Monthly Archives: December 2008


I’ve been in Paris for all of four hours and I already

a. have received a recommendation for which apartment building to move into when I come back.

b. have received an offer from the sweet receptionist (who “only works nights”) to hang out and show me around town here. Hmm.

Things can only get better, I think.



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Natale per tutto del mundo.

Hi guys.

Happy Christmas! Supposedly the Pacific Northwest has gone to hell in my absence. Snow, you guys? Seriously? How could you let this happen? Why didn’t you ask the clouds to wait?

Anyway, I’m in Dublin right now. It’s been quite fantastic. The airport-to-hotel coach driver kicked everything off nicely by singing along to the Mariah Carey Christmas carols that would issue frequently from the local holiday radio station. Then, when I discovered that I had the sweetest hotel room waiting for me, well. I was fit to be tied, as it were.

I’ve been out to a few pubs, heard a little music, been blown away by the shopping district and Irish families out in full force for last-minute shopping. I met the executive of Burger King’s Irish franchise (“Martin”) and his posse of other kind gentlemen, all out for a drink (“Kent,” “John,” and “Ginny”). I went to church today at Dublin’s Christchurch Cathedral and heard the infamous bells of Dublin peal forth in celebration (terrible video footage soon to be posted). St. Stephen’s Green is absolutely beautiful and the people have been delightful and friendly. I have my small room with a view, a large white bed, and Virginia Woolf. This has been quite a nice Christmas.

Tomorrow I fly to Paris. Hopefully to see Wells and Charlie and Gina, among other outstanding, worldly monuments. It’s going to be fantastic.

T-5 ’til you-know-what. In the mean time, you’re all in my thoughts. Try to convince the snow to stick around a little longer, would you?

Peace and grace be with you. Baci.


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And just like that.

I’m in Berlin. School’s finished and I’ve said a lot of goodbyes in the past two days. Not much to say yet except that there was lots of snow on the ground on the way here and lots of tears before I left. I don’t have an internet connection at the hostel, so yet again I’ll have to save the real update for later. Tired. Really tired. Curious about what’s to come. Really releieved that I’ll be coming home, and soon.

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Just a little bit.

Umberto Boccioni (1882-1916), "Dynamism of a Cyclist," 1913. On long-term loan to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice.

Umberto Boccioni (1882-1916), "Dynamism of a Cyclist," 1913. On long-term loan to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice.

Finals-ing. It’s kind of painful, but I’ll be done soon, then I’ll be back with you once more, dear readers. Listening to Christmas carols and a lot of Joni Mitchell. Arguably too much of both. Don’t you be raising a skeptical eyebrow out there. I know my taste and I’m just fine with it, thank you, prone to mush though it may be.

Itching for Friday and travels and the time and space to be alone and think a lot, yet knowing I’m going to miss this so very, very much. Feeling Christmas’ fast approach and looking forward to home. None of this is connected to the sappy music I’ve been listening to. No, none of it.

Italy is certainly a blessing.

More to come. Baci.

P.S. The Wien-Salzburg-München excursion was breathtaking, rest assured. Pictures are up. A story will come of it soon. Soon soon soon.

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Or, better known  to some as “Brenna Conquers Western Europe.”

December 19

Celebrate the end with my classmates and fantastically strange, incredibly intelligent professors. Pack my shit. Get on a night train bound for Switzerland. All great escapes should start like this, I think. Switzerland is, after all, the best refuge.

December 20-22

Make a bleary-eyed train transfer in Spiez (near Bern) in the wee hours and spend the next several hours staring out the window at Germany as it flies by. I’m so hoping for snow. So so so hoping for snow. Arrive in Berlin in the early afternoon.

My hostel is right in the middle of the mitte district (ha), the district that sits closest to the east-west divide, but on the eastern side. It’s close to the Kreuzberg district, which is supposed to be a neighborhood with a high Turkish population and a lot of young, creative energy.

There will be touristy things that will need to be done, a lot of modern art to be seen, and quite a lot of intense wandering around (…biking around?) to follow. The other cheesy goal is to find a great old bookshop and a dusty copy of “Faust.” I might go and see the Berlin Philharmoniker while I’m there, too. I think Mahler 3 under Mehta’s baton is what’s on the calendar that weekend.

December 23-25

I leave Berlin on the morning of the 23rd and get into Dublin sometime in the early afternoon. My hotel looks gorgeous and is tucked a little farther out of the way, though not too far from St. Stephen’s green. This should be a quiet few days since most things will be closed starting in the late afternoon on the 24th and certainly on the 25th.

December 26-28

Paris. Paris fresh after Christmas. Paris, full of skeletal trees along the Seine, silhouetted against the grey sky and hanging mist. Paris, full of croissants in the early morning. Paris, full of… Charlie Allen? Well, maybe. There’s a potential run-in scheduled for the 26th, but our schedules might not match up. Beyond that, I have a lot to do in Paris.

