As I am flying home tomorrow, one could ask if it's even worth sitting down to write this Log, though the journey would distinctly lack closure and completion for me if I didn't wrap up this phenomenal ride for (and with) you all... Particularly those of you who have inquired lately into the freakin' status of things!
Okay. So, I wish I could say it's hard to believe it's been so long since I last wrote, but the truth of the matter is that Venice feels eons ago.... Luckily, my memory (and nothing else, thank you very much) is like an elephant's.
Though the remainder of our time in Venice wasn't as dramatic as the first 24 hours, it still wasn't lacking in Venetian ambiance- despite the fact that we did not have the city's most quintessential and cliché experience, a gondola ride. Marlon especially was disappointed by this, though the compulsive rebel in me was actually quite impressed that we made it through the city without falling prey to its biggest tourist trap. What we did do was come across a down-to-earth jazz club pizzeria, where a couple of ladies took pity on our meager beverage budget and insisted we have the rest of their very nice bottle of cabernet (definitely an instance where the glass- or shall we say bottle- was half full). It turned out these ladies were crew members on the cruise ship "Princess", and we all mutually regaled one another (including the waiter, who had no other patrons) with travel tales for a good portion of the evening. From them we learned "cheers" in Turkish (which I'm sure you'll all be hearing from us in the future), as well as what to expect in our next destination of Turin, which were "hippies, but with morals". Hm.
Regardless, Turin made a wonderful impression right away, because everything of interest to visitors was actually in the same vicinity as the train station (almost like they actually thought about it or something). While I'm not sure about "hippies with morals", the residents appeared well-learned, down-to-earth, and quirky to be sure, very like the city itself, which came off like a bohemian intellectual who has long since stopped concerning themself with society (Turin was the capital of Italy until 1945). Obviously, my kind of place, which was fortunate as our actual reason for coming there didn't pan out (we had been anticipating visiting the controversial New Age community of Damanhur). In my opinion, anyway, the real reason the universe had guided us there was the first consistently good food of the entire trip, particularly salads, for which the waitress almost received a hug every time she presented one. (Marlon and I have joked extensively about this trip seemingly being "The Search for the Perfect Salad", though just a decent or good one would have been an accomplishment too.)
With that, our time in Italy was over. (Those of you who have seen the movie Spaceballswill appreciate that we consider our pace through Italy to have been comparable to "Ludicrous Speed!" though we probably did more there than anywhere else.) We caught a train (or three, or something- anyway) from Turin into France, specifically Nice. Our first day in a country is always the hardest, so that along with some other factors made Nice not very nice. We'd been consecutively in big cities for the past two weeks (along with Everybody Else, etc.), so unfortunately, returning to the city where I'd spent my seventh birthday just felt like another obligatory stop in another congested maze rather than a charming stroll down memory lane.
Anyhow, another one of my psycho- I mean, psychic- moments got us to the small inland city of Narbonne, where we were able to comfortably acclimate to France (horribly offending only a few French citizens in the process, by the accidental and automatic use of the Italian "grazie" instead of "merci").
Finally, then, we were able to set our bags down for an entire week, with the generous accommodation of Marlon's cousins in the Cote d' Landes. Having access for the first time in over a month to amenities like a kitchen, a DVD player, and an affectionate canine companion (not to mention one of the world's most famous surfing beaches a stone's throw away), we were very content in the little town of Seignosse. Marlon's cousins were enthusiastic hosts and when we weren't sleeping all morning or spending all afternoon on the beach, made sure to show us a good time. (Most memorable of all, perhaps, being our tour of the Basque country, where we sampled dangerously delicious traditional Basque pastries and a polar bear-sized dog almost ran our car over.)
After a stop-over in Blois (pronounced "blwah", yes really) to check out a castle, we arrived in Paris. I had officially had a case of homesickness since Nice and was experiencing a state of exhaustion I'd never known before, so despite several memorable childhood trips to Paris I wasn't expecting great things from it. Thus, I was really impressed with how relaxed and in-my-element I immediately felt there- though our exhaustion still kept our 7 month anniversary and Marlon's 24th birthday on a far mellower keel than we had anticipated.
Now here we are in Amsterdam, where it has been pouring rain for the past two days, somehow a fitting end to our epic and transformational "tempesteuros" adventure. I wish I had some wonderfully wise and deep metaphors or perceptions to close it with, but really, truly, my brain... yeah, see, I don't know where that though went. Anyway.
All of our love,
Arielle & Marlon
Internet Point, module #11
DISCLAIMER REGARDING FOLLOWING LOG: I feel it is necessary to apologize to those of you who have not watched the movie "A Room With a View" to the point of knowing it intimately like my family and I (or at all). Just bear with me and note that phrases in both quotes and italics are meant to be in an English accent.
