6月 30, 2007


Is home!

It's good that apart from the long wait in the lines, the London bombing didn't affect me too much--although my flight was delayed for more than two hours.

Did a lot of catch up after coming back. Will hit the road again to Whistler this coming Sunday since my brother is coming over...


6月 28, 2007

The whole world + The work = The whole world

Love this statement displayed using neon lights in the Tate Modern. It's such a positive-negative contradiction, isn't it? I love this museum, epecially the last piece of work done by Matisse when he's confined to bed through illness during the last year of his life. Both his passion and the final work are intoxicating. We used to study his painting during the color photography class, learning color relationship in his work. This final piece is definetly the best case of his talnet of making use of color.

Woke up at 5am today. It's been a long day and tiring but everything I saw was so exciting that keeps me awake all the way. I finished almost all sights except London Bridge, which I am planning to visit it early tomorrow morning before packing up. The British Museum is good and a lot of great treasures are there, but after visiting so many museums within the past few weeks, not all displays are as interesting...

At night I went to watch The Drowsy Chaperone, a comdy/musical that is really funny.

I think I like London the most among all other cities I visited. It's such a lively city filled with energy and there is a lot going on to keep you busy--but yet, you can always quickly escape from the busy city life going to see a musical, or enjoy an afternoon in the great museums. Or just indulge yourself in the St. James Park or along the river bank.

I wish I will come back one day. But now, I can't wait anymore going back home. I will fly back tomorrow afternoon from LHR, should be back to Seattle by 9pm--if the American customs allows my entry...


6月 27, 2007

Bring me home, bring me peace

I love London! It's such a lively, busy city. People here seem to be more "civilized", more polite, and a lot more stylish than Paris and other cities in France and Italy. My hostel is located very close to the SOHO area, which is filled with good restaurants and pubs. All the theatres and the China Town are nearby.

The food in China Town isn't good, as expected, but costs a lot less than I thought. I can even afford going for a late night Vietnamese noodle soup.

I went to Leicester Square to get a discounted musical ticket. It's very difficult to get one as I was there 30 minutes before any show starts. I chose Les Miserables, even though I watched it once in Seattle. There is a lot of songs I love in this musical. It turned out to be really good. I almost cried out in the finale when Valjean was dying--every one who died in the story died with something accomplished, and they died without any regret. Yeah, it's true that the students died without a successful revolution, but at least they fought for their dream...

Tomorrow will be very busy as I will try to pack all the sights into one day, and catch another muscial (may be Fame) at night.


Something left undone in Paris

I have a strong feeling that I will come back to Paris and London some day. It's way too short to stay in these cities for a few days (I can't imagine I can fully experience London in less than a day).

The next time I am in Paris, I will definitely try out the canard a la rouennaise (a.k.a. "blood duck" in Chinese), which essentially is duck cooking in its own sauce made by crunching its semi-cooked internal organs and bones, etc. A cruel process, but it's one of the most sophisticated French cooking method. The machine they use to crunch the stuffs costs several thousands EUR, if one can be found on the market. There is only a handful of such machines in Paris. If you're in the area, you can try out this restaurant:

La Tour d'Argent
15-17 Quai de Tournelle
75005 Paris
+33(0) 1 43 54 23 31

It's a short walk right across the river of Notre Dame (a sight I left unvisited :)

OK, I'm all set for London. I'm not sure how many sights I can visit, but the British Museum and Tate Modern are on top of the list. I am also planning to see a musical or a play.

And have my dinners in China Town :)


6月 26, 2007

Starving in Paris

No kidding... I am starving now... didn't have anything eaten for 12 hours and now it's passed mid-night. Not that I am running out of money, but it was a day fully packed:

Went to Musee d'Orsay today and spent seven hours there. It was fascinating! I spent a lot of time in Monet's room. I love all his paintings--so real but also very expressive and imaginative. A true talent. I was also touched by a video showing Renoir using his almost paralized hands (because of serious arthritis) working on sculpture with the help of his assistant!

Then I went to the Opera House trying my luck to get a seat for tonight's performance and luckily I was able to watch a ballet performance in this prestigious building. Too bad I got a seat in a box, right on the side of the hall--which means that I have to stand up in order to get a full view of the stage, which I did... Oh well, the show wasn't as good as I thought, so it wasn't worth the extra money to get a better seat anyway.

