Ask me anything
When I heard the new Ra Ra Riot single ‘Boy’ I really liked it— but this RAC remix somehow does the song even more justice. Having seen Ra Ra Riot live twice, I feel a certain connection to this neighboring upstate New York college band. Three cheers for unbelievably freezing winters and beautiful fall leaf peeping. Ra Ra Riot - Boy (RAC Mix) by Hypetrak
i quite enjoyed your short write up. i’ve seen them twice before and i’m seeing them again october 2nd in philly. awesome band. the only of their type right now… really excited for “the orchard”.
“ Right now I’m sitting on my Mom’s futon in an unbelievable amount of pain. I have a kidney stone. The doc keeps telling me to pound the liquids and I keep writhing around on the floor in excruciating pain like a wuss. I’m not really getting anywhere but I’m determined to pass this rock and hit the thing so far out of the park, it’ll make Mark McGwire blush with envy. They say kidney stones are the male equivalent to childbirth, which is ironic because I’m not married and I’m certainly not ready to be a father yet. However, all things considered, I’m doing alright. ”
Owl City, whom i’ve just discovered is my kindred spirit.
this weekend, we (me, 5 guys, some 20 girls) traveled south of siena to sorrento and capri. we left around noontime on friday, and took a massive train ride down. we probably had about 5 or 6 hours of commuting. we got to travel in one of those harry potter esque trains, with one side of the train for walking, and little compartments with three seats on each side facing eachother. on the ride down, we were all scrambled, and some people didn’t have the right tickets, so they had to pay extra unfortunately.
my cabin was three other friends from the group and two italian women who spoke no english. the cabin was very hot because the air conditioner didn’t work right, or strong enough, we weren’t sure. a couple of times the women tried to tell us something, but we found ourselves basically pantomiming through the conversation until both sides understood, which i found to be fairly effective. the train ride was long, but we finally made it to naples, which is just north of sorrento, which is only an hour train ride away from there. we were warned that naples was dangerous and to watch our bags closely. one of my friends actually noticed a pickpocket on the train trying to reach into a woman’s purse, but he slapped the thief’s hand away. respect.
as the trip continued, after we got to naples, the next train was very hot and graffitied. it looked as if we were headed into a darker, more dangerous area the farther we went. but then we got to sorrento. sorrento was beautiful, and felt like a small town. at no point did i feel threatened there.
as we walked through the streets, we found great restaurants outside, and lots of happy people, and families, and many english speakers (apparently there was a cruise of english speakers that stopped in sorrento). a nice guy working at a restaurant asked us if we needed help finding our hotel, and told us exactly where to go. our hotel was in a back alley, but was actually pretty comfy and had a great view out the back. the hotel clerk also told us everywhere to go to get to capri, and where to get food or drinks if we needed them. the only thing our hotel (sorrento town suites) lost points on was cold showers!
we were so pleased with the guy from the restaurant who told us where our hotel was, we went back and had dinner at his place. it was great food, we go to watch world cup soccer, and i had probably my best meal here yet, lobster with linguini.
at dinner, we met a nice couple from belfast who was sitting at the table next to us. very nice people who were on vacation, visiting naples and capri. dinner was also accompanied by a band, which sold it as all the more italian. it was awesome. it rained during dinner, and we were outside but covered, but of course, the rain stopped after five minutes. no wonder people love the weather here.
later on, we hit up a karaoke bar, but we were all pretty tired so we called it a night but vowed to return the next night.
we got up early to go to capri, the island just off of sorrento. we took a large ferry, and got off and walked around a bit, before taking a boat ride around the island, specifically to see something called the blue grotto. i took a ton of pictures along the ride.
the ride was about an hour and a half, and we finally concluded the ride with a trip to the blue grotto. the blue grotto is a tiny cave that can only be entered by boat, and all the passengers have to lay down to get inside. it was a very tense moment as our tiny boat’s captain pulled us through the tiny hole that led to the grotto, and we even smashed the boat up a bit on the rocks. once inside, however, all you see is darkness. it we couldn’t see anyone on any of the other boats, and for a second you wonder why you came in, but as the guide brings you around and turns you, you can see why the grotto is so famous. it is almost completely black, except for the water, which is a brilliant blue and is beautifully illuminated. i didn’t bring my camera in for fear it would have been damaged, but this color is an idea:
after the blue grotto, we ate lunch then came back to the beach and hung out for a bit and swam around. the water at the beach too was beautiful and clear, and i could see tropical fish swimming around my legs.
