Friday, 22 January 2016

"Spot the Papyrus" Game

If you haven't been living under a rock for the last two decades, it's a guarantee that you've seen the Papyrus font at least once. In fact, it's become so widespread that my partner Yannick and I devised a game. On our two European trips, the first in 2013 and the most recent having just ended, we twisted a roadtrip classic into a game for the modern age: instead of 'Spot the Roadkill', we coined 'Spot the Papyrus'.
Whenever one of us spied a sign like the one below, we would gain a point. 
At times the competition was fierce, such as in San Gimignano in Tuscany. As Wikipedia explains, the font is used when a shop is attempting to achieve an "antique look", so in places where 'artisanal' goods were sold, Papyrus use increased. In some Tuscan towns we spent less time sightseeing than we did Papyrus-seeing, and yet in some locations we wouldn't spot a Papyrus for weeks on end.
This phenomenon of overused fonts is nothing new - you may be intimately familiar with Comic Sans. Now, both Comic Sans and Papyrus can be used appropriately, and it's unfortunate that they are abused. A blog dedicated to the documentation of this phenomena, Papyrus Watch, puts it perfectly: "The font I once used on a 5th grade paper about Egypt is now everywhere."
So, we laugh about Papyrus. We laugh when we see it boasting an "Artisanal Bakery" and we laugh even harder when we see it as subtitling in James Cameron's 'Avatar' film.
But back to the game! We played for around seven months, and Yannick's sister Fabienne would contribute points to his total when we were travelling with her (he believes he is the weaker player, so I allowed it). Yannick's score surpassed mine twice, but in the end I won by one point, with a score of 60 to 59. The key to quick Papyrus identification is of course practice, but a trick is that several of the capital letters are dead giveaways, such as the B, P, R, E and F. Another standout feature are the chunks taken out of the edges of the letters. I can now officially deem myself to be an Expert Papyrus Spotter! Watch out world, here I come.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Florence, day two: Never Mind Botticelli, Check Out This Door!

Florence, Italy (Firenze, Italia)
Day two in the Tuscan capital began with our by now customary cappuccino, coupled with a cornetto (pretty much exactly like a croissant but less crescent-shaped and usually with jam inside). A rainy day, I had my hood up but that did nothing to shelter my feet, which were clad only in jandals, aka flip flops. With the abundance of leather goods stores around, I figured this would be a wonderful place for shoe shopping! However, I wasn't immediately successful as €750 is too pricy for a boot, no matter how Gucci. Like a good little Kiwi I carried on as though my feet were in utmost comfort, ignoring the occasional scandalised glance I received. 
Equipped with our Firenze cards, we excitedly began our three-day museum binge at the Palazzo Davanzati. (The Firenze card costs €72 and is valid for 72 hours, allowing entrance to many museums and sights. See the website here for more details.) Originally constructed by the Davizzi family in the late fourteenth century, the palace was purchased by Elia Volpi in the 1800's and restored in what he believed was an original style. 
The wall frescoes in particular were eyecatching, featuring bright patterns and bird motifs. 
Next on the agenda was the Palazzo Strozzi, which was conceived by Filippo Strozzi the Elder who wanted a palace to rival that of the Medici family. He died before it was completed, and as soon as the last stone had been laid, the Medici confiscated it. Bitter much? On days when the weather is clement, students enjoy lounging around the palace's central courtyard, but the day we visited was not conducive to such activities. 
Unexpectedly, the palace was playing host to an art exhibition called 'Divine Beauty from Van Gogh to Chagall and Fontana', which we were allowed to enter for free with our Firenze cards. The spotlight was on modern religious art and was very interesting. 
Feeling like we should take a break from all our pizza-and-gelatoing, we lunched at La Canova di Gustavino, a cosy wine bar. While eating bruschetta and osobucco (tender braised veal on the bone) with a house red, a fuse blew and all the lights went off in the restaurant. With a magnificent Italian sense of humour, our waiter broke out into the happy birthday song, and then fiddled with switches for a few minutes until power was restored. 
At the famous Ufizzi Gallery, we jumped the long entrance queue with our special red Firenze passes. It's the closest I've been to a VIP! The entire gallery was crammed to bursting with incredibly fine examples of sculpture and painting. I was once again able to mock Roman emperors' facials as is customary when we visit Italy. 
The photo above shows one of my favourite rooms, which contained figures engaging in highly dynamic movement. Their poses of course show that they are in the middle of an activity, but the attention to the movement of the cloth makes them masterpieces. We spent the afternoon exploring the gallery, and at one point came across the Birth of Venus by Botticelli. At first I couldn't believe it was the real deal! I've seen photos of it my whole life, and then to stand face-to-face with the colourful creation blew my mind.
Aside from the art, the interior of the gallery was breathtaking and I found myself frequently distracted by ceilings and doorframes. 
And as the cherry on top of an already magnificent gallery, the view outside of the Arno River and the Ponte Vecchio is spectacular. Note how when we were indoors for several hours the sky cleared to a pleasant "partially cloudy". 
However, upon leaving we donned our hoods, scoped out interesting reflections in puddles and trekked to what had become our trusty pizza joint - CaffĂ© Italiano - and ordered a margharita and a marinara. A nice touch are the placemats, which have black and white photos of elderly people happily drinking coffee. How very Italian. Unable to fit gelato, we caught the bus back to our camping to shelter under our flimsy piece of plastic, aka our tent. 

Today's post was almost called: Puddlegrams and Jandal Tans