Monthly Archives: June 2011

Venezia, Revisit and Closure

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After checking into my hostel in Venice (on the mainland), I took a train to the island and began reliving the experiences that initiated my Europe experience almost two months ago. I walked back to my old hotel, saw my favorite church (Salute, where I crazy-coincidentally ran into some CC students, none of whom I knew, what are the odds?), drank prosecco at my favorite bar… drank prosecco at my second favorite bar, ate cheap delicious pizza, and then finished my night with one last glass of prosseco. Did I mention prosseco?
It was terribly sad to leave Venice. To leave Europe from the very place where it all started and to feel the splendor of Venice with new appreciation, there was a lot of emotions going on.
And that was that. Adam’s fantastic Europe trip. So now I turn the page, and commence act two of my summer, dancing at the Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance in New York City. Ok, Lord, here we go…

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Firenze

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Reluctantly, Blaine and I left our hostel the next morning. Taking the bus into Florence, we admired the rolling hills strewn with vineyards for the last time. It was on this bus ride that it finally dawned on me, I only had two days left in Europe. I would be in New York City this Saturday! I had Blaine repeat that to me several times but it still doesn’t make sense. Even right now while I’m writing this on a train heading towards Venice I cant comprehend it. I AM LEAVING TOMORROW!!! Nope, still doesn’t seem true.
Florence was great. Really the main reason why we went was to see Michaelangelo’s David. Blaine had made reservations at the museum so that we didn’t have to wait hours in line to get into the museum. So we showed up, grabbed our tickets, waltzed right in, and began going through the galleries. Starting with some really old Byzantine altarpieces, we saw a ton of really important works. My favorites had to be Botticcelli’s Primavera and The Birth of Venus. So beautiful! And of course, Leonardo’s Annunciation was perfect.
Now, if anyone reading this knows anything about Florence museums or has seen the Statue of David, you might have an idea of the problem Blaine and I soon ran into.
After walking through the entire museum, Blaine and I kept trying to find the sculptures. Maybe David was on a different floor? We could not find any such floor. It was when we looked through the gallery guide in the gift shop that idea popped into my head: David is not here. Looking through the index, I tried my hardest, but could not find anything on David. I smiled at Blaine. He looked bewildered. “I don’t think he’s here,” I say filled with some sort of sick pleasure and amusement. Blaine was incredulous.
We left that museum in awe of ourselves. That just says it all. The situation completes it. If anyone had any doubts about whether or not Blaine and I are similar they should have seen us laughing at each other in front of the Uffizzi Museum. It was too perfect. We marveled at the ridiculousness of the situation. Loving the fact that God has such an amazing sense of humor, we went to get dinner. Our resolution was to wake up early the next morning (6:45) and go to the museum that actually housed that little statue we had traveled to Florence to see.
And so we did this. We were about the fifteenth and sixteenth people in line and we did not have to wait more than an hour. Once we were in the museum we headed straight towards David, and there we found him.
I will not waste anyones time trying to describe David. But I will say one thing- just short of breathing, this statue is alive. Unreal. Unlike anything I have ever experienced. Glory of God’s creation captured in stone.
We wandered through Florence a bit before we had to charge our phones at the hostel, have lunch, and leave each other at the train station. I am less than an hour away from Venice at this point, and Blaine is well on his way to Rome. I plan on revisiting my favourite spots in Venice, having prosecco, some sardines, and then taking a boat to the airport tomorrow morning. Someone is going to have to remind me that I have to do this- it feels like this trip will never end. Actually, leaving doesn’t even seem like a possibility. How did this happen? How is tomorrow June 25th? I will be contemplating this as I eat gelato, drink glasses of prosecco and wandering through Venice.

