17.6.09

La Course Extraordinaire, Parte Trois


The Jennettes'
*
GRAND EUROPEAN ADVENTURE
Part Three

* Yup, she's still with us

D . .I . .S . .N . .E . .Y . .L . .A . .N . .D

* This post contains much comparison between Disneyland Paris and the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. An acquaintance with the latter may prove useful.

Thursday, April 9th was the day set aside for Disneyland. Of course, with this family, you wouldn't expect us not to go, would you? That morning, we hopped on the RER train to Marne-le-Valée/Chessy, or DISNEYLAND. It was a 40-minute ride, and whilst on the train, it was brought to our attention by the contrôleur that the rail passes that we had bought at the same time as our Disney tickets specifically to get to Disneyland were in actuality passes to Versailles. In the opposite direction. So, of course we had to buy correct tickets then and there, 25€ each. Mom was eventually refunded for the other ones. Now, if we had used public transport on our previous Schmermund adventure, something like this would definitely have happened, but instead we rented a car, which came with its own set of problems.

Disneyland Paris is made up of three parks: Disneyland Paris, the Walt Disney Studios, and Disney Village. We first went to the Walt Disney Studios. It's a lot like Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World (Florida), but obviously much smaller, and proportionately less fun. The only two things we did there were the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster and the Disney Animation tour. We brought Mom onto the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster for her first time; Aunt Janet sat it out. For all intents and purposes, it's the same ride as in Florida, but for two exceptions: it's completely in the dark (no neon road signs or giant doughnuts), and the Aerosmith soundtrack includes lyrics (which Mom sang at the top of her lungs). Needless to say, she liked it. The Magic of Disney Animation is again just like it's clone* in Hollywood Studios, Florida. Mushu tells everyone (in a selection of six different languages) all about the character design process. But seriously guys, Mulan came out in 1998. I think it's time for an update. The rest of the Studios is mostly shows, which we didn't have any time for - we were only there for the day. The other interesting ride there, and certainly the most popular one, is Crush's Coaster. Based on Finding Nemo, it is a combination roller-coaster-Mad-Tea-Party; the cars all spun as you went on the coaster. Unfortunately, with a 60-minute wait, we could only watch. Incidentally, the Partners statue (with Walt and Mickey holding hands) is at the Walt Disney Studios, rather than Disneyland Park, which I found interesting.
* Or, rather, predecessor.


After lunch, we went into Disneyland Park, where the real magic is. Disneyland Hotel is right at the gates of the park, and visitors have to walk underneath the hotel in order to reach the ticket barriers. Disneyland Park is set up much like the Magic Kingdom in WDW: Main Street, Adventureland, Frontierland, Fantasyland, and Discoveryland - which takes the places of Tomorrowland, but with the same rides. This park's Sleeping Beauty's Castle* is the smallest of all the Disney Parks' castles, but one of the more interesting. Inside is a really expensive (but pretty) handmade glass shop, with an artisan working right there. The upper floor houses a walk-through Sleeping Beauty story, and underneath the castle is a dungeon passageway with a huge dragon, the largest Audio-Animatronic at the time of its creation (since beaten by the yeti of Animal Kingdom's Expedition Everest). Also, you can walk around outside the castle on the parapets, which offers a great view of the park and also for any parades going by.
* Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant

First, we went to Discoveryland. Whereas WDW's Tomorrowland is themed to the 1960's retro-futuristic design, Discoveryland is based on the writings of Jules Verne, and therefore is designed to look like a late-19th-century Universal Exposition, with lots of green and brass. I think the aesthetic is miles better than Tomorrowland. Mom, Anthony, and I went on Space Mountain Mission 2 - a more intense version of Space Mountain (Mission... 1, I guess...) It had more stuff to look at (planets, stars, explosions?) and included a 360° loop. It is almost as good as the original; it just isn't the same. Louder, faster, loop-ier, yes, but not Space Mountain. Then, we went on the ill-fated Les Voyages de la Nautilus. Poor 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Why does Disney still hang on to you and torture all fun out of you? A walk-through to make Grandpa wet himself in boredom, with an attack by a 'squid' that seems more like a leisurely chat with a passing almond. I'll bet this generation (that being my own) has never even heard of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Disney closes the Carousel of Progress and the original* Enchanted Tiki Room and leaves this? I'm puzzled. Anyway, after that diverting five minutes, we walked back to the castle to watch the parade. Discoveryland also has a Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin clone, an Arcade, Autopia (Tomorrowland Speedway), Orbitron (Astro Orbiter), and Star Tours.
* Read: BETTER

Two things I'd like to point out about the Share a Dream Come True parade: Prince Phillip (I have to assume it was he dancing with Aurora) looked more like Enchanted's Prince Edward, but wearing a top hat. Why? And, Maleficent was bright red and looked like she was on fire. Why? Beats me, it's French. Now, on to Fantasyland.

