Side note to zcat_abroad - Hey Kerryn! Please email me the name of the place you stayed in Cambridge and some details on how you got around? Pretty easy to and from it wrt the colleges?
It is once again past time to do the laundry but the service in the hotel is beyond absurd - the cost of laundering 1 pair of jeans? 20 Euros. Seriously! Not going to happen. I wish the sink in my room was large enough to hand wash them, but it's not, and the idea of trying to do it using the shower which is just a thing that sprays out of the wall on the whole bathroom kind of boggles the mind.
Working at the Marciana has been a mixed bag - on one hand the room was generally staffed by two sorts of docents- pleasant ones, and shockingly ignorant ones who liked to throw their weight around but have absolutely no idea how to handle rare books. ( Anecdotes from the archive. )
My plane will arrive in Brussels around 10:30 - I'll head to the train station and take the TGV to Lille, and then a little regional train to Cambrai, where I'll be staying in a hotel with the charming name of "Le Mouton Blanc." I went ahead and made a reservation for half-board for that night, so I'll be able to have dinner in the hotel restaurant, which looks pretty nice, and then go back to the room to turn in for the night. I have high hopes for the restaurant - the last really well-prepared meal that I had was back in Erfurt. Man, that Zum Schwann restaurant was soooooo good. Everything they put out was pure deliciousness. I'll probably go straight to bed - I have breakfast in the morning at the hotel (that half-board thing) and then I'm off to the Cambrai archive. Which I sincerely hope still exists. All the contact information I was able to find online involved defunct emails and broken web links. I'm just going to show up at the mediatheque and hope that it turns out as well as Braunschweig did - there, my manuscript was in a regular small-town library, all modern and tiny. They were like "Oh, yeah, we have some old books. I'll go find that one for you. You want to take digital pictures of the whole thing? Sure, knock yourself out. Take all the time you want." Yes, please! Ditto for Saint Omer - my email to that library at least didn't bounce, but still no reply. Again, I'll just show up. They're unlikely to have librarians who get all affronted by failure to observe the proper protocols, because if they did, they'd make sure there was a way to contact them.
Last night I got home from the library at 7:00. Ate ghetto tapas for dinner. Worked for four solid hours on getting my reservations and appointments booked for the next couple of weeks, and figuring out the travel specifics - boat, train, and bus schedules and loc;s for my travels to and through the next six cities (which happen in the coming 14 days with travel on one Sunday, often tricky here). It takes time. Gotta find a decent hotel for not much money. Get the trains sorted. I'm going in and out of two small towns that have limited rail service - you don't want to just show up whenever, because that might be 15 minutes after the last train there for the day left. Make rudimentary maps and walking directions for the small towns (train-hotel-library) that won't have city maps for sale all over the place. I have my ducks lined up for the next two weeks, just the way I like them: profoundly micromanaged. In Germany I didn't do this stuff because I had a lot of mental security re: the extent and frequency of German trains. But in France? Not so much. I don't mind being unstructured about my leisure time, but when I'm getting from point A to point B, I like to get there. I don't want to screw around. Summer road trips are different. You're driving, you've got a Big Gulp full of Dr. Pepper and a bag of Twizzlers, a full deck of music in the iPod: I will stop at pretty much any weird highway-side attraction with a gaudy enough billboard. But not here and now.
So my notes in my commonplace book say: "Wednesday, April 1: Venice to Cambrai - Alilaguna from San Marco to VCE, Linea Blu leaving at 4:50 arr. 6:09. Latest check-in is 7:35 at Brussels Airline counter. Brussels Air flight leaves at 8:35, arrives in Zaventem at 10:20. To Brussels South/Bruxelles Midi, there is a train station in the sub-1 level of the airport (fastest to take the train, not one of the shuttles or buses). Leaves every 15 minutes.Take the Eurostar from Brussels Midi to Lille Europe, 11:29 (arr 12:02) if stars aligned (baggage was carried on, train to Midi from airport arr. the instant I get there, no line for ticket purchase, etc.), next one not til 3:00 (arr. 4:32). Metro from Lille Europe to Lille Flandres. 1 stop in the direction of Saint Philibert, the #2 (red) line. Train to Cambrai from Lille Flandres. May need to change at Douai, depending on what time you get in. Timetables are saved on the desktop. If you get in at noon, the next trains are at 12:56 and 13:01. If you get in at 16:30, the next trains are at 17:06 (train to Douai and then change for Cambrai, arr. 18:10 - and after that one there’s an 18:04 (also changes in Douai) and an 18:38 (direct, arr Cambrai 19:43). How to get to Hotel “Le Mouton Blanc” at 33, rue d’Alsace Lorraine 59400 CAMBRAI from the train station. Go straight down Rue d’Alsace Lorraine, road center facing the train station , it’s before the boulevard General Herbie. 10 minute walk max. Check-in: verify rates and hotel reservations are for the nights of April 1 and April 2. Night of April 1 is half-pension, dinner and breakfast are included in rate."
Now that I've got the course set up for the next 16 days, all I have to do is jump the hoops, like I did through Germany and Austria and Italy - I had all of that planned before I left Indiana so I just hit the part of the itinerary that says Here There Be Dragons. I booked a hotel called Le Mouton Blanc in Cambrai, the Ibis in Saint Omer, and a hotel with a seriously mixed reputation in Bruges called Hotel Karatos. Still - booking a room for 55 Euros a night in Bruges during Easter vacation? Pretty much the luck of the Irish.
Venice was freak expensive. I mean FREAK EXPENSIVE. Everything here cost 2-3x more than it does in freaking PARIS. It's just ridiculous. In hindsight, I have to say that the apartment rentals, though also freak expensive, at least let you avoid the painfully freak expensive prices you pay for really unworthy food. I ate some mediocre-to-bad meals for 20-30 Euros per, and know that the decent-to-good restaurant menus are between 60-80 euros per, which honestly galls my Scottish soul. For $100, I want amazing food. Not "edible" food. I want delicious, high-end, artful, decadent, finely tuned dishes that taste as if they'd been cooked over the Empyrean fires of heaven. Seriously. Not just "less crappy gnocchi than that other place had."
Items which got dumped:
Stupid non-functioning Rick Steves laundry cord,
Langenscheidt and German phrase book,
Black twill pants & black Levis (note to self and other concerned parties: black pants actually travel pretty badly on extended trips).
Items which got stolen:
About half of my Advil got nicked out of my bathroom bag back in Nuremberg. Grrr. I have to imagine that anyone who would steal that much Advil must feel very tired and sore at the end of the day every day. Advil here is about 3 Euros for 3 strong doses, and it's just so wrong. One of the many things I don't take for granted anymore.
Items which have been acquired:
Stuff from Vienna and Salzburg that was sent home by post
Venice: some Murano glass trinkets, a couple of scarves, some bookmarks, a really lovely colored Italian print of a family tree that has to be filled in by someone in the family who is fond of calligraphy such as myself and then framed by someone who is good at that such as my mother, a copy of Marco Polo's travels, and a copy of Room With A View.
A CD-Rom of Mantua 34.
A commitment to learning German.
A suspicion that my previous protestations that I can "basically" speak Italian because I can speak French were really, really, really stupid.
A lot of codicological notes and a permanent reproduction-related migraine.
In Venice also: a ton of what I fervently hope are mosquito bites.
Ciao! Ciao Venezia!