Tag Travel

Surprising to Visitors

Some interesting answers to the question “What facts about the United States do foreigners not believe until they come to America?” The economics of food was a popular response:

Fruit and vegetable prices, compared to fast food prices:

A bag of grapes: $6
A box of strawberries: $7
1lb tomatoes: $3

McChicken: $1
Big Mac : $1 ( I think. I don’t go to McDonalds though)


At the same time, there are things that you wouldn’t associate with first-world countries:

Religious fanaticism
It is hard to believe that a first-world country has non-progressive ideologies, especially that hurt women (the vaginal probes and other abortion related woes). Not only that, the belief in Earth’s age, talking snake etc. Being from India, it is even harder for me to understand this. I expected US to be more progressive. It is not as crazy as back in India but still something that I think is enough to be detrimental to the progress.

Others are pleasantly surprised:

Many Indians are very surprised to find out that there are large numbers of Americans who actually love their parents and siblings and wives and children and have normal, healthy relationships with them. Our media has them convinced that all Americans are very self-centered people who throw their kids out of their homes after high school, don’t care for their parents, and divorce their spouses. And, I swear, it is literally true that many Indians do not believe that this is not true until they have been to the US and seen examples of good healthy family relationships themselves. I have had heated arguments with people who’ve never been to the US, but can give lectures on how screwed up family values in the US are.

But we could also use some improvement:

There actually is an accepted piece of clothing called a ‘wife-beater’.

Direct from Kottke.org

Roadtrip Tuscany

A Saturday in Verona

Mary Lee called me at nine on Saturday morning with an idea. Why don’t I come for a visit in Verona for the night? She and Doug visit Italy every year and at Christmas time we had talked about meeting here in Florence, but when it came right down to it it made more sense for me to head north to visit them and stay at the apartment they rent there. I’m glad I did!

As we were walking up a narrow street from their apartment to the Castel San Pietro it stuck me that I was already familiar with the color and mood of the city, I remembered from seeing so many of Doug’s paintings. I saw scraps of them all over. Arches, scrolls, columns, vines, washes of rich color; nothing is hidden but it all exists behind a diffused veil of light that makes it impossible to grab hold of.

Sunday in Pisa

In bed too late on Sunday morning I thought to myself, “get up now and get on the train otherwise you’ll never do it.” I threw off the covers and threw on my clothes and took myself on a day trip to the Picasso exhibit in Pisa.

After printing a train ticket to Pisa Centrale from one of the big green automatic ticket machines I took a few steps and validated it in the small yellow ticket stamper machine and stepped up into the second class train car. A group of four Gabriel García Márquez reading German girls dressed in Renaissance costumes rode across the aisle from me for the ninety minute journey.

Pisa is charming. I walked north in a straight line out of the train station doors to the river, stopping once to check a map taped-up in a cafe window to be sure I was heading in the right direction. When I turned around to set off again I was standing right in front of a huge and beautiful Keith Herring mural.  I don’t think I have ever seen a piece of his in person. The mural in Pisa is huge, vibrant and delightful, but be careful, it’ll sneak up on you.

There were no celebrity paintings among the prints and pots in the temporary exhibit. Maybe paintings don’t travel as well or they were afraid of being stolen à la Mona, but what they had on display was impressive. I was inspired by the levels of detail and gray-scale in the essential bull lithographs and the curatorial wallop of a long hallway of vivid book illustrations dead-ending with this goat’s head. There were a huge series of beautiful copperplate etchings of minotaurs, bull fighters, Bacchanalias, and loungey women that were overwhelming in their number and variety and gave me the sense his balance of skill and production. It was definitely worth the trip.

By the time I was out of the museum it was getting dark and chilly. I headed right to the train a little ashamed that I’d return without getting a picture kicking the the tipping tower. But I’d let go of that by the time I rolled into Florence, happy at least that I’d gotten my lazy bones up and out.

Sunday in Firenze

Something I learned after leaving Florence for the Christmas break was that I haven’t really seen much of the touristy stuff in the city. Now that I’m back I’m committed to seeing more of what’s available here.

West from the Ponte alla Carraia, the bridge I cross every morning to school.


Gene invited me to the photography museum that houses the Fratelli Alinari collection, apparently the oldest photographic archive in the world. Along with some very beautiful old daguerreotypes and albumen prints from around the world there was a room lined in back-lit negatives and a wild collection of photographic albums, some of them huge sculptural assemblages with metal hinges, gemstone covers and painted edges.

I thought the famous Florence lion was a monkey until I was corrected.