The Leaving Blues

Posted by Alex | | Posted On Tuesday, 21 December 2010 at 19:34

Well, this is it. My time in Pavia is slowly running out. The last of Pavia 2010 is trickling away by the second, and, y'know what, I don't want it to. This place really is like a second home for me, and I love it. I actually think, aside from Christmas weekend, the entire experience of being at home is going to be one big downer and I can't wait to set foot back in this beautiful place.

Time to get all mushy for a second: I thought I wasn't going to blog before going home, because I really had nothing planned at all for my final days. I was just going to sit inside, wrapped up warm, feeling sorry for myself with my cold and the then-miserable weather. But then the weekend rolled around, and things became a sequence of fitting in time with other people: I studied, or attempted to, with Roxy and Rebecca; I went out and ate pizza with them; we had late night chats. Basically, the last five days have been filled with sharing my time with my favourite people here.

I'd love to say that Pavia would be just as cool if I'd spent my time here with other people, but that'd be a lie. I'm really glad I met Roxy and Rebecca and that we seem to have got on so well, and they've actually made living here fun. Last night some of us sat in Roxy's lounge and chatted into the witching hour, which was nice, though it did make me think that I wish I had got to know Brandon and Harry a bit more beyond the last week of interaction. Simply put: if there were only four people I could transpose to Spain, I'd take those guys any day of the week. I sometimes wonder if I'm going to find people who live up to the high benchmark they have set for 'friends'.

Anyhow: last night I drank some beer and chatted with Savino before going for a pizza and spending the evening rambling on with the gang; and this afternoon I said my goodbyes to Savino and Francesco at the bar, and then went and drank more caffè corretto than is advised in an hour -- generally, I think they'd recommend you only drink one, but Roxy and I managed to power our way through two with Grappa and one with Limoncello before deciding it was probably best to not drink any more alcohol-infused espressos. Now, I'm sat wasting time that I could be using to pack my case properly, rather than leaving it in the mess it's in now.

In 24hours, I should be back on British soil, standing in a queue, waiting for my passport to be checked to prove I am indeed the person I claimed to be when the Italians let me fly...and then it'll be back to the mundane life of a Welsh boy in the valleys, for two whole weeks. To sum it up: Blergh.

Final Countdown(s)

Posted by Alex | | Posted On Thursday, 16 December 2010 at 16:25

So there's a week left in Pavia, you guys! Actually, that exclamation mark isn't one of happiness; it could never be one of happiness...but we sadly never found the time to create a "sadness mark" so it's the next best thing. Anyhow, I digress. Lecturers aren't around much, people are going home in droves, and it's cold and foggy outside (like freezing-fog foggy) so I just want to stay indoors and curl up in bed with a film... I don't have anything exciting to add about my week; it's been pretty standard. Just letting you know about my departure in less than one week's time; my horrid cold that I got from staying out til 4am with two of my favourite people; and my top 10 albums of this year!

Yes. That last bit: I'm serious. It's an annual tradition. I'll link each album title with the 'best song' from that album, in my humble opinion. No pretentious 'reviews' of them, though. Just name, rank and number. Anyhow, let us kick off immediately, or we'll be here all night!

10. Hurley - Weezer
9. Subiza - Delorean
7. Root for Ruin - Les Savy Fav
7. High Violet - The National
6. Sea of Cowards - Dead Weather
5. Interpol - Interpol
4. Pop Negro - El Guincho
3. 1Inch:1/2Mile - Grasscut
2. Lights - Ellie Goulding
1. Lonely Avenue - Ben Folds/Nick Hornby

And I've just realised almost all the music I've listened to this year has been in the same vein. So much for discovering new stuff, eh?

I guess, considering I'm not going to be travelling around before I leave, and the next few days are just going to involve studying for my Linguistics mock exam and getting back home...the next blog to sate your appetite (Emyr...) will probably be the weekend of Christmas, perhaps...

Hamming it up in Parma

Posted by Alex | | Posted On Friday, 10 December 2010 at 18:41

Disclaimer: To save my arse from potentially being shouted at, it was just bad karma that my internet would cut out for two days when trying to organise a trip somewhere. However, I can’t really expect a host of “Why didn’t you invite me!!?” comments, because the message sent out was still sans replies less than an hour ago. I can, however, be shouted at by the Parmigiani and Laura, for not informing them I’d be in town – sorry, spur of the moment visit, though I will come back before I leave the Bel Paese!