My favourite ride in the Magic Kingdom has always been it's a small world.* And I was very pleased with Disneyland Paris's version. Very pleased. Only two things passed my strict 'Is It Better Than Disney World?' test: this was one of them. Disneyland Park's it's a small world is just fantastic. It is much bigger than WDW's (at least it seems that way) and does its very best to include every nation. And I mean every. The Middle East gets its own room; Latin America gets more than the lumped Mexico-or-Peru treatment of WDW; Africa is more diverse. And there's a US room. An entire room! Hollywood! Texas! The Midwest! New York! Canada! It's all there, and it's glorious. I'm sure it's because of the US not wanting to look facetious that there's barely any mention of the nation in the American versions of the ride, but it was really nice to see. Plus, the design of the entire attraction is different (and possibly better, I think): it's all done in cutouts and is very flat, rather than fabrics and elaborate sets in WDW. It makes the figures stand out more, since they are three-dimensional. So, enough about that. I love it's a small world. We also took a trip on Les Voyages de Pinocchio. Talk about a laugh. The ride was good enough - definitely an older, pre-Audio-Animatronics ride, à la Snow White's Scary Adventure, but it goes by so fast, you can hardly see what's happening. We all felt like we were being rushed past all of these beautiful tableaux and hurried to the exit. It took all of 2 minutes. Maybe it's because of the lo-tech quality of the ride, but geez, I thought Europe was supposed to be slower paced! So let's see, what else didn't we have time for in Fantasyland? Snow White, Dumbo, Tea Cups, Peter Pan (still massively popular, heaven knows why, yet also pre-Animatronics), and the ubiquitous Carousel.
* Note correct misuse of capitalisation.

From Fantasyland we traveled to Adventureland, which is dominated by Captain Hook's Pirate Ship and Discovery Isle, a huge walk-through play area not unlike WDW's Tom Sawyer Island. Of course, we went on Pirates of the Caribbean, which is the second ride that passed my test. I liked this Pirates better because of the beginning - it took longer to set the mood, possibly because Europe doesn't have anything like the Caribbean, but that gave more time to relax. Then it picks up where the original starts (without Jack Sparrow and horrible mist-Davy-Jones). There's also a longer ending that winds down and explains that all the pirates are gone and the gold is in caves with skeletons. Very good. However, after that Anthony and I went on Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, which is a surprisingly bland ride. I w
as expecting something like Disneyland's (California) Temple of Doom, but this was just your average roller coaster. It feels like a Six Flags ride* and is all around out-of-place. Indiana Jones isn't even a Disney franchise, so I don't know why it's there. Plus, random loops. I don't understand. Boo.
* If you know me, you know that that's not a compliment.

Finally, as the day (and the park) closed, we hurried to Frontierland, where all we had time left to do was ride the Phantom Manor. The queue goes through the front door of the house, which was a nice touch. I much prefer the Florida version, though. This one has a much more explicit storyline, which can be read here (this post being long enough as it is), but did not have nearly enough Pepper's Ghost* illusions for my taste. Very entertaining
though; I love that each Haunted Mansion is different. Once we got out of the ride, we had to make a bee-line for the exit, since the park was closing. The steamboat (the Molly Brown, btw) and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad were the only other things in Frontierland. Disneyland Paris (and France in general, I think) really likes the American West. Almost all of Disneyland Paris's hotels are named after the West: Sequoia, Sacramento, Santa Fe... and cowboys, aside from being the typical American stereotype, are pretty popular. Anyway, there weren't any fireworks since the park is way too close to a residential area (the same case as Disneyland), but Mickey was above the gates waving good bye to everyone. All in all, Disneyland Park was great, I wish I had more time to spend there, but of course nothing can beat the Magic Kingdom. I've been spoiled.
* Without getting technical, it makes the ghosts look like... ghosts.