Tavarnelle, the Evening Tasting

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(Note: the apology previously offered in the last post still applies to this one as well.)
Back in Tavarnelle, I was overcome by a persistent and ever increasing desire to liberate myself from the mop ontop of my head. Having a shrub for a haircut during the winter works well for insulation, however, feeling classy in Tuscany and dancing in sweaty New York justified my decision for a trim, …or a hack.
So I went for it: Italian barbershop, baby! When the woman began washing my hair in a massage chair I had two thoughts: ew, I’m so sorry, and I am in for it good! The barber didn’t speak English and so I was able to effectively use Spanish to explain to him what I wanted. The haircut was great, he did what I wanted, the lady washed my hair again (that’s twice in one day, and I hadn’t washed it for over a month.) I left feeling lighter, sharper, and dashing!
I met Blaine and we went into a bar across the street for more wine tasting.
The man who served us knew his wine, loved his Chianti, and was quite the character. He started out by saying, “Dis! Dis iz da journey uf Chianti!” Each of the four glasses we tried came with some kind of nuts, chips, or crackers that he would excitedly slide across the bar at us. Also with each glass came his, “etz niice, eh?”
First was a table red wine from Tavarnelle, “Rosso Toscano,” maybe my favorite. Oaky, layered, full bodied, and the perfect amount of tannin. Second was a normal Chianti. Not as complex, but simply delicious. Third was a Chianti “Classico.” Sorry, can’t remember what it was that made it special. But it was darn good. Our last was branded “Ulrica Toscano,” our waiter called it a “super-toscana” or a “black wine.” It was the world’s best dessert wine. I LOVE that Italians don’t add sugar to their wines! These wines do just fine without it! In fact, I think they are exceptionally more enjoyable. I won’t stop looking for this wine in the States until I find it.
So that was an incredible experience. And now I am obviously in love with Chianti, how could I not be?
From there we crossed the piazza to get dinner. And guess what we drank with our caprese salads? Chocolate milk.
I totally fooled some of you just then, I know it.
We had more local red wine, magically and inexplicably flavorful. And about caprese salads, there is nothing more simple and more perfect. Those fantastic flavors coming together on one plate is enough goodness for me to want to rub my face in it.
The only thing left to do with our day, and the only thing we felt like doing, was taking a walk back towards Barberino and watching the sunset. Like this, our unbelievable Tuscan day ended: sitting on a stone wall, at the top of a hill, overlooking the valleys and hills of Italian wine country- Thank. You. God.

