My 25 Euro Cornetto

I just missed my train and am drowning my sorrow in a giant cappuccino at the station café. Is there anything more depressing than a train station waiting room at 7:00am? Maybe the Reg bookstacks during finals week.

My original plan for this morning was to stopover in Florence for 2 hours before my train to Naples. I had already day tripped there last week but I did not get a chance to see the Galleria d’Accademia, which houses Michelangelo’s David. But this dummy here just had to stop to get the pisctacchio cornetto she spied in the bakery window, didn’t she? So now I get to spend two extra hours in Bologna Central Station – 25 Euro poorer and kicking myself over and over again for making such a rookie mistake. I am angrily chewing. The brioche should taste perfectly sweet and doughy, but all I taste is salt.

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Sometimes these were filled with strong rum cream. Venice was pretty great because of that.

I should rewind and first say, Buongiorno! Back in November, I spotted a $350 round-trip ticket from Cairo to Rome for January and I went for it. The great thing about working at AUC is that we get the American, Coptic, and Islamic holidays off, allowing me to take a 15-day (!!) vacation this month. What’s not so great is the little spending money I have saved up from my job. But through proofreading and babysitting gigs, I’ve managed to scrape enough together to travel quite comfortably for two weeks.

After five months of living in a Muslim country, I kicked off in Rome with a huge fanfare of prosciutto. Melon-wrapped prosciutto, prosciutto Panini, prosciutto and mozzarella sampler plate, cheap supermarket prosciutto on a 1Euro baguette – alas, I am now officially done with prosciutto.

From Rome, I went on to Florence and then Venice, which together constitutes the holy Trinity of any Italian trip. Though each city has a distinct individual history, they all are located in Northern Italy and you just feel the reliance on tourism in the restaurants, stores, and sights. Well of course there are natives (even native Venetians though they only number 66,000), but I couldn’t easily shake off the “Disneyland” vibe from any of those cities. If you will allow me a few myopic generalizations, Rome is for the famous monuments, Florence is for Renaissance art, and Venice is for honeymooners.

Thus, I’m dedicating an entire post just for Bologna because:

  • I think it’s under appreciated.
  • I had to hunt for the Bolognese tourist attractions amongst a sea of local spots, whereas the exact opposite was true for the Trinity.
  • There are already thousands of travel articles written about Rome, Florence, Venice.

I’ll definitely get that Bologna post up soon. Recently, a lot of my friends are planning trips to Europe and have asked me for backpacking advice. As I wrote my lengthy replies, I realized that I actually am qualified to share practical tips and design itineraries for 20-something kids who want an exciting yet affordable travel experience. A lot of travel sites with lengthy forums and discussions seem to be dominated by an older demographic and those with families. It’s probably because us youngins’ tend to wing it, which I’ve come to believe is always not the best way to travel.

But for now, I will say ciao to the North as I make my way South to the sun-drenched region of Campania. I’m planning on hitting Naples, Pompeii, and the Amalfi coast. It’s also going to be my first time Couchsurfing! Please pray that no pistaccio baked good will cause me to miss another train. Grazie.

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The coat of arms for Rome, Florence, Venice, and Bologna. Sorry Rome, but why are you so basic?

I am not a foodie but I eat well

I am not the person to whip out my DSLR camera to snap food before consuming it. I am also not the person to seek out restaurants known for their hip, new-fangled way of preparing grilled cheese or tiramisu. But I love eating well and eating diverse. Cairo is an amazing city for trying cuisines from all over the world. My favorite restaurant in Cairo (and one I already frequented four times) is Mori Sushi, and I am constantly getting recommendations for Thai places, Indian restaurants, Yemeni joints, and Syrian bakeries.

So enjoy this collection of my screenshotted snapchats, poor quality photos sent over Facebook chat, and my trademark unimpressed selfie face (but with food). I think this presents a more accurate view of my Cairo life anyway. Hover and click for captions.

Favorite Food Places in Cairo —

Tokyo in 24 Hours: Vlog

I originally wrote my usual casual-yet-witty-and-insightful styled post for my trip to Tokyo (hehe), but then I decided to experiment with a new form of memory documentation called video. It is now almost 2am and I have work tomorrow. But it was so worth it to have churned out something creative. And learned a new skill to boot. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: I know Shibuya Crossing is not actually called “Title Text Here.” It took forever to convert the video, then compress it, and upload it to YouTube – all on unreliable Beijing wifi. And I tried fixing it and reuploading that version but iMovie wouldn’t save the new one. Whatever, I forgive myself.

Music by Oliver Heldens & Shaun Frank, Shades of Grey (feat. Delaney Jane) (Leeyou & Danceey Remix)

Fortune Telling from Turkish Coffee Grounds

I don’t believe in fortune tellers and horoscopes. I believe in serendipitous moments in which the right person says the exact thing you need to hear at exactly the time in which you needed to hear it. Throw in a beautiful embroidered tablecloth, ornate copper tea cup-holders, and the smell of Turkish coffee mingling with sweet cigarette smoke – for a moment I can believe in destiny and psychics and magic. I mean this in the least “Orientalism” way possible.

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Traditionally, one finishes sipping the coffee, leaving the bitter grounds congealed at the bottom of the cup. You cap the saucer on top of the tea cup, grip the two together while rotating it in front of your body clockwise three times, and then flip (always away from your body) the cup-saucer upside down. If you want to know about your financial success, place a coin on top of the upside down cup. If you want to know about your love life, place a ring on top. Introspect about life and make a wish as you wait about five minutes for the cup to completely cool down. Turn it over to your lovely Turkish friend who will proceed to read your future.

I’m not going to lie to you guys – I wished for love. Self-love, romantic love, familial love, I don’t know what, I just wanted love. Perhaps because I had just watched Moulin Rouge on the plane a la “the greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.” Filiz lifted my upside down cup off the saucer and a plop of coffee grounds spread out cleanly in one mass.

“Oh! That’s really good! That means whatever the fortune is, it will happen surely and definitively.”

She then peered into my cup and my fortune began – “I see a big cloud. This means that there’s something in your life that’s weighing you down, you’re obsessing over it and it’s holding you back. There’s a bright star, that’s good. Your future is very bright but whatever the cloud is in your life, you need to overcome it. I see a whale…but I’m not quite sure what that means. There looks like you’re having trouble at your work. Sometimes at work it seems like there’s too much for you to handle but don’t worry it will all be fine in the end so do not be overwhelmed. Oh! I see a big romance and love coming soon for you.”

The final step is to tilt the contents left on the saucer back into the cup and read the drippings while holding the saucer vertically. Most of the time, they’re confirmations and predications of the timing for what was read in the grounds.

“You’re fortune is going to come true during the dark of the moon. Be alert for love then!”

Look, I know this is irrational and just for fun. But I looked up the next “dark of the moon.”

septmoon

It’s set for September 24th. I also looked up whale symbols in coffee readings and found that it signifies a very big accomplishment especially in your career. And you know what? I have been obsessing over past relationships. I have let it affect me even now when I should be completely free to explore the world, to make decisions about my future selfishly and with greed. Nothing will hold me back anymore from traveling the world a thousand times over. And balancing work with language classes with scholarship applications has been taking its toll on me this month. I needed that reassurance that everything will and always will be fine. Nothing new was really learned I guess but it helps.

Though if on Sept. 24th I fall in love at first sight at some art exhibition in Paris… we’ll see.