One last thing. We had dinner at Disney Village, basically a much scaled-down version of Downtown Disney. There were a few big shops and some restaurants (American West themed again...) and a Rainforest Café. We had BBQ, in a place with line dancing in French, which was odd, to American country songs*, which was odder. The decor of the room was, as Aunt Janet put it, everything from every western movie: fish on one wall, deer heads and antlers on another, old portraits of U.S. presidents (Washington to Taft, in no particular order) on another. Weird to authentic Americans like us, but I'm sure it's 'just like it' to Europeans who don't know any better. All in all, Disneyland was great, and I'm glad we got to go. I wish I had another day to explore, but Walt Disney World will always take the cake. Disneyland Paris just doesn't feel like Disney, and those of you who have been to Florida know what I mean. Disneyland Paris feels like a cheap (well, maybe not 'cheap') knock-off, which in essence it is. It's a park, yes, which is owned by Disney and has Disney characters, yes, but it's not Disneyland. That's all I can say about that. Hope you enjoyed it, and sorry about the inordinate length. But I'm not really, though.
* Which, I'm pretty sure, are the only kind of country songs.


26.4.09

La Course Extraordinaire, Partie Deux


The Jennettes'*

GRAND EUROPEAN ADVENTURE
Part Two

* Still with Aunt Janet

P . . . . A . . . . R . . . . I . . . . S

We are back, and our journey continues in Paris. You can view Part One right here. I will tell you now that this leg of the trip produced the most Stitch-Em-Up pictures, so enjoy! We landed at Charles de Gaulle Airport at around 7PM on Wednesday 8th April, and made our way to the hotel: Citadines Louvre. We got there, and were promptly informed that due to "difficulties" we had been transferred to another Citadines hotel near l'Opéra. The hotel was set up like an apartment, and each room had its own kitchen and lots of space.* After settling into the rooms, we went out for something to eat. Luckily for us, Paris is open much later than England; it was around 11PM that we finally sat down to dinner, at Pizza Marzano, a clone of Pizza Express. Don't judge us - it was late and we were hungry. Food is food.
* Schmerm-note #3: Compare to itty-bitty living space in London hotel. Also, this is the closest we came to the circuitous journey to even get to the hotel.

The next day we went off to Disneyland Paris. This will get its own coverage in a separate post.

Friday the 10th was our discover Paris day. We would be leaving the city on Saturday, so fitting everything into Friday was a must. Of course, we couldn't do everything, but I think it was enough. For now... We began our tour by walking past the Place Vendôme to the Jardin des Tuileries. It was a bit weird just walking through the streets when all of a sudden a monument from your art history textbook appears the next street over. My reaction to the Place Vendôme was pretty much, "Huh? Oh, that's the Vendôme Column. Look at that." Crazy. The garden was largish, and very broad, and had a surprisingly random Richard Serra sculpture in it. I admit, I couldn't think of his name when we were actually there and had to look it up. So sue me, he's boring anyway. We wandered along the Seine, and past the Musée d'Orsay (see photo). I didn't know that the banks of the Seine are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. "The evolution of Paris and its history can be seen from the River Seine." (unesco.org) Okay, I can give them that. It's still weird, though; the Seine itself I can see, but the banks specifically? Whatever.

We walked along until we got to the Musée du Louvre. Actually trying to get into the Louvre would have been crazy; though the line was not that long, it would have taken more than the few hours we had to get through even a fraction of the museum. So we contented ourselves with just walking around the grounds and viewing those I.M. Pei pyramids that the Louvre is so well-known for.