Anyhow, let’s bring you up to speed. Since last venting, over a week ago, there has been nothing but days off. Days and days and days and days off. I should have used them and brushed up on those things they call subjects, since I am in University. I should also have used them to visit Italy, but I was hoarding my metaphorical pennies after a bit of a Christmas blow-out – the result of which means the quality of photos, at least in terms of clarity, should improve vastly in the new year! So, in short: for the last seven days, I have unashamedly sat on my arse and done nothing; literally veg’d out; so much so I started collecting beer labels… As you do…

On Saturday (or was it Sunday?) I bumped into Emilia and José on the bus, and we talked about how I’ve been a lame Erasmus student (Sorry, Emyr!) and that we should definitely go somewhere this week thanks to Wednesday being Immaculate Conception (Italy shuts down), Thursday being the feast of San Siro (Pavia supposedly shuts down), and today being a day off just because this is Italy! I tried to cajole people into going to Novara and Vercelli, though my guess is that it didn’t appeal…

The one day in my life when I'll be awake before sunrise voluntarily

So, today rolls around, and I’m up at the crack of dawn – I was even good enough to provide you with the proof! – and my internet had been out for a whole day and a half (which I mostly spent playing Plants vs Zombies…). So, I thought “Sod it, I’ll go into town and put up a text status on Facebook saying I have no internet. I assume people will get the message, and let me know if anything is going down.” – after a half hour talk on the economic crisis that is gripping the world with Savino in the café, I gave up all hope of anyone coming to find me, and asked for a recommendation on where to go. It became a toss-up between Parma and Bologna. Now, since I’ve seen the prices for Bologna on the ESCity trains, and didn’t like the looks of 4 hours on the ‘bog standard’ regionals, I opted for Parma.

One thing I’ll say for train journeys in Italy is that they don’t disappoint when it comes to the views. In Wales, it’s a case “same old, same old” on the Valley Line – hills, hills, hills, river, hills, river etc. – but Milan to Parma was just rolling fields as far as the eye could see, and mountains! Actual Alpine mountains! Plus, you can travel for half an hour without having to stop…it takes an hour to go the 20miles to Cardiff; I did 148km in 2 hours today…with a break for my change-over at Milano Rogoredo.  British Rail: you could learn something from the Italians! Who needs to stop at Ton Pentre anyway?

But, I digress.

Parma is a city in Emilia-Romagna. It’s roughly an hour and a half away from Pavia, and by contrast is a hybrid of peaceful streets and bustling pavements. Maybe that was just today, though. It’s also my nominee for the prize of “City under construction at the most inopportune time!” – not only is the station receiving a makeover, but so is the bell tower of the cathedral. Put a bit of a dampener on my trip.

The first thing I noticed about Parma is that it is quite underwhelming…then I realised that the station is nowhere near the ‘historical centre’, so it would be like basing my opinion of Cardiff on Cathays. It has a river – wikipedia quotes a historian as calling it a stream, but would you call this a stream:

Attilio Bertolucci has never seen a river before...

I certainly don’t think it’s a stream. In fact, I was quite in awe of it, though the bridges have nothing on Pavia’s Ponte Coperto! On this side of the bridge (i.e. the side I am taking the photo from) is some large park, which, at first seems a bit like Bute Park with a bit of a superiority complex. But, then I walked further than just the front gate, and it’s quite beautiful. I reckon in the summer it would be amazing, what with leaves on trees and such. But still, after walking the full circumference of the park, I was at a loss as to where the ‘historic centre’ was. Considering the fact that the Duomo in Pavia can be seen from most places, and the one in Milan has its own metro stop…surely the most important medieval baptistery in Northern Italy, if not Europe, would be well signposted??

Unless I’d missed the signs, I spent the time wandering aimlessly, considering giving up my search for this holy grail of medieval church architecture. Sure, I found plenty of other churches and buildings and statues to make my nerdy side happy, but in the back of my mind I felt I was missing something. When I found myself back at the river, I sighed, sat down on a bench and conceded defeat. “Sod it,” I thought, using a phrase I over use in writing so that my blog is vaguely PG, “I’ll get the next train home and come back in January and get Sara and Erica to show me where it is!!”

Figuring I had an hour until the next train, I thought I’d find out what lay to the other side of the Palazzo del Governatore (not under construction, but maltreated and hidden by a sign telling everyone it was Christmas, I do believe…*mumble grumble*) Woe was I when there was no sign of the Baptistery. The street went on, and ended at a bell tower, but no piazza. I reached a crossroads – literally – and only by the sheer luck that I glanced to my right, rather than turning left and just storming off to the station to pout, did I see it. My jaw dropped – metaphorically – and I have trouble relating the feeling. I can, however, tell you that I became a total church architecture nerd: there are photos on my camera of the intricate details on the Baptistery, the triple loggia of the cathedral, the parts of the wall where it looks like an arch was removed, the masonry, the art…ooo, I was happier than a pig in the proverbial!

So...amazingly...pretty O.O I became a bit of a nerd, taking photos like sue me

Isn’t that just beautiful. Eight-sided on the outside, sixteen sided on the inside; four doors - one at every compass point; four loggias on every side. And just look at those blind arches making an arcade at the top. Oh, I am in heaven! It’s probably best that I leave it there, rather than including the sheer boredom which came with the hour and a half back to Milan, and the twenty minutes to Pavia… And that sums up my (probably) last day of travel in Italy of 2010!

As normal, all of the photos from today (not that I took many in the two hours I was in Parma – that’s what leaving it to the last minute does; cuts your time short), are up on my flickr page.