Then it was 10pm already, still haven't eaten anything, but I know it's the last night I can get a birds eye view of Paris. So I hurried to Eiffel Tower and trying to go up to the top. Unfortunately the top floor was closed and the line was very long. I waited for over an hour to get to the first floor, and found out that the "City of light" is really nothing comparing to Hong Kong or other big Asian cities. A huge disappointment.

Paris is such a huge city with so much stuff to visit and experience. Staying four nights here is definitely not enough. The people I met here are very talented: a 23-year-old German who just graduated from a law school, a young dancer from Brazil who speaks fluent French and German.... all of a sudden, I found myself being a frog in the bottom of the well for too long. But I guess it's never too late to improve myself right :) The first thing I wanna do, is to learn French. Although I may not get a chance to study here, French is very useful in a lot of aspects--from learning art history to learning the names on restaurant menus/cook books.

I can't say that France is more scenic than Italy, but in a lot of ways though, I like living in France much more than in Italy.

Will be heading to London tomorrow, and I'm all prepared for the expensive living there--for two days.


6月 25, 2007

Small world...

Guess what, I met this guy again unexpectedly--the third time. The first two times in Florence, and then we went to Siena together... and this morning I met him again in a sight. He was asking his friend to take a picutre of him, and I was right behind him. I didn't say hi though since he seemed to be in a hurry. Oh well, I guess he'll be surprised finding me in the background!

Didn't do much in the afternoon, the big thing was going to Sainte-Chapelle to attend a Vivaldi concert. This is the best place for classical music! The 360' stained glass definitely made the concert and outstanding one--although I think the one in Venice was better than this group.

When I was waiting in the line, an old French lady complained to me the Americans were talking too loud--ha, I guess that's what I like about Europe--being "mellow".

It's been raining all night long, so I didn't go to Eiffel Tower. I did go to L'Arche de la Defense, which I think is awesome! Finally I got to see some modern architecture.

It's windy and cold these days. Very different from Italy.

I have tried for hours looking for two specific restaurants for lunch, but both are closed today... hopefully they'll open tomorrow.


6月 24, 2007

Exhausting Louvre

Louvre is extremly exhausting! I just spent 7 hours in it and I still haven't finished all the floors... yup, I have left the top floor undone since it's not that interesting I think, and there are way too many people as the tours start coming in after lunch. I think I have seen way too many sculptures and Renaissance/Gothic type of art recently, so I'm not sure if I want to see more in Versailles. I may do Orsay museum...

What else can I tell about Paris? I don't know... I think I haven't experienced enough about the city, and at this stage of the trip, all I want to do is have a good sleep--on my own bed! I started to missing all the "good" Chinese food in Seattle, and the chopsticks at home. And finally I start to appreciate the fact that eating with Ho Gor every night is actually a blessing. Oh, and of course, the toilet seat: they finally come back in France, but they don't usually have the paper seat cover--I wasn't aware how fortunate I am when I was in America where the worst public washroom provides seat cover!

The metro in Paris is complicated (well, as compared to the bus systems in Seattle, or MTR in Hong Kong...), and some lines are kind of rundown. The transition isn't that seamless. Good though the signs are well-posed so I didn't get lost yet.

Met a few friends in the hostel who are also solo travelers. Every one of them are very surprised when I mentioned that I worked for seven years already... They all thought I'm 23 years old, maximum!

So tired, not even physically but also mentally/spiritually. I can't imagine how people can be away from home for three months doing nothing but traveling...

Hum, do I like France? I don't know... although living in France seems to be better than in Italy (because of the better train and cleaner streets), Italy seems to be more senic overall--and in closer proximity too.

I will have to make a flight transfer in Toronto when I go back to Seattle. We'll see if I can stop by home.

Going back to Seattle will be another hectic start... although the house is rented out (principalling :) but I still need to clean it up, fix a few things, and sell my stuffs. Packing would be another major task I'll have to get done soon...


6月 23, 2007

Arrived the City of Light

So Parisians haven't changed much of their attitude... I heard a bad story when buying tickets from the metro station, and the same happened to me too, unfortunately. Oh well...

Went to This place called Beaune, a city in the Burgundy region. It's kind of boring, and small. Looks like the real charm is in the countryside in Burgundy, which I didn't have time to visit.

