An Expensive-Ass Letter

Hi all and Happy 2016!!!  I told myself that THIS year, I was going to blog on a regular basis. Now, I lie to myself so take it for what it’s worth. Anyways, I have moved to the beautiful City of Lights and figured I’d start sharing my experience with you…my peeps…my e-family.

So, being offered a job transfer to Paris was so. freaking. exciting! Then, I was like, “wait, I don’t speak French.”  But immediately was like, “Self, it doesn’t matter.  You can pick it up!” LIES!

I took an immersion class in Washington, DC for 7 weeks before I moved…and know how to say my name and count.  I can’t tell you how helpful that has been.

French Person:  Excuse me, would you like something to eat?

Me:  Je m’appelle Nikki.  Neuf.

French Person:  Um, hi Nikki.  What do you mean by the number 9?

Me:  *blank stare* Deux

French Person:  Wanders off and takes away sharp objects

It is getting better though.  I am now taking French lessons twice per week and while I do get frustrated at the fast pace, it helps to push me forward into learning the language so I can assimilate faster.

Which brings me to sharing my experience at the post office (or La Poste) as it’s called here.  My sorority sister requested I send a letter to her child’s kindergarten class that basically says that I saw the gingerbread man here in Paris.  I write and address the letter, figure out what I need to say at the post office to buy the correct number of stamps, and head forth to bask in a moment of triumph.

Sigh.  As I get to the counter, I show my letter and ask how much I needed to pay in postage to mail the letter to the United States.  I hear something that sounded like “set” which I took to mean 7 (which is “sept” in French).  So, I buy 7 stamps and place ALL 7 ON THE LETTER.

Did you ever read the Harry Potter books?  If not, there is a passage about Molly, Harry’s best friend’s mom, mailing him a letter thru the “Muggle Post” (non-magical letter mailing, which is basically what I am doing).  Since they normally use owls to deliver letters, his wizarding family didn’t know how much postage to put on the letter.  It looked like this…

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What my letter looked like.

 

Which is exactly how my letter looked to travel from Paris to Indiana.  When I put all 7 stamps on the letter, the address was just barely visible.  I give it to the postman, he looks at me and was like, “Why are there so many stamps on this?”  I was like, “Sir?  What?  You told me 7 stamps.”  He looked at me and muttered something in French that sounded suspiciously like “bless her heart” which we all know in southern US means that person is “special.”

After removing 6 stamps, I was finally able to get it mailed.  No telling where the gingerbread man is now…:)

 

 

Hustlin’ Hard: The Story of the Valley of the Kings

Entrace to the Valley of the Kings

Entrace to the Valley of the Kings

Luxor is home to the Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, Karnak Temple, Luxor Temple and the funerary temple of Queen Hatshepsut (just to name a few). It used to be called “Thebes” in ancient times (which was the capital of Egypt when King Tut & Ramses II ruled). It is believed that Ramses II was the pharaoh when Moses came along asking for him to let his people go. Rams apparently didn’t know Moses (aka Charlton Heston) was an active member of the NRA and thus should’ve taken him seriously.

We arrive in Luxor about an hour and 15 minutes later then board a bus to drive to the Valley of the Kings (“VOK”)…the necropolis of the New Kingdom pharaohs. The VOK (which is home to King Tut’s tomb) is located on the West Bank of the Nile River. The Nile is beautiful (much more so in the country than in the city).

The VOK is purposefully built on the West Bank because the ancient Egyptians believed that since the sun sets in the west, so should their remains. I was unable to take pictures inside VOK because, unfortunately, the people at VOK are like Kanye and Sean Penn as they absolutely forbade cameras. In fact, if you tried to bring a camera in, they said it would be confiscated. And if you tried to be slick and take a picture with a camera phone…they took your phone and fined you $400. So, y’all are just going to have to use your imagination as I describe VOK. I have included a few pictures I sourced via the internet from renegade photographers braver than me (ha!).

Valley of the Kings (source: http://nurdinsembelit.files.wordpress.com)

Valley of the Kings (source: http://nurdinsembelit.files.wordpress.com)

It ends up being 104 degrees (which apparently is cool since a few days before it was 120). I think I saw the devil when I was walking toward the tombs. He was selling bottled water like, “Welcome to Egypt, y’all.” Anyway, we end up seeing 3 tombs (the tombs of Ramses IX, Ramses I and Ramose). I think Egypt may be the birthplace of hustling. Because, after you paid the fee to get in to see the tombs, there was an additional fee if you wanted to go into King Tut or Ramses VI tombs. Hustlers. You have to show your ticket to the guy at the entrance of each tomb who uses a hole puncher to validate it. This system ensures you don’t see more than 3 tombs without paying extra. Hustlers.

valley_of_kings05

The tombs are built into the desert Theban Hills and they are incredible. It’s hard to believe that such wonderful & intricate artwork was done so many thousands of years ago! So far, 62 tombs have been found. Tombs (before they were discovered and open to the public) held almost everything that the pharaoh owned (including his bed, jewelry, statues of servants who would serve him, etc.)…basically anything they felt the pharaoh would need in the afterlife. Since the tombs contained such valuable items, it’s said that the slaves who built the tombs were killed afterwards so they wouldn’t reveal its location. Too bad they didn’t have Confidentiality Agreements back then. That has got to suck.

To enter most tombs, you have to walk down into the opening of the mountain and while you’d think it would be cool since it’s dark…it’s just hot and stuffy. However, you don’t focus on that too much as you quickly get caught up in the hieroglyphics. The sarcophagus (coffin) of one of the pharaohs was still in the tomb. You know they had a guy standing right by it. Probably to charge you if you touched it. Hustlers.

Egyptian Afterlife (source: http://www.photo2013.com)

Egyptian Afterlife (source: http://www.photo2013.com)

Each tomb contained funerary hieroglyphics. Ancient Egyptians believed in eternal afterlife and they had a complex funeral tradition. Bodies of the pharaohs were mummified so that their soul could live on in its embalmed corpse. They took 4 organs (liver, intestines, stomach & lungs) and placed them in beautiful marble jars. The only organ left in the body was the heart which would be weighed in the afterlife. The entire mummification process took 70 days! What I found the most fascinating was the weighing of the heart. That was the final stage in the journey to the afterlife. The god, Anubis (which has the body of a man but the head of a jackal), would weigh the deceased pharaoh’s heart against a feather on a set of scales. If the heart weighed more than the feather (because of living a sinned life) then this beast named, Ammut, devoured it and the pharaoh’s soul would die and they would not live on in eternity. I’m pretty sure that Ammut kept a full belly because a lot of these pharaohs were killing their brothers and fathers and basically doing a lot of dirty stuff to get the throne. You can read a detailed description of the funeral customs here. It was so fascinating that I bought a papyrus painting of the Egyptian Funerary Scene.

