now...Throw-Away-Panties. buying new ones instead of washing them. sure beats laundry.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


in retrospect, we probably should have bought a program or did a quick wikipedia check of what Don Carlos was about before going to see it at the opera house. As expected, it was all in Italian. we forgot that we didnt understand Italian. Luckily, there were Hungarian subtitles translating the dialogue. unfortunately, we didnt understand Hungarian either. at least the music was really moving. we just didnt follow the plot at all. when the halfway intermission came, we thought the whole opera was over and started to walk out. luckily the usher alerted us that there was still another two hours. sigh. so much for gloria being cultural.

annie and i also checked out St. Stephens Basilica, the biggest Catholic church in Budapest. its also the home of the mummified hand of St Stephen. yep, i said it. mummified hand. its in this glass box, and if you put a few cents into the slot of a machine, it lights up all pretty like a christmas tree. the mummified hand. a christmas tree. Catholic people are a strange breed.

now we are in the czech republic in the city of prague. managed to take the magic school bus that JP told us about. despite the gratuities, it was still a long 8 hour ride...and we barely made it. Igor the hotel dude managed to screw us over royally when we tried to check out, so we almost missed the magic bus. maybe he did it because he found out we call him Igor behind his back. ah well.

time to explore the famous Czech beer...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

caught in hungarian rain...and hungarian B.O.

i picked up an guide to vienna to see what i missed, and it occurred to me that the term of endearment "schiessel" that my grandmother has used for me all these years (she used to live in Germany) actually means "my little shit" in German. i wonder if she was aware of this. i most certainly was not.

they show Korean dramas here on TV, dubbed in Hungarian. i think this is clearly further proof that we are taking over the world. also, annie and i were caught in a Hungarian film shoot last night, so keep your eye out for two especially good-looking korean extras.

annie and i are going to see Verdi's Don Carlos at the Opera House tonight. we are also going to try to catch the magical bus to Prague tomorrow. wish us luck for both!

i keep having nightmares about school, even though i'm on vacation. yesterday, i found out i may have gotten a B in Ethical Lawyering. so here's a heads up: i may decide not to come back home, and stay in Europe instead.

Monday, May 19, 2008

hungarian nudity

funny story. annie and i decided to go to the kiraly baths today, an old turkish bath house built in the 1300s. igor at the hostel told us to go naked. the lady that worked there told us to go naked. so we went naked. when we showed up to the bath, everyone else was wearing swimsuits. and we were not. it was a tough, challenging moment for my comfort with with public nudity.

the baths were amazingly therapeutic, nevertheless. i felt so calm and refreshed, and when we got out, our skin was glowing so healthily. there is no way that i can describe how great it feels to movwe from a steam room to the cool pool to the hot pool, and back again. and luckily, later, people showed up naked, boosting the nude-to-clothed proportional count. i wish toronto had bath houses like these.

last night we had another surreal experience. we went to gieros, a traditional hungarian restaurant. we had been expecting some big loud pub-like place, but instead it was a tiny family-owned joint with a set menu, and the performers played hungarian gypsy music specially for us (we were the only patrons). the musicians were playing violin and some hungarian instrument (maybe called a timbolo?) which really resembled a piano, but was dated much older and involves hitting the strings directly with sticks. it was pretty amazing, if slightly pricier than we expected. i took a video of it, so i will try to upload the video later.

im still glowing from the bath. i had no idea it felt so good to get naked with strangers.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

developing an irrational fear of vampires

what a day. im not the superstitutionous type, but i will admit that yesterday was full of enough bad omens to put me in a grumpy mood.

bad omen 1. we missed our awesome bus to budapest because it was sold out (this bus had free drinks, snacks, movies on board, and cost less than 5 dollars). instead we had to take a much less cool bus with no such freebies at the pricey cost of 25 dollars, on a trip that took four hours to go 200 kilometres. boo. plus it left four hours later, so since we were stranded in bratislava with no money, we killed some time trying to sleep on a park bench by the river danube.

bad omen 2. because we were hungry with no lunch, annie and i scraped together our last coins to get 19 crowns (less than one dollar), which was just enough to buy a bag of chips from the vending machine...which then got stuck in said vending machine. it was heartbreaking.

bad (but amusing) omen 3. on the bus to budapest i met a young swedish sheep shearer who had been on his way to athens for a job. i guess he drank too much the night before, because he woke up in a bush. with his passport gone. i believed his story because he still had dirt and grass all over his shirt. i guess he was having a worse time than me.

