Saturday, October 29, 2011

Rome vs. Paris

Over the past two weeks Sadie and I have made another two incredible trips.  First to Paris, then another return trip to bella Roma.  France and Italy have a long history of battling each other.  Whether it be on the soccer field, in culinary supremacy, or fashion design they always seem to be at each other for the title of worlds greatest in something.  After spending some time in the two capital cities, we wanted to give a rundown on how they stack up against each other in some random catagories...

This edition will be known as Italy(Rome) vs. France(Paris)

Options for Alternative Cuisine: This is a big one for us.  As much as we both love Italian food, having pizza and pasta everyday gets a little monotonous after a while.  Not to mention, eating all those carbs doesn’t help us squeeze into those leotards we have to wear each week for our performances.  We’ve found a couple spots in Rome that are incredible.  Handmade pasta gems that are so good it’s almost unfair to the inferior surrounding restaurants.  There are definitely these hidden secrets around Rome, but in every case they are serving Italian food.  Fantastic if you are vacationing in Italy, but not so much if you are used to NYC and it’s endless unique culinary specialties.  In fact, we needed some tastes from home so much that when we came back to Italy in Sept, most of our luggage weight was do to cans of refried beans, taco shells, and other necessities for making Mexican food.  We had to have it!!
Paris is filled with ethnic cuisine.  Japanese, Thai, falafels, Indian...whatever you’re in the mood for, you have at your disposal.  We found an organic vegetarian French/Japanese lunch spot called Bob’s Kitchen that was amazing.  Had incredible falafels another day.  Ate at a local French bistro another night.  Each meal was something different, and that can sometimes be lacking in Rome.  Paris definitely has the edge in this category.
Coffee/Croissants: Both Paris and Rome take coffee and croissants very seriously.  It is their daily breakfast and they are both proud of what they bring to the table.  Generally they say the croissants are better in Paris and the coffee better in Rome.  I’m not a big coffee drinker, but Sadie would tend to agree with that statement.
Also, Italy doesn’t allow Starbucks in the country, which keeps coffee shops local and unique.  Definitely nice not seeing a Starbucks every 50 feet.  Instead of having Starbucks on every corner Rome has a gelateria.  Much better use of space! 
In the end, you can’t go wrong with either.
Public Transportation: Not really a contest in this one.  Paris, one of the best.  Rome, not so much.  The subway system in Paris is extensive and makes perfect sense, even if you’ve never used it before.  The city is vast, but all the sights are easily accessible with the metro, buses, trams, etc.  They also have a fantastic bike sharing system that is great for tourists.
Rome’s public transportation consists of 2 metro lines, 8 or 9 buses, and a Vespa.  The one thing you learn very quickly about Rome is that to manage the city, you need a considerable amount of patience.  In Rome’s defense, it is very difficult to build anything new there because every time they start a new project, they find a spoon or something from antiquity, it becomes an archeological site and the project plans are scraped.  Just one of the prices you pay for living in a city that has layers upon layers of past civilizations.
Inside Notre Dame

Danger Factor:   In all the time we’ve spent in Rome, we’ve never felt any kind of danger or sketchy situation no matter where we’ve been.  The only thing to worry about in Rome is being bombarded with the gypsy salesman.  Endlessly forcing their crappy toys on anyone who remotely makes eye contact with them.  It amazes me that these same guys are out on the streets everyday selling bubble guns and jelly blob toys.  Who are buying these trinkets so much that it actually makes it worth their time to go back and sell more?!  I’ll never understand it.
Paris however, felt a little different.  The area around our hotel gave off that vibe of “you shouldn’t hang out in this area for too long unless you want to be mugged” so it gave Sadie and me a chance to work on our speed walking skills every night going from the metro to our hotel.  We also had a some incidences on trains where we felt like Kristofferson was on the verge of being kidnapped by some hoodlums!  Who is Kristofferon you ask?  It is the name Sadie has given to her beloved IPad of course.  (Named after one of her favorite movie characters from the classic film “Fantastic Mr. Fox”).  Not quite as scary now that you are aware of it being an electrical device and not a person, but we still feared for his safety.  
Museums: Paris has some of the most beautiful and impressive art collections in the world spread through it’s museums.  The Louve, Pompidou, Musee d’ goes on and on.  We toured as much as we could in three days and barely scratched the surface to what’s to see.  Not many cities can compete with what Paris has on display.  


