Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Day Two - Religion Day!

After our continental breakfast at the hotel, Marcy and I headed over to the Vatican for our tour. Before we left, I had decided to book an official tour through the Vatican because first and foremost I wanted to skip the line, but I also wanted an accurate description of what I was looking at. I figured the tours sanctioned by the establishment would be the best. It was also reasonably priced for what it promised (basically a two hour tour through the Vatican museums).

Since Stacey was not with us, we took a route along the Tiber to the Vatican City, which probably made the journey a little longer than it had to be (Stacey obviously knows the back streets through Trastevere). When we checked the route with the concierge, he was visibly surprised that we would even consider walking there in the first place. Sure, it was on the longer side to walk, but all in all it took us about a half hour. I guess the surprise came from the fact that a bunch of Americans wanted to walk somewhere...

Along the final stretch of the walk to St. Peter’s, we stopped for some water at one of the fountains. I never 100% believed Stacey when she said you could drink from them, but I put my skepticism aside and tried it. Apparently it flows down from the Alps! Turns out it was great water and it saved us quite a few euro over our time there.

We struggled a bit to find exactly where we had to go in order to meet our tour. The ticket I had printed out from the web was in all Italian and I had not remembered that the entrance was all the way around to the side. It ended up being quite a hike from the square, but luckily we were running ahead of schedule. There were also quite a number of cons/inquiries as to if I spoke English along the way. I had read about that, so I kind of knew to expect it, but found it no less surprising. I didn’t remember that from my first trip there, and found it kind of sad when I thought about the people that actually fall for them. Seems kind of hypocritical especially taking place outside the Vatican walls.

As we fought our way to the entrance, I started to get a little nervous that we would miss our tour. As I had mentioned, the ticket was in all Italian so we had no idea where to go. We asked security guards along the way who just kind of pointed, but eventually we found our way to an empty line and skipped all the people. We found our way inside, picked up our headsets and met our tour guide. Since this was a Vatican sanctioned tour, I personally expected a lot, and this little old lady delivered. She also had this incredible knack for fighting her way through the crowds, which there was a lot of. The museum was uncomfortably crowded, but we kept up with her as best we could. The tour guide commented on all the major/important things, but the crowds really made it hard to enjoy 100%. There were times I struggled to even hear her because tours of Spanish teenagers were yelling. Perhaps her best moment was her description of the frescos in Pope Julius II’s apartments painted by Raphael. I enjoyed her interpretation of the contrast between the School of Athens and the Disputation of the Holy Sacrament. She left us at the entrance to the Sistine Chapel, where we were on our own. It was insanely crowded. Security guards further ruined the peace by yelling at people to stop taking pictures, in addition to an automated voice recording reminding people that pictures were forbidden. Kind of made me forget it was a place of worship…

Eventually we had had enough and made our way over to St. Peter’s. We entered through the crypt, which was partially interesting because I got to see the tomb of Pope John Paul II. It was quite beautiful actually and illuminated for all to see. St. Peter’s Basilica itself was as grandiose as I remembered it. My cousin made a comment that it was kind of “gaudy” which at second thought is exactly what it is. It’s a giant monument to the power and wealth of the Vatican. My cousin’s recent travels to Israel made for an interesting dichotomy in her mind I am sure, and seeing it from her perspective was actually interesting. Especially since we followed the Vatican with a trio to the Ghetto and how little there really is to represent this neighborhood and culture. But I suppose that adds to the fact at how oppressed and confined the Jews were for so long.

We didn’t eat lunch in the Ghetto (we had stopped along the way in the Camp de’ Fiori for an incredible Panini), but we did stop for a snack. As we walked down via d’Ottavia, we found this little hole in the wall bakery that had already converted over for Passover. They had two options – biscotti and macaroons. The biscotti were “eh”, but that was the best damn macaroon I have ever had. It was warm and gooey in the middle and for the 75 cents I spent on it, it was WELL spent.

