Technically awake

October 26, 2014

Well it would appear I am some percentage of home. (That percentage is probably 100).

The second flight leg (from Dubai to Melbourne) was ok. Food was very good. Had trouble sleeping as it was daylight outside for most of the flight – plus it was the time of day when I was convinced I was supposed to be awake on Europe time – but did get some sleep.

Flight was reasonably smooth with only very minor bumps. I think going mostly over ocean rather than over indonesia helps (I have this correlation-based theory that flights tend to be bumpier going over the equator and going over the land/sea barrier; going over indonesia you do a lot of those things).

The retrieval of luggage and going through customs was pretty smooth. I had some stuff to declare (as I had some “animal products” IE leathergoods, and some “food products” IE chocolate) but because I was in business my luggage was off in the first dozen or so and so I was through customs before most people had collected their luggage and it was all pretty quick.

Nothing much of real interest to report.

Crashed pretty early last night; went to bed around 7 and slept pretty solidly for a while. Woke up around 1AM and couldn’t sleep for an hour or so, then back sleeping until around 7:30 this morning.

Have also just unpacked the suitcase.

I bought a LOT of stuff for mostly other people. Quite a few things that I did not even slightly remember, mostly from the scandanavian countries. Very large gift-pile on my bed right now 🙂

Thanks all for reading (especially those who commented 🙂 ) and I’ll talk to you all really soon 🙂


Dubai Us

October 24, 2014

So I’m in Dubai. I’m in transit for a couple of hours, with about an hour and a bit left before I head to the gate.

Flight over was pretty smooth, but non-trivially delayed. There were some initial delays because some passengers were missing; then some further delays because someone had some kind of medical complication and had to be whisked off the plane.

We were then subjected to the standard pre-flight safety stuff – in three languages – and then some annoying emirates adds – in 2 languages. Very annoying.

So we got in to Dubai about 45 minutes to an hour late. Found the gate easily enough, and had to shuttle across from one terminal to another, but that all worked pretty smoothly. The airport seems pretty good.

Plan is to try and go to sleep a couple of hours in to the flight to try and sync up, but suspect I’m going to immediately crash when I get on the plane; Didn’t sleep a lot on the first flight.

I *did* watch transformers, age of somethingorother, and it was hilariously bad, as expected. A couple of quite neat moments, but excessively long and needlessly complex.

The “best” section is an action sequence in Hong Kong which appears to have been sponsored by the Chinese Communist party.

Approximate actual dialogue follows:

<Giant robots appear and start fighting>

Chinese Gentleman number 1: “Oh no! What can we do!”

Chinese gentleman number 2: “We must contact the Central Party Authority! They will save us!”

(next scene, somewhere in Beijing)

Chinese General “Scramble fighter jets! The Central Party will always protect Hong Kong!”

Random terrified Hong Kong citizen “Look! Jets from the central party!”

it was gold.

But really, how you manage to make a fight scene in which Optimus Prime rides a giant robot dinosaur boring I don’t really understand, but well played, Michael Bay!


Stairy Stairy night

October 23, 2014

A museum, I’m sure, that I’ve mentioned before
And to enter, climb stairways times seven
And your breath will come back, post a brief heart-attack
When your better, you’ll see what you came for
ooooooh…and the stairs are fun, yea…

4768451-xs

Gimmie a place with stairs
long, marble stairs
Shining, gleaming, narrow, wide, or wax’ed
Race me up the stairs, there, three whole flights or longer
Railings or grip tread – I wanna go up yonder!

radio-dial

When you’re alone, and on on a europe trip
You sometimes wish, that there was a lift
(a little bit, a little bit, a little bit)
But on these tours, on which we visit
Sometimes you have to try
to live and let climb
to live and let climb
Live and let….

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
Stairs…
In your multitudes
Scarce to be counted
Getting us in to…
Museums we like
You are the entry point
Climb’ed for sure
As we walk up each flight
As we walk up each flight

Oh, stairs, how we love you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_mrNQBLSMU  *

It is the last day of the trip. I have 30-odd hours of being in airports (plus some time travel) meaning that when I last got up it was Thursday morning and when I go to bed it will be Saturday night.

