testing…testing…1, 2, 3…

So you may notice that the title of the blog has changed (but not the URL yet). I am testing out Interravision to see if I like it… Faithful readers will recall that I had a vote a little while back to help me choose a new blog name. My dad freaked a little bit yesterday when he saw my blog for the first time:

ONLINE TERRARISM? THE GOVERNMENT IS GOING TO COME AFTER YOU!

OK, not quite that dramatic, but you get the point. Interravision got the most votes, so I am testing the waters to see how the response is. Thoughts? Terralicious came in a close second… but I don’t think that’s what I want.

So… how does it look?

Super heroes

Thank God for girlfriends.

Last night started off relatively low key. Geary called on her way back from NYC and we made plans to meet up later that night. Since Ashbloem is having a very wicked affair with MDWSA, it’s no wonder the evening ended up just as it did. Let me recount the events of the evening for you.

Since feeling, once again, “low key”, we decided to hit my favorite Irish Pub… as we all know by now it is my favorite because of Hottie Bartender Who Gives Me Free Drinks. When Ashbloem and I walked into the bar, we (well, I) was sorely disappointed to see that some other dude was tending bar. Whhaaattt??? The fact that he was also Irish provided little consolation. Oh well. The evening suddenly took a whole different spin now that HBWGMFD wasn’t there. We sat down anyway and had a drink. I pulled out my trusty little camera, and started taking random bar shots again, so lucky for you readers, I am able to illustrate many of the events of the night.


scenes on a table

Geary arrived shortly later like a Tornado, having just come from talking to a friend who is at a pretty serious personal crossroad. We talked about this friend, the problems with families, and why the damn waitress couldn’t Just Be Polite. Conversation was both animated and serious with lots of gesticulation (mostly on dear Geary’s part).


Tornado Geary

We had some food… we had some beers…


Beer Goggles

It gets to be about 11pm or so and we decide to call it a night…. after all it is a school night for Ashbloem and Geary (I have today off). BUT WAIT! WAIT JUST ONE SECOND!

Literally as we are walking out the door, I spy HBWGMFD by the kitchen. HE IS HERE! But we are actually moving out the doorway into the rain, coats on, umbrellas out, already forming our goodbyes. Fun Ashbloem, stops me (Sensible Terra) on the sidewalk just outside of the bar and we have a conversation that sort of goes like this:

FA: Let’s go back
ST: What? And do what? Are you kidding? We’ve already left the bar.
FA: I have a plan.
ST: You have a plan? What plan?
FA: Don’t you trust me?
ST: No.
FA: Fine, then we’re leaving.
ST: What is the plan?
FA: I am not going to tell you, you just have to trust me.
ST: Grrr.
FA: What’s it gonna be, huh?
ST: Come on, just tell me.
FA: No. Do you want to call it a night?

Let me break from the story for a minute. I have known Ashbloem a LONG time. She is probably my longest running adulthood friend that I regularly hang out with. I know if she has a plan, it is likely a good one, but will definitely push me beyond my typical social boundaries (not that this is a bad thing). The question I should have asked was, “How far does your plan push me?”. Back to the convo:

ST: OK, I trust you.

We trot back into the bar like giddy schoolgirls looking for the hunky quarterback, as if we hadn’t just left 5 minutes before… Geary and I faithfully following Ashbloem like ducklings behind mamma duck. She walks confidently up to the bouncers and says, “Is Sean here tonight?” They respond, why yes, he is tending bar upstairs.

Upstairs? I didn’t even know there WAS an upstairs. But there is, and here is evidence of it:


the bar upstairs

So, once again in line we follow the lovely A. up the stairs… and THERE HE IS. My memory of the rest of the evening is like watching a videotape in fast-forward. Ash and Geary did their best to encourage some flirty conversation between me and HB. Ash would say things like, “Oh, you can rent out the upstairs for parties? Wow! Terra and I have thrown some great parties when we lived in Amsterdam. They were really fun. If we threw a party, would you come to it?” (he said he would). Ashbloem would nudge me under the bar when it was my cue to say something witty, and she laughed heartily at all my quips. We laughed… we had more to drink.


mixers

At one point of the evening HB and I were debating who is more romantic: Irish or Italian poets. He challenged my theory by daring me to write a limerick and handed me a napkin and a pen. I took on this challenge very enthusiastically (it came together quite quickly, and wasn’t so bad if I do say so myself). He seemed genuinely impressed, after Ashbloem did a dramatic reading, and said he would have it framed behind the bar (yeah, right).


There once was a bartender named Sean…

After that things started to deteriorate a little bit (well, at least my memory does). All the while Geary was having a grand old time chatting up a nice man she met sitting at the bar. Ash and I had more to drink and I took even more pictures.


things deteriorate

This is around the time that Ashbloem thought it would be a good idea to walk behind the bar throw her arms around HB and exclaim, “Terra take a picture of me and HB!” I wasn’t even jealous for a second because I knew EXACTLY what she was doing… giving me an excuse to capture the Hottie Bartender on digital film. That’s exactly what good girlfriends do for you. She took one for the team. That is, if you can call throwing your arms around a gorgeous hunk of an Irishman a sacrifice.


