Days 49 & 50: MIM & PRICE.

MIM
On Saturday I set off an adventure with my camera in the morning. I wanted to knock something off my bucket list, so the Museum of Musical Instruments it was. I wandered from West of the city center all the way to Parc Royale and the museum (Note, this long walk is important later.)

jenclinton/08052013aFrom MIM’s website: “Besides the well-known Scottish version, many more countries appear to have their own type of bagpipes, Tibetan monks make musical instruments out of the bones of their deceased colleagues, and African slit drums are the local form of Twitter.”

I don’t know what genius decided the concept for MIM but I’m kind of in love. You get a little transponder thing in your language of choice when you walk in, and there are markings on the floor that you stand on in front of most of the instrument displays. Once you’re in the right place, you hold the transponder to your ear, so you actually hear what the instrument sounds like! I mean really. That’s the point of an instrument right? It was so simple it was obvious, but it sort of blew my mind when I realized what the deal was, haha. So clever.

Many of the pieces were from Eastern Europe (lots of Romania), and most were instruments I’d never heard of. I apologize in advance for picture quality but lighting was definitely not conducive to picture taking, not with my little camera dude anyway. Let’s give out some superlatives, shall we?

Creepiest :

Yikes! That would be a skull drum and a femur horn. I thought a femur flute would be a great alliteration but would be decidedly less intimidating in battle I suppose.

Yikes! That would be a skull drum and a femur horn from Tibet.

Most ornate:

I'd be too afraid to even hold this thing, never mind play it.

I’d be too afraid to even hold this thing, never mind play it. She’s so dainty.

Most BA to play (listen to it here):

the SERPENT from RUSSIA.

the SERPENT from RUSSIA, distant cousin of the tuba.

Most difficult to play:

no WAY is that a one person instrument! holy lung capacity. maybe it comes with a reverb pedal or something, haha.

no WAY is that a one person instrument! holy lung capacity. maybe it comes with a reverb pedal or something, haha.

Best Smile:

:D!

:D!

Best Dressed:

from romania, circa 2007. (that threw me.)

from romania, circa 2007. (that threw me.)

Most “what the?” moment:

"it's a little weird that we're blowing into animal intestines, ya? let's cover it in fur so it's less conspicious. much better."

“it’s a little weird that we’re blowing into animal intestines, ya? let’s cover it in fur so it’s less conspicious. much better.”

Personal favorite:

phish guitar?

phish guitar?

I will say this though, I did enjoy the museum but it would  be much better for you if you have a pretty deep-seated appreciation for classical music. I only appreciate it in small doses, usually when working, which is not something pleasant to think about on a free Saturday afternoon. That’s probably why the nature museum was the one for me. 🙂

On the walk back I took a few more pictures of the city. Isn’t she pretty?

PRICE
So Sunday was designated write-your-damn-thesis day. It went, eh. Okay. I took a break go to the insanity that is Garde du Midi on a Sunday afternoon.

Unfortunately as I was walking through the crowd my right knee just gave out for no reason at all. I’m like, hello old lady. I was able to put weight on it fine so I kept on keeping on. I actually got some delicious food today, look look! And aside from the provolone I didn’t spent more than… seven euro?

pêche, pastèque, fraises

pêche, pastèque, fraises

carottes, fromage feta, fromage provolone, persil

carottes, fromage feta, fromage provolone, persil

When I got back to my work space I tried to stretch my legs out to the chair on the other side of the table. OWWWW OWOW OW. So I can walk on it but I can’t straighten it. Gah. My several-knee-surgeries boyfriend suggested a strained tendon and PRICE – pressure, rest, ice, compression elevation. It’s not swollen or anything, and I’m sure it’s from walking so much in not-made-for-distance-walking shoes. Just PLEASE no crutches, they don’t have normal ones here. Everyone uses the hand ones and not the underarm ones and excuse the vanity but it would make me look all the more pitiful.

Sad face. I should probably wear my sneakers to work for a while. I’ll be the only one in BRUSSELS wearing running shoes, I think even the women who run wear cute flats at the very least, haha. Ah well. Body says slow down, you better darn well listen.