Tavarnelle

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I would like to make a sincere apology to anyone reading this post who has any kind of love- or even true appreciation- for wine. I say this with Stephanie, Dave, and Linnet, especially in mind. The way this post must make you feel is unfair and grossly jealous. I honestly hate that I do this to you. If there was anyway I could mask the reality of my experiences and dull them into gray, I would. But I find that option to be dishonest and lacking of integrity. And so, I am sorry. Don’t hate me, because… I would.
Blaine and I only stumbled into the Tuscan village of Tavarnelle because we forgot to book a hostel for one night after Amalfi. We thought, in our somehow perpetually blissful ignorance, that there would be a night train for us to take from Napoli to Firenze (Florence). From there, we had the next night booked in Firenze.
There was no such train. We could only find one at noon. And so we would be too early, and so I booked us a night at Ostella di Chianti. Yes, as in, the Chianti wine region of Italy.
So we take a train to Firenze, then take a bus into the country side, gawk at rolling hills of vineyards basking under the Tuscan sun, arrive in Tavarnelle, get lost, finally find our ostella, and check in.
First impression of the hostel: the reception desk smells strongly of lavander. There are lavander buds strewn across the desk and a bottle of lavander Dr. Brauner’s organic fair-trade soap. I begin sticking my face on the desk and huffing the lavander buds. After so many smoky, exhaust polluted cities, the lavander and sweet Tuscan air was overwhelming.
We check in, go to our room, its really nice, and I tell Blaine that I might not be able to leave tomorrow. Book an extra night? He was thinking the same thing. So we walk back to the reception desk and immediately book another night.
After a quick settling, we go out into town for dinner. We pick a small place on a side road with cheap outdoor furniture. Our bet was that it would be the cheapest. Our waitress/cook didn’t speak English, and so I ordered without knowing exactly what. Turns out, it was a set menu of the day and it included a bottle of Chianti. Can you say “perfecto?”
Our first plate, which was on a plastic plate, was four different bruschettas: tomato and basil (with local olive oil, TO-DIE-FOR), one with some kind of cheese, one with artichoke hearts, and one with life-altering pesto. Delicious. We knew we had chosen well and that we were in for it. Next came ravioli filled with cheese and chopped fresh pear. Yes, that’s correct, pear bits inside my cheesy, perfectly olive oil smothered ravioli. Mind-blowing. For dessert we were served traditional local almond biscotti and coconut cookies, both intended to be enjoyed with our wine. A surprisingly great pair!
After dinner, an Italian man who was a friend of the cook’s poured us more wine (after our bottle was gone) and talked to us about the village and surrounding area. When he began to pour second glasses I worried that we might get charged. “You want-a more-eh?” If it’s free… I hesitate. “You shhure? …its-a good wine-a?” A valid argument. Who was I trying to stop an Italian man from pouring me more Chianti wine while I am sitting in Chianti? As it turned out, the extra two glasses of delicious wine never made it onto the bill. Ha!
Feeling fulfilled, in all that that word can mean, Blaine and I walked into the town’s main square where there was a market beginning to start. I bought some olives, candied nuts, dried dates, and a doughnut filled with nutella. Then we watched some odd display on the stage they had set up where some people were demonstrating a kind of treadmill technique. Or at least that’s all we could make out that was happening. They were doing it all to dance music, and that was entertaining enough.
In the morning we woke up, ate breakfast, and began walking towards the medieval town of Barberino. The walk was gorgeous, cypress trees, views over rolling hills covered in vineyards, the air was sweet and clean- basically imagine any painting you’ve seen in an Italian restaurant and impose an image of us walking through it.
After some wandering, we found ourselves walking down a dirt road towards some vineyards. Our dirt road dead-ended at the edge of a large patch of grapevines. I was washed over with happiness. I even touched a grape, plucked it off, and ate it. Don’t picture juicy here. It is far too soon in the season for that. What I got was intense sourness and then a punch of bitter, but wonderful nonetheless! And worth the experience.
Then we sat under a tree and tried our very hardest to soak it all in. No matter how much we explained our sentiments, shared our feelings out loud, we never felt as if we could express the amazing feeling of sitting by a vineyard, in the shade of a tree, in Tuscany. We tried and tried, but our need to poo brought us back to reality. Leaving paradise, we walked back up the dirt road, into the the village, in search of a toilet.
We found a cafe. After a brief debate if whether buying a cappaccino was worth a bathroom or not, we sat down and ordered our coffees. I went first into the bathroom. I walked in, closed the door, and found myself in the most beautiful and picturesque Italian bathroom that this world possesses. Before anything could happen, I began photographing it. Now you know I’m sick in the head, (and if this is your first indicator, you need to pay more attention).
The toilet was situated next to a gaping window that overlooked miles of rolling vineyards and villas. No better way to take care of business. And down to the scented hand soap, this bathroom represented to me the finite details of quality of life. This is what a stand for.
I returned to our table on the patio of the cafe to find Blaine and two cappuccinos with finely ground espresso sprinkled ontop. I told Blaine to make sure to take his camera to the bathroom with him.
When he returned, we enjoyed our coffee, talked about life, our hate of Starbucks, our disgust for American excess, raising our children in the woods, and how we think Christmas trees are stupid. After lolling over our drinks for an hour, we strolled back to our home-village, Tavarnelle.
Back at the hostel, after I booked another hostel in Venice for my last night in Europe, Blaine and I headed to the grocery store to grab lunch. We selected grapes, apples, focaccia, and asiago cheese. We ate these things in a park, enjoying the enveloping heat of a dryer Italian climate.
Lunch ended and we used our hostel’s map to guide us to a vineyard where they suggested we go for wine-tasting. Strolling down a winding road through olive trees and acres of grape vines, we eventually made our way to our destined vineyard.
We went inside the front door of the warehouse, a man greeted us, and said, “let’s go.” And so we followed him into a big warehouse with huge tanks of wine and a few oak barrels. There was also a display set up on a table of many bottles of wine. After he expalined to us how everything worked and how they made their Chianti, we began tasting.
Our first glass: Chianti Reserva, aged for a minimum of five years, ninety percent Sangiovese, ten percent Merlot. He was surprised how much the two Americans enjoyed it. He said he thought it might be hard to like since it was such a strong red. Oh please. I take my baths in Cabernet. (Ok, so I don’t, but what if I did!)
He then offered us their Merlot. It didn’t even compare. As he said, Merlot is great anywhere, in Chianti it is better to enjoy wines that are special to the region. We agreed. On any other day that Merlot would have been the best ever, but it just didn’t stack up to a glass of Chianti made on the vineyard in which I was drinking it… IN Chianti!
I asked him about the Grappa they made. He said it was good for winter, as a digestif. I asked to try some- sure enough: little flavor and big bite. I was hoping I would love it because it came in bottles small enough to take back on the plane with me. Alas!
Feeling like we were pushing our luck, I asked to try their dessert wine. It was called a “Vino Santo” and was somehow religious and very unique to this region of Chianti. Because Italians don’t add sugar to their dessert wines, the Vino Santo we tried was strong but incredibly juicy and dangerously drinkable.
The only thing left that I was curious about was their olive oil, so I sampled some. Smooth, simple, and pure. He told me not to drink it, so I resisted, but I so would have gulped that stuff down!
Blaine and I left the vineyard on an incredible high, because, you know, it was all free somehow, and walked back into town talking about how amazing we felt and how much we love Tuscany.

