Saturday, January 21, 2006

Arrividerci Italia

Lesson 1: Please check your train schedules one day before departing for obscure towns in Austria.

We failed lesson 1 and are waiting 6 hours for the next train to take us to Verona, where we'll meet another train to meet another train to take us to Lienz, Austria, small city neighbor of our final destination: Dolsach.

Venice is cold and foggy and we wore pretty much everything we brought to keep from dying. The cold caused a lack of interest in Gondolas and gondoliers from the ladies so the romance was less exciting in Venice than everyone might have hoped.

On the other hand, we happened upon the Peggy Guggenheim museum and saw some picassos and a magritte original that Jane has a print of in her office. I bought her the print and we happened upon the original. Cool.

The girls still alternate each day, one being grumpy one morning, the other the next. Food and caffelattes are the secret to my happiness.

Jane says hi, and if Erin were to have me write "hi," she would then not want me to read it as she never wants me to peer over her shoulder. She should know by now I'm nosy.

If you ever find yourself in Venice, Osteria al Portego is a tight little eatery a few blocks from the Rialto bridge...


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

So here's the thing...

Last time we were in Italy, Internet Cafe's flowed like wine from the tuscan vineyards of legend. Nowadays, everyone has wireless and the business is not so good. Finally, in Florence we've found a place where we can log on to our blogger account, but since it's been so many days, there is too much to tell. Erin and Jane ask the same questions within one second of each other, we all tried odd seafood dishes never before seen on the pacific side of the world, and the Sistine Chapel is still super tight.

We leave tomorrow for Venice after three nights in Rome, two nights in the Cinque Terre, and our one night here in Florence. Erin is particularly excited about Venice. Also, she can't wait to gorge herself on french pastries. But since she won't talk to anyone,I'm gonna be the guy who looks like a glutton.

Anyway, thanks for wondering if we were still alive. We are.

Monday, January 16, 2006

On a Train to La Spezia

The girls are asleep. Jane is feeling sick to her stomach and I keep screwing up the details of traveling. This morning I got us onto a train to Pisa, but Jane kept reminding me we needed to get our Eurail pass validated. She remembered this because apparently I was rude to her about the exact same thing on our honeymoon. I rudely failed to believe her this time around, had not validated the pass, and boarded this Pisa bound train. Finally, on an inspection of the front flap of our pass, plain english declared "must be validated before first use."

We had to walk all the way back from where we had just come. Our validation also resulted in an hour and a half wait. My half-witted planning was rewarded with McDonald's breakfast (at my second favorite foreign McDonald's, #1 being near King George Street in downtown Jerusalem).

Today marks the seven year anniversary of Jane and my first kiss. So to celebrate, we're on a train for 5 hours headed towards a tiny little berg called Manarola.

Yesterday was another long day.

Jane started out ridiculously and inexplicably grumpy, even through breakfast and a walk all the way to the Colosseum. Somehow, the view of this famous monument released Jane from her chains. Once reaching the Roman Forum (on the other side of the Colosseum from which we approached), Erin lead us on the "Rick Steve's" guided walk. Her reading and telling us where to look made for quite a nice tour. Having read Conn Iggulden's Emperor series makes the ruins more fun. We even went to the top of the Palatine Hill to look out as Nero and others must have millenia ago. Lunch was a substitute bar halfway up the hill to St. Peter-in-chains church. Here we tried Italian hot chocolate and the girls were disappointed by our selection. The interior of the Colosseum was next. Erin had finished the reading tour, and as we stood in the Colosseum she had difficulty fathoming the brutality of ancient Rome. I had trouble explaining a "why."

Back up that hill to St. Peter-in-chains church we hiked, and we saw the chains that bound Peter during his captivity in Rome. Also, this church holds the only complete sculpture from Pope Julius II's tomb by Michelangelo. He was commissioned to make around 40 or so masterpieces, but was too often distracted or pulled away from the project. One distraction for Michelangelo was that cheeky chapel.

