Sunday, November 20, 2011

PKOV Much Ado about London and Rome: last day

Oh noes! The last day of my awesome European vacation! Well, we didn't waste it, that's for sure! In the morning we went to the Villa Borghese, which was the gallery that my cousin REALLY wanted to see in Rome. She's already been to Rome, so this was pretty much the only thing on her to-do/see list. The park was nice and nearly empty in the morning. Sadly I couldn't take pictures once inside the gallery, but you're just going to have to take my word that it's pretty awesome. The collection is amazing. This is where I discovered my love for Bernini's work. Apollo and Daphne? The Rape of Proserpina? Wow.

Afterwards, my cousin wasn't feeling well, so it was pretty much me exploring the Colosseum while my cousin sat somewhere. She was well enough to walk around the Palatine/Roman Forums at least. Then, as a spur of the moment, we decided to go to the Bocca della Verita, the Mouth of Truth. Much love to Roman Holiday!! Alas, my cousin has the shot (1 picture per person damnit). We almost didn't get to take a picture because it was almost closing time and there was a pretty long line. After a quick walk around the church (yes, it's more than just a face with a gaping mouth that you stick your hand in. The Mouth is in front of the entrance to a church).

And so, we had our last dinner in Italy. And gelato. Never forget the gelato.

San Crispino's is recommended in Fodor's travel guide and has very good reviews if the several newspaper clippings in the store are to be believed. Anyway, I LOVED this place. The workers were trying to make conversation to some Koreans who were ahead of us. The worker greeted the kid correctly, but then started mixing Japanese phrases which made me giggle inside. It made me realize they must get so many tourists that they pick up various phrases in all these languages. Stingy that they don't allow samples, but I guess if you're the best you could do what you want. My last gelato in Rome was a mix of plum and yogurt. Plum gelato. How awesome is that?!

Well, the next day, my cousin and I parted ways: her to Las Vegas, me back to Japan. I had a short layover in Frankfurt and another one in Beijing that was a close call. For some reason, the worker in the airport sent my luggage to Beijing. But because of my flight times it made it really complicated. I had to figure out how to check-in my luggage, then re-check myself in (security and all) and get into my damn plane. It involved changing terminals, asking dozens of workers where the hell to go, and a lot of running. Damn, I'm getting angry just thinking of that time. Ugh. That airport and I did not get along. Well, obviously I made it in time and made it back to Japan safe and sound. And jet-lagged. I stayed up the whole night after returning home.

That pretty much sums up my trip to London and Rome. If given the chance, I'd like to see other cities in Italy (perhaps the more northern ones like Florence or Venice). I'd go back to London in a heartbeat.

I feel guilty about blogging about Rome and London, in a blog I set up for my experience in Japan, but well, this trip happened *while* living in Japan, so to me it counts. So there. Sayonara Europe-related posts, and welcome back Peachy Keen in *Japan*.

Wait I lied. Goody of the day: 

Hot dog in Frankfurt. Come on, I *had* to. I've been craving a decent hot dog since, forever so this hit the spot. Damn, now I'm hungry.

Okay, *now* back to Japan.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

PKOV Much Ado About London and Rome: Day 12

The highlight of my trip: the day tour of the Amalfi Coast and Pompeii!! Typical American that I am, I am ashamed to admit I didn't know anything about these 2 amazing places. My very generalized summary/thoughts?

-If you ever want that vacation house by the ocean, Amalfi Coast would be the place.
-Amalfi Coast: famous for linen, fashion (the town of Positano), and home of limoncello (the hardest lemonade you'll ever have in your life)
-I want to live in the Amalfi Coast.
-Pompeii: lolz at the penis markers pointing the way to the brothels
-Damn those Pompeiians sure were smart. So many things we use in our everyday lives *they* thought of. That's CRAZY.
-Pompeii was the first party town (suck it Vegas!)

The tour was through Viator and it was one of those small, 10 person tours. We just winded our way through the coast in a little van. Our guide was awesome: funny, nice, and knew his stuff. During the trip through the coast he would point out which star has what villa. He mentioned Bill Gates, Denzel Washington and a couple more stars.

I need to marry a rich man. Right now.

After seeing the coast, I thought Pompeii would be dull in comparison. I mean, it's just ruins now right? Well I think if it weren't for our guide, it would've been, but Gaetano was so awesome (and his accent so epic) that I had a blast. I wanted to hear everything and I became really fascinated with the doomed city. I think what really made the tour work for me was how casual the tour was. Gaetano didn't speak like he was reading off a textbook; he spoke naturally and effortlessly without sounding like he's done this thousand of times (which he has probably did). He made the history come to life. Bravo for Viator for this tour!

Geek Alert!

Okay, there's another reason why Pompeii was so awesome. But I didn't know about this until *after* my trip. So my awesome guide, Gaetano, is apparently so awesome that he was the one who gave David Tennant a tour around Pompeii while he was shooting 'Fires of Pompeii' for Doctor Who. My brain pretty much broke after discovering this. After all, this whole trip started *because* my cousin wanted to see that man in Much Ado About Nothing. What can I say? It was fate.

After returning to Rome, our night was free so we just had dinner (an amazing Caesar salad) and possibly the best gelato ever at St. Crispin Gelato. Seriously if you go to Rome that's the place to go.

And so I leave you with a video of my Pompeii tour guide, Gaetano with David Tennant. He definitely didn't look like that when I met him (for one thing he has hair in this video), but his voice is unmistakable. 

