March 31, 2004

Athens, Samos...

Aegean Airlines took me from Rome to Athens on Saturday afternoon as I ended ten days of Italy. Katie Kincaid, fellow employee of the MMoCA greeted me at the airport and brought me to her apartment in a neighborhood just behind the stadium built for the 1896 Olympics and where this summer's opening ceremonies will be held. She lives with 13 other students from UW and Penn State who are "studying" at the Athens Centre. There doesn't seem to be much studying going on, but they all seem to be having a good time. I didn't make it to the Acropolis, but I did attend an authentic Greek Name Day party, go to a flea market, drink Ouzo and visit the National Art Gallery. (We also went out to eat at Friday's and saw "Runaway Jury", but nobody's perfect)

After three Athenian nights, I hopped on a ferry for the Northeastern Aegean island of Samos with almost no idea how long the ride would last, what I would find on board, or what would be waiting for me on the island. Well, the ride lasted seventeen (17) hours and I slept on the floor of the ferry for a few hours in between trying to decipher whether the PA announcements were being made in English, Greek, both, or neither. But after an uncomfortable ride the ferry finally pulled into port at 9AM this morning and things have been going really well on the island since. I bought my ticket for Turkey about ten minutes after arriving and will depart tomorrow at 4PM or so. After walking around for a half hour or so, I then found a pension to stay at where I think I'm the only guest and I have a little kitchen, a deck, and a bathroom all to myself.

I think the town I'm staying in is called Samos (like the island), but it's hard to tell. Supposedly the ferry dropped us at Vathi, but that town is behind the town called Samos... I think. Regardless, there's a weird feeling here. Tourist season is about to begin, so many of the shops are stocking up on merchandise or doing repairs, but there are no tourists. There are about eight moped showrooms for every supermarket and hardware and furniture stores are pretty plentiful too, presumably so hotel and resort owners can stock up. (Thankfully there is at least one nice internet cafe though.)

I think the past 24 hours mark the first day I've spent on this trip without even seeing a native English speaker. It's creeping me out just a little. My Greek vocabulary consists of about three words, but slow English and hand gestures go a long way here. Hopefully that trend will continue in the next few weeks as I travel up through Eastern Europe.

I still haven't been able to upload any pictures since England, but I have a few ideas and hopefully this weekend in Istanbul people will be able to visually catch up with me.

Posted by Peter at 08:05 AM | Comments (7)

March 26, 2004

Lucca, Siena, Cortona, Farneta, Roma...

Still no pictures to post, but I've got my fingers crossed that it will happen soon. Rachel and I finished out our time with Sigrid and Roberto improving our Italian and seeing the countryside of northern Tuscany (and eating really, really well) before pushing further south.

We moved on to Farneta to a future bed & breakfast owned by the parents of a former co-worker of Rachel's. We didn't really know what to expect except that they probably wouldn't speak English. Yes that prospect sounded as awkward to me as it does to you. Fortunately they were very sweet and welcoming. I've never seen anyone burn calories as fast as Senore Taffa did trying to speak English. He actually was quite understandable and did not hesitate to make use of his English-Italian dictionary. Senora Taffa spoke basically no English, but was kind enough to speak Italian very slowly to Rachel and myself so we could make an attempt to understand it as Spanish and French respectively. Hopefully we didn't get too spoiled in our week+ of staying for free and eating piles and piles of authentic Tuscan cuisine. We also managed to see the less-touristy-but-just-as-beautiful-as-Florence towns of Lucca, Siena, and Cortona before parting ways.

My whirlwind tour of Italy is wrapping up in Rome tonight as I'll fly to Athens tomorrow. I toured the Vatican today with Omar, who is from the Phillipines but works for Proctor and Gamble in London and sounds like a Canadian, and Juliana, a journalist from Brazil who speaks some sort of a mix of Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian well enough that the Italians we ran into could understand her surprisingly well. The various Vatican monuments and sights were quite impressive, but it struck us as odd that the church had so many riches on display while there were homeless mothers of multiple children outside begging for change. Fortunately, the Italian strikes managed not to affect us at all because we walked to the Vatican and caught one of the few running buses back. There are a few bottles of Peroni chilling in the hostel fridge for me and Omar (Juliana is on her way home to Brazil), but I think it will be an early night so I can leave tomorrow at 8AM for the airport.

