Friday, August 5, 2011

July 12th

Very busy day today. I started by going back to the Fashion Museum to see their brand new movie costumes exhibit which was great. I especially liked the rather sizable showing from The Duchess. All the costumes were accompanied by some sort of set piece, whether it be a painted backdrop or some mirrors or even a little throne room set up which gave a great sense of atmosphere. There were also some renderings on display. Another really nice touch was that they had music playing from the soundtracks to all the movies represented.

Then I headed over to the Roman Baths which are insanely crowded. I bought a combo ticket for the Fashion Museum and the Baths while at the first museum, which I highly recommend as I could skip the lines. The Baths are open until late at night so I'd be interested to see them in the evening and without the crowds. As it was, I saw them during the day. The accompanying museum was interesting but I didn't really stop to look at much as I was trying to beat this insanely large group of students through the tour (because I started out behind them and that is an experience I did not want to repeat). After the museum you got to explore the actual Baths which were really cool. At one of them they had these film bits projected onto the wall of Romans hanging around and doing things, so you got a sense of what the Baths were like in history, which was really interesting. It's just so fascinating to think that people had been swimming in those very waters for thousands of years. I left the Baths through the Pump Room, which is now a super fancy restaurant.

Then I wandered around the city a bit more, seeing some of the architectural sites, before heading back to the hostel to meet Charlie and go back to her and Jason's place for another home cooked meal. This time it was delicious spaghetti and home made meatballs. And, as I'd talked to my mom on skype plenty of times but hadn't actually seen her because I was only using my ipod touch, they were kind enough to let me borrow their computer with a webcam so I could talk to her face to face. And I also took the opportunity to talk to a million other people face to face and it was wonderful. Getting to see your friends and family is so nice after being gone for so long. I'm leaving Bath tomorrow, so saying goodbye was sad. It's crazy how you can make such good friends in such a short amount of time.

July 10th

When I got back to the hostel today I was pretty much dead, but I wanted to tell all my friends about my perfect night right away so I went upstairs and changed into some PJs, went back to the lobby to use the internet and facebook everybody, and then went back upstairs and passed out in bed. I woke up in the late afternoon but after a day like yesterday I didn't really feel like doing anything but lazing around with a dopey grin on my face and feeling wonderful.

Then I got a call from my new friend Jason, who asked if I was still up for a Sunday roast with him and his wife. First I have a fairy tale evening, then I get a home cooked meal! Hoorah! Charlie and Jason's place has the most amazing view on the whole planet, it's really not fair. Their living room looks over the English countryside with all these lovely hills.

Naturally the first order of business when I got there was to gush about last night and show them all the pictures and gush some more. Then Charlie cooked an amazing Sunday roast, and there was even Yorkshire pudding as I had said that I'd never had any (it was delicious!). After dinner we sat around the living room and watched Harry Potter. I can't even tell you how nice it was to have a quiet homey evening. I haven't had one in months. Just relaxing in a living room watching a movie after a home cooked meal was just what the doctor ordered.

I got a cab home and when the driver found out I'm American he treated me to his views on American politics. It was amusing.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Roaming Redhead's Guide to Europe: Hostel Reviews Part 1

City Backpackers

Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Rating: 5/5 Swedish Meatballs

This hostel is a really easy walk from the main train station, so don't worry about public transportation. It's pretty much a straight shot down the road and if I didn't get lost you won't. It's located right next to an ATM, and right next to the main shopping street that has touristy shops, restaurants, and clothing stores. This is also the street that goes straight down to the historic district. It's about a ten minute walk to the historic area, where you can see palaces and museums and catch a boat to other areas. The hostel is clean, and provides a locker (you provide the lock) and a reading lamp for every bunk. My room had en suite showers, but no en suite toilet which was a little annoying. Wifi is free as are the computers, and there's a great little common area with couches and a TV where I made a lot of friends. A fully stocked kitchen is provided so you can save some money and buy a box of pasta and make it yourself. There's also an outdoor common area with couches and blankets because Sweden is cold. The staff is very friendly and they all speak good English. There's also a little cafe at reception where you can get coffee and muffins and fruit and the like, and they were happy to fill up my water bottle for me every morning. The hostel is very safe, there's a code to get into the building with the dorms which changes every day, and a separate code to get into your room. You can get a single gender or mixed room. Bring your own sheets and pillow case, as bedding costs extra and a sleeping bag doesn't count (I used mine anyways). Also, it's Swedish tradition to take your shoes off indoors so make sure your feet don't smell!

Copenhagen City Hostel

Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
Rating: 3/5 Yorick's Skulls

This hostel is INSANELY HUGE. It used to be an office building. It's pretty centrally located and it's an easy walk from the train station. The rooms are clean, but the bed organization is a little weird. I was in a six bed dorm, and two of the beds were pushed right next to each other, basically creating one giant bed. This was fine as they were taken by Sarai and I, but if I was alone I would be super uncomfortable sleeping there. Especially because they don't have gender specific rooms, so there's a chance you could be sleeping next to a man who may or may not be a creeper. I felt pretty safe, you use your keycard to work the elevator and to get into your room. They provide a locker (you provide the lock) and a reading light for every bed. There's a bar on the first floor which can get kind of loud at night. You have to pay by the hour to use the computers and they say wifi is free if you have your own device (like a computer or ipod touch) but we could never get it to work in our room. Bedding costs extra and once again a sleeping bag doesn't count. In the basement there's a little common area with a TV and a few couches but it wasn't really as warm and inviting as the one in Stockholm. I never really hung out there and it didn't seem like a place to make friends. The staff are very helpful and fluent in English, and some one is at reception 24 hours a day.

Hostel Ruthensteiner

Location: Vienna, Austria
Rating: 5/5 Wiener Schnitzels

This is probably the nicest hostel I stayed at. The walls were painted lovely colors, there were nice hardwood floors, gorgeous outdoor areas to hang out in, even pictures on the walls in the dorm! The staff was very friendly and helpful and some one is at the front desk 24 hours. There's a really nice kitchen, and even an outdoor grill. Everything is really clean. The common areas are comfortable and a great place to hang out and make friends and there's a bar, but it closes down at midnight (I think) and there are hostel wide quiet hours so don't worry about loosing any sleep. This hostel is a quick walk from the train station and is located on a quiet street right off of the main shopping street. There's plenty of cheap restaurants and grocery stores right next to the hostel. It's also an easy walk to see the sites, you just go down the street for 15 minutes to get to the museum area, opera house, and palaces, and about 20 minutes the other way to get to Schonbrunn Palace. I walked alone at night back to the hostel from both Schonbrunn and the opera house and felt perfectly safe. Don't worry about bringing your own bedding, and every bed has an outlet and reading lamp. You use an old fashioned key to get into your room, and another key to get into your locker. The computers cost money but wifi is free if you have your own device. The shower was a little wonky, the spray would stop after a ridiculously short amount of time so you kept having to press the button over and over to get a full wash in.

Villa Olmo Hostel

Location: Como, Lake Como, Italy
Rating: 2/5 Lasagnas

This is a place to sleep. I do want to say that the staff is insanely nice. It's run by a family and they are lovely and accommodating and understanding if you have train issues and need to check in a little late. You feel like a part of their family. That said, this is a place to sleep. The hostel closes down from 10-4, and has a midnight curfew. The mattresses are really uncomfortable, but bedding is provided. There are no reading lamps which I didn't realize would be a problem until I didn't have one and wanted to read. This is a really basic place. You have a locker, and there are a bunch of basic metal bunk beds, a bathroom, and that's it. The dorms are gender divided. There is a common area in the little reception building with a computer (pay to use) and free wifi, and while there isn't a kitchen they do provide breakfast and dinner (dinner costs extra). It's a bit of a schlep to the train station but doable, and there are signs pointing the way to the hostel along the roads. It's located right next to the Villa Olmo (the hostel used to be the Villa Olmo's stables) which has a nice little park area for sitting by the lake and enjoying the view. It's also about a 10 minute walk to town. There are a few restaurants close by, but your best bet is going into town to eat. And the staff is really really friendly!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

My trip may be coming to a close tomorrow but keep checking the blog for more exciting content like:

- What I did during the rest of July
- Pictures
- Academic ramblings


The Roaming Redhead's Guide to Europe
With travel tips, hostel reviews, what to see, and more!

"Better than Rick Steves!!" -The New York Times

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

July 9th: The Day Every Dream Came True

I have spent months looking forward to my Regency ball, which happened today. I've been carrying my Regency dress in my backpack all over Europe, decorating it as I've gone along. I have spent YEARS longing to go to a period ball in a period location in Europe. It has been a life long dream of mine. And today it actually happened.

The first order of business was the dance lesson in the afternoon. We learned six dances, including a waltz and Jane Austen's favorite dance. I picked them up pretty quickly and had a great time. Regency dancing is such fun! You get to gallop around and swing people in circles and there was live music for us to dance to. I sat down at a table with a few women at it who I ended up making friends with and dancing with in the afternoon. Emma and Ruth attended the ball last year, and there was also a foreign girl whose name I didn't get but for the sake of easiness let's call her Jane. Jane was my partner for the afternoon and we took turns being the man and the woman. It was all great fun. While I was learning the dances I was also scoping out the men, because what I wanted more than anything was to dance with a handsome gentleman in a perfect costume. Things didn't look promising. But I comforted myself by saying that there would be more people at the ball. Then about halfway through the dance lesson this group of four gentlemen in PERFECT costumes came in which immediately got my attention. I should probably point out that most people weren't in costume for the lesson so it was especially fun to see some Regency gentlemen walk in. I immediately determined that I would dance with one of them during the ball. In particular there was a very handsome gentleman who shall be hereafter referred to as Mr. Tilney. Now not only have I spent months looking forward to this ball, but I have also spent months daydreaming about meeting a handsome gentleman in a perfect costume and dancing with him and having a bit of romance. But never in a million years did I think it would actually happen. Little did I know...

