Posts Tagged ‘pizza’

Colombia 2011

June 5th, 2011

I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a sentimental person, or if it’s cause I watched the Real World finale today (yes, I watch that crap), or if it’s cause I have ovaries, but today I am missing Colombia. It’s the morning after I returned home {at the time of writing} and, yes, I have the post vacation blues. I get this often when I come back from a trip as I remember the fun times, the people I was with, and all of the little minute memories that my detailed brain recalls.

I was in Colombia for a week. I traveled down there with Joey and we were joined from the US by Scott, Christina, Alejandro and Amalia. And once down there, we were surrounded by Juan and Lala’s friends and family. Tons of them. All of them special.

The driving was crazy, as a two way street would quickly turn into a one way street, as cars would decide when and what they wanted to do. Two lane streets, would quickly become 4 lane streets, and cars would be swerving to avoid other cars and potholes.

Apparently I am much more fluent in Spanish when I have been drinking. Good to know.

I ate odd food such as pig intestines, pork belly, and crazy looking fruits. I was also sick to my stomach for a few days. I am not saying those last two sentences are related, because I did love the food.

Nearly everyone has a maid. It was awesome to come down the stairs and be offered breakfast, and to go back up the stairs and our beds were made, sheets were changed, and everything tidy and in the closets. I could get use to that sort of lifestyle.

I will take with me a lot of memories from this trip. But the most memorable will be all of the great people I was able to see, hang out with, visit with, catch up with, spend time with and especially laugh with. Laughter was omnipresent.

I have had a Colombian flag hanging in my apartment for the last few years. It always held meaning for me, in that it reminded me of my friendship with Juan. But now it holds more meaning, as my heart has further attached itself to the beautiful country it represents

Some recollections… {editor’s note: I probably should have broken this up into individual posts, but when I started, I didn’t think I was going to do nearly a day to day journal. Its even TLDR for me.}


According to Joey, Supermodels work in customs in Bogota. Unfortunately for me, I got the guy that didn’t understand English. Eventually after calling his coworker over, he figured out that I was there for pleasure, and not business. Upon exiting the airport, there were droves of people, crowding, and holding signs and shouting for their loved ones arrivals. I felt like I was on the red carpet, as they were crowding the barrier. Our plane had arrived early, but fortunately we saw Juan nearly immediately.

Bogota Beer Company (Wednesday May 25, 2011)

Bogota Beer CompanyWe left the airport in Mauro’s car, waded thru traffic, picked up Alejandro and walked to the Bogota Beer Company. It was odd entering the bar, having to raise our arms, and be metal wanded. Though, I felt safer because they did. We enjoyed some really delicious appetizers and beer and it was a good welcome to South America.

Gaira Café (Thursday May 26, 2011)

Grammy winner Carlos Vives owns a restaurant, that is located within his mother’s old house. It is a place of live music, and good food and we had reservations. Our driver was late, and therefore we were late to the restaurant. Upon calling the restaurant, they said that if we were there one minute past our reservation, then they would give our table away. We pulled up 15 minutes late, and there was a crowd outside trying to get in. Fortunately we were still able to get in.

FritangaOnce in we ordered a crazy platter of appetizer type samplers (fritanga), and a few bottles of rum. The restaurant was in eating mode. But an hour later, it became theater mode as the workers acted out some sort of story. Shortly after it became concert mode, as a band was on stage playing live music. Shortly after that, it became dance hall, as more musicians were on stage, and everyone was dancing on and around the tables.

I tried all of the different food items, the chicharron, the empanadas, the chunchullo, and everything else on the fritanga platter. Apparently I got liquored up (I do like rum), and didn’t want to leave when it was time to leave. I kept asking for “10 more minutes.” Which became a running joke for the trip as people would not stop giving me crap about it. Of course, I merely laughed it off.

Museums (Friday May 27, 2011)

ArtifactWe visited two museums as well as drove around the city. Driving here is crazy, as I already mentioned. We went to the museum of gold and the Fernando Botero museum. The gold museum was basically a history of Colombia, with all of its old artifacts and descriptions.

The Botero museum holds a collection of Botero’s own paintings, as well as some of his private collection of pieces that included Monet and Picasso. Botero had a unique style that looked almost cartoon like. Most characters were quite large, quite nude, and often there was either a reflection or a little detail poking its way into the background.

LechonaAfter the museums, we had a delicious lunch at Habemus Papa. Ceviche, Empanaditas del pacifico, wine, and with a main dish of lechona.

A quick stroll down the street led us to Conosur, a cone eatery. Everything is served in cones, from ice cream, to crab.

And an odd story to cap this day. I had some night terrors, which in-turn, terrorized Joey who was in the same room. In my sleep, apparently I was shouting “Help Me, Get Away, Help me.” A little bit later, I thought I saw something in the room (I was half asleep), and I started panicking, scrambling, and shouting “Help Me!” again. This time, I shook Joey’s leg and had him turn on a light. It was really odd. I used a night light the rest of the night, cause I’m a little boy.

Wedding (Saturday May 28, 2011)

MatrimonioI expected an evening that ran as late as 4, 5 or even 6am. So I was surprised that this party concluded, and I was back home by 11pm. Although I was exhausted like it was 6am.

We were scheduled to leave with the bride from the house around 10am, so we couldn’t be late. She looked stunning as she came down the stairs in her dress. She rolled to the wedding in style, in an old Bentley. All of the American gringos rode in a separate car, through the rain, and through traffic for an hour and forty-five minutes. Upon arrival to the club, the church was packed, and it was standing room only outside under a tarp. The wedding started shortly thereafter.

After the wedding, the reception was just down the sidewalk at the main building of the club. There were two floors. When you walked in the top floor, everyone was looking over the balcony. You’d have figured that below were the bride and groom. But nope, it was the location of the television screen showing the Barcelona vs. Manchester United Champions League final game (Barca won 3-1).

cupcakeThe reception was a lot of fun. There was a mariacchi band that Juan had surprised Lala with, and there were multiple other bands. All sorts of latin music that was fun to try and dance to. At one time I had to try to resort to my small swing dancing knowledge to try and blend in. Pero, soy torpe. Good food, fun fellowship, and of course the flowing drinks – as they would come around with glasses of scotch and vodka all night.

Juan kept buying extra hour upon extra hour of the band, eventually the party was over. There were promises of an after after after party, but they didn’t occur for us.

I received a ride home from Juan Sr. (Juan’s dad), along with Juan’s step-mom, and his uncle. She made me laugh the whole way home.

Andrés Carne de Res (Sunday May 29, 2011)

No GunsWe headed out around 1pm for a lunch at Andrés Carne de Res. This place is 4? stories of chaos and sensory overload. But worth every ounce of it. Wow! Sadly, I was feeling a little sick from the night before, and couldn’t handle much of the delicious food. However, that did not stop me from trying it.

The restaurant is divided into multiple levels, with names like heaven, purgatory, earth and hell. There is even a children’s romper room area. Think TGIF’s but to the 100th degree. Clowns and musicians and many waiters mull around. If an American restaurant added these devious clowns (think cirque style, not balloon animal style), then clowns could make a comeback.