bad omen 4. after i arrived in budapest, we began walking toward our hostel, and on our way, an old woman collapse on the sidewalk in front of me quite suddenly. we heard her head hit the cement with a sickening thud and were horrified to see a pool of blood form under her head. the worst part was that i couldnt speak a word of hungarian to see if she was all right, nor did i even know how to call 911. luckily some other passerby was able to call for medical attention.

bad omen 5. the hungarian parliament resembles the castle of Count Dracula. to be sure, it is simply amazing, huge, stunning, and knocks the Canadian Peace Tower into a cocked hat. but it is also a little creepy. it doesnt help that the hostel receptionist greeting us (who was very nice) bore an unfortunate resemblance to some Igor-type mad butler character in an old time horror movie.

despite these misgivings, however, our time in hungary has actually been quite pleasant. for accommodations, annie and i get an entire flat to ourselves. it is bigger than the apartment i live in at home. im talking needlessly high thirteen feet ceilings, and our own bathroom and kitchen. our living room is so big we dont know what to do with it (i have been spending it watching sunday morning cartoons, like Pokemon dubbed in Hungarian). if this is hostel accommodation, i am anxious to see what a hotel would be like.

also, the nightlife is pretty amazing. annie and i went for dinner and drinks with a couple we had met on the bus. one of the subway stations had been converted temporarily into a club, so the clubbing crowd spilled out into the sidewalks. there were more young people hanging out in the parks, all having midnight picnics on the benches and grass, drinking beer openly, looking down at a partially underground square where a big band swing jazz band played music while everyone danced on the floor. it was pretty, well, magical.

right now im hiding out at the main hostel to wait out the crazy thunderstorm. on my way over i passed count draculas palace again...i mean, parliament, and i saw that there were dozens of cop cars and riot squad police out on the streets. i dont know what it is about me that attracts riot-type crowds in each country. anyway, something is brewing out there, and its right on my way home, so i probably ought to wait for that to blow over.

oh, who am i kidding. we all know im going to go check out it.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

gloria the slovak hates the british.

i never thought i could be so grumpy about being surrounded by naked young men, but here i am. a busload of british rugby team players checked into the hostel last night, filling every single room except mine, making annie and i truly the only girls in the entire hostel. we didn't get much sleep, because they kept blasting loud coldplay and arguing drunkenly about who pissed on whose bed. eventually around 4AM i had to stumble over next door in my "pajamas" and bang on their door and ask them in a polite canadian way to turn down the goddamn brian adams music. ironically, as i observed, they were playing canadian music. they started it up early again this morning, blasting backstreet boys. i don't understand the british.

oh well. the slovaks continue to be totally sweet guys, even if they too are all male. today annie and i take a suspiciously cheap bus to budapest, hungary....we'll see how that goes.

i don't understand why the music in slovakia is so good. the hostel here plays really great music...i don't recognize any of them (i think there is a lot of ninja tunes), but they just sound really awesome, some sort of electro lounge jazz mixed with Sharon Jones-esque soul funk. i really miss my music collection, i've got to say. for some reason, i've been singing a lot of canadian music in my head as of late, like tokyo police club and barenaked ladies. i guess my homesickness comes out in my music taste.


Friday, May 16, 2008


our bratislava trip has been surprisingly pleasant, despite the fact that my guide book appears to hate this city (descriptions of the sights around here include remarks about the "ill-proportioned steeple" and the castle as "an unwelcoming giant box burnt down by its own drunken soldiers in 1811"). we didn't know much about the city before we got here. you know those people who spin a globe and randomly place their fingers on a spot and decide to go there? well, we didn't do that, but we decided to come to bratislava on a whim, mainly because it is only 60 km from Vienna (the two closest capital cities in the world, actually).

the people here are down-to-earth and friendly, even if their mastery of the english language is, of course, very limited. of course, i may be saying that just because the bartender kept giving me free drinks last night, but i feel like the people here really are less cold even if i am clearly a foreigner.

if only i can say the same pleasant things about the allergens floating in the air. i have been sleeping with a fortress of kleenex at my bed.

random observation: it may just be the hostel that we're staying at, but this city appears to be populated entirely by men. annie and i have not seen a single female staying at our hostel. i would be curious to know how the slovaks manage to maintain their healthy population without female reproduction systems.

random observation: people round here really love ice cream.

another random observation: because of the aforementioned fact, people round here have a hard time understand lactose intolerant asians.

another random observation: annie and i have been dining on traditional slovak food, which generally consists of food that is fried and delicious and cheap and again delicious. however, we have made the shocking discovery that the traditional cabbage-and-sausage soup is strikingly similar to the Korean kimchi chigae, a coincidence that we cannot explain at all. but we have been eating a lot of the stuff and loving it. it reminds us of home, and how much we miss grandma's kimchi chigae.

