Showing posts with label Italy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Italy. Show all posts

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Capri Fun

Remember how a week ago I was in Paris? Yeah, not anymore. And Denver isn't even the Paris of the United States. But I'm here with Christine, baby Wilson, my sister and her fiancĂ©, and my parents. And the two dogs, Jack and Aspen (both girls), collectively known--perhaps just in my brain--as JackAs(s).

But you don't want to hear about any of that, right? I last left you wondering what I did on the other two days I spent on Capri. So we'll start there.

Christine's friend Bea (pronounced "BAY-AH") joined us on our second day on the island, so we had an Italian speaker with us most of the time. That's really the best way to enjoy a foreign country if you don't know the language yourself. So I encourage you to make friends with foreigners. That's Travel lesson #1.

Sunday night (our first night there), Christine and I wandered around the town and eventually began looking for a place to eat dinner. Capri is not a big town, but it does have large number of restaurants, so we had several options. Or at least we thought so. But I guess Sunday night also means a lot of places are closed. We found ourselves in a little alley in front of a restaurant called Michel'angelo. Let me just tell that if you ever go to Capri, you should avoid this restaurant at all cost. It is terrible. Absolutely awful. Just a really bad food experience. I should have trusted Christine's instincts when she pointed out that we were the only people dining in the restaurant. Really, though, I'm sort of glad we ended up eating there because it gives me the chance to use this awesome picture again:

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Capri Sun

I'm tempted to tell you that all you need to know about Capri is that it is beautiful, because I don't know if any words I write will give you the proper impression. Much like how I felt about Pompeii. Clearly I'm not as gifted a writer as I'd like to believe. I'll work on that.

I actually should say that Capri is not just beautiful; it's probably the most beautiful place I've ever seen. Maybe I'm only saying that now because it's also the most recent place I've seen, but I don't think so. It's high on the list. Let's give you an overview: Capri is an island off the Sorrentine Peninsula.  The Gulf of Naples is to the north, and the Tyrrhenian Sea (part of the Mediterranean) is to the south. The island itself is not that big. There are essentially two parts to it: Capri and Anacapri. I guess they're just little towns on the rock named Capri. A woman in a shop in Anacapri told us that the city of Capri has a population of 7,000, while Anacapri has 5,000 residents. During tourist season, I'm sure those numbers at least double.

After we got back from Pompeii on Sunday afternoon, we took a cab to our hotel, got our bags, then got a cab to the ferry terminal. Our ferry left Naples at 2:40 pm, scheduled to take 45 minutes. It took closer to an hour, but it doesn't matter. The ship was pretty big, but not in the least bit crowded. Looked a lot like this:

One thing you may have learned about me by now is that I am a worrywart from way back. I am scared of everything. Here is just a partial list:

The ocean
Disneyland's Haunted Mansion
Bats/Rabies (a partial explanation can be found here)
Normal human emotion

It would seem that a trip to Italy is good way to broaden one's horizons. I'm not saying I've conquered all those fears in the last six weeks, and I'm not even saying which of those fears I've had to face; but I've at least managed to face some of them, and perhaps that puts me on the road to recovery.

(That said, I started this post while sitting in the Rome airport, freaking out about my two-hour flight to Berlin)

The point is, though I started the boat trip across the Gulf of Naples with a fair amount of trepidation, eventually I just sat back and enjoyed the ride. It was a clear day, and we all know how far you can see on one of those days.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Turns out, there is internet everywhere. Which means I can not only check baseball scores, but even watch a game, like I did Sunday night. I saw the Red Sox win, then turned off the Dodgers game in the seventh inning. It was late; I was tired. Give me a break.

I had good reason to be tired, so I hope you (and the Dodgers) will forgive me for bowing out early. I've had a busy few days. Saturday morning I got up to catch the train to Naples. I don't have a whole lot to say about Naples, except that the pizza is phenomenal. We walked around the city for a few hours, and it was okay, but nothing spectacular. But we had dinner at this place called Sorbillo, and it was amazing.  I went with just the standard margherita, because I am a ridiculously picky eater. Christine had the nonna carolina, which involved pesto. I don't know. I had a bite and thought it tasted like hot dogs. So I'm not the person you want describing ingredients to you.