Arepa De ChocoloI had my new favorite Colombian dish here: Arepas de Chocolo. It was a crepe/pancake like texture filled with gooey yummy cheese. What is not to like? We also tried fried plantain with cheese (almost like a pizza), great steaks, lulo with spearmint, and an agua aromatica – a bowl of fruit, mint and hot water that acts like a fruit infused tea.

Later that night, we also ordered some pizza. Odd I know, but it was nice to try a different countries version of the Italian/American favorite.

Btw, everything delivers, not just pizza, in Bogota. Kinda like New York. At one time we ordered 3 cases of beer and had that delivered.

Nada (Monday May 30, 2011)

Coffee BagsWe did practically zero, zilch… Juan had some school work to get done, and since we didn’t feel really safe to just go wandering on our own, we stayed around the house most of the day. After feeling nauseous the day before, I didn’t entirely mind. We did make one trek out, about a block away to a mercado/flea market type place. Bought some souvenir gifts and returned home. At night, Juan went out to a birthday sushi dinner for his sister-in-law, and since I was still feeling a little bit sick, Joey and I stayed home. Juan’s sister, Ana, came over to hang out.

Oh, we also went down the street to the grocery store, and loaded up on coffee bags to bring home.When the attendant asked if we needed help out, I don’t think he expected to push our grocery cart up 6 blocks of cobblestone.

Send Off Day, Final Encounters (Tuesday May 31, 2011)

Colombian BreakfastIt was a day of eating, and having final reunions. We started with breakfast at Juan’s mother and sister’s house. Fresh arepa, pineapple, hot chocolate, empanadas, and calentao. Im a mother lover. I love Juan’s mother’s and they seem to love me too. They are sweet, energetic, funny, and always make me laugh and smile. This breakfast was no different. And in regards to energy, Ana ranks up there as well. She is quick witted, and opinionated (I mean this in a positive way). She likes to challenge, she likes to debate, she likes to engage.

Sadly, I could only eat about half of my food, as I was still feeling queasy. They had me take a pill for “tummy pain” this morning and the last night. I’m not sure if that is helping or making things worse. It is a shame to have so many new food options to try, yet feeling unsure about how my body will react.

We had to leave breakfast after a short while, because we had a lunch engagement. Today is going to be a meal to meal schedule.

Juan Valdez CafeAfter a brief stop at a Juan Valdez cafe, we made our way to Juan Sr. and Martica’s house. However, the ruler of the house is their yellow lab, Nala. We hung out there for about an hour, and then made our way to lunch with a few more of Juan’s friends. Still feeling sick and queasy, I had a bowl of chicken broth. Boring I know. But there were big dinner plans that I needed to get right for.

In between lunch and dinner, Joey, Pablo, Angela, Lala and I walked up the street where surprisingly, there was a mall. If we had known, on our nada day, we’d probably have come up here. We bought a host gift, and the rest of them had an ice cream. Pablo was calling his doctor friends, and then running down the escalator. He came back with yet another drug for me to try for my stomach. I took the pill graciously. When I got back home, I looked up the drug, saw it wasn’t approved in the US, and saw that a side effects were the squirts. Uh oh, this might be a long night (since I don’t want you thinking of me, and that, i’ll let you know, it didn’t have that effect on me).

We headed to dinner where we were joined by Esteban, Marcella, Pablo, Angela, Diego, Mauro, Jenny, Juliana and Lala’s parents. El Filetto was the restaurant, and omg, nom nom nom. Still struggling with my stomach, I couldn’t eat a ton. But the wine and the appetizers were delicious. I ordered Juan’s favorite cut of steak – Punta de anca. Wow. It was so good, juicy, tasty. I was sad to have to give half of it away, but was glad that such a great piece of meat did not get wasted.

We went back home where we were joined by Lala’s sister and cousin, who came by to say goodbye to us. We have an early morning coming (4am!!!). I was sad to be leaving, and was thinking I might just stay awake all night. But instead I turned in around midnight.

Leave (Wednesday June 1, 2011)

Arose at 3:45 am, and made our way to the airport. Because Juan was bringing 5 bags, we needed two vehicles to take the 4 of us to the airport. Juan Sr. drove one car, and Lala’s parents were in the other.

Crepes & WafflesAirport checking was both confusing and easy. We now had some time before our flight, and before we went thru security, so we had breakfast with Lala’s parents at the airport Crepes & Waffles. After breakfast, we made our way thru security, the final duty-free shops, and to our gates. Ciao Colombia, I came away more impressed than I expected.

At our layover in Houston, Joey and I went into the Continental President’s club. There was only snack food, and Skinny J wanted a “meal” so we were about to leave. But decided to have one beer first. When we were told the beer was free, our 5 minutes became 90 and we enjoyed a few drinks.

Food and People

I think, when recollecting this trip, what I will remember most is the crazy and tasty food, and the crazy and amazing people. There is a lot of love in this country, and lot of beauty, and a lot of heart. Colombians have a lot of pride in their country, and as it continues to transition itself, it is this pride that shines through. When I first booked this trip, I thought this might be my only trip ever to Colombia. But after enjoying the people, places, sights, and fun, I am looking forward to a return visit.

Jack Talk Thai Real Good

May 24th, 2009

May 24

bridge of angelsWe have been moving so fast, seeing so much, tiring ourselves out for almost 2 weeks now that I think the lack of sleep is catching up to us.  We rested late, but kept worrying if we were gonna over sleep the pope.  It is Sunday and I want to see the Pope give his blessing at noon from the Vatican.  I figure, I am in Rome, its a Sunday, there aren’t too many of these opportunities in life.

It was super hot again today.  We had a 20 minute walk to St. Peter’s Cathederal.  It was actually really pretty weather and we took many pictures along the way, along the Tiber River.  I love the Bridge of Angels and the way Bernini depicted them.  Its a beautiful walk.

We arrived at the cathederal around 11:30 and there was a LONG line of people wrapping around the square to get in for the Sunday Mass.  We huddled under the symmetric collonade so that we could be in the shade.  Noon arrived, and we went out into the square so that we could peer up to the window where he makes his blessing.


However, today he was out of town, and was giving his blessing via CTV, the pope television video boards that now are in strategic locations around the square.  We watch for about 20 minutes and then decide its time to get out of the scorching heat and go eat some lunch.

We walked thru Vatican city and found our way to an italian restraunt-go figure.  A pizza, ravioli and frizzante lunch hit the spot.  The air-conditioning felt good.  At one moment during lunch, a family came in with about 10 people, including what must have been their priest.  It was cute to see them taking their priest to lunch.  I felt badly that he had to wear all black in this heat.

We walked back towards our neck of town, and stopped at the internet cafe.  I was feeling really grossed out about our apartment, and really worried about it serving the needs of my parents when they arrived.  So we spent about 90 minutes searching the internet for an alternative place to stay.  JeanE and Kathie are coming to town and they reserved a place so they could be nearby us.  We couldn’t book a place now the other side of town.  But did I feel comfortable staying in our place one more night?  Did I feel comfortable hosting my parents with that disgusting bathroom?  We researched many different possibilities.  We looked into renting a room(s) at a hotel that was nearby, and renting rooms for all, somewhere else.  But there was barely any vacancy anywhere.

champheini_smWe are in Rome the week of a large, Super Bowl type event.  It is the UEFA Champions League Finale on the 27th and rooms are all booked as people have come to Rome to cheer on either Barcelona or Manchester United.