Rome, however, is a museum in itself.  The whole city.  Yes, it has great collections in Villa Borghese, the Vatican, Scuderie, but Rome’s treasures are out in the open for everyone to see at any time of day.  One of the best ways to see Rome is late at night when everyone else is sleeping.  Walk the streets that have not changed much in centuries (some cases millennia) and you will feel like you have an all-access personal pass to the best museum you will ever see.  In my opinion, it’s difficult to challenge Rome when it comes to art and history.  So much to see and it’s accessibility is what makes it special.
Both Rome and Paris are magical cities.  They have so much to offer, but in very different ways.  At some point, get to both cities and see for yourself!

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Top of Duomo Dome
This week it was Florence...but not before we got what probably will be our last day in at the beach.  Our apartment is an easy five minute walk from the free beach on Lido, so we took advantage of the incredible day.  Below is nice picture of me passed out on the sand.  I don’t find out that Sadie has taken these photos until they end up ready for the blog.  She has a whole file of me sleeping awkwardly, making ridiculous faces, or me ripping my pants in public.  It’s amazing how much of a kick she gets out of seeing me make an fool out of myself...haha!
After our performances were done for the week, we had Florence on the agenda.  I had been looking forward to taking Sadie down there because it’s one of my favorite cities and she had yet experienced its uniqueness.  I was also in the process of finishing up an 800 page biographical novel on Michelangelo just as we got to Florence, so I was overloaded with Firenze history.  
Rape of the Sabine Women by Jean de Boulogne
Fun Fact #1: Thanks to Lorenzo de Medici (Lorenzo the Magnificent), Florence was the artistic capital of the world during the Renaissance.  They were blessed with some of the greatest artists, thinkers, and scientists the world has ever known and with Lorenzo in charge, the city had a patron that had the funds and love of art to drive the Renaissance period to new heights.

Duomo covered in pink, green, and while marble 

Fountain of Neptune in Palazzo Vecchio
Our hotel, though not quite a five star hotel (more on that in a moment), was in a great location.  We were only two blocks from the Duomo, so all the major spots were within walking distance.  We hit up most of the obligatory sites (Palazzo Vecchio, Pitti Palace, Duomo and Brunelesschi’s Dome, Ponte Vecchio) but one stood out above the rest.  Maybe it was because of having just read about its creation, but seeing the David was awe inspiring for both of us.  As you walk into the corridor lined with MA’s unfinished Prisoner statues you feel like they are guarding the King at the end of the row.  For anyone who has never seen the David up close before, he is absolutely massive.  He sits underneath a glass cuppola that pours sunlight onto his head.  Sadie and I both got chills seeing the sculpture up close.  Some pieces of art don’t live up to their name and history when you see them in person.  The David however is more amazing than you could possibly imagine from looking at a picture.  
The Pitti Palace 
Fun Fact #2: Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci, who were both working and living in Florence at the same time, didn’t get along very well.  Leonardo was originally given the commission to sculpt the block of marble that eventually became Michelangelo’s David, but he turned it down because he felt sculpting was a lower form of art.
So back to our little hotel.  Again, great location, but the rooms had a laughable tackiness to them.  Our room, the “Giotto Room,” was painted a light purple and gold framed religious art surrounding us on all sides.  The bed had a huge draped crown headboard over the bed made of the finest crushed purple velvet available.  There wasn’t a bathroom (one toilet down the hall shared by the whole hotel) in the room, but there was a sink/shower combination.  Which is ideal for brushing your teeth and washing your hair at the same time!
The highlight of the room was the bed...or should I say beds.  Upon entering the room the bed looked like it was a nice size full or possibly even a queen.  After further inspection, we saw that it was two twin mattresses that had been velcroed together.  Still a major step up from Como, so both of us didn’t mind.  
That night, in the midst of one of the most pleasant nights sleep I’ve had in a while, the beds started to ever so slightly separate.  I was positioned right on the crack of the two beds, which I now know is the last place you want to be when European beds are velcroed together.  What I didn’t realize was that not only were there two mattresses, but they were also on separate frames.  The velcro did all it could, but it finally gave out at around 3:00am.  The beds splits, the frames shot in opposite directions, I collapse onto the floor with one mattress toppling on top of me.  Great night of sleep indeed!  What was even better was that Sadie was perfectly fine in the other bed.  She woke up just in time to see me sprawled out on the floor with the mattress on top of my head,  which lead to the appropriate response of her laughing uncontrollably.  Needless to say I didn’t sleep so well the rest of the night.
The next morning I tried to explain the previous nights episode to the woman behind the counter in hopes of a room change, money back, or at least some kind of apology.  Not quite. The woman, instead, told me of the multiple times SHE had fallen out of bed over the years and how she had hit her head on the floor as well.  “Be grateful you didn’t hit your head like me!”   Yes, that was the response I got from the incredibly concerned hotel staff.  
**She did however, put a stronger piece of velcro on the two mattresses and they thankfully held through our second night.
The next morning we made up for our terrible night of sleep when we stumbled on a once a year wine/cheese/olive oil/honey tasting in one of the main squares.  About fifty wine producers from Chianti set up tents showing off there new products and for the unbelievably low price of two Euro, we were given a wine glass and free reign to taste as many as we wanted.  If you were in this situation, how many wines would you have sampled?  There is only one right answer...all of them.  Or that was the intention, until half way through we had had about eight bottles of wine each and could barely feel our legs.  Fortunately, it was still only noon, so in true Italian style we managed an early afternoon nap.  Only our nap lasted about five hours.  A marvelous way to spend a day in Florence...

