Wednesday, August 19, 2009

History of the Defeated

Sadly, this will be my last post in this blog as I am currently typing this in my tiny and most importantly, air conditioned Brooklyn bedroom!
Rome was a bittersweet ending for me. We had arrived late in the day from a long ride down from Venice and thus I only had a single night to see all the sights. The Sistine Chapel was off the list as they stop letting visitors in at three thirty in the afternoon. After a quick rest(mind you we had walked nearly a mile dragging our luggage in 95 degree heat to our hotel) we mapped walking route that took us past the Coliseum all the way towards St. Peters Basilica and back to the Bocca della Verità.
The last of which I was determined to see as it's part of my favorite scene in my all time favorite movie Roman Holiday. After wandering around at midnight trying to figure out where it was even located, I was extremely disappointed to find it locked behind some gates. Just a mere few feet and metal separated me from a hilarious photo shoot involving lost limbs. So despite all my lies I'm known to tell, my hand is safe for now.

I swear I will make my way back to Rome during a cooler season and properly give the sites the time they deserve to properly admire them all.

So what have I learned about myself or the world now that I'm more worldly having spent the summer abroad? I miss being in New York City. I like the diversity this city offers, that just doesn't exist in Europe. From one country to another, you're stuck in that culture. New York offers the very best of everything and makes it accessible to anyone who is open to discover's just missing really good Mexican food.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Slips and tangles

For those who had seen my Facebook status, you already know I'm not enjoying myself at Venice. It's a bit of a major disappointment as it was the city I was most looking forward to in this trip to Italy. But it turns out to be one big tourist trap. Once you get over the fact that the city is built on water, it just turns into a city with tourists that outnumber locals and the locals do everything they can to squeeze every ounce of money they can get. Case in point:
1. The train conductor who reprimanded us for not filling in our Europass with our passports and date of travel and proceeded to demand a fifty euro fine from each of us! Luckily he let us go, but I saw two Asian ladies pay the same fine later.
2. We went to the island of Murano famous for their glass studios for a free tour. Our hotel had arranged a taxi take us there early in the morning. What the tour was though was a five minute glass blowing demo and thirty minutes of being led through their glass store trying to get you to buy something. Our tour book said, if you don't purchase something, most visitors have to find their own way back to Venice. I think we lucked out(again) when a taxi arrived for a couple people who did purchase some pieces.
3. A basic plate of Spaghetti with basil and tomatoes, a cost of four euros in Sicily, but in Venice ten euros! Sicilians are also the better cooks I've learned.
4. Umbrella and chair rentals at Lido beach: Fifteen euros! And I thought the three euro charge in Greece was expensive.
5. Water taxi ticket good for only twelve hours: Sixteen euros! Not to mention the rude ticket lady who barked at April for apparently not understanding what she meant when she asked for a euro when she obviously did after just handing the ticket lady the euro she had just asked for. (visitors tip: Italians HATE when you pay with paper bills)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Buon appetito

Here's one of my meals in Sicily, spaghetti marinara with seafood and calamari arrosto. You pretty much can't go wrong here.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


There was a question that was asked before I left for Europe; how do you take a train from Sicily to Naples? I didn't quite understand that question until today seeing as I never realized Sicily was essentially a big island.

Well, the answer to that question is, you put the train onto a ferry. You don't go through a chunnel like the Eurostar from Paris to London. The TRAIN goes onto a friggin' BOAT. It took me like fifteen minutes to even realize that the boat was moving as I was sitting in the train.
Today was pretty much one long train/boat ride. We caught the 7:30am train and arrived in Naples at 5:00pm. Not to mention all the stairs and non operational escalators we had to endure to get to our hotel along with the angry Italians who were accusing us of sitting in their seats(which we probably were). But we made it to Naples and had one of the best meals in Italy so far. Tomorrow we have Pompeii and Capri on our itinerary so it's going to be a full day ahead of us.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Precience of Dawn

I'm sitting here in the airport in Rome awaiting my next flight to Palermo. In nine days I'll return to this airport for my final journey back to Brooklyn. All airports pretty much are the same, but I'm docking both JFK and this airport points for making me pay to use Wifi. Honestly I just want to get back to the beach, I'm a bit tired of all this sight seeing.