Posted by Peter at 01:49 PM | Comments (0)

March 21, 2004

Pisa, Pugnano, Cinque Terre, Firenze...

Don't worry, I'm still alive. Since Cambridge I've been busy caking my boots with Tuscan mud. Rachel has joined me at Sigrid and Roberto's place and we've been eating well and having a general fun time. More info and pictures to come, but my time is running down at Internet Pitti and I have to go meet Rachel in front of the Leonardo da Vinci statue outside the Uffizi. Go Badgers! Ciao!

Posted by Peter at 09:08 AM | Comments (2)

March 14, 2004

More London and on to Cambridge...



Thursday night I spent at a hostel called Hyde Park Inn in an 8 bed dorm room. Though there was a French girl talking in her sleep (mumble, mumble, mumble, merde!") and a chorus of snores from some Americans and Spaniards, the reason I didn't get any sleep was surely from jetlag. I really felt like Bill Murray's character in "Lost In Translation" except without the cool pool. Friday I did some sight-seeing with some American girls from the hostel. One of them was from U. of Illinois and the other three were from Hanover College in Indiana and they're all studying in Belgium and were only in London for the weekend. We saw some touristy things and stopped by the Tate Modern which was really impressive. Right across the Millenium Bridge, I ran into Knightrider Ct., but alas, Kit was nowhere to be found.

Friday night Matt put me in touch with his friend Tasha from U of C who is now living in London. Tasha and I met her friend Fay and some other folks out at a pub near King's Cross station. It was nice to get a real pub experience with some locals. Unfortunately English beer is pretty sad. All the pubs I saw have essentially the same beer selection and none of those beers are that good. That didn't stop me from trying many of them however.

Saturday morning I made my way to Portabello Market near/in the Notting Hill section of London. The weather was relatively nice and I could have bought a lot if I had space to store souvenirs and the money to buy them with. I spent the rest of Saturday cruising around checking out other touristy attractions including Big Ben and the London Eye. I also searched out a building I had seen from the distance that looked like a huge glass egg. I found it just north of the Tower of London, but it's still under construction so I couldn't enter it or find out anything else about it. Matt later told me it will house a Swiss reinsurance company.

Spotted on the tube on Saturday: A boy opening his EA Sports Cricket 2004 video game, a woman that looked like how Chris Farley used to look when he dressed up in drag on SNL, a guy that looked exactly like Jamiroquai holding a puppy that looked like Lady from "Lady and the Tramp".

Saturday afternoon I took the train to Cambridge, leaving from King's Cross station platform nine (near platform 9 3/4 which is from Harry Potter I guess). The train ride was really pretty, but I had a hard time keeping my eyes open. Matt met me at the station and we went out to dinner in the beginning of a joke: An American Physicist, a Hungarian Economist, and an Irish Mathematician walk in to a restaurant. Cambridge is a lovely little city despite the randomly changing weather common to all of England. The last photo above is a group of Japanese tourists who asked Matt to take a picture of them on Cambridge's only hill. I thought I would join in the fun.

Ryan- I missed a few underground crosswalks too, until I tried to follow a "subway" sign to the tube and realized that that's their word for underground crosswalk. I think I saved my legs a bit on Saturday and covered more ground by taking the tube as much as possible, so thanks for the tip.

Annie- No bangers and mash yet, but I did have fish and chips. Haven't run into any princes either, but if I see them I'll try to keep the other ladies away. I have minded the gap along with all the other things it seems necessary to mind such as doors and steps.