Of course I’ll be doing my damnedest to sleep on the flights because screw being awake for the next bajillion hours.

No pictures – I appear to have packed the camera cable. There will be a last handful in the post-trip blog, probably.

I woke up about an hour and half earlier than planned, full of vague trip related panic. This was a bit of a pain in the backside, as it was several hours before I needed to check out, and about 16 hours before my flight actually left. I hadn’t got the call from the people picking me up from the hotel yet, but figured I could call them if that continued, or they’d call the hotel.

Wandered off to the Pantheon because Pantheon. It was around 9:30 or 10, but it was pretty much completely empty – certainly the emptiest I’ve ever seen it.

Pottered around the area, looking in some random touristy shops for ways to spend the last of my cash-euros. Found some additional churches (how unlikely, in Rome!).

Still hadn’t heard from the car people. Sat down somewhere and worked out my phone was refusing to connect to any of the networks, fiddled some more and still couldn’t make it.

Trucked back to the hotel and connected to their wifi and googled the rome Emirates office and got the hotel to call them. The person spoke english, which was great.

What was less great was when I started explaining the issue and the person said “uhhhh…so, this is the cargo office. Do you maybe want the customer service office?”

yes, yes I did. Not sure why ‘cargo office’ is the first number google hits.

A call to them later and the driver company was to call the hotel. I headed out again and did some more generalised pottering and had a somewhat mediocre and definitely overpriced lunch – in which I’m 90% they gave me tap water and claimed it was bottled – and then back to the hotel. They had an email, all was sorted, yay.

After which I should probably have done more but didn’t really. I wandered around for another couple of hours – having a delicious afternoon chocolate moose at the Lindt store and buying some provisions (totes necessary).

Went back to the hotel around 4 because (a) I needed to use the loo, and (b) I was in full on travel mode (and frankly had been all day) and wasn’t really taking much in.

Some time passed. Around six one of the staff came to me and said “oh, the driver is hear a little early – he wants to know if that is ok?”

I kept from my chair and practically hurled** my suitcase at the driver, and we were on our way.

And now I’m here. The emirates lounge in rome isn’t amazing, but it sure beats being outside. I think I’ve got a few hours (4, yuck) in Dubai, so I’ll probably do a lightning update blog from there.

* to save you all the effort of finding it, the response video is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sDbHwz6JGzo

** well…you know, I thought about it and then slowly moved it because it is rather heavy


a capitol line of sight

October 22, 2014

Last full day in Europe! (Although I’m in Rome until 10 tomorrow night so possibly will be ‘In europe’ technically by midnight, but probably not).

Today I wandered off to the Capitoline museum after doing some light present shopping.

The Capitoline museum is on rome’s second largest hill (not the largest, which is the Palatine)

capitoline out

Before going, I’d doubled checked with the hotel staff I knew where I was going (As in – was heading to the right point on the map). The lady at the desk confirmed it, but said “oh, a lot of stairs!”.

I mean really, look, I can climb stairs. (or find elevators; that works too).

To be fair, she isn’t wrong about the volume of stairs, but we get by.

The Capitoline museum isn’t amazing on a second trip, but it is very nice. Lots of Roman statues and bits of marble walls and such.

bishop

This “The Bishop!” joke bought to you by such classic “the Bishop” joke as 2009’s “The Bishop!” and 2011’s “The Bishop!”

What it does have that I think I had missed last time is a reasonable cafe with really very good views out over rome.

iew1 View2

As it is Rome, the views are heavily dominated by church domes.

(Side story: This morning one of the guest was having a bit of an argument with one of the staff (I should probably have intervened). She wanted directions to a church the taxi driver had pointed out to her. The staff member was trying to explain that, actually, Rome has quite a few churches, and with no extra information finding it was going to be hard. For reference, Rome has north of 900 churches).

The rest of the museum is nice; a few of the paintings are rather pretty, although there is nothing really famous inside.

xw annun

and some nice marble sculptures

ohnomonkey

OH NO! STAIRS!

trip

Bought some stuff in the shop, and then came back to the hotel for a little while before heading back to Sopra Minerva and then on to Piazza Navona.