It was later in the afternoon by then, so we headed back to the hotel for a brief siesta (when in Rome!). We met back up with Stacey for dinner and she took us to this out of the way pizzeria in Trastevere that is supposed to be one of the best in Rome. Dar Poeta did NOT disappoint. One of the things I loved about it was that it was impossible to find! But again, I think that speaks to the charm of Rome. You have to do a little digging to find the real gems. The night was crisp, so we sat outside and enjoyed the scene. We shared an ensalata mista (corn, black olives, and mini mozzarella), and then had our own individual pizzas. Nowhere besides Italy is it ok to eat an entire pizza by yourself. I had one with prosciutto, mushrooms, and potatoes. It may have easily been the best pizza I had ever had and I easily finished the whole thing. We then topped things off with a nutella and ricotta pizza for dessert. Delish!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Day One - Getting the lay of the land

Our flight into Fiumicino was pretty uneventful. On the plane I opted for the the lasagna at dinner which I later regretted. I couldn't wait a couple of more hours for the real thing? When we landed, we managed to get into the fastest moving (and when I say fastest, I mean moving at actual snail pace in comparison to the other lines which weren't moving at all) line at passport control, but our momentum was quickly thwarted when we arrived at the baggage carousel. It took an absurdly long amount of time to retrieve our baggage. But then I breathed and remembered we were in Italy, and poof! The bags appeared!

Once of the services our hotel provided, which I actually considered pretty convenient, was the ability to book a car service from the airport to the hotel for a flat rate of 50 euro. From what I had read, cabs from the airport would have run us about 40 euro, but would also come with the anticipation of "are they going to rip us off?", and "are we going the right way", etc. Better safe than sorry, and figuring on our state of mind after an overnight flight of 8 hours, I went with the extravagance of the car service. And once we completely cleared customs, our car service was waiting with a sign that said "Yuliana Wurzburger". Close enough! Andiamo!

We arrived at the hotel at around 9:30, and were told that not only could we still partake in the continental breakfast, but our room was ready! Excitedly, and rather famished, we dropped our bags off in the room and ran back downstairs for breakfast. There was a definite Italian barrier that I had stupidly forgotten to anticipate and when the waitress asked what kind of coffee I wanted, I managed to get across that I wanted a cappuccino. At least that was a word I knew she would know. The rest of my first Italian breakfast consisted of a piece of rustic Italian bread, a slice of salami, cheese, and an egg. Yummmmmm...

After breakfast we headed back upstairs to get cleaned up and we headed out to meet up with my cousin. For lack of a better plan at that exact moment, we decided to find a money exchange so that I could change some of my dollars to euros. The closest one was by the Pantheon, so we headed over.

Our hotel was pretty much around the corner from my cousin's apartment, and both were in Trastevere. Trastevere was a part of Rome that I had not toured on my previous visit, and I must say, it is now my favorite part of Rome. Trastevere sits on the left bank of the Tiber, so it had a very local feel to it. There were practically no tourists, and was chock full of little trattorias and cafes. Around every corner and down every alley was a new surprise just waiting to be found if you knew where to look. That was what I liked about Trastevere. It wasn't all out there for someone to skim over and absorb in 5 minutes. You had to really walk the cobblestone streets and visit the little shops and cafes to really get the flavor the the neighborhood. You had to make the time.

Case in point, we stopped into a neighborhood deli on the way back from exchanging money. They had all sorts of delicacies, but we stuck with the pizza on the first try. As we were sitting there enjoying the pizza, we noticed a couple of men walk into the establishment. One of the men had an ear piece, and the other was definitely packing heat. The other was an extremely old man. Since they were all in plain clothes, we kind of shrugged everything off until one of the owners started making quite a fuss. We made Stacey ask what the ruckus was all about and it turns out the old man was a previous president of Italy, Oscar Luigi Scalfaro. At the time we had no idea who he was, but turns out he is the oldest living Italian president. Pretty cool!