So I went home after the lesson and got ready for the ball. About 15 minutes before I left I was sitting, giving my camera a bit of juice while I waited to leave, and my heart was literally pounding. I had butterflies in my stomach and my breath was coming quick. What if no one talked to me? What if no one danced with me? What if I was miserable? What if years and years of dreaming ended up in a horrible evening?

I walked down to The Guildhall where the ball was and met up with Emma, Ruth, and Jane. We all took some pictures and then the doors were opened and the ball began. The room we were in had GORGEOUS chandeliers from the 18th century, worth a million pounds each. I have seen my fair share of chandeliers on this trip, but these were the most beautiful. The room has neoclassical decorations, and was painted a pale green with some gold and white decorations. Simply BEAUTIFUL. The perfect place for a ball!!!! When we walked in there was a man with a large cane and a quizzing glass, and he would bang his cane on the floor and announce us. "LADIES AND GENTLEMEN. MISS [MY LAST NAME] FROM THE COLONIES." I've never been announced before, it was awesome!

I was sitting at the Mr. Knightley table, which was fine. I got there at exactly 7 and the dancing didn't start until 7:30, so everyone had a half hour to mill about and get acquainted and watch as everyone came in. The people at my table were nice and all, but it was a lot of older couples and the conversation wasn't really great. I saw that Emma and Ruth were sitting across the room at the Edward Ferrars table so I walked over to chat. When I got there they said "You know those really well dressed men from before? They're all sitting at our table." I immediately determined to stay. This was my opportunity to see if I could get one to dance with me! Perhaps even Mr. Tilney! So I sat down and talked with Emma and Ruth, and everyone else started filtering in. I made friends with Ben, one of the well dressed gentlemen, and Michelle, his date. Ben and his group are all reenactors with a Napoleonic regiment, which explains the perfection of the costumes. We all quickly made friends, and I mentioned that I actually wasn't assigned to that particular table. There was one spare chair, which I was sitting in, but by that point we were all friends so Michelle, who is a lovely lovely human being, said that if whoever was assigned that spare chair showed up they would just squeeze in another chair so I could stay. I was so thrilled. Then I looked over to the Mr. Knightley table and saw a woman with a clipboard and the people from my table all pointing at me. I thought 'oh no, am I in trouble for switching tables?' The woman with the clipboard turned out to be the ball organizer, and she came over and said she was very sorry but would it be too much trouble if I switched tables as some one else wanted to sit in my seat. Best moment ever. I was more than happy to oblige and she gave me a big hug and said I saved the ball. So then I was officially settled at the Edward Ferrars table with my new friends!

For the first few dances I danced with Jane, who was sitting at another table, but what I really wanted was to dance with a gentleman. I mean really, being at a Regency ball in Bath, in a beautiful Regency ballroom, with live music, how could I not be despreate to dance with a Regency gentleman? Michelle and Ben got up to do a dance, and as I was getting up somehow or another, I don't remember quite who was responsible, I got pared up with Mr. Tilney. Which is why I am now calling him Mr. Tilney. Because just like Catherine Morland I was a stranger in Bath, alone and friendless, and out of the blue a handsome gentleman showed up and asked me to dance. Mr. Tilney is not a great dancer, by his own admission, but I will love him forever for dancing with me anyways. And I mean no one knew what they were doing so we were all messing up and laughing and it was perfect and magical. I can't even describe what it felt like for me to be dancing to live music in a beautiful ballroom wearing a beautiful gown and dancing with a handsome gentleman to boot.

Mr. Tilney is a total gentleman. I think he might be the most gentlemanly gentleman to ever gentleman. After the dance he gave me his arm and escorted me back to our table where we started talking. We talked and danced until dinner, when he gave me his arm and escorted me to dinner and told me about all the British food I was eating. Dinner and desert were delicious and I had a great time talking with everyone at my table. Ben told me about how his group was renting this fully restored Georgian townhouse, and how it was like they had time traveled staying there, and I was so jealous. Then Michelle asked if I would like to come over after the ball for drinks. !!!!!!! I'm pretty sure I started gushing an acceptance before she even finished her invitation.

After dinner the announcer man came over to say that there were card tables laid if we wished to play, and there was a game so easy even ladies could do it. Mr. Tilney escorted me to the card tables where Emma drafted me to take her losing hand in a game of Loo. I played against Ben, another man from his group named Paul, and Ruth (whose place was eventually taken by a woman named Allison). I lost miserably. I think there was only one hand that I actually won. The announcer guy suggested we place small bets, three little colored pieces of paper each. We decided to go bigger, eventually betting everything. Allison was an amazing card player, but Ben won in the end. Then we all went back in the ballroom for more dancing.

The ball ended at 11 although I don't think anyone was ready to leave. I went up to the organizer and told her about how I had woken up at 4 AM to get my ticket and backpacked across Europe with my dress in my bag and how I've longed to go to just this sort of thing my whole life and she gave me a big hug. Then we all gathered outside, Ben and Michelle, Mr. Tilney and me, and Paul and another member of their group named William. Mr. Tilney gave me his arm and escorted me back to their house. I walked through a Georgian city, in costume, on the arm of a Regency gentleman! The house was seriously GORGEOUS, I couldn't believe they were actually staying there. Apparently some of a film adaptation of Persuasion had been filmed in the drawing room. First Michelle showed me her room and we jumped on her bed which was great fun, then we all retired to the INCREDIBLE drawing room to sip champagne and talk. It wasn't lit by real candles, but it was lit by fake candles so the room had that dim candlelit glow. There were some other people there, some guests, some staying at the house, but all were in perfect costumes. I dubbed us the best costume club because it was basically all the best dressed people from the ball. All of them were fascinating, one lady turned out to be the woman who created that Napoleon and the Empire of Fashion exhibit and is like THE European expert on Regency fashion.

So there I was, sipping champagne in a Georgian townhouse with wonderful new friends and I don't even know if I can handle it. I had been so worried that no one would even talk to me, and here I was wearing a beautiful Regency dress surrounded by fascinating and super intelligent people in beautiful costumes sipping champagne in a gorgeous drawing room in a Georgian townhouse in Bath. Donald couldn't get over the fact that I had backpacked across Euopre with my dress, and I was voted most brave by pretty much everyone for going to the ball all by myself and not knowing anyone.

At about 3 AM most people had gone home, and those of us that were left decided to go to bed. Michelle lent me some PJs because at that point I obviously wasn't going home. I spent the night in a REAL bed you guys. I haven't slept in a real bed for two months! Then in the morning we all ate a big English breakfast on beautiful china, talked some more, and Michelle, Ben, and William gave me a ride back to my hostel.

Oh yes, and you know those dreams I had about the romantic evening with the handsome gentleman in the perfect costume? Those came true too. ;)

Every dream I have ever had came true. Including dreams I didn't even know I had. Dancing at the ball, meeting new friends, sipping champagne, great conversation, dancing with a handsome gentleman, a fairy tale romance. I don't even know how to describe how happy I was. And how happy I still am. It was literally the best night of my entire life. I could die happy now.

July 8th

Today I left for Bath. After checking into the hostel I went straight over to the Fashion Museum for my study appointment. I got to play with six beautiful 18th century gowns and I feel like I learned SO MUCH. I only had two hours, which was not nearly enough time, but I tried my best to manage it. I still only had about five minutes for the last dress. The number one thing I learned is that as perfect as they may look, historic garments aren't perfect. The width of pleats varies by .25" on the back of a robe a la francaise, some one must have mismeaured fabric at one point because there was an extra panel pieced in to the back of one robe a la francaise. It was nice to be reminded that these master craftsmen were still human. Takes some pressure off me. And the gowns were of course gorgeous! The petticoat of the last one was very interesting, it had this large square of plain muslin top center back rather than the nice fabric. I wonder if it was maybe because that's where a lot of sweat goes, or because that might be what you sat on so it wore out quicker.

After my appointment I had a quick look around the museum. Besides the "permanent" displays they also had a wedding dress exhibit, a couple contemporary dress exhibits, and an interesting "Behind the Scenes" exhibit where they displayed pieces from their collection from throughout the 19th century along with storage boxes and things so people could get an idea of what it's like behind the scenes at a museum collection.

It was pouring rain when I got out and I was starving, and I noticed that a pub called the Assembly Inn a few doors down served food. So I walked in, cold and wet, only to find that they were out of food. But James the bartender had made some delicious sausage rolls and bread, so I had a bit of that.

As I got up to pay I got to talking with James and Jason, a local having a pint. They invited me to join them and we got to talking and really hit it off. Jason's wife Charlie showed up and lo and behold, I found a British version of my dear friends Jeremy and Ashley. We all had a great time hanging out, and I impressed everyone with this awesome card trick I know. I even played the lottery (and lost. No 166 million Euros for me). I had only intended to pop in for a moment, as I still needed to finish my dress for the ball tomorrow. Four hours and four and a half pints of cider later, Jason walked me back to the hostel. Well, he walked. I stumbled.

I woke up at 4:30 AM and couldn't get back to sleep but that was OK because it gave me time to finish my dress and wash my hair so it would look nice for the ball.

July 7th

Happy Harry Potter day!! I feel so lucky to have been able to go to the premier of the last movie in London. After all, I'm part of the generation that grew up with Harry. He was 11 when I was 11, when the last book came out I had just turned 18. I remember when the very first book came out, I remember waiting for each subsequent book. I remember when the first movie came out. I'm not a huge crazy Harry Potter fan or anything, but it was always fun to get into the celebrating every time a book came out. I even went to the midnight premier of the first part of the seventh movie. Now that the last movie is out, I think my childhood is officially over.

Anyways, the premier was fun. I didn't camp out to get a good spot or anything like some people, so I was in the very back, but it was fun to get to be with everyone. The premier was in Trafalgar Square, and they had a giant fence set up so unless you had camped out you didn't get to see any actual people, but they did have a big screen set up where they were projecting footage of everything. It was really fun, we would all watch a car pull up, some one would get out, there'd be craning of necks to figure out who it was, and then when the actor was revealed everyone would start cheering.

