Sunday, January 19, 2014

that time I went to Europe: part five - Naples and Pompeii

As my friend Mark suggested a little while back, I am going to start a series of write-ups on my trip to Europe. Really it's an excuse to share a bunch of my pictures, more than anything. You can find part one here, part two here, part three here, and part four here.

The day we docked in Naples, Jennifer and I decided to be brave. Instead of following my family (including my Italian-fluent father) on an air-conditioned bus tour, we decided to walk from the boat to the train station, and find Pompeii ourselves. After all, I had two whole basic Italian university courses under my belt. We were sure of ourselves.

"We got this."

And don't get me wrong, we survived. We got to where we wanted to go. We definitely fared better than others on our cruise (a story I will share at the end), and we even got a pizza.

But it's really easy to not be intimidated when you're standing on a ship, looking over a city and feeling adventurous and invincible.

This large city will surely be a cinch to navigate alone!
Once we were on the dock, our attitudes quickly changed. Armed with nothing but our (essentially indestructable) purses and a half-ass map from the cruise ship, we watched the rest of our group pull away from the docks and promptly got harassed by a cab driver who wanted to drive us to Pompeii for way more than the tour we just skipped out on had cost. After saying no a dozen times, we literally had to hide up a side street to get him to leave us alone.

What I'm saying is, we were off to a good start.

And here's the thing: the journey from the ship to the train station was so strenuous and nerve wrecking, that what you see up there is one of the only pictures I have of Naples. The only thing I did was check the map, check the streets, pray they were actually matching up, and run into every third store saying "Dov'รจ... il stazione... treno?" only to have them awkwardly point in the direction we were already heading. This wouldn't have been so bad, if Jennifer hadn't developed a deep, gripping fear that we were going to get lost and miss the ship (and/or die). And from her fear, I developed an angry determination to prove her wrong. I had university basic Italian dammit! We were going to be fine.

Eventually we made it to the train station, which was almost as large and intimidating as Naples itself. But we made it to a train, and even found more tourists who were on the way to Pompeii as well. Between the four of us, we managed to get the right stop; and the company even made the jam-packed, certainly-not-air-conditioned ride close to bearable.

Pompeii itself was indescribable. It was far larger than I ever understood and it was humbling to see how one's world could come to an end so quickly.

They had limestone in the streets, to reflect the moon at night. 

They had beautiful architecture and intricate designs.

They had whore houses.

But among the beauty, there was no forgetting the tragedy that buried Pompeii in the first place.

There is just no way to make light of seeing something like this. Someone praying for their life, or a pregnant woman cowering on the floor.

To make things lighter again, here's a funny thing: we ran into the rest of my family while in Pompeii, and so even though we got there in different ways, we all got to walk through an ancient whore house together.

Family friendly entertainment!
(Not everyone pictured here is my family. But almost everyone is.)
After Pompeii, Jennifer and I took the train back to Naples and beat the now-familiar streets back to the ship after grabbing a pizza. As we departed, I took some pictures of the unmissable Mount Vesuvius. 

(Side note: I sent this to my friend Lisa [who has an amazing blog that you all should check out] to read, and she pointed out that she would have liked more story. Okay, Lisa. Thanks for the input, Lisa. The only problem is, there really is no more. Jennifer and I walked, during which nothing happened; then rode the train, during which nothing happened; found Pompeii, which was amazing will probably be elaborated on one day [I love the story and will probably write a historical romance about it]; rode the train home; and walked straight back to the boat [after pizza]. Our entire day's goal was Pompeii, and it was frustration and grim determination that led us there, and only there. So Lisa, I'm sorry I don't have more story for you. I'm sorry I didn't think, while lost in Italy, that being lost in Italy would make a great blog post. I'm sorry I focused on the map and on the goal of us not dying or being left behind in Italy instead of finding ways to get more lost just so I could blog about it. You'll just have to accept it and move on.)

(Side side note: I'm not actually mad at Lisa. I just can't give her what she wants right now. There's literally no more story. I'm sorry, Lisa.)

Jennifer and I had a pretty taxing day emotionally, but later that night we learned that we were not the worst off by far. We heard about (and eventually met) a man who tried to buy an ipad from a street vendor. They had seen the ipad, tested it, and watched him bag it. Then the vendor said "oh, I almost forgot your headphones!" and had his hand in the bag once more before sending him off. The vendor soon disappeared (no evil cackle confirmations) and when the man checked his bag, he found a piece of slate and nothing more.

So if you take nothing else from this collection of stories and pictures (other than the free Italian lesson I gave you earlier - now you can say "Where is the train station?" in rough and possibly incorrect Italian! You're welcome.), remember this: street vendors are not your friend! 

To add insult to injury, the man's sunglasses were also stolen while he was having lunch.