* * *
To be continued…

Biggest Lemons Ever

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Happy, no, elated to leave Napoli, Blaine and I got on a train towards Amalfi. After an hour on the train, we took a bus that drove us to the Amalfi Coast. The roads that brought us there were unbelievable. The bus was constantly squeezing past cars on crazy precipitous ledges, cliffs, and bridges. The view of the Med was killer.
The moment we stepped off the bus we began wandering through the town of Amalfi. After a bit, we decided we’d head to our hostel to check in. I checked the directions on my phone, and realized that we had just less than twenty minutes before reception would close and that our hostel was in an entirely different town, Atrani, a fifteen minute walk away.
So we ran. Winding through the labyrinthine white alleys and sprinting up stairs, we eventually made it to our town, but not without torturing our quads and sweating a lot.
We checked in, now we were hungry. In the tiny town’s piazza, we sat down for a shared meal of a magherita pizza, caprese salad, and a half liter of Prosecco. And then it was beach time.
Swimming in the Mediterranean Ocean is great. If you ever have the means, I highly suggest it. It is so choice.
For dinner we bought crackers (which might actually have been cookies) with brie, peaches, and apricots. We ate on the steps of a crazy church in Amalfi. We chased our dinner a bit later at a bar with Limoncello. First normale and then crema. Incredible drink! So right for the summer, and so exquisitly lemony.
Our night finished with another swim in the Med. Why not? And also, who needs swimwear? (Here’s a fun little fact: I’ve skinny dipped in every body of water I’ve been in! Ha! Now that’s livin’.)
In the morning we enjoyed the bus ride out from the coast, the views being entirely too much to take in. After we arrived in Napoli, we took a train to Firenze. Little did we know, the good times were about to roll… and roll, and roll.

