Monday, May 31, 2010

First solo ride in Italy

I rode by myself today since Ged was busy at work.

I headed east until I reached Pontassieve.  The ride was short and sweet.  No massive climbs or sharp turns.  Just flat, rolling road.  I think I needed an easier ride today as a relaxant.  It sure did feel nice.

Then I got lost on the way back into the city.  I was circling around for 30 minutes before I found my way back to the Ponte Vecchio, but let's not talk about that.

Breakfast was the usual muesli I've had for two days straight.  Still tasty.

Lunch was a mixture of pretty much whatever I had left in the fridge.  We're moving to a new apartment tomorrow, so food stock has been purposefully low.

  • half a tomato
  • half block of tofu (pan fried in olive oil)
  • ton of chick peas
I feel like wandering the city for a bit and familiarizing myself with more streets.  I really don't like getting lost like I did today.

Have a good rest of the day!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

"Keep Pedaling"

Today started off slow and ended with a bang.  I woke up around 11 a.m. and went over to the Boboli Gardens to try and find a spot to lay down and sunbathe.
The view was quite nice from the Gardens.

This place is really pretty and well-kept, but I didn't stay for long because I decided it didn't have the vibe I was looking for.

I sat in Piazza di Santo Spirito while I chugged 1.5L of water and watched the locals interact.

On to the cycling...

"Keep Pedaling" is the phrase I had to keep telling myself this afternoon when we went for a ride.

Ged took me on his usual "lunchtime ride."  Sounds kind of pleasant and harmless, right?  What a misnomer.

A non-stop climb for about two miles.  Ouch.

I was riding so slow that Ged had time to stop and pee/take pictures.

This is me struggling up the mountain.  I think it's before I looked up and saw Ged taking pictures and started yelling profanities at him and giving him the finger.

Here's what the road looked like.  A very curvy uphill ride.  I don't think the photo even gives the steepness of the road justice, to be honest.

The name of the road:

Here's a smile, finally!

I'm really glad that I didn't stop on the way up.

I was pissed off for the first 30 minutes of the ride, though.  I was swearing under my breath and breathing so heavily I swear it sounded like I was suffocating to death.  I'm just not used to this type of terrain.  Florida is such a flat state, and I've been spoiled by its smoothness.

Ged coaxed me into adding another 6 km onto the ride, so we headed toward Olmo, a nearby town.  At this point in the ride, if I saw a hill in the distance I would start repeating monosyllabic or disyllabic motivational words, like "ATTACK" or "JUST GO."

Something else I found myself doing was conjugating verbs in all the languages I know in order to keep my intention from the struggle.  I'd start with Spanish then switch to Portuguese then French.  Strange, but it worked.

The best part of the ride, of course, was the downhill part.  I felt like I had wings as I zoomed down the road.  And Ged says that I get more aerodynamic than he does because I'm more flexible.  Ha.  I guess the occasional yoga class pays off somehow.

35 km = 21.7 mi
About 1.5 hours

After the ride I started feeling faint and realized that the only food I'd had today was that muesli and fruit combo for breakfast.

I decided to try the Italian tofu Ged and I picked up from the store.  And it turned out really great!  I pan fried the tofu with tomato, chick peas and some yellow pepper, which made for a great salad mix.

I even managed to get Ged to eat some tofu...  :)

Then I had an apple for dessert.

I'm meeting up with some friends from my Berlin trip tomorrow.  They're traveling around Italy for a few days and are leaving after tomorrow.

Good times.

Hills, hills and more hills

The Bianchi bike is now mine!

Yesterday was my first ride in Italy.  Ged took me to Greve, starting in Florence and riding through the Chianti region.  The great thing about Florence is that it only takes a few miles to leave the city and get into some rolling hills and countryside.

The hills definitely kicked my butt.  I went really slow uphill but didn't stop on any of the ascents, which was what I was aiming for.  We ended up riding 40 miles (65 km), stopping in a few cute local markets and small towns.  The total trip time was about three hours.

I forgot to bring a camera with me but we're going on another ride today to Fiesole, and I'll be sure to take some shots.

Breakfast yesterday was hearty in preparation for my long ride.  I had the same breakfast today as well.

