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Londontown March 24, 2008

Posted by Q in Friends, Pictures, Travel.
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A couple weekends ago I hopped a flight across the pond to London to visit Lisa, an LM friend who was working over there for a bit. We had a blast for the weekend.

Lisa was great hostess, having spent 6 months in London during college (We went by the Notre Dame campus, of course. She’s not a bashful alum by any means). I didn’t have a list of must-sees, but we ended up covering most of the touristy spots including Trafalgar Square, Parlament & Big Ben, Westminster Abby (though we didn’t go in), Buckingham Palace, London Tower and Tower Bridge (which were really fun – took a Yeoman Warder tour that explained a lot of tower history and we saw the crown jewels – stunning!), Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the London Eye and a glimpse at 10 Downing St.

We also did some unexpected things: We took a look in the National Gallery, which houses The Execution of Lady Jane Grey. It is amazing how the artist made her dress look so real. It seems like you could almost touch it. We stumbled on the Churchill Museum and War Rooms, which is the actual location of Churchill and England’s WWII command center. We also, on a whim, decided to check out The Sound of Music. It was an amazing show (wonderful set design and excellent voices), and we got really good tickets last minute at one of the discount ticket windows. The set used a minimum amount of props to give the feeling of seamlessly transitioning through all the scenes in the movie. It was really engaging. (And, there was also a bit of cool engineering and mechanical motion involved ;)) Lisa’s church was also an unexpected surprise. Hillsong-London is held in a functioning theater, and they utilize all the lighting, sound, a full band and all. It was a refreshing experience (the music was great!).

You can check out pics from the weekend on my web gallery: Q’s Web Gallery

An excellent weekend get away. Thanks again, Lisa, for schlepping me around.



Iraq: From My Classmate’s Eyes January 31, 2008

Posted by Q in Friends, Links, Random.
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Joe Linhart graduated with me, Class of ’03. He signed up for the Army senior year and was trained and sent to war shortly thereafter. Here is an interested article on his year in Iraq that he wrote for 02138 (a Harvard-related magazine): http://www.02138mag.com/magazine/article/1676.html

One quote jumped out at me:

“People in any country have the same capacity for good and evil. It’s what makes us human. When the average Iraqi doesn’t provide information about the terrorists, it is frustrating. Then again, who reports a gang-related shooting in Los Angeles or Newark or Detroit?”

I’ve heard a lot of people (including me) say, “I don’t understand why the ‘good Iraqis’ don’t just identify the ‘bad Iraqis.'” Putting it in the context of urban America, I can better understand there reluctance to aid.

Anyway, read the article. He wrote it like he and the reader were having a conversation over a beer. There is a lot of insight that you can only get from someone who is actually on the front line. I really appreciate his sharing his experience.

Day 14 – Home, Sweet Home (1/9/08) January 18, 2008

Posted by Q in Friends, Travel, Wharton.
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This morning we got up at a leisurely time, checked out of our hotel and hopped on the 1/2 hour train to the airport. The flights were all smooth. We had quite a layover in Heathrow though. It was pretty much the opposite of the trip over. We had tons of time to kill.

When we got back to Philly I was glad to be home. It was a good trip, but I was glad to get some rest and to listen to the world in English again πŸ™‚

I would definitely head back to Italy in a heartbeat. It was a wonderful place full of great people, culture, food, history, art, etc.

Good times. πŸ™‚

So now I have to plan somewhere for spring break. Any suggestions? πŸ˜‰

PS don’t forget to check out the photos: http://gallery.mac.com/qecurry

Day 13 – Here Comes the Sun, Little Darling (1/8/08) January 18, 2008

Posted by Q in Friends, Travel, Wharton.
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The sun of God! (and some more paints of the Son of God too πŸ™‚ )
Today was finally sunny and clear – first fully clear day since our penultimate day in the mountains.

We hit up the Academy Museum in the morning. It’s not a big collection, but it is the house of Mikey’s David. It truly is awesome to see famous works. I never realized the size of the whole statue. I always thought it was a regular sized statue. I couldn’t get pics to show the scale, bit he was easily 14′.

After hitting up the museum, we walked around a bit more, saw the Duomo and bridge in the brilliant sunlight and broke out for Rome.

When we got back to Rome, we still had a few hours of daylight left. We swung by the hotel, freshened up a bit and when over to the Vatican again. This time we got to see St. Peter’s Square at sunset, and it was gorgeous. We also went inside the Basilica – amazing. The scale and the detail were simply amazing. I was able to get some pics inside. On the way out we also saw some of the Swiss Guard. I was hoping to see them πŸ™‚

After getting some more photos and sending off our postcards we walked back down to Trastevere for dinner. We grabbed pizza to hold us over until dinner time, then found nice bar with a happy hour.