We left Naples early Sunday morning to catch the train to Pompeii. The cab driver who took us to the train station tried to get us to hire him to take us to Pompeii. Only €90 roundtrip. Since I happened to know that the train costs €2.40 each way, we declined his offer.

The train from Naples to Pompeii is called the "Circumvesuviana." Turns out this is quite the clever name, since the train does, in fact, circle Mount Vesuvius. It's sort of a city train, not like the ones we took from Venice to Florence, Rome and Naples. Rickety and noisy, but not as slow as you might think. We were on the express, which took only 27 minutes (advertised as taking 23), as compared to the 36 minutes that the local train takes. Either ride is fine, since you get a nice view of Vesuvius pretty much the whole way. This makes it easier to accept all the graffiti and the layer of dirt that seems to cover the whole train.

The thing about Vesuvius is that it's big. Bigger than I thought it would be. I guess I've seen pictures, but that's not the same thing. I suppose I just thought that if a big volcano exploded and buried a thriving town, maybe there wouldn't be so much of that volcano left. Vesuvius in my mind was not nearly as imposing as it is in real life.

I happen to know that at least one of my readers is planning a trip to Italy for next March. He wanted to know if it's worth it to go to Pompeii. My short answer is absolutely, without a doubt, yes. The long answer is after the jump.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Ciao Venezia

Last day in Venice. It feels like we are heading out just in time, as the number of voices speaking English has increased dramatically in the last two weeks. Now it seems as though there are almost more native English speakers than there are native Italian speakers. And that just ain't right. I should be the only one speaking English here. I didn't travel thousands of miles to listen to a bunch of Americans blather about trivial crap; if I wanted that, I would have stayed home.

I've experienced quite a few unexpected pleasures during my stay in Venice. I wanted to come, and was excited about it, but in some ways that was only because I like lists and accomplishments; checking Italy off a "places I've been" list had a certain appeal to a headcase like me. But it turns out I love this place, and I am truly going to miss it when I'm gone. My memories of pushy, smelly Italians will fade, and I will be left with the gorgeous images of life on the Grand Canal. Not a bad way to spend six weeks, for sure.

We have just a little more than twelve hours to go, but we've been saying goodbye to Venice all week.  Today we went to the Ponte degli Scalzi, which is one of the four bridges that span the Grand Canal.  This one is near Ferrovia, the train station. If you ever see this bridge, and look closely, you'll notice that all along the hand rails, there are lots and lots of padlocks. I guess the story is that "lovers" (I hate that word) place the locks on the bridge as a symbol of the strength and longevity of their love. So, of course Christine and I added ours to the mix. I don't know what it says about the metaphor that the locks are periodically snapped off and thrown away, but I'll just ignore that part of it. Here is the result (I was just a supervisor, and Christine did the actual artwork):

One side of our lock. 

The other side of the lock, as it looked after we put it on the bridge.

I don't know if/when I'll be able to write during the next two weeks, as I travel through Napoli, Pompeii, Capri, Roma, Berlin and Paris. I will have internet, and you can be certain I will be checking baseball scores as often as I possibly can, but writing a post might prove to be difficult. I hope you'll understand.

The gondoliers who go by our window sing various songs to their passengers. I love them all, but I have a favorite. And since "ciao" means both "hello" and "goodbye," it is only fitting to leave you, and Venice, with this (I did not take this video):

Friday, May 14, 2010

Dear Christine

I have about seven days left in Venice. Well, six if you take out Sunday, because I'll be spending that day in Milan. Did you know you have to book your tickets to see The Last Supper in advance? Like, three months in advance? No? Well, neither did we. So barring a lucky turn of events, I guess we won't be seeing that particular fresco. Anyone have other suggestions for Milan? This will just be a day trip, so I'm looking for quick, interesting sights that will allow me to later say, "Milan? Yeah, I've seen it," and then be able to back up that comment with some knowledge.

So, we will be leaving Venice on the morning of Saturday, May 22. We will be spending Saturday night in Naples, and getting up the next morning to head to Pompeii. I don't know how much time Pompeii takes, but we are banking on not more than a few hours, because then we are heading to Sorrento to catch a boat to Capri. Three nights on Capri ought to be at least a little bit relaxing. Then on May 26 it's back to Naples by boat to catch a train to Rome, where we catch a flight to Berlin. Five nights in Rome, followed by five nights in Paris. Then back to Denver.