After you leave the tombs, you have to wait in the heat (next to Beelzebub) for the little train to come get you and take you back to the entrance. In the meantime, you have to just sit in Hustle City. Those folks were trying to sell you EVERYTHING! They are relentless. It’s like their mantra is “Hustle or Die”. Seriously. I’m gonna see about getting them a record deal because this is just plain ridiculous. You know the package of fold out postcards? Well, they had those (which had seen a better day) and would whip them out and let them fall down all dramatically like they are David Copperfield getting ready to show you a magic card trick. If you refused to buy it, they wanted to know why. It didn’t matter if you had already bought one from Muhammed. Ali Babba doesn’t care about that. He wants you to buy his 1970 postcards with the coffee stains. You can get it for $1! What? You still don’t want it? What about a book on the VOK? You can’t read? No problem. It’s got pictures. It can be yours for $5! Why are you walking away? Oh, they will just follow you and worry the mess out of you (while smoking their cigarettes). They were determined that you were going to do a customer feedback survey. You would think you are saved when the little trolly/train shows up to take you back to the entrance. Surprise! Foodoo gets out of the driver’s seat and brings his postcards and books to sell them to you BEFORE HE WILL TAKE YOU BACK TO THE ENTRANCE. Stop the madness, Egypt. It’s 104 degrees in the hot desert…and I left my water on the bus, people are stinking and the hustlers are swarming around you like mosquitoes with the West Nile virus.

But for the heat (and really, that is my fault because I should’ve known better than to visit the desert in the summer) and the hustling, the Valley of the Kings is absolutely fascinating! I was so amazed & enthralled by the ancient Egyptian traditions. The VOK is a “must see” during your visit to Egypt!

The Gritty G: Genoa, Italy

I left Milan and took the train to Genoa where I would be working for the week.  Renee and I had already peeped out crazy at the train station this morning.  In fact, Renee had dubbed this person “Bushwick Bill” because the resemblance from afar was uncanny and this person just started going off for no reason. However, upon closer inspection, Bushwick Bill turned out to be Bushwick Belinda. Crazy has no gender, y’all.

The train ride to Genoa was actually very peaceful. We rode thru the alps and I got to see a lot of snow! A couple of towns looked like something out of a fairy tale.  However, once I got to Genoa (or “Genova” as it is called here), things changed. New Nikki is still trying to hang on and be positive. It’s still January! I check into my hotel — The Grand Hotel Savoia (which is actually pretty cool — each room is different and is furnished with antique furniture).  You can read my hotel review here.  The view from the room is nice too!

After I check-in, I decided to explore the city and find a good hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant & some gelato. Sounds pretty simple, right? Wrong.

I start out walking around trying to get acquainted with the area so I know where I need to go tomorrow. So, I’m walking and passing some nice sites which I am sure would be stunning when it’s sunny —

       

But, I start to notice something. In 1 hour, I have seen more Africans and Asians than I have in the 9 days I’ve been in France & Italy. Not only that…they are the majority of the people I am seeing which is why I even noticed. Native Italians are scarce. I’m hungry and trying to find an Italian restaurant is proving difficult.  If you want Chinese or Moroccan, you’ve got your pick. It was so weird seeing a majority of people who were not “Italian”. I almost thought about hosting a telethon or something because they seem to be extinct!  I’m guessing it’s because it’s a Sunday.

Anyway, I’m walking and I’m hungry. At this time, Old Nikki is making an appearance because I’m irritated that I can’t find an Italian restaurant that is open. I’m reduced to walking the back streets trying to find something. Now, in hindsight, this may not have been my smartest move because let me tell you…I saw the underbelly of Genoa. But, hunger makes you do strange things. I’m walking and I see every ethnic group except Italian.  You’ve got hair salons, knock-off bags (seriously…it was like Canal Street), folks playing craps and drinking beer…overall, it was the ghetto. You didn’t see dogs wearing their designer outfits here. I can’t find a gelatteria but, I did find some woman going off on a guy, a guy getting his hair cornrowed (seriously?), liquor stores, every ethnic store you can think of and Black Widow Records.

Oh, and I can’t forget about the sex shops…everywhere. But, they call them “sexy shops”.  That’s right, I had to attach a picture because I knew y’all wouldn’t believe me. This is just one of the (what I am sure) are dozens. You can buy your porn right on the main drag or the dark alleys (which surround the city and offer you all kinds of things you don’t want your mama knowing about). I mean, when you have signs notating that you can buy your porn soft or hard, I think that may be a bit much. A selection of porn but no gelato? You see where I’m going with this?

Between all the ethnic groups and sex shops, I had to ask myself how long I slept on the train because maybe I missed my stop? I have never seen Italy like this. It’s like the HBO/Cinemax version of Epcot. A bit of Africa, China, Amsterdam, and India.

After walking around in the ghetto (and getting lost still searching for some daggum gelato. I mean, come on, Italy! How are you not going to have gelato but you got Moo Goo Gai Pan???), I feel like I’m a survivor. In fact, I’m penning my rhymes now that I got street cred and submitting my track “Where the D@$n Gelato?” to Black Widow Records [“You got General Tsos but no Gelato…that’s wackity wack.”] LOL. Shoot, next week, I may be rolling with the B-Dub crew. Kinda like their Tupac or something. That’s right. Y’all don’t know about the Italian Bankhead.

WTF, Vegas?

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas…unless it’s funny & juicy, then it’s shared on my blog!  And, have I got some stories for y’all.  My BFF, Isina, joined me in the big LV for the weekend and we had a FAB-U-LOUS time!

Of course, y’all know how my luck rolls so craziness greeted us at the airport shuttle.  Isina is now a firm believer in the fact that I am a crazy people magnet.

Airport Shuttle AKA “WTF?”
Sigh.  This is going to be pretty long so sit back and make sure you have something to snack on.  Isina and I arrive at the Vegas airport and decide to take the airport shuttle since it was $7 (a taxi probably wouldn’t have been much more but we didn’t know that at the time).  We arrive at the shuttle stand, buy our tickets and find the proper line.  There are about 15 or so.  The queues are organized by number.  You’ll have 2 queues per stand (i.e. signs for shuttles 1 and 2 are in the same section).

We head for the sign that says “2” and stand in the queue thinking a shuttle will be along shortly (because the line was fairly long).  Wrong.  After 20 minutes, a bus sidles on up and fills up pretty quick so we are left to wait for the next shuttle…which takes another 20-25 minutes.  We are now towards the front of the line.  It’s not complicated and we have just seen that the system can work.  But, it wouldn’t be my story if things worked out perfectly.  So, as the second shuttles pulls up, we work out a plan that I will stay in line to make sure the bags make the shuttle and Isina will save us a seat.  Well, a rogue line that I hadn’t been paying attention to (they were loitering over by queue #3) made a mad dash and rushed onto the shuttle so those of us who had stood in line were left out.  I was like, “Wait a minute.  What just happened?”