When it came down to it, I decided that we were “stuck” in our situation and we just needed to grit our teeth and get thru it.

We left the internet cafe and started walking up the street, when across the street we saw a storefront window that read “Traditional Thai Massage.”  We decided to give it a shot.  I have a hard time turning down any massage as I find them very beneficial and relaxing.

So we walked in, and there is a crew of Thai women sitting around.  We try to talk to them in English, but their language is Italian and Thai.  We finally get them to realize that we want a massage, we don’t have an appointment and we are wondering if there is availability.

There were four types of massage on the menu:  Traditional, Oil, Foot, and Cellulite.  I decided to go for the Traditional–which I was told was stronger, and Lisa ordered the Oil massage–which we were told is more relaxing.

We were led back to our rooms, and the rooms had showers in them.  The lady left these weird clothing items on the bed and then left.  I sat there wondering, “Am I supposed to take a shower first?,”

I decided to just put on the clothing they left out.  It was these thin, light,  white cotton shirt and short combo.  It was kind of like a mini scrubs, but a much thinner, more see-thru (without being see-thru) version.  It was very comfortable.  I lied down on the bed, unsure if I had done the right thing by not showering, if I was supposed to lie down yet and all other questions that occur when its your first time visiting a new masseuse.

The traditional Thai Massage was an interesting massage.  It was less of a massage, and more of a stretching, contortion sort of exercise.  The lady would bend me and pull me in random directions.  At one time, she was up on the table with me, locking my legs in a weird position with her hands arms and her own leg, and then using one of her feet to push against my butt to pull and stretch my legs.  As odd as it all was, I found it very beneficial.  I felt my muscles stretched, my circulation improved and much more limber.  Since they had not used any oil on me, and was merely yoga type exercises, the shower must have just been for show, or for the other types.  Lisa wrote about it as well.

We then went and tried the hop-on hop-off bus tour.  We were told that the best way was to just buy a ticket on the bus.  There was a stop for the Green bus company right across from where we were, so we stood in line.  They are supposed to come every 10 minutes.  About 45 minutes later, we decide to skip it, since it hadn’t arrived.  We had seen many of the Red bus company drive by, so we tried to go find a Red stop.  We found one not too far away.  We waited there for about 15 minutes, and it finally came.


I hate Rome ATM's!

We got on board, and the bus started moving.  Went to pay, but they were cash only, and we didn’t have the proper amount.  Darn.  Since the bus already started, we had to wait till the next stop, St. Peters, to get off.  We exited the bus, and got some cash out of the third ATM we saw (stupid Rome ATM’s that don’t work), and then went to the bus stop to get on and take the tour, and enjoy the breeze in the strong heat and humidity.

However, it was too late in the day.  The bus was halfway through its final leg, and would not be making it back to the stop near our place.  And now we are a long 25 minute walk away from our place, its scorching hot, and we are tuckered out and frustrated.

Rome has been very frustrating.  We are towards the end of our trip, and we are tired, emotional, and just need something easy.  But Rome has been extremely crowded, extremely hot and kind of a drag.  Don’t get me wrong, I love this city.  I love the art, the architecture, the food, and the people.  It is just this particular time, this part of the trip, just nothing seems to be going perfect.

We got back to the general area of our hotel and decide to try and eat dinner at this rooftop restraunt that we had passed by the day before.  Finding it again, would be tricky.  Like most nights out, as previously mentioned, finding our dinner restraunt can be fun, yet sometimes gets frustrating and lost.  This was no exception.  We wandered trying to retrace steps and find it.  Finally after some direction asking (Dove Il…)we found it.  However it was reserved and booked full for the night.  So we kept walking.


We found this charming restraunt, that was really quaint and pretty.  Each table faced the alley way, and was covered with yellow table cloths and had vases of fresh cut flowers and lit candles.  It was really romantic.

We had a cheese appetizer that had a cheese that had pistachios in it.  It was tasty.

After heading back to our apartment for a short break, we decide to go look for a cookie, so we headed out to Piazza Navona.  I love this square.  It’s so pretty.  We enjoyed the nightlife there, but alas, could not find a cookie.


Went back to the apartment, I took a shower to wash off the heat, and then fell asleep.

John Denver Is Full Of

May 23rd, 2009

May 23

Went downstairs for a coffee and some internet time.  Hung out there awhile while Lisa wrote a post on her site about Montalcino.  Made it back upstairs and packed our bags and settled our things and wrote down some last minute information.  I am kinda intimidated today about Rome and the pick pocketers.  Ive seen them in action, and I’ve heard many stories, but recently I have heard more stories, and success stories (success of the pickpocketers) especially near the main train station in Rome.

I am worried and stressed, though I am sure it will all turn out ok.  What do I have to get stolen?  My watch?  The loads of cash I am carrying?  Passports?  This mini computer?  The bottle of wine?  The souvenir I bought Chaunce?

I am on the train right now trying to fight off the motion sickness from the hour curvy drive to this station, as well as catch up on some of the journal typing on this keyboard whose mouse in the middle is ultra sensitive and continues to throw my typing for loops.  It is really hot and I’ve already been lectured about having the window down.  The conductor assistant came by and put the window up and locked it.  Oops.  Its almost a two hour train ride to Rome, and we are about halfway done.

The train has been really hot, almost unbearable.  All of the windows say to keep them closed because the air-conditioning is on in that car.  Highly unlikely.  We had ours open for awhile, as did others.  When the aforementioned employee came back and scolded us, and locked all our windows.

Not only is it hot, but we are sitting near these two ladies.  One of them seems to be quite irritated with her travel partner, and also seems deathly ill.  Its getting really gross and rude how she keeps coughing and sneezing without covering her mouth.  Does she have the swine?  She looks really really sick.  And a few times I want to just tell her to cover her mouth and nose when she is gonna project her sneezes into the air.  I am THIS close to speaking up.

But I don’t.  But I do occasionally shoot a disapproving look her way when she does it.

Finally we arrive in Rome, and its really hot too!  We are ready for war with the pickpocketers at the station.  When we exit the train, we quickly come across a side exit of the station, and figure we might as well mad dash out here.    We make our way to a cab line that we see, and we get a quote on a ride from here to our rented apartment.  He either said 29 or 39 euros.  We accept and figure, whew, we are safe.  We arrive at our apartment, pay the man, and we are stoked that we made it past the pickpocketers at the station we were worried about.  However, in reading up on cab fares from the train station, we figure that we think we got taken.  In retrospect, we remember even that he didn’t even turn the meter on.  DOH!  (I would later email this information to my dad, to find out that they paid only approx 15 euros when they arrived in Rome a few days later).  A small price to pay for safety.

We arrived at our apartment that we are renting and there is a carabinieri parked and standing across the street with an automatic weapon.  We find the door for our address, but it is locked and we don’t know who to buzz to let us in.  We are standing outside this door for about 20 minutes, thinking our landlord will be here anytime.  Eventually someone exited the door and we were able to get ourselves into the courtyard area inside.

We are sitting here for about an hour, continually going out the front door to check the street to make sure he isn’t sitting out there.  Afterall, he did request we email him yesterday, our arrival time, and he did know that I would not have an available european working cell phone.

We eventually give up and decide to track down a place to try and call the number he had left of his girlfriend, in case there was a problem connecting.  I sent Lisa on the trail.  Approximately 20 minutes later she returned, frustrated with what she just experienced.