Trains, My Sad Self, and the Worst of Italy

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Since I am putting most of my energy into writing the next post, I will try and condense this tale into a nutshell. However, it will have to be quite a big nutshell.
I met Blaine in the train station in London, and then as he finished up his class, I went to the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery. Both free, both incredible. After wandering around downtown and surrounding neighborhoods, I met Blaine and we hung out until three in the morning.
We woke up at four to catch our bus to the airport.
The flight was fine and we landed in Brindisi, only to be greeted by salty Mediterranean air and muggy heat. As we tried to find a bus to the train station, there was some confusion and serious language barrier issues, and, well, we took a bus to a town a half hour away from Brindisi. We didn’t realize our error until we got to the Lecce train station and realized that it was very different from the Brindisi station. What’s more, is that when we got off the bus in Lecce, we realized that we had no idea where any kind of train station was and would have to take a taxi (10 euro) to the unbeknownst-to-us incorrect station.
Our solution was to take a train from the Lecce train station back into Brindisi. Sad circumstance. But, being perfectly compatible travel partners, Blaine and I just laughed at ourselves and kept repeating how great it was to see this side of Italy. (Have you been to Brindisi or Lecce? Didn’t think so.)
So there we are at the Brindisi train station and I try to buy a ticket for the same train that Blaine has booked through Eurail. I am told that this is not possible and that my only option is to take a different train. Being my only option, I accept, and Blaine and I seperate with plans of meeting back up in Foggia. (Oh no, I hear you say… oh no indeed!)
We both had layovers in Barri. Blaine’s arrived first, and left before I got there. I step of my train, call Blaine, and tell him I am here in Barri and that I will see him in Foggia. Checking my new departure I see that my next train leaves in twenty minutes from platform three. So I sit at platform three and wait.
I feel like it is at moments like these when God is watching me with an endearing smile. The same kind of smile that overcomes you when you see something like a blind puppy run into a wall, or pee on itself.
You see, my train was already leaving as I sat at platform three. And when I boarded “my train” and asked the conductor if it was bound to Foggia, I was told that it had just come from Foggia, and would not be going anywhere else today.
Feeling hot in the face and sick to my stomach, I ran to see when the next train to Foggia was leaving. It was in this moment that I realized my error in confusing the Departures screen from the Arrivals screen. Gag. The next DEPARTING train to Foggia was in two hours. Blaine was practically already there. I wanted to throw up.
I called Blaine and explained to him that my dyslexia permeates into my Italian reading as well. Chipper chap that he is, he said not to worry and that he’d be waiting. Lucky you! You get to travel with perma-scramble-brain space cadet extraordinaire! Trip of a lifetime. One time only. See box for details.
So what do I do? I walk to the beach and go for a swim in the Mediterranean. Why the hell not. Better see Barri while I’m here! (When life gives you lemons, especially really big Italian lemons, you sqeeze ’em.)
I make it back, catch my train, and meet Blaine in Foggia. Our next mode of transportation was a bus. And we rode that bus aaaaaaalll the way across Italy into Naples. (For some good family fun, look at a map of Italy and follow our track! You tell me if it looks like a well planned trip.) Our bus drops us into the city center of Napoli, next to the train station, in Piazza Girabaldi.When we get off the bus, we are greeted with a blow in the gut of darkness, gloom, and uneasiness. 
There is trash everywhere. Dimly lit streets all with awful yellow tinting. People everywhere, shouting, playing soccer, or wearing stilettos and trying to get work for the night. We navigated as quickly as we could to our hostel. Thankfully it was close. Just across the piazza, down a dark street, past a hooker, and next to a pile of trash.
Once again, I must note that Blaine and I are the best travel companions ever. A sense of humor is invaluable while wandering through Gomorrah. When we stepped inside the door of our hostel, there was a big mirror, so Blaine did a pirouette. That’s what I’m talkin’ about.
Our hostel was a couple flights up and very- ok, relatively- safe.
We did brave the piazza one more time for some dinner after we locked our bags up in the hostel. If nothing else, these pizzas made the sketch center of Italy all worth it. We had two magherita pizzas with a bottle of prosecco. The prosecco: perfect, the pizzas: flavor like none other, beyond pizza status, soupy, and glorious.
We woke up the next morning and booked it to the train station.
We were off to Amalfi.

