dreaminghope: (Flying Demon Girl)
We went to Las Vegas last weekend. It wasn't on our List - that is to say, Vegas isn't one of the places we are eager to visit - but exceptions must be made for weddings.

If we're going to Vegas just once, we figured to "do" Vegas. We saw a lot of casinos and their famous free displays and shows. We missed out on celebrity impersonators - unless you count the poorly done Elvis on the street, which we don't - but managed to fit most everything else into three days.

Wedding: We went down for two of Russ' co-workers' wedding. It wasn't a Vegas quicky, and wasn't done by Elvis, but was in a casino ballroom.

Gambling: Penny slots between the wedding and reception. I lost $1 and Russ lost $5 or $10. We're big spenders, we are.

Shopping: Speaking of big spenders, I found a $10 purse at a cheesy gift store amongst the fancy designer stores. I needed something to carry to the wedding and found something ten minutes before we had to leave for the ceremony.

Shows: Burlesque, strip, drag, and Cirque du Soleil... we managed all four by seeing Zumanity.

Bar hopping: Not our usual choice of activity, but with some peer pressure encouragement from other wedding guests and some coupons, we hit a couple of bars before the reception, including the very odd Minus 5, where the walls, chairs, tables, decorations, and glasses are all made of ice.



Buffet: After you've overindulged in everything else, it seems natural to overeat too. We only went to one buffet, since we are trying to be healthier (the gym in our hotel was very acceptable). The Monday breakfast buffet kept us full through our afternoon flight home.

Vegas is surreal. It is fake - Disney for adults - and completely lacking in irony. The tourists are almost as odd as the city; there's almost a desperation about them, a constant performance of how much fun they are having at all times.

While exploring faux New York, and faux Italy, and faux everywhere else, Russ and I had some fascinating conversations about capitalism, commercialism, racism, classism, and some of the unfortunate implications and problematic choices of "Zumanity". And in between, we just gave ourselves over to the experience, including a trip to the world's largest gift store (where we got caught under the awning by a magnificent rain storm - a day's worth of rain in 15 minutes: not everything in Vegas is fake) and taking at least one cheesy tourist photo:

dreaminghope: (Zoey)
What Mom taught me this weekend:

I come by my complete lack of sense of direction honestly.*

The secret to a long-term relationship is to never fall out of love at the same time.

If my uncle hadn't gotten married during a certain March break when I was a kid, my family would have gone to Germany for two weeks.

If you can't give something without expectation, either don't give it at all or make it clear what you want in return... even if it is just a "thank you".

Mom once dated a guy named Skip. She liked his friends much more than she liked him. She used moving to the Northwest Territories as an excuse to break up with him.

God has nothing to do with it: take responsibility for your own life and decisions.

Seeing the ancient cedars is worth getting lost on the highway, the long drive up the gravel road, and the breathless uphill hike.

Always be suspicious of guys who are too romantic. And having someone make pancakes for you is nicer than getting flowers.

* We got lost every time we left the hotel and every time we left any place to go back to the hotel. In three days, we never went anywhere without getting lost at least once.
dreaminghope: (Corset)
Breakfast

When traveling, I highly recommend choosing hotels that include breakfast. We had such a hard time choosing food for lunch and dinner sometimes (not because nothing sounded good but because everything sounded good) that I can't imagine what we would have done trying to choose a breakfast place before having coffee.

All three of our hotels included breakfast buffets that we took very complete advantage of. There were always pastries, fresh fruit, yogurt, and my new favourite breakfast: fresh buns and slices of mild provolone cheese. There was also cappuccino every morning, to my delight.

Coffee

Russ and I are espresso drinkers at home too. Years ago, when Russ worked at Starbucks, we used his staff discount and a Boxing Day sale to buy an espresso maker. We gave up the regular coffee machine fairly soon after.

"I don't want all these fancy drinks – these cap-a-chinos. Why can't I get a regular cup of coffee? I just want regular coffee," the woman was obviously American by her southern accent. She is sitting with her husband and another couple at a nearby table in the breakfast room in our hotel in Florence.

Russ, ever helpful, leans over: "Order an Americano."

"An A-mer-i-can-no? Is that a regular coffee?"

"Kind of. It's espresso and hot water. It's like a regular coffee."

"Marvin? Marvin, go order me one of these A-mer-i-can-nos."

Marvin obediently gets up and goes to the espresso bar at the far end of the breakfast room. In the meantime, his wife turns to the other couple at their table: "Do you guys want some too?" When they nod, she yells across the room: "Marvin! Marvin, get two more of those A-mer-i-can-nos!"

We left for a tour while their order was being made, so we never did find out if they found an Americano enough like regular coffee or not.

On a friend's recommendation, we made another delightful discovery (in additional to bread and cheese for breakfast): espresso con grappa. This is not a breakfast drink, but best sipped after dinner, perhaps with a tiramisu. We brought a bottle of grappa home with us to enjoy.

Tiramisu

We made it a tradition to celebrate our last night in each city with tiramisu.

