Archive for May, 2010

Beijing, Take Two

Monday, May 31st, 2010

Pics of my trip to Beijing over the weekend (5/28-5/30).

Mopping up some characters

Temple of Heaven

me in front of the Temple

stairway to Heaven

inside the Temple

I let him borrow my mustache

posing in front of Mao

Mutianyu Great Wall

wish I knew what it said...

sliding down the Great Wall

inside the Forbidden City

more Forbidden City

beginning of the end..

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

So today is the beginning of the last week of a great semester at UQ. Our classes end Friday, then we have a “study week” which I am using as a “travel week” and then 2 weeks to take our finals. I cannot believe how quickly this semester has flown by, and surprisingly I am sad to see the end:(.  Of the four classes that I am taking I have three finals and one paper that is due this Friday. Fortunately, I have already finished it because KAT LAWSON is coming to visit me tomorrow for about 10 days!!!!! I went ahead and finished the paper this weekend because I know that together, I will get absolutely no work done haha! I am so excited for her to get here!

Our plans include attempting to eat a meter diameter pizza with a bunch of my friends, hiking up to Mt. Cootha for sunset ( a lookout that over looks all of Brisbane!), a cookie/ sweets party with my girlfriends and Saturday we will hop on a plane and go up to Cairns until Wednesday! Cairns is known for the Great Barrier Reef and the rainforest so we will be doing a day excursion out to a few islands to snorkel and a waterfall tour! I must say the best part of the waterfall tour will be the stop at a chocolate and cheese factory for some samples:) I know, typical Taylor.

Im sure Kat and I will find many more adventures while she is here, so stay tuned for my next post…we tend to be good at having fun together:). I hope all is well back home and before you know it I will be back in the ol Clarke County!

Past Week

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

So much has happened in the past week… It was the bicentennial of Argentina, Anna arrived, Argentina v. Canada futbol game, and I got robbed- among other things. For the bicentennial there were 4 days of festivities where they shut down one of the main thoroughfares in the city for a big exhibition space and lots of parades. As much as the country is divided over politics and torn about their history they are still incredibly patriotic. The city was covered in blue and white and flags were hanging from every balcony. Overall, the events for the bicentennial seemed very cool but there were SO many people in one place that it was a tad miserable- you couldn’t walk or move without following the crowd. It also virtually paralyzed the public transportation infrastructure. Anna and I wound up being stranded by public transportation in another neighborhood quite a ways away from where I live in Palermo. But due to the immense number of people trying to get downtown we were unable to get home any way other than our own two legs. At least we got our exercise.

So on Monday (one the celebration days) my friends and I went to the World Cup send off game for Argentina. Argentina played Canada in a stadium in the city and it was amid much fanfare for both the bicentennial and the World Cup. People were crazy as we tried to get into the stadium. There were SO many people and just like everything here a general lack of organization. Not to mention it is an Argentine past time to attend futbol games drunk… But once we got into the stadium things were a little calmer. We had seats and could relax which was super nice. It was fun to see how passionate the people are but it also made me feel a little out of place because I didn’t know the chants and I wasn’t super into it (I was also a little sick). Overall it was  fun and I’m so glad i got to go to a game while I was here.

Thursday night I went out with a big group of friends to a bar and then a boliche (club). At some point during the night I touched my purse and it was empty. Someone had pick-pocketed me and taken almost everything I had. They took my wallet and my phone. Luckily they didn’t get my keys. Also, luckily I did not have credit cards or my camera with me. They did get a copy of my passport and about US$40. It was just surreal because I had a small, cross body purse which I thought would be the safest. The same night, at least 4 other people I know also got pick-pocketed in the same boliche- so somebody made off that night. Thank goodness for my friends as they took care of me and made sure I was able to get home as I had no money. I don;t know what I would have done without my friend Cesar. In this situation I just have to think about the big picture- yes I lost $40 cash and yes it will cost me $75 for losing my phone… but I am fine and it could have been so much worse. I said from the beginning getting robbed here was inevitable.. well 3 weeks left in my program and it happened. So close to beating the odds…

On a side note about my last post, just the other day in the Buenos Aires Herald (an English newspaper) they reported that the police chief of the city of Buenos Aires had seen an increase in violent assaults on the streets. He said this was due to an increasing use of the Argentine version of cocaine- Paco. Thought this article was interesting since I had seen an assault victim last week. I guess this warrants my usual disclaimer- Don’t worry! I am never alone and I do my best to be as careful as possible.