Next in my Europe series, I will give further details and pictures on the amazing cruise ship we traveled on and how we enjoyed the two days spent completely at sea. Then on to Mykonos!

Friday, June 28, 2013

in which my idol declares our friendship

Every Wednesday night, my family and I meet in front of our tv. The one thing that brings us all together, that we can never miss, is Criminal Minds. For me, the highlight of the show is the ray of colourful sunshine and wit that is Kirsten Vangsness, aka Penelope Garcia.

She's witty, she's stylish, she's a knitter. My hero. (Source)

The coolest thing about her (character or actress, pick one) is that the personalities seem to be one in the same. They are funny, sweet, compassionate women with super awesome eyeglasses. Kirsten is a woman worth looking up to in every sense.

Recently, Kirsten has been raising money in a Kickstarter for her movie project Kill Me Deadly, and has been very kind to those who support her. The gifts for donations range from practical, such as dvds of the eventual movie, to interesting and fun, such as a leg wrestling bout with Kirsten, and pairs of Garcia glasses. I pledged $15, which gets me a PDF of fashion tips from Kirsten. I then tweeted about how I wished I could afford the level where Kirsten would come to one of your parties, so that she and I could be friends. An hour or so later, I had one of the highlights of my life sitting in my direct message inbox on Twitter.

So on top of being gorgeous, talented and generally wonderful, (my new friend) Kirsten Vangsness took time out of her busy day to tell me herself that we are friends. I hope my glasses are cool enough to go with my new friend's, and for the cloud 9 that I will be walking on for the rest of my life.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

that time I went to Europe: part four - Rome

As my friend Mark suggested a little while back, I am going to start a series of write-ups on my trip to Europe. Really it's an excuse to share a bunch of my pictures, more than anything. You can find part one here, part two here, and part three here.

We docked early in the port town of Civitavecchia, about an hour and a half from our ultimate destination. Wasting  no time, we walked to the train station, ready to settle in on the way to Rome.
This was all I saw of Civitavecchia, but really, did I need to see any more?
The train was packed and I had to stand the whole time, but it was okay, because I was facing a very attractive Italian musician, and even got to chat with him for a little bit.

Sadly, I couldn't chase the beautiful man around all afternoon, so when we arrived in Rome we all piled out of the train and made our way to the Vatican.

Now, I don't think I need to tell you that if I were to post even half of the pictures I took in the Vatican, we'd be here all day and your computer might die and then you'd end up hating me and nobody wants that. So instead I'll just upload a small handful of my favourites and hopefully by the end of all this we'll still be friends.

On the way in. Everything in this building is pretty. Just everything.

Except this. Part of the Egyptian display. 
One of my favourite statues ever.
Playing into my love of Classics studies. Can you name the goddess?
One of the best examples of how elaborate everything here is. Look at that ceiling!

...and this one!

...and THIS one!
 So after the museums were said and done, we went to St. Peter's Basilica. It was huge and elaborate and gorgeous, and my dad and I even shared an emotional moment in a chapel (while Jenn sat awkwardly behind us) and it was beautiful.

There are so many pictures of this place, but to sum it up (and to save you from what we've already seen to be my terrible ability to take pictures in churches) I will give you this one picture.

The picture gives you more amazing architecture and less embalmed popes.

After all was said and done, we gunned it across St. Peter's Square (so as to not spontaneously combust in the heat) and found a lovely little pizza place, where we had the best pizza I've ever had in my life.

According to the menu, this is the Trattoria Ciao.
I love simplicity in pizza, which seems to be hard to find here.

After our pizza, we had just enough time to get back to the train station and make our way back to the boat. There was no attractive musician, but I managed to get a seat. So I guess it evened out.

See you soon for part 5: Naples and Pompeii!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Hello, friends who may still be kicking around after my long absence. School and music have distracted me greatly lately.

And I so badly wanted to write something new for you, with lots of pictures and interesting stories, but fate has a way of screwing with you. Days before finals started, my computer decided it didn't want to work right anymore. So now that exams are over with, my computer is being looked at. With any luck (of which I seem to have very little) I will have it back soon to write the fourth chapter in my Europe series, among other things. (With the luck I actually seem to have, I will have to save up and buy a new computer. Hopefully it won't come to that.)

Bear with me, friends! I will be back to you soon, I hope.

Friday, February 8, 2013

a song for penny

This week, Canada stopped producing the penny. In honour to the little copper things (and as a first recording of his RPM challenge attempt), Liam wrote a song called 1800 Coins. It's a neat tune, and I figured I'd share it with you all.

It's basically about this one time we found a bunch of change and his apartment, rolled it all up, and paid for a pizza between us and his roommate with it.

It was pretty awesome.

(p.s. I'm attempting the RPM challenge as well, but I have no recordings as of yet, so I have nothing to share with you. Eventually, perhaps.)