As I touched on in the last Log, we made it to Italy a bit later than initially intended (which probably has a lot to do with the fact that this trip has been based entirely on intentions rather than actual plans, in fact the only entity known to possess an actual itinerary for us is the universe itself). Thus, we are here, along with- as Marlon put it- Everybody Else and their mother, cousin, sister, and aunt (hi, Mom, Brynna, Angelique, and Aunt Sally! Wish you were here!). Obviously, the less positive side of this is that when I am attempting to photograph famous monuments from the best possible angle, when we are ambling wide-eyed through the historical streets with our gelato and, indeed, when we are kissing in some of the most picturesque locales in the world, we are doing it in the same elbow space as Everybody Else and their mother, cousin, sister, and aunt. The more positive side of this is that we are discovering just how expeditiously and thoroughly we can experience and see all of the quintessential elements of a city (and indeed, some of the well-kept secrets) in the same amount of time it takes the average tourist to put their bags down and change some money.
Starting with Rome:
Possessing an entirely new lease on life with the aid of our freshly-laundered garments, we set off to see what Rome was all about (obviously a crucial step to living out the old adage, when in Rome...).
First was Vatican City and the Sistine Chapel, which we'd anticipated popping in and out of though it turned out to get to the chapel you were required to tour the entire Vatican Museum (and pay for it, monetarily and otherwise), and not even in a fashion of our own choosing but as specifically dictated to us by ropes and arrows (I suppose it was only fitting, as their religion doesn't allow one to wander from the path either). All in all, I left there with additional admiration for the involved artists, the severest case of claustrophobia I've ever experienced, and basically just feeling creeped out beyond description. Oh, and confused: if anyone has an explanation for there being a brass replica of The Death Star (from the Star Wars movies) in the Vatican courtyard, please let me know. Seriously.
From there we proceeded to the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum, and Constantine's Arch, and treaded on half of Rome in the process. We also completely accidentally stumbled across some ruins and the colossal building Italians refer to as "The Typewriter"- I can't remember its actual name- though I'm sure I'll surprise none of you when I admit that the highlight of the day for me was bonding with the carriage horses outside the Colosseum. In fact, my demeanor was so noticeably improved by the encounter that Marlon has vowed to find me a horse to pet at every opportunity!
From Rome it was on to Pisa, the true City of Love as far as I'm concerned. From the moment we arrived at the train station, everywhere there were couples engaged in passionate affection, and overall the place had the purest frequency of anywhere we've yet been. We were stopping there only for one night and only because its Leaning Tower is quintessential Italy, though both Pisa and its famous monument ended up utterly enchanting us, despite- or perhaps because of- us viewing it all after dark. (The Star Essence Angels will be tickled to hear that I dropped some Earth Balancing Essence at the base of the askew monument- the security guards seemed unable to decide whether or not this was a threat, so they let it be.)
Leaving Pisa wasn't easy, though we had Florence to look forward to. As soon as we were shown to our room, I went to the window and (after fumbling briefly with the modern window latch) said with a delicate English pout, "I thought we were going to see the Arno." (Which was fun despite being ridiculous, as we'd lost the volition to carry our bags any further a full fifteen minutes away from the river. Of course, it became even more ridiculous when there was a mix-up regarding how many nights we were staying and we were required to move to a different hotel the very next day, giving me a second opportunity to say it- which I took. This also allowed us to humor ourselves extensively by doing our own take on "Don't you agree that on one's first visit to Florence one must have a room with a view?" by saying, "Don't you agree that on one's first visit to Florence one must have a... room?")
Florence was every bit as profound and raw and beautiful as A Room With a Viewportrayed it, though I envied Miss Honeychurch's near solitude while exploring the city's sights, as Everybody Else (etc.) were out en force! Nonetheless, we bought postcards, strolled Piazza della Signoria and indeed, got lost in Santa Croce with no Baedeker (guidebook), where we also experienced "A true Florentine smell: Inhale my dear- deeper!". Overall, I would have to say that Florence solidified my transfiguration with Italy ("And why should she not be transfigured? It happened to the Gods"), as well as, obviously, confirmed my sad obsession with movie lines. (Marlon took it all in quite good humor, considering that he's only seen the film in question once.)
Then there is Venice. We both experienced thrills of excitement as we initially laid eyes on one of the most romantically renowned cities in the world, as it is every bit as beautific and surreal as any picture or film ever portrayed it, in fact more so. However, right away I felt an underlying unease that the colorful buildings and celebratory atmosphere couldn't mask, and had a sneaking suspicion that the reason for it rhymed with daunted.