She found her way to a tabaccheria where she was rudely shushed out of the store.  She tried to offer a clerk 10 euros to make a local call for us.  She was ignored and treated very unkindly.  She found a calling card for the pay phones, and when she went to use it, she didn’t realize for some time that you have to rip off the corner of the card in order to activate it.  She reached the lady and the lady rudely says “youre there now?”  No kidding lady, we have been here for 2 hours, at the time we said we would.

10 minutes after Lisa returned, and about 2 hours after we arrived around 1:30 PM,  this young high school age man showed up with a grocery bag.  He was neither the guy I had rented the apartment from, nor the lady that he said would meet us at our arrival time.  He took us into the apartment, showed us around, took out a bottle of shampoo and 4 rolls of toilet from his grocery bag and left them with us, provided the keys, took our money and was on his way.

This place is tiny and not very clean.  Granted, it is in a brilliant location just a short walk from the Piazza Navona.  But it is much more cramped than I expected.  And although we had to pay an extra 40 euro as a “cleaning fee,”  it is obvious that it was not fully cleaned after the last visitor.  Beds are made, but there are museum receipts on the table, and hair on the bathroom floor, a gross shower mat, mildew in the shower, and a puddle of water (I hope) behind the bidet that has rusty fixtures.  There is an open bottle of travel shampoo still in the shower, and a topless can of hairspray on the shelf above the sink.   The bathroom and the room are tiny and “cozy.”  The downstairs beds/couches smelled like urine and I would later find yellow stains on the sheets.

I thought to myself that maybe this was all just stemming from the bad first impression that the landlord left on me by standing us up, so I let it go for now and we left the apartment to explore.

We walked around, trying to figure out our surroundings.  We came across an internet cafe and bought a card and surfed the net, left posts, twitters and checked email to holler back to my parents in Montalcino.  We walked to the Piazza Navona and it was much more crowded than I remembered it.

I know, I glorify my previous trip to Europe, and my new memories are shaded by the light and knowledge and experiences of that trip.  I am not saying that my new experiences are any less, I am saying that seeing certain things and places bring back memories and experiences of places.  What I recall of Piazza Navona was a cool “square” (oval in shape really) that had its cafe’s and its people, but was not overly crowded.  And it had this really cool fountain/statue that has become one of my all time favorites.

Well, most of those things still hold true, but now the square if overflowing with people, street performers (boring human statues), and art sellers.  It still is cool though.

We grabbed lunch on the corner where they had a pizza, bruscheta, soda special for 12 euros.  It was tasty.  It was more soupy than the pizza of the north.  Yet, it still is not the perfect pizza.  I tend to like to explore, or get lost, or some might say “wander aimlessly.”  I like to take in the sights, the smells, the people, the scenery.  I like to get a lay of the land and then figure out what to come back to.  Being that I don’t often have a plan per se, I think can be frustrating to Lisa.  I have been trying to be more vocal with what direction my mind is thinking.  We start to head towards the Pantheon, since its not very far from this piazza.

oculus_smThe Pantheon is crowded outside–its another really cool open square with cafe’s–but we make our way thru the people and enter into the building, which isn’t too crowded inside.  This is a really cool building with an oculus that lets in rays of sun, and in wet days, rain as well.  It holds the tomb of Raphael and is a really cool temperature which is welcoming on this hot and muggy day.  I think its one of my favorite things in Rome.  It has a ton of history too and is built with great geometric precision.  Its a building that has inspired many great buildings and domes around Europe.


It seems that we are now hitting everything.  We walk towards the Trevi Fountian.  This too has become much different than I remembered it.  It must just be my memory of it, but I was completely dissappointed in it.  I remember it being right on the edge of the road, and less confined, and more at an angle.  I don’t know why I am so struck by this, but I’m really flabergasted.  “I always thought the Rockies would be a lot, rockier.”  Oh well, its still a beautiful statue that harbors many emotions for everyone that visits.

spsteps_smWe stayed their briefly, catching our glimpse, our pictures, and our dissappointments, and then followed the signs that led to the spanish steps.  Now I have never been to the spanish steps, so this will be brand new.  It was a long hot walk and my body is really feeling gross and sweaty.  The spanish steps aren’t very easy to find, even with a map–at least the first time.  After walking these crowded streets, we found these crowded steps and did the italian thing and lounged on them for about 10 minutes.  I could do this everyday.  Sit here and just people watch.  There are really hoards of people here.  It’s about 7:00 PM and its sunny, hot, sweaty and crowded.  It hasn’t been the most pleasant of days, but the things we have seen have been ridiculously amazing and fun.  What a day.

Now it was the best time of day, and also a frustrating time of day.  I have loved and looked forward to our dinners every day.  Meals have been my best and most enjoyable aspect of this day to day travelling.  Some nights we go off of a recommendation in the Rick Steeve’s book, and other times we just walk and check menu’s.  It seems that every few feet there is another restraunt.  The trick has been trying to find ones that do not look like tourist traps, serving microwaved food.  Sometimes we have been succesful at this, and other times we have not.

The frustrating aspect has been that I am often looking for, in a restraunt, the perfect balance between sights, food, price and atmosphere.  Too many times a restraunt is lacking one of those qualities, so I say we just continue walking and look for the next one.  The downside of this is that it leads to about an hour more of walking, getting lost, and getting tired.  Tonight is another occasion of that.


Before These Crowded Streets

We settled on a place to eat, and sat down.  Now a couple days of ago when we went on that cool winery tour with Ceylan (Jay), she mentioned how she was coming to Rome, and we offered to meet up for dinner.  Well we didn’t ever connect after that and so we were on our own.  Now, tonight we are eating on this back alley of restraunts, dark, on the patio, and guess who walks by.  Yep, Jay.  In a big city like Rome, with all of the great resteraunts and locations, we happen to run into the one person that we know is going to be in the city.  We shared salutations and then she went on her way and we finished our meal.

With our belly’s refreshed, and some wine in our system, we decide to try and walk towards St. Peter’s so that we can see it all lit up at night.  It is late though.  And we have exhausted our patience, and our legs.  We got lost trying to get there, and decided to stop at one of the bridges to cross the river, but instead take a few long distance pictures and head home.  It has been a long day, full of difficult times, and exciting sites.


These items that we are seeing are beyond belief.  Are we really here?  Sadly, is this trip almost over?  How remarkable is the check list of things we have seen and done today?

We find our way home, and I have to shower off all the grossness.  I am even more grossed out by the shower and bathroom here.  I must block it out and fall asleep.  It is really hot here.


What A Pitti

May 19th, 2009



Today we are leaving to go to Montalcino.  However, we do not meet up with JeanE and Kathie till 5pm at the train station, so we have the whole day here in Florence.  However, due to my mom’s fall, she can barely move as her whole side is in pain.  So we decide to do very minimal today.  Nope, we will not be hitting the Pitti Palace or the gardens as intended.  I actually didn’t mind as I wasn’t really looking forward to that long hike again up the hill.  If I could have done something tourist this day though, I think I would have hit the Duomo museum (Mary Magdalene statue) or the Borgello museum (Donatello’s David and other sculptures).