Denver just doesn't have quite the same ring to it, does it? But my pup and my nephew are there, so it's paradise as far as I'm concerned.

Oh, but the fun doesn't end there, because once we get back to Denver and unwind for about a week, we'll be off on a road trip. Probably to New Orleans first, then back west to Marfa for a few days, followed by a day or two in Scottsdale (where we will try to not spend any money, as we are definitely part of any boycott) to see Lindsay's family, and then finally back home. We're thinking late June or early July as an ETA in Los Angeles. That adds up to a total of five months away from the City of Angels. What's changed, Angelenos?

The other day, Christine teared up at the idea of leaving Italy. These are her people, ancestrally speaking, so she hates to leave them. I can only partially understand that, since I don't even have a real hometown, let alone an entire heritage. But I do like the Italian people. They're incredibly nice and they have a beautiful country. So what's not to like?

That actually wasn't a rhetorical question. I have a list. Composed as a letter to Christine. Honey, just read this when you get sad, and you'll be reminded of a few reasons to be happy you're leaving.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Pictures Florentine

I'm annoyed with Picasa, as it seems to be stripping the colors of my uploaded photos.  So here you get a post comprised entirely of photos.

(I know there is a slight weirdness with the centering here, but I have no idea what the hell to do about it.  Blogger tells me the photos are all centered, even though they're clearly not in line with one another.  It's not really that noticeable, so let's all just deal with it, shall we?)

Two girls on a bridge.

         The dome of Santa Maria Fiore (I think).

      Santa Maria Fiore (I think).

The front of Santa Maria Fiore.

The square where a copy of David stands.

Christine looking at Ponte Vecchio.

Ponte Vecchio.

Christine on a bridge.

Two girls on a different bridge.

Piazza Santa Maria Novella.

Santa Maria Novella train station, at 7:27 pm.

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Little Pretty, A Little Ugly

Christine and I went to Florence this weekend.  Well, really just on Saturday.  Got up early, caught a train, and got to Florence at about 10:30 in the morning.  The number one thing we were there to see was Michelangelo's David.  Everything else was just a bonus.

We caught a cab to the Gallerie dell'Accademia, where David is displayed.  I suppose we probably stood in line outside for about an hour, during which it started to rain.  But I had come prepared with an umbrella, so we were good to go.  We got inside, paid the admission price, and headed into the first room.

You'll remember that when we went to see the Sistine Chapel, we had to walk for a mile before we even got to the big attraction.  I fully expected this to be the case for David as well.  So imagine my surprise when I walked into a room and started looking at one of Michelangelo's practice pieces, and Christine said, "there he is," and I turned to my right and looked down the hall and there was the man himself.

I should note here that I'm not what you'd call a huge fan of a lot of the art in Italy.  I might be crazy, but while I find it impressive that people could create that sort of thing in that era, I'm also of the opinion that one can only see so many paintings of Jesus and the saints and Mary without thinking they all pretty much look the same.  It's been a bit of sensory overload, and I'm sure that the "religious art" section of my brain is filled to the brim.

Now, while I realize that Michelangelo's David is technically religious, in that it's found in the bible, I'm not going to remember it as religious art.  I'm going to remember it as awesome.  But not in the way the word "awesome" is overused these days (especially by me).  No, David is awesome in the original meaning of the word.  The thing truly inspires awe.

We walked around and looked it from every angle.  We got up close, then went further down the hall to see it from a distance, which I think is the best view.  It looks bigger that way somehow. It's all alone underneath a domed skylight.  It's about seventeen feet high, and sits on a pedestal that must be about six feet tall. So it's an imposing figure in the room.  But it's not just about the size.  It's just how completely perfect it is.  This was once a giant chunk of marble and Michelangelo made something that looks like it could come alive at any moment.  David's muscles ripple the way they would in life, the veins in his arms pop, and his face tells you everything you need to know about what he's thinking in that moment.

I'm sure I'm not doing a decent enough job explaining this.  I guess you can't really "explain" art anyway.  One just has to see to believe.  I was not expecting to think much of David.  Hell, I had always assumed (when I thought of him at all) that he was a life-size sculpture.  He's definitely not.  He is larger than life in every sense of that term, and it's something all of you should see if you haven't already.