Then I had a revelation.  You know who have the biggest problems with habitual line jumpers?  Old people.  They can’t handle it.  I don’t know if it’s the fact that they feel their time on earth could be up at any moment or what.  But, they will bust a cap over someone cutting in front of them.  I had the pleasure of witnessing 2 such incidents.  It all happened when the bus driver (who is now opening the back of the bus to start loading luggage) stated that if you are in line, you aren’t getting on the bus and need to move your bags because the bus is full.  Why did he say that?  That set it off.

Mr. Vernon Dursley (I swear he looked just like Harry Potter’s uncle) got this wild eye look and was like, “OH HELL NO!  WE WERE HERE FIRST!”  But that didn’t make any waves.  Then, he was like, “THEY JUMPED THE LINE!  THEY WEREN’T STANDING IN LINE #2.  I TOLD THEM THAT THE LINE STARTED AT THE OTHER END AND THEY SAID NOT TO WORRY BECAUSE THERE WOULD BE ENOUGH ROOM ON THE BUS!!!  KICK THEIR ASSES OFF!!!  I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THIS SHIT!!!  KENO DON’T PLAY ITSELF!!!  SHIT!”  The bus driver’s reply?  “I’M KICKING ALL THESE MUTHA FUCKAS OFF THE BUS!!!”  It was like he was speaking to himself but I was like, “Um, if you are kicking them off, does that mean there is room for us?”  Just sayin’.

Alas, he didn’t kick them off but he and Mr. Dursley started going at it.  Clearly, he doesn’t know how Mr. D can get…I mean, he made Harry live in a cupboard under the stairs for 9 years!  Get back on the shuttle, bus driver!!!  But, he decided to try his luck…because it’s Vegas, I guess.  Anyway, he disappears for a few minutes, then comes back and gets into it with Mr. D again.

Just long enough for another guy to show up.   This man had to be 104 years old if a day…he was wearing khaki pants pulled up to his nipples, a flowered shirt and had cotton in his ears…he was old y’all.  So, Father Time had been grinning and seemed to be in a happy place.  Then, it turned on a dime.  Another shuttle worker shows up to defuse the situation with the bus driver and Mr. D.  He’s a black guy who is probably in his mid-30s (who I will call Ice Cube).  So, as Cube is trying to calm down Mr. D, Father Time hops up and starts waving his shuttle receipt in Cube’s face and screams “WHAAAATTTT TTHHHEEE FUUUUCCKKK?”  I was like, “oh hell, here we go.”  Father Time then screams out “WHAT THE FUCK?  I’VE BEEN WAITING FORTY-FIVE MUTHA FUCKIN MINUTES FOR A MUTHA FUCKIN SHUTTLE AND IT HASN’T SHOWN UP MUTHA FUCKIN YET.  GIVE ME MY MUTHA FUCKIN REFUND BEFORE I FUCK YOU UP!”  Father Time is gangsta.  I wasn’t all that confident that he wasn’t carrying.

So, Cube was like, “Who the fuck is this old mutha fucka talking to?”  Then, he does something unexpected (and not very customer service friendly)…he starts screaming back at Father Time.  He says, “WHO THE FUCK YOU TALKIN TO?  YOU BETTA WATCH YO’SELF!  I DON’T PLAY THAT SHIT.  GET YO ASS BACK IN LINE OR GET THE FUCK OUT.  YOU AIN’T GOTTA TAKE A SHUTTLE…GET A FUCKIN CAB!!”  FT screams back, “GIVE ME A MUTHA FUCKIN’ REFUND AND I’LL TAKE A CAB.”  Cube, “AIN’T NO REFUNDS, BITCH (the bitch part was implied)!”  It just got really real y’all.

I was shocked that Father Time had such a potty mouth.  I mean, nobody knows when their time is up but when you are looking like Cocoon and clearly your number could be called any day…I just thought he’d be acting better.  You know how folks get religious when they get older to get a few more credits when they get to the Pearly Gates?  Like, “Hey Pete?  Can I call you Pete instead of Peter?  I mean, I feel like we’re boys since I read my Bible every day after I turned 50.  Can you tell Jesus I’m here?  Picked up my water at reception…just need him to turn it into some Chardonnay.  Thanks!”  Maybe Father Time had a slip up?  I mean, how are you going to explain the cuss out in Vegas to Peter???

Now, during this whole show, Isina had been looking for a taxi so she missed everything.  When she walked up, I calmly explained that she had missed a fight.  Because you don’t act all excited when crazy is close by.  You don’t know what could set them off again.  Kinda like earthquake aftershocks.

So, the shuttle finally takes off without us and the crazies on it.  That’s when Mr. D feels that he has found a friend in me and wants to talk it out.  Sigh.  Why?  This happens to me dang near every trip!  But, I listen as he explains what happened for the 10th time (like I wasn’t there when it happened or when he explained it the previous 9 times).  Here is a transcript of the convo:

Mr. Dursley:  DID YOU SEE THOSE PEOPLE JUMP THE LINE?  I TOLD THEM THAT THE LINE FOR SHUTTLE BUS 2 WAS AT THE OTHER END BUT THEY SAID IT WAS COOL AND THAT EVERYBODY COULD GET ON.  CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT?  THEY JUMPED THE LINE AND RUSHED ONTO THE BUS?  PEOPLE LIKE THAT ARE A MENACE TO SOCIETY.
Me:  You are right.  I can’t believe it.  It’s shocking.
Mr. D:  Karma is going to come back and get them bad.  They will lose at every game they play.
Me: *giggling because he is now the white Celie from The Color Purple…all that was missing was the hand gesture with the fingers*  You are right, ugliness never wins, sir.
Mr. D:  I’m calling someone about this.
Me:  Yeah, you can’t let this go.

Mr. D then decides he’s exhausted telling the story to those around him and now needs to call up his homies.  So, he tells Mrs. D (Petunia) to watch the line and make sure no rogue jumpers cut in while he is 2 feet away screaming the story into his phone.  Mr. D gets on the phone and in the middle of telling his story, he sees a couple of women who are in line #3.  But, they apparently have drifted too close to line #2 because he pauses his phone call, gives a pointed look to Petunia cuz she is apparently slipping on the line protection job, and yells out to the women “ARE YOU WAITING FOR SHUTTLE BUS #2 BECAUSE IF YOU ARE, YOU NEED TO GET TO THE END OF THE MUTHA FUCKIN LINE BECAUSE AIN’T GOING TO BE NO MORE LINE CUTTING AROUND HERE.  I’M MISSING OUT ON BLACKJACK BEHIND THIS SHIT.”  They were like, “No sir, we are waiting on shuttle #3.”  So he leaves them alone and goes back to his call.  After the call, he walks the 2 feet back to the head of the line, notices the 2 women again…and again says, ““ARE YOU WAITING FOR SHUTTLE BUS #2 BECAUSE IF YOU ARE, YOU NEED TO GET TO THE END OF THE MUTHA FUCKIN LINE BECAUSE AIN’T GOING TO BE NO MORE LINE CUTTING AROUND HERE.”  They calmly tell him again that they were waiting on shuttle bus #3.  Five minutes pass… nobody has moved but he sees a leaf or something and takes notice of the 2 SAME LADIES FOR A THIRD TIME AND GOES THRU THE WHOLE THING AGAIN!  At this point, they are shutting him down and Mrs. D can’t be found because she is embarrassed.  I’m entertained.