After a great night of food and fun, and lots of wine, it was a slow moving morning.  We took our time eating breakfast, and then packed up our rooms and left our baggage with the front desk.  And then we just sat in the bar area.  We discussed things like bidet usage, we did work on the Internet and computer, and we looked at pictures.  My dad ran all over town looking for my moms cross necklace, chain, and angel pin.  He was successful on 2 of the 3, but quite sweaty after literally running around.

We ate lunch down the street at a pizza place, and we were approached by a lady about a charitable organization.


We head thru the market one last time for shopping.  My mom bought more scarfs, probably, I don’t really remember.  But it was time for last minute shopping in Florence before we headed out.  We got towards the end of the market, and we sat my mom down, left her a couple bags, and my dad’s camera.  Then the 3 of us walked back to the hotel to grab all the luggage.

We got the luggage and then trekked it through the town.  Luggage is heavy when you are carrying multiple pieces for multiple blocks.  We have had to do these long walks usually when we first get to a city, and when we leave the city.  I didn’t want to get any hotels right near the train station, as that tends to be more of the seedy parts of town, as well as a little bit of distance from the city centers.

We made it back to my mom, and then trekked through the city some more until we arrived at the train station.  We were scheduled to meet our new travelers here, as they were coming in from Venice.

We waited about 20 minutes, protecting our bags from pick-pockets and crowds, and eventually JeanE and Kathie met up with us at the McDonald’s there.  We then walked to binari 2 and waited about 45 minutes for our train.


We took the train, and the first stop was about 5 minutes away, it was a secondary Florence stop.  Then it seemed that everyone got on the train.  Meanwhile, my dad is asking my mom for the camera and she has no idea where she put it, or if she even had it.  I have visions right now of when my dad emptied the entire suitcase of clothing once, in the paris airport, looking for something that K.C had misplaced.  We have stacks of luggage now, all over the seats on top of each other, and there is no way he could possibly do that now.  Though, I am sure he wants to.  He is frustrated and agitated, as travelling with many people is not easy.  We try to calm him down by letting him know that at this point, its either in the bags, or its not, and there is nothing he can do.  But more than likely, it is somewhere in the bags and we will find it when we reach our destination.

It’s really crowded on the train right now, and we have our luggage taking up seats and people are irritated with us. This Italian guy sat down across from Lisa and  is breathing his bad breath in sighs of frustration on us.  I’m having a hard time concentrating on typing and its really hot and uncomfortable.  I think it must be train rush hour time.  Meanwhile, my dad is irritated because he thinks that he may have lost the camera or misplaced it somewhere in Florence.  Meanwhile, we have met up with 2 new travelers and so there is always transition time of getting used to people and group dynamics.  I am curious to see how this will all work out.

We sit on the train for about 20 minutes without it moving, when over the speaker in Italian, they announce that the train is having problems and we would need to exit and find a new train.  Brilliant.


Downtown Buonconvento

We hop off the train, high-tail it to a different track, only to see the train that we really wanted, was just leaving a different track.  We hop on a new train.  Lisa runs down the track to ask the conductor if it is the train we want, and he says no.  We all quickly jump off the train with our luggage before it takes us to an unknown destination.  We eventually find the right track, after lugging the luggage up and down stairs.  At one point, I thought there was a nice citizen.  I was carrying multiple bags (mine, Lisa’s, Jeane’s…I don’t remember anymore), and taking my time up the stairs.  Someone came by and grabbed the side of one of the bags, and helped me carry it to the top.  How nice!  How kind and caring these Italians are.

Five minutes later, he came by begging for change.  I was set up.  The “norm of reciprocity” strikes again.  Eventually our train arrived, and it was the nicest train we had been on yet.  We enjoyed a 2 hour train ride through the country side.  We were covered with green hills.  It was beautiful.

We arrived at the Buonconvento train station and saw for the first time my parents new car.  While my dad was walking the couple blocks to pick it up, we rummaged through our bags and found his missing camera.  He will be so happy.  Because they have a convertible, we couldn’t fit everyone (this time) and our luggage so Lisa and I stayed behind to wait for trip #2.


We walked thru the streets of Buonconvento, used the restroom, checked out the 7-11 type convenient store, and eventually sat outside the tiny train station at a little restaurant and ate a snack of pasta with bolognese sauce.

Dad came back and picked us up, and we drove the 10 minutes to Montalcino, with the stars above us, the top down, and my dad blasting Michael W. Smithmusic because its the song on his ipod that gets the most bass and he wanted me to experience the woofer in the back.  Very funny when a 1980’s Christian pop/worship music singer is your idea of heavy bass.  It was a beautiful drive.  One that I wish we could do again, over and over.  It was a very pleasant evening and it was nice with the wind in our hair.

We arrived in town, walked our bags up and down hills and made it to the cute little apartment with a fabulous view of the green country side.  There was pizza waiting, and jugs, yes, jugs of wine waiting.  We ate, we drank, we looked out through the peaceful valley, and we enjoyed catching up with everyone.


Golden View, Open Bar

May 18th, 2009

May 18th

pharm_smWe did email for awhile this morning after breakfast and then left around 10:00 am to head to the market where my parents bought lots of scarfs.  We did some more shopping in the market, I love that place!  We made our way towards Santa Maria Novella train station as my Mom wanted to visit one of the oldest Pharmacies that is nearby it.  It took us some time to finally find that place, and along the way shopped some stores inside the train station, where my mom bought a cd of organ music as a souvenir, and I bought a live Radiohead cd as well as an Eels cd.  We finally found the pharmacy and it was room after room of history of herbs and remedies and even some fresco’s.  It is one of the oldest businesses to still exist with the same name, having started around the 1600’s.

We ate lunch next door at a curbside cafe and had a pizza.

3seg_smWe went back to have our 3 hour tour, via segway, of Florence.  I was really excited about this.  I have heard so much about them, and how much fun segways can be, plus I am a fan of Gob and his segway riding ways.  I thought this was going to be an awesome way to travel around from site to site and see the city.  Plus, with a tour guide, I was happy to perhaps be learning something new.

I love traveling to places I went back in 1997, because I learned so much before, and it is nice to share the little tidbits that I have learned, with those that I travel with now.  I really feel that the history, the cities, the architecture, and the overall travel experience comes to life when you know just a little bit more about a church, about a work of art, about a time of life.  When it isn’t just a painting anymore, but about a cultural struggle to find relevance and to survive harsh times.  And although I learn a little bit more on these trips, most times its just a rehashing, or a remembering of things I have already learned.  So I was really looking forward to the time with the tour guide.

debbiesegway_smThe segway tour did not start well though.  My Dad was the first one to get the little training session, and he was very shaky and hesitant at first.  He would push and tug on the segway and move really herky jerky like around in a little circle.  The tour guide stood next to him to make sure he didn’t get out of control at all.

So now that my Dad got it down, it was my Mom’s turn to step onto the segway.  She had noticed my dad’s hesitations, and decided to go balls out in learning.  She was much more convicted in her pursuit, and went for it.  However, the trainer did not stay near, and did not give her proper verbal instruction, and before we knew it, she was bailing off the back, twisting her body, falling on the hard cobblestone with a segway almost falling on top of her.  It was a very awkward fall with a twisting knee and body, and a painful thud on the stones that were laid in the street thousands of years earlier.