Pauline- It's weird to think about what could have happened had I decided to begin my trip in Madrid rather than end it there. Thursday night in the hostel all the Spaniards were huddled around the little TV in the lounge watching BBC news. There was definitely a little buzz of tension around the hostel crowds for a couple days and it will be interesting to see if things will change at all because of that tragedy. Almost everybody in London seemed to be talking about Madrid on Friday as I think would be the case in the states as well. I haven't run across any Beatles tourist attractions yet, but Matt and I may head to Liverpool in the next couple days, so that could change. Maybe we'll take a pilgrimage to where Ozzy crashed his ATV instead, who knows?

Rachel- I swear it's just a coincidence that I'm going to the same places as you in England. I'm not following you or anything... but I am going to Italy next, so maybe I am. I'll email you about meeting up in Pisa.

Posted by Peter at 12:37 PM | Comments (3)

March 11, 2004

London calling...

London is living up to its billing as being cold, overcast, dangerous for American pedestrians, and expensive.

I don't think it's been warmer than 40F all day. And it looks like tomorrow will be the same. At least later in the weekend it's supposed to warm up a bit, but that's when the rain starts.

No matter how much you try to prepare, backwards traffic is just freaky. I don't think I went 15 minutes today without thinking "what the hell? there's nobody driving that car!" Especially as a veteran pedestrian of Madison, I'm used to being aggressive when trying to cross streets, a behavior which I'll have to curb this week. Though the "Look Left" and "Look Right" signs help, the best strategy so far has been "Look Everywhere... Multiple Times". Then there's that strange lack of street signs. I'm normally a good navigator, especially when I've got a map, but when you can walk 6 blocks without any indication of what street you're on, nobody wins. Am I missing something?

After logging probably 10 miles on foot today (and a long jet-lag induced nap), I'm off to find some pub grub and a pint.

Posted by Peter at 03:11 PM | Comments (6)

March 09, 2004

Last night stateside...

For a while this afternoon, Baldwin was showered with the biggest snowflakes I have ever seen, although unfortunately they don't look as big in the picture. In the evening I took the LIRR in to NYC to meet Jason and see the pharmacy he works at. He was nice enough to accompany me across 10th Ave. to a deli for the last New York slice of pizza I'll have for a while.

In preparation for tomorrow's departure I was doublechecking itineraries nad noticed that my return flight schedule to Madison from New York had some problems. The flights were as follows:
Depart NY - 5/30 8:30PM
Arrive Chi - 5/30 9:51PM
Depart Chi - 5/30 6:05PM
Arrive Mad - 5/30 7:00PM
I called Travelocity to explain to them that modern physics has shown it impossible for me to make that connection and was told initially that I would have to pay a minimum $80 change fee plus whatever the fare difference was. After holding for a while to find out exactly what it would cost to come home, I was disconnected as my train went underground. When I called back later on I spoke to a different customer service agent, who called the airline and smoothed things over in such a way that I can fly all the way home at no additional cost to me (besides being on the phone for over an hour).

The manager, hearing the disturbance, gives the international cry of, "It's okay, big misunderstanding, everything's fine. Except for the guy at table four, who's unconscious." Calm returns to the restaurant, and the waiter signals for a busboy to get a stretcher for table four. The busboy, however, being dyslexic, mistakenly brings table four a year's supply of radishes. Crisis averted, the customers take their seats and finish their meals.

Posted by Peter at 11:39 PM | Comments (2)


I've posted an approximate itinerary here. I have some vague (and some specific) plans about where I'll be visiting in each country, but if you have any suggestions for where to go, post them in the comments section or send me an email.

Posted by Peter at 02:28 PM | Comments (1)

March 08, 2004

Paul & Rita...

We had a wonderful dinner tonight in Huntington at the house of Paul and Rita... not pictured above: Barbara and Ginger.

Posted by Peter at 10:45 PM | Comments (0)

March 07, 2004

To catch up on the rest of the weekend...