After all of that, we finally get on the bus after Cube comes over and asks which bus we were waiting on.  As we are riding to the hotel, we see that the shuttle with the line jumpers had broken down right outside the airport.  Mr. D was like, “THAT’S KARMA BITCH!”  Glorious.

Walk Like an Egyptian…

“Naharak Saeed” (“Good Day”) from Egypt!  I struggled with how I would blog about my visit.  Egypt is complex, a bit schizophrenic & absolutely breathtaking.  I’ve been waiting my entire life to visit this magnificent place.  In one day, I found myself in awe of the great works that were achieved thousands of years ago…and then repulsed by current conditions.  As always, I’m planning to keep it real so you are going to get Egypt straight with no chaser.  I hope you are ready!

I read several books on Egypt in order to educate myself on the history & culture of the country.  The history of the pharaohs can get a bit complicated so I’ll try to simplify it as best I can.  I am going to give you a quick background so that you will understand my reaction to certain situations I recount later.

BACKGROUND

Religion

Islam is the official religion of Egypt (with about 90% of the people being Sunni Muslim) which means that it’s a pretty conservative country.  Women must cover up (long sleeves and pants even in the HOT sun) and drinking and gambling in public are frowned upon.  That already puts me out of the mix as I don’t like to be wearing a lot of clothes when it’s hot and how am I supposed to hit the jackpot without a cool alcoholic beverage to clear my mind?   However, I believe in trying to live like a local so I wore long pants and a long sleeved shirt (and reserved my drinking for home).

Gender Issues

I read an article a couple of years ago which focused on Egypt having a high rate of sexual harassment.  The article stated that Egyptian men think western women are “loose” (since we drink and wear tank tops).  If you expose a lot of skin, the men think this is an “invitation” and may expose their genitalia as an offer for sex.  Recently, I read an article on “Using social media tools to battle sexual harassment in Egypt by Rima Abdelkader, NBC News which said “The Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights in Cairo called harassment in Egypt a dangerous social cancer in a survey in 2008. The survey reported that 98 percent of foreign women were sexually harassed and 83 percent of Egyptian women experienced harassment throughout Egypt.”   I don’t know why the men just don’t import some of those erotic calendars from Pompeii.  They may not have access to the internet but they can certainly carry those calendars around to satisfy their lust.  I found them in a pocket-size version.  A little something for freaks on the go.

My guidebook also recommended that women not look a man directly in the eye as it is seen as an “invitation”.  That was hard for me because I am used to looking people in the eye as a show of respect (plus it shows that I’m listening to you).  If my eyes drift…so has my mind.  I’m not saying it’s right, it’s just how it is.  I think I suffer from adult ADD.  Anyway, I made sure to wear sunglasses the majority of the time because I didn’t want men thinking I’m soliciting them for sex.  But, um…there were some really good-looking men in Egypt 🙂

I also observed a man offer 5 camels to buy a woman from the man that she was with.  Apparently, in Egypt, camels are currency & women are commodities.  So, you could be walking along the Nile River and Ahkbar could just come up and be like, “I’ll give you 7 camels for Betty.”  It happens.  Better hope your boo doesn’t owe too much to Bank of America because you may be making papyrus on the Nile.

Environmental, Health & Safety Issues

We were told COUNTLESS times not to drink the water or eat any uncooked food.  While this is what you hear whenever you go to Mexico, it’s on a whole new level in Egypt.  I will cover this in more detail in the next post on Cairo (as that is when it really hit home).  This was the most shocking and disappointing aspect to the trip.

Poverty

Egypt has a 50% unemployment rate.  I will touch upon this issue in the next blog post since it has not only a rural impact but a major urban one as well.  This is where “hustlin’” was born.  I thought it was bad in the Dominican Republic.  They are amateurs compared to the Egyptians.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  There has been a lot of governmental corruption so be prepared for me to get on my soap box. 

What is Egypt like?  I think the answer is different for each person.  It’s all in what you make of it.  If you love history (like me) then you will be able to see past the crazy, absurd and disappointing to focus on the beauty of this African country.  So, let’s get started! 

ALEXANDRIA

We arrived in Alexandria around 6am…just in time to see the sun rise.  I could hardly sleep the night before in anticipation for what I’d get to see.  The first thing I notice as we pull into port is that the water in the harbor is dirty and there are sunken ships (which were actually pretty cool).  

Alexandria is the capital where Cleopatra ruled from 51-30 BC.  The city was named for Alexander the Great when he conquered Egypt from the Persians.   The story of Cleopatra is fascinating.  One thing I did not realize is that she was a descendant of Greeks (Ptolemy, who was a general of Alexander the Great).  Cleo was highly educated (she spoke 8 languages) and hard core (she killed her sister in order to have the throne).  A big thing back in the day was for sisters and brothers to marry each other and procreate in order to keep the royal bloodline going.  Of course, this resulted in genetic deformities and poor health for the offspring (see the latest article on the DNA testing of King Tut) as well as a touch of the crazy.  Anyway, Cleo was married off to her brother (Ptolemy XIII aka “P13”) but she was like, “this is gross and I’m out.” So, she ended up falling out with him and Julius Caesar had to resolve the conflict of who should rule Egypt.  P13 thought he could outsmart his sister and keep her from using her charms to get Caesar to rule in her favor.  But, he underestimated her.  Where there is a will, there is a way.  Cleo had herself rolled up in a carpet and was taken right past her brother’s guards in the palace to Caesar.   She put her charms on, was granted the right to rule Egypt and made Caesar her first baby-daddy.

After Caesar was killed (“et tu, Brutus?” is one of my favorite lines), Cleo put her charms on Marc Antony and had 3 kids by him.  Marc ended up living in Alexandria and boozing it up.  When he was defeated by Octavian (Caesar’s heir to the Roman throne and his rival), he was told that Cleo was dead.  So, he killed himself.  Cleo actually wasn’t dead and when she found out Marc had committed suicide and she had lost the throne to Egypt, she killed herself by having a deadly snake, an asp, bite her.  It’s so tragic.  Her kids ended up being taken to Rome where the boys were killed so they wouldn’t pose a threat to Octavian but her daughter, Cleopatra Selene, was allowed to live and ended up becoming the Queen of Mauretania.

     

Rome in a Day…the Remix

It’s my second trip to Rome and I am eager to share the experience with my friend, William (aka “Sweet Willy” because he’s just so darn cute).  We arrive at the Roma Termini station and walk about 15 minutes to our hotel.  As we are walking:

William:  Did you just see that car?

Me:  What?

William:  The General Lee Smart Car…did you just see that?