We lifted her and her bloody cut open knee of the cement, and my Dad walked her back to the hotel while the rest of us did our training.  My dad came back and we then took off for our tour.  There was another couple, then myself, Dad, and Lisa.  We started at the Duomo and the bapitstry doors.  The square was filled with people, and I thought to myself “I’ve had a hard enough time walking on two legs in this square, how am I supposed to control a segway.”  But I managed.  It’s really like Lisa told me.  She said that you just stand there and merely think about which direction you want to head, and the segway magically takes you in that direction.  We hit major stops, learning new things along the way.  Every new stop, my Dad would ask our tour guide a question.  Even though she corrected him every time, every time he would mis-pronounce her name.  And his question at every stop, was about jewelry stores, angel pins, and cross necklaces.


We went by church’s, the river Arno, the ponte vecchio, the uffizi.  We were showed the flood lines when the city has flooded in the past.  Ironically, the last two major floods in the city, both occurred in November.  So don’t travel there in that month.

clowndebbie_smWe were shown the fashionable district, we passed the ferrari store where I took a picture for Juan (though, I don’t think I ever sent it to him).  I learned about the Strozzi family, and the opposition they had with the Medici’s.  Our tour guide showed us these “wine windows” that were about a foot or two off the ground, on some of these palaces.  Apparently, when the palace owners had had enough wine for themselves, they would stick the bottle out these little wine windows, where the peasant waiting there, the citizen waiting there, could then have some wine of their own.

I want a wine window.

We also learned, that the Piazza Republica began as the Jewish ghetto, and a flower and food market.  That it is the exact center of town.  And that the Arch building and the saying on it, is hated by most Florentines.

We learned that in the Piazza Signoria, that most of the statues are still, in fact, the originals.  Even though yesterday at the Accademia, we saw “the rape of the sabine woman,” that that one, inside the museum, was actually the copy.  The original still stood in the square.

We learned that at the top of the Santa Croce church, there is a star of david, and that the architect was jewish.

We also went by the little studio where Michelangelo carved his david statue.  By the way, on this trip I read the wikipedia entry on David, and learned a whole lot about it.  For instance, did you know that the 26 year old Michelangelo beat out Leonardo Da Vinci, to carve the statue?


After our great tour (surprisingly, dad’s and my legs were rather sore), we went back to the hotel.  Our hotel was one of the stops along the tour.  Apparently they had renovated it and found that it used to be a look out tower, it used to be a roman bath, and it used to be a prison.  Part of it was now a museum and you could climb down the stairs to see it.  It was rather cool.  I liked this hotel a lot.   It was perfect location and had great service.  You can read my review of it…if I ever finish these journal entries and write my reviews.

openbarnight2_smWe changed and cleaned up for our dinner reservations.  We had made reservations for the open bar, golden view restaurant again, even though Lisa and I had eaten there 2 nights earlier.  The view was unbeatable, and the food was delicious, so we thought it would be a grand evening.  With live music starting at 9pm, we made reservations for 8pm.

We took our time walking there, taking pictures on the ponte vecchio, looking at jewelry stores for my mom, and enjoying each others company and the beauty around us.

We arrived at our reservation, and they had a window seat prepared for us, and glasses of champagne.  The windows were open and we were basically in a little open terrace, with the river and the bridge right next to us.  It was breathtaking.  We took many pictures, and got started on the first of what became three bottles of the vino della casa rossa.  Yum.

The meal and our time was very precious.  My mom would remark the next day that it would be one of the half dozen meals that she remembers for the rest of her life.  We laughed, we told stories, lisa told some great jokes (who tells jokes about organ musicians, and funnier yet that my mom would know it), and we drank and ate till we could eat and drink no more.

Black truffles were in season, and our waiter told us how they train dogs to retrieve truffles.  We decided to give them a try in our appetizers on top of crostini.  We also had a cheese plate with different melon, a pear and honey spreads.  Had a great and weird pasta noodle with bits of octopus.   I’m getting hungry again thinking about it.  I think I better wait to show the food till I do my food picture review post soon.


We enjoyed all of our foods, including the steak florentine that my Dad had longed for.  We lingered.  We finished 3 bottles of wine, had desert, enjoyed the live jazz music.  It was a gorgeous night.  We lingered over 3 hours there, telling stories, getting to know our waiter, enjoying the food, the fun, and the company.


Just Her Type

Afterwards, around 11:30 pm or so, we walked back to the area of our hotel.  We laughed.  We stumbled.  We fed a pig a coin.  We looked at the chalk drawings on the ground.

Lisa went back to bed (after our gelato stop), but Debbie, Steve and I found ourselves in a street, where a street performer was trying his trade.  However, the best part of his act was when a garbage man came down the street he was working.  Obscenities ensued.

We grabbed walked back to our hotel.  It was a beautiful night.









Quest For The Perfect Pizza

May 16th, 2009

May 16th 

mercato_smIt was kind of odd, being in a big city again.  It kind of felt like I was in civilization again.  That isn’t a good or a bad thing, it just felt like there was a large town now, and lots of people.

I really wanted to get some items posted to my site, so we spent a good chunk of time this morning on the Internet in our hotel’s bar.

After that we started heading out into the streets, walking around, enjoying sunny Florence.  Two days ago on our hike in the Cinque Terre, Lisa lost her sunglasses.  And today, when we left the hotel, I had forgotten mine.  So we hit up a sunglass store and shopped around.  We now both have some european shades to add flair to our trip.

We continued across the duomo piazza, past the rustic building, to the central mercato.  In Florence, they have 4 or 5 blocks that are just street vendor after street vendor.  Often times, the vendor’s push cart is merely in front of their store that is in the building behind them.  Some pushcarts are selling leather wallets, others are selling leather purses or belts.  Some sell souvenir tshirts, while others sell glass or necklaces.

I love this part of Florence.  It is kind of like a giant flea market or swap meet if you will.  11 years ago when I was here, we’d have to walk through this market every day to get to the park where our group would eat our lunch of nutella, bananas and cold cuts.  I have very fond memories of walking through here.  Plus, I love shopping here cause you can barter and find cool items.  Today I bought some soccer jerseys, a belt and a wallet.

I had some friends going to Florence 10 years ago and they bought me a wallet.  It is a wallet I have used since then.  Of course it has been falling apart for a few years, but I said I needed to replace it with one from Florence.  Today I did.

pizzabargello_smWe followed this up with lunch near Piazza Della Signoria.  This piazza is near an old fortress/palace which is now a governmental building and a museum.  In this piazza are replica statues of David and many others.    We had a pizza and it was one of the best yet.

This is a good time to talk about my pizza quest (if I haven’t already).  Once again, 11 years ago, I ate pizza in Italy, mainly in southern Italy (Brindisi, Rome…) and it was amazing.  I will never forget it.  It was not like pizza at all.  I would cut into the dough, which was soggy with its toppings.  As soon as I would cut into it, the pizza would practically drain off.  It was like a big doughy, tomato-y, cheesy soup.  Since then I have always held, that pizza in italy is so entirely different than we have come to know it in the states.  

During this trip, the pizza has been delicious, and different from the states, but nowhere near what I remember.  I am on a search for the perfect, soupy pizza.