Brunelleschi's Dome
Fun Fact #3:  Before Brunelleschi came up with the design for the dome on the duomo in Florence, the completed church was without a roof for over 100 years.  He studied the Pantheon in Rome to come up with the proper design for his famous dome.  You can go to the top of the dome for one of the most beautiful views in is however, 463 steps to the top!
Florence is an absolutely beautiful city.  The kind of city that we hope to get back to sometime soon...but next time we’ll make sure to get a room that has a bed that stays in one piece.

Ponte Vecchio

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Private Royal Performance!

Hey everyone, 
  We had an unexpected special guest show up at the pavilion today to watch both Sadie and my performance.  Prince Albert of Monaco!!  He showed up with his entourage while I was performing, so Sadie, having just completed her performance, got right back up and did a second personal show for the Prince.  When I completed my first run, I barely had a second to catch my breath before getting back up for the second.  We had to close down the US Pavilion for all visitors while he was inside, which was a first.  His personal security was intimidating, but they, along with the rest of his crew were all very gracious.  
   He is a great patron of the arts and it was incredibly honor to have him watch us both.  He loved the performances and even took some time to speak with us afterwards.  
   Another amazing experience for both of us!!!

Prince Albert of Monaco!!

Monday, October 3, 2011


It’s been a productive week.  We’ve both been a little bit under the weather, but it hasn’t stopped us from continuing our travels and other adventures.  The week started off with our first silks practice at the vertical dance studio in Mestre.  Yes, it’s the same space where Sadie had her Italian debut as a hoop performer, except this time we went during the day and had the whole place to ourselves.  
The practice itself went great.  Sadie is a natural at silks and even after taking some time off, she could still do all her tricks.  It’s amazing to watch her up there!  She’s taught me a few moves, but most of the time I still look like I’m a tangled up marionette doll.
We also starting piecing together some things for a little duet act that we’d like to perform at some other venues while we are here in Italy.  Between Sadie’s dance and aerial skills and my gymnastics, we think we can put something unique together. 
We head back tomorrow for round two...
Full Mast in Rome: Inspired by the video portion of our exhibit at the Biennale
The rest of the week was spent in Rome.  One of Sadie’s closest friends from NYC came out to visit with her boyfriend, so the four of us took the train to experience Bella Roma.  After living in Rome for a year I know the city pretty well and Sadie, only having been in Venice for five months now, has already taken three trips to Rome.  It’s always been one of my favorite cities, but Sadie has found a love for Rome too which makes going there even better.  
Outside of Colosseum

We toured the city as much as we could in the short amount of time we had together.  Rome is not the kind of city you can see in a few days.  If you can appreciate what Rome has to offer it can take much more than a few days to soak it all in.  There were a couple highlights from the trip though that are worth mentioning...