i guess i do miss home somewhat. today we saw some schoolchildren singing some traditional slovak folk song in the streets and i began to wonder what we would sing back in Canada as a traditional Canadian song. so i immediately belted out a Stan Rogers tune ("now i'm a broken man on a halifax pier...") until annie begged me to shut up and switch to avril lavigne or something. oh home.

oh and did i mention that we met the president of bratislava today? if i had the capability to upload photos on to this public computer, you would be looking at a photo of me giving an asian FOB peace sign pose in front of the presidential entourage, as the president speaks to the media. but alas, you will have to imagine it instead and believe me that it was pretty exciting.

yay free internet

okay my internet time cut out before i had time to finish that vienna post, so here is the rest.

THINGS I MAY OR MAY NOT MISS ABOUT VIENNA, but will most certainly remember:

1. people sporting random t-shirts with nonsensical/morbid english slogans, like "KILL YOURSELF" or "perfectly 100% human". apparently engrish isn't limited to asian countries.

2. vienna is very bicycle-friendly, so there are bike lanes everywhere, and bikes even get their own traffic signal apart from pedestrian crossings. unfortunately this increases the chances of absent-minded pedestrians wandering stupidly into bike lanes and getting nearly run over by bicyclists in a rush. on the bright side, i quickly picked up german swear words.

3. cute german accents.

4. cute austrian babies.

5. people in austria actually speak english. or at least enough english to make you think that they do speak english, until they bring you your order and you realize they didn't understand anything at all.

6. the face of Mozart plastered on every single coffee mug, coaster, poster, chocolate, and even teddy bears. apparently he is big here.

7. ditto number 6 with Gustav Klimt. who would have thought it was possible to grow sick of "The Kiss"?

8. for some reason, there are a hell of a lot of Koreans in Vienna. far more Koreans than any other asian ethnicity. Clearly, Koreans are the new Japanese, only hip.

9. instead of seeing cheesy John Mayer wannabes busking with their acoustic guitars on the streets, you seeing string quartets dressed in ball gowns and suits busking Strauss to an admiring middle-aged crowd on the streets. vienna is freakin' classy.

10. the delicious repetitive use of "fahrt" in various german words and phrases. for example: einfahrt means entrance.

11. finally, i will miss the awesome street meat. it is not awesome because it is particularly delicious, but the manner that their sausages are prepared and inserted into buns are rather pornographic. i can't expand here because my parents read this blog, but i will tell you that annie and i found it rather hilarious.

okay, time to quit hogging the free internet. updates on the slovaks to follow shortly!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

so long, fare well

while annie and i were chilling out in the volksgarten today, a chunk of cement fell off from one of the buildings structure and hit me. i think that is an omen that it is time we leave. perhaps once we leave austra, i will stop singing the songs from the sound of music in my head. still, im going to miss this beautiful city.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

annie and i threw our diet to the wind this morning (as well as our adult sensibilities) by having cake for breakfast. not just any cake, but the famous viennese cake known as the Original Sacher Torte, at the very Hotel Sacher Cafe where it was invented. it was pretty freaking delicious, and i have no regrets about having cake for breakfast.

afterwards we tried to buy standing room tickets to see the Wagners Sigfried at the vienna opera house, but couldnt get anything cheap...also, my cold has been getting worse and worse so i didnt think i could sit through a six hour long opera written by someone that Hitler admired, at least not so soon aftetr Auschwitz. instead, we might go check out a jazz club tonight in the old town.

we did however, go visit the graves of Mozart, Brahms, Schubert, Beethoven and Strauss. the graveyard was surprisingly quiet and undisturbed, unlike the Pere Lachaise place in Paris. it was pretty neat, except my coughing and sneezing which continually punctuated the solemn moments. apparently i am allergic to the dead. oh well.

tomorrow we go to bratislava, where my guidebook tells me people dont really speak english. this should be interesting, given the fact that even in austria people stare at us asians and ask us if we are chinese. ah, the life of an exotic zoo animal.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

the hills are alive...with spring allergies

well, i am in vienna austria now, and, like a stereotypical tourist, i cant stop singing songs from the Sound of Music in myhead, even if annie tells me that it actually takes place in salsburg. also, less happily, i cant stop sneezing and feeling like im going to die. because my body hates me, i have come down with an awful cold as well as spring allergies simultaneously, which leaves me feeling far more miserable than i should in a beautiful city like this.