After the red carpet everyone migrated to Leicester Square where the actual screening was to see the stars again. Meanwhile I went to the Sherlock Holmes Restaurant for dinner which was so cool. All the dishes were named after characters and stories! I had the Retired Colourmans aka fish and chips.

July 6th

This evening I met up with my friend Nachiket, who was one of my roommates last summer in Philadelphia. He was so lovely and bought me dinner at this great British-Indian fusion restaurant, ice cream at a fun Pinkberry-like place called Snog, and we spent hours walking literally all over London and talking. He was great company and conversation and it was so nice to catch up. He told me all about London as we walked around and I told him what theater to see. A very well spent evening!

July 5th

The only thing of note I did today was see The Beggars Opera at Regents Park. In the cold. And the rain. But it was a great production and it was fun to experience some 18th century theater. Even if it was in the cold. And the rain. I finally got a wear out of my raincoat though!

July 4th

Happy 4th of July! This is my first one out of the country and I was sad that I wasn't going to have a proper 4th of July, but then I met up with some fellow tar heels and had a great time. I got in touch with fellow drama major Brooke, who also got the Phillips, and she brought along her friend Allison who in turn brought along her friend Elizabeth. We went to an American BBQ restaurant. YALL. They had NC BBQ and corn bread!!!! Allison wore a shirt that said "Beat England" and a light up American flag necklace. We couldn't get it to light up at first though which made us very distraught. White girl problems.

Before that I had a meeting with the curator at the Museum of London. It went so amazing. First she showed me their awesome pleasure gardens display and told me all about it, then we went back to the storage space and had a nice long conversation. And that's just what it was. Not an interview, but a conversation. We traded ideas and info and talked shop and she gave me advice for the future and it was just marvelous.

After our talk I went to take a look around the museum which was really cool. It's all about the history of London, from prehistory to today. My favorite parts were definitely the 18th century pleasure garden and this whole Victorian shopping street you could walk around. Not surprising coming from Miss History By Immersion. The Victorian street would be such a great place for an exhibit!

July 3rd

I am officially museumed out. I don't want to see any more art again. I mean it's been two months of sight seeing and I'm exhausted.

I started with the National Portrait Gallery today which was disappointing. I've really been looking forward to it but there wasn't anything I really liked. Then I went to the National Gallery which has a ton of amazing stuff but I could only manage the 18th-19th century bit. I did get to see Hogarth's Marriage a la Mode and the Gainsborough portrait of Sarah Siddons which was very exciting. I also really loved the JMW Turners. And that was pretty much all I could do. They have this cool thing in the gift shop where they'll print a poster of any painting in the collection. So I got one of Sarah Siddons, I wish I could have afforded a few more!

That evening I saw Dr. Faustus at The Globe. I've read a fair share of Marlowe but I've never seen any performed. I really enjoyed it, the comedy was great and the end was chilling. The production incorporated great music and movement and puppetry too, it was a very theatrical experience.

July 2nd

I was so excited for the day this morning that I hopped right out of bed the moment I woke up. First stop was the Wallace Collection which is kind of like The Frick in NYC ie perfect. All the rooms in the building have been restored to match the 18th century furniture, so all the walls are covered in different brightly colored Lyon silks and there's gilding and chandeliers but in a very subdued, British rococo. It was so lovely. The art collection was marvelous. I went to see Fragonard's The Swing and Boucher's portrait of Madame de Pompadour in her pink dress, but that was just the tip of the iceburg. They had Boucher paintings out the wazoo!! So many beautiful pieces, I absolutely loved it. The only complaint I have is that I had been led to believe that the gift shop had posters. It didn't. :(

After that I headed over to Baker St for the Sherlock Holmes Museum. I had WAY too much fun there. I got my picture taken in the sitting room, and I loved getting to explore Holmes' room and the mass of stuff in the sitting room. The attention to detail was great, you felt like you were really in the stories. On the other floors there were things related to cases, like the head of the Hound of the Baskervilles mounted on the wall, a cardboard box with two ears in it, a piece of plaster with a red fingerprint, and life sized figures of famous characters. It was all such fun, I felt like a kid in a candy store.

Then I went to the TKTS booth and got tickets for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead at the Haymarket Theater that evening. While waiting for the play to start I popped into Fortnum and Mason which was close by. Fortnum and Mason is a famous department store that's been around since the Victorian period, and are most known for their picnic baskets. It is a lovely store filled with lovely things sold to you by lovely people and it was just lovely. The windows and interior design were gorgeous too. When I get married I am registering exclusively at Fortnum and Mason. Their tea sets were to die for!

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead was absolutely phenomenal. They even had a clever "turn off your cell phones" announcement. Instead of having some one say something, they just played a cell phone ringing a couple minutes before curtain, which reminded everyone to turn off their own phones. Everyone was brilliant, especially The Player (who went to NYU!). I can't say enough good things about this actor. He gave his big speech to R and G about how they had left his troupe and then there was a pause and then some one else said a line and the entire audience let its breath out. I didn't even realize I was holding my breath. I haven't read the play since I was in a version of it when I was 14. Now that I have so much more life experience and a wonderful UNC theater education behind me I appreciated it so much more. I feel like I really got it this time. Definitely a highlight of the trip.

July 1st

After much fuss and bother I finally made it to London yesterday. Those British border control people are NOT messing around. The only way they'd let me into the country was if I showed the actually plane I'm flying home on.

This morning I switched hostels and paid a ridiculous amount of money to send a box of souvenirs home. Then I went over to Courtauld to talk about the PhD program. It all sounds very exciting, I think I'd enjoy doing my research there. After my interview I went to Chinatown to get some food, where I met a hilarious Chinese man who said he'd been eating at this "greasy spoon" since before I was born and wanted to know why I was there alone because a pretty girl like me needed to have a boyfriend that would pay for everything. I love my new friend, he was awesome.

Monday, July 18, 2011

I couldn't sleep last night so I was playing around on my iPod and at one point decided to open up my calandar and see how long I have left in Europe. I have 11 days. Immediately the panic set in. How did three months go by so fast? What if I didn't make the most of this trip? What if I go home hating myself because I wasted my precious time in Europe?

To be honest I'm still a little panicked that somehow I've managed to mess everything up. People don't get $9000 scholarships to tour Europe every day, how could I possibly handle such an honor? But I've started to look back on the last few months and consider WHY they flew by so fast. I've made amazing friends. I've seen ballet in Paris, theater in London, and opera in Vienna. I went to a Regency ball in Bath and had the best night of my entire life. I've seen countless artistic masterpieces. I've been to the palaces of the great European figures of history. I've had macarons at Laduree. I've handled beautiful 18th century gowns at a world renowned collection. I've made friends with curators. I've seen clothes from thousands of years ago BC. I've seen those court outfits from that one Versailles exhibit. I've seen a 17th century chateau by candlelight. I've seen the Alps. I've braved foreign languages and navigated strange countries. I've read almost all of Jane Austen. I've eaten French pastries, Swiss chocolate, schnitzel in Vienna, fish and chips and Yorkshire pudding and mushy peas in England. I've sat in Sherlock Holmes' chair in 221B Baker St. I've seen gothic cathedrals. I've braved sketchy hostels, tempermental showers, and uncomfortable beds. I've had magic and romance. I have literally fulfilled every short term hope and dream I have.

All things considered, I think I handled things pretty well.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

June 29th

I have a cold. Boooooo. And it's swealtering hot. Double booooooo. All I've managed was to go to the Orangerie on the 27th to see Monet's waterlillies which were really beautiful. No picture can ever to justice to the colors.

But today I decided that if I was going to feel sick and miserable I'd rather do it in Giverny than in Paris. So I went to Monet's house and sneezed on his waterlillies. Giverny is a really easy daytrip from Paris and I highly recommend it. You hop on a train to Vernon which takes about half an hour, then you get on a bus which takes you to Giverny. Giverny is the perfect little French village in the countryside, Monet sure knows how to pick a spot.

I toured the house first which was really nice. Every room was painted a different pastel color and there were big windows overlooking the gardens. I'm sure the gardens smelled as beautiful as they looked but I wouldn't know as I haven't smelled or tasted anything in like three days. The garden in front of the house was lovely, but paled in comparison to the garden with the waterlillies. There was a little stream running through it which would be perfect for playing Pooh Sticks, and bamboo groves, and of course the waterlillies themselves. I can definitely see how Monet was inspired, I wanted to paint a masterpiece myself.

June 26th

Today I went back to Versialles to finish the Petit Trianon, do the Grand Trianon, and see the gardens some more. It was ridiculously hot and I got burnt, but I had a great time anyways. I loved Marie Antoinette's little play village which was so picturesque (there was even a swan living in the lake), and the farm was a proper farm with giant bunnies and cows and sheep and goats and donkeys and chickens and stuff. One of the donkeys was so close to the fence that I could pet it. And I ran into a fellow tar heel, there was a ram that looked just like Ramses. UNC represent!

The Grand Trianon was nice, but I think I like the Petit Trianon more. Because it was a Saturday all the fountains were on, and while I was at first annoyed that I had to pay to get into the gardens it was so worth it because the fountains are truly spectacular. The gardens were a lot of fun to go through, there's all sorts of little groves hidden away. It's like a treasure hunt. I'll put up some pictures of my favorites eventually.

The only problem is that I have like 700 pictures from Versailles now. And I'm still going back one more time. No one should have expected anything less from me though.

June 25th

I did The Louvre today. Now of course I was expecting to have to wait in line for a million years because you don't just waltz into the Louvre like tra la la, I think I'll see some art today. Except that's what happened. I went to one of the underground entrances that's through this little shopping mall, got my ticket from a machine that had no line, breezed through airport security, and suddenly I realized I was in the Louvre. It was a little disorienting how easy it all was.