Christine took an illegal picture while we were in there.  They don't want you snapping photos because they want to make sure you'll buy postcards and posters in the gift shop afterward.  We did both.

And now for the "ugly" portion of the trip.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Another Italian Weekend

This past weekend was all about Tuscany.  I learned the name of the place we stayed, but I still can't tell you, because it's a celebrity's private residence.  We were, in fact, the guests of said celebrity.  Am I bragging?  You're damn right.  All weekend I had meals--amazing, extraordinary meals--prepared for me by the nicest, most talented people.  I had free reign over a huge amount of property, and I had a freakin' blast.  Here are a few pictures to give you an idea (for some reason uploading to Picasa changed the pictures just enough that you don't get the richness of the colors; I don't know why, so just imagine everything looking more brilliant):


Meanwhile, my ability to keep track of what's happening in the baseball world gets worse by the day.  At this point it's all I can do to remember to check scores and try to maintain a general sense of the season thus far, but it's difficult.  My knowledge at this point breaks down to: Dodgers can score a lot of runs, but can't really pitch that well, and they've been a little bit streaky (currently on a three-game winning streak after losing a bunch, for instance); and the Red Sox suck (no analysis necessary on that one, as all I need is to see that they keep losing to the Orioles).  I'm looking forward to getting back to the states and maybe being able to watch a game or two (the internet issue we've had for the last two weeks hasn't made it easy for me to even attempt to catch an game, but I'll be trying this week), but for now I hope you'll forgive me for not making this much of a baseball blog.

Also, I miss my dog.  A lot.  For those who don't know or remember what she looks like:

On the left is the first picture taken of Jack when she arrived at the Pasadena Humane Society in February 2006.  On the right is what Christine calls Jack's "school picture," taken when Christine decided to do a photo shoot in the costume department of "Public Enemies" back in June 2008.  My heart seriously hurts every time I look at that first picture.

And a more recent shot, with baby Wilson:

Friday, April 30, 2010


You want to see a few Rome pictures? Sure you do.  Nothing is more fun than looking at other people's vacation photos.


I'm going to some place outside Florence this weekend.  I don't even officially know what the place is called yet, and I probably couldn't tell you even if I did.  It's a secret location.  Let's just say a friend of a friend is hooking us up with some sweet accommodations in the Tuscany countryside.  For free.  As Orel said recently in the comments section, sometimes life really is good.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Roma (continued)

NOTE:  This is the second part of the previous post, which was written on Monday evening Venice time.

When we got to the line for the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel, we were told it was at least a three-hour wait to get in (Christine heard five hours), and that the place was closing in two hours.  That math didn't work for us, so we listened to one of the hucksters selling us a guided tour that would bypass the line, and paid her our 25 Euros each.  We were told the company did tours in English, Italian and Spanish.  We were told that the guide would have a little microphone, and all the tourists would have little earpieces through which the guide's voice would broadcast.

We were not told that it would be one guide doing the tour in all three languages, so that after she finished with one language, the people who didn't speak the other two just had to stand there and wait for it to end.  We were also not told that the guide would spend the first half hour standing outside the walls of the Vatican, waiting for more people to show up and pay, and repeating over and over again (in all three languages) that this was the wall of the Vatican, which is a nation unto itself.  This was one of three things we learned (even though I guess it doesn't count because we already knew it) from the guide that day.

We were also not told that the guide's English would be essentially indecipherable.  I appreciate anyone who can speak more than one language, but if you're advertising yourself as being able to guide a tour in English, then the English speakers in the group should not have to guess when you've switched from a foreign language to our own.  

We were not told our guide was crazy.  She spent a lot of time arguing with several people in the group who spoke Spanish, and who apparently wanted their money back because they were tired of standing and there and waiting for the tour to actually start.  After these arguments ended, no one knew why we were still waiting at all, and eventually it came out that we were waiting for some other employee of the company to bring the disgruntled tourists their refunds.  Yes, the entire group had to wait for that.  