Me:  I have no idea what you are talking about.  I’m looking at hotel signs.

William:  We have to go back so I can take a picture because nobody will believe this.

*we walk back to take the picture*

William:  That’s nice.  An eco-friendly racist.

Me:  Really Rome?  That’s what’s hot in the streets?  Did we just time travel to the mid-80s?  Bo & Luke can’t jump into a little ass Smart Car.  Cooter doesn’t know how to fix this!  He’s got 3 wrenches and an oil can.   Did Daisy give up the Jeep and start taking public transportation?  Uncle Jesse and I can’t take all this.  It’s too much.

We finally leave the Italian General Lee and find our hotel.  Upon check-in, I ask if we can store our bags the next day while we are sightseeing.

Me:  Can we store our bags after we check-out in the morning?

Buddy:  For how long?

Me:  Just a few hours.

Desk Clerk:  How many bags do you have?

Me:  [thinking *Man, what is the problem?  You can either store the bags or not.  Isn’t that standard service at a hotel?* but New Nikki responded] 4

Desk Clerk:  *long sigh & acting put upon* I guess

Me & William: *side-eye*

After we get settled in the room, we decide not to go out since we needed to be up early to do a lot of sightseeing.  So, William does some work and I turn on the tv and see this program called “Il Canto”.  Y’all ain’t ready for Il Canto.  It’s like American Idol + America’s Got Talent + So You Think You Can Dance + Top Chef + Project Runway + The Bachelor.  The program is like 6 hours long with people of all ages, group sings, dancing, judging, and guest appearances.  I still don’t know what it was.  There was this kid who looked to be maybe 12 and I think he won his part of the singing competition (but who knows because it was like he was there in concert or something).  You could not tell him that he wasn’t a star.  He had hand gestures, facial expressions and teeth spaced about an inch apart.

Me:  Wow, I can’t take it.  He is doing runs like he’s Mariah.

William:  You know he just got beat up backstage.

Me:  Why?

William:  Too nerdy.  He can sing…but once he leaves the stage, Giuseppe is waiting there with the beat down to take his lunch money.  If he was in NY, they would just roll up on you like, “yo son, that’s a nice coat.  What size is that?  A small?  Really?  That’s just my size.  You can give it to me or I’ma take it.  It’s on you, B.”

A little later:

Me:  Did that little girl just sing an R. Kelly song?

William:  You can’t keep Kells down.  I wonder what the legal age of consent is here?

Then, we decided to make-up translations to the interviews since we couldn’t understand what they were saying.  When the host was interviewing a sound guy after some little kid did a horrible rendition of Aretha’s “RESPECT”, we translated it as follows:

Me (as the host, Bruno):  Silvio, what did you think of little Pashmina singing “RESPECT”.  Did you find out what it meant to her?  And, did she take out the ECT?

William (as the sound guy, Silvio):  Bruno, she sucked.  And, this show has run into my overtime so you know you are paying me time and a half, right?  This ain’t a telethon.

Me:  Silv, don’t worry about the OT.  Clearly you need the money because those skinny pink jeans ain’t doing you no favors.  Now get back on the soundboard and make sure my mic sounds nice.

After two hours of Il Canto, the Sleep Monster got us and it was a wrap.

We get up, have breakfast and check-out to start our self-guided “Rome in a Day” power sightseeing tour.  We start off by going to The Forum and see a guy dressed up as a Trojan.

William:  Where are Trojans from?

Me:  Trojania?

The Trojan asks if we want to take a picture so we oblige…

 

…then, as William is pulling out some coins to tip, Mr. Trojan was like, “That’s gonna be €10.”  After looking startled, we realized we just got hustled.  By a man in a costume.  Chuck E Cheese doesn’t charge you for pictures!  Of course, Chuck just walks around leering at you so I guess you have to pick your poison.  Yes, I have issues with Chuck.  Don’t judge me 🙂

It’s the start of the day and we are trying to be positive.  We pay for the Roma Pass (which is a smart buy for sightseeing in Rome) then pick up an audio guide and a map.  The Roman Forum really is spectacular with all the ancient remnants.  However, it only has fragments of buildings & statues so it’s hard to know what is what.  The map was even more confusing.  The numbers didn’t correspond to the information boards outside some of the sites.  Then, we attempted to use the audio guide.

William:  I think we are at site 7.

Me:  Okay, push play and let’s see.

[The audio guide has a British man giving a 20 minute soliloquy about columns and statues and if you look into the sun you can see Caesar or something we cannot find for the life of us.  It almost felt like we had a learning disability because the sites are numbered so any 2-year-old should be able to do this.]

William:  What is he talking about?

Me:  I don’t know.  I thought you knew.

William:  No!  And, he is still talking.  It’s been what?  45 minutes?  Why can’t he just give an executive summary and say, “to your left is an arch, now turn your ass around and walk?”

Me:  Really?  That’s how they do in New York?  You have ADD.

In the end, we used Rick Steve’s Italy guidebook and just took pictures.  The Roman Forum was ancient Rome’s birthplace and civic center.  This was the place where anything important happened in ancient Rome.

     

After walking thru The Forum, we head over to Palantine Hill. This is where the emperors chose to live and it was once filled with palaces.  It includes the “huts of Romulus and Remus”, the Imperial Palace, the House of Livia and Augustus and a view of Circus Maximus.

   

William:  Are those olive trees?

Me:  Looks like it but I don’t know.

William goes to pull an “olive” off the tree.  Meanwhile, I see Woodrow (Petey the Pigeon’s cousin) picking at food on the ground and he passes right over the “olive”.   Of course, he is getting the side-eye because I haven’t forgotten what Petey did yesterday in Florence.

Me:  Uh, did you just see that pigeon take a bite of one of those “olives” and leave it right there on the ground?  Don’t eat that.

William:  Why not?  I’ll wash it off.  You gotta build up your immune system.

Me:  Really?  You need to follow Woodrow’s lead and keep it moving.

Then, he notices citrus trees that seem to have some sort of fruit like oranges hanging from it.  But, as none of it is hanging low enough for him to get, William has to content himself with the “olive”.

William:  This could keep me from getting scavies.

Me:  What the hell is scavies?  A new hybrid flu of rabies and scurvy?

William takes a bite of the “olive” and discovers that it may not actually be an olive but it’s too nasty to figure out.

Me:  See?  Did I not just tell you that Woodrow was even like, “I’ll pass”.

We leave Palantine Hill and make our way to the Colosseum.

   

The Colosseum is a 2,000 year old building where ancient Romans used to watch gladiators, criminals and wild animals fight to the death.  And, it is one of the most beautiful structures in the world.  I could just sit and stare at it all day.  The first time I saw it, I was overwhelmed…imagine being in a place where people walked thousands of years ago!

Outside the Colosseum, there are “tour guides” prowling around trying to sell you on purchasing some of their time to walk you around and tell you the true little known “facts” about the site.  Since we had already been hustled once that day, we decided to pass and read what Rick had to say.