We got to Notre-Dame de Paris (You know? From that movie?) by walking the wrong way around Ile de la Cité. It had slipped my mind that it was Good Friday, but alas, it was, and the Veneration of the Crown of Thorns was going on as we got to the Cathedral. It's not everyday you go to an ancient cathedral and there's something going on. Mom and Aunt Janet left to join the queue for the Veneration, and Anthony and I continued around the cathedral. We heard choirs and organ, and found out that they were beginning to say the Stations of the Cross. They had stopped the Veneration for now. We met up with the ladies and went round back to check out the flying buttresses.
The Jardin du Luxembourg was next on the list. We headed on down to walk around. The Gardens are quite large and open, in typical French style: very grand and impressive. Everything in the main promenade is carefully designed and maintained, leading your eye to the Palace, home of the French Senate.
After a little while, we caught a bus from the garden to the Eiffel Tower. It's definitely bigger in person. The queues to climb the tower (there were three) were all really long, obviously. When we got to the ticket window, we found out that the Pilier Sud,* where we were, only had steps. There was no lift service as with the other legs. That was fine for us, but it was a shame seeing elderly couples with no choice but to turn back and join the queue for another leg. You'd think they'd put that sort of information on the huge LCD screens above each ticket window. Go figure. We climbed the 347 steps to the first level. Nice view. (see photo: Champ de Mars and l'École Militaire) They had little placards telling you what all the sights were, but since it was only 57 meters (187 feet) high, you could barely see any but the closest buildings. Mom and Aunt Janet went to the toilets, and whilst they were waiting in the queue (yes, even on the Eiffel Tower...), Anthony and I continued to the second level, another 321 steps. From there the view was a bit better, but we wanted to go all the way to the top, 276 m (905 ft) from the ground. Only problem? The queue for the lift (the only way up) was massive. We joined anyway, and slowly made our way to the top.
* 'South Leg'
The view from the top of the Eiffel Tower is amazing. They have posted distances to major cities across the globe in all directions. Unfortunately, Paris only has a few easily visible monuments, the Tower itself being one of them, so there wasn't a lot that we could actually make out from the distance, but there was enough. Not much can be seen in the following photograph, but if you look closely at the previous two (taken from the second level) you may be able to spot a few sites, most in the second photo: Palais de Chaillot, the Grand Palais, Musée du Louvre, Sacre-Coeur, Notre-Dame de Paris.
Now, since it took nearly an hour and a half for Anthony and I to get to the summit of the Tower and back to the first level, Mom and Aunt Janet had no clue we would take that long. Begin hour of waiting and searching for two people whom we had no way to contact. After climbing the steps back up to the second level to look for them (no avail) and climbing back down to meet back up with Anthony, it was getting dark. And neither of us had eaten anything since lunchtime back around 1. As these things always happen, I found that I had missed a call. Assuming this was Mom who had somehow gotten hold of a phone, I dialled my voicemail. "In order to receive or save your messages from overseas, you must first set up your mailbox." My battery was on its last legs, let's hope this is quick. After setting up my mailbox and receiving via text my access code, I got the message that Mom was waiting for us at the foot of the tower. I had ruled that they wouldn't have left, as you can't get back up. Anthony proved me wrong. Score one for him. We got out of the tower just in time to see it light up at 9PM. Rather pretty. We took tons of pictures with nighttime Tower and, after being practically beaten over the head with little light-up plastic Eiffel Towers by the same vendor who kept coming back in hopes that we had changed our mind about his "bling-bling", we decided to get out of there and find some food.*
* Schmerm-note #4: While no search-and-rescue operation occurred on our trip, something like this would have happened eventually.**
** Actually, the feeling was rather similar to when our van died in Granada.


After eating at a sidewalk café, we walked over to the Arc de Triomphe. Pictures were difficult since it was after 10PM, but we were able to see François Rude's The Departure of the Volunteers in 1792.* It was all very Romantic.**
* Or, The Marseillaise.
** Go ahead, laugh. No really, you're supposed to.


The next day featured an evening flight, and a 3PM taxi to the airport. Needless to say, we didn't have a whole lot of free time. Most of the morning was spent finagling our luggage to fit under Ryanair's 15kg limit. After that was finally done, we walked to the Place de la Concorde and ambled down the Champs-Élysées for a bit, to the Grand Palais. I tried to teach them the song. By then it was time to head back, so we did. And there I shall leave you until our next outing. Paris was very pretty, and to tell the truth, better than I had expected. I'm glad I was able to see at least bits of it, as who knows when I'll be able to return. As usual, the complete Paris photo album (including Disneyland) can be found on Facebook here.

25.4.09

The Amazing Race, Part One


S
o, over Easter break, my family came to visit: mom, brother, and aunt. I was already into my second week of AIB holidays, and they were starting theirs (with a little extra padding from some strategically cashed sick days...) It was quite a two weeks; the itinerary included Bournemouth, Paris, Venice, and London. It involved a lot of running around and jostling of daylight hours, but it was well worth it. This was Mom and Anthony's first time in Europe (Aunt Janet and I had already been - visiting Kat in Seville). Speaking of Seville, this trip mirrored that one in more ways than one. I will explain as we go, with cited 'Schmerm-notes'. First comparison: it was an adventure!

In the interest of space, I'm breaking this post up into four parts: one for each leg of the trip. As always, there are Facebook photo albums for each port-of-call, which will be linked. I will mention here that I am hopelessly addicted to Photoshop's Photomerge function, which automatically stitches pictures together and blends them all nice and pretty. If you've ever tried to take multiple-shot scenes or panoramas you understand how awesome this function is. Now, one issue with the Facebook albums is that all photos are resized to roughly 500x700 pixels, which is a bit small for these photos, which can get up to 7000 pixels or more on a side. There were only one or two of the more squarely-proportioned panoramas* that would hold up under Facebook's resizing. So here's the Blogspot exclusive, my faithful followers... Included in this account of our trip are all** the panoramic photos in their full-sized glory! Lucky you! Clicking on these puppies to enlarge is a must.
* Or Stitch-Em-Ups, as I like to call them.
** Or at least most.

That said, without further ado, allow me to present our wonderful trip!

