Tag Archives: tourism

forget it… it’s china[town]

the second big trip in 2013 (i also went to california, but it was strictly work so and nothing really worth reporting) was to china. every year the company i work for does three “town hall” meetings- it’s a chance for the president to answer employee questions and do a progress report for the year. there is always one in des moines, iowa, usually one in belgium (our second biggest office), and then one in another global office. this year china was selected.

i have to admit, i wasn’t super stoked to go to china to begin with. not because i have anything against the country. it’s just… it’s just that i’m asian. and that gets confusing. because i’m the fakest asian there is. i really know nothing about my heritage. i can’t speak the languages. oh, and i’m not chinese, i’m korean.

but my boss was going with me and she and i got along really well. slowly but surely she convinced me that this trip was going to be amazing. we planned out fun things we could do in our free time. and, she reminded me, i’m adventurous. it’s not somewhere i’ll probably ever go again. i should be soaking up this opportunity and enjoying every second of it.

i hate it when she’s right.

the best part about this trip was that it was a 16 hour flight. well, that wasn’t the best part… the best part was flying FIRST CLASS for a 16 hour flight. i’ve never ridden in first class in my life. and it was everything i dreamed it would be and more.

first classsorry for party rockin

i mean, the seats laid ALL THE WAY DOWN. they offered us champagne. and wine. and port (which, turns out, is disgusting). and an assortment of cheeses, appetizers, and snacks. the meals were almost restaurant worthy. the attendants smiled. it was a happy, beautiful place i hope to someday return to.

so, when you fly to china, you have to go into hong kong first. we got to hong kong in the afternoon, took a taxi to our hotel, and got ourselves situated. that night we went out for dinner and to explore the area. our hotel was near the water and we apparently hit a good time, because as we were walking we noticed a crowd of people starting to form along the dock. wondering what was going on, we stopped as well, and we witnessed hong kong’s “symphony of lights,” which essentially is the world’s largest laser light show. 44 different businesses/buildings along the victoria harbor participate in this ten minute show and it attracts around 4 million visitors each year.

hk laser show

the next day we did a little more exploring of hong kong. we decided the best way to see the sights in one day (not enough time) was to take a tour. we booked the tour through our hotel, which was recommended to us so we wouldn’t get ripped off and everything would be organized. our tour guide picked us up and we headed off with a bunch of other tourists with cameras strapped around their necks to victoria peak.

victoria peak is the highest mountain in hong kong. it’s referred to as ‘the peak’ by the natives and it’s a huge tourist attraction because it has a breathtaking view of hong kong and the surrounding islands.

hk-victorias peak

peace-1
oh, and i also accepted my roots and threw the peace sign as often as i could.

…a little bit of immaturity. while we were at the peak we saw this and couldn’t stop laughing. i’ve always wondered where that went.

cum recycle

after we left victoria peak, our tour bus brought us to the aberdeen fishing village, which houses around 6,000 people who live on the boats. we paid 60 Hong Kong dollar (approximately $8 USD) to ride a sampan and help support the fishing industry. aberdeen is one of the most important fishing ports in kong hong, but due to the increasing costs of the industry the community in aberdeen has started to decrease in size.

aberdeen:

sampak

aberdeen  sampak2

after the sampan ride we walked around the hong kong market for a bit, then made our way to the docks. you see, the reason we were only staying in hong kong for a day was because we were going to go to macau that night. i really knew nothing about macau except that it was supposed to be the “vegas of asia” and that one of the james bond movies had a scene there.

a little fun fact about me. i get motion sickness. like, crazy bad. the sampan wasn’t too terrible (surprisingly), but i felt absolutely miserable on that boat that took us from hong kong to macau. chalk it up to being tired or just lucky throughout the day, but i fought the headache and stomach until i made myself go to sleep for the rest of the ride.

so we arrive to macau; tired, sickly, and starving. we had chose a hotel that was not on the “strip,” but rather in a different part of the city. it was kind of remote, but well-kept and very pretty.