After a much-needed siesta in our room at Casa Peron (the reception of which is dominated by a large green parrot who prefers to answer the day's "Polly want a cracker?" queries at 5am), we headed out for dinner under skies rolling with dark clouds and distant thunder. By the time we finished what we mutually agreed were our best pizzas yet, it was drizzling and the canals reflected purple lightening branches in the skies above. We grabbed our sweatshirts and my camera and dove into the dark, labyrinthine streets, holding to each other to avoid falling on the rain-slicked stones. We quickly discovered that the broader, more easily traversable corridors tended to lead nowhere, and the narrow, uneven little alleys where two people could barely walk shoulder to shoulder tended to be main thoroughfares... sometimes. Also, the most direct route, or indeed, any route, was never the one indicated by the signs... for the most part. Sort of. Basically we were almost kinda lost all of the time but having a blast anyway (as were a trio of girls who spontaneously broke into song and dance through the puddles). We finally made it to bed at 2am, and I dreamed of ghosts. No surprise then, that I awoke a few hours later to an etheric vase being repeatedly hurled at the wall, only to start the pattern over before ever shattering. Also, men in cloaks were marching through the room five abreast, and a small-statured shadow on the stairs could have been child or goblin. I snuggled into Marlon's embrace and managed to fall asleep again, with thoughts that Santa Fe, NM. was no longer the most haunted city I'd ever been to...
We are here in otherworldly Venice for another few days and then where we go, only the universe knows! The only thing that is apparent at this point is needing to get to France within the next week if we are to make Amsterdam by our deadline.
Punti BolleBlu' (Laundromat/Internet Access)
Ever since Crete, the Quest for Adventure had been forced to share the stage with the Quest for Laundry, as the hero and heroine's garments have been stinking as much as their Greek and Italian (repetitions of "Dove lavanderia?" - Italian, "Where is the Laundromat?"- have not improved the latter much at this point). It was a great stroke of fortune that Milos had a place that would do our laundry for us, though we had not encountered anything similar since (we kept being falsely directed to dry cleaners) until this evening!
Si, we are in Italy!
Ironically, moving between countries was the smoothest, most spontaneous transition we've made yet. After a pleasant few days in Olympia, we caught the bus back to Pyrgos (where we played foosball at the station with an hysterically primitive and monolithic wooden table- hi, Portia and Wadrien!), then on to the port city of Patras. Fortunately our Eurail Passes gave us substantial discount on ferry tickets, as it was another over-nighter and we were both adamant in having a cabin this time. Also fortunately- and as if to deliberately contradict everything we'd been saying being our other ferries' backs- "Blue Star 1" was more cruise liner than ferry, equipped with three bars, two restaurants, a casino, Internet access (which we didn't make it to before the signal went out), and apparently, naval technical somethingerather that would probably be of great interest only to my dad (hi, Dad!).
Landing on the port city of Bari in Italy was akin to landing on another planet. All of a sudden there was a whole other language to deal with, and we may as well have been Greek for all of the Greek that kept instinctfully coming to the edge of our tongues. After a rather harrowing time getting to the train station- not to mention negotiating the train station itself- we decided on a direction and went with it. Our delayed arrival in Italy required us to bypass the Amalfi Coast- and unfortunately, as a result, Pompeii- due to sky-rocketed high season prices (not to mention our being short on time), so we made for Rome and got as far as the coastal city of Pescara that day. As a result, my first impression of Italy was half carnival, half horror circus: Pescara certainly knew how to have fun, but it was in such an over-the-top, in-your-face fashion that one wasn't sure whether to jump in or run the other direction... Particularly from the kilometers and kilometers of umbrellas with two lounge chairs apiece lined up in military fashion down the length of the beach. Some of these people had to walk a kilometer just to take a swim, but it didn't seem to deter them from enjoyment!
Another train ride through the breath-taking Tuscan countryside and we arrived in Rome- we were at an entirely different station than we had anticipated, but we were here. After all, would it be a true MarandAr entrance if we didn't have to do a 60 minute clueless dance?
Regardless, we managed to get ourselves to Pensione Ester, which is in a positively magical and charming old building and requires clearance through three different gates/doors and buzzers (and is ferociously guarded by the sweetest little bundle of canine since Toto), and speaking of which, we have to get back before midnight curfew!
Vibrational alchemist, writer, artistic mystic, pack mama and spiritual adventurer living in The Goodland - Goleta, CA. Creator of Lioness Energetics.
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