As we are walking around, we can overhear other tour guides and it occurs to us that we could do this as a side business too.

William:  You know, we could set up our own tour company and give them the “real” experience.

Me:  Yeah, we just need to market it right.

William:  We’ll just be like, “yo son…you wanna know the real deal of why Caesar got shanked?”  And, “This right here is where Jesus told everybody to get their souls right.”

Me:  Really?  We still doing the NY state of mind right now?  And, what are you going to do when you get Mr. I Know My History fact checking you?

William:  Throw him off the tour.  I’ll just say “Were you there?  You don’t know me.  I’m a descendant of Caesar.  He was my great, great, great to the 20th power granddaddy so shut up.”

Me:  *crickets*

William:  *ignoring the crickets*  We can get on the computer and create some tour guide certifications.  Tell them that we majored in “tourification” and we aren’t just some random tour guides off the streets.

Me:  So now we are “tourologists”?  How many of those olives did you eat?  Is this the scavies talking?  Does it cause dementia?

William:  We could even take them into the basement of the Colosseum.

Me:  The basement?  You mean the ground floor where they kept the folks that were about to killed by animals?  That’s closed off.

William:  Exactly.  That’s gonna make our tour hot.  It’s rogue…going where nobody can go.

Me:  Uh huh.  That tour will last 30 seconds.

As we are walking around, we come up with a scheme to offer to take people’s pictures for them so they will take pictures of us.

Me:  Maybe after we take their picture, we tell them it’s €10.  Get our hustle on like the Trojan guy.

William:  I wonder what he does for “Take Your Daughter to Work Day”.

Me:  Probably has her out there hustling too.

As we leave the Colosseum, I am focused on getting back to the entrance to The Forum so I can get my passport back since I left it to secure the audio guide device.  Now, William is all laissez-faire about this as it wasn’t his passport.  He offered up job ideas should I not be able to get back to the U.S. (William:  That tour guide idea is hot.).  We get turned around and I’m looking at the map trying to find the entrance.  As we start walking to the entrance, we come across these “mimes” that paint themselves up and stay as still as a statue.  Some are better than others.  This guy was great!

A couple of meters away from him, we see a duo performing.

William:  Are those Native Americans?

Me:  Uh, I see the feathers on the headdress and I hear the music but I don’t think the Romans stole this from them too.

William:  I’m confused.  Why are they here?

Me:  Outsourcing?

William:  Are they selling cds?

Me:  Everybody got a hustle.  Maybe they are signed to Black Widow Records in Genoa???

We finally get to the entrance of The Forum and as they give me back the passport, I realize that it wasn’t even mine.  It was William’s.  HAHAHAHAHA.  Apparently, we inadvertently switched passports when they were returned to us at the hotel.

Me:  So who is being a mime on the street when they can’t get back to the states now?

William:  You could’ve done tours.

Me:  Well, you know Atlanta is the #1 tourist city in the U.S.

William:  Get out.  Where did you get that statistic from?

Me:  GET OFF MY TOUR!  YOU DON’T KNOW ME!  YOU AIN’T A TOUROLOGIST!  WHERE ARE YOUR PAPERS?  YOU GOT THAT TOURIFICATION CERTIFICATE?  NO?  THEN YOU LEAVE THE STATS TO THE PROFESSIONALS.

William:  You need serious help.

By this time, we are headed towards the Pantheon.

 

Once we arrive, we see non-Italian ethnic groups selling purses and scarves.

William:  You think that is real Prada?

Me:  Is the Prada on Canal Street real?

We go inside the Pantheon, look around and take pictures.  Now it’s time for a gelato break.  Which must occur every few hours or you can get low blood sugar 🙂  After getting my gelato, we walk toward the Trevi Fountain.  People throw coins into the fountain to guarantee a return visit.  The coins are collected to feed Rome’s poor.

 

Then, it was on to the Spanish Steps.

After leaving the Spanish Steps, we walk around the posh shopping district and window shop.  Then we come upon a guy selling nuts…13 for €5.

William:  €5 for 13 nuts with some salt sprinkled on them?  Are they serious?  I can get that at home for $1.50.

Me:  These are special Roman nuts.  You don’t know ‘bout them, son.  They may be like Red Bull and give you wings.

At this point, we are completely exhausted and have to climb 1400 steps to walk back to the hotel.  We end up stopping by St. Peter in Chains Basilica since we didn’t make it to Vatican City.  That was another 1000 steps to climb.  St Peter’s in Chains is where they keep the chains that were used on Peter during his incarceration.

It also hosts Michelangelo’s sculpture of Moses.

On the way back, there was a guy playing typical Italian songs the accordion.  William wanted to get a picture with him.

William:  Uh, he smelled heavily of liquor.

Me:  That’s how rock stars do.  They have to get lit up to rock the stage…or in this instance, the steps.

Afterwards, we go to the hotel to get our bags…which were sitting in the hallway.  What kind of security system is that?  No id, just sitting out for anybody to take.  We were lucky they were there.  The desk clerk is still getting the side-eye as I type this.

Sweet Willy and I are so tired by this point, we suck it up and decide to pay for a taxi to the train station for our 4 hour ride back to Genoa.

Overall, it was a jam-packed weekend but we had a great time and got to see a lot.  Special thanks to Sweet Willy for flying all the way out to Italy for the weekend to keep me company and hang out in the IT.  I had a blast!

The Secret World of Pompeii

Okay, y’all ain’t ready for this.  I wasn’t ready.  As you know, I like to give you a little flavor along with the history of the sites I visit.  Well, when our tour guide gave us the background on what life was really like in Pompeii before it was destroyed, it was like I was listening to “E True Hollywood Story: Pompeii”.  There is just so much.

First, the excavation site was visually more stunning than I expected.  Second, I was amazed that so many ancient homes were still somewhat intact.  I can’t even imagine my house being around thousands of years from now.

As we are walking, the guide tells us about the people of Pompeii.  I’m listening kind of lazily while taking pictures.  I mean, I’d just hiked up a volcano so my attention span was on a downward spiral.  Anyway, the guide says a series of things that capture and hold my interest for the rest of the day.

1.            Pompeii had an open sewer.  That’s right; Pompeii’s theme song was “Funkytown”.  I know…I couldn’t really believe it either.  I had to ask for clarification because it just seemed too nasty to be real.  Feces and urine would run down the streets and they would wait for the rain to wash it away.  Sorry for you if it happened to be a dry month.  You can see in this picture that there are huge stones that the people would use to cross the street (I like to call it “Doo Doo Crossing”) so they wouldn’t have to step in that crap (you know they only wore sandals which meant if they stepped in it, then they got the full effect).  I am sure that folks inevitably fell off the stones.  Maybe that is where the saying “Oh, sh*t!” came from?

