Sunday, October 17, 2010

Blogocation Part II. Pisa and Florence

We woke up early in the morning and boarded a flight from London to Pisa. We spent the morning there, and then took a train to Florence for the rest of the day. I got to go to Florence for a weekend while I was studying in London, but it was so fun to go back with Julie and get our first taste of Italy. I have to say my favorite thing about Italy (other than the pizza and gelato) is the fact that it looks just like you always imagined it would. Everything is just old, but a beautiful kind of old; narrow winding cobblestone streets surrounded by beautiful old buildings all with old window shutters. I love the window shutters in Italy. You’ll probably notice a few in the pictures coming up. I have to say we loved the people too…Italians just seem so happy, friendly, and willing to listen to us in broken Italian trying to ask for things. We kind of just communicated by smiling and pointing at stuff – and they smiled and pointed at stuff back at us.

So we jumped on a train to Pisa from the airport to see this:

Europe September 2010 328

Not really sure how much more there is to Pisa that this, but wow this tower is weird. It’s always weird to see something in photos and textbooks your whole life, and then actually see it in person.

Europe September 2010 335

Julie was really excited about this part. But serious, she is holding that whole thing up with her finger. Not quite as cool as when I did it with my feet in 2006, but still pretty cool.

Florence, Italy 009

That sucker seriously is leaning. It seems like more now than last time I saw it (I know that isn’t true, but look at it).

Europe September 2010 336

Europe September 2010 343 Europe September 2010 348

Inside the duomo that is next to the tower. The interiors of these buildings in Italy are just amazing. I love the style of architecture. I think gothic architecture is beautfiul, but the renaissance style in Italy and the amount of light in those churches just make them so amazing.

Europe September 2010 352

Europe September 2010 353

After seeing the tower, we missed the train to Florence we were trying to get to, but quickly realized how hungry we were and found a little hole in the wall pizzeria. Wow. The way that they make those crusts just makes any other pizza you’ve had in your life kind of like blah. mmm.

Europe September 2010 355

We made the next train and headed to Florence. Immediately you just feel like you went 200 years back in time (or 500) – see what I mean by the shutters and everything looking just like you imagined it would. We walked down to the Duomo and just sat there in awe for a while. The whole exterior is so intricate. It makes me kind of sad at how architecture has digressed – they took the time to hand carve every detail – whereas we now just slap up some walls and call it a building (which will fall over in 25 years).

Europe September 2010 356

Europe September 2010 359

No two are alike.

Europe September 2010 360

The Duomo.

Europe September 2010 361

Look at the detail.

Europe September 2010 362

No shortage of tourists. Look at that street though, isn’t that just beautiful?

Europe September 2010 364

The Baptistery Doors. It took Lorenzo Ghiberti 21 years to make these. Click the link or here is a little bit compliments of Wikipedia “It took Ghiberti 21 years to complete these doors. These gilded bronze doors consist of twenty-eight panels, with twenty panels depicting the life of Christ from the New Testament. The eight lower panels show the four evangelists and the Church Fathers Saint Ambrose, Saint Jerome, Saint Gregory and Saint Augustine. The panels are surrounded by a framework of foliage in the door case and gilded busts of prophets and sibyls at the intersections of the panels. Originally installed on the east side, in place of Pisano's doors, they were later moved to the north side. They are described by Antonio Paolucci as "the most important event in the history of Florentine art in the first quarter of the 15th century"”.

Europe September 2010 365 Europe September 2010 378 Europe September 2010 381 Europe September 2010 383

No description necessary. Strawberry, Coconut, and Mixed Berry Gelato. The first of about 25 trips to the Gelateria.

Europe September 2010 385 Europe September 2010 386 Europe September 2010 389 Europe September 2010 393

Another awesome Italy quirk: look at these buses – they are everywhere and they fit about 10 people.

Europe September 2010 395

That is sheer delight on Julie’s face right there.

Europe September 2010 391

Next we went to Galleria dell'Accademia to see the David. That brought a serious line, but we took turns waiting while the other person walked around. This is door that you pass in the line. You can tell a LOT of people have waited by this door over time. It was worth the wait. I had seen it before, but I am so glad I saw it again with Julie. She knows anatomy and to see her in awe as she looked at it helped me to appreciate it more. Julie should be writing this but the way that Michelangelo portrays David and the detail is incredible. To start with a huge chunk or marble, and turn it into such a masterpiece – was there anything Michelangelo couldn’t do?

