ted & pamela

Archive for July 2011

City of the Sea: Italy Days 11-13

Monday, July 18th, 2011
View from the Rialto Bridge

View from the Rialto Bridge

2011-07-10 Italy Day 11: Venice’s Santa Croce, San Polo, Cannaregio

Activities:

  • Early flight from Catania to Venice, delayed due to ash from Mt. Etna’s eruption 2 days ago.
  • Lunch. Bad pasta.
  • Long nap at the Giardini Papadopoli.
  • Wandered northern Venice. Saw some churches, ate some gelato, did some window shopping.
  • Dinner at a rude restaurant with a wonderful canal-side view.
  • Hung out on the Rialto Bridge; took pictures of the Grand Canal.
  • Did some shopping and made our way back to the hotel.

Observations:

  • We have now “experienced more Italian culture” — volcanoes, in addition to strikes, can cause delays.
  • Venice is still pretty warm at midnight. Afternoons are brutal.
  • It really is much cooler in the shade.
  • Next time, we will pick a room closer to the center of town.
  • Streets in Venice are mostly short and not straight, making a labyrinth if you are trying to go anywhere in particular.
  • Shops in Venice seem to be a bit cheaper than shops in Positano and Capri.
  • Food just doesn’t taste as good after having been spoiled by home cooking.
  • Pamela will no longer eat mozzarella cheese that does not come tied in a bow.
  • It’s not cool to try to convince people to sit down at your restaurant. Nothing you say is going to help them make up their mind when you are acting like a car salesman.
  • Our waiter for dinner was particularly rude.
  • Venice is a pretty city.
  • Yay for showers.

Doge's Palace Quad

Doge's Palace Quad, with the Basilica poking up in the background

2011-07-11 Italy Day 12: Venice’s Piazza San Marco

Activities:

  • Breakfast: Croissant at bar by hotel
  • Vaporetto to San Marco
  • Hot. Went to Basilica. Long line in sun. Got gelato instead.
  • Museums–one of Venice history/culture, one archeological, one something else.
  • Lunch in Museum Caffetteria
  • St. Mark’s Basilica
  • Doge’s Palace
  • Granita
  • Campanile
  • Dinner: Pizza
  • Vaporetto partway home. Got too hot; got off and walked rest of way.

Observations:

  • We don’t get up early enough to avoid the crowds.
  • Afternoons in Venice are too hot to be outdoors.
  • The floors in St. Mark’s Basilica are both beautifully decorated with mosaic tile work and decidedly NOT flat. We wonder why.
  • The rest of the basilica seems to have a more Byzantine style to it in comparison with the Vatican.
  • We manage to always be getting kicked out at closing time. Left the basilica as it closed at 5; got chased out of the Doge’s Palace as it closed at 7; left the campanile after it closed at 9.
  • I’m glad we didn’t take the elevator down from the campanile that we’d planned to, because right after it left, one of the bells started ringing and put on a terrific display.
  • Water taxis are only cool if they aren’t so crowded that you can’t breathe. The vaporettos along the Grand Canal need to be running at least twice as often.
  • People in Venice are rude. I definitely got clapped at like a dog by a shop keeper who tried to shoo me away from his window that I was blocking, and he had the nerve to later ask if I wanted to buy something because I dallied. I was actually blocking his window less when I was sitting down, but couldn’t seem to find the desire to leave after he made me stand up and so was now blocking it more.
  • The pigeons covering St. Mark’s Square seem to disappear sometime during the evening.
  • The water in the canals here seems to be dirtier and leave steps covered in algae, unlike the crystal-clear water that we went swimming in in Marina di Patti.
  • Granita is good for cooling off.
  • Half a bottle of wine seems to be a good amount for the both of us. We still have yet to find any amazingly good pizza in Italy.
  • Ted is fond of skirts and heels. Pamela doesn’t understand girls who walk around the city all day in horribly-uncomfortable looking heels, but is glad she was wearing a new skirt instead of pants today.
  • Too many places say no photography, for no apparent reason.
  • No one checks to see whether you paid for a ticket on the vaporettos, similar to the busses in Rome and Positano. We have no idea how they actually make money.
  • They also weren’t being to anal about enforcing the dress code at the Basilica. Perhaps they were taking pity on people due to it being so hot.
  • Pamela’s knowledge on cheese and on Catholic art and symbolism is apparently lacking, it would seem based on her lack of ability to answer Ted’s questions.
  • Pamela is undecided whether super-fancy churches should stop being used as churches due to the constant distraction of people walking in to see them, or whether it’s cool that they still can be used as churches.
  • St. Mark’s Piazza started flooding from holes in the middle at high tide. Weird. It is also decidedly NOT rectangular.