Since Trastevere is not as centrally located as other neighborhoods in Rome, public transportation quickly becomes your friend. And its also quite easy to cheat the system as we came to find. Usually when you take public transportation in Rome, you have to visit one of the Tabacchi stores to get a ticket/pass and then you validate it on the bus or tram by swiping it through the machine, only... no one ever checks if you actually swipe. Not the most ethical thing to do, but it definitely helped save a couple of euro here and there! After our pizza lunch, we decided to utilize the fine free public transportation, and headed over to the Villa Borghese where we heard you could rent bicycles and ride around the park. Maybe some endorphins would keep us going!
This turned out to be a great idea as it was a relatively cheap activity (4 euro for an hour), and the park surrounding the villa was quite beautiful and rather peaceful.

We even got some cardio worked in! No doubt we were tired by the end of things, but it definitely made room for our pasta dinner at a local place back in Trastevere. After a plate of Pasta Carbonara, and a glass of the house red, it was sweet dreams for us as we had made it through our first day!

Italy - A preamble if you will...

It has been quite a while since I have blogged. I can make a brevity of excuses as to why I haven't, but it mostly comes down to time and inspiration.

I very recently embarked on a Roman Holiday. I have been to Italy before (at the beginning of my sophomore year of high school), so from a base perspective a lot of what I saw wasn't "new". But how I saw it was drastically different. The country really surprised me, in multiple ways to say the least. So suffice it to say, my previous inspiration excuse really doesn't hold. And since I have some time over the next couple of days to document my thoughts... I really have no reason not to share them!

Just to preface, on my previous trip to Italy I was 15, missing what was initially supposed to be the first three weeks of school, and going with my grandfather. At the time, I very much appreciated the experience my grandfather was providing for me, but retrospectively and almost 15 years later, I have realized that I was lacking a certain amount of maturity to really understand what I was experiencing. I just had too much going on hormonally! But I think a lot of what enables us to understand our experiences as adults comes from just living life. And while I was anything but a sheltered 15 year old, I still hadn't yet done enough living.

So what will follow here are some highlights and thoughts on my time in Italy over the past week and a half. Enjoy!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Spaghetti Cat!

It's been a while since my last entry. No tears please... But I figured I should get back into the habit and what easier way than posting content from something else!

The Soup on E! is one of my favorite shows and in this time of constant political strife, sometimes its fun to just watch nonsense and laugh. The below clip explains itself, but for some reason I just find it HI-larious! Enjoy!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Wow... Jimmy Kimmel is an asshole...

Not sure who has caught the interview Jimmy Kimmel conducted on Larry King Live last Friday (he was guest hosting) with editor Emily Gould from Gawker.com, but this man clearly has lost his "sense of humor".

Just as a quick background, the main beef was with one of Gawker's cheesy features called the Gawker Stalker Map. Kimmel and his cronies guesting on the show maintain that it helps stalkers and paparazzi terrorize the lives of celebrities. For those that are not regular readers of the site, the map is a (rarely a up to the minute) representation of where celebs are. It's mostly where they have been. Like three hours ago. It's also VERY tongue and cheek. Hardly taken seriously by anybody with some common sense. I find it very hard to believe that a professional paparazzi uses Gawker.com to find out where celebs are. They are ahead of the game. They are waiting outside the celebs home. Don't you watch E! - they are all outside Britney's house in Malibu. Also, they have all sorts of electronic gadgets like GPS, and two way walk-talkies - not to mention cell phones. They aren't checking Gawker.com for leads. And if they are.. they should rethink their vocation.

Truth be told, the map is kinda dumb and I can see the potential danger if used by the wrong people (i.e. people that are insane), but how the interview erupted into an attack on Gawker itself was completely ridiculous. It took a hard left turn from criticism of the Map to how Gawker is full of slanderous and libel content. Ummmm.. its a blog! Its not Time Magazine!

And can somebody please tell me who the hell is Jimmy Kimmel to even try to have this conversation?! He is a completely biased party who apparently has a personal vendetta against the site (they made fun of him back in the summer of 2006). Boo to CNN for allowing him to make this interview into a personal attack on the site.

Perhaps the most mind boggling thing to me is that Kimmel was actually serious in his anger and accusations. This is the same man who no more than 6 years ago was on a Comedy Central program called the "Man Show" where one of the highlights was to have buxom females jump on a trampoline in bikinis for enjoyment.