Europe September 2010 396

Ponte Vecchio. Translation “Old Bridge” Ha. Really cool bridge over the river in Florence full of old jewelry shops.

Europe September 2010 397 Europe September 2010 405 Europe September 2010 399

I saw this and I was like “this is Italy”

Europe September 2010 410


Europe September 2010 415 Europe September 2010 416

Sunset on Florence. We jumped on a train to Rome that evening. Trains in Europe are amazing. Why can’t the US take a lesson. Northeast Regional is a piece. This train from Florence to Rome was so nice, and so efficient. Just bought some tickets, jumped on – no security line – and we were zipping along to Rome.

Rome is coming next. Stay tuned. It is full on autumn here in DC. Lovin it.

Post on London below; if you haven't already seen it - click on "Older Post" below and it will show up.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010


Anyone who knows me, knows that I love cities. I love the feel of energy, craziness, culture, movement, and excitement in cities. In particular, I love the city of London. I had the opportunity to spend a semester there in college, and found it hard to sit and study when such an incredible city was at my fingertips. London is unlike any city I’ve experienced. I’ve been lucky enough to travel the world quite a bit, and London always stands out as one of my favorite places. I love that London is the biggest “melting pot” on earth; I am pretty sure there are groups of people from every single country in the world living in London. I love that London is a huge city, yet most of the time in feels like you are in a neighborhood. I love the Thames and the beauty that it adds to the London skyline. I love the architecture – I swear every building in London is just amazingly intricate and unlike any other – no two are alike. The museums, the theaters, the parks, the food (any cuisine in the world is a couple steps in a given direction), the people, the style,  the royalty, the bobbys, the transportation (from double deckers, to the tube, to the awesome old school taxis), all of these kind of put London in a realm of its own.

That said, it was so much fun to bring Julie there and show her all of the things I love about London. I think she really liked it too…Maybe we’ll find a way to live over there for a while someday.

Julie got me a really nice SLR camera for my birthday last summer. I think she kind of regretted it on this trip, as I was going to town taking pictures. That said, I have SO many photos. So there will probably be quite a few in the post, but I think you can deal with that.

So here goes. We flew in on a red-eye from Detroit – got to our insanely tiny hotel room in Westminster (near Big Ben), laughed about how small it was, and then went out to see the city.

Europe September 2010 013

Detroit – serious excitement on Julie’s face.

Europe September 2010 015

Julie’s first glimpse of Big Ben.

Europe September 2010 021

Picadilly Circus at about the point I felt I was going to pass out from lack of sleep.

Europe September 2010 022

Tesco has the key to happiness in London. Hobnobs and little odd sized cartons of milk. mmm.

Europe September 2010 024

National Gallery of Art. I love that place. It was fun showing Julie my favorite Turner paintings there.

Europe September 2010 026

St. Martin in the Fields – right next to Trafalgar Square. This was all being refurbished while I was there last. It is just amazing that on every corner in London is another beautiful historical church or building.

Europe September 2010 031

That night we went for walk along the Thames in the rain. We got pretty wet but it was worth it when we got to my favorite piece of London architecture – St. Pauls – and dinner at Wagamama. 

Europe September 2010 035

Europe September 2010 037

Wagamama is on the left (pretty cool inside the bottom of a bridge) – then i think this pub on the right is like quintessential England. 

Europe September 2010 043

We walked across the Millenium Bridge (enter Harry Potter (scene in Harry Potter 6)) over to the front of St. Paul’s.

Europe September 2010 051

One of the main reasons of the trip was this…to see Les Mis. Julie has always wanted to see this and London is the only place it is still running. The performance was really really good – you should have seen the smile on Julie’s face. The next night we saw “Love Never Dies” which is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sequel to Phantom. We had heard that it was supposed to be really good. I would love to know who the critics/reviews of it because holy cow, it was not good. We kept looking at each other just hoping it would get better, but it just kept getting more and more weird. Les Mis was so good though, that we kind of let Love Never Dies slip from our memories. 

Europe September 2010 056

We did some shopping around Oxford Circus. 

Europe September 2010 058

McDonalds in foreign countries rules. McD’s in London is really nice. You might roll your eyes, but I saw the ad for the “M with Bacon” and had to give it a try. 

Europe September 2010 059

The mix of old and new. 

Europe September 2010 062

We wandered into the Soho part of town to get some Indian Food before Les Mis. London is home or some seriously tasty Indian Food.