Sopra Minerva was again very nice. I think they were setting up for a concert, and also having what I am going to call some kind of mass (Because as far as I can tell everything catholics do is some kind of mass, although it might have been a funeral) in one of the side chapels, run by some dudes in green robes. (It was in the section directly opposite the one with the Lippi painting).

No, my mother had been very keen for me to visit Fra Angelico’s grave, as he is her favourite artist. She’d given me some slightly vague directions (Or some directions I’d listened to slightly vaguely) but I did eventually find it.

Or at least the grave of someone called Beato Angelico which I hoped to hell was the same person (which as it turnout it is).

beato

stufff

Piazza Navona is a bit of a tourist trap, but a tourist trap with some pretty statues and fountains and some decent cafes.

ont new

The first of these fountains was closed both the previous times I have been in Rome. I now regard it as something I have seen.

Sat down at one of the cafes to have a tartufo which was slightly spoiled by having a cherry in the middle of it. Also somehow picked I think the only cafe in the whole place not directly opposite a fountain.

I continued on doing a little dinner scouting, as there was a place the hotel had recommended as a dinner option. Didn’t find it, but did find a little patisserie and so got to have a last eclair for the trip. The eclair was good, but…while I was buying it, the chef (or owner, but I think chef) walked out of the kitchens with a lit cigarette, walked past me, looked outside, opened the fridge at the front to adjust some cakes, and walked back into the kitchens. It was a little gross.

For dinner I ended up going to a somewhat pricey (but very good) Cafe just the other side of the non-functioning Trevi fountain.

trevi

I did not join the line of people trudging across to see the non-functioning fountain. I did find it funny/annoying that people were still throwing money into the empty fountain, despite several signs telling them not to do so. (They’d even set up a mini fountain near the entrance with a sign that essentially read “If you must throw a coin in something throw it in this”)

Tomorrow is a big “don’t know” as far as what I will do; probably not a huge lot unless someone suggests something fantastic and easy to do. Will try to go to the pantheon again. Don’t really want to buy too much as I am about to do a final repack, but a few small things should be ok.

There is likely to be a blog tomorrow afternoon, and then possibly a quick one from Dubai, and then one on Sunday or so when I am a bit recovered from the trip. Looking forward to seeing everyone.


See ’em

October 21, 2014

There was a request for more outdoor photos.

Request allowed!

r1

My plan for today was to go to the colosseum and roman forums, so you might have got it anyway, but as long as I don’t mention that I sound like I’m being helpful.

I mean…

chu

I also discovered another 3 churches within about 200 meters of my hotel. Only went in to one, and then only briefly.

mad

I’d booked a tour of the colosseum, the roman forum and the palatine hill last night. I was also planning to go to the Palatine museum because of the excellent museum and lovely cafe that, in theory, were there.

Had a couple of little errands to run – some headphones to purchase, and I needed a hat. Both were done pretty quickly and easily. Hat isn’t an amazingly nice colour, but it was the nicest they had plus slightly deeper than my old rome one (which I suspect is in Florence somewhere. Or in the bottom of my bag). so slightly more comfortable to wear.

My plan was to wander down to the colosseum and do the palatine museum before the tour started. It was a reasonably easy walk. Some roman prettiness occurred.

colo

After wandering around for a little while, I determined that the Palatine museum had to be on the Palatine hill, inside the combined Palatine hill/forums area, so bought a ticket and went in. I figured my tour wouldn’t cover the museum.

After walking up some amount of stairs, I reached a fairly small looking museum building. After going in to the fairly minimalist museum, I tried to work out how to get to the roof, where someone had assured me there was an excellent cafe with a great view. After making some enquires, they assured me that there had never been a cafe there.

I began to suspect someone had confused their palats and capits.

I did discover that a house on that hill that is, apparently, occupied

live

I can imagine it being hard to convince people it was your real address. “Where do you live?” “Number 3, Palatine hill, Rome” “…please quit lying to the police, Madam!”…although possibly made easier by the fact that I think it is a nunnery.

