Thursday, June 17, 2010

America for Me

"America for Me!"
By Henry Van Dyke
1852 -1833

[Read by Congressman Jeff Flake (R-AZ) to the Republican Precinct Committeemen of Maricopa County upon his return from a trip abroad and given to me by Daniel J. Mazza.]

'Tis fine to see the Old World and travel up and down
Among the famous palaces and cities of renown,
To admire the crumbly castles and the statues and kings
But now I think I've had enough of antiquated things.

So it's home again, and home again, America for me!
My heart is turning home again and there I long to be,
In the land of youth and freedom, beyond the ocean bars,
Where the air is full of sunlight and the flag is full of stars.

Oh, London is a man's town, there's power in the air;
And Paris is a woman's town, with flowers in her hair;
And it's sweet to dream in Venice, and it's great to study Rome;
But when it comes to living, there is no place like home.

I like the German fur-woods in green battalions drilled;
I like the gardens of Versailles with flashing fountains filled;
But, oh, to take your hat, my dear, and ramble for a day
In the friendly western woodland, where Nature has her sway!

I know that Europe's wonderful, yet something seems to lack!
The Past is too much with her, and the people looking back.
But the glory of the Present is to make the Future free--
We love our land for what she is and what she is to be.

Oh, it's home again, and home again, America for me!
I want a ship that's westward bound to plow the rolling sea,
To the blessed land of Room Enough, beyond the ocean bars,
Where the air is full of sunlight and the flag is full of stars.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I'm Alive

Just a quick post to let everyone know that after traveling all day, I'm safe in my apartment in Zurich. This "hostel" is actually really cool - it's apartment style so everyone has their own room and the three rooms share a kitchen and bathroom (with a really nice tub and shower.) The guy who owns it sat down with me for a good 30 minutes giving me recommendations of stuff to do if you only have one day in Zurich. I have the place to myself tonight (I'm going out to explore some World Cup viewing venues nearby) but tomorrow, the other two rooms will have guests.

Monday, June 14, 2010

I Belong in Italy

I feel I have traveled enough to say something with some definitiveness.  If I were to write a travel book, it would be called “Go To The Place You’ve Never Heard Of.”  These places are INFINITELY better than the traditional places that are full of nothing but tourists.

I promised Bonnie that I would title today’s post “Gradual Abandonment and William the Bad,” but that has such a negative connotation and I don’t want me and Italy to have any negative connotations!  She and I had a great day exploring this incredible city!

Today has been an amazing BEAUTIFUL day – warm, sunny, great company, beautiful sights, and an undeniably laid pack, happy culture!  I woke up to this amazing view of the train station from my hotel room:

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Walking towards the Old Town of Bari from my hotel, Bonnie and I cut through the University of Bari and had some great converstation with some Art Students having their final “Gallery” for a grade.  We participated, but the architetecture and beauty of the locale alone made me feel ashamed of GSU:

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Here are some random sights from the beginning of the day, including this poor Smart Car that won’t be able to leave his parking spot because of how jam packed in they park over here.  This one was slightly ridiculous and provided us with endless enjoyment!

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The buildings and ruins and they way they work together as a functional city is just incredible.  It’s history.  It’s real life.  It’s where they work.  It’s where they live.  It’s where the very few of us tourists snap pictures.  And it’s exactly the way it was done 1000 years ago.  Amazing.

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This sign, though we don’t speak Italian, made us pretty sure that if we walked any further, we would get shot by a sniper:

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Sorry for this random string of pictures here at the beginning of the post, but this was a door open on a random street we were walking down and the inside of the house felt so old world that I had to capture the moment.  Then we found some of the original streets from the Old Town Bari.  Just to the right of the black post in the foreground, you can see an indent in the old street where the wagon wheels of the ancient Romans would go in order to make moving heavy materials easier.

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The first real site we hit today was St. Nicholas’s Basilica. Looking at these first two pictures, you might think you’re in two different churches.  That’s the way it felt.  The ceiling was so ornate and beautiful, like the churches of Passau and Salzburg, but the walls were stark white stones, almost like ruins or gothic style.

