Category: 2003

Used: 2001-2007

All my Harry Potter books

In general, I am late to the party in regards to Harry Potter books. I hated “magical” books when I was a kid and by all assumptions, I shouldn’t like these books. For some reason, it was the trailer of the first movie that got me interested (a movie trailer had never done that before, in 20 years!) and after seeing and loving the movie, I went out and bought all 3 books available at the time (4 was still in hardcover and no way was I investing in that). I’ll fully admit to anyone that the movie got
me into the books, because like I said before, I normally do not like stories like this. So this is Fall/Winter 2001. I went to Boston in January 2002, and when I was on the T, I saw someone reading a PAPERBACK copy of #4 and nearly freaked. Since it was a different cover, I came to the conclusion that it was a british copy. Luckily, I was headed to the UK in March! Part of souviners for myself and my friends were paperback copies of HP and the Philisophers Stone. NERD ALERT! Plus, I got a copy of #4 in paperback, even though by this point, I had read the american version of #4 (of course).

The following summer, 2003, #5 is FINALLY getting released. Of all places, I happen to be doing my “European Backpacker Summer” at the time and happened to be in London at the time! I hemmed and hawed if I wanted to join the midnight release parties and I actually ended up sitting out, mainly because the following day I was headed on the train/boat to Calais and I knew I could buy the book at the train station. And I am not one of those that is going to start (and def. NOT) finish the book in the middle of the night. I could wait. But the next day, picked up my copy (along with like bunch of other adults headed out on early morning trains) and a cool bag at WHSmith. YAY for the British cover! So this cover was yellow and that is the version they sold all over Europe all summer, so I got so used to seeing that cover, that when I got home, I was like, what is with the blue cover? So weird to me, even though I think it (the US cover) is a better representation of the book, as it’s a more dark story then the rest of them.

I was in the US for #6, nothing special there.

So they announce the relase date for #7, probably what, like a year in advance? It’s coming out summer/July 2007! I am going to be in NZ! I preread #6 before I leave to refresh myself and because I don’t want to take it with me. I have reread all of them way more then once anyway, but I am off for who knows how long and I am not trading my Harry Potter books away, as is my plan for the rest of my books while I am traveling.

July rolls around. It was the middle of winter. It rained. If you are in a time zone ahead of the UK, the book gets released in time with them, so for NZ, we’re talking 11am, Saturday morning (12am UTC, 4pm LA time, the previous day!!) If I was crazy, I could have read the book before LA even got their hands on it! NUTS!!! I think the book should have just had a full on UK release time, no matter what time it is in the US. That would have been so so so awesome. Anyway, I get to the mall and the two book stores aren’t packed at all, maybe like 30 kids at each. That is how NZ rolls! After the crowed clears like 10 minutes after 11am, I just stroll to the counter and just say, one please. The sales person knows what I am talking about. I take the bus home and dig in. I actually finish the book in 2 full days and unlike the previous 2 where I plow through them, just so no one ruines it for me and usually by the end, I am totally burned out, this is the first book that I actually read very closely. What else is new, there isn’t much else to do in NZ.

The cover of the international copy of black, so I get used to this one, even though it’s a horrible cover. Unfortunatly, since I was unemployed for the first 6 months of coming home, buying the US version of HP got shifted low to my priorities list. And even now that I have a job, I actually haven’t picked up the US paperback yet. I really should. The US covers are so much better, plus they have those little pictures at the start of each chapter! Pure HP fans think the UK “versions” are better, but they kind of aren’t. Since I have so many versions of the whole series, it takes up an entire shelf on my bookshelf at my parents house. I do like that.

Moral: I am such a nerd, that I love having stories like these about my book buying expirence, especially for such iconic and non-American books like these. I liked seeing how crazy fans are in every country and as usual, the US is still the most nuts. I have little stories like these about the movies too, since I was only at home for like half of them. Maybe later this year, when the last one comes out, so I can write a complete story.

Two weeks in Venice

Used: 2003

When my family traveled to Italy for the first time back in 1997, Venice was my favorite city on that trip. It was so different from anything I had ever seen, I had been wanting to go back since. I had been to Europe a few times since as well as Italy again but I hadn’t made it back to Venice. On my first big solo trip around Europe, I knew I wanted to spend longer then the average tourist in Venice, no matter what the cost. I just wanted to experience it!