This is how you do The Louvre. Go into a room, take a quick look at all the art in it, and if something catches your eye go and have a proper look at it. There is SO MUCH ART, if you try to really look at everything you'll go crazy. It was hard for me, who likes to experience everything, but if I can do it you can too. I started at the 19th century and worked my way back to the beginning of the 18th century. Surprise surprise, I LOVED the 18th century rooms. Especially the Fragonards and Bouchers which were so beautiful and moving. People have asked me before why I love 18th century art so much, and I never know how to explain. I mean yes I could say that I love the color pallate (LOVE the color pallate) and the subject matter and the style and all that, but at the end of the day there's just some intangible force that draws me to it that I could never put into words. But in a sort of attempt to explain, 18th century art makes me feel like this (while the whole piece is worth listening to, the part I'm referring to starts at around 2:15):

After those galleries I did a bit of the decorative arts, went to see a few favorite pieces like the Grand Odalesque and that famous statue of Cupid and Psyche kissing (which was SO moving, I was pleasantly surprised), and then walked around the 17th century galleries a bit. It was so fun walking around the museum and getting to see in person all this art I've studied for years.

June 24th

On the 23rd I was too exhausted to do anything, although I did go see the Moulin Rouge building and walked around Montmarte at night. And got the greatest pick up line EVER: "I am from United. You are from States. Together, we are United States". This bit of genius was said by a French waiter and I give him bonus points for hilarity. And you know when you think about it it kind of has a clever double meaning- United States becomming two united states of being but I doubt he realized that. Anyways, it gave me a good laugh.

Today I moved out of my hostel and went to stay with some friends of my Aunt Cindy, the P's. Mr. and Mrs. P and their son live right next to the Eiffel Tower in a really beautiful apartment and it was so lovely to be in a home for a change.

The day was mostly a bust though. I went to see the Madame Gres exhibit in the Bourdelle Museum, and while the garments were masterpieces the curation left much to be desired. While Bourdelle's sculptures emphasized the sculptural qualities of the garments, some rooms were just garments whereas others were sculptures and garments and still others were things like Bourdelle's apartment or workshop with a couple garments thrown in and it was kind of like "what is this dress doing here?" They kind of just set up half the exhibit around the existing museum, it was a little odd.

June 22nd

Well, today I finally made it to Versailles. After all these years. Poor Chelsea and Rachel, they thought I was kidding when I said I'd need them to take a picture of me in every room and with every painting. But in return they had me as a tour guide so hopefully that made up for it.

We got up super early so we could get there when it opened, only to find out that Versailles was on strike until 10:30. We were not amused, especially as it was cold and rainy and we could have been warm and snuggly in bed instead of out in the rain. Me, being the genius that I am, had of course not even brought my sweater. So we hung out in McDonalds until it opened, then stood in the freezing rain forever moving through the line to get through airport security. But it moved pretty quickly and despite the fact that my shoes were soaked and I was shivering I was so happy to finally be in Versailles that I didn't care.

First we did all the main rooms- Marie Antoinette's bedroom, the hall of mirrors, all that. As expected the tourists there behaved like animals which was just disgusting. After that we did the much less crowded but no less beautiful Dauphin's and Mesdames' apartments. By that time it was sunny and warm and beautiful so we walked through the gardens and did a bit of Petit Trianon, looking at the house and peeking into a few of the nearby buildings including Marie Antoinette's little theater which was AMAZING. I actually wasn't as excited about the Petit Trianon as I was for the chateau, but I LOVED it. I want to live somewhere just like that some day. It was so peaceful, especially compared to the zoo that was Versailles, and I can totally understand why Marie Antoinette would want to escape there. I mean I was uncomfortable just being one of the onlookers at Versailles, I can't imagine being on display there all day every day by people that were ready to hate you for any little mistake. The house was so light and neoclassical compared to the baroque heaviness of the chateau, and the gardens were gorgeous, it was a place you could just breathe and relax.

I could of course go on for ages about how beautiful everything was but I don't think that's necessary. Just to be in the place I've wanted to go to for so long, to walk through the same halls that once saw the Louis (XIV, XV, XVI), Madame de Pompadour, Marie Antoinette, Rose Bertin, it was the most incredible feeling. I was just completely surrounded by my favorite history ever. And the thing is, I've read a million and one essays about how everything in Versailles is meant to reflect the power and glory of the monarchy, and all the gardens did the same thing, blah blah blah, and one of my selling points for getting this scholarship was that I could read that a million times but I can never truly understand until I experience it for myself. And the thing is, NOW I feel like I really do understand. On an intellectual level I knew all about the politics of the Versailles architecture and gardens, but to get to actually experience it for myself just settled it in an emotional spiritual physical intellectual way that no essay ever could. I'm just so grateful for this scholarship and the opportunity to experience my beloved European history.

Just in case you, like me, went on a mission to see every Marie Antoinette portrait ever, here's the locations. The portrait of her and her children where she's wearing the deep red robe a l'anglaise with the fur trim is in the chateau in the main rooms. The official portrait in the cream colored grand habit is in the billiard room on the ground floor of the main house at the Petit Trianon. The famous portrait of her in the blue robe a l'anglaise holding the flower (the one that was made to replace the portrait of her in the chemise a la reine) is an extraordinary painting and on the second floor (first floor to my European readers) of the main house at the Petit Trianon. The more I stared at it the more I was moved. Those are the ones I found, I'm still wondering where the portrait of her in the blue grand habit is.

After we got back to Paris and had some dinner, we all went to the Sacre Cour, a gorgeous Romanesque cathedral at the top of Montmarte. You can see the whole city from there. Except the Eiffel Tower which is blocked by a tree. Stupid tree. But anyways we watched the sun set over the city which was lovely. We also went inside the Sacre Cour. There happened to be a mass happening, and it was so magical to experience the grandness of the cathedral with that beautiful medieval music in the background. We each lit a candle and said a prayer for some one. I know I'm not Catholic, but it's impossible not to feel close to G-d in a place like that and it's all the same G-d anyways. It was a really moving experience, we all cried.

June 20th

Today I schlepped two and a half hours to Moulins to see the Comedie Francaise exhibit. It was so worth it. Paris was cold and rainy but Moulins was sunny and beautiful. People were swimming in the river which made me wish I had my swimsuit.

I really loved the exhibit, which was about costumes used in the Comedie Francaise from the 18th century to today. I thought it was really well curated, and there was even a whole space devoted to costume production, with little booths showing wigs being curled and ruffs being made and patterns being cut out and stuff. The costumes were gorgeous, I really loved the selection of 18th century coats and waistcoats on display, as well as the section with modern made historic costumes. They were all so creative and detailed. Along with the garments they had TV screens showing close up pictures of the costumes, and clips of actors in plays wearing the costumes, to give you a sense of how they functioned as part of the greater theatrical production.

Moulins is a great little town but I didn't have a whole lot of time to look around after seeing the exhibit because I had to rush back to Paris to meet Rachel and Chelsea who were in town for a few days. We ended up missing each other, but we ended up meeting for lunch the next day so alls well that ends well.

June 19th: Sunday in the Park with Stephen

Sondheim that is. Today I fulfilled another item on my Paris bucket list by going to the Isle of La Grand Jatte, setting of the famous Sunday on the Isle of La Grande Jatte painting by Georges Seurat which in turn inspired Stephen Sondheim to write a brilliant musical, and listening to the Sunday in the Park with George soundtrack. It was honsestly one of the most moving things I've done so far. We all know my thing with Stephen Sondheim, and how much his music affects me. And listening to it while on the island was like being in the music. There were people strolling through the trees in a small suburban park on an island in the river on an ordinary Sunday, towers where there were trees, blue purple yellow red water, little dogs yapping and playing, it was seriously like being immersed in the music I love so much.

The park is definitely worth a visit, even if you're not a die-hard Sondheim nut. It's a really lovely walk around the island, and there are little plaques all around with text in French and English telling about all the paintings that have been set there.

June 18th

The only thing of note to really happen in the last couple of days is that I walked around Paris listening to An American in Paris on my ipod which I highly recommend to any American's out there. It's quite fun.

Anyways, today I met up with my friend Brenna and we went to the candleligh tour of Vaux le Vicomte. Brenna is a fellow costumer and studying fashion conservation so we had a great time talking shop, and just talking about all sorts of things in general. It was raining on and off all day, but by the time we got to the chateau about 45 minutes outside of the city all the rain had cleared and the sky was the most intense blue.

Vaux le Vicomte is a 17th century chateau which was the inspiration for Versailles. Basically Louis XIV saw it and was like "Hey, you're not allowed to have a better house than me!" so up went Versailles. That being an exact quote of course. Anyways, it's absolutely gorgeous. And every Saturday in the summer, the light the chateau and the grounds with candles. We toured the gardens first, as we wanted to wait until it was darker to do the house. The gardens are so beautiful, proper sculpted French gardens with fountains and beautiful designs cut into the shrubbery. One thing that was really nice was that all the stone hasn't been scrubbed clean, so it's all covered with lichen and stuff which gives it this really beautiful aged quality. We walked around the whole garden area, stopping for a bit to sit on this little pavilion by some speakers which were playing classical music. I recognized a Papageno aria within a few notes of course. Then this one gorgeous (19th century) aria came on and between that and the gardens and watching the sun set and the chateau I almost cried. It was just a beautiful experience.

Then we went to tour the house. It was like stepping back into history!! To see the rooms with flickering candles on the tables and in the sconces and chandeliers, it was how the rooms were meant to be seen. Since candles don't give off that much light, there were also artificial lights so we could actually see the rooms, but they were well hidden so it didn't ruin the ambiance at all. It was an amazing experience seeing something so old by candlelight. Very magical.

After the chateau tour we went back outside and got our glasses of champagne that we had pre-ordered and found a spot to watch the fireworks. Because there were fireworks. At this point it was fully dark and the gardens and house were just surrounded by all these little candles, it was kind of like a fairy land. They set off fireworks on the first and third Saturday of the month, so I made sure to go on a fiework night. The champagne was delicious and the fireworks were gorgeous and it was just so amazing I can't even put it into words.