after a ferry ride back to capri, we got dinner and watched the world cup game between the US and england. at our restaurant, we had two british couples sitting right by us, and one of us warned us not to cry when england scored the first five goals. of course, his reaction was pretty brilliant when the english goaltender let a bad goal slip by himself. after the restaurant, we hit up a bar to watch the second half of the game, where there were more americans and brits mixed in among us. we met three very nice people from holland, one of which apparently did some work at penn state. we hung out and talked with them, and then even met up with us later at the karaoke bar. more people sang that night, and it was a good time.
the next morning, we had a long hall back to siena, but at least our trains weren’t as hot as they were when we were going towards naples. i’m glad to be back in my sienese bed, even though our sorrento hotel was nice. it’s nice to have warm showers again.
overall, a brilliant weekend. i have a couple videos but i’ll probably end up posting them when i return back to the states. ciao!
it’s now thursday, which means i’ve slacked off on blogging for about 4 days now after the long weekend that was venice and milan. we set off for venice early on wednesday morning, and i slept through most of the ride. apparently i looked very uncomfortable to my friends, but i felt fine. we finally got to venice, which wasn’t really visible till we boarded our ferry to our stop. the best way to see venice is the initial ride you take to wherever you’re going. we loaded up our large group (the whole trip, 40 people) and crammed on with many italians. there are tons of cool houses in venice— the ride is an array of pastel colors and an occasional peek through to a canal. we got off at san marco square, which has a huge tower, a large open area famous for its pigeons (apparently) and a palace, which is known as the doge’s palace. our hotel was literally a ten second walk to this square, which is pretty cool, considering how well known it is. our hotel room was tiny, but it had air conditioning, and a better bathroom then we have in siena.
the last blog i wrote i forgot to post, and then it didn’t do the auto save, so i’m gonna assume that that was just a sign not to post it in the first place. i’ll do my best to rewrite it and spare whatever wasn’t good enough.
this past weekend, we (me, four guys, and about 13 girls) took a long train journey with a stop at piza and then we went to cinque terre. the train rides were pretty long and boring, but the bright sides are that we snuck a free ride (unintentionally) and weren’t caught, and we got to have mcdonalds at one of the stations. we were in a rush though, so i practically inhaled the food. piza was a short trip, and very touristy. the tower itself was cool, but not as tall as you think it would be. everyone was doing the hold it up pose, which was weird but funny. i took a few pictures, which are up on facebook. then, after more train riding, we were on our way towards cinque terre.
cinque terre is a group of 5 cities which are located on the rocks just above the water. on the train ride there, we had brief views in which the train seemed feet away from the ocean. it was a stunning view, considering all i’ve seen for the past two weeks are the olive green pastures of tuscany. we got off at our stop, which was the third in the line of cities, and immediately were struck by the beauty of the pastel colored houses which seem barely attached to the earth without falling into the ocean. we didn’t have a ton of time to explore each town because we weren’t staying over night, so we snapped a few pictures and hit the trail. the trail was BRUTAL at first. the sun was burning hot, and we stated on the wrong end, so it was literally climbing stair after uneven stair to the top. everyone’s legs were burning, and we were immediately coated with sweat. the pathways themselves were quite narrow at times, and had no barrier to stop you from tumbling down the hill and into the mediterranean sea.
eventually though, the nerves parted ways, and the sweat’s cooling factor kicked in, and the hike became quite enjoyable with beautiful scenery. we could see far out to the ocean, and we could see the towns at beautiful distances.
there’s not much else i can say, because it was really about the views. everything was stunning to look at. there was also good conversation on the trail. we fortunately caught our train on time and headed home soon after.
the next day, feeling extra adventurous, we pushed ourselves to a lovely little town called san gimignano. san gimmy is known for having towers, which were never destroyed after the renaissance. the towers in other cities were torn town as a way to show they were conquered. for whatever reason, san gimmy didn’t have this happen. only one tower was open to travel to the top, so we of course went up there.