I'm dying for music. I just realized I haven't been to a show in like a month, that's practically a lifetime in alcoholism years. I've been titling a few of my entries with Weakerthans song titles to get me excited for their two shows in Sept.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

One Great City!

Sorry for the long gap between posts, but I'm sure you can forgive me as I've been tanning and laying out on the beach all week long. My days are something like this, wake up around 9:00am, eat an amazing breakfast of Greek yogurt, fried eggs, bacon, and fruit, visit an old medieval village or two, sit on either a pebble or sandy beach(i prefer the latter. Pebbles are a bitch to walk on), eat lunch(which always include a Greek salad), tan for another few hours, take a dip into the Aegean Sea, eat dinner(which always includes a Greek salad. See a pattern here?) and then end with drinks at the port. So you can see why I'm not so inclined to update this.
Although I should mention we did take a day tour to Izmir, Turkey yesterday. Turkey is visible from Chios and only a 45 minute ferry ride, so we had planned to go for a day trip. I had written an entry about the finer points why not to visit Izmir Turkey when there's a Grecian beach with sand and water and relaxation and a lack of shady merchants trying to sell you a "nice t-shirt" much closer by, but it got deleted. So the lesson to learn here, don't go to Turkey. We all hated it. Fine, go if you really want to buy a magical monkey paw, but really, it's still not worth it. I used one of my wishes from the monkey paw to send me back in time and choose to spend an extra day at the beach instead.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Over Retired Explorer (Dines With Michel Foucault In Paris, 1961)

I'm becoming increasing less and less motivated to update Le Blog. There's just something wrong about writing about Greece(My current location for those playing "Where in the world is Jeff?") in something called Le Blog. I mean I know I can probably just change the header, but then what's the fun in blogging in something that's called "Living Vicariously Through Jeff's European Travel Blog Is Making You Really Jealous of Him Because You're Just At Work Sipping Your Morning Coffee And the Morning Meeting Is About to Start Soon"?

Anyways, to catch up from the last episode; my stay in Dusseldorf Germany has ended after three very short days. It was a great peace of mind finally being around someone who speaks the native language. As someone had described their experience of Germany, I had a similar experience, drinking a lot of German beers and eating a lot of sausages. I think one of my favorite new things is taking tequila shots with cinnamon and orange wedges. I could have done without the constant annoyance of the bees who were collecting the strawberry sauce of my spaghetti ice cream sundae for their honey. On Sunday afternoon I said goodbye to Birte and Hanna and hopped on a three hour flight to Athens to say hello to April and Stephanie.
Dusseldorf, Germany
After a short night stay in Athens, a shot and a half of a Crete liquor called Raki and a quick morning run through of the Acropolis this morning, I am currently hunkered down for a week in the sandy beaches of Chios; just a short hop, skip and skiddadle away from Turkey. I'm mentally worn down from all the Parisian museums, skyscrapers, endless sole wearing and soul bearing walks, foreign complications that all I can think about is just laying quietly in the peaceful sea breeze of the deep blue Aegean Sea...

Friday, July 31, 2009

Hallo! Danke! Bitte!

In one day I've learned about as much German as I know French. Too bad I'll only be here for two days.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Left and Leaving

Tomorrow afternoon signals the end of my month long sojourn in the city of baguettes and the most well fed pigeons. My journeys will now take me through to Germany next and Le Blog will become Der Blög. Anyways I thought I'd breakdown the last thirty days in fun statistical facts!