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But look really closely at the picture above.  The top left corner of the pictures is that big round-ish ceiling painting.  Look just below the painting diagonally to the right.  See some really faded frescos/murals there on the white wall?  If not, I have some better pictures later.  This was one of my Top 4 favorite European Church moments.

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See how it feels like two different churches?

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This is the side alter, zoomed in to the Tabernacle then out to include the faded wall frescos.  Hopefully, this gives a clearer idea of how magnificent this church must have been in its heyday.

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Below the Basilica was St. Nicholas’s actual Tomb.  This is where Bonnie and I began our religious debates.  I don’t know if you can really tell in the picture below, but there were basically two groups of people down in the Tomb: a group of women all wearing Mantillas and praying (one was sobbing in front of the tomb) and then a bunch of tourists being led by a guide, dressed casually and clearly clueless as to what’s going on around them.  We had a great conversation about the role of a church/pilgrimage location, and how, yes, on the one hand it deserves to be a sacred, spiritual place for those who have spiritually and mentally prepared themselves for the journey.  However, it’s also important for these locations to still remain opened to those “tourists” unprepared spiritually because it allows people to be exposed to the sacredness and possibly become inspired.  It was a great conversation that caused us both to get somewhat spiritual and humbled by the devotion of those around us.

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Some close ups of the ceiling art.  My camera on my phone doesn’t zoom or have a flash, so I’m limited in my photographing skills.  We spent some time, mainly avoiding going back out in the heat, trying to figure out what was happening in the paintings.

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We next tried to go to the Church of St. Scholastica since she was St. Benedict (and St. Benedict was an Orsini, so isn’t she, too?)  However, it’s actually a Monastery – not a church – so we couldn’t exactly go into the Monk’s home, though we tried!

According to the map, we had a nice 20 minute walk to the castle, during which we planned to find a place to grab a bite to eat.  However, we turned the corner, and then, boom, castle.  The town is surprisingly small!  So we grabbed the first seats we saw and let me tell you that prices here in a non-tourist town are sinfully cheaper than all the other places we’ve been.  A bottle of water would normally run around 5EURO everywhere else we’ve been.  We had 3 bottles of water, 2 glasses of wine, a 15” cheese pizza, and a mozzarella/tomato Panini, and our bill TOTAL was 17EURO.  INSANELY CHEAP!  You know, I used to think that there’s nothing like a cool beer to quench your thirst on a hot, summer day.  But now, I’m convinced.  The real summer beverage is a cool, crisp glass of Italian wine (especially if the view is a castle:)

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After sharing our pizza and Panini, we stormed the castle.  Even the castle was a breath of fresh air.  Go back and look at the castles of Krumlov or Salzburg.  They were so painted up and fancy and Disney and charged around $10 to get into.  We paid 1EUR and got to enjoy this beautiful castle, almost to ourselves!  It reminded me so much of Chepstow/Tintern Abbey back in the UK, maybe because it was actually a Norman Castle!  The Normans, after breaking up the Roman Empire, apparently made it all the way down here and built up this castle on top of an old Byzantine castle. 

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The castle yielded lots of fun for our imaginations, like Bonnie dancing with a statue.

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And all the signs gave us great phrases, like “William the Bad” and “Gradual abandonment.”

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The concept of “gradual abandonment” baffled us.  The sign basically said that after this one princess died, the castle fell into its current state via gradual abandonment.  Can you imagine letting the White House fall into the state of ruins like this?  It’s so crazy for our 21st Century American minds to understand!!

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Can you see the difference between the old Byzantine castle/style vs. the Norman castle/style built on top of it??  Pretty cool, huh?

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After the castle, we wanted to go to the movie theater near my hotel to see Robin Hood, but the next showing didn’t start until 6:45, and Italy (defending champs!) played in its first World Cup match at 8:30 and we definitely wanted to watch that over dinner and vino!

Instead of a movie, we took a traditional Italian “siesta.”  AKA, everything closes from like 2-7pm, because it’s just too dang hot!  We met back up at 7, tried to eat dinner, but that can’t start until 8, so we just explored some more!  Joined now by Danny, we defamed public property and found this adorable round home foyer!