Master Glass Artisan at Work

Master Glass Artisan at Work

2011-07-12 Italy Day 13: Venice’s Murano

Activities:

  • Post Office: Mail postcard to Liz.
  • Coop: Buy carton of juice and 2 yogurts for breakfast.
  • Vaporetto to the separate island of Murano.
  • Lunch: Pizza.
  • Guided tour of Glass Museum.
  • Studio demonstration of glass sculpting.
  • Shopping for Murano glass sculptures for the house.
  • Vaporetto back to hotel.
  • Shopping & Dinner (ravioli) in neighborhood near hotel.
  • Stay up late repacking everything smaller for flight home tomorrow.

Observations:

  • “Cereal” flavored yogurt is not at all the same as having yogurt with granola in it. Yuck.
  • The default type of water seems to be carbonated. Not sure why they don’t like straight water.
  • We have never once been given a spoon with which to eat our pasta.
  • There do not appear to be any mammals living in Venice besides the humans.
  • There is a decided lack of diversity in restaurants. Not sure why no one has thought to try opening a restaurant serving international cuisine (although we’ve seen sushi once or twice).
  • Glasswork is hot. Furnace. Bad in summer. But super cool to watch.
  • Glass artisans work FAST, even with details.
  • The water surrounding Venice is not so good for dipping feet into. The steps down/anything touching it is covered in algae, and the water itself is green and dirty-looking if you look too closely.
  • We still don’t like mosquitoes, of any nationality.
  • While all the toilets in Italy seem to come with a bidet, none of them came with toilet seat covers.

New Reunions: Italy Days 8-10

Monday, July 11th, 2011

Chatting across the world with Google Video Chat and Google Translate

Chatting across the world with Google Video Chat and Google Translate

2011-07-07 Italy Day 8: Patti

Activities:

  • Train arrived in Patti, Sicily around 8am, greeted by my cousin Nino and his wife Sara.
  • Breakfast at a place on the beach: rolls and Granita–frozen drink with cream on top.
  • Introduced to son Giuseppe & his wife Patricia and their children Ninni & Vittoria at their house in Marina di Patti
  • Shown the house in Marina di Patti where we would stay & dropped off luggage
  • Shown Nino & Sara’s house in Patti, introduced to son Maulio & Sarina’s mother Santa
  • Showed them some pictures and Google translate. Made Nino & Sara draw a family tree.
  • Went to beach on our own.
  • Lunch at Nino and Sara’s house: Pasta w/ zucchini, cheese; squid & bread; cherries & mini pears
  • Fell asleep. Took 4 hour nap.
  • Went to bakery for breads for dinner.
  • Called Grandma’s house. Attempted to video chat them.
  • Dinner: aranchione or something. balls. fried. filled with goodness. also had pizza, bread, squid, fruit.
  • Successfully video chatted with Grandma and Grandmpa and Aunt Gayle. A “miracle”, according to Grandma.
  • Late bed.