on the other hand, after having down overnight trips on a plane, train, and bus, i have learned that the overnight trip from Krakow to Vienna 10P to 5AM is not as bad as i expected it to be.

given the fact that annie and i got practically no sleep, we were surprisingly functional today too. we showed up at the hostel at 6AM only to find that check in time was 2PM, so we decided to go sightseeing instead of napping. we got a lot done. we walked around the beautiful gothic structures and parks in the old historic part of time, and made it all the way to the Sigmund Freud Museum, located in his old house in vienna, where he used to see his clients. ah, good old freud. i was tempted to pull out a cigar and ask the museum curator why i keep having nightmares about law school weeks after its ended, and what that says about my libidinal id.

afterwards we went to the Cafe Central for lunch, a popular meeting place for people like Trotsky and Lenin. i was pretty impressed by the food. we got a two course meal that involved a cut of beef as tender as a baby (why yes, ive tried baby) in a mushroom cream sauce that somehow only came to less than 9 euros. amazing! annie and i were hoping food would be expensive here so we wouldnt eat, hence properly kicking off our euro diet, but it looks like we will be fattening ourselves here as well.

speaking of expensive, oh boy the SHOPPING! somebody please stop me! because annie most certainly werent. there are a lot of expensive designer label stuff around here, but there are also some fantastic sales, and given the fact that i have NO room left in my backpack, i dunno how im going to transport todays purchases. sigh. this city is kind of awesome.

the hostel here is like the one in london, nice, clean, friendly safe, but not so free and not so private like krakow. sigh, oh well. i still have plenty more former communist blocs to visit.

now, on to my quest for cold medication!

Monday, May 12, 2008

going to meet freud

today was less than stellar. i think i'm coming down with a cold which sucks because we leave for the awesome city of Vienna tonight on the overnight bus. booooo, my body sucks. also, we went to see auschwitz today, which was obviously important but certainly not a party. it was an amazing, sobering experience that made me think a lot and i think everyone should go at some point in their life to get perspective. unfortunately, the polish kids kept taking photos of me and annie instead of the bunkers, because i guess they'd never seen asian people before. i kind of felt like a freak. hopefully vienna will be a bit more, hmm, cosmopolitan.

all right...good-bye poland!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

nothing says poland like soccer hooligans

well, shopping was a dud. apparently poland is as capitalist as any north american suburban mall, and so are their prices. no tantalizing deals for cheap clothing. annie and i consoled ourselves with some traditional home-style polish food: cabbage rolls, potatoes, pancakes stuffed with mushrooms and onions.

krakow did not, of course, fail us, and we were allowed a truly polish esperience: football. to be specific, football hooligans. we were enjoying a polish pint on the patio in a cafe in the Old Town, when suddenly dozens of riot squad cops pulled up to the curb and began lining up. they faced against a rapidly growing crowd of young men waving red flags around and chanting loudly, filling up the square at an alarming rate. our waitress hurried over to us with the bill and told us to go home. we asked her what the heck was going on, and she said there had been a football match. her english was not good enough to explain the outcome of the game, however.

"is it good or bad?" we asked her.

"for you, bad. go home," she said. so we decided to go home.

unfortunately, by then the square had filled up with football fans, blocking the only route we knew to go home. we wandered around, dodging the crowd, the lines of police officers and broken glass, only to return back to the spot where we had started. there we met a man who spoke english, who told us that a police officer had told him that it was going to be a crazy night. the man's polish wife told us to go home, although it was uncertain whether she meant for us to return safely to our rooms, or to go back to our country. eventually we ducked through a side road and made it home. and we are alived! it was quite the adventure - we had half a mind to stick around and see what would happen, but we knew we couldn't blend in with the rest of the crowd.

our hostel room is pretty sweet - it's pretty much a furnished flat that we are sharing with two other couples. annie and i really are the only asians in the whole country though. and it's the first time we have been in a country where we don't speak a word of the language. we've tried, but polish is really hard and is nothing like the five or six other languages that we are familiar with. the people who work here don't speak as much english as we would have expected either. ah well, we are doing well despite it all, and will be moving on to Vienna soon, which is a bigger city where more people will speak english.

today i got a good fix for my jewish fetish, visiting the jewish quarter in krakow. it's got some pretty impressive synagogues, and before WWII, it used to be a thriving place with a massive jewish population until they were forced into tiny ghettos across the river and slowly decimated during the holocaust. tomorrow we visit Auschwitz, so we will learn more about that later.

ma mere

this entire post is dedicated to WISHING MY MOTHER A HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY. mom, i am so sorry i cannot be there with you this year but i love you and MISS YOU LIKE CRAZY.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


annie and i have arrived in poland now, and despite the fact that we're running on three hours of sleep (just like old times during law school!), i'm liking this city so far. especially the hostel, which is offering free breakfasts (real food, not just a muffin), free suppers, free internet, and free laundry. as a cheap asian rapidly running out of socks, i am a fan of this. also, annie and i get a private room, which is perfect because we are both horribly stuffed up with spring allergies and would otherwise keep everyone up with our sneezing.

okay, we are going to go and do some polish things, which (because i am with annie), consists mainly of shopping, at this point.