On the night of the 28th I’m taking the Artesia night train (the fastest train in Europe! – I’m must admit, I’m quite excited about that part) back to Florence. I’ll get in to Florence early the next morning, stumble out of the Santa Maria Novella Stazione and try and find caffe e dolci as quickly as is humanly possible. Plans for that day include fetching my HUGE suitcases from my host family (oh my GOD taxis are expensive), poking around in the standard outdoor markets, visiting my favorite cioccolateria (the best in Florence — and, by God, I’d say the best in the entire world) to pick up sweet things for home, visiting my favorite places, and being generally sentimental. The next morning I have to get up at some disgusting hour, take a cab to Florence’s tiny, tiny airport, and get out of town. After that, I’ll pass through Amsterdam and Minneapolis (whinewhinewhine) and customs. The plan is to survive the longest day ever and (hopefully) slip right by any bad winter weather and onslaughts of other holiday travelers.

With a pinch of luck I should be back in Portland’s loving arms on the evening on the 30th, just in time to catch some shuteye before ringing in the New Year.

But for now I have other things to do. I have a paper to start tonight. And at this time tomorrow Leslie and I will be on another night train, hurtling toward Wien. WIEN! Even though we’ll be missing Immacolata here in Italy, we’ll be just in time to celebrate St. Nicolaus’ Tag with old men roaming around in saintly costumes, kicking off the official start to Christmas in Germanic style. We’ll find Krampus and growl back at him, eat Sacher torte and famed midnight doughnuts made by 90-year old legends, and perhaps stand in a line for nosebleed tickets at the Wiener Staatsoper. Then there’s Salzburg and quieter times to be had — we’ll visit the Dom and the huge, human-sized chessboard, and maybe even the shop we visited on choir tour that’s full of hand-painted blown eggs — yes, just blown eggs. Eggs hanging from fake trees and piled in huge barrels — and the shop even continues across the street in its annex. Yes, the egg shop has an annex. And THEN — we’ll be in München for two days. Sentiments will range from intensely sobered to not-so as we visit Dachau on day 1, then the Hofbräuhaus and a famed, super old billiard museum on day 2. Then we catch a night train back to Florence, stumbling through the station at 6 in the morning (6 IN THE MORNING), just in time to drink a lot of coffee and get our bums to class. What world-traveling badasses we are.


Someday I'll figure out how to rotate these things. Someday.

Someday I'll figure out how to rotate these things. Someday.

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On Wonder.

It’s my goal to one day compile a list of the absolutely amazing, world-class concerts I’ve attended this semester. And that will undoubtedly happen very soon considering I’m supposed to be writing summaries and critiques of the operas we’ve seen for the music history quotient of my all-encompassing music class. For now, though, I’d like to mention that I saw Zubin Mehta conduct Brahms’ second piano concerto and third symphony tonight. Zubin Mehta — yes, that Zubin Mehta — the much lauded Zubin Mehta, the guy from India who was supposed to go study medicine, then wound up in Vienna studying conducting with Hans Swarowsky. Zubin Mehta, the baller who leads world famous orchestras and soloists the likes of Yefim Bronfman and doesn’t use a score for any of it. That’s right. Ball.Er. My newest hero.

Tomorrow I will compile that aforementioned list and actually post it here. Then I’ll actually post the itinerary of the 10 days of self-liberation that will occur post-Firenze. It’s all quite exciting, if I do say so myself.

‘Til then, darlings. Baci.

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Things for which I’m Thankful: 2008

Thanksgiving. The night was spent with the school. My table was Hannah, Leslie,and Claudius, our German, happy-being-awkward professor of European politics, all for whom I'm grateful.

Thanksgiving. The night was spent with the school, merry-making. My table was Hannah, Leslie, and Claudius, our German, content-to-be-awkward professor of European politics. I'm quite grateful for all of these people.

— What can be summed up as the Miracle: the miracle that is my family of friends — friends who make and share meals together, share values, brawl around Portland on bikes, sleep under desks, listen, hold, edit, reflect, share burdens, send love letters and care packages, play pool, languish in Prexy, take the dog to the vet and then to Mt. Hood, hold gatherings for the express purpose of sharing 22s of Portland beer, spoon at the end of dance parties, dance, turn up the vinyl, make the pancakes at the dawn of the day or the middle of the night, go swimming fully clothed (or partially, whatever), bring spare toddies on hot afternoons, like kale, refine their gluten preferences, overcome, go to senate, harmonize, share their space heaters, skip town for the day, talk about The Future, teach me how to count, hold me up, lift me up — all together. I love you guys. Mush mush mush.
— Reed College and Opportunity.
— My bicycle.
— The tiny beginning of a family at the Gallery.
— The Reed music department and the amount of autonomy it allows me.
— Stumptown coffee.
— I miei insegnanti di composizione e cantare alla Scuola di Musica di Fiesole — Maestri Kamran Khacheh e Gabriele Lombardi.
— The impressionists.
— Italian leather products.
— Likewise, wool. “Cosa di lana!!”
— Reed dance parties.
— Student loans.
— Being able to ask where the bathroom is in several different languages.
— Having the right to vote and speak and educate myself.
— Libraries. Particularly Hauser.

"corn and leak chowder" and "corn on the cop." Also, sideways. Sorry.

— The European rail system.

— Amsterdam, Firenze, Pescia, London, Cortona, San Gimignano, Venezia, Roma, Salzburg, Wien, München, Berlin, Dublin, Paris.

— Not being in Venezia anymore. But that one’s only kind of true.
— That there’s a bed and a room and a window and a collection of books and a warm kitchen all waiting for me in Portland.
— My mommy and my godparents.

P.S. I’m done with school in 18 days. Shhhh.

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