2.            The rich folks in Pompeii were pompous.  Apparently, the good citizens of Funkytown liked to show off their wealth.  When you went over to Titus’s house, he had his treasure chest open on the front table so you could see how rich he was.  Also, they had a tiled mosaic of a big dog with “beware of dog” (in Latin) in the foyer.  So, basically, they invited you over and said, “Hey, look at all my money…but don’t try to take it because Fido will kill you.  More wine?”  This was well before the time of Occupy Pompeii Street.

  

3.            Pompeii was full of freaks.  Apparently, Pompeii was where the party was at.  They had 80 bars and 25 brothels.  With the open sewer.  I am not able to get past the open sewer so let’s just address that now.  It’s gonna come up…often.  Anyway, the freaks did come out at night and they were doing things that Rick James couldn’t even dream of.  Modern Pompeii is full of people selling erotic calendars, statues, playing cards, etc (see below).  Now, I originally thought these sexual position scenes may have been their version of “art” back then.  But, the guide pointed out that they posted these scenes in the bedrooms of the whorehouses as a “menu of services” (just like McDonald’s).  You know I was looking to see what the “goings on” were (purely for research purposes only).  You ain’t ready for that.  A menu of sexual services.  Seriously.  After getting your drank on at one of the 80 bars then crossing and falling into the open sewer, you go over to Octavia’s and ask for a #3.  Love it.

 

4.            Funk is a theme.  Now, the good people of Pompeii didn’t have bath tissue back then so they had to make do.  The lower caste folks would just wipe their booty with the left hand and eat with the right (they didn’t have forks or spoons back then which means they really needed both hands).  The rich folks would use a communal sea sponge for the family.  I’m gonna let that marinate for a minute.  Imagine you and your family all using the same sponge to wipe after doing #2.  I guess if they can deal with the open sewers, they can deal with a communal sponge.  They also used urine to bleach their clothes.  Really?  My dog would love that.

5.            They had cafes!  We found these bars with counters.  People would come in during the day and have bread and wine.  They paid their money and would sit at tables to socialize.  I never imagined an ancient civilization with marble counters!

 

It broke my heart to see the castes of the human & canine remains that were preserved from the lava and ash.  You can see the remains below of a man, dog and slave.

  

Overall, Pompeii was fascinating!  I highly recommend a visit if you ever plan to be in the Naples or Sorrento area.

        

E True Versailles Story: Royals Gone Wild

I decided to tour Versailles.  Since I had such a great time on the Night Bike Tour in Paris, I booked the Versailles tour through Fat Tire Bike Tours as well.  The tour lasts approximately 8.5 hours so it’s a full day of riding & sightseeing.

While in Paris, we ride our bikes from the bike shop to the train station (which is about 10 minutes away), then put the bikes on the train for a 20 minute ride to Versailles.  Once we arrive, we pedal over to the farmer’s market to buy food for our picnic that afternoon.

The market is fantastic!  You can really go broke (because a tray of raspberries and other fruit cost me 17 euros) but the freshness of the food is unbelievable.  I ended up buying some fruit, tomatoes, green beans, rotisserie chicken and water.  I passed on buying a bottle of wine as I remembered the drunk pedaling from before.  So, after we load up the bikes with our purchases, we bike over to the grounds of the Palace of Versailles (or as it is called in French, Château de Versailles).

Apparently, they try to keep the château & grounds true to history so the horses and sheep are there for decoration which has to be a pretty plush job for them.  Our fabulous tour guides are Sadie and Matt.

Okay…I hope I remember all the history correctly.  If there are inaccuracies, then let me know.  Versailles used to be the hunting grounds of King Louis XIII and was made the capital of France by King Louis XIV (“KL14”) from 1682 until the French Revolution which started in 1789.  Three kings lived in Versailles (KL14 who built the Palace of Versailles, KL15 who enjoyed it, and KL16 who paid for it…with his head).

The Palace is lavish…in fact, it’s downright gaudy.  You know how some folks just don’t know that less is more?  Well, that was the Louis’.  In the end, all that flash came back to bite them in the butt.

This place has a lot of gold…like Mr. T had been their architect and interior designer.  They just covered everything with flowers and paintings.  It was like they had to have it all.  Even if it didn’t quite blend in with the décor.  They’d just see something, buy it, put it in a room and name it a certain “salon”.

Apparently, the Dauphin & Dauphine (king and queen) had their own set of suites on opposite sides of the palace.  And, considering all the mistresses that KL14 & 15 had, it’s no surprise.

The dining room was called the “Hall of Mirrors” and is 250 feet long, with 17 arched windows and 17 matching arched mirrors that look at the garden.  The literature states that it “reflects an age when beautiful people loved to look at themselves.”  I saw the portraits of a lot of folks back then and um…let’s just say that beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder.  Maybe it’s just me but I think I’ve only seen 1 portrait of someone who I thought was attractive.  Otherwise, they just all looked plain.  And, a couple of the women look like men dressed in drag.  I mean, it was a painting so they could’ve done some photoshopping and prettied them up with a few strokes of the paintbrush.  One woman was painted with a light mustache.  If that was me, the painter would’ve have been shown the door.  Make me thinner & prettier…not fatter and more masculine.

Sorry, I digressed.  Guess I got caught up in all the beauty.  Back to the dining room.  It was huge.  But KL14 (or as he named himself, the “Sun King”) felt like he needed more space to entertain.  So, he made all the people move out of the village of Trianon so he could build a SECOND DINING ROOM!  Apparently, pretty people need a lot of space to eat.  KL14 went all out.  Nothing was too good…he even had the marble brought in from Italy.  KL14 was spending the money from France’s treasury on furnishing his home like he was at the strip club making it rain.  One figure I heard was that he spent HALF of what was in the treasury.  So, he kicked the folks out the area and named the dining hall after the village in honor of them.  I’m sure they appreciated that sentiment as they were living under a bridge.

If anything, KL14 needed to be building a shower and bathtub because it is rumored that he only bathed two or three times in his life.  I was reading The Raucous Royals (because I love gossip & scandal even if it’s hundreds of years old), and it stated that “In King Louis XIV’s day, people thought a good, thick, grimy layer of filth would keep you healthy and strong.  They believed water spread diseases by penetrating the pores of the skin and then infecting the bloodstream.  Most people didn’t bathe more than once a year. The wealthy did change their linen throughout the day because they believed that the linen wicked away sweat and dirt, but they still stunk.”  And that made no logical sense.  Come on, France.  To combat the smells, the men and ladies in KL14’s court would douse themselves with perfumes and powders.  So, imagine being back in that day and having to smell Jean-Claude’s funk mixed with Cody Wild Musk for Men.  Ewwww.

To be fair, the book stated that KL14 was so clean that he was almost fussy about it. “He often bathed in a big Turkish bath.  When not in his bath, he rubbed spirits or alcohol on his skin (perfume gave him headaches), which acted as a disinfectant. And, as if that were not enough, he changed his undies three times a day!”  The book also said that KL14 towered over his subjects at an amazing 6’10”. Unfortunately, he was only 5’4” when naked.  “To compensate for his short stature, he wore a twelve-inch-high wig and six-inch red heels. But this was one look that no one could copy. King Louis XIV decreed that only the king could wear red heels.”  Only the king wears Prada, y’all.