macau by night

the strangest part of macau is the mix of cultures- it has influences from china, but cantonese and portuguese influences are found throughout the country as well. we decided to do a bit of gambling (when in rome), but a lot of the games were different than the ones we are used to in the USA. even so, slot machines seem fairly universal, and stephanie ended up winning $200 on the slots!!! well… $200 HK dollar, which is about $28 US dollar… but still!

winner winner

the next day we decided to do a bit of exploring of macau on our own. i had a list of things we should check out, so we took a taxi to the casa gardens, which is just a cute little park in macau. attached to casa gardens is the old protestant cemetery. apparently back in the day macau was a strictly roman catholic country, and china refused to bury any outsiders, so the protestants had to bury their dead at night. they also risked being killed for this procedure if they were caught. in 1821 the land was bought and they got legal status to bury their dead. we also saw plenty of temples, the old city wall, and the ruins of st. paul. macau is a fairly small place so most of the sights are easily walkable if you don’t mind some hills. i loved walking around the city and seeing the different lifestyle- old buildings are a weakness of mine. i have to take photos of things that are run down or interesting, places that seem like they have a story.

casa gardens
casa garden is faaaabullouussssssmacau air macau

another highlight of macau was going to the macau tower, which is the 10th tallest tower in the world.

macau towerview from the macau tower

the reason i liked the macau tower so much, though, was not the impressive heights or the view (those were fine, but you go in one tower you pretty much go in them all), but the fact that you could BUNGEE JUMP OFF OF THE TOWER!

macau bungee macau bungee2

um, say what?! i wanted to bungee jump so badly (i’ve never done it before), and it seemed like a prime location to do so. i mean, how many people can say they’ve been to macau alone, let alone jump off of the 10th tallest tower in the world? unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, we’ll never know), stephanie was pretty against it. don’t get me wrong, she would’ve supported me going and actually encouraged me to, but she wasn’t going to go herself. and i decided if i was going to fall and break every bone in my body, doing it so far away from home before my work trip actually started might not be the best idea.

oh well. next time.

after we left the tower, macau started going down hill. not physically or probably for anyone else, but this was the point in time where stephanie and i had to go through the immigration line to leave macau and enter china. the three hour, hot, disgusting, immigration line where no one spoke english and stephanie was constantly gawked at for being a white female. i pretended for a bit to join in with everyone else, but even that lost it’s appeal after hour two. 😉 and then i lost my immigration card and thought i was going to be stuck in macau forever…. whew, i made it out, though. he basically swore at me and called me lucky and then stamped my passport. then we waited in another two hour line to actually get into china.

once we got to china we were already in the town we needed to be in (zhuhai), so that was a little bit of luck in our favor. we hitched a taxi to our hotel, got settled in, and started prepping for our work meetings. besides doing the town hall (which i am in charge of), we had to give a few presentations, meet with the teams, and tour the facilities.

besides the meetings and everything going according to plan, two things happened out of the ordinary that came to mind during our time in zhuhai.

1) the heads our specialty crop improvement team were also in china to check out their team and plants. they are two of my favorite people who work at kemin, and they invited me out to dinner with their team that night.

sci

2) i experienced my first squatter toilet. no, i didn’t use it (at that point), but it was a new and startling experience in itself.

toilet
no, no thank you.

from zhuhai we went to shanghai for a few days, where we had dinner with a different team (apparently we have 4 offices in china- zhuhai, shanghai, beijing, and ningbo) and attended FIC, the largest food ingredient trade show in the world. the last night michael took us out for hunan food. he started us out on level 1 and the goal was to gradually go up as we got acquainted with the flavor… we ended up staying on level 1 the entire night, but we also drank a lot of strange chinese budweiser beers. apparently it’s americans contribution to the world of beer.

after our time in shanghai, stephanie and i took a train to beijing, along with another one of our coworkers, alex. alex is head of marketing for our health division, and he is a pretty funny character. he was in good humor the entire train ride, doing a bit of work, a bit of army stuff (very dedicated soldier), and conversing with stephanie and me. well, they tried to converse with me. but to be honest, i am a terrible transportation friend. i like to fall alseep, listen to music, or watch television shows when i’m in route. i’ll make some small talk, but honestly, it’s one of the few times i actually like to be left alone. after the talking wore me out, i watched a few episodes of the walking dead and then fell asleep for most of the 4.5 hour train ride.

