Tuesday, April 22

Naked vegans and racist latinos

Interesting night. My favorite pair of roommates, Jorge, a mexican musician, and John, my dear Scottish friend, invited me and some others to "a vegan dinner for 3 euros". Since it's getting near the end of the month and my budget is tight, I figured it would be a fun and cheap way to spend my Saturday night. We all met at my place and then left together for the Southern part of the city. We maze through the streets and finally arrive at the right address but it's neither a house nor a business... it's just an abandoned building still wet with graffiti. We ring the bell and a man clutching a cat opens the door and lets us in, not asking who we were or who we knew. We walk into the empty building, complete with cement floors, and see some anti-capitalist fliers and a bunch of plastic chairs laid about, there are some stairs on the left that lead us down to where Jorge and his friends are sitting. We all kiss and greet and then open the bottles of wine we brought so that our social juices start flowing.
Everyone is pretty young, between 19 and 25, I'd say. After a little while of chatting, we decide to take a walk around the block while a nude musician prepares to take the stage at the squat. We return right in time to catch him begin his first set. He's butt naked, his willy hanging out for us all to see, and he's welcomed to the stage with whistles and applause. Not a handsome man by any means, just a regular guy. He sits in the spotlight with his guitar and pulls out a small notebook he lays on his left knee. He's clearly a bit nervous, though I doubt this is his first performance of this kind. He's terrible, he's really just shouting and banging the strings... a real mess. There are more people here, probably about thirty. I'm rather surprised, either the vegan food must be really good or the second act has got to be one hell of a talent... or a naked chic or something.
We're hanging out by the "kitchen" while they're putting out the food. There is no stove, but only a fridge and a bunch of pots and pans and tuperware covered in aluminum foil. We pay our three euros each and get a little ticket that we present to the man behind the counter preparing the food. The first course is salad in a plastic cup with nutty croutons in it. Every bit of it was surprisingly delcious, the dressing reminded me of Oscar's (San Diegans know what I'm talking about) and there was even avocado in it. A far cry from the kinds of salad you'll find in a typical Spanish restaurant. Next up, there is a squash and pumpkin mush concoction... again, fucking tasty, even though it looks like baby food. I see the desert is a chocolate cake, but I'm not ready for it yet, I want more of this exciting yet simple food to fill my stomach. I pay a euro more to get a garbanzo bean and lemon bocadillo, which is essentially hummus with freshly-squeezed lemon juice on a baguette. Satisfying and filling. On to the desert, a chocolate cake drizzled with rasberry sauce on a paper plate. If it had a nicer presentation, this food could certainly have been served at a legitimate restaurant. We finish off the bottles of wine and as a new "talent" takes the stage we decide to leave.
John takes us to a house party thrown by a secretary he works with. She's latina and so are all the people at the party minus us. The music is wonderfully regaton. We drop off the booze at the snack table... the apartment is nice, clean, spacious, it's got blue and white streamers all around. We wonder if this is actually a birthday party. I chat with my co-worker Katka a bit on the couch, I haven't spent much time with her outside of work but I really like her, she's easygoing and on the level. Then once I've had enough to drink, Robin convinces me to take the dance floor with him... not long after, our Anglo party of six is told to leave... I didn't think until now that I may have prompted that request by "workin it" on the dancefloor with a Scottish guy in front of a bunch of salsa dancing latinos. hmmmm. Anyway, we left the party and John was especially pissed. I don't remember a whole lot after that. After getting on the metro to head home, I rested my head on Richard's shoulder and since I couldn't manage walking home on my own, Katka and Richard helped me to Katka's place where some of us crashed for the night. I remember not even being able to sit on the toilet to pee without my head spinning and my body swaying. Once I got to bed though, I was out like a light and woke up feeling better than I expected.
Richard later discovered that his wallet was stolen that night in the metro, he canceled all his credit cards and lost about 10 euros in cash. Sucks. Still haven't had to go through that nightmare yet... knock on wood.