Our brief pilgrimage to see the relic chains lead us into an epic walk through what I thought were the back streets of Rome. These back streets lead us directly to the piazza directly adjacent to the Italian White House where a military band was rockin' the crowd. After about an hour of walking, we made it to a church dedicated to Loyola in which a dome was supposed to have been built. It never was added, so some genius painted a fake dome ceiling. From the entrance of the church, it really does look like a dome. I'm reminded of Jesus' words about fasting in the sermon on the mount...don't put ashes on your face to make you look worse than you are so you can appear more holy. That's the gist anyway. The painted dome is a funny way of declaring grandeur.

From this church we went on another long walk up a long hill just as it was starting to get cold. The decision was made to head in this direction because we knew internet would be available. The second long walk in an hour almost killed us all, but we needed to get the address of Silbano Roma's restaraunt. Silbano is the brother of Franco, a jeweler frequented by Mr. Roy Bolhorst, in Santa Clara). Turns out the restaraunt is close to our hotel so we took the metro back for a short rest.

Ristorante L'Europeo is a delightful place to spend the evening. Certainly the least expensive dinner we found in Rome, it was also the finest and for Erin, the sleepiest. Wine was cheap, grappa was cheap, and we received a "we know your brother in Cali" discount. Silbano himself was in the house that evening, so we met him, though Erin was too awkward or sleepy to shake hands. Somehow, the Air-bear shook off her narcoleptic tendencies and briskly walked and giggled us back to our room. We managed to put ourselves to bed later than we have been, yet I was still up at 5 am.

This morning some older folks from California were at breakfast. All they did was complain about the little things. As I have written two and a half pages in my journal, the girls have continued to sleep. They share the uncanny ability to sleep with legs spread wide. The fashionably dressed Italian man in the window seat has been quiet (save his cell phone calls) since he boarded the train and the girls decided to sleep.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Amidst Showering and Washing Clothes, Here Are More Details

After the Vatican Museum yesterday, we cruised back over to St. Peter's Basilica. Yes, the Sistine Chapel is right next to St. Peter's, but if you have an audioguide and they have your driver's license, you must walk back to where you started. In the massive basilica we took a peek at Michelangelo's Pieta and managed to find our way underneath to walk past Pope John Paul II's newly finished tomb.

Inside the basilica, I noticed a beam of sunlight streaming in from a high window. I had Jane take pictures of me standing in the light, receiving the Lord's favor. It was an interesting enough idea for other people to follow my lead and others started taking the same picture. Who needs holy relics when you can make your own light show.

Following St. Peter's, we cruised on past the Castel San Angelo, along the Tiber and then crossed over in the direction of Piazza Navona. At this, a very large and popular gathering spot Erin found us an Enoteca where we all had pizza and beer. Sooo, italian. The Rick Steve's nightwalk through Rome to Gelato and the Spanish Steps followed. Giolotti's was tight as ever (having been previously visited by Jane and I in 2003), but the locals received a dollop of whipped cream which we did not :(.

At the Trevi Fountain, we enjoyed the unusual scenery of a very pretty and unusual fountain until a flower seller scammed us for a euro and change. Don't shake anyone's hand or ever hold their goods! Duh. Sometimes you just get tired and foolishly take people at their word.

After such embarassing moments, it's difficult to find your way I got us mildly lost. This lostness plopped us onto the Via del Corso for the nightly Dolce Vita stroll with 20,000 other people. Just around and after sunset, the Romans like to cut off traffic to this main drag and do the "see and be seen" scene. Shopping is so interesting at this time of day that a line of people formed outside of Diesel just to get in to the store.

The spanish steps were just as bustling as everywhere else, so we took a few pictures, got me some McDonald's coffee and headed into the most perilous part of our day. Perilous because I spent 20 minutes waiting to get a metro ticket...and then it became even more perilous. At a busy intersection near the train station, I rushed the girls across the street because once we were in the street I noticed a bus turning right into us. Jane stumbled and fell and stayed mad (understandably) for an hour. Unfortunately for Jane, it was a very funny fall, one of those slow-motion moments where you just keep stumbling for ten seconds before you actually go down. With some wafers, brie and bread in our bellies, we then fell asleep.