20 July 2008

Paris Coming Soon

Our final days in Florence....

Things have been good here, but I think that we are, or at least I am, ready to leave.

Paris calls....

More soon.

16 July 2008

Florence!

A nice day today in Florence -- a late start, a delicious lunch, and a walk up to the Piazzale Michelangelo (a beauitful vista overlooking the city) and to the Benedictine church, San Miniato Dal Monte.

We arrived in time for vespers at San Miniato, and listed and watched as the Benedictine monks sang spooky, moving songs in Latin. Afterwards, we headed back down to town on a path that took us through a grove of cypress trees and stately villas. It was crazy to pass these villas, each of which had huge swaths of land connected (replete with olive groves and other trees), all this just outside of the city. One minute after passing olive groves, we were passing bars and restaurants.

My coworker, John, and I went out to enjoy what seems to be a particularly Florentine custom -- the hour of the "aperetivo". Tons of local bars sell cocktails and wine and offer free food (pastas and salads and finger sandwiches and the like) to all that partake in their beverages.

And now, I am back at the hotel, kicking back and enjoying some free WiFi and a bit of relaxation. I'm including a few pictures from today as well as a video of a bit of the vespers. 'Tis a bit shaky and I began recording in my bag so as not to interrupt the singing with my camera's beeping -- but the sound is great and you get a bit of an idea of what the experience was like.

Enjoy.

*update: the video will not upload right now. I'll get it up soon.



Pictures

I'M posting a few pictures from Rome that I've stumbled upon whilst uploading them onto my computer. I found them worthy of sharing, if only to give an idea of a few of my recent activities that I've mentioned here.

Treat yourself.

THE ROMAN FORUM


ITALY IN A NUTSHELL (AKA: Why doesn't someone take down the old posters before putting up a new one?)


FALSE DOME (IT'S A FLAT CEILING)


DINING AT GIANNI'S PLACE

Florence!

I have arrived in Florence, land of beautiful streets, museums, David, and hordes of Japanese and American tourists. We (the staff) are happy to be here, though sad to have left the very real world of Rome for the somewhat more Disney-fied (literally -- there is a Disney store next to our hotel), more expensive city that is this place. The kids, on the other hand, seem downright ecstatic to be here (so far), as this town is much more manageable and easier to get to know that Rome is.

The days have been busy, though I don't really feel like describing every place we've visited and sight we've seen. Suffice it to say that we've seen some pretty damn cool art (Bernini sculptures, Caravaggio paintings), some beautiful churches, some freaky places (the bone church), and we've eaten some damn fine food.

I would like, however, to highlight one particular dining experience that we enjoyed our last night in Rome. Victoria brought us to a place that she knew from here days living here, in the neighborhood of Trastevere (somewhat trendy, near the Tiber river). The restaurant is run by a man named Gianni, who cooks food in his kitchen (his home kitchen) and serves a prix-fixe meal in the street in front of his house. In the wintertime, he serves food in his kitchen, at tightly-packed tables.

Here is how we ordered our entire meal (with little to no explanation of what was going on) -- We merely responded to the following questions:

1. White wine or red?
2. Pasta carbonara or amatriciana?
3. Chicken or squid?

Beyond the food that we answered in these cases, the waiter brought us over appetizers (a potato/carrot/garlic puree, beans, bruschetta), bread, watermelon (as dessert), and a bottle of limoncello with three glasses at the end of the meal. The food was stellar (I rate it among the top five meals of my life, never have I tasted chicken so flavorful and tender, so perfectly cooked) and the experience amazing, quirky, and very "real" feeling (not cliche, though it could easily be so).

After the meal, we shared a few laughs with Gianni and company, took a few pictures, and read the brief New York Times article about the place that was hanging on the kitchen wall. You can read that article here.

Enjoy! More to come soon.

14 July 2008

A FEW PICTURES

ME IN FRONT OF ACROPOLIS, ATHENS


SKELETON FLOOR, ROME


ROME, COLLISEUM


ST. PETERS, THROUGH A KEYHOLE

13 July 2008

capuchin crypt

I have not got much time to write at the moment, but I wanted to post some images of a place that I visited yesterday, the Capuchin Crypt in Rome.

- Long Story Short - These monks (between 1500 and 1800) decorated chapels with human bones and mummies (of their deceased fellow monks, as well as a few aristocratic children and poor Romans). You can read about it on Wikipedia here.

It was, without a doubt, one of the craziest places I have ever visited. Unfortunately, I was not allowed to take pictures inside, so I have included some shots that I found on the internet. In some cases, the quality of the photos leaves something to be desired.





10 July 2008

The Eternal City

I have arrived in Rome safe and sound. I have spent the last few days eating well, walking the city streets, and strolling through ruins.

I will have pictures and more description soon.

07 July 2008

Older STuff

I just published my last post, but I figured that I would take advantage of this super-speedy internet and put up a few photos of the recent pig-roast in Asheville. I've decided to not include the somewhat more disturbing pre-spit, pre-cooking photos, and err on the side of discretion.