(bonus fact: san gimignano is indeed in assassin’s creed)
overall, the little town of san gimmy was fun because so much could be seen in a short amount of time. there were two cool churches as well, and one had my favorite garden behind it, and i snapped some photos of flowers.
on other side notes, i’ve been enjoying a ton of gelato. my favorite mixture is lemon and strawberry, which is a high note the entire time it’s eaten. we also enjoyed our first fancy dinner, which was pretty good, probably the most tender beef i’ve ever had, but i’m not even sure what it was. also been having a ton of pizza and sandwiches. the best pizza i’ve ever had was a little place in florence. i think the carbs are adding weight though.
tomorrow we’re going to venice, and then i’m spending the weekend and milan, so i won’t exactly have an update till sunday or monday, and i’ll post a ton of pictures.
so i promised everyone blogs and haven’t deleivered and it’s a terrible thing to do, so here’s gonna be my best account so far of what’s happened on the trip.
so on the morning we left, i had a terrible twisting stomach. that was may 19th. i can’t remember the last time i felt so anxious for anything in my life. i was nervous for a long plane ride, but so excited for the destination. after i made it through airport security, my stomach calmed down a bit, but a strange feeling of slight nausea, which became hunger, which then was satisfied back into nausea hours later was the story of the next day, till i finally fell asleep the following evening. the plane ride was mostly music, 30 pages of High Fidelity, 5 pages of another book about italy, maybe an hour or an hour and a half of sleep, and three tiny meals. i sat next to two people i didn’t know but were going on the trip, and i’ve become friendly with them since then, and hang out with one of them alot. the plane had some NBC shows, which were ok, and then marley and me, some sad movie about a dog, which i slept through most of. the highlight of the plane ride was probably a guy, whom we’ve all come to know as “tel aviv guy” for the shirt he was wearing, who managed to steal a gay flight attendant’s dinner on the plane. the flight attendant walked by, yelled “that’s mine!” a couple of times, and ran off and got the head flight attendant who yelled at the guy for a few minutes. classic.
there’s little like the feeling as you descend upon a new runway. i always feel somehow blessed that everyone made it ok, and that the plane didn’t crash. the differences between italy and the states is immediately apparent. the windows outside the rome runway seemed to be all country and farms. i couldn’t see rome through the windows, but that was probably because i was in the very middle of the plane. i felt like i was walking through new air in the airport, and the language barrier i’m still facing became immediately apparent. we got out of security after a long drawn out wait for the bags, and then a long stretch of sitting around waiting for our bus, where we walked in the same tiny airport store, which had a .com name as its store name for some reason, at least 3 times out of boredom. then we got in the bus, and most of the other people on the trip fell asleep. i really didn’t feel tired at all at this point. too much excitement.
the travel through the hills of tuscany is beautiful. it’s nothing like the states. there are big hills, with castle looking homes on top of many, and new trees, and all around, the colors are more of an olive palette. the car ride was long, but we did get to stop for food. most of us got pizza, and i got a big bottle of water, which was strangely the worst water i’ve had all trip. the pizza was great for a rest stop. everyone got by ordering because the clerk new a bit of english. thank goodness.
we finally reached siena and stopped outside of a big fortress looking building. we had a walk on over to our new place, and as we were led, the streets seemed to be winding and endless. of course, now that we’ve lived here for some time, we’re well aware of how to get around. our apartment building entrance is in an alley with a green neon sign above it. our new landlord leads us up a few flights of steps, which are brutal after a long session of city exploration in the days to come. we have a nice little home here, with two bathrooms, one of which has a bath, and one of which has a half working shower, and a bedroom where the three of us sleep uncomfortably close, a tiny kitchen, which blows out fuses if we have anything else on, and a sitting area with a TV and a meal table.
we go out a bit later, wander around till we find the group (again, because we were new, it seemed so much harder to find than it should have) and we go to piazza del campo, which is pretty much town square. it has an awesome tower, and is pretty much where everyone comes to hang out. at night, it’s filled with drunk young and middle aged people eating gelato or getting late dinners. as the large group (40 of us) we have our first meal, a weird little appetizer combination and tiny little drinks, of which i enjoy about 20%, but that’s ok because it’s only day one. the weather is also perfect at this point, and i’m happy just to sit down and put anything in my stomach. later on, we go out for a little gelato, one of the things my parents always told me i’d love over here, and i do, of course. there are a ton of gelato places. then we head back, and sleep like we’ve never slept before— probably falling into deep sleep only around 930 at night here. then we wake up at 6 or 7, which is probably one of the 5 times in my life that i’ll be able to wake up this early and feel great. our group leaders give us a quick tour, of course of which retain nearly nothing because the city is new to us, and then we’re cut loose after a pizza outting. this first set of pizza is good, but i prefer home’s pizza, as if that’s possible. havertown having better pizza than siena, italy? many would down it, but it’s just how i feel.
