Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Eurotrip - Turin - More Snapshots of Eataly

Tim and Nellie would have loved it here. The store is affiliated with the "Slow Food" movement, which is kind of like the antithesis of Fast Food, and emphasizes the use and consumption of local products.

The wine and beer cellar was impressive. I bought one bottle of Italian wine because I had already spent a good amount of money on this trip and I was only about halfway through.

You can fill up your own bottles of wine from these kegs.

This is only a small part of it, but the bread selection was varied and fantastic.

They even sell dates from Siwa, Egypt in this store!

I ended up buying a bottle of wine, a packet of large breadsticks, and a jar of authentic Italian pesto. Definitely worth the trip outside Turin if you are already there!

Eurotrip - Turin Part 4 - Eataly

One of the things that got me interested in visiting Turin in the first place was this article.

Eataly, the health food store mentioned in the article, is a huge wine, cheese, pasta and produce store 20 minutes outside the center of Turin.

This is just a tiny representation of the shelves and shelves of different types of pasta they had.

Produce and one of the many restaurants scattered throughout the store.

Also impressive was the cheese cellar, although the smell was not.

Eurotrip - Turin Part 3 - More Shots from the Cinema Museum

This is the large main room of the museum. There were two large screens and many other smaller screens scattered throughout this room, and as you can see, many comfortable recliners to lie back and watch the films.

Another interestingly designed room inside the museum

Storyboard from Star Wars

This is the view from the top of the spire of the building. On a clear day, the view would have been incredible. A clear day, this was not.

Eurotrip - Turin Part 2 Cinema Museum

My first stop in Turin was the National Museum of Cinema, a massive five-level exhibition about all the different facets of cinema, from screenplays to acting to directing to editing. The museum takes up the bottom floors of one of the city’s most famous buildings, the Mole Antonelliana, which was built in the mid-19th century and is topped by a spire that punctuates the skyline and provides great views of the city. More on this in a minute.

Although it was fantastic, it wasn’t the museum’s content that impressed me, but rather the layout and design of the place. Rooms were stylized to mimic the atmosphere of each film being shown inside them. For instance:

The Western being shown inside a bar complete with overturned stools and broken bottles.

There was an Italian comedy playing in this room in which the main characters were sitting around a dinner table on toilets instead of chairs, hence the seating here.

This guy made me jump at least a foot in the air. There is a war film involving fighter pilots playing in front of him, and I guess there is a motion sensor directly where the viewer stands because after about 3 seconds of watching the movie, this guy slowly rotates around in his chair then suddenly stops, staring directly at the viewer. Obviously it wasn’t a real person, but I was not expecting it to be an alien head! Very spooky.

For the romantic movie room they had this bed with red pillows and sheets and a screen suspended above it.

Eurotrip - Turin Part 1

After traveling across the snowy Alps, I finally arrived in Turin in the early afternoon on Wednesday. Turin seems like it would be a wonderful place on a warm, summer afternoon; unfortunately, I arrived on the rainy, miserable day of December 10th. As the cheery, helpful women in the Turin information stand put it, “You picked the worst day to come to Turin!” Even though the weather was bad, it was a lot of fun getting off the beaten path and going to a non-touristy city (more than a few people in Rome asked me later, “Turin?? Why did you go to Turin??”).

One of Turin's attractions is its Egyptian museum, "home to the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts outside Cairo." So what? I live in Cairo.

Cold, wet, mucky, dreary day in Turin

selling umbrellas

One of Turin's main plazas

Eurotrip - Lyon to Turin

On Tuesday, I was beat from running around Europe taking hundreds of photos and seeing as much as possible so I caught up on sleep and helped my aunt pick out a Christmas tree. That night we had my favorite French dinner, raclette, and then it was off to bed to catch an early train to Italy the next day.

My travels between Lyon and my ultimate destination of Asti, Italy on Wednesday were filled with interesting encounters. First, I rode a bus through the early morning snow to the Part Dieu station in downtown Lyon. I got a chance to practice my French (here? station? Part Dieu?) with a few of the other passengers.

Part Dieu train station in Lyon.

In the train station in Lyon, I still had a bit of time before the departure of my delayed train, so after getting yelled at for reading one page short of the entire International Herald Tribune at a newsstand, I ambled over to survey the food options.

I’m standing there debating whether to say, “Je voudrais un croissant,” (see, I didn’t actually want a croissant, I just wanted to use the FOTC line), when I hear someone behind me ask me a question in French. Not understanding, I turn around and standing around me are five HUGE guys, three of them dressed in army fatigues and assault rifles and two of them dressed in police uniforms with side-arms. Keep in mind this is at 7:30 AM, and years of learning Spanish and now Arabic has whittled my 10th grade French down to next to nothing.

I motion that I don’t understand, and one of them repeats the question in accented English.
“Do you smoke weed?” He asks, eyeing me suspiciously.
“What? No,” I respond.
He persists with the questioning. “Have you ever smoked weed?”
“No,” I say, growing irritated.
Another guy gets in on the action. “When was the last time you smoked weed?”
To this, I lift up my jacket, sweatshirt and t-shirt and proudly show off my lung scar to each one of them, one by one.
“Look. My lung collapsed! I don’t smoke.”
“What are you carrying in the bag?” One of the cops asks, not impressed by my bullet-shaped scar.
“Clothes, books, and a camera. I’m traveling across southern Europe.”

He makes a motion to reach for my bag, at which point I put it on the ground and start pulling out my camera, books, snacks, and clothes, scattering them across the floor of the train station.