The Jennettes'*
GRAND EUROPEAN ADVENTURE

Part One

* Plus Aunt Janet


D . . . . O . . . . R . . . . S . . . . E . . . . T

The astute among you may find fault with the above title. "Stonehenge is in Wiltshire, not Dorset," you say?* I know. But to make things easier, I'm labelling the first part of our trip "Dorset". It's a lot easier than "Dorset, and Wiltshire, with a little bit of Hampshire thrown in toward the end" and calling it "England" would be less helpful, since we return to London later on. So Dorset it remains.
* You didn't say that? Oh, well then it's just me.

Mom, Anthony, and Aunt Janet arrived on Sunday the 5th. That first day's highlight was Anthony almost winning a random Guitar Hero tournament in a pub. He could have won twenty pints gratis. Instead, he ended up with a chocolate egg and a Toffee Crisp mug. He still had the highest qualifying score the other players had ever seen (apparently this is a recurring thing). It's easy enough to explain: Anthony doesn't have a life.

On Monday, we had our Discover Dorset tour with Jerry, our driver. We first went to Knowlton Henge in North Dorset, site of a very old Saxon-Norman church and some interesting yew trees. Names and initials of lovers were carved into the Norman stone, and dated circa 1941. A very interesting clash of time. We continued on to Stonehenge, yes, in Wiltshire. I've always heard that you can't get close to Stonehenge because it's an archaeological site of special magnificence. I don't know, but we were able to get pretty darn close. Not enough to touch, obviously, because it's an archaeological site, but a lot closer than I had expected. There were sheep grazing on the hill as well. There are sheep everywhere in England.

After Stonehenge, we carted off to Salisbury, also in Wiltshire. This is where your Stitch-Em-Up pictures come in; the only ones from this leg of the trip. Enjoy. I'm glad I pushed for a walkthrough of the cathedral (the first of many). It's just amazing how old things are in Europe. The Cathedral is over 700 years old, and has the tallest spire in the UK. It houses the world's oldest working clock, and the best-preserved copy of the Magna Carta, signed by King John in 1215. On a side note, the Cathedral is the final resting place of Bishop Roger (d. 1139). Bishoping was his trade. He was a bishop. His name was Roger the Bishop. He arranged, designed, and sold bishopries.*
* Yes, that is actually a word. I could have also used 'diocese' or 'episcopacy' but bishopry was a bit easier. Don't you think?


We ended by driving through New Forest. The ground is covered in gorse and heather and, more interestingly, wild Shetland ponies. They like chips. They also try to get in your van.* Driving to another part of the forest, we found a herd of fallow deer which included some white ones, and an impressive white stag. We also caught a glimpse of the fabled Flower Power van, now quite endangered in these parts of the world. A real treat. Afterward, we stopped in the town of Burley for tea, but it was basically closed (It was 5:00, after all).
* Schmerm-note #1: Much like the barbary apes of Gibraltar.

NOTE:
Mother, you might want to skip ahead at this point.
I will notify you when it is once again clear to read.

Tuesday was the Day at the Post Office.* We started the day by packing everything in my room that I didn't need into two boxes to ship home: cold-weather clothes, extra shoes, comforters, books, books, and more books. When we brought the boxes to the counter at the post office, the clerk told us that it would be much cheaper to ship everything in 2kg parcels. "They don't do much overseas shipping, so the price shoots up for larger parcels." Our boxes weighed 8kg each. As is, it would have cost us £170 to ship both. Begin Hour of Repacking, Weighing, and Reweighing. After about an hour at least we ended up with 6 2kg boxes of assorted sizes, and one box for all the rest. After all was said and done, the total came to...
£213
It was a good thing our original clerk had chosen that moment to go on lunch break.
* Schmerm-note #2: Compare with the Day at the U.S. Embassy.

NOTE:
It's okay now, Mom.

We (or Mom) cooled down with some delicious Cornish pasties, and then we visited AIB. Even though it was holiday, there was still bustle about the studio. Deadlines don't take holidays. The family was able to meet both directors, and we stopped to chat with (i.e. distract) Team Sol. I felt like a St. Rose ambassador again, giving tours of the school. For dinner we went out to Poole on a whim, which proved semi-successful: shops were all closed (it was coming on 6:00), and there was a Dream Machines motorcycle outing at the quay, killing all hopes for a relaxing, quiet dinner. So we found a Chinese buffet near the train station. Don't worry, it was nowhere near as good as Brick's buffets.

Thus ends part one of the Amazing Race. Pictures from today's post may be found on Facebook and in stores near you. Join us next week for La Course Extraordinaire, Partie Deux.