Since it was the height of summer season when I was going to be there, I booked everything before I left London. I booked through STA because to me at the time, it was just easier that way. Since I was being super selfish on this tour, I booked a hotel in the “suburban” island of Lido because for every 6 days I paid, I got one night free! Originally I was going to do a week in Venice and a week in Lido, but the price of Lido drew me in, plus seeing and staying where the locals live for that long a time was appealing.

I stayed in a lovely place called Hotel Helvetia, which was walking distance from the vaoaretto stop and on the main drag of the island that lead to the beach. I was reading recent reviews of the place and I am glad to see it is still up to par! The hotel itself was fab. Super cute, very quiet, fantastic daily breakfast. Yes, it did get loud on the weekend nights, but it’s Italy and a large town! What do you expect?

During my two weeks there, I didn’t really do all that much. I had done the whole tourist thing with my parents, so I just hung out mostly. I didn’t even go into town every day. A couple of days I just stayed on Lido and hired a bike and road around the island a few times. I went to the beach. I read. A lot. I did make it into town and just wondered around. I went to Mureno and watched glassblowing. I took a tour around the Jewish quarter. I did laundry at a proper laundromat. It was great. At this point now, I am kind of over Venice, but I know if I hadn’t done my two weeks there, I would be itching to go back.

The town has also found itself in a catch-22 situation recently. Old people are dying out but it’s too expensive for the young people to move in, so the whole city seems like an amusement park you can stay in because it’s almost all tourists at this point. Who knows what the place will be like in 20 years. Even though I am kind of over it from a tourist point of view, if it was easier to live there, I so would.

Sorry about my lack of pictures. The first time I went was 1997 and was not even close to getting a digital camera. When I was back in 2003, I kept it klassy with film and scanned these pictures in for a school project, so this is all I’ve got.

Moral: I tell everyone they have to get there soon or the place is going to sink (don’t worry, it won’t in our lifetime). But still, there is no city on Earth like it.

Used: 2003

I spent a summer in Europe “backpacking” around and one of the things I did was take the Eurostar from London to Paris. Everyone told me it was so nice and so great that the two cities were now so closely connected! While I do like getting to some places quickly, transportation is part of the travel experience for me. Anything different and slower is okay with me in most situations. While I was in London, I took a train to Dover and then the boat to Calais and it was lovely! I came back to London the same day, sad that my passport wasn’t stamped with a France stamp. Everyone in my family went to France 5 years before and now I had finally made it! Anyway, later, when I was actually going to France to like see stuff (there isn’t much to see in Calais) I decided to take the train because everyone raved about it. I guess I ended up on the two worst days ever for the Eurostar via the chunnel, because I will say NEVER AGAIN!

From London to Paris, everything started out fine, but then for some reason, we arrive in Paris and sat on the tracks for about 2 hours before we finally could disembark. No idea why, we just sat. So freakin’ annoying. Then I wait in the taxi line and when I get to the front the driver starts screaming at me in French and while I don’t speak a lick of it, I am pretty sure he was telling me that my hotel was very close and he didn’t want to take me that close. I knew my place was close, but as I was in a city I had never been to nor spoke the language and it was well after 10pm, I wanted to take a cab. I asked some random cabbie and they quoted a price that I knew was at least twice as much as it should have cost so I said no and stormed off. I figure out which street my hotel is on and just walk with focus and determination. Some guy got my attention as I was walking and was speaking English, so for some reason I stopped. He starts to give me some sob story and wants money. I immediately walk quickly off and he yells after me, are you Jewish? That freaked me out (because I am) and I couldn’t find my place soon enough. I got very very lucky and found my small hotel after a 10 minute walk and crashed out. Moral of the story? I don’t know, I got very very lucky.

Now it’s like 4 weeks later and I am headed back to London. It is the hottest days on record and the train station is deathly hot, as nothing is air conditioned. Trains are running about 4 hours late. I am nearly out of Euros and really don’t want to take any more out of the ATM and some food stand gives me a water even though I am like 10cents short. But the wait is forever until my train is called. Everything is such a nightmare, that they are barely checking tickets and none of the seats are assigned, you just sit as you load. And I had worked so hard to get a window seat! I don’t remember if I got one or not. I just remember waiting for hours and being so thankful to be back in the cool breeze of London. Luckily, I knew the neighborhood where I was staying and while it was kind of a shady place, everything ended up okay.

Moral of the story: Take recommendations with a grain of salt. If I had to do it again, I would have just taken trains and the boat. So much more exotic.