At the risk of getting into the hang of e-mailing all of you all the damn time while on holiday, I though I'd share a list of events or observations from the first few days of my European Excursion.
The ceiling, arches and pillars of the Basilique du Sacré-Cæur in Paris are basically a cross between the ones in the Natural History Museum in London and the ones in Kings Chapel (link)
On the subject of the Natural History Museum, the French, having a flair for flair, have about 5, all together in one big park. I visited the spectacularly named "Grande Galerie de l'Évolution"; it rocks. I bought a book, with lots of pretty pictures, if anyone wants to look at it when I get back.
Sleeper trains are great. You get to sleep; a 12 hour train trip is far less of a hassle when it is 8 in the evening until 8 in the morning, and you get to stay in bed for it.
They made the first one by taking a slab of chocolate, crushing it up, and then steaming espresso directly into it. The second one was more complicated, but involved cream and Malibu (this was about 7am). All in all, it was the most amazing and most inappropriate breakfast I've ever had.
After that, it occurred to us that it was very silly to pick the coffees randomly, instead of just saying "uno cappuccino e uno espresso". Turns out that the concept of a toastie is pretty popular here too.
Anyway, hope all is well elsewhere.
-- This e-mail was sent by Luke on Holiday. To be removed from this list, please reply using a closed form for the nth prime in the subject line. --
I have exactly 56 seconds left to type this.
Anyone who sends me an address will get a postcard sent TO THAT ADDRESS.
P.S. Note; Because I have run out of internt. I'm not dying. CALL OFF THE ARMY NOW.
Some observations on Italian culture:
They use bidets. Bidets are officially the greatest thing ever. I'm not entirely sure how I'm going to go back to not using them.
Italian men do not wear underwear, unless the underwear is Calvin Klein underwear, costing around 25 quid a hit. A bit of background: I need new clothes, and as a result I decided to take NO changes of clothes, and buy everything I needed in Italy. Thus, the lack of affordable underwear is becoming somewhat of an issue. I managed to find and buy something that cost £15; some sort of weird boxer shorts things that go down to my KNEES. They are GREAT.
Today, I saw a big statue of Gautama Buddha, sitting in front of a massive ball of energy-efficient light bulbs, 6 meters across and all lit up. I think he'd approve.
Italians, for obvious reasons, love their big detailed pictures of hell (which I suppose explains the Dante love). I was in the Santa Maria del Fiore, which has a big fuck-off picture of The Last Judgement on the wall. I saw it, and now by the power of the Wikimedia Foundation, so can you!
In other news, here is a conversation between me and my mum in a restaurant
Mum: Italian men are so good looking! Look at man there, he has kids, and
he is beautiful!
Me: Yeah, they say that you go to France for the women and Italy for the men.
Mum: Scandinavia also has very attractive women
Me: And men.
Mum: No, I think Scandinavian men aren't very good looking.
Me: So do you think that guy there is better looking than dad.
Mum: Well, they are different, aren't they? That guy is good looking in an Italian way, and your dad is good looking in a Scandinavian way.
Anyway, I have exactly half an hour in which to read the Internet, so I must away. People e-mail me with news of what is happening in your boring-by-comparison lives.
Lots of love all,
-- This e-mail was sent from Luke on Holiday. To be removed please reply to this e-mail, including a 3500-word essay on the subject "Was the Renaissance view of Classical Culture at best an anachronism and at worst a fairy tale?" in the subject line --
Good day all,
So, today I did the whole Catholic thing. By which I do of course mean sightseeing around Vatican City, not, say [Questo rant é stato censurato per ordine del papa] or other such acts.
The first stop, of course, was the visit the Marianum, the Pontifical school of Mariology (publishers of that most famous of Mariological Journals, "Mariology"). It lies in the most ancient Trastevere, the 13th Region of Rome (the fancy-pants area where our hotel is). While there, I learned that the Marianum is the world leader in Mary Studies, teaches a well respected two-year Master of Theology in Mariology, and also has more than its fair share of experts in the field of Virgin Studies. Exciting stuff.
We went around the parks of Gianicolo (the second largest hill in Rome, but not one of the Seven Hills of Rome, being that it was South of the Tevere and belonged to those dirty Etruscans (woo classics lesson)). It is full of big monuments with no indication of what they are other than big Latin inscriptions. It took me a long time to figure out, since my only method of translating Latin is to connect each word to the linnaean name of an animal or plant, and hope that something about that animal gives away the original meaning. "Ah yes, the Fountain of the Lion Father Acorn, sounds good to me".