Photos taken: 761
New Facebook friends made: 6
Most used French words: Merci, Bonjour, Au revoir!
Baguettes eaten: 13(estimated)
Macarons eaten: 1(the big chocolate ones)
Museums visited: Louvre, Musee d'Orsay(twice), Fondation Cartier, Musee Picasso, Pompidou, Computer Museum, Musee Rodin
Cones of Gelato eaten: 4
Croque Madames eaten: 0(shocking, i know!)
Crepes eaten: 5(2 nutella and banana, 2 egg, ham and cheese and one ham and cheese)
Space Invaders Found: 12
Favorite Tourist Trap: The Catacombs
Most Hilariously Named Electronics Store: Darty

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Pulp Fiction didn't lie!

Here are some photos of a McDonalds as requested by my sister. I didn't eat anything but I was tempted to buy a McBeer. Yes, you can buy beer at McDonalds to wash down your Croque McDo.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

1,001 Paintings You Must See Before You Die

So today I went to the Tour de France and all I did was feed the ducklings in the pond. Okay, no I didn't. That's a lie. For some reason this blog is painting me to be an animal lover. I swear, I hate animals. Especially ones who wear capes and save animals singing opera tunes(I kid...I kid). I actually did see the Tour de France with no furry distractions.

The one thing that stood out to me was seeing an old man carrying the book 1,001 Paintings You Must See Before You Die. Suddenly the book took on a more morbid meaning. Having obviously come from the Musee d'Orday, I can only assume he was on his way to the Louvre to check off the Mona Lisa from his book. I was just wondering how many he had left and if he really was on a mission to see all of them before he croaks. Forget the Tour de France that was happening next to him, there is art to see! Actually on second thought, it was probably genius of him to go to the museums today seeing as all of Paris were lining the streets, including me.

Okay here's a quick recap...three and a half hours of waiting and then ten seconds of vroooooom, pedal, pedal, pedal, vroooooooom, wait ten minutes and repeat another eight or so times. Next time I'm going to stay home and watch on tv.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Les Chats du Versaille

Today I went to the Palace of Versailles and what do I do? I spend the good part of my day playing with and feeding cherry cake things to the feral kitties in the gardens(I swear I'm not an animal person). So with that, I present to you my second photo series: Les Chats du Versaille

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wacky French Signs

Thanks for the warning, I was about to refill my water bottle next
to the French guy dipping his feet in the pool.

No speedos on the Arc de Triomph? Napoleon would disapprove!
No drinking wine in front of beer drinking women?
No soccer playing dogs allowed in this park!

Okay, whoever comments with the best caption for the sign below wins this bag of fried egg gummi's!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Les puces sur des chiens

Yesterday afternoon I went to the flea market Les Puces de Saint-Ouen and with that I present to you my new photo series: Les Puces Sur Des Chiens
Chien Une(2009)

Bitch Get Off My Chair(2009)

What You Looking At(2009)
Chien Deux(2009)
Rouge à Lèvres(2009)

* Galleries can contact me for viewing rights at jeffwhong at gmail dot com.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Dinner with Jim

I just got back from one of the most amazing times I've had so far in Paris. The attentive readers of Le Blog will note, I was highly anticipating tonight and I was not let down in the least bit. A few months ago I had signed up for a dinner party hosted by Jim Haynes who has been hosting these events for over thirty years. It was billed as a must do for anybody who is in Paris.

I was only one of the estimated 150,000 dinner guests he has hosted from all the years. People from around the world attend his dinners every Sunday night and as I can attest from the people I've met, it is a testament to how well known Jim's dinners have become. From Alberto to Boris to Joomi to Ankit to Maura from good ol' Iowa, every part of the world was well represented in this one evening. New York of course seemed to have the biggest number of representatives including Jim's own son Jesper.

And the food! The food is always cooked each week by a guest cook. Tonight's meal was from my guess either Greek or Turkish, but whatever it was it was one of the best meals I've had here in Paris so far. Maybe it helped that I was starving by the time 8:00pm rolled around, but a good home cooked meal is always appreciated when far away from your own home. The lack of a photo as I habitual have come to take these days is a good indication of hungry I was.

At any rate, for anybody who plans to visit Paris and happen to stay over on a Sunday, go to Jim Haynes website and sign up for one of these dinners. I enjoyed every second of it and you most assuredly will too.
Me with Jim Haynes