The only problem with the whole affair was that the last bus back to the train station left before the fireworks, so we had a bit of an adventure getting back as we had to call a cab that took FOREVER to get there. We got back to Paris pretty late, but it was so worth it. I would definitely reccommend the experience to anyone.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

For those of you who knew what my new years resolution was: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

OK so here's the deal. As of right now I only have my iPod to update with and since that takes forever and my time is currently devoted to gorging myself on London theater, updates may not happen for a bit. Hopefully the computers will be free in Bath.

But to tide you over, here's some stuff I've done:
- Went to Versailles twice
- Met up with my friends Rachel and Chelsea and turned them into my personal paparazzi
- Went to The Louvre
- Went to Monets house at Giverny
- Got a cold
- Went to London
- Paid an exorbitant amount of money to mail a box of souveniers home
- Saw Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead at the Haymarket and Dr. Faustus at The Globe
- Visited Baker Street
- Braved the madness of Primark to get a dress for cheap
- Decided to register exclusively at Fortnum and Mason when I get married

Monday, June 27, 2011

I lost a day somewhere. They're all blending into one at this point. On the 13th I actually went to the Eiffel Tower (and did not climb to the top), and then I did all the cathedrals on the 14th and 18th Century Palooza on the 15th. Not that it matters but I'd just like to set the record straight.

ANYWAYS. Addie Jo is actually writing about the churches she's studying in her blog and it's making me look bad, so since I got this scholarship to study the interplay of fashion, architecture, and politics in major 18th century European empires I am going to write something about that.

I have a tentative theory that may be total crap but I'm going to share it with the world anyways. This would be an illustrated theory but I'm having some Issues uploading photos (@&#%!!!!!!!) so we'll just have to wait on pictures.

In my humble opinion, I think the difference between Austrian and French 18th century politics is definitely reflected in the architecture. And when I say architecture I really mean interior design because it's far easier to update an interior to the atest fashion than an entire building that's been around forever. Schonbrunn palace in Vienna was the imperial summer residence and most of the rooms are still in their rococo state. What really struck me about the gilded wall decorations was the naturalness of the designs. The walls and ceilings were decorated with beautiful creeping rose vines that were symmetrical in terms of the entire room but individual walls had their own unique persoality (the rococo was big on symmetry). Sometimes there would be a muscal instrument tucked into the decoration, but it was mostly natural, floral motifs. The woodwork on some of the flors was highly decorative, but that isn't something I noticed right away. Even the orientalist rooms, which were extremely lavish and overdecorated, still carried a snese of the natural and organic.

The Hotel Soubise in Paris, the rococo rooms in Versailles, and the rococo rooms which have been transported to other museums in Paris have been quite different. The symmetry is complete not only in the overall rom but in the individual designs. Rather than lighter floral motifs many of the rooms had classical references and instruments and giant bursts of swirlies and the nature imagery was far more heavy and ordered. In all there is a sense of power and order and structure. Teh French rococo interiors have been just as, if not more, elaborate than the Viennese interiors, but it's a different kind of elaborate. More heavy and formal. There is the slightest tint of the baroque if you squint hard enough.

I think this is a reflection of the political systems. Both France and Austria were powerful players in the 18th century, as can be seen by the lavishness of the interiors. But political life was different in each country. France took absolutism to the extreme, with everything meant to glorify the power of the monarchy and control the nobility. Court life was highly ritualized, even the act of getting out of bed and dressing (the morning toilette which I could go on about but I wont) was ritualized. Political life was an expression of the power of the monarch and therefore the control he had over everything, even nature (thats why French gardens are so structured, another thing I could go on about). I think this is referenced in the interiors with their more elaborate and tightly controlled designs. While the Austrian monarchy was still powerful, political life was far more relaxed and the nobility was not held under such tight control. Which is reflected in the lighter, more relaxed, and more natural style of the interiors.

This is just something I've been thinking about as I've been making my way through Europe. Next academic post: How Swedish politics are reflected in Swedish fashion.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

June 15th

Today was an 18th Century Palooza!! All days should be an 18th Century Palooza. I started by going to the Musee Cognacq-Jay which is in the Hotel Donan on the Rue Elzevir. It says it's a museum of 18th century Paris, but what it really is is some dude's collection of 18th Century Stuff. No complaints here! An entire museum with my favorite art!! They had Fragonards and Bouchers and Vigee-Lebruns and a bed belonging to one of Louis XVs daughters! I give it four out of five macarons because their selection of postcards in the gift shop left much to be desired and most of the guards were literally asleep in their chairs. Which firstly meant that I could have stolen my very own Boucher as a souvenier, and secondly meant that I couldn't ask questions. One guy was awake and he didn't speak much English but he did his best to tell me about the bed and the beautiful portrait of the woman who used to read to Marie Antoinette. Definitely one of my favorite museums of the trip so far.

Then I went to the Hotel de Soubise which was a little disappointing because they didn't have that many rooms open. But the ones that were open were full out rococo splendor, which just happens to be my favorite so that was exciting. This Hotel, and its neighboring Hotels, house the national archives, so some exciting papers were on display. Like Louis XVI's and Napoleon's wills, a letter written by Marie Antoinette while in prison, the Edict of Nantes, and Something Important written in 612. They also had a very cool exhibit about something, possibly counterfitting or treasonous plots or something. The displays were very cool, but as there was no English translation anywhere I couldn't tell what was going on.

Now I'm pretty sure the Hotel de Rohan on the opposite corner is also a museum, but it wasn't open which was disappointing. So I headed down the street to the Musee Carnavalet, which is the museum of the history of Paris. It's in two Hotels, so there's no staight path to get through so you end up doing a lot of doubling back, and the 17th century section was sadly closed, but other than that I give it five out of five macarons. The 18th century section is made up of rooms from various Hotels and the like and their all painted different pastel colors and are so so beautiful. Someday when I have a house I'm making all the rooms full out rococo. And there was lots of art to look at! I also liked the French Revolution floor, which had some stuff belonging to my ancestor the Marquis de LaFayette, some revolutionary cockades and other assorted paraphenalia, and an actual lock of Marie Antoinette's hair. There was one really interesting painting, so I asked the guard if he could translate the info plaque for me. He had a really thick accent so it was hard to understand him, but it had something to do with people being angry about Necker. He asked if I knew who that was and was impressed when I said yes. Then he took me to another painting and said "Now this is very interesting. You know how they wrote the Declaration of the Rights of Man? Well this is the Declaration of the Rights of Women, which most people haven't heard of. It's about-" And I said "Oh yes, I know, I've read it." He was so surprised and very impressed.

The 19th century rooms were cool too, one had allthese little statues that were charicatures of famous people. The Franz Lizst one had this huge flowing mane of hair. I laughed out loud. I didn't do the 20th century rooms because the museum was closing and modern stuff is boring.

June 14th

I had a very busy day today! I started by going to Sainte Chapelle, which is my favorite gothic cathedral and one I've wanted to see since we studied it in AP Art History. After waiting in line for forever and going through airport security I finally got inside. You go into the basement area, where all the vaulted ceilings are painted blue with gold stars and all the columns are painted red and blue. Then you walk up the narrowest stairs on the planet and emerge into the cathedral proper. I cant even describe what its like to emerge into that room. For those of you that haven't googled it by now, Sainte Chapelle doesn't have walls. It has stained glass windows. It's like if some one filled a crystal bowl with jewels and then you dived into the middle of it. It was absolutely breathtaking. I know religion has been responsible for some horrifying things, but you cant stand in a place of such beauty and say that religion is completely bad. Not when it produces something like that.

After that I went to Notre Dame. The cathedral itself is fine, but the real fun is going up to the top. The wait was like two hours, but it was so completely worth it. I have all the Sherlock Holmes stories on my ipod so I amused myself by reading The Hound of the Baskervilles while I waited (I finished it last night- AMAZING). Then you climb 400 terrifying narrow worn down steps and you're there. I'm really glad I switched to sneakers at the last minute this morning instead of my slippery flats.

Now, like most of you, when I went to the top of Notre Dame I expected this to happen:

As it turns out, the gargoyles do not in fact come to life and make wisecracks and sing songs. DISNEY LIED TO ME YOU GUYS. But despite the disappointing lack of musical numbers, the top of Notre Dame is really cool. You can see the whole city and the gargoyles are incredible.

Then I walked over tot he Hotel de Ville, which is Paris' city hall and therefore not a museum like it should be, the pillar marking where the Bastille used to be, and the Place des Vosges which is a nice little park and the oldest city square in Paris. They used to have jousts there! I think a knight on horseback charging through the picnicers would have been an amusing addition to the scene.

June 12th

Today I hit up the Paris flea markets. The Paris fleas are a magical place filled with beautiful things I cant afford. Whole shops filled with chandeliers and golden furniture hundreds of years old and candelabras and crystal vases and there were whole stores just for old fans!! I adore old fans. And then there are the stores with all the old books with beautiful leather binding and that old book smell. When I'm rich I'm going to furnish an entire house solely with stuff from the Paris fleas.

To get to the fleas you walk through the ghetto, past the sketchy dudes standing under the concrete overpass selling sunglasses, past the stands with the knockoff perfume and bags and African carvings, and then you turn a corner and suddenly everything is peaceful and you're surrounded by antiques.

What I really wanted was some old letters. I had been led to believe that there were plenty for cheap. There are old postcards out the wazoo, but I could only find one lady who sold old letters and they zere €20 to €30 a pop. I didn't leave empty handed though. I got a fashion plate from the 1820s, one from the 1870s, and an illustration from the 18th century, all for ridiculously cheap. So I'd say it was still a very successful day.

June 11th

I woke up this morning a little sad because I had an amazing birthday and I didnt't want it to be over. Then I remembered that I'm in Paris. !!!!!!!!!