Friday (3/5) started with a brief train ride from Bronxville to Pleasantville, where Katy picked me up. Driving through Westchester is beautiful for two reasons. The first is the gorgeous terrain which is accentuated because of its proximity to NYC. The second is that all the cars are sweet, luxury rides. After seeing Katy's new home and showing off my basketball skills against people half my height and less than half my age, I took off for the city again and saw the Chuck Close exhibit at The Met. I met up with Katy later and we ate at a Portuguese restaurant on the West Side.

We walked around Manhattan for a while and saw a pair of guys going to the premiere of "Starsky and Hutch" that had dressed up as Starsky and Hutch. The only reason we figured out that they weren't just a couple of guys out on the town was that one was wearing a bad fake mustache. Later on I got a little warning for the rest of my trip when it took us what seemed like hours to find a bathroom late at night in the city. Thankfully I was not forced to resort to public urination, because that's waaaaaay too cliche.

Saturday was spent mostly wandering around in Chinatown, where I was tempted to buy what must have been several pounds of fortune cookies for only $2.25. Think of the possibilities. The weather was erratic and it was fun watching hordes of people scramble for cover when sky would shift from clear to overcast to threatening to raining-cats-and-dogs in a matter of seconds. Luckily I was equipped with my water-proof boots and jacket, so I scrambled not.

On the train to Princeton Saturday night I met an Electrical Technician for the U.S. Postal Service (though unfortunately he works for the real postal service and was unfamiliar with the works of Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello). He encouraged me to send resumes everywhere when I get back, including to the USPS and he had no qualms about telling me his salary and the salary of several people he worked with that had positions similar to what I would be seeking (I think).

On the iPod Saturday: Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Beastie Boys - Ill Communication
Draw your own conclusions.

(Note: The picture above is not where Katy lives, but is an example of a "normal" house in the area)

Posted by Peter at 11:07 PM | Comments (0)


While Barbara, Eric, and Louise enjoyed the Philadelphia Flower Show today, I explored the rest of Philadelphia. I spent most of the morning reading in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which is currently exhibiting Manet, not that you could tell by looking at the front of the museum. I also stopped by the Rodin museum and saw one of many thinkers that must exist throughout the world.

At lunch I met up with Nora, who lives surprisingly close to the museums and downtown Philly and she managed to show me around all the nice parts of the city (or only nice parts of the city exist, which is hard to believe considering the size). The picture of Nora was taken on her roof deck.

We walked around on South Street which Nora described accurately as a seedier version of State Street and then followed Penn's Landing along the Delaware River. Although the lines at Pat's and Geno's didn't seem worth the authenticity of their cheesesteaks, I did have a Yuengling, which Nora correctly suggested that I order by simply asking for a "lager". It's very similar to Leinenkugel's in many ways.

Posted by Peter at 09:49 PM | Comments (1)

March 04, 2004

It was a dark and stormy night...

Thursday marked my first visit to the treehouse of Peg and Sherwin. There's enough fun in that little treehouse to fill several Westchester mansions and accordingly, a good time was had by all. Though my stay in Mount Vernon was brief, I'm looking forward to returning in May when the area will be greener and hopefully the treehouse lounge will be ready for its intended use, lounging.

To cap off the night, Sherwin made the Bermudan national drink for me, which is called a "Dark and Stormy". I documented every step of the process and as you can see the result was delicious.

(Special prize for whoever can identify both of the objects Sherwin's holding in the second picture above.)

Posted by Peter at 11:35 PM | Comments (1)

March 03, 2004

And I'm Off...

I arrived safely in New York tonight after 2 1/2 dull hours in Midway Airport in Chicago (iPod saves the day!). You can see here the view out my window just after take off and also the view as we were approaching LaGuardia. Well actually, that was the first time we were approaching LGA. After briefly touching down, we immediately started ascending again much to the confusion of the passengers. The pilot came on shortly thereafter and assured us that in the interest of safety they had decided not to try to land on a runway that contained another plane. Good thing they caught that one.

I'll try to update this fairly often with pictures and updates about where, what and how I'm doing. Keep checking back...

Posted by Peter at 07:56 PM | Comments (0)