Did I mention that Rick Steves was all wrong about buggage check in train stations? Well, his 2002 revision (old version, I know... but they are super slim so it's easy for me to carry them around) said the train stations have baggage check, but in deed they don't. So in case you need to check in the baggage, go ask the near by hotels and see if they want to keep an eye on your luggage for a fee.

I love TGV, the French version of bullet train. It's super fast, and somehow I got scared too... The train route going from Lyon to Beaune is pretty beautiful, no wonder France has so many artists living around the area.

I will stay in Paris for four nights, hopefully it's going to be fun--but I'm definitely feeling tired now.


6月 22, 2007

Lyon the gastronomic city

The school Institut Paul Bocuse is awesome!

(but this keyboard I'm now using is driving me crazy....)

Spent 7 hours in the school, where 3 hours were on the 3-course meal. The school is a chateau, has only 50 new students per year. They will not accept more than three people of the same ethnicity so to mix all cultures together. Unfortunately, they require flurent French, so probably the next time I meet the registraer we will communicate in French.

I also met a girl from George Brown Chef Scool, the one I am attending, who is here as an exchange student. Hopefully I can at least do that too.

The lunch was the best I have ever had in the entire trip--eating in a chateau with execellent food prepared under the supervision of a "Meilleurs Ouvriers de France", and the unhurried pace and relaxed ambience for less then 30 EUR! The courses include Amuse-bouche (very good), an appetizer of beef in stew, a main course of seared fish from the sea, a cheese platter, and a dessert of lavender ice-cream and porched pear...

This is definitely a steal. If you happen to be in the area, the restaurant is called "Saisons" right inside the school, which is located in Ecully, an outskirt of Lyon and about 45 minutes away on bus.

Call ahead to reserve:
Tel: 33 (0)4 72 18 02 23


6月 21, 2007

Surprising Lyon

(This keyboard sucks.... will write short)

Lyon is full of "surpises" (so as the govrenment advertises it):

1. Being the origin of French cuisine, and has the most restaurant per capita, thier traditional tripes (cow's stomach) is really bad--any Hong Kong food carts on the street is better than it. It was like eating rubber bands with a lot of butter and herbs...

2. Lyon is really lively--being the second lagest city in France, all the streets are full of muic of various kinds, and food, of course.


6月 20, 2007

Surrounded by angels

Finally I got to Nice, the Provence region of France. It looks like you have to know some French in order to survive... and as expected, the bus ride to my hostel was a trial and error process. An old French lady on the bus was kind enough to tell me that I missed the stop, but that's the only thing I could guess in her three minutes talk. And then I got off the bus, trying to find my way back to the station, a young guy jumped off from the bus asking if I speak English, and said that he can bring me to the street I want to go... it turns out that this guy was from Ottawa, and he's here to learn French.

The hostel I stay is really good, and in general everything in France seems better than Italy =) the street is much cleaner and more organized, the French's trains are newer, has good air-conditioning, much stylish, and quieter...

Nice is pretty nice, especially the beach! It's the fifth largest city in France, so it's well developed, but it's quieter and has more open space then its Italian Riviera counterpart.

I did go to the recommended "Flo" restaurant, but found out thaht it's not a good price-quality balanced one. There are a lot of other restaurants around the square that's much worth trying. There is this restaurant at a quiet corner of the town that has a very long line! I did find the famous gelato store in the square, but I'm too full for dessert...

I went to Monaco, but since I can't check in luggage at the rail station, I didn't do much except getting a chop on the passport. I guess I will go back tomorrow morning, and then I will hop around different French Côte d'Azur, and then head to Lyon in the evening.

On Friday I will have an important meeting--a school tour of the best culinary institute in France, which is located in Lyon.

(one thing I don't like about French: they use keyboards they have non-American standard key arrangement that I have to double my time typing this....)


Waiting to cross the border

So I'm in Ventimiglia now, the southernmost French-Italian border. Looks like the French rail will resume late this afternoon, and I will be able to catch the 3:00pm train to Nice (hopefully I can stop by Monaco too, but I'm not sure when their next train will be). Good that it only takes 50 minutes arriving Nice from here, so that I still can explore the city before the sun goes down.

Ventimiglia is another city that's part of the Italian Riviera that is 10 minutes away from France, and only 20 minutes away from Monaco. It has even less tourists than Cinque Terre, while they share the same view of Mediterranean.