Today I mostly did a bit of exploring. I toured the Paris Opera House wich was beautiful. And I found a nice American couple to take a picture of me doing an arabesque in the grand foyer. Then I tried to find an affordable lunch and ended up at this restaurant where the guy tells me that the cheap menu actually isnt available anymore AFTER I got all settled and so felt obligated to order. I decided to go for the smoked salmon salad, because I like salmon, so surely I must like smoked salmon. Smoked salmon is cold and slimey and tastes like snot. And the "salad" was made up of like three pieces of lettuce and twelve salmon so its not like I could just eat around it. I did the best I could, because it cost me €13 and there are starving people who would have been happy to have smoked salmon, but I could only stomache about half. I left feeling very grumpy. How do people eat smoked salmon? Fortunately there was a Pierre Herme around the corner so I cheered myself up with a few macarons. Pierre Herme puts so much cream in between the two cookies I made a total mess eating them but they were soooooooo good.

That evening I went to the Ladurée bar for a belated birthday cocktail and to meet with Chloe, an Australian I met at the hostel in Stockholm. I had a very fancy and very delicious macaron cocktail and had the most lovely girly evening chatting with my friend.

June 10th

It's my 22nd birthday today!! And my hair magically looked nice enough for me to wear down. My first stop of the day was the Champs-Elysées to go to Ladurée for a birthday lunch. Parisians apparently don't believe in labeling their major roads. After walking in circles (literally) for like half an hour I finally got my bearings. It was cloudy and cold, but just as I spotted Ladurées green storefront the sun came out. After years of longing I was finally there! I've had dreams of going to Ladurée multiple times- even my subconscious wanted to go.

The restaurant is made up of a bunch of beautiful salons. They all have the same general decor theme, but in different colors with slight variations. It all looks very 18th century/second empire. For lunch I had leg of lamb with new potatoes and it was the best meal I've ever had. There was some sort of thick deep red sauce with some kind of berry in it and it was AMAZING. After eating all the delicious lamb (it was so tender it almost melted in my mouth) and the delicious red potatoes (I don't even like red potatoes) I used the bread to soak up the remaining sauce. Then for desert I had hot chocolate and this pastry with all these fluffy pastries with light pink frosting stacked on top of each other and rose flavored whipped cream and fresh raspberries and topped with a rose petal and I have never had anything more delicious in my life. It went way beyond your ordinary sweet pastry. It was a culinary masterpiece.

Everything at Ladurée is beautiful. The butter is cylindrical shaped and comes in a Ladurée green wrapper (and is the best butter in the world). The bill has flourishes and cherubs on it. The ladies working the pastry counter wear aprons shaped like pink pastries. It's my favorite place in the world. It's absolutely magical. Holly Golightly is to Tiffanys as Katy is to Ladurée. It lived up to all my hopes and dreams.

After lunch I was full to bursting, so naturally I went to stand in line for more pastries. I finally FINALLY got two boxes of macarons of my very own. And the most beautiful cake in the world. The lady said it feeds four, but she clearly underestimated my cake eating abilities. She also wished me a happy birthday!

As I was walking out of Ladurée and down the Champs-Elysèes I almost started crying. I don't know if I can handle this much happiness. I love Paris. I have found my soul city. I just feel right here, I feel at home. In no other city have I felt such belonging and contentment. I am going to learn French and get a job in a museum and stay here forever.

Then I walked over to Cire Trudon to get some candles. Even the little side streets are beautiful here. Cire Trudon has been making candles for the monarchy since the early 17th century and I'm pretty sure they still use the same recipe. I would be a poor 18th century scholar indeed if I did not have some candles like the aristocracy. I'm a bit disappointed though because the sales lady wasnt enormously friendly andi nstead of wrapping my candles in the pretty black paper with the fancy gold sticker she used plain white paper and tape. A blogger I follow talked about how lovely Cire Trudon was, but I guess I'm not rich enough for star treatment. She could at least have asked me if I needed any help!

When I got back to the hostel I did a little photoshoot with my cake, macarons, and candles. The wallpaper is AMAZING and provided the perfect backdrop.

In the evening I went to the lobby and shared my cake with everyone. I was a little nervous, because I bought this beautiful pink pastry in Vienna and it tasted like nail polish remover. What if my beautiful cake wasn't any good? It was good. Even the fondant was good. Fondant is NEVER good. And it wasnt filled with cake. Oh no, it was filled with thick rose flavored cream and raspberries and lychee and you'd think that a mouth full of that would be too sweet and overwhelming, but this aint no crap Harris Teeter cake so it was just perfect. And so rich! I ate like half of it anyways.

It was the most wonderful birthday in the whole entire world!! I feel just like Marie Antoinette. Before all the bad stuff happened.

June 9th

I give up. I'm doomed to problem trains. This time we're stuck for an hour minimum. We're only like an hour from Paris, it's so close!! And my phone battery is punking out on me despite the fact that I charged it all night and my ipod is dying. FML. At this point we'll get into Paris at like 2 am and I'll end up sleeping through half my birthday tomorrow. I'm getting so many macarons after this. Have I mentioned that I didnt eat today? WHAT DOES THE EUROPEAN RAILWAY SYSTEM HAVE AGAINST ME?!?!?! And I finished my book but at this point I'm going to start over because I'm BORED. And I'm tired and my feet are cold and I just wanted to get a good nights sleep for my birthday tomorrow.

After a couple hours waiting we finally made it to Paris at like 11:30. I was a little worried about taking the metro that late, but I made it to the hostel without any incident.

They say Paris is the city of love, but I rather think its the city of stairs. There are 112 steps to get out of my metro stop. I know because there was a sign that said 'just so you know, there are 112 steps so old people should probably take the elevator'. Then there was another staircase up to my street. Then my room was on the 5th floor. And all this happened with me carrying like 50 lbs of stuff. I could feel the sweat dripping down my back. And it didnt help that the guy at reception was more interested in watching a movie on TV than checking me in. I got to the room, hopped in the shower, and passed out in bed. I fell asleep trying to make myself believe that I was really in Paris at last!!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Today I'm 22 and in Paris!!! And about to go to Laduree after years of longing to. Best birthday ever!!!!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

June 8th

Last night sucked falling asleep because 3 smelled so bad and was hocking up spit and mukus into a cup. Do you know how unbearable that sound is? I almost puked which would have given me a panic attack because I had had a salad for lunch and was already freaking out about e. coli.

Then this morning I was woken up by a manager yelling at some one that they had to check out and leave. This person didnt want to leave. Then the manager was arguing with some one else about a reservation. I kept hearing "Then where did you sleep!!" Then my own bed is being shaken. I sat up to see 6, 8b, and an angry manager. She demanded to know if I was checking out today, I said no, then she demanded to know if I had a reservation, I said yes. THIS HOSTEL IS FILLED WITH CRAZY PEOPLE AND THEYRE ALL IN MY ROOM. 6 and 8b were back in new beds, I was being interrogated about my reservation, and I looked over and saw a cup half full of spit and mucus next to bed 3.

At exactly 15:30 when the front desk opened I asked to change rooms.

June 7th

today I went to the art museum and the paper museum. The art museum was OK, I didnt really like it. The paper museum was awesome!! Its a real working paper mill so the gift shop was awesome. The museum itself wasnt very well organiyed but who cares because you got to DO STUFF.

First I made two sheets of paper. I made my own paper!!! Then I went upstairs and got to use two kinds of printing presses. One stamped the paper with a picture of teh museum. The other, I got to arrange letters to write my own message (I wrote my name). In the next room, I learned how to fold this one kind of envelope, which I then wrote on with a quill and ink. Then a woman sealed it for me using my choice of seal and sealing wax (gold). Tehn she made a bookmark, sealed it (blue wax, fancy K seal), and I got to put it in a machine and emboss it with a nautilus shell shape. In all I made six things. SO COOL!!

On the way home I stopped by a chocolate shop and bought all sorts of chocolate. It tastes so amaying, I dont know what I will do without it. Best chocolate Ive ever had. It would be worth it to move here for the chocolate.

Bed 8: A Play in 2 Acts

The setting: YMCA Hostel in Basel Switzerland.

The players:
Narrator- a roaming redhead who is travelling through Europe and likes to be the thimble or top hat when she plays monopoly. Sleeps in bed 1.
Bed 2- older Italian man, a teacher, loves the fine arts
Bed 3- a very smelly hipster who thinks appropriate quiet night time getting to know you conversation inolves ranting about how the first world is terroriying and robbing the third world
Bed 4- friendly Asian girl
Bed 5- No one
Bed 6- deaf-mute Bulgarian artist who decorated his bed with pictures of himself
Bed 7- grumpy Asian man
Bed 8a- blonde German biology student named Suzanna
Bed 8b- the artists creepy friend

I checked ina nd got settled inb ed 1, while 8a did the same. 8a then left to go explore. 6 brought in a manager and through miming asked whow as staying in bed 8. Manager explained it was a girl.

Act I, Scene i (June 5th)
I was on the computer in the lobby when I see 6 walk up to the front desk with a friend, 8b. The manager explained that bed 8 was already reserved by 8a, so 8b couldnt stay there. 6 was not happy. 8b didnt have a rservation but the manager said he could stay in bed 5.

Scene ii
I returned to the room after dinner to see 8b lying in bed 8. Thinking he and 8a had arranged a bed swap, I didnt think anything of it. He asked whose stuff was in locker 8, because he wanted to put his stuff there and seemed offended that some one elses stuff was there. This should have made me suspicious but his English was so broken I thought there was just a misunderstanding.
8b: Where are you from?
Me: America.
8b: Are you here on holiday?
Me: Yes.
8b: Do you like pot?
Me: No.
8b: Its good!
Me: ??????
8b: Im going out for a smoke.

Scene iii
8a returns to the room and freaks out because she sees that some one has been sleeping in her bed and taken the key to her locker so she cant get her stuff. Turns out 8b stole her bed, Im guessing at the request of 6. 8a gets a manager, and I inform them of the conversation I had heard in the lobby, where another manager explicitely told 8b that he couldnt sleep in bed 8. After much fuss, 8a switches rooms for the night and the manager opens her locker for her.