Anyway, a pleasant walk was had. Wandering back down to the colosseum* area I waited for a little and found the tour. There was only 5 of us, so it was pretty easy and pleasant.

b flare

The guide was pretty good, and walked us around the colosseum (some stairs may have occurred) explaining quite a bit. She was v. good at pitching things for those of us who knew a bit and those of us who knew little to nothing. (The guide was a trained archeologist, but as she explained, rome always has more of those than their are jobs for them). I learned (which I might have already known) that the section of seating in the colosseum (because there is only 1) was built by Mussolini, who apparently wanted to rebuild the whole thing and stage events there, but then it was difficult and he got bored and/or declared war on England and France.

From there we went to the Palatine hill, took some photos of things, and went back into that tiny, tiny museum.

as

DSC02325 ollos

We had a look at the Circus Maximus (Although it is just a piece of ground now, with no real surviving anything), the temples of various roman emperors (most of which have at some point or another been turned into catholic churches; one of which, the one pictured above, is apparently a gothic or part gothic church, so Sopra Minerva may not be the only one)

After it was all done, I walked back here and was pretty damn beat, having been walking for nearly all of the previous six hours ( or at least standing, which is functionally equivalent, I’m sure). Dinner was somewhere very nearby.

cake

(Note: this is not where dinner was :p)

* Girls (or anyone else who isn’t sure) do you know why the colosseum is called the colosseum? answer in the comments!


Hamburger selfies

October 20, 2014

The title may need some explanation. You’ll get it soon enough.

I am in Rome.

This morning began by leaving the hotel in Florence after a brief attempt to weigh my luggage somewhat unsuccessfully. (Why don’t all good hotels have luggage scales? You’d think this would come up more often).

After a brief death-taxi ride to the station, and a ride up in the very odd campo di marte elevators (Which you have to keep the button pressed in to do anything), I was on the train and then pretty rapidly in Rome. (It’s a little over an hour).

Getting a taxi at Rome Termini is an exercise in pseudo-organised chaos. Like many stations and airports, you queue for a taxi and the taxis line up…only in Rome the taxis are three lanes deep, and sometimes the driver one behind the front gets out and gestures at someone offering their services (and then the ones in front engage in what I imagine is a polite conversation about the weather).

The driver got me to the hotel…well, very nearly, after I googled the location for him – and after a brief trip up in the elevator I had dropped off my luggage (the room was not yet ready) so I dropped off my luggage and wandered off to the pantheon.

I was mildly surprised to find that about 10 meters from the hotel is a quite large church.

Then I remembered I was in Rome, and saying “My hotel is next to a church” is like saying “That museum had some old stuff in it” or “That renaissance painting was better than that modern art” because I mean obviously. Rome has so many churches they don’t even put most of them on the map. Hell, I went into 4 different churches and ate outside a fifth and wasn’t more than 500 meters from the hotel at any stage during the day.

Anyway, a wild church appeared. It was mostly not super exciting, but the roof had a cool 3d thing going on.

ruf

For anyone who can’t tell, the roof is flat (or nearly flat; it might have a slight curve, but I don’t think so) and starts roughly in line with the archway at the edge of the picture.

I next travelled off to the Pantheon, took one look at the queue, and decided to come back later.

balloon

some kid sure isn’t getting their balloon back.

My plan was to go to Sopra Minerva, and I’d got the hotel to mark it on the map.

A slight complication was that on the map the damn pantheon is backwards, so I went the wrong direction. It wasn’t all bad; I found a Lindt shop and stopped in for a gelato, and then found a pharmacy, which was great, because now I have some antibacterial cream and some proper padding for my foot after showing one of the chemists the problem. She was very helpful and I’m able to walk somewhat faster now than I was this morning 🙂

Got directions back to Sopra Minerva – which was a temple to Minerva that, much like the pantheon, the Christians had stolen and retasked. It is quite a pretty church.

All marble columns and statues and so on.

hey mikey

artsss

Coming back, I saw something I haven’t ever seen before; the back of the Pantheon. (Or I forget, one of the two)

n

Weirdly fascinating. And makes it even clearer that it was originally clad in something (probably marble) that someone (possibly a pope) pinched later.