when we got to beijing it was already pretty late at night. we hadn’t had any dinner yet so we had a drink and some food, and then we got ready for bed. even though it was already 2am, we probably would’ve stayed out later, but we had to meet our driver in the lobby at 7:30am and that didn’t call for much sleep. xuemei was kind enough to arrange this for us, however, and we wanted to see the great wall of china which was a bit out of the city.

and the great wall was just that- great. it was phenomenal, in fact. we opted to walk the wall instead of paying for a ride up, and i’m really glad we did. the sights along the way were great, and it was rewarding to get to the top and look over it all. makes a person feel rather small!

i have tons of photos of this 13,171 mile wall, but i will spare you photos of my “brilliant” photography and just narrow it down to a few. 

great wall

great wall2 on the wallin this photo you get to see the beauty of one of the seven wonders of the world.
…and then behind me, you also get to see the great wall of china.

one of the coolest parts of the trip to the wall (once you got over how old, how big, how well constructed the wall itself is), was the fact that you could toboggan to the bottom of the mountain for only 60 RMB. since i already regretted not bungee jumping, i decided there was no way i was going to pass up this less-potentially-bone-breaking opportunity. and it was a lot of fun!

the rest of the day we did typical touristic things in beijing. alex was leaving early that next morning, so we mostly did things that he wanted to see. those things included going to the forbidden city, which was right next to tiananmen square. the forbidden city was where the emperor lived during the ming dynasty. for around 500 years it was home to their households and was also the ceremonial and political center of the chinese government. the architecture was amazing. the buildings were beautiful. but no matter where i go in the world, the best part of being in old places is…

…pretending to be a gargoyle.

im a gargoyle

what can i say? even with thousands of tourists milling around, some habits die hard. alex also pretended to pee in the corner and that also made for a funny photo. he pretended, though. i swear it.

later that day the taxi driver took us to mcdonald’s, which i don’t even go to in the usa. i’m just sharing this because it made me really annoyed, although it shouldn’t have. he was a great driver and very attentive, but there was enough of a language gap that he didn’t understand me when i said i’d rather eat my own hand off.

i didn’t. i ordered some mcdonald’s, which was very cheap and tasted very much like the chicken sandwich i was hoping to get. i was also very impressed with the waiter’s english. we got to sit down and relax, and it was a really enjoyable time. (but i haven’t had mcdonald’s in the usa since either.) that night we made up for it, though, by going out for peking duck, ordering some fresh octopus, and then walking around houhai, which is a pretty trendy bar area near the water.

the last day xuemei took us out, along with her adorable daughter lele, to see some more sights in beijing. we went to the olympic park (where the… olympics… were held), and she handed us a few of those fancy masks the asians wear because of the smog. i put mine on and her daughter lele just started giggling and pointing at me. i wonder why?

invisible woman

i think because of this silliness, lele felt drawn to me (probably became i’m immature and act like a child), but it was great because she hung out with me all day. we goofed around at olympic park, she wore my sunglasses at lunch, and we pretended to be kittens while we wandered around the temple of heaven, which is a complex of religious buildings that are visited during worship. what was really cool about the temple was that all the steps were in sections of nine, because nine represented a heavenly number. everything was blue, green, and yellow; the colors were a symbolic representation of heaven, the mortal world, and earth.

xuemei also took us to the pearl market, where we bought pearl necklaces in the same place as hillary clinton and barbara bush. i had a few fake pearl necklaces, but i gave the helpers my price range and they brought me back a few strings of pearls to choose from. i picked one out and they sat down and started putting together my necklace, which was amazing to watch, and a necklace that i wear almost every day to work now! then we parted ways for the day and stephanie and i made our way on to the last leg of our journey, ningbo.