Counting down my last days in Edinburgh

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

I am officially leaving Edinburgh in one week. I feel like I just arrived! I know a few people who are already back in the US from their semester abroad. Two of my flatmates moved out already and some are leaving this weekend and the beginning of next week. I am staying until the last possible day along with 4 or 5 of my flatmates. I am glad that there will be people here until the end. After that, I am visiting my flatmate, Sarah, in Ayr for 4 days. Ayr is on the west coast of Scotland. Then I am visiting my other flatmate, Josie, in Newcastle, England for another 4 days. Newcastle is in northern England. Then I am flying from Newcastle to Nice where I meet my family. We will be there for 1 week and then we are traveling to Northern Italy for another week.

I have been spending my last few weeks here just hanging out with my flatmates and other friends. Last weekend the weather was gorgeous! It was in the 70s and I even got sunburn! (I didn’t know that was possible in Scotland). We were in the Meadows a lot that weekend. The Meadows is the park behind the University. We had a BBQ on the Meadows for our flat dinner (all 12 of us!). It was so much fun. I played my first game of touch Rugby. We ended up staying there until around 9:30 pm because it was still light outside! I wish that weather would come back to Scotland. The past few days have been ok, but definitely not warm enough to have a BBQ.

Flat 9 BBQ in the Meadows

My first rugby game

On Tuesday, I went to the Safari Park with Sarah, Steph, Josie, Molly, Luke, and Liz. This is different than a zoo because people can drive through it. I did not know that these existed…I have just seen them on TV and movies. Have you ever seen Jumanji? They drive through a Safari Park in that movie. This park was right outside of Stirling, so we had to take two buses there. It was a great day! We saw lions, rhinos, elephants, mercats, and lemurs! We also went on a boat ride to see the island where the monkeys live and we went paddle boating.

Winding Down

Friday, May 28th, 2010

Things are going to be pretty boring here for awhile. I’ll be busy finishing up classes, exams presentations and papers within the next three weeks. It seems very strange that things will actually be coming to a close! Marisa, one of my best friends here, just left to go back to the U.S. yesterday. Very sad!

So this all means that I need to seriously begin making travel plans! (If I can afford it and have company.) Which has proven to be very stressful. And I just called to try and change my flight for earlier and was told there is nothing available. If I can’t change it, I will be here for at least two weeks with no friends and no money! Oh well. I’ll keep calling back…

This Week

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

Right, it’s been a week and I have five days left in London. It’s a bit surreal to be honest, despite the inevitable mailing that will occur tomorrow (all my sweatshirts, all of the presents for those who don’t live with me, my posters, the rest of the large-ish teddy bears) and the fact that I’ve packed up all my mugs and everything else in my room is, bit by bit, getting put away either in my duffel bag or my carry on. Still, I haven’t been resting on my laurels or moping in my room about my departure on Tuesday. No, I’ve been out and about getting in my last trips both in the southern part of England and in London. There will be more trips in London tomorrow, but for now I’m going to talk about a couple of stand out moments from the last seven days.
So I’m going to admit it: I bailed on Miike Snow. I printed out the ticket but when the time came to leave for the gig, I decided that I just didn’t want to spend 3 hours rubbing shoulders (literally) with a bunch of hipsters. I like Miike Snow’s music, but the majority of the people who were going to be at that concert are exactly the kind of people who have made my London experience less than brilliant. So I stayed home and relaxed, which given the week I’ve had was probably a good idea.
The next night however I didn’t bail on seeing the Hertfordshire Choir perform Mozart’s Requiem. It was an amazing performance and so Mozartian that at points I just had to smile and go “Aaah Mozart. So distinctive, so pattern oriented.” I had a nice dinner and in general a nice night out. However to all future composers: Don’t try and mix modern music with scientific theories and moral concepts. Especially where lyrics are involved. It doesn’t work.
Monday I mailed things. I had grander plans, but after I found out that I would be spending hard cash to mail everything, grander plans went out the window.
Tuesday I went to Brighton and while the weather was nice and I got some good pictures, it was a bit disappointing to be honest. I went to the Pier, but none of the rides were opened and for me, that was the whole point. Sure the Royal Pavilion was beautiful and opulent and well worth the time, but it’s not why I went to Brighton. I went to Brighton to have fun on the pier. Still, at least I can say I’ve been there (like I can say I’ve been to Leeds, Cardiff, Liverpool, Glasgow, Bath, Winchester, Salisbury, York, Canterbury, Greenwich, Penzance, Windsor, Stonehenge, and Dover.)
Speaking of Dover, that’s where I went today. It was over cast the entire time, I couldn’t find the restaurant my Mom found for me (I walked past where it was multiple times though without knowing it, which annoys me even more), and it took 35 minutes to get from the White Cliffs (National Trust shop site) to the Dover Priory train station (which means it probably took about 30 minutes to get from the town centre to the cliffs). Once I was at the White Cliffs, the views were amazing, but again, it was over cast and chilly. Not a great day for viewing needless to say. However the day was redeemed because I got a crepe and the book my grandmother wanted me to get for her at St. Pancras. However the some of my flatmates are being obnoxious, but I only have a few more days of said obnoxiousness.
I still have to make up my mind about what I’m doing tomorrow, but I do know that the morning will be devoted to spending a great hairy wad of money to send off the last of my sending off things. It annoys me, but the post office doesn’t take credit cards (well American credit cards) so I have no choice. I might be getting my hair done or I might be shopping and going to the Eye. All I know is that I’m having dinner with Amanda and a friend of her’s, so part of my evening is taking care of. I also know that on Saturday I’m going to a cinema theater to watch Dr. Strangelove: or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb because I haven’t seen it all the way through and it seems like a good movie to see on the big screen. In the next entry I will talk about my undying love for Glee and the Comedy Store. But that’s next time. Until then, don’t panic.