It's super hot here. There is a reason why Italians need to have afternoon laps--it's impossible to work without air-conditioning under the heat. However, I still don't understand the reasons behind the absent toilet seats--even though I have to pay for using it.

I slept most of the time during this morning's four-hour train transit. Sitting on the platform alone in the dark (I was in the train station 4.30am) seeing trains hauling containers in transit was pretty scary...

OK, so three hours later I will be in France, and hopfully the French has changed to become as friendly as Italians to those who don't know their language...


6月 19, 2007

Best (and worst) of Italy

OK, here's what I found out about Italy:

Best food
The hostel in Florence. The fish cooked simly with tomatoes and olives was unforgettable. I wasn't able to find anything that could match.

Worst food
Cinque Terre -- the (sea) food is overall great, except anchovies! I can't bear it however they're made: salt cured, cooked in lemon juice (well, yeah, not really "cooked" in heat but in lemon juice only), or freshly baked in tomato and herbs sauce. I'm sorry but it's just aweful. Unfortunately, it's one of the most famous products in Cinque Terre.

Best stay
The hostel in Florence. Although it's just a hostel, it has the best Italian garden, filled with the wonderful Tuscan sulight. I went back to the hostel every day just because of the garden.

Worst Stay
Of course, the hostel in Roman. It's horrible. So humid, so hot. The shower doesn't have curtains, the toilet doesn't have seat. Street kids party till 4am every day, the food is aweful (and priced the same as the one in Florence)... how aweful? Their deep fried chicken leg bascially cannot be eaten since the meat is too hard. Anyways, what you can find out about a bad stay, you can find it out in this hostel.

Best city
Actually every city is different, so it's difficult to say. But if I can go back to only one city in Italy, I would choose Civita. Yup, it's surprising. I wouldn't go back alone though. The sunrise was unforgettable.

Worst city
Venice. Yup, sorry, I know Venice could be beautiful, but it's just not for me. May be somehow I would change this feeling in the future. But to me, Venice is only for tourist...

Need to get up at 4am tomorrow to catch a 6.50 train to the border of Italy and France. Hopefully I'll be in Nice tomorrow...


In troubles...

So I thought I could conclude my Italian journey nicely in Cinque Terre, and start going to France tomorrow. Unfortunately, the France's railway decided to go on strike these two days, and there is no way for me to take a train to Monte Carlo and Nice as planned. I am going to take the train early tomorrow morning to the border of Italy and France, and try to find out from there options that take me to the southern part of France, if there is any. I think bus would be one of the options, but it will not be as seamless as by train. My other option is to go to Milan tomorrow, stay for a night (and may be even going to Lake Como), and then fly to Lyon, and continue my journey up to Paris. Hopefully all things work out tomorrow. I bought some good wines as souvenirs but I'll have to unload some of them tonight =)

Late last evening I went for another 3km hike, and it was quite scary hiking alone this late. I had to make noise with my tripod and the water bottle to scare "things" away...


6月 18, 2007

Road less traveled

Well, actually, not quite. Cinque Terre has now become a pretty well-known vacation destination. However, thanks to the enormous efforts of the concerned parties, it has also become one of the most environmnetally protected region. For one thing, Cinque Terre is now in the list of UNESCO World Heritage. Even though by day time it is quite a busy touristy spot (or I should say spots, since Cinque Terre refers to a region made up by five adjacent cities, which are now well connected by train of 5 minutes away).

The best thing to do in the cities is to go hiking. I hiked from Vernnaza, the land I stayed, to Monterroso this morning. It was a 3km hike, around 2 hours, and it was quite dangerous, since some parts of the trail are very narrow by the cliff--it's so narrow that only a thin little guy like me has no troubles passing by. The trail was pretty steep too, but it's rewarding. The view just outside of Vernnza is magnificiant.

This trail has been until last century the only connection between the two cities, and it leads to the perception of Mediterranean landscape. The planted terraces testify that man has lived a hard life with persistence, and has created an admirable landscape.

It was a hard hike, but the fragrance of plants from the essential oils brought out by heat made the hike enjoyable.

And the breeze from Mediterranean Sea makes time irrelevant--it's such an oasis between sea and sky!

One thing though, I still can't accept anchovy, however it is famous in this area (and they served it fresh with lemon juice, unlike the saly cured American style). And talking about lemon, I finally got to see those that are as big as my palm!