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We finally found a place to eat that had a TV so we could watch the World Cup Match and wasn’t just pizza (we had put on dresses afterall, and needed a fancy dinner to match!) but they didn’t open until 8.  We made a reservation, and then, naturally, went and got gelato before dinner.  I think it’s a widely known fact that I am not a huge fan of ice cream/gilato.  I mean, when I eat it, I microwave it!  But we found the most amazing ice cream/gelato on the planet!!!!!  Bonnie got two scoops of “chocolate” which I sampled and it tasted like raw brownie mix.  So I got two scoops of my own.  No exaggeration, but Bonnie (an ice cream expert) had 8 scoops total for the night.  Every flavor we tried was amazing:

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Dinner was actually very nerve racking.  Mafia looking guys kept moving the TV so we could barely see the match, Italy tied and everyone seemed DEVASTATED by this, and no one spoke English, so we were pretty sure that our food was going to come with fish heads and a variety of inedible things.  But Bonnie and I had a surprisingly delicious seafood risotto and Danny had a great little pasta thing.  The wine was gorgeous, Italy tied their match, and as far as we were concerned, the evening was PERFECT!

I will swear by it forever, go to towns you’ve never heard of!  Ljubljiana and Bari have been my two favorite places I’ve visited –pretty much ever – and most people couldn’t tell you where they are!

Catching Up

I’m sitting in my hotel lobby (that’s a story to be told a little later) in Bari, Italy ready to catch up from the last couple days. 

First, here is a picture of some beautiful ladies dressed up for the Farewell Croatia Super party we had Saturday night:


After the super, we all walked down to Nichola’s bar to watch the USA-England World Cup Match.  It was great!  Half the bar were Americans and half the bar were English!  Lots of friendly banter went back and forth and at the end of the night, it was a tie – so we could all walk away friends.  All the Americans stood and sang the National Anthem loud and proud (none of the Brits did! – and never mind that we messed up some of the words.)  We chanted “USA! USA! USA!” as often as we could, and the whole night was filled with extreme Patriotism!  We all love traveling overseas, but there’s no place like home:

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I can honestly say that I only had one beer the entire length of the game.  It just happened to be this large mammoth that gave me calluses on my hands lifting!  And yes, that mug did go in my purse at the end of the night:

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Sunday was departure day :(  I had such a great time in Croatia!  But I was super excited to get back to Italy.  This is our ferry that we took (and I didn’t even feel sick one time!):

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And a beautiful sunset 8 hours later when we finally arrived:

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Me on the boat:

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Then, the drama began.  I followed the instructions from my hostel EXACTLY and after an hour and a half of walking, searching for it (following the instruction EXACTLY), I still couldn’t find the place that was only supposed to be a 300 meter walk.  An hour and a half carrying my luggage around in the humidity!  I was supposed to meet the Mazza’s for dinner, I was dripping in sweat, had needed to use the restroom since I got off the boat, and was no where near finding the place than when I started despite asking for help a dozen times (no one here speaks English – which I actually love about it – it means the place isn’t crawling with tourists!), so I gave up and just got a room at the first place I could find that had vacancy (thank you, Uncle Chase Mastercard!) 

Then, when I get in my room, after about 30 seconds, all of which I spent pulling my luggage in, all the lights go out – even the AC – and I’m thinking a fuse blew.  I feel around in the dark and can’t get anything turned on, so I decide to open the door so I could use the light from the hall, but the handle of the door fell off in my hand.  So I was trapped in my dark room after spending an hour and a half carrying my luggage around.  I was ready to shout obscenities at the top of my lungs!  But I found a slot to fit my room key into and when I put the key in, everything came back on!

I made it to dinner with the Mazzas (Danny and Bonnie were on the study abroad as well and here with me, but in a different hotel.)  The local cuisine is amazing!  If I never eat another piece of pork nor another stewed vegetable for the rest of my life, I will be beyond OK with that.

So a great meal with good friends and a nice long shower to watch the filth off me, and my spirits were amazingly lifted!  The bed here at the Grand Hotel Leon d’Oro is the softest I’ve had so far and it’s right across from the train station where I need to be in the morning.  Breakfast at the hotel was full of real, fresh fruit and delicious pastries – amazing by European standards!