Train Station Goodbyes

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I feel that everybody should experience waving goodbye to someone they love from a train at one point in their life. And for that matter, not just any kind of goodbye. Not like a see-you-in-a-week or in-a-month goodbye, but a “see you in a couple of years, I’m leaving you in a foreign country, this feels like a movie” kind of goodbye.
The dreadful train arrives at the stop, you give some final kisses and squeezes, and then you board it. Then there is a gap of dead time while you’re on the train and your loved one(s) are on the platform when you blow kiss after kiss out the window. All the while you’re wondering if there’s time to hop off real quick for a final hug, and then hop back on before the train actually leaves. No one knows when the train will decide to depart, so you persistently blow kisses and wave as if the train might suddenly vaporize. Then once you hear the engine, you’re suddenly not ready at all to leave, and feel as if too few kisses have been blown and an insufficient number of waves have been exchanged. Now mouthing “I love you” comes into the mix, and the waves become more frantic.
The train begins rolling and you feel as if it is doing so completely against your will. Not now, no, no, no. Suddenly you’re two and feel like crying. As the train crawls away from the platform it becomes harder and harder to crank your kneck to look back at your family. But the train doesn’t leave fast enough, instead, it dangles the pain of leaving your sister, brother, and niece in a dramatic suspense allowing it to build until it boils over. And by the time you have your face against the window pane and you can barely see your crying, waving sister, you loose sight and the train takes you away, like a mother sweeping up her disobedient child. And so like a child, tortured against their own will, you cry. But not because you didn’t get your way, no, you bought this train ticket and you want to leave, but not like this. Some other way?
And it’s because of all the drama of the train slowly separating you from the loving faces you didn’t want to leave.
Airports don’t work this way. You say goodbye, hug, and then you loose sight of your family by your own doing: you use your legs to walk onto the plane. Once on the plane, you generally can’t see any crying, waving faces. Cars are the same. You sit yourself in the car, turn on the engine, and then you try not to crash as you direct yourself away down the road (window down, arm out waving). It’s much more distracting and you don’t feel so helpless and controlled. You could even sit in the driveway for a minute or two longer… 
It was dramatic leaving Emily, Joel, and Elena. For a number of reasons of course, but the train really gets you worked up! Might it have been better if it was an American train station? But leaving my family somewhere that wasn’t quite their home yet and going somewhere that was not my home but somewhere foreign- such a recipe for a dramatic farewell. The only thing missing was a hankercheif. I have scarves a plenty but hankies I have not. Also some steam from the train would have been nice. And I guess I could have opened the window and leaned out of it. Besides that I think we did a pretty good job of living a movie scene. Oh yeah, and Joel didn’t cry. Hmmm, we’ll have to practice and try again sometime.