6月 17, 2007


To be honest, the road to Cinque Terre was long and sweaty, although I took a little detour to Pisa and Lucca.

As usual, I couldn't sleep at the hostel last night. They have a bar nearby, no wonder they have steet party till 4am. Fortunately, I had nothing to do in Rome yesterday so I went to bed at around 9am. Woke up at 6am, so looking forward to escape from this hostel, I went to the train station knowing that I have to wait 2 hours--believe me, it's much better than staying in the bed at that hostel.

Anyways, went to Pissa and Lucca afterwards. It's the most seamless time connecting trains today since the schedule of the trains to Pissa and Lucca were perfectly matched.

I have been saying a lot of bad things about Italians, but I started to admire them now: despite the fact that they always smoke around me, jumping in the line, throwing rocks to my windows--they are truely helpful, warm, inviting, and fun. Today when I was in the three-hour train from Rome to Pisa, I talked to three different Italian families. They're just like one big family! Although I don't quite get what they say in Italian, there was a guy translated for me... all without me asking! And you know my luggages are huge and heavy, and these guys helped me to rearranged the cramped luggage rack and helped me to push the luggage up (and pull it down too when I left the train). They're truely awesome people. And you know what, whenever I'm lost, I always get a lot of help from the Italian strangers--even though they don't quite understand English, and I have no clue about Italian either--but somehow we communicated and I got the right directions. Isn't this awesome? Sadly, when in I asked directions to some English-speaking family today, you know what they answered? "I don't know, go ask yourself..." yeah, I know, you are stranger to this place too... but isn't that a bit not helpful?

Anyways, the Leaning Tower is magical. I didn't stay long though, since I wasn't planning to climb the tower. After Pisa I left for Lucca. I was interested about this little town since I looked at one picture and found it awesome--it was a town that has three layer's of houses building arond outside of each other. Too bad, I couldn't find the point where the picture was taken, even though I climbed up the village tower.

Cinque Terre is an awesome place!!! I will write more about this place tomorrow, but it's for sure a romantic place. Jacky said it right, it's a place for vacation within an vacation.


6月 16, 2007

Last day in Rome

Which is good!!

To be honest, staying three nights in Rome is a bit too much. I spent one day and a half and done all the sites, where today I just went to the National Museum of Rome and did the laundry. While Rick Steves rates the museum three stars, I don't think it's as exciting as the other sites I visited. Although, I saw some ancient Roman coins that are facinating, and some of the statues are indeed pretty good.

It was a horrible night last night again. At around 2am some gangs are throwing stones into our room!!! It was just crazy. At first I thought it's a rare hail storm, but when I heard my roommate yelled at the street I knew something's wrong. They're just crazy. Good though nothing's crack, and I got back to sleep pretty soon. I hate this hostel. They don't have hot water in the afternoon, and it's supre noisy at night. In general, I think I passed the age where I can tolerate the teens....

Last night when I had dinner, I over-heard a couple kind of arguing. The woman wants to go to Italian countryside, like Assisi, to see sunrise and sunset; while the man says it's not necessary blah blah blah... I really wanted to tell them that it's much worth going to the countryside than staying in the city! Yeah, I guess I like the unpolluted unadulterated party of Italy with rolling hills and breath-taking landscape. Sitting on top of the hill having a glass of wine, prosciutto, and fresh seafood....

I guess that's the Italian style of romance.

And I'm going to do just like that--tomorrow I will start heading to Cinque Terre, a combination of five Italian riviera cities. I'll also visit Pisa. I'll probably go to Lucca too as an excursion.

Oh, one more thing, it's not worth it to get a Eurail pass. It doesn't save a lot of time since I have to wait in the line to reserve for the seats; and it costs more than just getting the ticket--since you have to pay 5 EUR for the reservation, and the ticket is usually cheaper than a single trip on Eurail if you average out the cost.


6月 15, 2007


It is HOT here!! So hot that I couldn't even get into sleep last night. Talking about last night, I had to walk 2+ hours from Pantheon to my bus stop! It feels like my legs are not mine now... The story is that the Metro closed at 9.30pm here for some mysterious reasons (it's scheduled to end the service by 11pm or something like that). Since the Metro provided no instructions (well, at least not in English), a lot of the tourists needed to walk 20 minutes up to a hill to find a bus. But then what's tricky is that no one has any clue about which bus to take home. Long story short, some of us took a taxi back, some jumped on a bus not even knowing where it goes. And I chose to trust the map, and walked. My entire lower body is so sore...