3 introduces himself to me as Im settling in to go to sleep. We get to chatting and I mention how expensive food here is. He starts ranting that all the wealth in the world is only owned by 20% of the population and the Swiss and American armies are going into poor countries and robbing and terrorzing them and somehow I am a part of all this. Dude, its not my fault Im an American, I havent robbed or terroriyed anybody, shut up because Im trying to sleep.

Act II, Scene i (9 AM on June 6th)
A manager is in the room and 8b is packing to leave. 6 is asleep.

Scene ii
8a returns to claim her bed, with the support of a manager, 4, and me who was woken up and dragged into the whole mess. 6 wakes up and refuses to let 8a into her bed. She tries to explain that its her bed and using very violent sign language 6 refuses to let her have it and demands she takes bed 5 instead (which she couldnt because 1. you dont give in to rude demands like that and 2. the hostel was full that night). 2 wakes up and can apparently communicate with 6. He tries to explain that 8a needs the bed. 8b is nowhere to be seen. After mcuh fighting everyone goes downstairs to work it out. 4 informs me that 2 and 6 actually live in the hostel. 7 starts banging on the side of the bed and making angry shushing sounds.

2 and 6 had to switch rooms anyways so 8a got her bed. I was still stuck next to smelly 3.

June 5th

So far I have had two experiences with people. I go up to them and ask "Do you speak English?" in their language. Response 1: They smile and say yes and ask were Im from and help me read the menu or whatever. Response 2; They snap no and glare at em for daring to ask. Im sorry Im not fluent in Swedish, Danish, Italian, German, French, and Swiss German but I think thats a little much to ask of me. Two out of three train station people that I talked to did not speak English and I managed as best I could but it was still frustrating. It would have been one thing if they tried to work with me, but they just glared at me and waited for me to magically gain fluency. With the help of a nice man sitting across from me I did eventually make it to Basel.

We drove through the Alps, which are so beautiful I cant even handle it. Theyre covered in lush green pine forests and soemtimes the gray rock will peek through on steeper areas and there were waterfalls and clouds swirling around the peaks and some were topped with snow. I wanted to write a poem or paint a masterpiece or something. When I look at nature thats so beautiful I see G-d. Not that I dont believe in evolution, but I just feel the presence of G-d. Its a spiritual feeling to experience that kind of grandness and beauty. I dont really know how to explain it. Everyone should take a train ride through the Alps before they die.

June 4th

Today I took a sketchball but cheap train to Milan. After having some lunch at a resturaunt where the birds were not afraid to hop right onto your table, I went to the big gothic cathedral. Theyd just finished doing renovations so unlike the cathedrals in Vienna it was gleaming white and not covered ins caffolding. The Italians never really got the whole gothic thing, so it wasnt very elegant, but it was still beautiful. The inside was lit by really harsh flourescents which gave a sort of cold and clinical feeling to thep lace, but the stained glass windows were lovely and softened the mood.

After that I went to La Scala, which I completely forgot was in Milan. Fortunately nothing was playing that night (although theyre doing Romeo et Juliette!!), because if there had been something I would have bought tickets, ran back to Como to change clothes, ran back to Milan, and then gotten back to Como at like 1 AM and been locked out of the hostel.

I toured their museum, which allowed you to go into one of the beautiful boxes and look into the theater. The otuside of La Scala isnt very impressive, but the inside is breathtaking. Red velvet drapery and gilding and chandeliers. Photography wasnt allowed but I snuck a few pictures anyways. Theyre showing the movie Metropolis tomorrow evening, so they were testing the lights (I got there just in time to see the theater illuminated before it went dark) and the projection equipment. The contrast between the film and the tehater was really striking. I think these dystopic worlds are often a reaction to the over the top luxury embodied by La Scala, but the emptiness of the world in the film was frightening, especially when compared to the individual beauty of the theater. I know luxury comes at a price, but the thought of losing that beauty terrifies me. And my budget interior designs are proof that some luxury doesnt need jillions of dollars.

The museum was fun, they had lots of portraits of famous singers and composers and old costume jewelry and instruments owned by famous composers. In the library they had some costumes on display from recent productions, including some gorgeous tutus and masks and Papagena! The costume was the same as my idea- the pannier were a cage and then a skirt underneith was painted with pretty birds.

As it was too difficult to get a picture of myswelf pretending to sing opera in the theater, I got one of me outside the building. A tour group was very amused, and one person was very nice and took several pictures of me being silly. I attracted quite a crowd and one guy started taking pictures of me. It was all slightly embarassing but mostly funa nd Im realy happy about the pictures.

When I got back to Como I went to this Boldini exhibit at the Villa Olmo. They had art not only by Boldini but by a few of his contemporaries and I loved it. It was all new to me and was just marvelous. I want the exhibition catalog. The Villa was amaying too- every surface was covered in frescos in a classical style and gilding and it was all so colorful. There was even a little theater! I wish the other floors had been open for touring. I want to go to a grand ball there. I emerged to see Lake Como at night. The mountains were dark against the sky and all these little lights were twinkling from the towns. It was so lovely. For some stupid reason, until that moment the thought that Lake Como might be equally gorgeous at night hadnt even entered my mind.

June 3rd

Since it was nice out in the morning, I decided to take a boat tour of the lake. Lake Como is truly gorgeous. Lush green mountains dotted with little towns. At one point the boat stopped at this gorgeous little island and I saw fish swimming in the water. There arent any beaches, its just mountains rising directly from the water which is really lovely.

I didnt know if I was supposed to get off the boat or if it would circle round back to Como. I saw two girls from my hostel, so I asked them. This was how I met Erin and Kelsey, the west coast version of my best friend Sarah and I. It had taken two hours to reach this point, and I didnt fancy another two hours at least to get back, so I got off at Bellagio with Kelsey and Erin.

They invited me to have lunch with them, and then we walked around the town and did some shopping. We took the bus back to Como which went along one of those windy narrow mountain roads that has a steep cliff on one side. And it was supposedly a two lane road but there were a lot of narrow squeezes and I feared for my life.

When we got back to Como we went to a silk museum, which was really cool! They had all these old machines used for silk thread and fabric production. And they had huge spools of silk thread in the gift shop for only two euros.

As an early birthday present, Erin bought me dinner and Kelsey made a donation to the Paris Pastry Fund. We had only known each other for a few hours but at this point we were all eating off each others plates and fooling around like we had known each other for years. When we got back to the hostel I pulled out my regency dress and sewed some sequins and we had a nice long conversation about all sorts of stuff. Ive met a lot of people on this trip, but these are definitely two friends I will actually keep in touch with.

June 1st

I thought Id be travelling all day, but since it takes like 12 hours to get to Lake Como, I had to take a night train. Sleeper car number 2. I hung around the hostel and napped and read, then caught my train.

We went through part of the Alps which were so stunning. The other lady in my car was telling me ab out the history of the region. 100 years ago, this was wehre the rich Austrians went for vacation, so theres still gorgeous villas scattered through the mountains. And the train went over this 100 year old bridge thats the longest bridge in Austria or something like that. We went through the most beautiful part at twilight.

I had to change trains in Milan, and there was almost a riot in the ticket office. There were two lines: one for the regular train and one for the special train. The special train line had like no people in it and six people working the counter. The regular train line curved way out of the ticket office and only four people working the counter. One old lady started yelling about it and then another one joined in and then everyone was yelling and the police were like "yall need to calm down" but no one did. The ticket desk people looked really nervous. But besides that it was a completelz normal and boring train ride. HOORAH!!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bye Vienna!


Off to Lake Como! Please G-d just let it be a normal boring train ride.

May 30th

This morning I was hanging around in the sitting area downstairs when my new friend Jayne happened upon me and couldn´t decide what she wanted to do today. I myself had no idea what I was going to do, but I suggested she go to Schonbrunn. She didn´t want to walk alone, so I walked her there, and then decided to do the whole palace again. Only this time I took pictures of all the 18th century portraits. I was a total ninja, sneaking about and taking a quick photo before hiding my camera again. The pictures are just for my own personal use, one because they´re pretty and two to help me learn about 18th century Viennese fashion seeing as SOME PLACES have decided stupid hippy art is more important than me learning about fashion history.

Jayne was vastly amused by my ninja photography skills, and I also served as her tour guide for the palace. Who needs an audioguide when you have a Katy? And I was happy she was there because then I had some one to take pictures of me! In particular I really wanted a jumping shot at the top of the hill where you can see the whole city. I really enjoyed going through Schonbrunn a second time, I got to look closer at details and talking with some one caused me to have discoveries of my own.

May 29th

Viennese public transportation system: conquered! I wanted to go to the Hermesvilla which is in the middle of Lainzer Tiergarten, this enormous park on the edge of town. To get there I had to take two subways, a tram, and a bus, and I didn´t get anything wrong!!

The Hermesvilla, in addition to being pretty, is also where Viennaś historic clothing collection is displayed. They have like 20,000 pieces, I think it´s stupid that there´s never any exhibits. We preserve these things so they can be enjoyed by future generations, not sit in a storage space for all eternity. Anyways, the website said they would be on display. The website lied. What was actually on display was the art of world´s first hippy Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach, who believed in free love and vegetarianism and nudism and painted trippy stoner art that should be on sale at Spencers Gifts. I was not amused. Stupid hippy, get a job!!

After I got back to my hostel I decided that it was time for some traditional Viennese cuisine, so I had wiener schnitzel. It was good, although the portion was ENORMOUS. I don´t know how anyone could possibly eat all that meat. Then when I got back to the hostel I hung around the bar downstairs (there´s a bar in my hostel) and made some new friends. We closed the hostel bar and then decided to go out to another bar, where I met a creeper from York who has some sort of vendetta against North Carolina and played a game involving hammering a nail with the wrong end of the hammer. I would like to clarify that I was not drinking during any of this, but everyone else was. I had a glass of bad wine and the best sex on the beach ever (that´s what she said) at the bar and that was it.

May 28th

A word of advice if you´re going to Vienna: Beware of men in frock coats. At every major cultural site there are men in 18th century costumes (with surprisingly nice wigs) who want you to come see a Mozart concert and they will NOT LEAVE YOU ALONE. Stop giving the 18th century a bad name!