Italia Part 2: Fano & the Mediterranean

This is the second of two posts on my recent trip to Italy. Read Part 1 here!

Saturday morning we woke up bright and early for our beach day. My friend and her mom and I drove over a mountain or two and headed east towards the Mediterranean! [note: apologies for minimal photo editing today, i’m out of time this week!]

Part of the issue with talking in three languages is that I miss a lot of what the plans are, so Saturday was full of surprises for me, despite my friend having told me in at least one of the languages what was happening. What I definitely understood was that there is abig weekend market in Fano, and I would be there. If you know me IRL, I can shop. We’ll call it a strength and a weakness.

il mare, what beautiful words to see.

il mare, what beautiful words to see.

jenclintohn/07262013q

jenclintohn/07262013p

I was far too busy actually shopping to truly capture the feel of that market, and besides, I couldn’t ask in Italian if I could take pictures. (Puis-je prendre des photos? was a sentence I learned on day one in Brussels, especially after pissing off some fishmongers at Garde du Midi). I’d call it a success though – I may or may not be coming home with a new pair of Italian shoes. 🙂 I felt like Cinderella.

After the market it was time to head to our… campground? Here was surprise #1 of the day. I somehow completely missed that my friend’s family has a campsite on the sea, complete with a car trailer, and that I’d be meeting the extended family over lunch, haha. We showed up and this delicious plate was staring me in the face.

jenclinton/07262013i

It was made with all kinds of fish, from shrimp to clams to lobsterlike things to bony white fish from the market. In the top corner is a zucchini salad, and we also had green beans, white rice, and fresh Italian bread. Surprise #2 – Italian bread tastes completely different from home, it’s far less salty but equally as useful for sopping up tomatoes and herbs. Mmmm mmm. They got a kick out being able to talk to me in “francese,” but I liked listening to the Italian surround me while I was eating.

This was my first view of the Mediterranean.

jenclinton/0762013j

I did what any sensible ocean lover would do and walked right out to the water and swam. It only lasted about ten seconds before my friend was sent to calmly ‘rescue me’ because ‘people have died swimming after eating as much as I did beforehand.’ Seems a lot more severe than the ‘wait 20 minutes or you’ll have a stomach ache’ I was used to hearing, haha. I didn’t want to concern anyone though, so I “forced” myself to nap in the sun for a bit, haha. Did I mention how much I love this country yet?

We were on the beach for hours, collecting shells and playing with the one year old in our company. One thing that was different from home was the people walking up and down the beach selling things, like knock off purses, bracelets, hair wraps, and pinwheels. The only time I’ve really seen that was in Haiti (and I still wear the necklace I bought from that man to this day). Not only that but they’re walking around in jeans and long sleeve shirts! Eesh.

When we got hungry again, my friend took me to the best little piadina restaurant in Italy. I’m not even sure if it was in a town it was so remote. But surprise #3, piadina is REAL darn good.

jenclinton/0762013n

jenclinton/0762013t
Especially when accompanied by Italian beer. I got prosciutto, rucola, and stracchino. Oh look at that, we’re back to the best meals of my life list. Deliciously filling and warm and gooey and quintessentially Italian.

I learned about six or seven words while I was there – per favore, ciao, grazie, si, francese, inglese, and machina, haha. Putting on my (miserable) Italian accent even allowed me to order a meal for myself by pronouncing the menu appropriately and throwing “e vino per favore” on the end. I was a little proud, though I’m sure the waitress choked back laughter when she heard me speak.