There's a better and longer version which could be found on Youtube as well.

Oh! and tasty of the day: Mocaccino, which I guess can be a cafe mocha for us.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

PKOV Much Ado About London and Rome: Day 11

Today was the day we took the tour of Vatican City. Of course before the long day ahead my cousin and I had to fuel ourselves!

A frappucino in Italy. Can't get any better than that.

The tour we went on wasn't really a tour. It pretty much got us into the city without the long wait. The first thing we did after entering was head straight to the post office to send postcards to friends and family from the smallest country in the world! Unfortunately I didn't prepare and only had my parents' address on hand. I ended up buying postcards for friends to send from Japan >_> Not one of my best moments...

The Vatican museums were interesting. What really fascinated me was how much art the Vatican commissioned. What amazed me even more was that the sections we were able to see is just a tiny portion of what the Vatican holds. And even *then* this is just a small portion of Vatican City itself. The walkthrough of the museums was just a maze of various paintings/sculptures that eventually led us to the main  attraction: The Sistine Chapel.

I was born and raised Catholic (like pretty much all Filipinos out there), but I don't really practice it so I wasn't moved as I should have been when walking around the Vatican museums. That being said, it was when I entered and saw St. Peter's Basilica where I really felt the presence of the divine. I think it would even touch the hardcore non-believers. It's so majestic, so grand that it was unbelievable that I was even standing there and taking this all in with my own eyes. The Pieta, the Basilica are things you see in textbooks and documentaries; to actually BE there was...yeah, unbelievable. I still have a hard time thinking I was actually there. It just made me think how grateful I was for having an opportunity to be able to do this. So I went to one of the altars (this section was actually open to people who wanted to pray, so you couldn't take pictures or be loud or anything), and for the first time in a long time, I prayed and gave thanks.

The Vatican plus the Basilica took up half of our day. With no other set plans my cousin and I decided to head on over to the Pantheon. Afterwards we took a well deserved break near the fountain, then ate dinner at one of the many restaurants in the courtyard facing the Pantheon. As if our feet weren't screaming in pain, we walked some more and took a night stroll through the Monument of Victor Emmanuel, the Forums and the Colosseum.

Random thought: I'm not sure if it was this night or another night, but while walking through a street with small restaurants waiters would be calling out to try and get us to come in. I was greeted in Japanese, Chinese (really?!)...only ONE waiter got it right and called us 'beautiful' in Tagalog. HA.

Non-tasty of the day: Ciambella (Italian donut). I'm thinking maybe I just got one from the wrong place. :/

Next: Day 12, Beaches and Volcanoes...

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Castles and Diabetes in a bucket

Today I went with a couple of JETs to Bitchu-Takahashi to see Matsuyama Castle, the highest castle in Japan and one of the original 12 castles in Japan still standing. Although it was raining a bit, it was really warm and the hike made us work up a sweat (which was kind of gross in the rainy, kinda muggy weather). The view from above made it worth it.

As much as I'd like to say that I did this for the sake of seeing more of Japanese culture, I admit my true intention was something totally different. In Bitchu-Takahashi there is a cute little restaurant called Chateau. Although their food is tasty, what makes this place stand out is their parfaits. Now if you have a whole bunch of parfait-loving friends, you can get one of their bucket parfaits. The one we ordered (there was 10 of us in the end, the other 7-8 people bailed out) was the smallest one of their bucket sizes. The larger one has this one in a BIGGER bucket filled with sugary death.

This parfait is NOT a lie

Let's see if I can remember what was in this monstrosity: a whole pineapple, several waffle cones with ice cream, kiwi, oranges, peachespp, sherbet, apples, crepes, chestnut, matcha, chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry ice cream, mochi, azuki beans, corn flakes, baumkuchen, oh and of course Pooh-san (which was also ice-cream). Chateau even has a challenge for their parfaits. If you eat one of their less daunting parfaits under a certain time limit you get that parfait for free.

...I made sure to eat light prior to this. The result?

The carnage...

So don't let *anyone* tell you that Japan has *just* small portions and is very healthy. *That* cake is a lie.

Friday, November 4, 2011

PKOV: Much Ado About London and Rome Day 10

Ha, this day was an...interesting day.

Today was the day we decided to take a day trip to Tivoli to see the Villa D'Este. The day we went, August 15 just happened to be a holiday, Ferragosto or Assumption Day. Italians take their vacations seriously, because honestly it was almost a ghost town when walking around Tivoli. Thankfully, the villa was open as were some restaurants so it wasn't like we were stranded or anything.

To think that someone can live in place like Villa D'Este boggles my mind.

Comes with crazy fountains and a water organ! Buy this villa today!

The villa was so awesome we wanted to try and see Villa D'Adriana as well. Little did we know at the time that Adriana is a bit aways from D'Este, let alone Tivoli center, so we walked around the town following signs to Adriana FOR NOTHING. Definitely tiring/frustrating since we had to time our return trip back correctly since apparently almost EVERYTHING closes down on holidays >_>

After heading back (which was a bit of a headache. Kind of happens when the 2 languages you speak aren't the main languages in the country you're visiting), we grabbed dinner and walked around St. Peter's Basilica

This day wasn't a total waste. How can it be: I was in Italy! The lesson I took from this is if you ever plan to do a day trip outside Rome, make sure it's not a holiday.

Tasty of the day: starting off the day Italian style with a  Mocaccino. aww yeaaaah

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