I'm also including a video that I made here of a man using something similar to "worry beads". I forget the term for this thing, but it is basically a piece of string with a ball at each end. Men and women here use these (and true worry beads, which more resemble rosary beads sans crucifix) to calm themselves (thus the term, "worry beads"). I bought a pair, but I still haven't figured out how to make them dance as this man does. The video quality isn't the best, since I was stupidly facing the brightly lit outdoors, but you can get the point.

By the way, thanks for everyone's comments of late. Keep 'em coming.

Enjoy.











video

Photos

All is going swimmingly here in Athens, Greece. Today is our last day -- tomorrow we leave bright and early (6 am) for the airport to catch our flight to Rome.

Yesterday we visited Cape Sounion, a lovely spot a few hours outside of Athens, and the site of the impressive ruins of a temple dedicated to Poseidon. On the way back we hassled the amiable bus driver until he consented to drop us at the beach for an hour. 'Twas my first time in the Aegean sea -- lovely temperatures and extreme salinity would describe it well.

Here are a few photos of the trip thus far for all to enjoy. Treat yourself!


MARKET


FISH, MARKET


MEAT, MARKET


FISH, MARKET


TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER



ACROPOLIS BY NIGHT


DELPHI, ATHENIAN TREASURY


BUSTED SCULPTURE, ARCHEOLOGICAL MUSEUM

05 July 2008

Athens

Below is a copied version of the blog that I wrote for Abbey Road. The Abbey Road blog is closed to those that aren't associated with the program, but seeing as I've not disclosed anything personal in this post, I figured that I'd share with y'all. And this way, I don't have to write the same thing twice.

I'll write some more soon, share some pictures, and tell a bit more about my personal experiences thus far in Athens. This blog should suffice for now, along with the declaration that Greece seems to be an amazing, beautiful place. The food is spectacular, the people are interesting (sometimes quite friendly, sometimes downright rude, often loud, though occasionally reserved...they are still an enigma to me).

That's all for now -- Check out the post below and remember that I wrote it with the parents of my students in mind. I'll return with my regular writing style soon.

--------------------
*Note: This post was written yesterday, but I had problems with publishing it.

Hello to all from beautiful Athens, Greece!

This is Chris Bond, your dedicated Program Director and Resident Blogger, here to offer you a bit of a taste of our recent travel and excitement.

We arrived on Tuesday evening to Athens, after running through JFK boarding areas (we were changed to an earlier flight, as our scheduled flight was running late and would have caused us to miss our connecting flight in Paris), sitting on a long transatlantic flight (cramped seats, delicious French fare), biding our time in the Paris airport, and finally flying for the last time.

We were all tired and sweaty, though a quick shower for some fixed that, and our excitement at having finally arrived carried us through the night. We dined the first night at a local restaurant (here in the Plaka neighborhood of Athens). The food was delicious and plentiful -- Greek salad, cheese pies, tzatziki, and kebabs -- and we greatly appreciated the cold, crisp water after our intercontinental experiences.

This neighborhood is beautiful. It is a traditionally residential area made of winding streets and old apartments at the foot of the Acropolis. Walking to dinner along the steeply angled streets, the Parthenon rising above us, elegantly lit and shining, we all rejoiced at our luck to be in such a beautiful place.

On Wednesday we began to settle in to our new (temporary) home. We took a walking tour around the city, getting to know some of the neighborhoods, visiting Parliament, the Athenian Temple of Zeus, the Arch of Hadrian, the 1896 Olympic site, and the beautiful city gardens. For dinner, we brought a picnic up the Acropolis. We all joined in making sandwiches and Greek salad, and for dessert we enjoyed oranges and cherries. Afterwards, we joined locals on a rocky mount that rises up high above the city, offering a gorgeous view of the nearby Acropolis, the surrounding, sprawling city, and the mountains that border it all.

Thursday was another beautiful, cloudless, very hot day here in Athens. We walked up the Acropolis again, and this time had the opportunity to go inside and tour the magnificent ruins. The Parthenon was, of course, the center of attention, though the entire site was truly beautiful. John and Victoria led a very interesting class in the shadow of the Acropolis, and we all learned a great deal about the Golden Age of Athens.

In the afternoon, we toured around some more of Athens, discovering some lovely areas within walking distance of our hotel. After showering and resting (out of the sun for a bit), we walked over to the Psiri neighborhood, where all enjoyed a delicious dinner and a stroll around the busy pedestrian streets.

And finally -- today. We left this morning on a bus to visit Delphi, an absolutely stunning archeological site about two hours outside of Athens. This was the famous temple site where the most famous of the Oracles offered her prophecies to pilgrims (prophecies, which, we learned, were most likely based on visions caused by the ether rising up through fissures in the rock upon which she sat).

There is still much to do in Athens, and our next few days will be busy with museums, archeological sites, expeditions. The students seem extremely excited by Monday's planned trip to the beach outside of Athens.

I will try and get some pictures up soon for all to enjoy, though at the moment I'm a bit pressed for time (tonight we'll be attending a dance exposition at a theatre on a hill) at the moment. Until then, please feel free to contact me for anything you need, and have a great day.

Chris