One of the the more interesting nights I've had these past few weeks.

Monday, April 14

Escape to Rome!

A few weeks ago, Enrique told me he had planned a weekend trip for us. He planned to keep the destination a secret 'til the end, but he agreed to answer one question a day since I was desperate for some hints. I had to plan my questions carefully, since I could only ask one, sometime two if he felt generous, each day. Question 1: Do I need to bring my bathingsuit? No. (So it can't be Andalucia which I had thought it might be) Question 2: Is it in Spain? No. (ooh-la, la.... getting excited) Question 3: Is it a capital city? Yes. (But which?) Question 4: Have you ever been there before? No. (I know he's been to Paris and London so it can't be either of those) At this point I'm thinking it may either be Lisbon or Rome. Question 5: Is it famous for great food? Yes. And that was it, ROME, ITALY!
I was thrilled, I hadn't been to Rome since I was about 15 with my family. This would surely be a different experience.
We left Thursday, April 10 at 7pm. It was only a two hour plane ride, shorter than flying from San Diego to Denver. We got a taxi as soon as we arrived and headed towards our hotel. It turned out to be a precious little B&B with just 4 rooms, situated in a little square that had a gorgeous fountain in the center. The B&B was called Kame Hall, very clean and comfortable with a minimalist decor. A friend of Enrique's named David, was also spending the weekend in Rome with his girlfriend Beatriz. We met with them the first night in front of the Pantheon and sat down for a nice candlelit dinner together complete with pasta, pizza and wine.
The next day we woke up early and headed straight to the Vatican. It was raining and quite grey out so it we though it a good idea to spend this day inside. We started in St. Peter's Cathedral and then moved onto the Vatican Museum. The memories of my last visit were coming back to me, it was the last time the whole family traveled together. Danny hasn't come on any trips since. A student of mine had lent me a Lonely Planet for Rome and she suggested that before seeing the Sistine chapel, we pick up some binoculars. Enrique heeded this advice, and spent 18 bones on a pair. Sadly he couldn't even use it himself since he was wearing glasses, then just after lunch, it broke in his hands while he was adjusting the magnification. WE all found it to be pretty funny, especially since the packaging was rife with print concerning the unmatched quality and five point inspection it had undergone. The last time I was here I hadn't seen the Sistine Chapel, I was too young to appreciate it and felt that waiting an hour in line wouldn't be worth it. With a bit more maturity this time around, I found it to be breathtaking. I only wish a bench had been available for me to sit on because there was so much to see and my neck couldn't take much more contorting. After the Vatican we had lunch on the terrace of a cute little trattoria on the east side of the Tiber. I got the spicy Penne all 'Arrabiata... the Spaniards couldn't handle it (minus Enrique whose secret ingredient in cooking is tabasco). With our bellies filled, we headed towards the Pantheon where we came across a big political demonstration and realized it was election weekend in Italy. We kept walking until sunset and then parted ways, planning to meet each other again for dinner after a few hours of rest in our respective hotels.
DAY 2 and 3 COMING SOON>>>
PS Pictures posted in backwards order

The Coliseum

Ruins of the Roman Forum

Election Weekend

Exploring the City

ROMA: The Vatican

St. Peter's Cathedral is now equipped with a twenty foot flat-screen television for outdoor viewing. I don't think that had yet been installed the last time i was here. Inside, the building is swimming in marble and gold, with the highest ceilings you've ever seen covered with angels with trumpets and images of Mary and the apostles. Unfortunately, the pope was away, visiting several US cities apparently.

Mosaics, marble and gold surround the colorful frescoes and statues.

This staircase marked the end of our tedious journey through the endless Vatican Museum. After seeing hundreds of marble statues, ancient maps and papal regalia, I was happy to walk down this wide spiraling staircase.

Mérida, Roman ruins

Creepy Procession