My personal favorite bits of the interview are -
  1. Jimmy's "experts" are Michael Jackson's lawyer, and Isiah Washington's publicist. Wow.. that's some client list guys. How do you even have time to come on the show? Don't you have your hands full?
  2. When Jimmy Kimmel says he "doesn't understand why anybody would buy advertising on a website"- ummm to reach consumers? Why buy ads on the Jimmy Kimmel Live Show? So you can actually have a show? Idiot...
  3. When Kimmel says it's stupid and silly to think that all celebrities have money. Umm don't they?
  4. When Jimmy Kimmel basically tells Emily Gould she should re-examine her life because she is going to hell in a hand-basket. Good thing he took time to re-examine his and went from a beer guzzling frat boy to a holier-than-thou elitist. Nice suspenders buddy...

But that's just my opinion. Judge for yourself. Just make sure you agree with me. :)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

You're disturbing my oboe practice...

Since I am winding down things at my old job, I am pretty much bored senseless. Therefore I can regale all of you with more tales of my uber exciting life.

I am pretty lucky to live in a cheap, rent controlled apartment with a Soho zip code. The building is a tenement circa 1900 and my apartment hasn't been renovated in a good 10/15 years... if even that. I think the last big addition was the wall that was put up to take the bathtub out of the kitchen. And with my cheap, rent controlled apartment comes others of the like... and that sometimes means student tenants.

I was a student once... but I was a student in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania and lived in an apartment with other students in a building that was made to house loud, obnoxious, drunken students like me. My loud obnoxious habits didn't bother anybody who wasn't currently living the same lifestyle. Unfortunately that is not the case with my current living situation.

Thanksgiving 2005 I came home to my apartment after a long weekend in New Jersey to find the ceiling in my bathroom caved in from a raucous party that my upstairs neighbor had over the long weekend in which her toilet had overflowed thus creating water damage and a caved in ceiling. She was a local NYU college student. Bless her... Needless to say she has since moved out because now I have fabulous new student neighbors. Boy ones that make loud noises when they walk and have parties where young co-eds giggle till 4AM on Monday nights... Wow.. i sound like Mr. Heckles... :(
Needless to say last weekend I got fed up. I was also cranky and jet-lagged but nevertheless they were being LOUD! Every five minutes or so there would be a huge crash upstairs like they were dropping bodies to the ground! I grabbed the broom and rap rap rap knocked the ceiling three times. "Stop that!" It didn't stop. In a furious rage I ran upstairs and knocked on the door. I could hear them whispering amongst themselves saying things like "Oh shit" and "just say we're sorry" and "just answer the door". A very sweet faced youth answered the door and I calmly tried to explain who I was and why I was snarling. Turns out they are in fact students... film students no less trying to make a movie. What I heard was literally a body hitting the floor - they were filming a scene where somebody was falling out of bed. Well I instantly felt bad (those who know me know my passion for movies) and I just asked that they let me know next time they have to do something like this so I don't think they are just being inconsiderate. He amicably agreed and since then its been pretty peaceful. My luck I told the next Steven Spielberg to keep it down! :)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Neighborhood Hangout....

I have slowly come to the realization that I live down the street from a methadone clinic... At first I just thought some really weird people were living in my neighborhood, but then I woke up and realized, nope! They are just struggling drug users! Oh wait.. I dont think my roommate ever knew this... SURPRISE BRIDGET! :)

My typical morning route to the subway brings me up along Lafayette Street and the corner of Spring Street. To most people that know this area, it’s pretty trendy. The streets are lined with cute little boutiques and restaurants. Furthermore the people that live in this neighborhood are either trendy/artsy hipsters, trust fund babies, or high powered executives (I fit into none of these categories personally… I just got lucky with a cheap rent-controlled apartment :)) So when I began noticing a distinguishable crowd that regularly entered this neighborhood every morning and basically hung out on the corner of Spring and Lafayette I began to wonder. And for the record, when I say distinguishable, I mean these people look like they have come from the hinterlands of Pensultucky. Either that or the trailer parks of Suffolk county…

Anyway, I noticed that they were all hanging out by this doorway that looked to be a doctor's office of sorts. Only the windows had bars and the door was padlocked at night. Seemed a little extreme for the local GP if you asked me. And then one day I heard one of them talking about how if you don't go at the time you are assigned they won't give you any and that right there sealed the deal for me... a doctor's office with bars and a regulated dispensing time?? I mean really...