Happy 200 Years!

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

It has been a long and eventful weekend! My new roommate arrived Friday, Saturday was Elena’s 21st Birthday, and Monday I went to the Argentina vs. Canada fútbol game. Not to mention all the Bicentennial events!

I guess I’m getting lazy because here is a Washington Post article on the game. And pictures:

I was downtown on 25 de Mayo to see the events in the afternoon but there were so many people and it was so crowded I decided I would rather come home and watch the big parade on TV instead.

Shi Yan Middle School Exercise

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Filming what the middle school students do during their morning break (see if you can find the student that falls during the routine…and count how many times!).

ShiYan exercise

A Day in Florence

Monday, May 24th, 2010

 

The experience on the night train isn’t exactly one I’d care to repeat. I suppose the error there was that we only had a compartment that we were sharing with two other people, which made me feel like I was in Harry Potter, which was fun for like 3 minutes. But really not at all comfortable. But we survived the night. Arriving the in early hours to the train station in Florence, Maura and I sat in the coffee shop for a long bit while we waited for the city to come to life. That was alright though, because we found ourselves surrounded by a large group of Korean tourists who were having a great load of fun filming themselves eating various pastries and coffees. People who film their vacations soon became a high point of travel for Maura and I and I would like to believe that our presence in these various locales throughout Europe has been forever preserved in the many, many home videos that we took it upon ourselves to star in. But back to Florence.

            I found Florence rather difficult to navigate- we spent a while trying to find a hostel that the tourist office recommended to us. That was probably the sketchiest place we stayed, but it worked out ok- I didn’t lose sleep over anything. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that we were there on a Friday and people were still on Easter holidays, but Florence was packed. We considered seeing the Statue of David, but the line was ages long and it really didn’t appeal to me. But feeling like we needed some sort of artistic cultural experience, we went to the Uffizi gallery. My appreciation for art, however, is not exactly refined. It was enjoyable for a few minutes, but not worth the build- up. Learning experience nonetheless. There was a really cool church in the center of the city – the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. The intent of the architect was to make it so detailed and ornate that there was no way anyone could ever add to it.

Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore

            The Basilica and the Ponte Vecchio were probably my two favorites in Florence. The Ponte Vecchio is a bridge that has all these shops on it, mostly jewelry. Imagine the cost for that storefront! After crossing the bridge into the shop-ier  area, we went to the Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens. Which was an expensive admission fee (alright, all of Florence was expensive- that was probably the most expensive place we went. No, not probably, definitely. This is where planning would have come in handy a bit. Live and learn, right?) The gardens were nice, mainly because I took a nap in the sunshine. I would have spent several hours there, but unfortunately they closed even before sunset. Maura and I wandered to get some dinner and the sun began to set on Florence. The city was more pleasant after sunset- the massive crowds had backed down and there were some nice street performers. Exhausted, however, we didn’t last too long and it was back to the hostel early.