Observations:

  • Sicily is lovely, and my family is extremely nice.
  • Nino’s wife is known to G&G&G as Sarina but introduced herself to us as Sara. I am confused.
  • Everything about Sara is FAST. She moves so quickly I can’t keep track of her. She walks fast, drives fast, cooks fast, oh my goodness. She is also very short.
  • Sara seems to have quickly become really fond of Google translate. Even when we understand what she is saying, she wants to run over to the computer and type it in so we can see the translation.
  • The food here is really good. =D
  • Communication isn’t as hard as I thought it would be.
  • Things to remember: Dogs are dirty. The floor is dirty. Cats are dirty. Do not place things on the floor, and if touching any of the above, wash hands immediately. Finish pasta before eating the bread, even if the bread has already been offered to you. Bread is for the second course. Do not drink the tap water.
  • Thanks to my prowess at grating cheese, I was not completely useless during the preparation of lunch. Only mostly useless, and definitely in the way anytime Sara wanted to move somewhere. She found a way past me even before it would register to me that she was moving.
  • First we went to Manlio’s work, and then later when we went back Giuseppe was there instead. They must be running a family store. It sells printers and ink cartridges and the like.
  • Manlio came home for lunch and then ran back to work. I wish I could do that.
  • Marina di Patti has a pebbly beach with clear blue water.

Sicilian Family Feast

Sicilian Family Feast

2011-07-08 Italy Day 9: Tindari

Activities:

  • Slept in until around 9:30. Offloaded/sorted pictures. Breakfast.
  • Beach!
  • Lunch at Nino & Sara’s house: Pasta Norma ~ macaroni with tomato sauce, cheese, eggplant; spiced prosciutto, fresh mozzarella tied in knots, bread; figs, provolone.
  • Discussed pasta and pasta makers
  • Nino showed us around the property, with his garden, workshed, chickens, etc.
  • Manlio drove us to Tindari and showed us the church there.
  • Manlio and we drove to Messina to pick up his girlfriend Anna from the bus station.
  • Big dinner party at Nino’s with Nino, Sara, Giuseppe, Patricia, Ninni, Vittoria, Manlio, Anna, Santa, Nicola, Teresa, us.
  • Video-chatted with Grandma again. Stayed up late.

Observations:

  • Bread is better here. It’s not all stale and hard.
  • Pebble beaches leave less mess than sand beaches.
  • Nicola brought pictures and music for us. But then we didn’t get to talk to him much because he was at the other end of the table.
  • Ninni has a lot. of. energy. Oh my goodness.
  • Nino and Sara remind me of Ted’s parents–she is sociable and outgoing and always running around doing something, and he is quieter and calmer but enjoys sharing things in his own way.

Dining Room of old Family House in Montagnareale

Dining Room of old Family House in Montagnareale

2011-07-09 Italy Day 10: Montagnareale & Catania

Activities:

  • Got up earlier. Took a walk down the marina. Bought some granita.
  • Nino took us to Montagnareale. Showed us Zia Maria’s house.
  • Lunch: Botacelli with cheese and vegetables; leftovers from last night.
  • Shared pictures, videos, blogs, etc. during the afternoon.
  • Manlio & Anna took us to Catania. Dinner with Anna’s parents, aunts, sister, cousin, etc.: Rice salad with prosciutto, cantaloupe, and cheese; fried chicken and meatballs, tomato salad, pizza, bread; watermelon.
  • Drove to downtown Catania, walked through popular area with bars, cathedral, fountains, etc.
  • Slept late at Anna’s family’s cottage near Mt. Etna

Observations:

  • It seems to be expected that nobody does anything during the afternoon. This is probably a good thing, as it is hot.
  • When it is time to go, somehow everyone but us knows and agrees and is ready to go at once.
  • Anna’s sister is pretty fluent in English.
  • Zia Maria’s house is a bit like a museum–nothing has been touched since the day she moved out and into Nino’s home 4 years ago, and she doesn’t seem to have taken much stuff with her. Luckily, they emptied the fridge.
  • Nino says that Grandpa left his shoes in Zia Maria’s house saying he would need them when he came back, and that he never came back so the shoes are still there. Nino also observes that Grandpa has very big feet.
  • Catania is warmer than Patti. It also has a ton of people out even after midnight.
  • Nino must have somehow understood the note that I left on the door when we went for a walk in the morning. I wonder how bad my Italian was.