31.3.09

I Aten't Ded

It's been a criminally long while since I have put anything of interest (or indeed anything at all) into this lovely little corner of webspace. Instead of serving the minimum sentence of four weeks' community service, I got off with writing about my recent trip to Florence. Gotta love the British judicial system. So, might as well cut to the quick, and present to you:

F . .. . I . .. . R . .. . E . .. . N . .. . Z . .. . E

I will use my powers of authorship to skip over the unfortunate circumstances which forced me to miss my coach to Heathrow and spend an extra £160 on a taxi and jump right into the brilliant Italian sunlight* of Tuscany. At the risk of seeming a cheat I will also take a miss at trying to describe Florence in general** simply because (a) I was not there for nearly enough time to really take it all in and appreciate the culture I was in, and (b) it's really quite exactly how I expected a Renaissance city-state with more culture than the entire Eastern seaboard to be like. My best advice it to just go there yourself. And take me with you.
*I wish.
**I will not be offended if you yell 'Bugger all this then' at the computer screen and tromp off to do more exciting things with your time.


So, what will I tell you? First of all, I was in Florence from Friday, 20th March to Monday 23rd. I visited fellow Micans who are studying in SACI this semester. They are wonderful. I stayed with Emma and Noel and they are also wonderful. You will find that this post will have an obscenely large number of superlative qualitative adjectives such as 'wonderful', 'awesome', and 'fa-bloomin-azing'.* But I've found that Italy is a very superlative place to be. It is true what they say, everything is better in Italy. Especially the food. Therefore, to keep the confusion down I feel now is a good time to enlist my good friend 'Mondo'** to help us out. Whenever I use the word 'mondo' know that I mean 'wonderful, awesome, and all that other fiddle-faddle.' Good. Now...
* Okay, maybe not that last one.
** Courtesy of Robin Brunelle.

:: Day One ::
I flew from London to Paris to Florence and landed at 1740 or thereabouts. Emma and Carolyn met me at the airport and took me to SACI - that's Studio Art Centers International - where the MICA program is held. It's a very small place and cozy. Of course the ceilings in the studios are painted.* Very Italian. We joined up with Noel and went to an absolutely mondo restaurant, Club Paradiso, which was owned and operated by a little Italian man. Everything was homemade (by his wife) and he was very entertaining, in Italian and English. We had a brilliant two-course meal of pastas and chicken stuffed with bacon and cheese, with wine and dessert. Mondo #1. We met up with the other MICA and SACI students at a low-key club, and then... The Midnight Bakery! There is a mondo bakery just around the corner from Emma and Noel that opens at 1AM, and for the longest time they could not figure out where all the good smells were coming from. Luckily for me, they had found it, and a good thing too. Everything there was €1, and it was all freshly-baked. And obviously Italian, which automatically gives it +10 mondo points. Il cornetto cioccolato era fuori dal mondo!**
* As in, with cherubs and decorative borders, not Standard Enamel, White. Show-offs.
** It was a chocolate croissant. Also another excuse to use 'mondo'. Shameless.


:: Day Two ::
The next day, Emma, Carolyn, Alyssa, and I went out to the Accademia. As many of you (should) know that's where this guy lives, you may have heard of him: →
Needless to say, it was beyond words. Even 'mondo.' First of all, he's a lot larger than you'd think from the pictures. Second, he's the most detailed human sculpture I've ever seen. I mean, there's veins under his skin! Plus, Michelangelo carved David from an already flawed block of marble. Damn. I feel bad for practically everything else in that gallery.
After that enlightening experience, we went over to the Duomo, the de facto focal point of Florence. It's huge, having been expanded a number of times, and the façade, featuring the distinctive Florentine marble, is of course very impressive. The inside is not as decorative and impressive as the outside would have you believe, but it is indeed very beautiful. They had plastic chairs instead of pews, which kind of killed the ambience. Downstairs was the tomb of Filippo Brunelleschi, the architect of the Duomo, which has the world's largest brick dome. Unfortunately we didn't get the chance to climb up into the cupola of the dome to get the breath-taking view of Florence (it was closed) but it was impressive nonetheless.
Emma and I returned to await il dottore with Noel, whose foot had been incapacitated, rendering him unable to walk. By the end of the weekend he was able to join us on our excursions. Cait (MICA) and Stacey (not) came over for a potluck dinner. Again with the multuple courses! It was all delicious, and again we all went out for Midnight Bakery. Alyssa and I got croissants filled with lemon. Um... Mondo?