Today’s pizza was much soupier, but still not the same.  Though, I have developed a theory on this trip.  The pizza has gotten better, the further south in Italy we have travelled.  I think it might be a regional thing.  Much like their sauces are regional (creamy base to tomato base), maybe their pizza is too.  Do I really have to travel back to Brindisi to experience this again?

obarwine_smWe were still sore from our hike a couple of days ago, and still interested in finding a massage to work those kinks out.  We asked our concierge and the best they had to offer was having the masseuses come to our room.  I’ve never done that before, and it was a little weird having it in our own room, but of course once I slipped off into relax mode, I forgot all about that.

After our massages, we were in our room, and we heard a lot of clatter from the street below us.  We looked out our window and the street was packed with people, in orderly lines and groups, like a giant marching band.  It was like a parade, but it was a protest.  It was a giant protest march.  The signs they were carrying spoke of communism, of schools, of 1972.  They were singing, chanting, clapping, playing drums and instruments.  It stretched from the Duomo, all the way to Piazza Signoria.

obarview_smFor dinner tonight, we went to the Golden View, Open Bar restaurant which is just on the other side of the Arno.  It was spectacular.  Great views, great food, lovely company.  The restaurant was all white and had a really bright and cheery atmosphere.  We started our meal with some mixed Crostini.  Our second course was some Gnocchi for Lisa, and some Penne for me.  Then, Lisa had some Chicken I believe that she loved, and I had a giant steak Florentina.  I figured, when in Florence…

All were extremely delicious, and the wine and service were great too.  It was unbeatable.

We walked home happy and satisfied, taking pictures of the river, the bridge, and all the crazy town folk.



Friends In Florence

May 15th, 2009

May 15th 

ilpirata_smWent to Il Pirata for breakfast and enjoyed a couple of delicious Sicilian pastries, and then we caught the train to La Spezia then Pisa and finally on to Florence, having to change trains at each station.  Carting luggage up and down stairways onto the wrong tracks and then finally to the correct Binari.

Arrived and exited the Firenze train station, but exited the wrong side of the station, and then started walking in the wrong direction away from the city of Florence.  Oops.  400 yards away, we asked for directions to the Duomo, and was told to go back the direction we came from.  

We found our way to the hotel, and it was a beautiful hotel in which part of it was a museum as it used to house a roman bath, a jail, and a lookout point.  It definitely was the 4 star hotel that it advertised itself as–at least compared to the other places we have stayed.

republica_smAfter checking in we took a little stroll to Piazza Republica and ate a pizza and some wine.  Following that, we headed towards the duomo, to check out its graceful, colorful beauty.

After our 7 hour hike yesterday, we were kind of interested in a massage, and so when we stumbled across a place that looked like one, we headed in to examine it.  But it was mainly a tanning and waxing place that was a little odd, and they had no openings for massage.

Spent some time on the Internet, and then walked towards the River Arno to find a restaurant.  We went down the street next to the Arno, but there wasn’t anything interesting there.  So we crossed the Ponte Vecchio to the other side, and guess who I saw at the base of the bridge?

I noticed the back of his hair and the side of his face first.  I’m less than a foot away from him, and I realize that it is a Wold brother.  Was it Josh?  Jeremy?  I don’t recollect the name at first.  I say “Josh Wold!” but didn’t get a response.  Then I said “Jeremy Wold” and didn’t get a response.  But then I realized that it was Josh, and said it even louder.  This time he turned around.  

Josh is the brother of one of my dearest friends, David Wold whom I met and lived with in college.  Josh was currently living in Holland, and was merely in Florence for the weekend.

pvech_smWe had a short conversation and then continued on our ways.  Why is it, when travelling on trips like this, that it is bound to happen that you run into someone that you know?  That has happened to me frequently.  When has it happened to you?  and with whom?

I took a picture of the Bibo restraunt where we all ate 11 years ago.  They weren’t quite open yet so we went to a nearby restaurant where our waiter Victor entertained us with his friendliness.

I Just Got Lost, Every River That I Tried To Cross

May 12th, 2009

May 12

We awoke to street noises and the st. mark’s bell and then got our day started around 9am.  We debated heading all the way back to the train station to check the schedule for our exit the next day, but instead decided to hit the internet cafe.  I also was needing to email our next hotel as they wanted notice a few days in advance, of our approximate arrival time.

We got to the internet cafe, and it was not due to open for another 15 minutes, so we found a nearby street cafe and had an espresso and a cappichino.  It was my first attempt (I think) at an espresso and I must say it was quite bitter, I think I eventually had a bigger sugar to coffee ratio.  However, I had most of lisa’s cappichino and it was the best one yet of the trip.

The cafe opened and we took care of buisness.  At that point we decided to get on a water bus and make our way across the backside of the canal and go to a few churces across the way.  But once on the bus, we had front seats in the air, we didn’t want to get off at the 3rd stop.  So we decided to stay on for all 15 stops and then get off at the last stop and do the Accademia museum instead.  We were enjoying our cheap bus ride, in the open air.  Part of me thought we should just go round and round all day.  It was that much fun.  Though, we got off at the Accademia museum, and before going in the museum, ate some pizza at a cafe right outside.  Mike would have loved this pizza because it was not very high quality and tasted like it was frozen pizza from back home.  Lisa barely made it through a slice, and I wasn’t gonna leave it.  

There was no line for the museum and it was not very crowded.  It started with some byzantine art, but worked our way through art by Veronese, Bellini, Giogiorne, and some Tintoretto’s.  I recall from my trip in 1997, that my favorite two items from this place was The Tempest by San Giogiorne and The Feast in the House of Levi by Veronese.  I’m not sure why I included the Tempest, because on further review, there wasn’t much special to it.  Although, it had a long and complicated history, so maybe that is what I found so pleasing.  Veronese however, I think I really like.  I like many of his pieces, and The Feast I think is one of my favorites.  I also like the story and history behind it.  It takes up a giant wall and is full of details.  I think I could spend hours looking at it.


Part of me wishes that there were some great museums with just one or two pieces of art.  I think I’d like to once, just sit for 2 hours in front of one piece, reflecting, praying, writing, and seeing what thoughts come to mind.  But in days of fast travel, and even quicker society, there isn’t time for that.  Maybe one day.

Speaking of speed, we made it through that museum in a mere 45 minutes.  Hopped back onto the water bus, with intentions and determinations this time of getting to the churches across the way.  The first church was called Il Redentore (the Redeemer).  This church is beautiful.  Not only is it pretty, but every nave seemed to have a great piece of art by Tintoretto.  I loved the arches, and the domes and the perked ceilings.  I snapped a couple of pictures, but then got reprimanded, albeit kindly.  Il Redentore has a cool background story.

sangiogiore_smWe walked a few blocks and then realized that we needed another water bus, and found our way to San Giogore church.  Lisa enjoyed the beauty of this one more than the last.  It is a gorgeous church with a large campinelle.  It housed great works of art, and we could take pictures more freely, and explore more depths of the choirs and main basillica.  We took the elevator up the campinelle for great views of Venice.  As Dr. Carlander would have said, “beautiful.”  Lisa must be getting at least slightly annoyed, as I keep reminicing about when I was here last, travelling with school, enjoy the friendship of Andrew.  Some things that we are doing, such as visiting these 2 churches, were things that I did and enjoyed so much before.