In the Shadow of Vesuvius: Italy Days 4-7

Friday, July 8th, 2011

View from the rim of Vesuvius' Crater

View from the rim of Vesuvius' Crater

2011-07-03 Italy Day 4: Naples

Activities:

  • Breakfast: More croissants
  • 9am train from Rome to Naples
  • Check in at Donna Adelina Bed & Breakfast; Chris helps us figure everything out
  • Lunch: Eggplant parmeggiana & spaghetti nearby
  • Tour ruins of Herculaneum with audioguide
  • Hike to crater of Mt. Vesuvius
  • Back to Naples. Walk to Historic Center, see Duomo.
  • Dinner: pizza in historic center.

Observations:

  • Pamela sick. Everything less enjoyable than it would be otherwise.
  • Not only do Italians drive a lot of small cars; they also drive a lot of small motorcycles.
  • Herculaneum is both incredibly well-preserved and incredibly grand for being 2000 years old. Had houses 3 times the size of ours, with walls and ceilings decorated as if they were churches and inner courtyards lined with pillars, etc.
  • If a hike is estimated to take 90 minutes, Ted and Pamela cannot do it in 75 minutes, even if they are told they must return to their shuttle in that time frame. In fact, they’d be lucky to complete it in the estimated 90 minutes.
  • Pizza in Naples isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
  • Naples is a pretty inner-city sort of city.
  • This B&B is well-decorated and well-maintained on the inside, in complete contrast with the outside.

Downtown Sorrento

Downtown Sorrento

2011-07-04 Italy Day 5: Sorrento

Activities:

  • Sick. Slept in past 7am for the first time.
  • Breakfast served at our B&B: Breads, yogurts, cereal, juice, coffee
  • Train from Naples to Sorrento. Checked in to Casa Correale B&B & Gardens.
  • Asked girl at desk to make phone call to Sicily for us.
  • Laundry.
  • Lunch.
  • Nap. Long nap.
  • Woke up at 10pm to a return call from Sicily from Ana, translating for Maulio.
  • Walked through downtown Sorrento. Shopping, dinner.

Observations:

  • All WiFi hotspots in Italy are extremely weak.
  • We shower more often when on vacation.
  • What I called motorcycles, Ted says I should call scooters.
  • Helpful Italian guy not only understood my poorly pronounced question (“Dove posse lavare vestiti?”), but walked us to the laundromat and made sure it was open before leaving us after debating with the woman in the store with him about which laundromat to take us to.
  • Sorrento is much more of a tourist town than Naples. Both less dangerous and less authentic.
  • We really should eat dinner before 11pm. Really.
  • Margherita pizzas are often just cheese pizzas. No basil.
  • Italian trains are PACKED. Nothing like Amtrak. More like BART to the Castro on Halloween, but all day every day. What on earth are they like during a festival?
  • After a 6-7 hour nap, Pamela woke up feeling more sick instead of less sick. This makes no sense.
  • Rooms are color-schemed. Last night we were in the Pink Room. Now we are in the Blue room. Ted notes that painted walls/ceilings adds color to the room.

Positano, as viewed from the town of Montpertuso 1609 steps above.

Positano, as viewed from the town of Montpertuso 1609 steps above.

