Friday, October 19, 2007

now THIS is what i was most looking forward to...

i know i owe this blog 23942734092387 more posts about the trip, but i'm so excited that i can't bear to get into the details now! i was so looking forward to getting back and photoshopping and printing out some of my shots, and above are the first 2 examples. i didn't do any extensive fiddling (mostly because my photoshop skillz are seriously sad), just black-and-whited the shots and voila! ready, set, look-at-me-i'm-artsy!

the first shot was taken in venice (obviously) and the second is from a rainy night in paris. so happy with the way they turned out.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

i need a vacation

isn't that lovely? i can't wait to see the sistine chapel! i'm going to try to sneak in a few pics. i really hope our guide lets us linger in there... or there's a way for me to get back in afterwards. it was the first thing that i thought of when i found out i was coming here. not to be outdone, though, is the gorgeous fresco on the ceiling of the duomo in florence (left). i can't even imagine the work, the inspiration, the sweat and blood and tears that went into it... breathtaking.
so i've had a stressful day. things back home are hitting the proverbial fan and i have a lot of questions that won't have answers until i get back. you try to enjoy your longest chunck of consecutive time off since you started your job with the weight of the world (melodramatic, yes... but that's sorta how i feel tonight) that that hanging over you. oh well, i'm repeating the time-tested mantra "do not stress out until you have to" until it actually sinks in. i give it, oh, about 10 days to take effect.
otherwise, my new hotel line-up is now confirmed for my shortened stay in rome. the hotel panda will be home for 1 night and then off to the sister hotel the okapi for 2. it's a bitch to find anything reasonably priced, well located, and not a dive in a short amount of time and running over a weekend. but, i did it. i just will be carting my shit around more than i'd like to. at least the hotels are close together! i'm really looking forward to some r&r and time alone in rome. it'll be nice not to have to share a bathroom and a life with people for 3 days. i've enjoyed the company, but i don't enjoy their dirt (thus, the hostel was OUT for rome! i cancelled the allesandro today). i want to sleep in until 9am, take a shower when i feel like it and use as much hot water as i want to, not wear pants and read my book for an hour before bed. luxuries i have sadly done without for the past 2 weeks.
afterwards, i'm off to meet lindsay for 5 days in paris. i'm really excited to spend the time with her in the city. now i won't have to take my own picture at all the sites! i'm also excited to see how well my french will hold up. i've been rockin' the italian here when i have to... but i don't know how well i'll do under pressure in france. the italians are always very helpful - i can't wait to see what the parisians will be like when i fumble for a word. snobby jerks!
in any case, i'm off to read some of my book and relax a little. i'm going to attempt to get to bed before midnight tonight. tomorrow is my last day of work after all so it'd be nice to wake up refreshed and ready to go. plus i wanted to get the shower first tomorrow.

you know you're in italy when your blog instructions are in italian

wow... it only took me 2 weeks to update the blog. how very 'busy' of me. there really is no excuse. true, i do work 9-630 and by the time work is over and dinner plans are made and dinner is eaten it's midnight - but that shouldn't have stopped me from getting on here at least once in the past 2 weeks. well. don't hold it against me. i promise more pictures etc. to come (i do, after all, have about 1000 so far... and i haven't really been travelling yet...).
now, onto the bigger issue: how does one sum up 2 crazy, amazing, lonely, busy, squatting toilets (the horror) weeks into one quick post? wait... i guess i just did. it was actually more amazing that lonely, more crazy than busy, and more squatting toilets than... i'd care to ever see in my life again. so far i've been to florence twice, arezzo a handful of times (but not up to the prato and church at the top so i'm likely going back on thursday), siena, and assisi. not bad considering that i'd be working for a full 2 weeks and then doing all my sightseeing afterwards. still on the plate are rome & paris and the new addition of venice, which happens friday. i'm really glad that i got to see more than i was planning for - i really feel like i got a good taste of italy.
i should be working right now so i'll sign off with some quick observations about these past 2 weeks:
1. i am sick of pizza and pasta, which i never thought could be possible. i am also sick of gnocchi but can't stop ordering it when we go out.
2. i'd rather hold it than use a squatter toilet. seriously, put a seat on it.
3. tuscany is WAY more hilly than i expected. and i expected it to be hilly.
4. i am veeery glad i brought 8gb worth of memory cards.
5. i am veeery disappointed that i didn't bring my laptop.
6. i shall never eat rabbit or duck ever in my life.
7. italian guys: should not look like they spend more time on their hair than women, wear watermelon coloured pants, wear lemon coloured pants, wear lime coloured pants, wear any bright coloured pants whatsoever.
8. italian women: should smile more at the bars, not wear skinny pants (showoffs!), take a little of the eye makeup off.
9. siena has been my favourite city so far... we'll see how i feel after venice, rome, and paris though.
10. pomegranates fresh off the tree are the best fruit
11. people in italy are friendlier than you'd expect
12. italian budget hotels in rome will never answer you when you need an answer
13. calling cards are really freaking cheap
14. never trust directions from the guys in the arezzo train station unless you want to end up in santa mama at 7.30 at night not knowing how the hell to get back to where you need to go
alright... i promise i'll be back with more pictures and elaborate stories before i take off on my 10 day vacay.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

i miss you already!