In Rome, we had tiramisu on the Piazza Navona. We laughed again at the story we'd learned during our walking tour of Rome: Bernini, who created the famous fountain at the center of the piazza (the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi), and Borromini, who designed the church along one side of the piazza (the church of Sant'Agnese), were great rivals. The pope of the time set them to work at the same time in the piazza. Their rivalry is reflected in their great works: the four characters on the fountain are all turned away from the church – one has her face covered, while another has a hand out as though to ward off the church's ugliness – and on the church's front, the sole character – a statue of the saint – is turned aside so only her profile is seen and so that she doesn't face the fountain.

In Florence, we had tiramisu on the Piazza della Repubblica. First, we went to this very fancy restaurant and candy store – a candy store where we had accidentally spent €12 on two tiny bags of candy the day before – but after saying "sit anywhere", no one came to bring us menus or see what we wanted. After waiting for fifteen minutes, we moved on to one of the many other restaurants on the piazza. The staff at the snobby restaurant looked quite shocked that we were leaving, but at the second place we tried, we were served delicious tiramisu (my favourite of the trip, actually) and espresso con grappa in a prompt and friendly manner, and for several Euros less than the other place as well.

In Venice, we had tiramisu at the base of the Ponte del Rialto, along the Canal Grande. We briefly considered celebrating our final night in Italy in the Piazza San Marco, which is even more iconic than the Rialto, but one look at the prices quickly made us look elsewhere: the cost of a dessert was going to be more than we had spent on some meals. And the Canal Grande is gorgeous at night anyway.

Wine

Every restaurant we ate in seemed to have a house wine. They were all delicious, and they were all labeled "vino della casa", with no other information about how we could buy a similar wine at home. The Italians have a wonderful invention that I've never seen in Canada: the 375 mL wine bottle. It's just a half-sized bottle, complete with cork, and it is perfect for two to share over a leisurely meal without overindulging or leaving any behind. It is especially perfect to share over lunch, when you don't want to end up too tipsy or sleepy after.

Pizza

Red wine and pizza go very well together. Red wine goes especially well with whatever wonderful drug is in Italian tomato sauce: it tasted so simple, but was undeniably some of the tastiest sauce I've ever had in my life. Since it is vegetarian and easily identifiable, I had a lot of pizza margherita in Italy, which was delicious, but I also had a most wonderful creation one day when we escaped from the rain in Venice by ducking into the first restaurant that looked warm: tomato sauce, bocconcini, asparagus spears, and an egg right in the middle. Sounds weird – it looked weird too – but tasted like the best of breakfast and pizza brought together.

Coming home

Since coming home, I've been eating breakfast regularly for the first time in years. I have a slice of bread, sometimes with jam, and I've been experimenting with different brands of provolone cheese to find one that tastes right (some are too aged to be eaten so early in the day) and is affordable (the pre-sliced one from the Safeway deli tastes right, but it is a bit pricey, and I'm perfectly able to slice my own cheese).

Today, walking home from the Central Library, I was getting hungry and thought I'd stop somewhere for dinner. The whole walk home, through a good part of downtime Vancouver and all of Chinatown, I kept looking for some place to eat, and nothing looked appealing. I wasn't sure what I was looking for – what I wanted to eat or drink, what kind of atmosphere I wanted – until I realized that I was looking for Italy. Realizing that I wasn't going to find wine and pizza or perfect melt-in-your-mouth gnocchi on a cobblestone street or lovely piazza, I went home. I made my own pasta dish and opened a bottle of Russ and I's own "vino della casa" (a Pinot Noir we made at a local u-brew) and consumed most of both on my back deck in the last hours of sunshine, reading my book. It wasn't Italy, but it was lovely, and close enough for today.

Pompeii

Apr. 28th, 2008 09:41 pm
dreaminghope: (Corset)
There was a moment when I could almost see the original inhabitants of Pompeii: fetching water from the fountain, crossing the street by the stepping stones to keep their feet dry, and clearing the street when a chariot would fly by, the wheels grinding deeper ridges into the street.

Colourful clothing rustles as people go about their days. People in the bar debate politics and the qualities of the politicians whose ads are painted on the walls. Servants rush past, preparing for elaborate all-day and all-night dinner parties that required occasional vomiting in order to eat every course, as required by the manners of the time. Everyone gossips about the gladiators, the rock stars of the day.

Like it wasn't almost two millennia ago.

Blink, and it's gone.

I could have spent days in Pompeii, just looking at the ancient buildings and the frescoes that are still brilliant after nearly two millennium. In the doorway of one house, there's a mosaic of a dog on the floor.

They saw it coming. They saw the end coming, and they hid from it in their houses, barring their doors and shuttering their windows. They didn't realize that the gas would seep in through the key hole and the space between the shutters. Our guide described it as "death by ignorance"; there was time to get away, but they didn't know how to save themselves.

That sounds very scary right now.
dreaminghope: (Corset)
From pre-kindergarten through grade two, all of my formal education was in French, and from grade three until grade eleven, half of classes were in French and half in English. That was a time when I could really speak French. I would sometimes even think in French. But that time is more than a decade in the past, and my French is very rusty now. I can still pull words up and have a very basic conversation – Comment allez-vous? Je suis bien, merci. – and I remember that it is more polite to use "vous" than "tu", but most complex vocabulary and grammar rules are gone, or at least buried deep.