Friday, May 9, 2008

au revoir paris

This hotel is charging me an arm and a leg so i’ll keep it short. I met with my cousin safely and we leave for Krakow tomorrow for the Eastern European portion of our trip. Good-bye paris. Highlights of my trip have included:

-visiting the graves of Edith Piaf, Jim Morisson, Oscar Wilde, Charlie Chaplin.

-an unexpected trip.

-getting kicked out of the Sacre Coeur cathedral for being immodestly dressed. (shakes fist at the catholic church)

-sneaking back to the steps of Sacre Coeur at night after mel and I caught a great show at this bar. The musicians had moved on to the streets for a spontaneous midnight jam session, so i got to enjoy the dancing and singing of bohemian gypsy jazz in the warm paris night air.

So there, catholic church. Now, on to Poland, for more catholic fun!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

ceci n'est pas une touriste

man, i've been moving around so much that i am getting my languages confused. yesterday i bumped into a stranger and muttered an apology in three different languages, english, spanish, french (i stopped at korean). this is how my usual interaction with the french workers here: i enter the store/restaurant, put my order in French, have the waitress/cashier take pity on me and reply in English, while i stubbornly continue in French. its like a battle. usually i lose. just like the french in those wars...just kidding.

melissa's friends here have been kind enough to help me practice my french, however. as it turns out, all the french swear words i know are quebecois curses and mean nothing here, so i have to be re-educated completely on how to properly cuss someone out in France french. i have to say, i am enjoying the smooth bitter feel of French swear words, so sophisticated yet bawdy at the same time. just like the french.

paris is freaking expensive. gone are the days when olaya and i can cruise from bar to bar getting our fill of lunch on 2 euro canas with free tapas. the food here is so expensive that all i've virtually eaten are ham and cheese sandwiches on a baguette (which, incidentally, are still absolutely delicious), espresso, and wine. the french baguette thing is not a stereotype here. when luke and i took the metro home, we saw so many people lugging plastic bags full of baguettes, and men in business suits absent-mindedly chomping out of baguettes while reading newspapers on their way home.

also, last night while walking home, i finally figured out my parents' warning about dog poo in paris.

so luke and i went ahead yesterday and did all the stereotypical french tourist things, checking out a bunch of palaces, statues, museums and other monuments. we walked about a total of 9 hours yesterday. we saw the eiffel tower and while it was vraiment magnifique, we came to the conclusion that the CN Tower is still far more functional.

we also went to the Louvre, which was a rather mind-blowing experience, to see the works of Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Monet, Renoir, and 4000 year old sculptures from Mesopotamia. also, more mummified cats. i was a little upset that the Code of Hammurabi had been moved; as nerdy law students, luke and i had been looking forward to checking out one of the world's oldest forms of civil law. oh well. shamefully, luke and i both admitted that the majority of our knowledge about the Louvre and the works within come from The Da Vinci Code. sigh. that was when i really started missing soloman.

later on, i went out with a bunch of mel's friend for some late dinner and red wine at a thai place in La Marais district.

interesting fact: french thai places hand out forks.
interesting fact: french thai places do not have pad thai.
interesting fact: quand Gloria boit du vin, elle dit des choses comme je ne suis pas une touriste. je suis une parisienne.
(cue carefree flipping of scarf over shoulder)

okay, now i must go and do french things. you can live the french experience too, thanks to the Flight of the Conchords:

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

i see london, i see france, i am out of underpants

jai arrivee a paris hier soir, and that was when i discovered that RyanAir is, as Olaya put it, like the McDonalds of airlines. similar brand colours too. im not sure how comfortable i am with the idea of my airplane being a fast food joke, but i made it to france safely, even if i arrived in Beauvais instead of Paris, and had to take a long, long, long (and expensive!) bus ride into the city. what matters is that i am here! in paris! wow!

i am staying here with my good friend Melissa Laveaux, who also used to live in Ottawa. we used to play music together, back when i used to be a cool artsy musician instead of a nerdy law student. we even had a band, although i always get the band name wrong. Mel is that girl that i think enviously about when i am spending long hours in the library. while i am slaving away reading boring constitutional law cases, Mel is building her amazing music career in europe, touring in places like Zurich. a while ago, she opened for Feist here in France. currently she is recording an album in Paris. clearly, a far more interesting life than mine. i feel hip just being around her.

luke is in paris right now too, so last night him, mel and i met up at a brasserie for a glass of wine. i am proud to say that i ordered mine entirely in french. hopefully i will be able to practice more of my french this trip without accidentally horribly offending the parisiens here...