Xuemei Lele

there isn’t too much to report on ningbo, to be honest. it’s not a very busy area of china. i had edited the town hall meeting so we showed it to the employees (which chinese subtitles as many could not speak english) and then toured the factory and gave a few presentations and answered questions to help people practice their english.

that night a few members of the ningbo team took us out for dinner. that was potentially the highlight of the whole trip- the ningbo team was so nice and the food (traditional chinese foods like lotus root, various fish, etc) was good and shared family style. since there was no more work to do, we finally felt like we could relax a bit! as we were leaving we got a group photo, which is pretty common. but then the waitresses asked if they could have a photo with stephanie… which was maybe the funniest thing that happened during the whole trip. one waitress even shoved another out of the photo because she wanted one by herself with the white lady.

waitresses

the strangest part of being in china, at least for me, was that the chinese assumed i was also chinese and spoke to me in mandarin. i got really good at my ‘ni hao’ (hello) and ‘xie xie’ (thank you), but they were always startled that i didn’t understand the language. i guess it kind of makes sense, because i look the part, but like i stated before… i’m korean. even if i knew korean, i would have no idea what they would be saying. in talking with a few people about it, a lot of the chinese thought i was also chinese. apparently i look either like a northern chinese or a korean woman, which i found incredibly interesting. since i was adopted at such a young age and out of south korea, i always assumed i was a full korean. but who knows? i could potentially be half chinese. i don’t think i am, just some food for thought. i am tall for a korean. 🙂

anyway, stephanie was right. the trip was a once in a lifetime experience and i’m glad we got to go. xie xie for reading.

[[what really happened in italy]]

written in response to my earlier post italy [[rough agenda]]

thursday, march 1
-had amazing airport companion that made the trip from st. petersburg airport to paris, france much easier. a few perks: getting to cut lines and save hours of time, using the business class lounge, good plane conversation/no motion sickness, had someone carry my luggage for me.
-had assistance finding my gate for verona. hung out in the airport for a few hours, got something to eat. boarded plane. fell asleep. woke up in verona.
-went to car rental place– realized i either forgot to bring my license or lost it in russia. (i am praying i forgot it.)
-took a taxi to san bonifacio to the soave best western hotel. approximately 70 euro, but very typical.
-checked in to my hotel room. fell asleep immediately.

friday, march 2
-woke up– tried to find a way to get from the best western to the eurhema facility. was suggested to take the train. colleague would pick me up at reggio emilia station at 3:05
-terrible idea to take the train. had to switch trains twice; one time a full station.
-friendly italian man who was helping me turned very creepy and wouldn’t leave me alone. kept trying to kiss me and put his arm around me. followed me from train to train even though he had not paid for a ticket for himself.
-friendly turned creepy (FTC for short) was very adamant that we got off the train at a certain stop. since he was right about verona station i followed– he was wrong. supposed to get off at modena. got off at mantova, putting me about an hour behind schedule…
-spent about 1.5 hours trying to get someone to help me as my phone doesn’t work internationally. no one speaks english. i bought a phone card. didn’t work. no one would let me pay to use their phone or internet. FTC still following me around.
-finally convince a taxi driver to talk to me- he lets me borrow his phone to call his son (who speaks english); i explain the situation, he tells his father. his father calls the eurhema plant and talks to them for a bit. they tell me to take the taxi to the plant.
-i get into the taxi, very frustrated. taxi driver speaks minimal english, i speak minimal italian. still, we make small talk, lots of gestures. i cheer up.
-i arrive to eurhema plant. it is now 5:00pm. i meet lauro and pamela, reintroduce myself to claudia and diego.
-get quick tour of the plant by claudia and lauro.
-take product shots of our products produced in the plant.
-take photos of the laboratory areas/facility for reference.
-ride back home with diego. he’s got a great accent- rolls his Rrrrss. he owns a restaurant and is a waiter in his spare time. he said american accents are very hard to understand because american movies/films are dubbed over in italian when they are at the cinema or on television so they never get a chance to hear them.
-got back to best western around 7:30pm.  realized i have not had any food all day.
-ate in the hotel restaurant. very good food. watched a family play with a small child.
-went back up to my room and uploaded photos from st. petersburg.
-tried to talk to my parents through skype but they were not home. they called back at 2:15am my time.