Along those lines, after San Giogore, we took a water bus to the San Salute church, which when I was here, was our stop.  I was attempting to find my way back to the hotel I stayed at before, so I could show her where we would climb in and out of the window, and how it was right across from where a famous poet once lived. We found the Hotel Messener, but despite going in every alley, could not find my window or the poets house.

tintoretto_smWe traversed over bridges, through alleys, across squares and then more bridges and found our way back to our room.  I did some Snide prep work and we rested.  Then, we went back to the itnernet cafe where I spent a frustrating 2 hours trying to publish my Snides.  The attempt to upload a video to youtube kept failing, I would get typed and insert a bunch of photos and tags, and then the computer or server would freeze and when I would re-enter into the right page, I’d find that I lost 20-30 minutes of work.  We kept buying 30 minute increments, and eventually I completed (all but the youtube video) of my posts up until Venice.

We then walked about 45 minutes looking for the perfect place to enjoy our last meal in Venice.  Sadly, we didn’t find the perfect place, but gave up  looking cause we were tired of walking, and energetic for food.  I had a caprese that was substandard and Lisa ate some very good minnestrone soup.  My next plate was Spaghetti Pomodoro which was very delicious, and she had a pizza Margerhita that was substandard.  All of this chased down by frizzante (Peligrino).

We made our way back to our hotel, stopping briefly to take some very nice pictures in St. Mark’s square, as the sky light was perfect.  We tried to set an alarm lisa downloaded for her computer as we were going to attempt to wake up at 5:00 am so that we could catch the 6:00 am water bus, that would get us to the train station by 6:30 so that we could catch the 7:20 train ride to the Cinque Terre.  This train ride would take approximatley 7 hours so we didn’t want to miss the early train as the next one was 2 hours later and wouldn’t get us to our destination till 6pm.

Needless to say, I was not expecting a great night of sleep, as I had my doubts on if the alarm would work.  Little did I know, that it was going to be an even worse night of sleep than I expected and would still end in failure, with slight redemption.


San Siro-iously Cool

May 10th, 2009

May 10th


We left for the game about 4 hours before game time. I wanted to make sure there wasn’t any hassle with the tickets, as well as to leave plenty of time to get there and to soak in the entire experience. The game started about 8:30pm and we arrived at the stadium approx 5:30 after a subway ride and then a 20 minute walk. The town reminded Lisa of Wrigleyville. We barely made it into the stadium as we were supposed to have a change of name form (every ticket has the original name on the ticket for security and for regulation of the resale market). Perhaps we had nice ticket attendants, or perhaps since there was a language barrier, they decided to let us in anyway. On the subway and outside the stadium it was a zoo of people, and this was about 3 hours before the game!

andyfield_smWe found our seats and they were awesome. We were just north of the penalty box. The stadium was much different and better than I ha expected. On TV, you see these glass walls and a lot of fencing behind the goals, but this was not bad in person. We had wondered if they had stadium food, and what it would be. Would it be hot dogs and cokes? Pizzas and pastas? It ended up being a lot of panini’s. Lisa was disappointed in the women’s bathrooms, as it was just a hole in the ground. I didn’t make it to the men’s to find out. We sat in our seats for 2 hours before the game. The stadium still had a ton of people in it, and they were all ready chanting away and lighting their flares, and loud booms of gunshot like noise filled the stadium. It was quite a spectacle. The stadium was filled with banners, and people wearing red and black. There was one section of Juve fans, behind glass walls, and when they would chant, fans would stand up swearing and cursing and flipping them off. You’ve gotta love European football.

milanfans_smEventually the players came out for warm ups, for announcements, and then the game began. I was saddened that Del Piero-one of my all time favorites-was not in the starting 11. As well as that Inzaghi was for Milan – not one I like. There were a few series of tricky passes in a row, but not a lot of opportunities. I was disappointed in Kaka’s play, but Beckham was delivering some nice balls. Milan easily could have been up if Inzahgi could finish. The score was 0-0 at halftime, and then all the fans around us started lighting up their cigs.

The second half was just as sloppy but eventually Milan scored by Seedorf on a deflection to him right in front of goal. But then, a few minutes later, Juve answered right back with a cross that was headed in by Iaquinta. More sloppiness ensued, and eventually Del Piero came on as a sub, and Beckham and Inzaghi were replaced by Pato and Ronaldinho.



The game ended in a 1-1 draw and then it was a stampede to get out of the stadium. We got out of the stadium, but little did we know that we started our walk back to the train station in the wrong direction.

We got about 3 miles away in the wrong direction. When we tried to fix our direction, we only headed in a different wrong direction. 2 hours later we were still walking lost, asking every traffic cop for answers and getting confused looks.

Finally, we made it back to our train stop. However, by this time it was 12:15 am and the trains were closed.

So we hailed a cab, and 20 Euros later we were back at our hotel, exhausted and smelling like smoke. My legs were so sore and tired.

What a great experience and I am so thankful that it worked out. I have always wanted to go to a Europeansoccer match and have missed out on a few opportunities. To get this opportunity and it be with2 of the biggest clubs in the world, with some of the best players in the world, in one of the most famous stadiums–it was a dream come true. I can’t wait till next time now. At $200(US) per ticket, I got every dime’s worth. Maybe we can find a way to score some tickets to the Champions League Finals in Rome while we are there (very unlikely)!!

What The Duomo

May 10th, 2009

May 10th

We awoke around 6am, packed, ate breakfast, and then eventually made our way up and down the town stairs to the ferry.  Took the 30 minute ferry ride to Varenna and then the 10 minute walk to the train station.  We waited at the train station for about 45 minutes and then caught the hour train ride back to Milan.  In Milan we stayed about 20 minute walk from the station and about a 20 min walk to the city center.  We only did one of those walks, you guess which one?  Ok, it was the one when we didn’t have luggage to carry (and when we knew which direction to head).  Checked into The Best Western which was nicer than any USA Best Western.  Flat screen tv, wood floors, a nice bed, and our first bidet of the trip (that went unused).

After about an hour of getting in, utilizing the wifi internet, the reception still wasnt done with our passports  or had our game tickets (yep, got tickets to the soccer game!) so we decided to go walking towards the city center.  We didn’t exactly know where we were going, but I figured that eventually we would see a big duomo in the sky.  We did.  They had this long corridor of shops before you got to the duomo square.  I saw a sportings good store and went inside in search of an AC Milan jersey, and an Inter team t-shirt for a friend. We found both!  Hopefully my friend likes the shirt, or else I will keep looking.  I was excited to get the jersey before the game.  It was a little pricey as it was more of an authentic jersey, and not the cheap ones they sell from the generator powered push cart vendors.  In the shop, we talked to two sales people who were wondering if we lived in the O.C (“Don’t Call It That”) and wanted to exchange houses with us.

alduomomilan_smWe then continued on towards the Duomo where lisa gave a hello, a “how you doin” in italian.  We got accosted by street salesman selling their knickknacks, and by others who were selling bird seed.  When we wouldn’t buy the seed, they would throw some near us and then the birds would descend on us.


We made it to a street-side cafe, and had a lunch of pizza, and a panini.  Very delicious (channeling my inner Dr. Carlander).


Made the walk back to the hotel, and picked up our soccer tickets.  Face value of 43E, we paid 150E per ticket.  But it would be worth every euro to me.  I changed into my jersey, uploaded some pictures to the computer as backup, and then made our way to the game.

This Week I'm Thinking About: Jason Roth