 Europe September 2010 063Europe September 2010 064   Europe September 2010 074 Europe September 2010 081

We sat by the Lions at Trafalgar Square after the show and had some delicious trifle.

Europe September 2010 084

Breakfast in the park. Those yogurt things (with the fruit in the corner that you stir into the yogurt). “Pull over! No, it’s a cardigan, but thanks for noticing.” – Harry from Dumb and Dumber

Europe September 2010 087

This was Julie after she just got back from a trip on the Hogwarts Express. She made it through Platform 9 3/4 and have a good conversation with Harry and Ron while taking a quick spin on the train.

Europe September 2010 089

We went to Buckingham Palace and saw the changing of the guard…so did a few other people.

Europe September 2010 095

The gates of Her Majetsy’s 900 room palace. 900 rooms? What the what?

Europe September 2010 096Europe September 2010 097

Victoria Station. Train stations in London are so cool. Sidenote: Julie loved it when I asked her to turn around for a picture every 3 minutes.

 Europe September 2010 098


Europe September 2010 104

The windows at the store next to Harrods. Look close, it is made out of cassette tapes.

 Europe September 2010 106

The Victoria & Albert Museum. Chihuly is one of my favorite artists. This hangs in the main entrance. How cool is that thing? 

Europe September 2010 111 Europe September 2010 117 Europe September 2010 119

We went to the Bayswater/Notting Hill area – where I lived at the BYU London Center. 

Europe September 2010 122

I’ve eaten many Kebabs at this place.

 Europe September 2010 125

The London Center where I lived. 

Europe September 2010 132

At the top of Portobello Road

Europe September 2010 137

The Eye. 

Europe September 2010 148

London by night.

Europe September 2010 152

One day we jumped on a train and went out to Windsor Castle. Her Majesty’s favorite place to spend her summers. 700 or so more rooms for her. Such a beautiful place though.  So much history there – it was kind of eerie/awesome to be in the same rooms where Henry VIII and other famous English rulers.

Europe September 2010 154 Europe September 2010 164 Europe September 2010 165 Europe September 2010 172 Europe September 2010 180 Europe September 2010 184 Europe September 2010 192 Europe September 2010 207

Outside the castle grounds we walked through the town of Windsor. Here is Julie doing quite possibly the most amazing jumping picture of all time. Check out that face and hair. 

Europe September 2010 210

Of course there needs to be this driveway into Windsor Castle that goes for as long as you can see. And we talk about exorbitant spending in the US? Ha. 

Europe September 2010 218 Europe September 2010 220

Walking around Windsor.

 Europe September 2010 222

Is Julie pretty or what? 

Europe September 2010 223

Look, it’s the Bobbys. Julie was too wussy to ask them to pose for photo with her. Now that one on the right is just looking at her weird.

Europe September 2010 225

Case and point: London is beautiful. This is the tile in the Tube stop by our hotel.

Europe September 2010 227 

The British Museum. Home of the Rosetta Stone. See if you can find Julie in that photo.

Europe September 2010 232

The Tate Modern. This is one of my favorite museums in the world…after this visit, I think it is on Julie’s list too.

Europe September 2010 237

This is one of my new favorite pieces of art. This guy is amazing. I can’t imagine the amount of time it took to do this. There was this one and 4 other huge pieces in the room. I want that for our living room.

Europe September 2010 254

A belt shot from inside St. Paul’s Cathedral. No photos allowed, but I could not help myself. I just this the inside of that church is so incredible. All mosaics – that combined with the light/brightness in there is just so amazing. I could sit in there for days.

Europe September 2010 262

Hiking up to the top of the dome.

Europe September 2010 263

A little glass whole at the very top of the dome looking all the way down. Gives me the willies.

Europe September 2010 273

The view from up top.

Europe September 2010 264Europe September 2010 280

Another trip to Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. The Pope was in town so everything was on lock down, but we got a good view from the outside.

Europe September 2010 287 Europe September 2010 294 Europe September 2010 297 Europe September 2010 298 Europe September 2010 311

Tower Bridge.

Europe September 2010 312

Camden Market. Camden Town is a really cool/crazy neighborhood full of really cool shops and wacko shops full of gothic clothing and boots. Didn’t dare to take a picture of those guys. 

Europe September 2010 314 Europe September 2010 322

After 5 awesome action packed days in London, we took the tube and a bus out to Stansted where we flew out to Italy early the next morning. So stay tuned for Europa Part II – Italia. It might be a few days though because holy cow this post took like 4 hours. London rules.