Ponte Vecchio

            We shared the room in the hostel with two Canadian girls who were backpacking for 5 months. To our slightly travel –weary souls after the day in Florence, these girls really helped turn us around. You can’t have a perfect day every day. Not everything is what you will expect, but you take the good with the bad and enjoy the experience. After a good night’s sleep, we headed out to Venice the next day with chins a little higher.

            Initially, my impression was that I wish we hadn’t even bothered with Florence. It was dirty and expensive and wasn’t ‘pretty’ like I had expected. But I can’t regret it- looking back; it was neat to see once. I’m not headed back, and I’m not recommending it to anyone, but it taught me to give things a proper chance and not to judge first thing. The world traveler has to persevere through good and bad. I am not a world traveler, but I learned a thing or two, and I’m glad I had the experience of Florence.

The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

 

Our Salzburg hostel the first night was located just outside of the city. It was actually this woman’s house- Haus Christine, so I suppose it was a sort of B &B cross over. Since we would have to get back on the train if we wanted to go eat in the city, Christine herself suggested we walk up the road to the next village, where there was a restaurant. While we were wandering somewhat aimlessly towards the town on the side of a lonely little road in the middle of Austria, the views were absolutely incredible- the sun was just sort of setting and you could just turn around and bam- there were the alps. Salzburg is situated in sort of a valley- Haus Christine was situated on a hill up one side and the Alps provide breathtaking views on the other. It was amazing. We found the Austrian cuisine to be remarkably similar to that of Germany, and, stomachs happily full, we wandered back to the hostel-haus to head to bed.

            The next morning, we ate breakfast in Christine’s glass breakfast room- another beautiful panoramic Alp-en feast for the eyes. The mission for the day was the Sound of Music tour, which I’m pretty sure is the biggest tourist attraction in Salzburg. The guide picked us up in a shuttle and drove us to the main bus, where we joined tourists from all over the globe for four hours of Sound of Music sights, trivia, and so much more! Interestingly enough, the film itself didn’t even last a week in Austria, but, nonetheless Sound of Music and other types of tourism has become the biggest employer for Salzburg-ians. I won’t waste your time attempting to rehash every detail of the 4 hour experience, but we did see several sites where the Von Trapp villa was filmed, the famous gazebo from “I am sixteen, going on seventeen”, the church where Maria and the Baron Von Trapp were married, and of course the Alps that they crossed to escape into Austria (fun trivia fact- they had to use a double for the littlest Von Trapp because Christopher Plummer insisted she was too fat for him to carry for those scenes). And I picked up some fantastic sound of music related jokes, but those are for another day.

(tour guide) Why did the Sound of Music take so long to film? A: You can't get a Plummer to work on Saturdays!

 

Mondsee

  

            After the tour, Maura and I hopped off the bus and set out to find an internet café to book our second night in Salzburg. While standing on a street corner contemplating a map, a very kind Austrian man passed and pointed across the street- “Yoho?” and walked away. No, he was not exchanging whitey pirate jargon with the confused tourists, he was pointing out the Yoho Youth Hostel, which was to become our home for night #2! (Unfortunately this remarkable stroke of luck made us cocky, and our ideals of the simplicity of finding hostels would soon be discounted in both Rome and Florence). After dropping our belongings, we wandered around Salzburg for a while, visiting the Mirabell Gardens, a beer garden, and the AltStadt (Old City) area before calling it a day and heading back to YoHo for the night. (Our first hostel mates: girl who was never awake and angry German lady who yelled at me for not drying my hands.) Nonetheless, I slept like a log.

Guten Nacht Salzburg!

            The next day, we decided to explore outside of the city on bikes! After a bit of confusion and some helpful direction from our Sound of Music tour guide, Peter, from the day before, we found a bike rental and chose our destination- the Hellbrunn palace and gardens. We ate lunch in the park and soaked up the sunshine. Have I mentioned that there was yet again a fantastic view of the Alps? After the return of the bikes, the afternoon played out much like the previous one, a relaxing wander around. Since we had already checked out of the hostel, we had to sneak back into to take illegal showers. It’s lucky that there really was no one around because sitting in a hallway repacking all of your belongings into your newly purchased hot pink suitcase is not a very surreptitious way to make illegal use of hostel facilities. After showering, we indulged in an Austrian McDonald’s and headed to the train station to catch our night train to Florence, Italy. It was Auf Wiedersehn to Austria, and Ciao Italy!

Bike riding in Austria!