saturday, march 3
-woke up late.
-go explore san bonifacio- not much to do in town but find a nice little cafe. people are drinking wine and beer at the counter. it is 1:00pm.
-i order a panini and hot chocolate. the hot chocolate is not a drink, but hot chocolate pudding, served with a spoon.
-the italians try to ask me questions and joke around with me. i answer back with my minimal italian. lots of smiling. they were drunk. at 1:00pm.
-finish my meal, walk to train station. buy a ticket for vicenza.
-arrive in vicenza, walk around and soak in a new city. vicenza is beautiful- lots of parks and rivers. buildings are tall and old like venice, but the town is a lot smaller and less touristy.
-asked “dov’è il teatro olimpico?” (where is…) about 100 times. very helpful people, but no english. that’s okay. i know “sinistra” “dittro” and “destra” thanks to rosetta stone.
-found the theater. took some photos.
-walked back near the train station. got “e cafe” and sat outside and watched people.
-went to explore the city some more- took some off roads. bought some gelato. consumed said gelato.
-barely missed the 6:22 train back to san bonifacio. hung around the train station (it was getting cold/dark) until 7:27 train. bought some earrings and some snack food.
-got back to san bonifacio around 8:00. approximately 700 amanda steps from train station to hotel.
-ate dinner at hotel restaurant again. realizing how starved i am for real human interaction and conversation.
-got back to hotel room, uploaded photos from vicenza to computer. talked to my parents. and anyone else who was online. (again… starved for conversation.)

sunday, march 4
-woke up, ate breakfast, drank coffee, soaked in italy
-cleaned up my room a bit to get organized for the week.
-talked to some more people who were online. courtney made it to turks and caicos okay.
-read a bit, surfed the internet. stalked people on facebook.
-took a nap.
-got ready for the day– brian (our new HR trainer) was in italy too and had just gotten to soave.
-met brian for dinner. decided to have an aperitif first; ended up having about 3 glasses of wine.
-all restaurants full or not serving food. went back to hotel to wait. drank a few more glasses of wine.
-all restaurants officially closed. took a taxi back to san bonifacio and found little pizzeria that still happened to be open.
-got kicked out of the pizzerria after we were done eating because they were ready to close.
-went back to hotel and brian went back to soave.

monday, march 5
-woke up, ate breakfast, got ready for the day.
-benjamin picks me up on his way to work.
-traditional stop at gas station for cigarettes and coffee.
-work with benjamin on SOT (sound on tape) bytes.
-interviewed benjamin.
-tour of facility and equipment with benjamin.
-regular work.
-saw koen.
-re-fell in love with koen.
-discuss life, love, and happiness with bruno.
-toured sirmione/lake garda.
-broke camera. used phone to take photos.
-fixed camera. still used phone to take photos.
-ate in verona. walked around in the rain. (i love the rain.)
-saw giuseppe. bantered.
-back to hotel in san bonaficio.
-final final.
-sleep.

tuesday, march 6
– wake up. grumble. press snooze.
-quick breakfast.
-car pool to veronella.
-catch up with needed work for des moines office, review projects and workload.
-shoot b-roll for video.
-take photos for record.
-work with koen on SOT bytes.
fall in love with  interview koen.
-upload video content; make sure footage comes out okay.
-do graphic design/other video work as time allows.
-meet up in soave with kn europe sales team.
-feel awkward for about 5 minutes. get over it. socialize.
-dinner in soave.
-embarrassing conversation.
-new friends/colleagues.
-early retirement.
-sleeeeeeeep.

wednesday, march 7
– wake up way too early. grumble. can’t press snooze.
-taxi to verona airport. arrive at airport: 6:30am
-catch flight to paris, france: 7:40am
-arrive in paris and find gate just in time to board for minneapolis.
-board plane. excitement builds.
-watch about 4 movies. sleep. eat. get restless. get excited.
-touchdown, usa.
-call parental units. assure that i will be in dsm by 4:40pm and will need someone to pick me up.
-text the love and let him know i’m okay.
-get back to des moines: 4:30pm.
-food time.
-nap time.
-…karaoke time. (the first wednesday of every month is carl’s karaoke. i haven’t missed one since it has started and i’m not going to start on the account of jet lag!).

|| fav shots of italy ||

 

the motherland welcomes you.

i enjoyed russia so much more than i anticipated. don’t get me wrong- i was very excited to go, but i knew it would be cold, i knew it’d be busy, and i knew that work trips always have a way of… well, being work.