How did I ever confirm my suspicion you ask? Well weirdly enough I was at a work dinner with one of my salespeople who confirmed it for me. I maintain that the confirmation she offered me was because of the fact that she used to live in the neighborhood and not because she herself was a client of that particular clinic… yeesh… :)

Friday, December 15, 2006

Abercrombie ruined Hanukkah!

That's it! I am sooooo done! I am starting a boycott of that nasty, racist, no-good craptastic company Abercrombie & Fitch. Who's with me? Screw the eyecandy and the six pack abs! May they all have a flabby gut and saggy man breasts!

I wanted to get my brother some stuff that I thought was WAY cute, and since there is no abercrombie kids in the city, I decided to save time and order online. WHAT A MISTAKE! I checked the order today for the status since it hadn't shipped out yet which I thought was odd considering I had only ordered TWO items. When I called customer service I got some brat named James who cleverly reminded me that this is indeed their busiest time of year, that it would probably ship tomorrow, and that there is a guarantee that I will have it by Christmas. Well Earth to James! There are other holidays besides Christmas (which I cleverly reminded him) and having it by December 25th was not going to help! I pleaded for any help in that matter and he said "There is nothing else I can do". I was SO mad at that point that I yelled "Happy Holidays!" and hung up.

When I told my mom what had happened she said you should have asked for a supervisor and cancelled the order. What genius I thought! I am a supervisor at my job! Maybe we could talk man to man! Sup to sup! So I promptly called back sure I could explain my situation, cancel my order and be done. Well of course no such luck!

When I got somebody else on the phone ( I was really nervous I would get James again after I had hung up), they informed me that my order has been packaged and they cannot cancel the order at this time. WHAT?? "How convenient", I snarled. When I asked to speak to a manager he gave me the same BS excuse that "Idiot James" had and wiped their hands of the situation. But I am a fellow sup!! Man to man!! *crickets*....

He said I am more than welcome to return the gift to the store when I receive it to which I replied... "If I had known that the experience of ordering online would have been so sub par to just walking in the store, I never would have ordered in the first place." That got nuthin. I tried everything! Shipping it faster? No. Cost off my order? No. Smug bastards! So my next logical step as my friend Allison as taught me... I wrote a scathing letter...

I have NEVER experienced such POOR customer service than I have this holiday from abercrombie kids and abercrombiekids.com. In the interest of saving time and trying to add a little more cheer to my brother's Hanukkah, I decided to order two items from this website. It has taken 4 full business days to package my order of 2 items. I can understand this problem if I had ordered 10/15 items, but I ordered TWO!

As of today it has yet to ship and when I called customer service today to inquire about what happened they had absolutely no explanation beyond an extremely blunt, "Sorry its our busiest time of year","There is nothing I can do to help you" and my absolute favorite, "You should have it by Christmas"". I would just like to point out that there are other holidays in this world besides Christmas and sometimes people need their gifts before the ever popular December 25th.

When I suggested that then maybe there should be some verbiage on that site that says shipping time could be lagged due to the busy holiday season and that saying that your order should arrive in 7-10 business is not enough, I was told that they are not going to say that just for one time of year...which coincidently is your busiest time of year as I was told 10 times.

Furthermore when I requested to cancel my order, conveniently enough I could not because it had already been packaged. When I asked if my order could be send via a quicker method, they said it was not possible.

I find this extreme disregard for customer service so unacceptable from such a large corporation. I have had absolutely NO problems from any other corporation this holiday season and I find my experience dealing with your rude customer service so lacking in compassion for my situation that I am seriously considering the further purchase of anything online or in-store from any Abercrombie facility ever again.
I have yet to hear back....
I am so OVER Abercrombie! Who's with me??
Sorry Maxxie..You will just have to settle for a different company that pays Indonesian children 5 cents an hour to make your clothes. Abercrombie ruined Hanukkah...Bastards...