:: Day Three ::
Day three was the unexpected day. Emma thought I was leaving on Sunday, which I wasn't, and so she hadn't planned anything in her List for John's Visit. We had breakfast at "The Diner" which was supposed to be American, and met Carolyn at the Uffizi. Things close really really early in Italy, and by the time we got there, the line to get in was super-long and the museum was closing in two hours. After much deliberation we decided to go to the Boboli Gardens instead. When we got to the Boboli Gardens, we discovered that they had already closed, at 1630. So that was a bad move.
The four of us hiked up to the Piazzale Michelangelo, which is on a hill overlooking Florence.* It was just almost sunset, being 1700, and the view was... mondo. It was a tough walk, though, and afterwards we were ready for some gelato. Mm-mm. strawberry cheesecake and chocolate, please. So good, and I love the little plastic shovels they give you to eat it with. The rest of the day was spent hanging around and watching movies/TV, like Hana Yori Dango.** Come nightfall, pretty much everyone went out for, guess what... Gelato. Ha, see, you thought I was going to say Midnight Bakery. I wish Baltimore had a Midnight Bakery that wouldn't get you killed or otherwise permanently inconvenienced. Pistachio/straciatella/nougat with panna cream on top? I think so. I'll let you fill in the appropriate adjective... We're all about audience experience here.
* See photo at the beginning of this post.
** Don't ask. It's Japanese.


:: Day Four ::
Day Four was spent exclusively with Carolyn, as everyone else had class. My flight back to London was at 1600, so we used the morning to visit the Boboli Gardens during operating hours, and otherwise walk around the city. The Gardens are huge and old and Florentine. Long tree-lined avenues and random statuary every so often, you know the drill. They offered a great view of the city, though not quite what we saw from the Piazzale Michelangelo. It was a very pretty walk, and you could just sit in there all day and... I don't know. Sit. We found a cat.
Afterwards, we ambled about the city, visiting the rarely-occuring bits of grass and actually spotting some trees! From there on out, the trip steadily got less and less mondo. Unfortunately Florence doesn't like cooperating, and the shuttle to the airport only operates every 2.5 hours. A fact that we did not know until it was an hour before my flight and the shuttle got us there pretty much as the plane was taking off. So bad. But I got a rather cushy non-stop flight (at moderately-expected expense) and arrived in London at the scheduled time. Unfortunately again, I couldn't use my pre-purchased coach ticket* as I was at the wrong airport. But a good 2 hours on the train got me back to Bournemouth at 2300 or so.
* Not the first time. Remember the part I refused to talk about in Day One?

S
o there you have my Amazing Sojourn to Florence! It was fun and exciting and I (as always) want to go back. I apologize for taking this long to actually sit down and write about it, but hey, I'm a busy busy man.* As usual, more pictures can be found on Facebook and all donations may be made to John Rocco Jennette, cash please.
* And nothing will be said about the inordinate amount of free time I've acquired on account of it being Easter holidays here.

26.2.09

So Much to Do, So Much to See


H
ello again. My, it's been a while, hasn't it? It has, because I have a whole bunch of fun stuff sitting on my computer waiting to see the light of the interweb.

First of all, there's some sketches from Exeter (among other things). As usual, clicking makes things bigger! There hasn't been as much Moleskine use recently as there has been in previous weeks, but that only bodes well for bigger and better things, which will surface in due time... There's a whole bunch of people here: TJ, Jack, Mark, Harry; Guillaume and Anne make another cameo or two.


Next in the lineup is some actual schoolwork. These drawings are for the Design for Layout unit of the Year 1 animation course. It's basically a drawing class focused on, appropriately enough, layouts. This is where AIB scores a point on MICA: animators here get a whole range of pertinent knowledge: layout, using field guides*, filling in x-sheets... But then again, MICA students gain a lot of that knowledge and then some in the other studios that we can take. So... I guess they're still even. There you go. These line drawings are meant to practise using line weight and placement to give a sense of depth and perspective. How well that is achieved, I'll let you (and the course tutors) decide.
* Hear the MICA kids say, "huh??" Don't feel bad; that's what I did.


Finally, strap yourselves in for another animation dump! We're still plugging ahead on the two films. This clip from Sol probably took the longest, as I animated two separate banners, and then added the sun logo at a later date. Layout drawing by Harry.