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

once i was the king of i eat humble pie

ah, moxy fruvous.

say what you will about the exotic atmosphere of barcelona, but madrid is hawt. maybe that´s just because i´m coming from rainy london, but it´s only spring here in the capital city of madrid and already i´ve discovered the importance of an afternoon siesta. and the unbelievable beauty of tapas. the tradition here of providing free platefuls of snacks with your booze sure makes canadian bars seem sleazy and cheap. why don´t we do this in our country? instead of sitting down to fancy restaurants yesterday, olaya and i basically cruised for spanish snacks with our canas. we did so much tapas yesterday, all the spanish i´ve picked up so far is alcohol-related. as a result, my stomache´s been feeling pretty weird lately. i´m not sure what aspect of the food it is here (maybe its very rich?) but i haven´t quite adjusted to it yet.

interesting fact: the entire population of spain appears to be conceived in national parks. i only come to this conclusion because in all the parks that Olaya and i visited (madrid has a LOT of greenspace for a big city), there were a lot of couples making out under every tree. maybe its the cute spaniards. maybe it´s madrid´s beautiful scenery. maybe it´s the spring air. maybe it´s the fact that Canada is 95% winter so we can´t get it on outside most of the time even if we wanted to. it was rather...startling, to say the least. not that i´m opposed in anyway to spring time spanish baby-making.

olaya has been a great host, and i got to meet a lot of her friends over tapas. one of them, mumu, is a makeup artist for one of Spain´s biggest musicals, so it was cool to meet her. conversing with her friends was tricky though...all of them spoke Spanish, of course, but i didn´t, and some of them spoke french and some of them spoke english, so there were at least three languages going around the table last night, depending on who was speaking to whom. i wish i was a little more fluent in French - i´m sure my anglophone inadequacies will surface even more painfully when i go to paris.

Monday, May 5, 2008


as i type this, i can see outside of my window the former house of the old Spanish dictator Franco. Olaya´s house, in this quaint spanish town just outside of madrid, is so cool. at first she told me it was like a suburb, but it is really nothing like Kanata. her neighbourhood is built into the mountainside and the houses are scattered between the trees and lakes along the valley, as Franco´s house looks down sternly over everything. meanwhile, kanata boasts of...the scotiabank centre.

i totally do not get foreign keyboards. it took me forever to figure out how to do the "at" sign, and i´ve forgotten again.

i met olaya from the university of ottawa when she was staying in Canada on exchange. she is a totally cool young filmmaker and a student at one of the public universities here. we made a few films together while we were in ottawa. she´s also a musician, and we´ve written some music together, but i can´t seem to find the tracks we recorded last year. she speaks all sorts of languages, and i´m so glad to have her around, because my spanish is pretty atrocious. she´s been helping me pick up a few basic phrases (like how to swear!). i´ve been communicating with olaya´s mom mostly in French, because her mom used to study in Paris, but i´m still a little shy because my french is pretty rusty too, even if i am an ottawa girl. ah well. i´ll have a much harder time in poland, i know.

i saw somewhere that it is supposed to rain in madrid. it better damn well not. i feel like i am the rain goddess that bad weather follows around.

okay gotta split... olaya is playing tour guide today and showing me madrid, which may or may not involve tapas. woo! until then, i leave you with one of the goofy fun movies that olaya and i made together over a year ago:

Sunday, May 4, 2008

round the bend

so luke and i parted yesterday as i left for Brighton by train, with Luke making comments about how he can finally check out all the hobby shops now that i'm gone. i'm going to miss him; i had a good time with him in London.

Matt (who i knew as Tay in university but now goes by his proper name) is an old friend from undergrad in Ottawa who has been an excellent host for me here in Brighton, everything from constantly offering tea to borrowing a mattress for me to showing me around Brighton to putting up with my snoring. he is doing his masters in international relations at the university of sussex, and lives in a residence on campus. he's big into academic marxism, so we get along much better than a lot of my corporate-minded law colleagues. it's totally sweet that he's been letting me stay for the day.