the opening reception at the grand hotel europe was amazing. it was a great opportunity to network and see some colleagues who i haven’t seen for awhile. a men’s russian choir also sang for us while we ate, an experience i’m not sure many would have. i sat with some of my favorite people within the company. they didn’t even mock me too much when i had sprite instead of wine. 🙂

the next day the meetings started. i won’t bore you with the details of the sessions- but our technical service people and marketing people split up into two different groups and attended sessions that related to their subject. i obviously went with the marketing group. the sessions were nice- they were lead by internal employees so we all had an opportunity to see and get to know people’s personalities more as the week went on. there were also poster sessions (where people presented an important “finding” for the year for their division) and a bit of time that i used to get interviews done, the main reason i attended the meeting.

after the first day was over we were broken out into smaller groups for dinners. our dinner was within walking distance, so we set off for this place called terrassa.  it was snowing, but very lightly. the walk was nice because it allowed us time to check out the sights of st. petersburg. it also gave me time to catch up with my friend chandru, who i had not seen in a very long time.


(looking fluffy in our warm winter-wear)

the restaurant was very nice– and the menus were absolutely ridiculous! the menu was more like a magazine, i think it had around 20 pages and it gave all the food and then the corresponding images were around the outside. we quickly made it into a matching game, trying to guess which item was what. the food also tasted pretty good. i had some sort of seafood udon noodle dish. the indians ordered round after round of food, then realized they couldn’t eat it all. it was kind of humorous. 🙂

our dinner ended and a group of us… well… the women…. decided that we were going to go shopping. there was a giant mall across the street from our hotel and everyone had a different mission of something they wanted to get. diane wanted a soccer jersey for her fiancee’s son. marsha wanted a coat like diane had bought the day before. april wanted a russian hat for her husband. and i- i wanted nesting dolls. the mall is actually very different than malls in the united states, because all of the rooms are connected. you walk into a store and then you immediately walk into the next, there’s no division. i found the nesting dolls almost immediately and then tagged along with everyone else while they made their purchases.

i got back to the hotel, went to the bar to say hello, but stayed away from any tasty beverages. i was still tired and recovering from the nights before.

the next day was potentially my favorite day in russia. besides having to present my poster, there wasn’t really anything that i disliked. the sessions were good and after they were over a bus took us to the hermitage, which is one of the most famous and prestigious museums in the world. kessler and i were in the same group, so we decided that the hermitage was our “first date.” and by that, he meant that he was going to throw his jacket on mine and make me wait for the coat pick up.

um. wait. what?!

the hermitage is BEAUTIFUL. words cannot even express how impressed i was with the museum. i know that the museum was so large that it would’ve spent days upon days to see the entire thing- but because we had local tour guides, they showed us the best of the best. we got to see some van goghs and some picassos. we got to see beautiful, elaborate design and rooms so breathtaking i literally was letting out contented sighs while i was in them. we also got to do a bit of goofing off, because i was with a fairly fun group who knew how to have fun. 🙂


(check out dexter’s “chiseled features”)


(twinsies)


(the gold room- possibly my favorite room in the hermitage)

At the end of the tour we were able to see this peacock clock. It’s a very famous clock that has a peacock, an owl, and some other nature-like items in it’s mechanisms. When the clock is wound the creatures “come alive” and the peacock even makes some… peacock-esk noises. they aren’t pretty. but they are pretty cool. the clock is only wound up around once a month now or for “very special guests.” i assume we were in that later group, and it doesn’t go unappreciated.

as we were exiting the museum portion of the hermitage there was a string-quartet playing music and champagne waiting on the tables. i wasn’t going to have any, but my arm was twisted (rather softly) by my colleagues and i gave in to the bubbles.

also, since this was the only photo i could find in my album with champagne, let me tell you about frank, who is also featured in this photo. frank is my favorite frenchmen in the world. he’s the nicest and politest person i’ve ever met, and he won me over entirely on this trip with his gentleman ways.

what i’m getting at is, if i was to have a “top 5 men of work” (which, let’s be honest, of course i do), he would definitely be on it. 🙂

the rest of russia kind of went by in a blur. i got the rest of my interviews taken care of. attended more sessions. worked. stressed out. relaxed. drank. socialized.