2011-07-05 Italy Day 6: Positano

Activities:

  • Breakfast served in B&B’s garden area. Yogurt felt good on sick throat.
  • Walked to bus station to take bus to Positano. Learned that the bus drivers and train conductors were on a half-day strike.
  • Found a ferry to Positano instead. Told it would take 30 minutes; it took more like 90.
  • Lunch at a Bar in Positano: sandwich and tuna salad.
  • Began an attempt at hiking the Path of the Gods, a trail that goes from Positano to Praiano. Followed instructions in guidebook for an alternate route to the road normally taken. Got lost several times. Finally made it up to the town of Montpertuso, 1609 steps above the tourist information booth in Positano at which we’d started. Took pictures and turned around, descending again instead of continuing along the path, as it had already taken us 2 hours for a supposedly 30 minute walk of the 5-hour hike.
  • Shopping in Positano. Did not buy anything. Saw several cute white lacy skirts. Expensive.
  • Dinner in Positano: Lasagna and Seafood risotto.
  • Ran to bus stop to take (now-running) 9:40 bus back to Sorrento. Late by 6 minutes. Sat at bus stop until 10:40 bus came at 10:47. Back to hotel around midnight.

Observations:

  • Italy has this funny toast. It comes wrapped in packages. It’s like sliced-bread-shaped croutons or something.
  • I consider public restrooms here to be really nice if they don’t consist of “squatters”–toilets without a seat.
  • We have now, um, “experienced Italian culture”. There seem to be strikes quite often. I’m not sure how much a strike that is announced to be from 9:30am-1:30pm can really accomplish, but it sure screwed up our travel plans this morning.
  • Why is the U.S. so devoid of diversity in juice? Both in Ecuador and Italy, the types of juice available seem to be far greater than the standard apple or orange, etc. I particularly loved my peach juice this afternoon; great on the sore throat, and I really enjoyed papaya juice in Ecuador. Italy also has apple juice, but it is “green apple” juice, a bit sweeter.
  • Tuna was good.
  • I think Ted is more drawn to windows full of women’s shoes than Pamela is. Luckily, he wants Pamela to be the one trying them on, not himself. =)
  • Positano is apparently a really expensive place to go shopping. Sadness.
  • When traveling, it is best to bring more conditioner than shampoo. You are far more likely to get three bottles of shampoo than any bottles of conditioner.
  • It seems to be common in Italy to have the toilet tank hanging on the wall above your head above the toilet. This just makes the toilet take longer to flush.
  • Yay! No pizza today! I’m not eating any pizza for months after returning home.
  • All the prices listed in our Lonely Planet guide are wrong. In the wrong direction, too.
  • Ted: cats are cute. [we saw several cats wandering Positano.]
  • Hidden staircases from Positano are difficult to find, and our guide was not helpful enough.
  • Exercise makes Ted tired.

The Blue Grotto

La Grotta Azzurra

2011-07-06 Italy Day 7: Capri

Activities:

  • Slept in. Oops.
  • Breakfast in B&B garden.
  • Ferry to Capri.
  • Boat tour around the island.
  • Canoe into Grotta Azurra (Blue Grotto)
  • Lunch on the shore.
  • Funicular up to Capri Town.
  • Wandered streets. Bought fruit and pharmaceuticals.
  • Walked back down to beach. Many steps.
  • Ferry back to Sorrento.
  • Shopping in Sorrento. Bought spoon.
  • Train to Naples.
  • Dinner in Naples station. Train delayed.
  • Overnight train to Sicily.

Observations:

  • Pamela seems to like small towns. She was sad to leave Sorrento so soon.
  • The blue grotto was indeed pretty cool, but we were in there for such a short time and it cost so much. =(
  • Prices here would all seem reasonable if they were in USD. Things cost the same # of euro that I would expect them to cost in dollars. However, when accounting for the exchange rate, everything here is super expensive. Shopping sucks.
  • Given Sicily’s reputation for smoking, it is not as hard to avoid cigarette smoke here as I feared it would be. It does not seem to be more difficult to avoid than it is in California.
  • Bread in Italy does not live up to the reputation of its cuisine. Every piece of bread we have been served has been dry and hard.
  • The toilets on the trains are… holes that go straight down.  When I use them, I am essentially peeing on the track.  There are even signs asking you not to use them in or near a station.  The train tracks must be littered with toilet paper.