Ashbloem “helping me out”

The evening came to a close… we asked for the tab and none was produced “It’s already taken care of my dears”. God bless HBWGMFD. God bless girlfriends. It’s going to be a fun summer.


That’s what friends are for

Boys of Summer

Yay! Just scored 5 amazing tickets for Sunday’s Red Sox game against the Pirates. I can’t wait! It’s my first game of the season and the seats are AWESOME– right alongside the 3rd base line.

I have 2 extra tickets… anyone want to come along? I’ll give ya a great deal.

The weather is going to be a perfect 75 degrees and sunny– ideal baseball weather!

No, I haven’t always been a Red Sox fan. Growing up near Baltimore it was illegal not to love Cal Ripken and the Orioles. But since moving to Boston I have fallen for this team of idiots. I was so excited when we won the World Series last fall that I ran to the streets at like 1:00am in my pajamas with camera in hand. Here is my favorite shot of a random fan:

Cinque Terre

A few years ago my good friend Mara from high school (Winston Churchill H.S. in MD) called me up in Amsterdam to tell me she was coming to Europe for a wedding, and wouldn’t I like to meet up somewhere for a long weekend? “Mais Oui!” I replied. After some debate, we decided to go to Cinque Terre by the Italian Riviera. Both Mara and I had studied in Italy, but never visited this spectacular region.

Cinque Terre, translated as “The 5 Lands (or villages)” is a string of beautiful small towns hugging the rugged coast of the Ligurian Sea connected by about 5 miles of hiking trails. The five towns are: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. Here is a map of the area:

We stayed in a simple but friendly pensione in Monterosso, one of the bigger of the 5 towns, and the town with the best beaches. These villages were not accessible by road or train until the 1960s, so development of the area has been very limited, unlike more accessible areas of this region. Here are some pictures of my very memorable trip:


Vernazza seen from the hiking trail

These towns are spectacular for many reasons, but for me it was all about the colors that assault you at once. The blue of the sea; the green orchards passed along the trails; the brilliant painted reds, yellows and oranges of the house facades; the blue fishing and leisure boats parked in the piazza waiting to be deployed; the purple flowers climbing up the balconies.


blue boats waiting to be deployed

Beyond the hiking, there is still a lot more to see and do in the region. Mara and I took a kayaking tour around the coast and stopped to do some snorkeling in some of the inlets along the way. Sadly I just learned that our guide, Sean Risatti, no longer has his guide business up and running. He was excellent!


rugged coastline

We went in early summer, before the tourists had really descended upon the area. I wouldn’t want to visit in the peak of summer, but I bet late September would also be a great time to visit.


lots of empty chairs on the beach = not too many tourists!

I flew into Milan from Amsterdam and then took a train to Monterosso. The train station is in the middle of town and you can walk to wherever you might be staying from there. Easy! There are tons of cafe`s and restaurants too… most of which serve seafood caught that day by the local fishermen. Yumm!


flowers in full-bloom

The picture below was taken from the trail between Monterosso and Vernazza. I recommend stopping at one of the local fruit stands or grocers before heading up the trail so you can have a little picnic along the way. That’s what Mara and I did and it was the best lunch ever (and easy on the wallet too).


orchards and gardens along the way

The hikes sometimes take you right through the center of the villages you are passing. I passed these kids heading into Vernazza and couldn’t help but laugh at the stereotypes being acted out at such a young age. The little girl was sweeping and cleaning the patio. The little boy ignored her and played his gameboy. I was thrilled to be able to catch it on film so discreetly.


Gender roles are learned early

As you would guess, the area attracts all kinds of artists and travelers. There were people paintings and taking “real” pictures all over the place. Check out this guy:

Four days really weren’t enough to get a full appreciation of the area, so I guess I will just have to go back someday!

Here are some helpful links if you’d like to visit Cinque Terre yourself:

This guy Adrian has a great collection of information and online resources.

Fishnet: Kate Little, a Texan expat now married and living in Monterosso, used to have a friendly little internet cafe which was a gold mine for tourists. She has now closed the shop, but still has a very informative website online.

Monterrosonet is also a great site with a ton of info.

Many people think that Rick Steves more or less ruined Vernazza and the Cinque Terre region by letting the cat out of the bag. I guess it would be hyprocritical of me to get on that bandwagon being that I am blogging about the proverbial cat myself.

I think that Fodors online is a great travel source in general. Their message boards are a rich source of information. Anytime I am planning a trip I consult the experienced travelers who post regularly on their site. My other general travel source is Tripadvisor; I also frequently write reviews on their site of the different places I have traveled to.