We walked back to our hotel, packed our stuff and got ready to head home.

Day 12 – Oops Upside Your Dome (1/7/08) January 18, 2008

Posted by Q in Friends, Travel, Wharton.
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We headed off to Florence early. We booked a room at the same hotel for when we returned so we left our big bags and packed a small bag for the overnight stay. Florence was only a 1.5 hour train, non-stop – beautiful!

We didn’t make many plans before getting to Florence so when we got in we popped into the tourist office to find a hotel. We ended up with better AND cheaper digs (granted the cheaper part might be because it is Florence). The hotel was right next to the train station so we dropped our stuff off and once again hit the bricks – I sweater Italy seemed morally adverse to asphalt.

We explored Florence in the rain covering most of the sights in the half day. Again, more churches. These had their own style as well. The Duomo was cool. I climbed to the top and saw a beautiful view of Florence: churches, small roads, a bit of countryside. The cloud cover and slight fog made it seem like the city went on forever.

For lunch we grabbed a great selection of wine and meat & cheese at a small wine bar Kedar read about. The walls were full if rare and expensive scotch as well (I immediately thought of Okwui πŸ™‚

After lunch we walked across the famous bridge with all the shops along the side of it and up a hill to a vista of the whole city. It was pretty. Unlike in the Duomo view, the cloud cover detracted from this view. We still got a couple good pics though.

The weather was still whack so we called it a night early: grabbed some food on the way home (not really hungry; still stuffed from the platter at lunch!) and watched some hotel TV movies (Norbit and Dream Girls – well only the beginning of Dream Girls for me πŸ˜‰ )

Day 11 – Italian Home Cooking (1/6/08) January 18, 2008

Posted by Q in Friends, Travel, Wharton.
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Slept in today. Yay!

It felt good to fight a cough and the sniffles with a but of rest. We took it pretty chill today. We decided to grab one of those open-top tour buses at the train station. Even though it was raining we still tried to stay upstairs. We already saw most of the sights the bus went by, but we hadn’t see the Roman Forum yet. We got off at the old chariot race site and wondered over to the Colosseum and the Forum. It was beautiful to see the ruins, and the rain seemed to stop just so we can enjoy it.

After walking around the forum for a bit, we hopped back on bus then got off in old Roman neighborhood, Trastevere. There we walked around for a bit before meeting up with Giuseppe. It was nice to actually hang out with him in Rome. He took us to some nice local spots for some wine and later some tea.

We had already made plans to have a home cooked meal at Alice’s place. We caught cab out to the residential area. (The cab got lost – ha!) We had great, home-cooked food! Pasta, stuffed pork roll, and desert: three course of yum. πŸ™‚ Afterward we got a ride back from Francesca, avoiding another cab fiasco.

Tomorrow we’re headed for our last Italian city.

Day 10 – Raining All Over The World (1/5/08) January 18, 2008

Posted by Q in Friends, Travel, Wharton.
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We got up early this morning. Got to the Vatican Museum at what we thought was a head start. The line was already down the block – but it was still short compared to where it was 10 mins after we showed up (and we were told even that is short compared to the lines at peak season). Once the doors opened the line moved quickly though.Once inside we picked up the audio guides, which were very helpful and interesting. The museum is huge! We walked around inside for about 4 hours and we were booking it. The layout is a series of corridors and rooms that are connected in such a way as to funnel everyone in the same direction. At the end of the path is the Sistine Chapel. To be honest, I am not much on art. I mean I appreciate it and it’s beauty, but I don’t spend too much time starting at art work in museums. The Sistine Chapel held me for about almost half of an hour. It was gorgeous and elaborate. I had no idea it was so much more than just the creation of man bit. We couldn’t take pictures or video, but I did try to capture some pics from the panels in the court yard.

When we came out of the museum it was pouring like crazy! The rain lasted pretty much all day. We walked around to check out St. Peter’s, but didn’t want to wait in the rain to go inside. Instead we hung out for a sec in the square then sought refuge back at the hotel for a bit.

After a rest, we hit the streets again. Took in a couple more sights then stumbled on a Stanley Kubrick exhibit at a modern art museum. It was quite a fortunate find as the exhibit was showing Kubrick films. We were just in time for Spartacus. It was kind of ironic and fun watching a movie about over throwing Rome while in Rome. πŸ™‚ I hadn’t scene it before. It’s basically more love story than action movie, but very enjoyable.

After the movie we caught up with some of the people we meet in Madonna di Campiglio, Francesca and Alice, and some of their friends. We went out to Roman hotspot called Le Masion (or something like that πŸ™‚ ) . It would have been fun on another night but I was out of gas from all the walking and ready to turn in by the time we even got there. When I go back to Rome, I definitely want to check the place out again.

When we got back home I was out like a light.