To make a long story only a little bit shorter, eventually we got into the museum.  After Christine confirmed with one of the gift shop employees that we could get into the Sistine Chapel easily from where we were, we turned in our headsets to the guide, got our deposit back, and raced for the chapel.  I don't think it's a coincidence that the other three people who turned in their headsets at the same time were all English speakers.

And now just an aside to the rant from above.  Walking through the endless corridors one has to traverse to get from the entrance to the museum over to the Sistine Chapel (seriously, it's insane; we must have walked a mile, indoors, through extravagant hallways and rooms, just to get to the Vatican's most famous room), I was struck again by the sheer audacity of the Catholic church.  They put all this on display, some of which has to be the spoils of a war fought long ago (why else does the Vatican have a super impressive collection of Egyptian relics?), and everyone comes to see it (and pay a pretty penny to get in most days), but we're still talking about a church.  A church that believes in Christ and the ideas that he embodied, most of which were about helping your fellow man.  It doesn't help anyone to know that the Vatican has billions of dollars worth of history inside its walls, and that's just the part they let the public see.  Can you imagine what the Vatican storage room must look like?  There's a reason the church has been able to pay off many, many victims of sexual abuse over the years, and yet not really take a hit financially.  And it's all kind of gross, if you ask me.

There was so much to see in there, but we were worried we wouldn't make it to the Sistine Chapel before everything closed, so we rushed.  We stopped in the Egyptian room because that stuff was awesome, and for some reason the Vatican has a mummy, as well as other artifacts from those non-Christian heathens we calls the Egyptians.  We looked up at the ceilings and over at the walls as we walked through as quickly as the crowds would allow.  We spotted a Dali in the "modern religious art" section, so we stopped for a second to look at that one.  But our singular goal was the Sistine Chapel.  And we eventually got there, and the place is as awesome as one would think.  It was super crowded, of course, and you weren't allowed to take pictures (though Christine surreptitiously did anyway, and I'll post it later), and there is no way I saw every detail of everything thing that's in there.  But I can now say that I've seen the Sistine Chapel.  And perhaps I'm a better person for it.

Back in Venice, on my walk to the market today, I passed through a nearly empty square.  In the center, near a well that was covered up long ago, were two little boys,--one brunette, one blonde--who couldn't have been more than three years old.  Despite their age, they were having quite the profound disagreement, and I recognized it as one I've had many times over the years.  And it made me think of the way the Catholic church approaches the modern world.

Brunette:  Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!
Blonde:  Nooooooooo!



NOTE:  I wrote this post more than 24 hours ago (in other words, on Monday evening in Venice), but my internet problems have continued, so it's only posting late Tuesday night in Venice.

We took 389 pictures in the roughly 30 hours that we spent in Rome over the weekend.  I have yet to put one of them on my computer, so you'll have to wait a bit to see photographic evidence of our shenanigans in the City of Seven Hills.

We crammed a lot in during our short stay (that's what she said), and we had a great time.  We saw the Colosseum, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, St. Peter's Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, and a bunch of other stuff I'm forgetting right now.  

Sunday morning we got up early and headed to the Vatican because we heard it was free on Sundays from 9:00-12:30, so we thought it would be crowded.  We could not have been more wrong.  We got there and almost had the place to ourselves.  The plaza in front of St. Peter's was mostly empty, and after we took a few shots, we walked right in through the security without having to wait in line.  More people started to show up as we walked around the basilica, and there was a bit of a line as we left to head toward the museum and Sistine Chapel, so we definitely lucked out there.

Here's what I have to say about St. Peter's: as I walked in, I was understandably impressed by the scale and detail of the place.  A lot of work went into making that building, not to mention a lot of money.  But let's mention the money, shall we?  Because while I can look at a mosaic tile rendering of some biblical story and think it is pretty, or see some statue carved out of marble and be impressed by the craftsmanship, the more I look at this stuff, the more I wonder what the point is.  How many paintings/statues/mosaic pieces of Jesus can you really have before it starts to be obscene?  How much of the money used for these purposes would have been better used in aiding the poor and/or diseased?  