Life on Lijnbaansgracht

Most of you know that I spent 4 years living on the Lijnbaansgracht (pronounced Line-baans-gratt, or something like that anyway). It was a sweet little apartment formed in the shape of a little square doughnut. Every room had these huge windows; and the front room/kitchen and bedroom overlooked the houseboats parked on the canal (gracht). I used to spend hours reading and looking out the window in the chair pictured here:

The view was beautiful, especially in the summer when the windows, which you can see go almost floor to ceiling, were open as far as they would go (they were heavy bastards). Little metal pegs in the window sills kept them open. Swans were frequent visitors to my part of the canal and you could often smell the brownies (not the magic kind), muffins and cookies baking down the street at Gary’s Muffins.

Sometimes the evening the light would turn a funny shade of blue– especially in the summer when the sun didn’t go down until nearly midnight. I never understood this phenomenon but tried to photograph it once, seen below.

In a fit of manic energy, in the wake of my breakup with M., I decided to paint my bedroom a happy yellow color. I thought it would improve my juju. As you can see, it didn’t turn out so great. It was a little too lemon, and too little butter in color. But it was bright and it made me happy.

My kitchen, more like cooking corner, was pretty small. Check out the refrigerator under the counter by the window. That was it. Nothing larger. At first this really offended my big honking huge american refrigerator complete with ice-maker and water spigot sensibilities, but I got used to only being able to chill 15 items at one time… eventually. That reminds me, do you know you cannot buy ice anywhere in Amsterdam? If you throw a party you have to ask all your friends to BYOI.

Here is a shot of the living room. The apartment was 100% carpeted in this horribly ugly thin brown wall to wall carpet. It was hideous! I tried to hide it as much as possible with throw rugs and furniture. The basket on the floor used to hook to my bike… ideal for carting 15 items from the grocery store home to put in the micr0-fridge.

It was a sad day when I had to move back home and watch them remove all my worldly belongings from the apartment via the windows.

Even though I do love my apartment in Boston, nothing will ever compare to the gezellig little place I had for four years on the Lijnbaansgracht. Awww, yeah. It was great.

Weekend Debauchery, a means of escaping the heat

To quote Robin Williams in Good Morning Vietnam:

The weather out there today is hot and shitty with continued hot and shitty in the afternoon. Tomorrow a chance of continued crappy with a pissy weather front coming down from the north. Basically, it’s hotter than a snake’s ass in a wagon rut.

Yes, that may as well be the weather forecast for Boston lately. Hot, shitty, crappy and pissy. That about sums it all up.

So, to get out of the heat and to find a little fun, there were lots of good-time activities taking place over the weekend:

Thursday Night: Company summer party at the Acqurium
Friday Night: Bloody Marys, Pool and Darts at Flat Top Johnnies
Saturday Night: Good Time party at Ann & Dabney’s
Sunday Night: Black and Blues (Guinness and Blueberry beer) at Big City

Karaoke is on the agenda for tonight, so we’ll see how that goes.

I have started carrying my camera around with me more often and have been taking more random shots of random things that catch my eye. I especially loved the light in the pool hall. Here are some of my favorites from the past few days:


Playing pool at Johnnie’s


drinks and mints


synchronized shooting


the pool hall


rack ’em up


darts


Party Girls


JB


martini glasses


Choose your beer

Vigeland Park: Oslo

One of my favorite stops on my recent trip was a visit to Vigeland Park in Oslo. This 80 acre sculpture park contains 212 statues by Gustav Viegland.

Here is an overview shot of part of the park:

On the bridge of the park there are 58 bronze sculptures representing various stages of life. Here are a few of my favorites:


Motherhood


Childhoood


Adolescence


Lust


Love

The park ends with one final sculpture: The Wheel of Life. From the park’s website, “The wheel is a symbol of eternity and is here executed as a garland of women, children and men holding on to each other. In a sense, this sculpture sums up the dramatic theme of the entire park: Man’s journey from cradle to grave, through happiness and grief, through fantasy, hope and wishes of eternity.”

Kees van Dongen

While at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg I bought 2 prints I am going to have framed by Kees van Dongen. I can’t wait to have them hanging in my living room– they’re going to look fantastic hanging over my reddish-orangish couch.


Red dancer


Woman With Black hat

More later…. I am pressed for time this morning.

Travel Snapshots

I realized today that I am just not going to publish detailed accounts of my recent trip, as I had started to do. I started to think its like having to sit through your geeky neighbor’s slideshow of their summer vacation- BORING! But maybe once in a while I will throw in a favorite snapshot and a little short story. That’s probably the better way to go, don’t you agree?

So here is one:

While in Oslo we were fortunate to be there on their National Constitution day and got to watch the Children’s Parade. I love this picture of this little Norwegian girl singing her heart out!