After picking up my opera ticket and getting harassed by men in frock coats, I went inside my first Gothic cathedral. They had some sort of colored light display up which was really cool- all the bright modern colors projected onto the gothic architecture. After that I went to the Sisi Museum and imperial apartments at the HOfburg Palace. I liked the way the Sisi museum was set up, but there was barely any text, so the only way to know what was going on was to rent an audioguide, which I hate. All I got was that she was an Empress, seemed to have bad depression, tried to escape from court life, and was assassinated.

The only problem with the cathedral and the museums was that they were total zoos and the walking lanes were so narrow you couldn´t move through and people were just standing in the middle, listening to their audio guides and you couldn´t get through. It made me claustrophobic and grumpy and made it difficult to enjoy the museums. This does not bode well for Versailles which will be ten times worse. I´m really nervous because I don´t do well in squished crowded places and I´ve been looking forward to Versailles for like a million years and it´s the top thing I wanted to do on this trip and what if I can´t enjoy it?

Then I was going to treat myself to a nice dinner before the opera but I was running behind schedule so I ended up at McDonalds. European McDonalds' are so fancy. And they ahve little electronic kiosks where you can place your order.

Then I rushed over to Staatsoper to see Manon. I had a great view and the opera was amazing. The singer playing Des Grieux in particular was AMAZING, and I really liked what they did with the set. I do wish it had been set in it´s original setting, the 18th century, as much as I enjoyed the costumes and the sets, 18th century stuff is always better. It was just so cool, there I was in Vienna at the big opera house listening to opera. So amazing!! Sometimes I really can´t believe my life.

Last night I went to a concert at the orangerie at Schonbrunn, which is where Mozart gave his first concert. There was an orchestra and opera singers and (mediocre) ballet. They played Mozart and Strauss, and I really loved the Strauss half. I have yet to meet a Strauss piece I don´t like. After all this music I´m so ready to start singing again.

May 26th

If people from New York are New Yorkers, are people from Hamburg Hamburgers? Food for thought. SEE WHAT I DID THERE?!?!?!

Can I just say how awesome it is to be in a warmer climate? I don´t have to schlep my jacket around and today I wore a skirt!! Scandinavia was nice and all, but it doesn´t hold a candle to proper Western Europe. Now I´m in the middle of the old world and it feels so amazing. This is where I belong.

Today, after buying some food that wasn´t junk because I can afford to eat healthy now (hooray!), I went to Schonbrunn Palace. It was the most beautiful place in the world. My first European rococo palace!! I don´t think the one in Stockholm, although beautiful, really counts. It was incredible, I almost cried. I particularly loved the golden wall/ceiling decorations, which were shaped like roses on creeping vines. So lovely.

Photography wasn´t allowed which broke my heart because there were 18th century portraits out the wazoo. They were all so beautiful. And there were a bunch of Marie Antoinette! And all the floors had these elaborate wood patterns and the curtains with elaborate whitework and the golden roses and the chandeliers and everything!!! There was also a ton of incredible orientalist stuff, rooms with all different pictures on the walls. One had all drawings, another blue pictures, another was covered in black panels with gold and silver designs. I love orientalist 18th century interior design.

After the palace I wandered around the gorgeous gardens, then climbed this monster hill to get to this beautiful classical pavilion. What I didn´t know is that from the top of the hill you could see the entire city. It literally took my breath away, it was so amazing.

To know that today I walked the same halls that Marie Antoinette did as a little girl. It´s amazing. I love the 18th century, there´s just no feeling like when you walk into a room with golden roses all over the walls and ceiling and grand portraits of people covered in the most beautiful jewels and chandeliers and mirrors and everything.

May 25th

The original plan was to take a sleeper car to Fulda, change trains and go to Warzburg, then change trains and go to Vienna. That is not what happened.

Everything was fine up to Fulda. Sleeper cars are the only way to travel. It was so cool! First of all because you get your own little compartment so you can stretch out, and they give you a fluffy blanket and comfy pillow so you´re comfortable (dear trains, lumbar support. that is all). So I settled in and watched the Danish countryside while listening to my movie soundtracks playlist, which provided an excellent soundtrack for the journey.

Then I went to bed. I had the middle bunk and it was so cool! It was all so tiny and snug. Not the most comfortable bed ever, I didn´t actually sleep much. But it was a really fun experience.

We crossed the border into Germany at exactly 22:23, which I know because Germany texted me to welcome me to the country and wish me a pleasant stay. I had to change trains at 5:30 am, so I was up and about bright and early. And we all know how cheery I am in the mornings. I had a cinnabun and some apple juice at the little cafe, and then got on my new train at 7. I was supposed to change trains at Warzburg, but due to something I had to switch trains in Nurnburg instead. And that was supposed to go to Vienna. Remember how in Sweden they lost their train tracks and I had to take a bus? Not to be outdone by Sweden, Germany decided to take it one step further with a train accident. A cargo train had overturned so we were going to have to get off in Pasau and take a bus to the next stop. We made it to Straubing at which point we were informed that a bomb from WWII had been discovered under the tracks. I can´t make this up.

I should mention that none of this was explained in English, so I was entirely dependent ont he kindness of strangers. By the time we got to the bus I had a whole team working for me. On the Nurnburg train there was an extremely good looking steward who very kindly sat next to me and explained each announcement as it came. He also helped old ladies with their luggage. I think a winter wedding in Vienna would be lovely. Our love is pure.

I don´t know how long the bus portion took at least a few hours. I was sleeping on and off for most of it. And wondering about the bomb. At first they told us that they were clearing it up, but then like 20 minutes later we got onto the buses. Would the bomb have exploded? And if it was right by the tracks why hasn´t it exploded already? I mean I´m happy to be no dead, but I am curious about the details.

After taking the bus to Somewhere in Austria, I finally got on my train to Vienna. I have to say that it was a beautiful ride from Copenhagen. There are worse things than watching the sun rise over the German countryside. The German and Austrian countryside is GORGEOUS. Rolling green hills dotted with trees, the mountains off in the distance, and all these picture perfect little villages with white washed houses with red stucco roofs. It was so perfect the whole way, it´s kind of hard to believe it was real. I happily stared out the window whenever I wasn´t napping.

After 24 hours of travel I finally made it into Vienna. My hostel is really nice and I made friends and had dinner with two of the girls in my room. Now that I´m fed (for the first time since my cinnabun), I plan on going straight to sleep.

I´m wondering what will happen on the way to Italy. Alien attack? The apocalypse? If the apocalypse could wait until after Bath that´d be great.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Copenhagen to Vienna: A story in numbers

Itinerary changes: 3
trains taken: 3
buses taken: 1
hours slept: 3 maybe???
Meals eaten: 1 small salad yesterday at 7 pm, 1 cinnabun today at 5:30 am (it's currently 6 pm)
overturned cargo trains: 1
bombs from WWII: 1
total hours traveled: 24

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

May 23rd

I was going to go back to the National Musuem today, but then I remembered it was Monday and it was closed. So I decided to take my book and walk tot he Kings Gardens and relax in the sun while waiting to meet with Caroline, my best friend growing up who I haven't spoken to in years and crazily enough we both happened to be in Copenhagen. On the way I stopped at my frist Fancy European Chocolate Shop and got this egg shaped chocolate that had marzipan and passion fruit filling. AKA amazing.

When I got to the park I remembered Sarai saying there was a museum in Rosenborn Palace, and I knew the crown jewels were there, so I casually strolled over, thinkign I'd take an hour tops to browse around. Little did I know what lay in store for me.

You had to pay 20 dkk extra to take pictures and I was like psh, no. A half hour before the museum closed I raced to get my camera and pay, then ran around like a mad woman trying to get pictures of everything before it closed.

Baroque spelndor is an understatement. I have never been anywhere like that, it was like pregaming for Versailles. Rosenborg was worth my entire trip to Copenhagen. Rosenborg was built int he early 17th century and the royal family lived there until 1710, and then in the late 1830s it was turned into a museum, and they added rooms to represent each king until the 1860s. So walking through is kind of like travelling through time.

The first room I went into had wood panelling in square shapes and in each square there was a beautiful painting. It must have taken forever to get together. And they had these tables and cabinets that had all these intricate patterns made from different colored stone and marble. And other stuff was covered in glitter. No really! I coulnd't believe it myself but it looked like gold and copper glitter covered with clear lacquer stuff. I asked one of the guys that worked there what it was, and we think its called brilliant lacquor but he wasn't sure. He said no one ever asked about it before which I thought was odd. Surely more people were curious about the glitter!

They also had the msot gorgeous silver filligree stuff. I first discovered it in Stockholm and I've never seen it before. It's little threads of silver in swirlies that then make up larger designs. It looks like metal lace. At Rosenborg they had whole tables and mirrors decorated with it, as well as these beautiful jars shaped with 3D flowers on the sides.

Every room was more gorgeous. And all the ceilings were painted and covered in plaster shapes. And there were portraits everywhere! There was a small room with all the royal glassware and it was all displayed on these gilded shelves in layers and it was so amang. I also saw all the royal sparklies which was fun. The Danish royal sparklies > Swedish royal sparklies.

After that I met up with Caroline!! I don't think we've seen each other in like six years. We've been trying to get in touch since I got to Copenhagen but we finally made it. It was so amazing to see her again, I wish we had more time to hang out. But we're both going to be in Paris for Bastille Day so hopefully we can see each other again there.

After hanging with Caroline and walking around the beautiful botanical gardens, Sarai and I went to Tivoli. I'm so glad we went in the evening, everything was all lit up and beautiful. It was like a worlds fair, only without all the racist stuff. And they had a pantomime with commdia charaters and ballet dancers and 18th century costumes and a live orchestra. I only got to see about ten seconds of it which broke my heart. Sarai went on all the rides while I walked around and explored. And ate a stick of cotton candy that was bigger than my head. It was like an 18th century wig.

Tomorrow evening I get to travel in a sleeper car to Vienna!!