It’s possible they expected either a fight or flight reaction, but upon realizing I was going to cooperate, they lost interest and walked away. I don’t know if I look like the stereotypical 22-year-old French drug runner, but it seems like they should have better things to do than stopping me at 7:30 in the morning to ask me about my clearly prolific pot-smoking habits.

View from the train, crossing the Alps

The first train took me from Lyon to Chambery, France, where I had to transfer to the second train to Turin, Italy. It was on this train that I had my next interesting encounter.

My assigned seat put me next to a Senegalese woman in her mid- to late-30s. We started chatting about Turin, she in limited English and me in (very) limited French, which was her final destination as well. After more and more probing questions, I began to notice that this was not simply a social conversation. Finally, when she asked me what I was doing that night and what hotel I was staying in, I came to the realization that she was offering me her professional services as a lady of the night. It was just about that time I put in my headphones, turned toward the window and went to sleep.

Out the window of the train

Chambery train station

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Eurotrip - Lyon, France Part 3

Some more photos from the festival. See below for more text

Another video show projected onto a building as part of the festival of lights

Lit up ferris wheel in Lyon

the house cat, Carlos, making himself quuuuuiiiite comfortable on my fleece jacket

I have quite a few funny stories from this leg of the trip, but they (and the Italy leg of the trip) will have to wait until I return from my post-Christmas trip to the Red Sea.

Merry Christmas everyone!

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Eurotrip - Lyon, France Part 2

As part of the festival, many of the historic buildings in central Lyon were lit up by various light shows and exhibitions. My camera was having strange auto-focusing issues, but here are my best shots. Keep in mind that despite my love affair with High Dynamic Range images, NONE of these pictures are HDRIs. This is how they actually looked.

A basilica all lit up with neon strobe lights

This was the most mentally stimulating part of the whole festival, a narrated light show on the four historic buildings in the square. People were packed in shoulder to shoulder in the frigid Lyon night, but it didn't even matter, because the show was so spectacular it was almost as if you didn't notice the cold. Except you did.

Again, not an HDR...incredible colors

This was the strangest of the exhibits...four figures lit up with different colors in a very isolated little square. Not too many people at this one!

Flying fish rotating around a fountain

Following the light show we went to a bouchon, a traditional restaurant in Lyon that specializes in strange dishes (like cow liver).

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Eurotrip - Lyon, France Part 1

I arrived in Lyon, France (where my aunt and uncle live) on Monday, the last day of the Fête des Lumières (the Festival of Lights). The festival is a tribute to the Virgin Mary in thanks for saving Lyon from a terrible plague in the year 1643…or something to that effect.

My aunt, uncle and I rode the tram to the top of a hill above Lyon while waiting for the festival to start. There were a few interesting things on top of the hill, including a large church, a statue of Mary, and a Roman amphitheater (I can’t seem to avoid these, no matter where I go! It’s a reminder of how powerful and widespread the Holy Roman Empire once was).

The large church and gold statue on top of the hill

View of Lyon from the hill

Another city, another Roman amphitheater

This picture is just to mess with your minds. Although this looks pretty convincing, it is actually an intricately detailed miniature display in a window. Those chairs were less than two inches high!

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Eurotrip - Barcelona Part 6

After Tibidabo, we wandered around Las Ramblas and the Barrio Gotico for a while. I really wanted to go to a Chilean restaurant that I had heard about right near the port, but it was mysteriously boarded up, so we ended up back at the bocadillo place.

HDR of Gaudi's Casa Batllo at night

The Catalan people are incredibly patient. Numerous times I saw huge groups of people waiting for the cross light to change to walk even though there were no cars within miles! It struck me as very bizarre

I figured I had to see Gaudi's Parc Guel before I left, so I headed over there Monday morning before my flight to catch the sunrise, and then hopped on the “futuristic” train to the airport to Easyjet it over to Lyon.

HDR of Parc Guel at 7:50 AM

I thought the sun had already risen when it suddenly appeared in the one spot of the sky not blanketed by clouds. My big camera's battery was dead so I shot this with my little Kodak

I really felt at home here. Compared to the insanity that often comes with living in Cairo, Barca felt very familiar, though I did have the advantages of a working knowledge of Spanish and a great tour guide and fellow photo junkie to explore Barcelona with me.

Next stop: Lyon, France.

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Eurotrip - Barcelona Part 5

On Sunday, Barcelona decided to be even moodier. Eda and I took 3 different forms of transportation – metro, tram and funicular – up to the top of Tibidabo (a mountain north of Barcelona). In Latin, tibi dabo means “I will give it you,” and the legend is that the devil tried to tempt Jesus Christ with the glory of the whole world if Jesus would worship him.

This is an HDR of a building at the base of the tram.

A large church, the Temple de Sagrat Cor, sits on top of Tibidabo. I saw this church in the distance while wandering around near the Nou Camp on Friday (all the way across Barcelona), and it was even more impressive from up close. The picture a little farther down shows a night view of the church from downtown Barca.

The second floor balcony of the church would have provided great views of Barcelona if the weather had been better. There’s also a huge 5-tier amusement park wrapped around the base of the church, but it was so windy and cold I can’t see how the kids there could have had much fun.

Reflection of the tram

At the top of Tibidabo with Eda

During our descent from Tibidabo, we stopped at the CosmoCaixa, a fairly new interactive science museum. One day a month, all museums in Barcelona are free and luckily, today was that day. CosmoCaixa was kind of like the Liberty Science Center except more modern and awesome.

If his mother had been nearby, I don’t think she would have been too happy about him licking this huge block of ice!
I saw him do it the first time and immediately got my camera ready. I instinctively knew that, being a kid, he would be curious enough to do it again.

The night view of the lit up church on Tibidabo from Las Ramblas

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