later on we have our first grocery store experience. conad city is the name of the grocer, which is part of some larger conad corporation. the store is small, much smaller than anything in havertown. everything is hard to find and a bit backwards compared to home, quite frankly. there are hardly any cereals, so we settle for frosties (frosted flakes, just a different name on the box) and grab some pasta we hope to cook eventually. NOTHING in this store is easy to find. we’ve spent a ton of time looking for sausages, soap, napkins, butter, everything that you would pick up in a second at home. but they have a great selection of chocolate candy, which i’m always sucked into while i’m there. the store has weird hours, too, only open till 830. the experience with the clerk here is a new challenge too. these women (rarely men) seem to understand no english, and we still don’t understand italian. we’re usually asked if we want a bag (3 cent charge, cheapskates) and then some second question we still don’t know. then you pay them by reading the digital readout on the register, and then they never hand you your change directly, they always place it down for you.
we eat alot of sandwiches in the daytime. there are a ton of little flatbread places in which you can get a meat and a cheese on great bread for 3 or 4 euro. always fun to go into these little places and get a good deal on that. my friends have also favored this place we call “great hot sandwiches” because it says that on one of their marquees, even though it’s not called that, it’s called the san paolo pub. they have english translations on the menu, which is nice, and a nice substitute for a hamburger, except it’s on a piece of italian or french bread, you know, those long, skinny ones. there are also alot of pizza places, a few of which we have eaten at, and tonight, we finally spent some money on a fancy dinner at a place that we couldn’t read the menu at. i guessed on my order, and was pretty pleased. it felt way too fancy for 7 college guys on a friday night. at one sandwich placed, i ordered salami, mozzarella, and mortadella, and the woman behind the counter made a face at me. apparently no one orders this combination of meats. i still don’t quite understand what the problem was, but she almost refused to touch the sandwich, and according to one of my friends, after i left, another guy came in and she was laughing with him about what i ordered. in another instance, of which i was not there, a couple of friends of mine ordered steaks which they though were cheap, but the pricing of the steak was actually according to weight, so they ended up spending 60 euros on their steaks. ouch.
the city itself is filled with many beauties, and i’m not just talking about the women. there are tons of buildings that are centuries old, with great details making you feel like you’re in a time machine. any tower in this city is impressive too, and makes me feel it needs to be climbed. a rule of siena ive found is that if you wander enough, you’ll find something great or a beautiful view, or at least something entertaining. i’ve tried my best to document everything i’ve found in pictures, which can be found on facebook.
italians themselves are not what i expected. young italian men are nothing like young american men. every italian guy has got some crazy sense of style, and seems like he’s attempting to be the suavest of them all. this is a society where no geeks exist, from what i can tell. the girls don’t go out at night, or rarely do at least. they don’t look like what i’d expect italian girls to look like. they have a range of beauty. also, alot of people here smoke. when you’re walking down the biggest streets, sometimes, the people in front of you take forever with their walking, which is very italian, i suppose.
a big group of us usually hit up a bar at night, usually the same place, called the red baron. i really haven’t drank much (honest) on this trip except for a first night beer and a glass of wine with dinner here or there. the best wine was at the fancy restaurant from tonight, of which my friend joe accurately described as “unabrasive”. our girls are always the loudest wherever they go. italian guys always swoop in and hit on them, and it’s quite a weird thing to watch. italian guys would be considered very creepy back in the states. our girls also usually smash some sort of glass in the bar, and i feel bad about it.
we finally hit up florence yesterday too as a group. florence is way more crowded than siena and has a more touristy feel to it. we saw some great artwork— michaelangelo’s david, some carvaggio stuff, some other michaelangelo stuff, some da vinci stuff.. and il duomo in florence is quite a sight as well. overall, not as relaxed as siena though.
at this point, i’ve burnt out my writing skills, but i will write more soon, as it develops. ciao!