Brighton is really beautiful, overlooking the English Channel. it's pretty close to London too, only about an hour's train ride away. Matt says that Brighton is the UK answer to San Francisco, full of a lot of interesting people who want to be different. this translates to an unusual proportion of hipsters, some of a gothy-emo nature. and gays (that might explain the "lady boys of bangkok" sign i saw outside). i see some resemblances. Brighton is very hilly - it makes me realize just how flat Ottawa is. the beaches are also very pretty.

the brighton festival seems to going on this weekend, so the streets are packed full of people looking to have a lot of fun. Matt and i checked out the pier, where i didn't engage in any of the tourist trap activities but DID buy some cotton candy, which made me as happy as a twelve year old girl. we also walked by the cool shops in the North Lanes and stopped at one of the pubs for a few pints. we sat out on the patio across the park and just hung out lazily all afternoon, watching the people stroll by. matt seems a bit stressed about his paper but i have to confess that i felt pretty relaxed and that is such an awesome feeling after locking myself up in an asbestos-ridden concrete bunker of a library to study for the last few months. justin and drea, i miss you guys but not badly enough to want to go back to the library any time soon.

the seagulls here freak the living daylights out of me. they are as big as vultures and they just hover over the crowds like the way i've seen some hawks do. cue alfred hitchcock. creepy.

later on, we met up with his girlfriend Henrika who is this gorgeous, tall blonde german woman, and her cool swedish friend Eva at this bar called the White Rabbit (ooh, alice in wonderland), and hung out with a bunch of their euro friends for the evening. it was a pretty rad evening. i'm trying to wrap my head around the pub customs here - i don't see a lot of people drinking pitchers, and bartenders seem really surprised when you tip them. we never seem to have hostesses or waitresses that serve you at your table (even at restaurants), so you are expected to order at the bar. also, there are so many awesome beers on tap. i am a fan, in general.

we missed the last train last night, so i rode in a british taxi cab for the first time here. having drivers on the right side of the car still totally freaks me out. it feels so wrong. apparently the custom of sticking to the left of the road has something to do with the way people jousted in earlier times. which i'm sure is SO relevant now. i feel confused whenever i cross the streets, and it looks like nobody is driving the cars.

also, there are an awful lot of mercedes benz and BMWs here in britain.

okay, i'll write more about it later, but i gotta get ready to go to Spain now - hopefully that'll go smoothly!

Friday, May 2, 2008

posing with your gods

luke and i have started collecting adjectives that we use to describe our experiences in london. mine include words like "visually stunning" and "religiously enthusiastic". luke uses words like "goddamn ridiculous" (meant to be said in awe) and "con job". he doesn't know it, but i've started collecting luke-isms.

about St. Vincent's Cathedral: "It's so big. It's like two CN towers with a cross stuck on top."

about the London Tower: "It's almost as good as a Starcraft fortress. Almost."

about Jackson Pollock: "Goddamn con job."

and this is why i enjoy having luke as a travelling companion.

today we hit up the British Museum, which, to put it in the words of luke, is awesome because the British plundered everything of value in the world and stuck it in that museum. good old imperialism. there we saw the freaking Rosetta Stone (!!!), greek sculptures plundered from the parthenon and real life egyptian mummies. well, not so really living (that would be a horrow show), but actual mummies. we also saw the korean exhibit (luke: "starcraft?") and the japanese one - the japanese one was bigger and also contained some korean artifacts that they doubtlessly plundered from the korean when they were doing their imperialist thing. go figure.

we also took the time to check out city hall, the tower bridge and the london tower, which i was too cheap to go into (16 pounds, really! con job.). the best part of my day, however, was going to Shakespeare's Globe Theatre and attending a theatrical production of King Lear...for five pounds! luke and i were right in the front row, up against the stage too - it was a sweet deal that appealed to my cheap korean sensisbility immensely. we were so close to the action, i was afraid that the swords were going to accidentally put my eyes out. The Globe theatre is set up like the theatres of Shakespeare's times, with an acoustic stage (no microphones), an open air concept (thank god it didn't rain), expensive-ish seats in the back and standing room for the peasants (luke and i got peasant tickets).

it was really, really great. i forgot how much i like shakespeare. we all go through this stage about how much we hate shakespeare and the way all his tragedies end the same with with the hero's fate of death and the freaking metaphors and imagery that our english teachers shoved down our throats. but away from the high school setting, you suddenly realize how accessible those plays from the 16th century can be - i look at the daughters arguing with king lear and think, who hasn't fought with their parents before? i was amazed that i could be so moved at an old, old play with people speaking in old english accents.