In my last post I mentioned our drive to the top of a mountain for a photo shoot. This time it was to see an ancient Roman tunnel carved out of the mountain. The plaque on the outside said 76 AD. Like… thirty years post Jesus, we’re talking. Italy, you’re SO OLD. But you’re aging so gracefully so it’s okay. 🙂

The tunnel was really small, but this picture should give you an idea of how fast you’re supposed to drive through it regardless.

jenclinton/0762013o

On the other side we pulled over because the sun was hitting the mountains just right. I love the color of the water and the sun together.

jenclinton/0762013u

Too tired to continue our day, we passed out as soon as we got home… again. I’ve never fit so much into a vacation and yet felt so relaxed! Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about the 16th century farmhouse we ate at, with an infinity pool next door. If it sounds like heaven… that’s because it was.

buona notte, italia

buona notte, italia

Italia Part 1: Asissi & Castillo

My poor little blog, how I missed you. I’m back on track, and back in Brussels!

Last Friday I woke up to complete darkness, caught a cab to the bus to the plane and watched the sunrise over Europe as I flew to Perugia, Italy. My wonderful, intelligent, lovely, hospitable friend from UConn invited me to her hometown so off I went. Editing these photos might take ages so I’ll do a couple mini photo essays… I took about 75 pictures a day, so I’m trying to keep it under control here.

my first european sunrise. mmmhm does 4am come early.

my first european sunrise. mmmhm does 4am come early.

Immediately after getting off the plane, she picked me up and we drove to Assisi.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Francis is one of my favorite saints – being an animal lover and sharing his name with our Jesuit pope and all. (Go stags.) We visited his church and his tomb first. There were so many people, even some in their sweet little nun habits and monk robes. I didn’t take any pictures of them because I know I’d feel weird getting stopped for pictures in my work clothes. Anyway, St. Francis!

jenclinton/072413d

jenclinton/072413n

jenclinton/072413o

We also visited the Basilica de Santa Chiara. St. Chiara was one of the first followers of St. Francis, and eventually founded the women’s order similar to the Franciscans. She also has a pretty pink basilica. And how about this, she was once a part of the church of San Damiano (Francis is also connected to this church), and that’s the saint my BXL house is related to (Kot St. Dam). Whoaaa full circle.

After the church-visiting, the temperature soared so we went into a little restaurant lined with stone walls. We hid from the thunderstorm and drank coffee and caught up on life.

When the rain stopped we hopped back in the car and drove the top of a mountain for a photo shoot. I mean really, she’s a girl after my own heart. Sometimes I can’t believe my own luck.

jenclinton/072413j

jenclinton/072413q

jenclinton/072413i

jenclinton/072413jBut the clouds followed us uphill so we went home.

I can’t tell you how relieved I was that I could speak French to my friend’s parents – I was afraid that communication would be impossible. But even getting by on our rough around the edges ‘francese’ and Italian hand-speak (is that the official title? hmm) made for a much richer experience. Everyone got a kick out of talking to the American in anything other than English – I’m finding that a lot in Europe.

Now I try not to be too crazy with the hyperbole here, but for real. The best meal of my life was my first dinner here. It easily toppled my last favorite meal (which was a breakfast, if you’re curious) and was only matched by Sunday’s lunch. Handmade, hand rolled pasta, filled with chicken, beef, and pork, topped with a tomato sauce from home-grown roma tomatoes, basil, fennel, and herbs de provence. I can still taste it. Not to mention the caprese salad, salami and other meats we cut ourselves, and buffalo mozzarella picked up from the nearby farm that morning. The wine was made by a friend. My life, the movie. Welcome to it.

I’m only slightly ashamed to admit that by the end of the weekend her Italian mother told me I had a good appetite (read: I ate wayyy too much). We finished with a couple glasses of Pastis and then walked into the downtown area to meet up with more family. I’ve adopted her Italian grandfather, watch for him in tomorrow’s pictures. He offered me coffee, a cigarette, and gelato within three minutes, so I took him up on the first one (it was easily after 10pm, and I don’t drink caffeine even in the morning. Oops.)* I passed out pretty hard when I got home anyway.

I could get used to it here.

 

*My reaction to nearly every “do you want to….” was pretty much YEP before the sentence was even finished. It got me into hot water when I yep’ed a hike when all I had was ballet flats, no sunscreen and minimal shade… but we’ll save that story for tomorrow.

 

For the record, Italy pretty much took her own pictures. Only a few got some stylized editing on here, most were just exposure fixes.