Checked into the hotel, relaxed (and possibly dozed) a little, and then went back out to the Pantheon.

raph

ross

Don’t recall seeing these crosses previously. There are a whole set of them at differing angles around the walls of the dome.

Briefly wondered if they were part of some elaborate game mechanic, and if you turned them all the right way up it would open some kind of secret level*.

pan

The hotel had recommended some places for dinner, so I wandered towards one of those.

As I did, I saw a guy holding out his arm in the classic “I am taking a selfie” pose, sitting at a cafe I was  walking sort of past. I looked away at something else, and then looked back, and he was still doing it – only from this angle I could see that what was in his hand was half a hamburger. I mean, maybe it was just weird lighting, but I swear it was half a damn hamburger and the guy was doing what appeared to be trying to take his photo with it, perhaps to post to Instahamb. I obviously didn’t stop and stare or take a picture, but if this becomes some kind of crazy new trend, you heard it hear first.

Came across another Church (surprise!) and wandered through the open doors.

gel

While taking this photo and looking around, I noted a church worker closing the main doors. Turns out they closed 30 seconds from then, so I left.

Dinner was only ok (their fish of the day was octopus. Some eyebrow raising occurred) – but the view was pretty good. Some music being played by what I am going to call a Cellist and a guy on guitar for part of it.

musicinner

* I believe the level is called “being beaten and arrested by the police”


In a Firenze

October 19, 2014

Today was a large amount of walking and doing stuff and my feet are somewhat the worse for wear for it. (I mean this; there is a somewhat unpleasant thing on my right foot but you don’t really want to know about that.

It’s late, I have a lot to say, but I’m going to have to try and keep this one brief.

Went back to the Uffizi. I’d used my florence-card get into the short line mode, so I briefly thought I might have to go in the pleb line…but it was two hours long. So using my powers of “nuts to that” I went in the middle line, where you can reserve a ticket, reserved a ticket for 15 minutes from now, got in the short line, and was in. Total time queuing apron 20 minutes.

Despite the fact that I have been to the Uffizi what an uncharitable person may describe as an unhealthy number of times, and one of them was as recently as Friday, I still see things I haven’t* seen before.

duck virtue dog lady cal

I may have seen that last one somewhere before.

Anyway, several enjoyable hours were had.

I then decided to do some further shopping for other people (and for me). The Uffizi shop is a lot better than most of the german ones, in that it exists, but really poorly set up. The shop is actually about 5 shops, one after the other. You can backtrack (even to the one up a pile of stairs, which I ended up having to do). But it’s a giant pain in the butt, especially when you buy something in one of them and then the next one has a better range of similar things.

Then some further shopping ensued, making sure I had at least most of the things that had been requested of me by both myself and others.

Then it was off to chiesa di ognissanti, which is the church where Botticelli is buried. It being a sunday, the church was closed off to tourists until 4. Got there a bit early, so some annoying hanging around occurred, and then it was opened up by what I think was probably a franciscan friar or similar (as I think it is run by the Franiscans).

The church was essentially empty. I couldn’t see the last super, as it is owned by the state and only open 3 or 4 mornings a week.

Could see this.

heli

The marker for Boticelli is just off to the left inside this area.

On the…what is the term for the little fencing-off bit? Anyway, on that, there were a whole series of handwritten notes in a variety of languages left for Botticelli. Quite a few of them where of the “thanks for the paintings’ variety, but there were a couple of “please help my son get married” and “look after my kids when I am gone” sort of messages, which just felt really weird.

letters

from here, I did the longish walk back to palazzo Vecchio, (I think? anyway) and did a quick tour of it. Unsurprisingly, it is much as I remember it.

The main room is …beyond huge.

hamber

Those things on the floor in the middle are chairs for 2 or 3 hundred people, so…big.

Also, why is Hercules bullying this cute little hydra?

tiny hydra

Anyway, then it was back here. Some amount of repacking had to occur to fit everything in, so I might not buy much in Rome.

Also, I think there might be elephants on the roof. Keep it down, people.

See you next weekend, everyone ( or some portion thereof)

* And/or don’t recall