Sadie and Alexis outside of Colosseum
Me giving Adam terrible directions
While checking out the Colosseum, we were approached by two guys who spoke perfect English.  Ninety nine percent of the time, this would be kids working for a bar in town trying to round up young tourists for an night out of drunken stupidity.  To our amazement, these guys were working for National Geographic and wanted to interview us for a segment on a new show!  They were looking for perspective from a younger generation as to why it’s important to preserve historical monuments and art in a city such as Rome.  How the Romans and other Italians draw there national identity from this history and how it is different from growing up in the States.  We all did our best to sound intelligent for the half hour or so that we were interviewed and I think they actually got some useable stuff.  We don’t know the details of the show, but when we find out we’ll let you all know so you can tune in.

That night we headed to dinner at a restaurant that had been recommended to us by a friend who owns an Italian place in NYC.  Up to this point, our knowledge of great places to eat in Rome was very limited.  Limited to the point where, if you wanted an amazing meal in Rome, I could only point you in the direction of the houses of my three aunts or 346 cousins.  Other than that, I hadn’t found anything that truly stood out.  Le Mani in Pasta changed that.  We made reservations for 8:00pm and when we showed up we were the only people in the tiny place.  Our immediate reaction, was that we had been given a poor rec.  If this place was so good why was no one around??  
We sit down and without even opening a menu, we are each given a glass of prosecco to start out.  I like what I’m seeing so far...
From there, the waiter comes over and in a very blunt and lovable way that only a Roman can do, basically tells us what to order.  Who are we to argue!  Figs and prosciutto appetizer (quite possibly two of my favorite foods on the same plate...perfection).  Sadie is a vegaterian and hasn’t had the pleasure of enjoying the incredible flavors of prosciutto, but she knows of it’s otherworldly qualities because I insist on eating it at just about every meal that we have together.  
Plate of pasta w/ truffles!!
From there we got two pasta dishes.  Gnocchi with a radicchio and clam sauce and a tagliatelle with white truffles.  They were both incredible.  We tried to savor each bite, but those dishes stood no chance.  They were gone instantaneously.  One of the things I’m most proud of that Sadie has learned about Italian culture since she’s lived out here, is the practice of scarpetta.  It is the using of a piece of bread to mop up all the goodness that is left in your plate after having eaten your meal.  My proficiency of the scarpetta technique is at the Olympic level...impressive and disgusting at the same time.  When I’m done with my meal, the plates are generally placed right back in the cabinet needing no extra cleaning from the dishwasher.  Sadie has caught on quickly and is now in the running as my true equal in scarpetta-ing.  I really am a lucky guy!

Castel St. Angelo w/ Ponte St. Angelo

What week is complete without one of us making a fool out of ourselves in one way or another.  This week, it was my turn.  We had a few hours to ourselves one night and were taking in the sights and shops along Vid del Corso, the main drag of Rome.  Outside of the Nike shop, we saw a commotion so we headed over to see what was going on.  We quickly find out that, the one and only, Kobe Bryant, is at the store to help promote his possible move to an Italian team while the NBA is on strike.  
Crowd outside of Nike waiting for Kobe to come out
People are going crazy.  Thousands and thousands of fans packed outside the store waiting to get a glimpse.  It was hard to see over the sea of people so, I suggest that Sadie go on my shoulders to take some pics from a better angle.  She gets up and starts snapping away.  Unfortunately, he hasn’t emerged yet so I have Sadie come down.  As I lower her down, making every effort to make sure she gets safely to the ground, I feel my shorts give away and have no way to stop the inevitable.  Yes, that’s right, my shorts ripped almost in half.  The hundred or so people directly behind me all heard and saw it happen frame by frame.  Making things worse, was the fact that I was wearing a pair of colored striped underwear that I would have preferred the whole world not see.  Well they saw...all of them.  This was not the kind of tear that could be hidden.  They all just laughed and pointed at the gigantic split down my shorts basically saying, “Who cares about Kobe, did everyone see this guys shorts just rip in half?!!!”  Sadie is hysterically laughing on the ground at this point and also manages to snap a few pictures of my misery.  I stealthily ninjaed my way out of the crowd to my saving grace...a Levi’s jean store next to Nike.  Oddly enough, I had been in the market for a new pair of jeans so the timing couldn’t have been better.  After picking out a new pair of pants, we headed back out just in time to see Kobe pull away in his van.  Great timing...
Ridiculous rip!!

Besides the little pants episode, Rome was amazing as usual.  We are both still feeling a little sick, but that isn’t stopping us from traveling.  We head to Florence this week so stay tuned for the next adventure of Dave and Sadie...
Ponte Sisto w/ St. Peters in background

Alexis and Sadie along the Tiber