just a quick note because i'm running out of time! i'm off to the airport, trying not to worry about the flight and trying to focus on the fact that when i wake up, i'll be on a whole other continent!

yikes, okay, i'm freaking out a little. and i miss my cats.

whatever. italy, here i come!

love to all,

Monday, August 27, 2007

one week to go!

well, i'm ready. i think. i've got my hotels booked, flight from rome to paris booked, a rough itinerary for my time in rome (with a lead on a tour group for the vatican, too!), out of office documents prepared, enought clothes and electronic equipment to last a lifetime, copies of my passports and important cards, info for where i'm going and where i'll have been... the only thing left to do? buy a suitcase. i had originally planned on bringing the suitcase i bought during my master's year that was pretty much made for backpacking - a lovely little rollie bag whose back unzips to reveal handy backpack straps. and it even came with an unzippable day pack! but... i did my packing dry-run this weekend and it sadly won't fit all my essentials. and no, that doesn't include the kitchen sink - i'm actually being very prudent with my packing this time!! 4 pairs of pants (well, 5 if i can do it!), 1 skirt, 2 long sleeved tops, 2 sweaters, a rain jacket, 6 t-shirts (i wear them doubled up before you freak out), and 5 tank tops (i wear them under EVERYTHING). AND i've narrowed it down to only 3 (THREE!!) pairs of shoes! but, i also have to bring things like towels, guide books, "regular" fiction books (i can't live without my books for a month... especially with all the plane rides!!), and the small army of beauty products and herbal supplements that i just cannot live without. whew. my point: it was definitely time to upgrade to the 25" suitcase. and, lucky me, they are all on sale for half price at bentley. woo. once i purchase that tomorrow at lunch, i'm pretty much all set. i just have to remember to put all of it in the precious 25" suitcase. and pray that i don't get swarmed by the ghetto rats near termini station in rome. eek.

i think now that i'm starting to get really ready to go, the excitement is able to break through. i have this incredible opportunity to throw myself into TWO foreign countries and a miriad of crazy situations in each. it's really thrilling to think about all the potential adventures that are waiting for me (all good ones, hopefully!) and the different people i'll meet. it's a great feeling - especially as it's a relief from all of the worrying i've been doing and will do as the day gets closer and closer.

i'm starting to get the girls ready to go too. there's a lot of things that i need to remember to bring to grandma & granpa's: litter bags, bella's comfy pink bed & their cat condo (essential so that they don't scratch up the motorhome!), treats, leashes, their brushes... oh man. i'm going to miss them most of all. whose going to swish their tail in my face when they want a cuddle? whose going to bug me every morning for the food that's already in her dish? whose going to do laps around my legs when her second sense for cheese tells her there's something yummy getting grated in the kitchen? whose going to meow so loud into the phone and make grandma laugh?

yep, not so excited now....

Monday, August 13, 2007

lazy monday

<--- i tried to find the laziest picture in my collection... how'd i do??

i actually got a lot done on my day off today, believe it or not. i got a few books to read while i'm away (the year of magical thinking by joan didion, when we were orphans by kazuo ishiguro, a seperate peace by john knowles, and leaving the saints by martha beck), ordered my lonely planet city guides for paris, rome, and florence, adjusted my bike seat and fixed my bell, made a delicious shish kabob dinner, got some toiletries i'll need while i'm away, and i manage to squeeze in a lovely little 1 hour nap.

i still have a few things to look after, but i'm feeling pretty good about my progress now. the big things this week are booking my flight from rome to paris, and booking my hostels in rome & paris. i already know where i'm going to stay in room so it's just a matter of booking it (fyi it's alessandro palace). i have a good lead on a hostel in paris but i think i'm going to do a little research first to make sure it's the right place for me. after i figure these things out, i'm nearly set. you know, after i do a dry-run packing my suitcase. ha!

i'm also trying to prepare the cats for their month-long adventure. i honestly don't know what i'll do without them while i'm gone. i know i'll be distracted much of the time but they are such a comfort that i know i'll miss them terribly in my down moments. at least i know that grandma and grandpa (well, mostly grandma) will take good care of them while i'm gone - lots of scratches and pets and the occasional treat. my mom has big plans - she thinks that she's going to keep them out of the bedroom for a month because she "doesn't want hair all over her bed". pssssshhhh good luck! we can barely keep them out of there during a weekend so i'm thinking that the obsessive shutting of their bedroom door (it's a slider so it's even more annoying) and constant vigilance coming in and out will last oh about a week. either way, they'll be living it up with the squirrels and birds and old people walking their dogs for a month. lucky bastards.

the only thing left on the plate tonight is to enjoy 1 full hour of the hills on mtv. we all have our guilty pleasures and inane mtv reality shows are mine. there nothing like crazy ridiculous immature girls (*cough*heidi*cough*) fighting that makes me happy to sit at home with the cats. as the great mary j. blige once said: "no more drama".


