Friday, January 12, 2007

The End

Tomorrow all of my traveling comes to an end and I fly back to Champaign, so this is the very last bugaboo post. There are no more museums to visit, and no more fossils to shapesnatch. Thanks to all of you who took the time to read along and post your advice and encouragement! I want to especially thank Pispu and her family for making my stay in Florence so wonderful, and Negro and Frida for looking after my plants and beans while I've been gone. Anyone within easy traveling distance from Champaign-Urbana are welcome to join us at the Embassy tomorrow night for reunion beers (of course, if any of you long distance folks want to come too, you're always welcome!)

I'm going to be sad to leave New York. I really like this city. I've had some time over the last few days to wander around and explore. Here's a shot of Manhattan taken from the Staten Island Ferry:

If you come to NYC, you should definitely take this ferry to Staten Island & back. It's totally free, and you get a nice view of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Statue of Liberty from the water.

Here's a small 911 memorial I walked by in the West Village:

On Wednesday night I met up with an old friend from Champaign. Some of you may recognize Ertan (seen here with Mrs. Ertan):

He's originally from Turkey, but now he's living in NYC and working as an architect. It was really great to see him again, meet the wife for the first time, and catch up on each other's lives.

Yesterday, I met up with my friend Peter at the AMNH. We got there late so we only had time to explore one floor of the museum, but we did make it into the butterfly conservatory.

One landed on my head and stayed with me for almost 20 minutes :)

The butterfly ladies in the conservatory told me that this was a sign of good luck. It really tickled when it flapped its wings.

After the museum, Peter took me to one of his favourite bars in the Village. It was a really pretty little place with great people-watching opportunities and very good drinks. I felt very sophisticated sitting there with my blue cocktail ;)

I wish I had it in me to appreciate a classic martini but, alas, I'm a big wimp and can only tolerate the more girly, candy-like ones.

Later today we're going to explore the MOMA (free on Fridays between 4-8pm) and go see another play after that (we won the ticket lottery for Avenue Q on Tuesday night and got 2 front-row tickets for only $20 each. Very cool.)

I'm going to end this blog with a lovely photo of Central Park I took yesterday afternoon.

Bye-bye boos.

Monday, January 08, 2007


Hello all. Sorry for the long delay between posts.

Well, I've made it to the very last stop on my Grand Shapesnatching Tour. I came to New York to ShapeCam some casts at the American Museum of Natural History, seen here:

Everything at the museum went really well, and I was able to fill in some leftover blanks in my sample. Very happy about that. Also happy that I can finally exhale now because no equipment exploded on this trip, I didn't get my camera stolen by Belgians, and I still have a little credit left on my visa card ;)

Remember what I said about Vienna in December? That I could totally live there and be happy forever? Um, could I scratch that and substitute NYC instead? This city is amazing. I've been here before, but that was approx 15 years ago and almost another lifetime. Let's all live here in NYC together and play in the parks, walk across the bridges, gawk at all the interestingness on the streets, and hang out in cool cafes. Okay? It'd be fun. I promise. (But what's with all the Starbucks everywhere? There's one at almost every corner. It's worse than Tim Horton's in Canada. Seriously.)

Up until today, the weather has been really great. Saturday was sunny and really warm, no jacket needed. At first I felt guilty about enjoying all the global warmth, but I've since been reassured that it's not necessarily a sign of environmental doom. Hope that's true.

Views from Battery Park:

Cool sculpture outside of Trinity Church:

The Dakota building for Rachel:

View of Manhattan from the Brooklyn Bridge:

A wedding on Brooklyn Bridge:

Sunset over the Statue of Liberty:

Lincoln Center at night:

Prospect Park in Park Slope, Brooklyn:

Central Park after today's rain finally stopped:

Today Ivanka Trump walked past me on the street. She's really tall, but she looked very unhappy. Maybe it was because everyone was staring at her. That must suck. I felt bad for her, but then I remembered how rich she is, and that she gets to live here and go shopping whenever and wherever she wants. Thinking that made me want to go shopping. (Yeah, ok, it really doesn't take much to make me want to go shopping ;) Sigh. I guess there's a good reason I only have a little credit left on my visa card...

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year

I arrived home in Toronto last Wednesday. It's very good to be home and spending time with friends and family. I haven't taken many pictures since I've been back here, but I thought I'd put up some photos from Christmas Eve dinner at Nicoletta's parents' place in Caselline (I'm still full ;)

A HUGE grazie to Nicoletta, the Righini family, and their friends, for making me feel right at home when I was there. It was wonderful to meet you all, and I hope to see you again sometime soon!