Madrid

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On Saturday morning Colin and I woke up early, he was off on a school trip to Segovia, and I was off to Madrid. Our host mom packed us lunches (bocadillo with cheese and I’m pretty sure an entire empanada inside), and then sent us off. I gifted her a bamboo plant in a tacky vase as a gesture of thanks. She said it was pretty… Truth being, all the flower stores closed before I could buy her a bouquet. She said she wanted me to write her, awesomely generous woman.
Colin and I said goodbye, a sad moment that concluded our fun. The fun should never have to end. Especially when you have a great friend who is stupidly nice to you and overly generous: he wouldn’t let me pay for anything!!! So I told him I’m getting him back in August when I get paid. He refuses. Knucklehead, love him!
I took the train into Madrid and found my hostel easily. Checked in and went to the Thyssen-Bornemisza museum. Being across the street from the Prado I feel like it was the storage closet for of the famous artist’s looser paintings. They had tons of crappy Monet’s, Homer’s, Picasso’s, and even a lame Sargent. What made the eight euros worth it (still kicking myself for leaving my student ID at home) was a Rauschenberg print collage in the modem section. It had some images of Merce Cunningham dancers and horses. Gorgeous.
I then went and explored the mainstreets a bit and then had a bocadillo de jamon y queso with sangria. Once six o’clock came around, I headed to the Prado.
There was a huge line for the free entrance deal. But shortly thereafter, I was in and heading towards the classics. I first saw Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights. Definitely got choked up. It’s so pretty! The colors are way different in real life, the books don’t even come close. It was amazing to see something that I’ve been obsessed over since high school. Loved that painting.
I made my way through and saw everything, El Greco, Goya, Velasquez, and Fortuny with whom I am newly in love with.
After the museum was cleared out, I went back to my hostel. Here begins a long and frustrating story:
Earlier I could only check in and then leave my backpack, the beds/rooms were not to be ready until later. So when I came back, I got my pack, and headed up the stairs to my room, #4-77, as was written on the card they gave me when I checked in.
I went up to the third floor only to get lost in a maze of hallways and to not be able to find the stairs up to the fourth floor. So I went back down to the front desk and asked how to get to my room. They said I must take the elevator. Ok, wierd. So I do this.
When I open the elevator door on the fourth floor, I am confronted with three doors. Completely blank except for colored dots on each, one red, one blue, one green. Confused, I tried to imagine which door would contain room #4-77. I looked at my key. It had a blue toggle. Aha! Blue dot! So I keyed in and found myself in another hallway with rooms. I walked down the hallway. I see room 4-7… but the hallway ends at 4-9. It must be 4-7, I thought. So I pull out my key and realize that I need an electric key card to open this door. Ok… thinking that they just forgot to give me an electric card in addition, I went back to the front desk, waited in line for ten minutes and told them I needed an electric key for room 4-77.
I am given the card, I take the elevator, key into the blue-dotted hallway, unlock room 4-7, open the door, walk boldly in, and say hello to a middle aged woman. She looks confused, worried even. “Aqui?” She asks me. I tell her in Spanish that it was what I was told. She then tells me that I am in an all women’s room. Well I am not a woman, I tell her. She says I didn’t seem like it. I say sorry. She says goodbye.
Back down to the front desk I go. After I tell them that it was the wrong key, they ask me what room and look at the card I was given. “No, 4-11!” Ooooooh! Ok then. They said I don’t need an electric key, I give mine back. I awkwardly walk away and back to the elevator. Turns out those stupid little seven’s were actually one’s! Its just that somebody likes to write down seven’s when they really mean one’s (were talking no discrepancy here, and if I was any less confused about this whole hostel I might have considered the 4-77 to be 4-11, but in my current condition -current meaning permanent- my Adam thinking would never allow for such logic).
I walk out of the elevator on the fourth floor. I still don’t know where my room is. I know that it is NOT behind the blue door, so I try the red-dotted door; More hall way, numbers 4-0 through 4-5. Where the %$#* is my room! Red in the face, I willed myself to open the red dotted door. I open it. Its just a big room full of bunks. I find my bed. HhhUURRrrrGggaAAH! Fed up. It only took an hour! (Just under, actually, I seriously spent that much time just finding my room. Not okay.)
I tried winding down while I changed and got ready for dinner. I had plans to meet up with friends I had met in Seville. My friend Liz from the Seville hostel met them on a walking tour and so we hung out a lot. They are from Canada, their names were Greg, Jeff, and Sarah. There was one night where we all discovered that we had similar travel itineraries: Liz was going to Barcelona after Seville, so were they. Shortly after they had made plans to met up, I learned that they would be going to Madrid after Barcelona, so I made plans with them to met up! (Liz would go on to Munich.)
So they told me where to meet them and I got ready and headed over. We went to a tapas bar where I had pizza with anchovies and olives. It was really tasty, super salty, but good with wine. Afterwards we hung out and had a drink in the nearby plaza. It got late, and so we said goodbye, none of us really believing how crazy it was that we were able to meet up again. They were a great group and really fun people.
Then I walked home, got lost, got scared, took a cab, and then went to bed.
The next day I saw the Palacio Real and the Plaza Mayor, and just wandered until it was time to fly out of Spain. An eventful twenty-four hours in Madrid, very memorable. Don’t ever stay at the “Muses Hostel” in Madrid, unless you like mazes and you are really good at guessing.