I just don't understand how Italians design their transit systems. First of all, their bus has absolutely no sense of ergonomics. The seats are really tight facing each other. And the engine is supre hot that it's impossible to breath even though it's empty. Plus the ticketing system--why do I have to walk to a newstand/tobacco store to get tickets, where they usually locate 10 minutes of walk away from the stop? What's even funny is, they don't really check if you have a valid ticket or not...

And then on the road. The traffic in Rome is messey like no other places, cars are cutting lanes without signalling and pedestrains have to race with the cars in a crosswalk. However, when the Italians walk on the pavements, they're usually pretty slow... talking about slowness, their work efficiency is super low. It can take me 10 minutes to get a bus ticket even though I'm the second on the line (not to mention that they all jump into the line all the time).

OK, so much complains about Italian, I do like the other side of Rome--its massive history. I went to quite a lot of places already: yesterday I went to Colosseum, Roman Forum, Pantheon, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, and the long walk back home. Today I'm done with the Vactican City: St. Peter's Basilican, climbed the dome, Vatican Museum, and Sistine Chapel.

All these places make the hardship of my stay in Rome worthwhile. Especially the Sistine Chapel, it's truely marvoulous.

Oh, and the dinner. I found out that fish is super cheap here: in a nice restaurant around the Pantheon area, a whole mid size sea bass costs only 6 EUR!! I love Italian food, it brings out the natural flavour of the ingredients without any complicated superficial procedures :-)


6月 14, 2007

Heading to Rome

I have a feeling that I wouldn't like Rome, since it's a city filled up with a lot of people. Will stay there for three nights. Will have more updates later.


6月 13, 2007

Some updates

It's been a while I last updated, mainly because the places I stayed are pretty remote.

Right now I'm in Assisi, another hill town in the Umbria region. It was a pretty big town, comparing to Civita, the one I stayed at last night. Somehow I guess I have stayed too much in these hill towns: from Siena to Cortona; from Cortona to Orvieta; from Orvieta to Civita; and then finally I end up here in Assisi.

I planned to drive around from place to place, but I messed up with the reservation schedule and the car was rented out already. Most of the other rental companies have only stick cars, so I have to opt for taking trains and buses--which means, it's quite a lot of walking with my two heavy luggages. And may be because of this, I lost my tripod..... :( Hum, or was it stolen?? For some reasons, my luggages are feeling ligther and ligther day after day!

Anyways, I did have a good time though. As I said, I went to Civita di Bagnoregio yesterday. It is one of the towns in central Italy that were built on tufa, the soft volcanic rock that distinguishes the region's landscape. It is a small town that has less than 20 residents, but receives as many as 3000 visitors on a good day. Because the soft rock it was built on, and the uncontrolled tourists, a large section of the NW bluff of the site is in danger of collapse... The hostel I stayed at was pretty small too, but they served good food at a good price--for 15 EUR that includes all courses (which usually includes an appetizer, a bowl of pasta, an entree with meat, and coffee/dessert. Of course, you'll for sure get 1/2 liter wine!) I hiked up the hill (a very steep hill) before dawn to catch the sunrise--which was intoxicating. It's well worth all the troubles for the experience.

Before I went to Civita, I passed by Orvieto. Since I discovered my tripod was gone in this place, I had no mood at all--not even wandering around. So I spent most of the day waiting for the bus that goes to Civita. Fortunately, whenver I need direction, there was always people along the way that can help. No wonder people say catching buses and trains in Italy is quite an experience in itself.

And then I was lucky enough to catch a beautiful sunset in a town I stayed earlier, Cortona. Funny enough, the place I stayed is labeled by the Tourist Information as a "religious place", and they asked if I am sure I am going to stay there, and if needed, book a hotel somewhere else. I ended up staying there anyway, and found out that it was a church that wasn't in use anymore. I saw the sister, and she was pretty old. Taking care by the monks means you're in good hands and a quiet environment--so quiet and dark that it was actually quite scary. I went back to the place at 10ish after dinner, and found out that the place, this church, had all lights out. Since I had no idea where the light switches are, I had to guess the way using my hands.... and there was one firefly doing all these with me... but hey, it's only 30 EUR, so no complain at all. The next morning I found out that there were only four people staying in this large church... Having breakfast at their huge dinning room with the other folks without much talking was quite interesting...