luke and i walked back home and it was a long long walk. i really hope that i will start losing weight soon with all this walking that i'm doing. i was hoping to do the euro-diet - lots of walking, and little eating because you have no money. unfortunately, i'm spending a lot of money of beers, because i love the London pub scene, even if half the bars seem to close before midnight. luke and i found this out the hard way when we tried to find a bar on our way home - he still refuses to go to the club Heaven with me. oh well, the sidewalk curb is just as good.

tomorrow luke and i will part when i take the train down to Brighton to meet Tay, and after that i leave britain for Madrid. hopefully i'll slow down and won't go through money so freaking fast, because i've only been travelling for a few days and have already gone through an obscene amount of money. i'll be a little sad to leave England - it really is a quaint country, despite all this never-ending rain. it was a great place to start my european journey, since it is similar enough to home that there isn't as big a culture shock. plus everyone here speaks english (even if i can't understand the british accent half the time, or what the heck "franked mail" is). i think i will be all right in Paris because i speak some french, but Madrid is going to be interesting, since my spanish skills are limited to "una cervoza por favor". hopefully it'll all work out.

let me know of any suggestions of places i must visit in madrid!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

i peed in parliament today

also noteworthy: i walked on art.

luke and i have done so many things today that i can't even remember it all. i'm glad we met up with Farah for dinner, because she was able to show us around a bit and give us advice on what's worth checking out. with her cute british accent. afterwards we went pub hopping and discovered different kinds of beer that we liked (and some beers that we didn't like). the pubs were pretty packed, even for a monday night, probably because the chelsea-liverpool "football" "match" was on. we watched too, and figured out which team we were rooting for based on which one was winning (chelsea). it made us feel very british.

the hostel here isn't too bad - it's pretty clean, friendly and secure, compared to the montreal hostel i've been staying at since i was eighteen. communal living is a little strange though - i am not as used to getting nonchalantly naked with strangers as i would have expected. plus my roommates here are all in bed by the time i get in at midnight, and they are all up and out the door by 6AM. what on earth could they be doing so bloody early in the morning?

luke made me get up early this morning so we could have a full day. we decided to hit up all the stereotypical London tourist things today. we took a stroll through Hyde Park over to the Serpentine Lake where we saw two ducks mating. luke thought they were just diving for fish but i knew better.

we also watched the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace. they had a cavalry and a marching band. i thought they'd play something traditional like the national anthem, but the band played a jazzy version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow", which made me miss the days of being in concert band.

we tried to go to 10 Downing Street to see where Margaret Thatcher led the world with an iron fist into a decade of conservatism, but the security there was too confusing to get in. instead, we went over to the houses of parliament (BIG BEN!) where we sat in on a session of the House of Lords. Luke and i were in search of the crazy ghost of Lord Denning, and his crazy crazy rulings in law cases. yes, i am fully aware that this makes me a nerd, but i thought it was all really cool.

after that, we wandered down the River Thames and saw a million tourist traps that we weren't willing to spend money on. until we found the Tate Modern! which was, to my shock, free. and totally awesome. i had really wanted to go but wasn't sure if luke would be into that sort of stuff, but surprisingly he said it would be cool, so we went. it was mind-blowing to see all these famous works of Pablo Picasse, Diego Riviera, Piet Mondrian, Jackson Pollack, Andy freaking Warhol and probably more guys that i am too excited to remember. Luke called it all a con job and may or may not be considering dropping out of law school to become a similar con job artist. there was a special Marcel DuChamp exhibit going on (complete with the L.H.O.O.Q. installation) but they were charging us money so i didn't want to go. sigh. it would have been so cool. as a little girl from little old ottawa, i have never seen so many famous works of art up close. IT WAS SO COOL. again, i realize what a nerd this makes me, but that's what i like about museums - they make it seem a bit more hip.

we took a long walk back, stopping by another pub for more british beer, and i got to try british-made fish and chips for the first time. we also almost got kidnapped by some scientologists on our walk back, but my quick thinking saved the day. no tom cruise just yet!

other british things i'd like to find:
the spice girls
that park that Mary Poppins goes to.
bangers & mash
Thom Yorke

bedouin soundclash is playing at the hostel cafe right now. canadian music makes me miss home. okay i better go. i don't intent to keep posting long entries like this -i'm just too tired to go out tonight so i'm staying in this time. gotta get ready for tomorrow - luke and i are going to go see King Lear at Shakespeare's Globe!