we did get to see catherine’s summer palace and also take a horse sleigh ride around alexander’s park. the palace had an extraordinary outside, but the inside was less impressive to me. don’t get me wrong, for a house, sure, it’s pretty amazing. but after seeing the hermitage i just expected more. as for the horse ride- well, we have horses and we have snow in iowa. 🙂 granted, we also have dogs in iowa and i was still excited to pet the dogs in russia, so i can’t really talk.

on the last day in russia i finally got to take advantage of some sight seeing opportunities. originally i had planned on going out on sunday, but didn’t make it out of the hotel. lucky for me, jim and frank had nothing to do the last day either and were ready to do some exploring.

the first stop was the church of the savior on spilled blood- the only thing that wasn’t on the agenda that i really wanted to see. the outside was just beautiful and iconic and i felt immediately drawn to the building. the church was built on the spot where emperor alexander II was assassinated, which i think is where the ‘blood’ reference comes from in the title.

the inside of the cathedral was even more beautiful and intricate than the outside. the inside was comprised completely of mosaics. 7,500 square meters of mosaics– having more mosaics than any church in the world.


after we left the church (which i think jim and i would’ve been content to hang out in all day), we moved on a bit farther to go see st. isaac’s cathedral. at st. isaac’s you can pay to enter the church, but also pay to walk to the top of the cathedral and overlook the city. of course we would like to. oh? it’s 622 steps? yeah. i guess we’d still like to.

breathtaking views. the weather was brisk, but i felt good after jogging up the steps. i was also very contented at the top of st. isaac’s- i’ve found that i like places where i feel calm, but slightly out of my element. those are usually high up places, or places where the land meets an ocean (not really a beach, but more like the cliffs of moher in ireland).

but i digress. feast your eyes on this.


(they will see us waving from such great heights)



(inside the lower level of st. isaac’s)

in conclusion- would go back to russia in a heartbeat.

italy [[rough agenda]]

friday, march 2
– arrive at st. petersburg, russia airport: 4:30PM
-board plane at 5:30PM
-arrive in paris, france airport: 6:00PM
-find verona, italy gate. have a minor panic as i can’t find verona, italy gate
(i suspect this will happen). have some nice stranger help me.
-depart for italy: 8:35PM
-arrive in verona, italy: 10:10PM
-have another minor panic attack thinking bruno forgets to pick me up at the airport.
-ride with bruno to destination.

saturday, march 3
– wake up, eat breakfast, drink coffee, soak in italy
-road trip to cinque terre, italy (approximately 2.5-3 hours away)
-eat lunch in cinque terre
-sightsee, be a tourist. soak in italy.
-buy gifts (optional). take too many photos (not optional).
-eat supper.
-discover night scene.
-stay in cinque terre?

sunday, march 4
– wake up, eat breakfast, drink coffee, soak in italy
-road trip to pisa? (approximately 1 hour away) or continue to be amazed by cinque terre.
-sightsee, be a tourist. soak in italy.
-buy gifts (optional). take too many photos (not optional).
-eat lunch. maybe drink lunch.
-drive back to verona (approximately 2-2.5 hours)
-check into hotel
-final final?
-sleeeeeeeep

monday, march 5
– wake up, find a way to veronella
-catch up with des moines office- review projects and workload
-work with benjamin on SOT (sound on tape) bytes
-interview benjamin
-upload interview; make sure sound bytes come out okay
-work with koen on SOT bytes
-interview koen
-upload interview; make sure sound bytes come out okay
-do graphic design/other video work, if time allows
go back to hotel, YEAH RIGHT
-go explore soave castle
-sightsee, be a tourist. soak in italy.
-night walk through the vineyard (don’t get face ripped off by werewolves)
-back to hotel in san bonaficio
-final final
-sleep

tuesday, march 6
– wake up. grumble. press snooze.
-car pool to veronella.
-catch up with des moines office- review projects and workload
-study video script/interviews. come up with more defined shot list.
-go shoot b-roll for video.
-discuss with koen additional footage/editing needs for lunch & learn
-pierrick or bruno to give factory tour for internal usage
-upload video content; make sure footage comes out okay
-do graphic design/other video work as time allows
-drive to verona, sight see, supper.
-unless that’s boring, then lake garda it is.
-final final
-sleeeeeeeep