I was raised Catholic.  I've been baptized and confirmed.  I've obviously gone astray in the last decade or so, but there is a part of me that still really misses the tradition.  I went to mass once in Los Angeles because, more than anything else, I missed the structure.  I like knowing that I will always have to kneel and sit and rise at exactly the same points during any given mass.  I like knowing the Lord's Prayer and the Nicene Creed, and I like reciting them with large groups of people.  This is still true about me, even if I find myself because more and more agnostic as the years go by.  So part of me felt kind of nostalgic in St. Peter's, even if the service that was going on was being recited in Italian.

And then I remembered.  Those priests that just walked by?  Yeah, they hate me.  The entire system of the Catholic church is based on the premise that there are certain ways of doing things, and if you veer off the path even a little bit, you're screwed.  So don't use a condom, don't have premarital sex, and above all, don't find yourself attracted to a member of your own gender.  Christine likes to say that the individual people within the church don't hate gay people, but that doesn't actually matter to me.  If you're part of a system that truly believes that gay people are going to hell, or that it's a sin to practice safe sex, even if you don't personally believes those things, you're just as guilty as those who do believe.  You're perpetuating the system.  And you're making life miserable for a lot of people in this world.

The point is, the longer I was in St. Peter's, the more I felt this oppressive weight on me.  I could actually feel the hate that this church (both the actual building, and the entirety of the religion) has supported and/or caused over the years.  It made me ill. 

Christine and I talked about the way the church clings to tradition, even when that tradition makes no sense in the present day.  Priests were originally forbidden to marry so that they would have no heirs or spouses, and the priests' assets could be returned to the church upon their deaths.  That system is more than a little screwed up.  Then there's the idea of women not being allowed to have a role in the church, or the belief that even married couples shouldn't practice safe sex.  If the church wants to be seen as relevant in today's age, it wouldn't hurt for it to be a little more flexible.  Enough with the secrets and the lies.  Come clean about the sex scandal, and maybe do something about it, other than lying to the public and paying off the victims.  Embrace a more accepting version of Christ and his teachings.  And consider getting rid of the Nazi pope.  Just some suggestions.

Bet you didn't think a post about my trip to Rome was going to turn out like this, huh?  Me neither.

Of course, this is not to say that I didn't enjoy myself in Rome, because I certainly did.  A lot of the stuff I liked the best was pre-Christianity, though, which probably goes without saying.  So don't worry; there will be another post with pictures and plenty of happy stories about Rome, without the ranting.

But next, the story of our trip to the Sistine Chapel (in a separate post).

Friday, April 23, 2010

Cut Off

Monday night, the internet went out in my apartment.  Tuesday, I wrote my last post, and since then I've barely had any access to the internet at all.  I only get online when I'm at Christine's office, and I don't like to hang out there for very long.  So I suffer.

And the internet has not yet been fixed in the apartment, despite many promises.  So, I'm at Christine's office once again, where I arrived after a two-mile run around Venice.  I started off having a general idea of where I wanted to go, and then I just changed my mind somewhere in the middle.  I tried to map it, but there's a good chance that in the middle there I took different little side streets or alleys.  But the distance is roughly the same, and the path is close to what I actually did.

At that little "2" I hopped on a traghetto and crossed the canal, then walked the few hundred feet to Christine's office.  I believe this will be considered my Venice adventure for the day, especially since I almost bonked my head on a boat as the traghetto backed out of its space.  I might be unconscious right now, if not for the quick reflexes of a man riding with me.

Yesterday's adventure was my attempt to get proof that I am sort of a local here in Venice.  I walked to Piazzale Roma, which is the bus station on the west side of town (you can see it on the top left of the map up there), in order to obtain my IMOB Venezia travel card.  You see, riding the vaporetto here can be an expensive proposition if you don't get one of these cards.  Each little ride costs €6.50, which is really annoying if you're only going one or two stops.  But if you get a card, which cost €40, you only have to pay €1 for each ride.  Or you can add another €28 and get unlimited rides for a month.  Obviously a much better deal.

So, I headed over to the ticket office (after first thinking that I had to get on another boat from Piazzale Roma, but realizing that I was standing in front of the place I needed to be), where a man sold me a form for €40.  It was all in Italian, and though I could get a general sense of what it wanted (name, address, etc.), I wasn't sure about all of it.  Also, I didn't have a pen.  And when I went to a different window to ask a guy if I could borrow a pen, he reacted in a not-so-pleasant manner.  So then I went looking for where I could buy a pen.  It's a tourist area, so surely a kiosk would have some stupid souvenir, right?