Buddies in Spain

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Salamanca has been so great! Everyday Colin goes to class and I go to a cafe and wander around until I met him back at our host mom’s house. Lunch is has been something fried on something saucy (and also potentially fried at one point) along with stale bread and salt drenched salad dripping with garlic dressing/oil. MmmMh!
Then we take our siesta.
Then Colin takes me somewhere cool, we have some wine, and then go to a show in the festival.
Last night we saw a BRILLIANT play that I will never forget. It was a “comedy” of sorts, British, super ironic, wonderfully sarcastic, plotless, and unbelievably well done. It had ten characters wearing unsightly wigs and costumes (men, short un uneven black dreads, red buttonups and white blaizers; women, platinum blond wigs seemingly styled by a four-year-old, red go-go boots and white sequin flapper dresses), they spoke into microphones that changed their voices into exaggerated cartoon voices (men, really low; women, really high and alien-like). And they take you on this roller coaster ride of emotions with interruptive dance numbers with japanese lounge music where they dance horribly, but it was the best bad dancing I have ever seen! And they were hilarious! And so beautifully developed as characters. By the end of the show you’ve fallen absolutely in love with all of them. And the whole thing was so layered and rich with theatrical intellect. Overall, it was a social commentary on cliche’s and the inescapable realities of the world. Brilliant! Brilliant! It was so good. And people were walking out during the middle of the show (art-dumb), they just didn’t get it. And a lot of people left! That’s how intellectual it was, and I’m rambling horribly, so sorry, but I have so much to say about this production. In person, I will tell you more.
Then Colin and I went for dinner back “home.” It was three different fried objects, of what species, I’ll never know. They just tasted like fried. With a Spanish tortilla and a side of store bought yogurt. MmmMh! (Breakfast is two store-bought muffins, small, with instant coffee stirred into hot milk.)
After dinner we went to a funk-rock concert, just the tail end of it, and then had some wine with some other great CC peeps.
Oh yeah- and yesterday we went to salsa class again. I’m learning new steps!
And so, because I can’t get enough of Colin or my lucky situation, I am staying an extra night. Who can argue with a setup like this?!
I miss everyone and can’t wait to see Joel in the U.K.!
P.S. The food photo is from a picnic a few of us had a couple nights back. Bread, ham, goat cheese, and rosemary plucked off a nearby bush. And oh, red wine: Ribiera del Duero. Thank you, Dave.

If I was a salamander in Salamanca…

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So there’s an arts festival going on right now in Salamanca. This means there’s something to do every night. I sure know how to time it!
Arrived by train, met Colin in train station, met host-mom, I am now her son because she says so, and then went and explored. Oh yeah, and I went to a salsa lesson with Colin’s class. (Where I learned new steps! It was actually a blast.)
After dinner we went to a show in the city square/plaza. It was some African acrobatic troupe, they were crazy skilled! The photo above is of two people being launched into the air, one doing a flip OVER the other one who was also flipping. Nuts.
And then there was a funk concert nearby. Colin and I had met up with some people from CC at this point and we were all at the show.
Finally people to dance with! So this guy Andrew, Colin and I were going for it, making a scene, and influencing other people to dance (duh, its a funk concert!) And there is no hindering us CC people when we dance. Some might say, “we let our freak fly-fly.”