wednesday, march 7
– wake up way too early. grumble. can’t press snooze.
-taxi to verona airport. arrive at airport: 6:30am
-catch flight to paris, france: 7:40am
-arrive in paris: 10:50am
-go practice my french (kissing) on strangers.
-board plane for usa: 1:45pm
-get stranded in minneapolis for a bit: 3:05pm (time zone throws me every time, just doesn’t look right)
-get back to des moines: 4:12pm
-no final final
-sleep.

things i discovered while in italy.

a good ol’ f/u.

…as in follow up.

……from my previous post.

Some tips I discovered while traveling around Italy

Language
  • Well, there’s a language barrier. There’s that.
  • Learn basic phrases in Italian or the language of any foreign country you’re traveling to. Even if you sound stupid, at least it sounds like you’re trying.
  • I feel it would be useful to learn the phrase, “Can I pet your dog?” I realize it’s not for everyone, but it really would’ve came in handy for me.
Venice
  • Venice is expensive. Gondola rides are 80 euro per person (around $120) during the day and 100 euro at night. You may be able to find cheaper rates, but on worse canals. Just do it in Vegas. 🙂
  • Venice is a complete tourist trap… but it’s very beautiful and definitely worth seeing.
    …But maybe only for a day. You can hit all the big things in Venice in one day.
  • Venice has TWO train stations. Make sure you book your trains for the right one. Sounds stupid, but worth repeating.
Rome
  • You WILL wait in line for approximately 2 hours to see the Vatican. It is 15 euro, 31 for a guided tour (and they will sell out quickly). If you’re feeling risky, street vendors offer you tickets and a tour of the Vatican, St. Peter’s, and the Basilica (free entry on the last two) for 45 euro and you can skip the line. It’s your call. It could be worth it.
  • Just assume people are going to try and steal your money (pick pocket) on the bus. It won’t make you the most friendly, but it won’t get you robbed either. Bus line 64 is the infamous line for gypsies and thieves. Both 64 and the 40 will take you to the Vatican.
  • ^ Speaking of the bus lines, you can pick up bus tickets at any tobacco shop for 1 euro.
  • Also, the pick up and drop off spot for the buses are not usually the same place. That doesn’t make ANY sense to me.
  • Stay at the B&B Smart. It is located in a decent area by the train station, it’s cheap, and Isa is the most hospitable person I’ve ever met.
Additional Information
  • It’s important to figure out how to get to your hotel/destination ahead of time. I’m learning the value of this. It makes Jessica much less upset.
  • Be aware of culturally respectful things – some cathedrals have dress codes. You can’t wear too short of shorts and you can’t wear tank tops. They will make you buy a shawl. They made me buy a shawl. It cost euro and it felt like a thin paper towel.
  • Um, gelato. It’s delicious, try it if you’ve never, savor it if you get the chance.
  • It happens in touristy places in the US too, but there are people in costumes who will encourage you to take pictures with them. They WILL charge you, this is not just for their enjoyment. They will also charge you if you take a photo OF them, so if you do… well, be sneaky.
  • Public seating is scarce. A lot of restaurants will have a place to rest, but you need to eat or drink there to use their facilities. Also, restaurant owners, waiters, etc will heckle you (in a fun, good natured way) for you to eat at their restaurant.
  • Grappa. Oh gawd, grappa. It’s an Italian alcohol that’s anywhere from 35-65% proof. It tastes like gasoline and burns even worse. My European co-workers keep assuring me that “aged grappa, colored grappa” is delicious. I don’t know if I believe them.
  • Limoncello, on the other hand, is delicious. But should be sipped. It’s usually served chilled and after-dinner. The first time I had it I took it like a shot. My mouth went numb immediately after.
  • If you ask for water with your meal, it will come in a bottle and you will have to pay for it. A LOT, as they jack up the prices at meal time. Best to just get a pop or a glass of wine. 😉 Or a couple glasses of wine. Hey, you deserve it.