Now, this book also said that Queen Elizabeth 1 would bleach her teeth with dog urine so keep that in mind when judging the veracity of their information.  Regardless of bathing or not, whatever he did it must have paid off because KL14 lived to the ripe old age of seventy-seven and was king for seventy-two years, longer than any other French monarch in history.

So, KL14 builds up a lavish palace and dies then KL15 assumes the throne (after a regency period since he was only 5 when his great-granddaddy went to the gilded gates).  KL15 was known as the playboy extraordinaire.  He claims to have had 5000 mistresses.  Okay, Wilt Chamberlain.  One mistress, Marie Anne de Maillynesle, put together a business plan for her future when her looks started to fade.  She figured out that KL15 liked his women more than ruling so when she felt like she was getting too old, instead of having him kick her to the curb…she became a pimp and procured women for him.  However, she wanted more power…and since he didn’t really want to govern anything outside the bedroom, he let A Pimp Named Marie Anne run the country.  She would just start wars (like the Seven Years War) so she could resolve them and have even more power.  The most famous of his mistresses are Madame du Pompadour and Madame du Barry.  Of course, with all the sleeping around he was doing, you know they all had cooties.  How are you going to be scared of water but not STDs?  Come on, France.

We then pedal over to the Hamlet of The Domaine de Marie Antoinette (aka The Hamlet).  In order to understand the significance of The Hamlet, I’ll give you a bit of background about the events leading up to the French Revolution.  As I stated above, KL14 & 15 were living the high life by spending money on buildings, wars, clothes and women.

Then, KL16 comes along.  He was set to marry Marie-Antoinette after the Seven Years War as a way to solidify peace between France & Austria.  The story goes that KL16 was a nerdy kid who, at 15 (the age he married Marie-Antoinette), preferred to collect bugs & locks than look at women.  Then, there was the supposedly beautiful Marie-Antoinette (“MA”).  Sigh.  I saw the painting.  We’ll give her a pass.  So, “beautiful” MA marries KL16 at the age of 14.  Her primary goal was to get knocked up with some heirs.  But, KL16 wanted to go out and collect fireflies and pick locks.  And, MA, having read the precursor to the book, “He’s Just Not That Into You” was upset.  Which many women can sympathize with.  It’s one thing to be rejected by a fine man.  Quite another to be rejected by the French Urkel.  MA tries to seduce KL16 to no avail.  People start looking at her all suspiciously because she hasn’t gotten knocked up yet.  So, she did what most women do when they are depressed.  No, not eat chocolate and binge drink (or maybe that’s just me).  She went shopping.  And spent MASSIVE amounts of money on all the latest fashions.  Where did that money come from?  The treasury into which folks paid their taxes.

Finally, 7 years later, MA gets pregnant.  Maybe she put on some kinky ladybug lingerie and rubbed her legs together like a spider to entice KL16.  Who knows?  She ended up having 4 kids.  After having her kids, she decided that she wanted to know what it was like to live like a peasant…so she had The Hamlet built.

This “peasant village” was basically a big dollhouse & playground.  She had sheep that she would have dyed a different color each day depending on her mood.  She then would pretend to milk a cow into a porcelain bowl.  Her peasant dresses were tailored.  You can only imagine from the pictures how much this little playground cost the taxpayers.  And, apparently, when the villagers saw her making a mockery of their lives…well, let’s just say that karma is a ______.

MA had her own place with a moat around it and required KL16 to send a written request before coming to visit.  Legend is that she had a Swedish lover that she would meet at the Temple of Love she had built for their rendezvous (which was not at all discreet…Temple of Love, Marie?  Seriously?).  With 80 acres of land, they could slip off and not be seen by anybody.

After the French monarchy were on MTV’s “Cribs”, the bourgeoisie class (which were the middle class and merchants) were like, “WTF?”  They were tired of seeing their hard-earned money go to waste.  People were starving because taxes had risen dramatically to pay for such a lavish lifestyle in Versailles.  So, they ended up signing the “Tennis Court Treaty” where they wrote a constitution and basically decided to revolt.  Which, I don’t know why KL16 didn’t see this coming.  The French had just helped out the US for the American Revolutionary War…put down the bugs, buddy.  You know the Americans were like, “Listen, Pierre, you gots to get out now.  You think I’m gonna let George tell me what to do?  I’m not calling him “king”.  Plus, I think he’s got a mental illness and I don’t have time for the drama.  Britain can kick rocks!!! U-S-A-U-S-A-U-S-A.  What?  Is he your master now?  Can he beat you up?  You need to take notes and tell Louis that France don’t have time for bug collectin’ and prancing around in stockings and high heels while folks can’t buy bread!  Revolt, man!”  While KL16 was collecting butterflies, the French were collecting guns.

So, the French Revolution starts in 1789 when KL16 finally gets a clue that something is going on and sends his army into Paris to put the smack down.  The citizens think the soldiers are about to attack and get all Matrix on them and storm the battalion to set free the political prisoners…of which there were only 5; and get the gun powder which was stored there.  Then, the fishmonger women (you know, the women who work at the docks) started marching on Versailles and surrounded the Palace.  Finally, KL16 & MA surrendered under the condition that they would live under house arrest at the Louvre.

They lived at the Louvre for a few years but when they saw the guillotine had been built and folks were getting beheaded…well, they came up with an escape plan.  I think it’s now pretty obvious that KL16 is no mastermind.  MA passed out her tailored haute couture peasant clothes and they snuck out of the Louvre in the dead of night and probably would’ve made it to freedom had KL16 not refused to take a nondescript peasant carriage.  He said he’d only ride in the royal carriage.  Sigh.  That kinda defeats the purpose of discretion.  Once they convince him to take a Kia carriage, they end up being stopped by a patrolman outside the city.  KL16’s face is on all currency so it didn’t take long for the patrolman to figure out KL16 (aka “The French MacGyver”) was trying to escape.  Somehow, he just wasn’t getting the concept of subterfuge.  So, of course they get caught.  Then, they both end up getting beheaded.  KL16 first…and MA almost a year later after she had been humiliated.  Folks hated MA by this point and would just take any opportunity to ridicule her.

In the end, the whole family (except for 1 daughter) ended up dying.  It’s pretty sad.

But, the grounds are beautiful!  After riding around and looking at the gardens, we had a picnic on the grounds behind the palace.

Finally, I walked through this hall where a guy in period costume was playing chess against at least 12 people…and he beat everybody sitting there.  Most people stare at the board for a while before making a move.  This guy didn’t spend more than 30 seconds thinking of each move…would take whatever piece that was yours and move on to the next player.

Overall, Versailles is gorgeous.  The Palace itself is okay (if you are into that type of thing).  I thought the grounds, gardens and the Domaine de Marie-Antoinette were the most interesting.

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