Did I mention anything about Siena? I had very good and huge gelato there--for only 2 UER. Comparing to a 9 EUR gelato I got from Florence, I was happy (and sad that I fell into the trap...)

Rick Steve is right, you have to be alert all the time no matter where you stay in Italy (I just got a former European coin that is no longer in use... it has a very similar look and feel of a 10 cent EUR coin..... )



6月 10, 2007


Love this place! Finally I got my own room in a hotel, and it's the most expensive place I will stay during the trip.

Will go to Cortona, another hilltown in Tuscany, tomorrow morning. I'll stay in various hilltowns for the next few days. Since some of them are pretty small, so I'm not sure if they have Internet access. Will keep you posted when I have a chance.

Need to go shooting now.

6月 09, 2007

The same kind of rice raises different types of people...

So those guys from Romania apparently has left, and I started making friends with some good people.

Went to the Piazzale Michelangelo during sunset hours, one of the hot spots that provides panoromic view of the beautiful old town of Florence. Met a guy there who just graduated from UST. Looks like he's going to be my travel buddy in Sienna :-) And then met another guy from CA, USA, who uses a Leica M8 with 35mm Summilux (all sparking new gears!!). I don't know why but Leica users usually have a tendency of praising their equipment. He's like a salesman showing off the nice camera he has in hand... Sigh. But afterall, we all had a good time shooting the beautiful sunset.

And can you believe it? I'm coming back to the hostel for dinner the third night! The food is way too good here for the price. Last night I got a bowl of orecchiette with salmon cream sauce, two big chucks of firm white sea fish fillets with black olives, cherry tomato and olive sauce, salad, bread, and fruit for, again, under 10 EUR! Tonight we're going to have something different. No wonder people are saying that the best Tuscan food can be found from local homes... I was planning to go out for dinner instead tonight, but then when I picked up the restaurant guide, all the best traditional non-pricy restaurants open only for lunch... No wonder Rick Steves pointed out that the lunch is the most important meal for Italians.

Went to Uffizi today, a museum that houses a lot of art works from the most influential artists during the Renaissance period. Unfortunately, it's just not the type of arts that I like...

Alright, will go out for another sunset shooting tonight, and then I'll head to Sienna on bus with the new friend tomorrow morning.



6月 08, 2007

I love Tuscany

In a room with three Japanese girls? It was totally imaginary. It ends up that there is only one Japanese guy, together with three other people from Romania (including one girl)--one of the guys even had a lot of tattoo and a large scar around his neck. Normally if I meet people like that I would keep myself quiet and pretend to be OK even though they're harassing the rules. However not this time... not smoking in the room! I have had enough second hand smoking during the day and I can't believe I'll have to live with it the entire night too. So, I went complaning about it, and got a new room all by myself. I was too tired even worrying that they'll look for me and give me a good punch. Oh, and I forgot that living in a campsite means I'll have to be bombarded by mosquitoes--I had to wake up every other hour to kill them so that I can get into sleep. I guess I'll pick up an repeller tonight.

So far I like Florence. I'm sure adjusting myself to this new country and timezone, and the disappearing of my sore throat help a lot allowing me to really enjoy the stay. The fact that Florence, when comparing to Venice, has more open space is also a big factor. Afterall, no one likes being trapped in smoky long and narrow alleys packed with tourists.

I was able to be the first person seeing David today. It was truely a magnificent 30 seconds walk that awed me for a long time.

Right besides David there was an oil painting that has almost the same effects on me. It was a picture of sacrificing Issac by an artist that isn't well known. The painting tells the entire story, which reminded me how faithful and obident Abraham was. And most of all, that God prepared the best for us.

No matter what.


6月 07, 2007

Best meal in Italy

I have to say this before heading down to the city... I found the best meal I've ever had so far--in the hostel that I'm staying! Oh well, with the same food served in USA I defintely won't pay for it, but having without warm food for a few days, a heartful bowl of spaghetti with tomato meat sauce, a roasted half chicken (with it's leg cut off for others), mashed potato, salad, bread, and fresh fruit...

It's all I craved for, with a price tag less than 10 EUR!

(oh, and of course, eating outdoor in the countryside!)