I don't speak any other languages. I do know "please" and "thank you" in Spanish – past vacations in Mexico – and in Italian. Well, almost. It turns out that when you pronounce an Italian word like "per favore" as if it was a French word – making the "e" on the end silent – it comes out sounding like Spanish. Luckily, the Italians I met seemed to know that I meant well and were very understanding of me butchering their beautiful language.

When standing in line in a bakery or at a panini counter in Italy, I would rehearse what I was going to say: "Uno, per favore", carefully reminding myself to pronounce the final "e". I would get to the front of the line, say my line well, and then... he'd ask me a question. He'd ask in English, because I wasn't fooling anyone with my attempts at Italian, and I would answer in "foreign". In my fumbling desire to respond in "not English", I would often respond in French or some perverted French-Spanish-Italian blend. Even in the final days of our vacation, I would say "oui" more often than "si". Nodding and smiling will get you far, though.
dreaminghope: (Flying Demon Girl)
The traditional Mexican piñata had seven points, representing the seven deadly sins. Bashing the piñata apart represented destroying the hold of sin over the people, and when the candy falls out, that represents the blessings of God raining down.



My fellow cruise ship passengers and I will have to break a lot of piñatas to purge the sins of this past week.

Gluttony: The average cruiser gains one pound per day on their vacation.

"Mister Justin, another lobster tail and prawn dinner for you?"
"Yes, I think a fourth one would definitely hit the spot."

"I can't decide between the chocolate crème brûlée and the espresso cheesecake."
"Why not have both?"
"Excellent idea!"

"And don't forget: the gala buffet is tonight at midnight."

Greed: When the ship staff pauses in its enabling of the passengers to make themselves as fat and drunk as possible, they move on to selling them on gambling. The casino, the Bingo... "you could be the next big winner!"

Sloth: We had an inside cabin – no window. There was no clock in the room. When the lights were off, it was pitch black, day and night. The only sound was the air conditioning. I would wake up and have no idea if it was 2 in the morning or 2 in the afternoon. I would sleep long and deep, then I would have an afternoon nap in a lounge chair, watching the endless ocean.

Wrath: Some of the more entitled passengers when they found out that rules actually apply to them: "Yes, I know there was an announcement that we aren't allowed to save seats. And, yes, I saw the sign saying the same thing. But my friends (all ten of them) will be here any minute, so don't you dare take their seats!"

Envy: "See these pretty glittery things, as worn by these young and beautiful dancers? No, we won't tell you how much they will cost you - it will be a lot - but we can tell you where at the next port of call you can go to buy them. And go you must, because you can see how your wife is looking at the sparkly thing... you must buy her one."

Pride: You can feel superior to those who are overindulging ("I may have eaten a lot, but at least I stopped between meals. Did you ever see him without a plate of food?") or you can feel superior to those who aren't indulging at all (as we lounged on the upper deck with a couple of margaritas: "Who comes on vacation to jog?").

Lust: Did I mention that the room was soundproof? That was a very good thing, since my parents had Russ and I's room on one side, and the newlyweds' on the other.

I'm glad I'm more hedonistic than Catholic.
dreaminghope: (Happy Bug)
So, I had this past week off (I start work again on Monday). This week I:

- Helped Russ move almost all the furniture in the living room to make room for the lovely, fabulous, perfect black leather lounge chairs my parents gave us for Christmas.

- Helped Russ move almost everything in the storage area to make room for the empty iguana cage that could no longer fit in the re-configured living room.

- Ripped most of our CD collection onto MP3 disks, so I'll have new music to listen to at work.

- Braved a mall to buy CDs on sale with a gift certificate I got for Christmas from the Christmas Eve exchange.

- Took lots of pictures of our cats with the digital camara Russ' parents gave us for Christmas... now, to figure out that picture hosting thing...

- Went wool shopping with ED, so I can make her a fuzzy kitty hat.

And, most importantly, I slept in a lot.
dreaminghope: (Sexy)
Since the credit card charging website is down, I can't work, so I'll finally record my wonderful weekend notes.

All about my weekend... very detailed account... )

The summary: It was a perfect weekend.
dreaminghope: (Zoey)
Subtitle:

If you can't play well, at least use both hands.

Went to see Lost in Translation with Mom. Slow, but it had its moments. The girl was cute, and she spent large sections of the movie sitting around in panties and a tank top.

Other highlights of my fourth day off:

- Had leftover tortellini for breakfast.

- Downloaded about 70 minutes worth of Mardi Gras music for my up-coming birthday party.

- Went shopping at Michael's, the craft store. Tons of new scrapbooking stuff available; I wouldn't even know what to do with some of it!

- Pizza with Mom and Elaine, and they let me bring the leftovers home!

- Our first official Silver Spiral drumming lesson. My hands are red and tingly now. It was lots of fun. I'm not really good, but I think I have potential.

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February 2014

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