  • muesli
  • half banana
  • raw almonds
  • sultanas
  • light soy milk
Post-ride food consisted of
  • other half of my banana
  • dinner at Casalinga restaurant
    • bruschetta
    • plate of steamed veggies
    • spaghetti with red sauce
Ged had various meat dishes.  I'm pretty sure he ate Bugs Bunny and Porky Pig at some point during his dinner.  =(

We were both pretty full by the end of the night and crashed as soon as we got home.

I'm off to wander the streets a bit before Ged gets back.

Hasta luego.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Off to Ride (for the first time)

The Boyfriend and I went to the bike shop in Florence today at lunchtime and I test rode the used 55cm Bianchi he had been looking at last week.  It was nice.  Aluminum body, carbon fork.  It's a little more sensitive than my Trek back home.  It turns sharper, breaks harder, changes gears easier.  It's one centimeter larger, too, which I hope doesn't affect anything.

We decided that a few circles around the block didn't constitute a good enough test ride to purchase the bike, so it's now in our apartment waiting for me to ride it this afternoon.  I have until 6 p.m. to see if it fits me the way I want it to.  For me, that mostly means I'll be looking for any discomfort that might develop in my back.

Here's the Beaut:

I didn't have time for breakfast this morning because I woke up late and then had to rush to the bike store, but I just went to an Italian grocery store to pick up some salad supplies.

I ended up finding random ingredients I thought would be good in a salad.  This is kind of a Pregnant Woman salad, if you know what I mean (it's weird).  It's not the prettiest salad in the world, but I enjoyed it.  And it should fuel me for my ride.  

My salad contained:
  • some type of Italian lettuce
  • raw almonds
  • chick peas
  • sultanas
  • olive oil

I'm not really sure where to ride since BF hasn't shown me where the cyclists go here, but that's OK because I'm deeming today as more of an "exploratory" day.  I'm not setting a mileage or pace goal.  I plan on riding for an hour to an hour and a half.  And with all the hills here who knows how far or fast I'll make it.


Time for Change

I'm in Florence today.  Got in last night after a flight to Milan and a 3.5 hour train ride to Florence.  I’m glad to be leaving Germany.  I feel like I’m ready for a new country, a new city, a new language.  Granted I don’t speak a lick of Italian, at least I have my boyfriend and a Bianchi road bike here

Recap of my German experience:
I didn’t like Berlin at first:  the architecture is just plain ugly, the weather was bad the first few days (cold and windy) and I don’t speak German.  The last complaint isn’t really any fault of the city but of my own.  The city didn’t appeal to me the first week I was there, but I have to admit that it grew on me the last few days of the trip.  Once I started chatting to people on the tram or in pubs, I realized that Berliners or its ex-pats are pretty interesting and nice people.  The more I ventured into dark, practically hidden bars, the more I understood the charm of the city—it’s such an alternative place to live and it has a “badass” feel to it.

Wednesday night, we had dinner atop the giant TV tower in the middle of the city.  It was nice to have a long dinner with a bunch of journalism students while rotating (the floor rotates while you eat) around the city.  I’ll miss the group for sure.  Two of the students from the group will passing through Florence in a few days, though, and we’re planning on meeting up.

Tuesday night was more of a last hurrah for me.  I sipped on a bottle of Chianti until it was empty, and we headed over to a shady bar called Dr.Pong’s.  Here’s what’s in Dr.Pong’s:  one ping-pong table, a few lights, gray walls and a small bar that serves maybe two types of beer. 

Now usually I would boast about my great table tennis skills at this point in the blog post, however, the wine was getting the best of me.  I tried playing two or three times and missed the ball every time I attempted to return it.  Awful.  Really poor.  But I’m going to steal a line from Jamie Foxx and “blame it on the alcohol.” 

So, yeah.  Berlin is cool.  But now it’s time for the beautiful, smaller city of Florence. 

The exercise regimen has definitely been slacking these last two weeks, not to mention the diet.  To be honest, I’ve strayed from the vegan diet many a time during the short-lived study abroad program.  It is 99 percent impossible to be vegan during a study abroad trip with non-vegans.  Group dinners usually happen at places where meat is the staple of the menu, and the reason I say it’s 99 percent impossible to be vegan in these instances is because there is that 1 percent where you could just order water with lemon.  Yeah, it’s that bad. 

While I would never eat meat, I did order dishes that contained some type of dairy product:  aubergine with cheese in tomato sauce, margherita pizza, etc.  My body was not liking the cheese at first and put me through hell the next day, but it eventually adapted once I tried cheese again.  So I was basically vegetarian for the past two weeks.  And I’ve been eating way too much processed food.  You can bet that the ingredient lists of the crap I’ve been eating have been long (and in German).  I felt guilty at first for eating some with dairy in it, but I told myself that it was just a bump in the road and that beating myself up about it would be useless.