Camping in Florence

Yup, I can't believe it, the hostel is located 30 minutes bus drive away from the city center, and 10 minutes hike after getting off the bus. It's a huge mansion surrounded by a big campground and vinyard. It's a very nice place. The hike is full of intense aroma from various plants, and there are hundreds of birds singing along the way--it's something that I haven't experienced even in Washington. Too bad it's having thunderstorm just after I settled down (and thankfully it happens just after I got to this place). And, looks like I'm in the same room with a few Japaense girls :-) and I couldn't find a WC/shower for destinated sex....

Italians in general are pretty helpful, at least in Florence. Although we practically do not understand each other, I always get what I need to know. There was this old man on the bus helping me asking the driver to let me off when it's my stop!

Oh, last night when I'm done with the Vivaldi ensemble, I strolled around the city one more time. It was then I started to feel the charm of the city. The canals are quietly reflecting the street lights, with a few gondolas passes by with people chatting quietly along the way... the square is filled with groups of friends and lovers.... it's truely a romantic city. I wish I was with some friends sitting in the square with a bottle of wine, enjoying the music from the nearby cafes.

But then... what's interesting was that I overheard someone arguing when I was waiting for the water-bus. It's a very funny conversation that's around the other side of romance--nasty sexual relationships...

Looks like I'll be enjoying the heavy thunderstorm for some time. Perfect timing. I can now get some real rest!


6月 06, 2007

Holy churches and second hand smoking

No wonder there is a term marry the two totally unrelated things... it must all because of Venice--a city that has quite a lot churches, but also filled with a lot of second hand smoke. Apparently the long and narrow alleys make the situation even worse. So I'm soaked in this smoky city all day long, except when I am in a museum...

Went to the St. Mark's Basilica and Doge's Palace today... the two "must go" spots of Venice. They're OK. The Basilica wasn't as good as I thought, perhaps because the mosaic wasn't lit up. But it's an overcast day with intermittent rains, so I bet it wouldn't lit up for the day anyway.

So far I've been complaining about Venice. I guess it's mostly because of my sore throat (and constantly inhaling the smoke). But then I finally find out that Venice is actually really beautiful--when I took the boat early this morning, when the canal and streets start waking up for the busy day, Venice is truly romantic.

I'm planning to get up before unrise tomorrow and explore more on its charm, before I head off to Florence at 11.30. Speaking of that, I'm lucky enough to hold the last seat for this slot. Looks like it's another busy city...

Oh, for dinner, I think I'm being smart this time--I went to the market and will make my own dish (well, it's just salad basically). The price is resonable this time--with half the price of that "Venice style cuttlefish", I get enough fruits for a few days, a dinner for tonight, and a large juice helping me fight the sore throat.

I'll go for a Vivaldi concert late tonight :-)


6月 05, 2007

What a day...

The first day staying in Venice was really tiring. I start going out by 10 in the morning, and walked for almost 12 hours non-stop -- not even for lunch, coz I stood for sandwiches. The dinner wasn't as good as I thought: I had "Venice style" cuttlefish, which bascially means cuttlefish that is going to rip you off. If not because I need to use their bathroom, I would never end up going to that place...

So every one says Venice was very pretty, but I'm sort of disappointed. May be my expectation was set too high. Well, generally, anywhere that is too touristy is somewhere that I would like to avoid...

Need to get some rest now. Having sore throat.

I wish I could leave for Florence tomorrow night instead of next morning.

(oh, btw, the gipsy thingy: I was afterall too careful... my money bag was tucked way too out of the way that even I wouldn't bother getting money out of it... I guess it's a good thing? )


6月 04, 2007

Guessing and blessings

Arrived safely to Venice, with a few guesses and a lot of blessings. The pharse book helps a lot, and I successfully used Italian to ask for directions :-) But of course, I needed to guess a lot when the responses were in a different language.

I arrived the hostel after 1am, and according to their rule, they wouldn't even open the door for me. But I was checked in anyways.

Need to log off now. Things are super expensive here. I'm paying 5 EUR for 60 minutes connection....


6月 03, 2007


Three hours later, I will be on my way to SeaTac, on the runway by 10:10, and 10+ hours or so I will be 7000+ miles away from Bellevue, Washington....

I know there are many thieves out there trying hard to make a living, but I'll try my best to stay away from people that are within three feets of me :-)

Take care of Sassy!