And now I’m sitting in the lobby interneting.  Bonnie is meeting me here (Danny is taking the day to do the final!) in about 10-15 minutes and we’re going to explore this old town full of ancient Roman walls and charming churches and beautiful people.  Italy plays it’s first World Cup Match tonight, so I’m sure that will be on my agenda as well.

In the morning, I hop on a train in an effort to get to Zurich.  I’m pretty sure I have to go to Milan first, so I think the whole ride is going to take between 12-16 hours.  Boooooo!  But hopefully, I’ll see some cool countryside and be able to find my hostel in Zurich!  Then, Wednesday, I’ll explore Zurich on my own.  And then, Thursday, I’ll wake up, taxi to the airport, and fly HOME!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Last Friday in Europe

It was the last day of class (tomorrow we just have to go get our exams and read them over for typos), and today was the first day our hotel here in Croatia got internet in our classroom!  But at least they got it working one day, right?

After that, I had another nice little Lanier get mad at me for no reason session.  I’ve become used to these.  It’s not a big deal when I can immediately go to the beach right after.  Which I did.  Then WORLD CUP!

We watched the Mexico-South Africa game down at Nichola’s pub (remember Nichola – he rented us our boat last week) and had a great time watching a game END IN A TIE!  I think soccer/football would not be so frustrating for me if someone was guaranteed to win.  After the game, we had about an hour and a half to regroup, so we headed into the Old Town Dubrovnik (the walled city that I scaled on Monday) to watch the France-Uraguay game – WHICH ALSO ENDED IN A TIE!  I’ve told everyone that someone better when something today, or I quit!  USA plays England for the first time in the World Cup since the 1950s tonight at 8:30 our time, so I plan to be decked out in red, white, and blue, and being the obnoxious American chanting “USA” the whole time!  Gotta show that patriotism!!!!  Before that, we have this dinner/reception thing on the beach.  And before that, I plan on lying on the beach for a few hours.  Red rectangle has peeled randomly (never saw it blister, itch, or otherwise indicate that it would peel in any way, shape or form) but the rest of me is getting a nice slow, healthy tan!

I have some iPhone pictures of us watching the games, but I left my cord in the room and it’s about a 15 minute walk from the lobby to my room, so I guess I’ll just post them all tomorrow.  Or the next day.  Depending on when I get some time to find internet in Bari.

There are actually a couple of other people on my same ferry to Bari tomorrow, so we’re all sharing a cab down to the port.  Hopefully, they won’t witness me getting sick all over myself.  Again.  I have lots of dramamine for the ferry so hopefully the 8 hours will be delightful instead of miserable!  Then, I check into my hostel in Bari.  I checked and they supposedly have free WiFi, so I should still be able to post/respond to things from there!

So, just because I feel like this post has been disorganized, I feel the need to recap (forgive the law student in me!):

Yesterday:  Class, Lanier “meeting”, beach, World Cup Mlini, World Cup Old Town Dubrovnik

Plans for Today:  Nap/pack, lie on the beach, Dinner/Reception thingy, USA World Cup Match

Plans for Tomorrow: Taxi/ferry to Bari, check in at Bari, ?????

Thursday, June 10, 2010

On a Boat Out At Sea

After class today, we took a group boat tour (about half the class stayed behind to work on their various moot court/law review try-outs – HAHAHA!  Glad I’m not a 1L!)  These are some of the views.  Sorry the pictures from my phone aren’t as good as my camera was!

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(Above is a faraway picture of the private beach we found on Sunday.  My phone doesn’t zoom…)

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This is a big sailboat that I plan to own one day.

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This is the island that we (not me) went cliff-diving off of!

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The old city wall that I scaled on Monday!

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We stopped for a little bit at a beach.

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I have found that mood greatly depends on whether or not I’m on a boat.  I was infinitely delighted all day – such great views, great company, cool drinks – amazing!

That silly little man in the bottom photo tried to ruin my day, but a good book and an amazing sunset view from my balcony improved things again, so no worries! 

This time next week, I will be full of Mexican food, sleeping in my own bed with my precious puppy and my blankie, and missing the ocean-front real-estate!  Can’t wait to see you all!