And now that I’ll have more choice of where and what I eat in Italy, you can be sure that I’ll be back on the vegan train.  I feel so much better when I don’t eat dairy.  Mentally and physically.

As far as exercise, walking around the city’s streets has pretty much been the extent of it.  I visited the gym two floors below our hostel a few times, but with so many tours, exploring and project stuff to do, I didn’t really have time for a strict gym schedule. 

WARNING:  New bike alert!

But that is about to change, my friends.  The Boyfriend has just alerted me of a used Bianchi for a couple hundred euro in a nearby bike shop in Florence.  Aluminum frame, carbon fork…  yum.   I’m dreading the hills surrounding Florence, but gimme a month and I’ll be riding with some force again.

Here's a sneak peak of what I'll be test riding a few hours:

So what’s in store for future posts?  Clean eating, intense cycling and all-around good times!

Over and out.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Berlin project: DONE

Today is my last day in Berlin, and everyone has completed and turned in their projects, including me.

Using Soundslides, I compiled pictures and audio of my subject to tell a story, or at least try to tell a story.  Here's the two-paragraph blurb that goes along with my project:

            Dani Cunningham came to Berlin in December of 2009 in search of art.  And that’s exactly what he found.  The 36-year-old musician, actor and all-around creative guy became involved in several projects upon his arrival.  He played in a successful local band, had a job, was working on a movie and had a special girl in his life, however, the bliss for this entertainer didn’t last.  The last two months have proved to be trying times for this struggling artist.
            Cunningham recently lost his job, his girlfriend and funding for the film he was starring in. Despite these unfortunate events, this London-born dreamer believes he can pull through in a vibrant city such as Berlin.   What he says is most important at this stage in his life is coming back to earth and getting grounded again. What will that take?  He’s just not sure yet, but he says he’s willing to find out.

Here are some shots from my project:

The Web site for all the projects will be finished soon, so keep checking back for updates.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

How to keep entertained in boring museums

Today there was free entry to state museums in the city, so in the afternoon a group of us went to two different museums downtown.

Before that, I met with my subject and shot a few photos of him.  I'm meeting with him again tomorrow to get some "interaction" photos of him socializing with other people.  We both decided on a title for my project.  He shall be known as "the opportunist."  He's the kind of guy who goes with the flow and seizes opportunities as they approach him.  I'll be posting photos of him

Anyway, back to the museums.  Here are some things we passed on our way there:

The first museum had really old stuff:  Egyptian sculptures, old Greek statues, tapestries, etc.

I was so restless walking through corridor after corridor of old stuff.  I decided to mess around with the shutter speed and zoom on my camera as an attempt to keep me awake/occupied.  Here's the weird stuff I came up with:

The second place we went was actually a gallery, but I was still bored.  So I kept going with the funky shutter speeds and zooming in and out.

It's fun to just mess around sometimes.  And that's exactly what I did today.

Hasta luego.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Bike tour!

Today the group went on a five-hour bike tour with Fat Tire Bike Tours.  We started and ended at Alexanderplatz, riding through the liberal, hip parts of the city in between.

Here's where breakfast and mid-day snacks have been coming from:

The guide for our bike tour was Carissa, an American who came from Oklahoma to study in Berlin and has lived in the city for four years.

We stopped by the remains of the Berlin Wall.  A massive reconstruction of all the artwork on the wall was done last year.  All different types of murals and paintings covered the historical monument.

My brain had a hard time understanding this metaphor, but I liked it anyway:

I tried to be all artsy and take a picture of the reflection of the Wall in the window of this car:

This guy was pretty cool:

And then Marissa jumped in and whispered something in his ear.

Then we traveled over to Kreuzberg, a liberal, hip neighborhood.
"Neo Punk:"

A lot of crazy graffitti.


Caught in action:

A couple embraces:

A boat passing by the "Molecule Men," a monument representing the connection of three different districts in Berlin:

We rode through a nearby park that was filled with hippy-types and people relaxing.

This is a really famous "squat."  The idea behind it is people inhabit abandoned buildings and make homes for themselves until the government kicks them out.

And, finally, the TV Tower by Alexanderplatz.