The Vatican itself was very impressive, of course. I wasn't really prepared for quite how grand and opulent St. Peter's Basilica was; I guess going to the biggest church in the world will do that to you. The Sistine Chapel was actually a bit of an odd experience; I've never seen a picture of the whole thing before, so I wasn't quiet prepared for how many damn people are pictured on the walls and ceiling. It seemed oddly crowded. Interestingly, the big fresco of what I assume must be the Final Judgement (I'm getting the hang of this whole Catholic thing) had about 250 naked male figures, who Michelangelo painted with genitals on display, and later catholic painters covered up every single dangling penis save one. The only thing that I could see about it that was different was that it was on a man hanging upside down; perhaps this disorientated the later painters, or perhaps an upside-down penis is less morally disgraceful than a properly hung one?
Final thought: I also saw Raphael's "The School of Athens", in which Raphael painted himself amongst the Great Thinkers. Michelangelo also painted himself into the Sistine Chapel. It may say something about the difference between the two men the former painted himself in a beret next to Ptolemy in a school of great thinkers, and the latter painted himself as the limp skin held by the flayed martyr Bartholomew at the End of Days.
Incidentally, I have sent off about half of the postcards. The order that you receive them in indicates how much I love you, and the number of words that I have written gives a rough indication of how willing I'd be to sleep with you.
This e-mail is somewhat too long, and for that I am greatly sorry. Keep your e-mails coming, it helps me stave off the boredom of living in this sleepiest of cities.
-- This e-mail was sent from Luke on Holiday. To be removed please reply to this e-mail including 50 grammes of Belgian chocolate in the subject line --
And Ciao da Roma ventosa!
So, today, I did very little. And of that very little I have very little entertaining to say. As Wittgenstein tells us, what we cannot speak of we must pass over in silence.
Or, you know, make do with a pretentious quote from a German philosopher fond of hitting children.
Lots of love,
Hello from snowy Italy,
Well, it isn't really snowy, but the main street of Trastevere is covered in trees that are, in turn, covered in blossom. Rome is very windy at the moment (as anyone who bothers to translate the random Italian in my e-mails will know), which has general effect of blowing blossom all over the damn place. Every, like, 20 seconds I catch it out of the side of my eye and go "Snow!".
Today I did the whole Remains of Classical Rome thing. We started off by going to the Circus Maximus; as it happens, no-one had told us that the Circus Maximus is now in fact nothing but a somewhat dusty field, much like the ones I used to play football in as a little child. This was made even more of an odd experience by the fact that every time I say the world "Circus" I hear a scary clown voice in my head say "Welcome to the Circus of Values!".
The Domus Tiberiana, the palace of Tiberius and Caligular, was a somewhat exciting place. I say I went to the Domus Tiberiana, I in fact went to the Farnese Gardens, a 16th Century garden built on top of an old fort, which was was built on top of a set of houses, which was built on top of the abode of a Pope, which was built on top of the Domus Tiberiana (at least, that is the best I can piece it together). Turns out that this particular imperial palace has been more raped than [Questo commento é stato censurato per ordine del papa].I bought a book with the history of most of the old Roman sites in the centre of the city. My favourite bit is the part where it describes the Mamertine-Tullian Prison, which is says something along the lines of "Christian tradition holds this to be the place where St Peter made water gush from the stone to christen the prison guards, as depicted in the bas-relief on the altar. However, there is no evidence that St Peter was ever held here, as traditionally believed.". Sucks to be you, Catholicism!
Anyway, I head back to France tonight, and back to London tomorrow, so this shall be my last Holiday E-mail (everyone shed a single tear). I am currently looking for at least One (1) classicist who knows things about Ancient Rome (which shouldn't be hard to find) and at least One (1) historian who knows things about Renaissance Italy (which may be a little harder to find), in order to make another trip to Rome at some point in the next year. Partly so they can tell me things about the history of the places I've seen, and partly because, excluding Natscis and Mathmos, Classicists and Historians tend to be the most attractive students, and if all the Italians are going to inaccurately assume that I am sleeping with people, I'd rather they didn't assume it was with my 50-year-old mother.
See you all soon,
-- This e-mail was the final e-mail from Luke on Holiday. To be removed please reply to this e-mail including the word "futility" in the subject line --
Save the cheerleader, save the world.