Risk has been kind to me, and I've been able to crank out a few scenes in relatively short time. I surprised both my director and myself when I finished the horse animation the same day it was assigned to me
.

video



For fun's sake, I included two versions of the credits sequence that didn't make the cut. They're still in the keyframe stage, so the animation's not as smooth as the final version.

video

video


Now, moving away from the Land of Art... We visited London again this past weekend. As usual, the photos may all be seen here. I went into the City with Paul and Ben, who were going to meet a bunch of people from the ConceptArt.org Forums. Ben is a third-year, and directing his own film, Kung Fu Romance. You can find him over at bendragon.blogspot.com. I missed the bus (to Uni) to catch my bus (to London) but ended up getting on an earlier (but direct) bus to Victoria Station. I met Ben, Paul, and Naomi at the Underground station, and after being thwarted by the ticket machines four times,* finally got to the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons. Appropriately for a College of Surgeons, the museum was full of all sorts of squishy things in jars and medical anomalies. Unfortunately, I had left my sketchbook home for efficiency's sake, and they don't allow photography. Very interesting, and worth the trip - if you're into looking at preserved chimps' heads.*

* The machines closed down when we were the second ones in the queue. Four times.
* The apostrophe lies, there was only one.


After getting left in the museum by the whole gaggle of artists, I took a stroll down Fleet Street past the Royal Courts of Justice, and met everyone up for lunch at the Shakespeare's Head Pub. A few of us took off for the British Museum, whilst everybody else just stayed and socialised. Unfortunately, the British Museum closed not long after we got there, but I can say that the Korea and Japan rooms are excellent. Small, but excellent. We walked back to Soho, where we met up again for dinner - Latin* - until it was time for me to leave. True to fashion, the Underground decided to have a problem on the Victoria line just when I got there, so after circuitously arriving at the coach station, I discovered that I was five minutes late for my 20.30 coach to Bournemouth. I had to buy a whole new ticket (£18) and wait until 22.00. Ugh. At least I got to finish Dracula while I was waiting. An excellent read, I highly recommend it. Closer to its film stereotype than Frankenstein.* So finally, arriving at Bourne Chambers at precisely 1.05, I went to bed. The end.
* La Cucaracha
, not Ave Maria.
* Though even my grandmother is closer to her film stereotype than Frankenstein.

15.2.09

Animated Exeter


S
itting here on a Sunday afternoon munching a Cornish pasty and having some gelato stracciatella* I figured I'd write up a little post to let you all know that this past Friday, 13th Feb, I took a trip to Exeter for the Animation festival that is held there every year. It's a very small event, and there weren't any lectures that were interesting enough or at a convenient time to go to. It was nice just walking around and drawing Exeter - it's a very old town, and the architecture is molto interessante. Tudor houses from the 17th century, an ancient Roman road, and a stunning church that I unfortunately didn't get to go inside. One of the AIB films from last year won first prize - £500 - in the Best of the West competition, and I got a complementary DVD to send back to MICA. For a Friday the 13th it wasn't that bad. The screening was frought with technical issues, though. The photo album is here.
* Don't judge me, England's closer to Italy than New Jersey is... That's chocolate chip, by the way.

I don't have any art scanned/prepped for posting yet, but I will remedy that at the nearest opportunity. Hope everyone had a good Valentine's Day! I spent mine giving a Brief History of Disney Animation (provided by YouTube) lecture until 3am. Good times.

3.2.09

Here We Go Again


I
really have to get the hang of this "regular update" thing.

We* went to London this past Saturday, photos can be seen over here on Facebook.** It was a really nice time, just walking around without any real goal. The only problem with that strategy is that more often than not you don't get past the first step. We spent pretty much the entire day simply walking who-knows-where. Actually, I do know where: Trafalgar Square, Soho/Chinatown, Picadilly Circus, and Oxford St.
* The French, the Italian, and I.
** It's a public link, so don't worry about needing any usernames, passwords, or a litre of chicken blood.


We did go to the National Gallery, however, and thank goodness for my 19th Century Art class last semester - my entire textbook was all over at least five rooms. It's always uplifting when you can go, "Oh that painting over there must be a Gainsborough, and that one is Millet. And look, there's a wall of Degas. Holy crap that's Van Gogh's Sunflowers." Good times.

I also got some calligraphy pens and a pot of gold ink. For, you know, when I write, and stuff.

At some point on the cusp of Sunday and Monday, I watched the Super Bowl with some Brits, and Bonnie.* They got really into it, and it was almost like watching it with Americans. It was worth staying up until 3:30 AM for, even though the Cardinals almost didn't not win.
* Who is, in fact, from Washington.

~·~·~·~

In other news, I have two weeks' worth of drawings to share with the world! Aren't you lucky? We had a standard life drawing on the 20th, and a costumed life drawing the 27th. MICA needs to do more costumed life drawing. It was so much fun, and so interesting. Makes a nice break from naked people.* All of the costumed poses were 10 minutes, except for the seated on in the middle, which was 25.
* Also, clothed sessions tend to attract the kind of models who would, if not for the taffeta ruffles and feather boas, make it very difficult to concentrate.