Saturday, August 11, 2007

oh, shit.

i have exactly 2 weekends left in toronto before my big adventure begins.
i felt like things were trucking along quite nicely: i bought memory cards! rechargeable batteries! i've started telling people at work! i planned to meet a friend in paris! you know, all the important things. like places to stay, itineraries, and a budget.
like i said, motherfucker.
i did do some research hostels tonight though. the thorn tree is an excellent resource. i actually found out about the thorn tree message board about a year ago from a couple who came to eat at east side's in toronto. we got to talking about travel and how much i wanted to go away and they were so encouraging and had such good advice for me - one bit of which was to check out the thorn tree for information. and they were right - i already have a name of a hostel in paris that i'm going to do a little more web research on (the village hostel, which is apparently behind the Sacre Coeur)!
but, one hostel lead does not a trip make. i still have a long way to go to set out some of the key details, though - like how i'm getting back to paris from italy, where i'm staying in rome and for how long, if i'll be able to do florence while i'm staying in arezzo, where i'm staying in paris, if i'm stopping in beaune... etc. etc. etc.
i also want to do a packing dry run - is that too anal?
wait, on second thought don't answer that.

Friday, August 10, 2007

the language barrier

oh man. i had a "donkey kick"* moment today at work. it was simultaneously the most embarassing and hilarious moment of my life (after the donkey kicks, of course).

the back story: part of my job is to call travellers or their travel agents if i am missing information from them for their upcoming trip (things like passports, waivers, bike info etc). normally this process is pretty straight forward but today... oh today. it's going down in the history books.

so on my report that tells me which information i'm missing from our travellers, i see 3 couples on a provence walking trip that haven't sent back their forms yet. they all have spanish names and their travel agent is called salvador. normally i would ask my spanish-speaking colleague Ana to call them, but i see that the number for the travel agency is american and the agency name is in english so i decide to go ahead and give 'er a shot. well. the conversation went a little something like this:

her: agencia americana *something else in spanish i don't understand*
me: do you speak english *slight panic*
her: no. no ingles.
me: um. okay. *long pause, tentatively* salvador?
her: salvador non *something else in spanish i don't understand*
me: *full panic* SALVADOR?
her: *repeats phrase in spanish that i don't understand*
at this point ALL of my colleagues have stopped what they're doing and turned around and are staring at me. including Ana, the spanish speaker. i look at her desperately and say
me: UN MOMENTO *to Ana* how do you say i want to speak to Salvador????????
Ana: quiero hablar con Salvador!
Me: quiero hablar con Salvador!
her: *something in spanish i don't understand*
me: *repeats phrase in spanish that i don't understand to Ana*
Ana: *translating* he's not there!
Me: *to Ana* how do you say I'll call back???
Ana: *translates for me, but i can't understand what she's saying*
me: *repeats the closest thing to the phrase that i can get out of my mouth*
her: *something in spanish i don't understand*
me: um... *long pause* hola! *hangs up*
the SECOND i hang up the phone the ENTIRE room erupts with laughter. i get up, bow, my face turns red, and i try really hard not to die from embarassment.

sweet jesus. the perils of working at a travel company!

*donkey kick: a moment of utter clusterfuck, the ulitmate embarassment; orginated circa 2006 during a performance of wicked when an audience member had to run to the bathroom in the middle of the show, fell over 4 fellow audience members in the process of exiting her seat and while she was going down did a "donkey kick" to try to free her entangled feet but ended up losing her shoes in the process (note: she still proceeded to the bathroom shoeless).

Monday, August 06, 2007

here we go again

yes, that's an upside down chair. and yes, this is (my 3rd attempt at) a blog. gone are all the old sappy poems, open letters to oprah and jason mraz, and bitching about how much my feet hurt; here is my renewed effort at putting something interesting out into the blog-o-world. it's bigger, it's prettier, it's melissa... with upside down chairs!

i also figured that there's no time like the present to start this old beast up again, seeing as in a month i'll be off on the road to europe for the first time ever. i'm thinking that the trip will make for intersting posts, pictures, and scary stories about how i got lost in the florence train station and found my way out the other side. i'm absolutely terrified to go but am also ridiculously excited about fulfilling this, my longest dream. first order of business: prepare myself for the terrifying seven-and-a-half hour flight by practising my yoga breaths and visiting my doctor for some valium.

oh, i haven't mentioned my deathly fear of flying? well, then, come along with me as i prepare to go on this trip of a lifetime (long hours of work! dirty hostels! no air conditioning!) and see what adventures wait for me along the way (you mean there aren't american-style toilets? well, then. i guess i'm just not going to the bathroom. ever.).

whatever is out there, i promise i'll make it interesting.