I probably won't post again until I'm in New York (where I'll be looking at the cast collection at the American Museum of Natural History), so I hope everyone has a very happy New Year!

Sunday, December 24, 2006


I arrived in Florence on Thursday morning and Nicoletta met me at the train station. Nicoletta's family has an apartment near the centre of the city and they've been so kind as to let me stay there for a few days. It was great to see a friendly face from Champaign again, and after we dropped the ShapeCam at the apartment we wandered around the city a little.

Florence is absolutely stunning. The weather has been wonderful, so sunny and warm. There also doesn't seem to be a lot of tourists around right now. We wandered over to the Galleria Degli Uffizi to check out how long the line was, and there wasn't one! Not a single person was waiting to enter, so we walked right in. The wait to get in during more popular times of the year can be as long as 4 hours, and at first we thought we went in the wrong entrance. But we were in the right place, so we got to walk right in without having to wait. The same thing happened the next day when I went to the Galleria dell'Accademia to see the David. No line up at all, and only 4 people inside the museum gawking at the statue. So that's been nice :)

Here's the dome of the Duomo:

The Campanile:

Ponte Vecchio:

On Friday morning I walked into the centre and climbed to the top of the Duomo. This is what it looks like inside:

The view of the city from the top is fantastic:

I got a strange Italian man to take my picture:

Nicoletta called me as I was making my way back down, so we arranged to meet up again and eat pizza and gellato. It's been great to have a native Florentine as my very own personal tour guide to tell me all about where we are, what we're looking at, and what each building is ;)

Yesterday we drove north of the city to her parents' house for lunch. They live in a small town that's about 30 minutes north of the city centre. It's a gorgeous area, and the drive there was beautiful! Her mom made us lots of food, and it was soooo good. We barely fit back into the car afterwards ;)

This is the area around the town in which they live (I think its name is "Caselline"):

After leaving her parents' place we drove over to Fiesole. Fiesole is older than Florence; it was settled by the Etruscans in the 5th century BC. From Fiesole, you can get a really great view of Florence:

Here's Nicoletta with the entire city of Florence behind her:

As you can see, the sunset was gorgeous.

Tonight I'm going back up to Nicoletta's parents' place for dinner (so just to be safe, I'm not eating anything for lunch! ;) On Tuesday (if Tuesday is the 26th, I don't know what day it is anymore) I return to Rome for 1 night and fly back to North America the next day. I'll be in Toronto for 1 week, before heading down to NYC for 10 days, and finally returning to Champaign on January 13th. I've spent so much time in Europe this year (never thought I'd be back for a 2nd time when I left last May), and I'm sad to think it might be a while until I get back here again. I've visited 10 countries since last March (not counting Canada & the States). I guess it might be ok to stay put for a little while ;)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Cavemen for Kevin

On Sunday I took the train to Neanderthal. (Typing that just made me smile.) Yes, I went to Neanderthal. Neanderthal is a little town located right outside of Düsseldorf. The very first Neandertal fossil was found here (hence the name "Neandertal") in a cave in August, 1856. (Well, the first one that was found and recognized as being anything different from us.) This place is kind of like my mecca.

Here's the train station:

The town really just consists of the Neanderthal museum, the train station, a hotel, and a few restaurants. Here's an old statue of a Neandertal with the museum in the background:

The statue is an outdated portrayal of how we think Neandertals actually looked. This is acknowledged in a plaque next to the statue, but it's kept there for sentimental reasons. Here's a more modern portrayal from inside the museum itself:

But I think the artist took some liberation with his clothing choice. (Chaps? Nice.)

The original find site is a short walk along the river behind the museum. The caves are all gone now (blasted away in the search for limestone), but the actual site location is marked, along with the exact location of where more fossils were found in the early 90s.

The next day I visited the Rheinisches Landesmuseum in Bonn and got to see the original Neandertal fossils that were found back there in 1856. That was really, really, REALLY cool. I've seen lots of famous fossils by now, but holding this skull was just the most amazing thing for me so far.

I also had time to wander around Bonn. It's a very pretty college town and every other shop is either a shoe or book store (that is not a complaint). The university is huge; it's one of the biggest in Germany. Beethoven was born here too. Right in this house:

Pictures of Bonn:

Today I wandered around Cologne. Also a very pretty city. The cathedral there is massive. Pictures just don't do it justice:

Tomorrow I start my trek back down to Italy, meeting up with Nicoletta in Florence by Thursday. Pictures soon to follow!