Wrong.  At least not that I could see.  So I went to a grocery story down the street and spent €3.24 on two erasable pens, which were the only ones I could find.  I had spoken to Christine to find out about translating the form and she had told me she knew of a site that would tell her everything I needed, so she would call back.  After I purchased the pens, I took the phone out of my pocket and stared at a blank screen.

The thing with this phone with a prepaid SIM card is that if it turns off, you have to re-enter the PIN to make it work again.  I could not for the life of me remember this number, and this is when I nearly cried. But I made a stiff upper lip, went back to the ticket office, sat down, and stared at the form.  I figured out name and address and date of birth (though I did it backward, American style, even though I knew they wanted it European style; it wasn't spiteful, just a mistake).  And I even figured out that something on there meant "city of birth," though for some reason I forgot to fill that in.  I was pretty damn proud of myself, even though I left several boxes empty.  I decided to chance it and walk up to the window, praying that they wouldn't yell at me in Italian and send me on my way.

Turns out I did a lot of worrying for nothing.  I handed a woman the form and my passport, and after she laughed at me for messing up my date of birth, she proceeded to put all the information in the computer.  She took the photo I had brought with me and used her little webcam to take a photo of that photo.  Then she handed it back to me.  I almost laughed. And then I waited.  And waited.  And waited.  She never said a word, but by glancing at the screen I could see that her computer was not doing what she wanted it to.  She printed out my card, but apparently needed to validate it or something, and it took her about twenty minutes to just take it over to her neighbor's computer and spend five seconds doing it there.  Then she handed me my card, and voila, Erin [surname redacted, even though most of you know it] had something that almost made it seem like she truly belongs in Italy.

In case you're wondering, that picture on the card is one of me in Scottsdale, holding up two adult beverages.  It's hard to tell, but it's a good picture.  And only makes me look like a bit of a drunk.

This weekend, we're going to Rome.  6:30 am train on Saturday morning, returning Sunday evening.

Monday, April 12, 2010


Um, I'm in Italy.  This is weird.  Perhaps you haven't noticed, but I am a bit of an American.  Not in all the ways that I consider that a bad thing (backwards conservative thinking, love of NASCAR, for instance), but in the sense that I am used to following the isolationist doctrine (which, actually, is also a bad thing, so forget it; I'm American in almost every sense of the word).  I like a lot of America.  I've seen a lot of America on various road trips.  But I've never left the country until now.  And, no, Puerto Rico doesn't count, since it is an American territory, and despite the Spanish speaking, it definitely feels American.

Venice does not feel American.  It feels Italian.  I've been here just over 24 hours, and I already feel Italian, for god's sake.  It's just strange to me that I'm even here.  It still feels like a dream.  I mean, I have Euros in my pocket and I'm typing this blog from my dock on the Grand Canal of Venice.  This is what I see when I look straight ahead:

And look at the view when I turn to the left:

My brain doesn't even know how to process those images yet.

I went to sleep last night at around 11pm (it was a struggle to stay awake that long), after watching the Red Sox win and the Dodgers blow a lead again.  I didn't wake up today until 2:45pm.  And I only woke up then because Christine came crashing through the front door, convinced I was dead because I hadn't responded to any of her emails (I didn't have an Italian phone yet) all day.  I haven't slept like that since I was teenager (if even then), but I guess that's what jet lag does to you.  So, I sort of wasted my first full day in town.  But I walked Christine back to work, all the while trying to pay attention to the landmarks so that I wouldn't get lost when I had to make it back to the apartment on my own.  And guess what?  I didn't get lost.  I walked back to the Piazza San Angelo, got some gelato, and took it back to the apartment.  No wrong turns, and no need to pull out the map.  Yes, I was proud of myself.

Tomorrow, I will wake up at a reasonable hour, and I will go for a jog.  I will bring a map with me, but I fully intend to get lost because that's what I think one should do in a new city.  I'll get lost, and then I'll find my way home again.  And after the jog, I'll watch the archived footage of the Red Sox game, since I can't bring myself to wake up in the middle of the night to watch it live.  At least not until I get used to the time change.

Right.  Did I mention that I'm in Italy?