Past Meets Present: Italy Days 1-3

Monday, July 4th, 2011
Ted and Pamela in the Colosseum

Inside the Colosseum

2011-06-30 Italy Day 1: Roman Ruins

Activities:

  • Breakfast–crepes.
  • Walking Tour–Piazza Navona, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Capitoline Hill, Roman Forum, Colosseum.
  • Lunch–Pizza.
  • Palatine Hill.
  • Nap, Shower.
  • Dinner–Ramona (lasagna, veal parmeggiana, tiramisu).
  • Trevi Fountain at night; witnessed cultural dancing.
  • Stay up until 3am because NOW we’re awake and not too hot.

Observations:

  • Rome has a lot of really old stuff.
  • Ancient Romans really liked arches.
  • Unmaintained cobblestone is hard to walk on.
  • Rome is more enjoyable early in the morning and late at night in July. I guess this works out well if you’re still super jet-lagged; I was ready to sleep and sluggish from about 11am-10pm, and super alert all night…
  • Don’t get hungry between 1:30 and 7:30pm.
  • The Colosseum is really big.
  • It’s funny having 2000-yr-old buildings directly adjacent to modern-day traffic and buildings.
  • Everybody working in restaurants or retail assumes we speak English.
  • Pronunciation really can affect comprehension. Our walking tour guide had a pretty extensive vocabulary but pronounced words funny (e.g. wrong accent or vowel sound) and I had an incredibly hard time following him.
  • Italians drive small cars.
St. Peter's Square from the Basilica Cuppola

St. Peter's Square, as seen from the Basilica Cupola

2011-07-01 Italy Day 2: Vatican City

Activities:

  • Breakfast–croissants.
  • St. Peter’s Basilica–inside + climbing the 550 stairs to the cupola
  • Lunch: Risotto & Pasta at some place nearby
  • Nap on hill near Castle S’Angelo
  • Castle S’Angelo, but kicked out at closing
  • Vatican Museums + Sistine Chapel
  • Metro closed. Bus + walk home.
  • Dinner: gross cold pizza from near the Vatican.

Observations:

  • Pamela likes heights, but not crowds. Couldn’t breathe inside Basilica. Ted minds heights, but not crowds. Couldn’t stand at fence in cupola.
  • The Metro trains and the busses are both quite full. However, the busses don’t seem to have any way to make money.
  • Rome is nicer when overcast, but makes for less awesome pictures.
  • Ted has recently discovered that Pamela is pretty.
  • Museums are more interesting when they come with explanations.
  • More places should come with double-helix spiral staircases.
  • Catholics really like limestone, marble, granite, gold, and bronze.
  • Restaurants serve mostly Italian food.
Ted on the Spanish Steps

Ted on the Spanish Steps

2011-07-02 Italy Day 3: More Rome

Activities:

  • Breakfast: more croissants.
  • Phone store: SIM card + plug adapter.
  • Villa Borghese: After wandering around through the park for quite awhile, found the Museo Borghese and were granted entrance for 1.25 hours. Viewed the first floor rooms with sculptures and paintings with the assistance of an audioguide.
  • Wandered back out of park and finally found the map.
  • Lunch between Villa and Spanish Steps on Via Vittorio Veneto: pizza & panini.
  • Spanish Steps & the church behind them.
  • Wandered through expensive shopping district next to Spanish Steps looking for gelato.
  • Ended up back at Trevi Fountain. Got gelato at a place next door to the place where we got gelato on Thursday.
  • Back to Tremini Station. Found wifi at some cafe there. Messaged Mason and scanned email.
  • Dinner: I Leoni D’Agozzo (?). Pasta.

Observations:

  • Bernini was a good sculptor.
  • There is no gelato near the Spanish steps.
  • Audioguides are very helpful if you are not an art student.
  • Pamela likes parks. Especially large, empty parks.
  • Italy has weird bikes. (The park rented out these 2, 4, or 6-seater 4-wheeled bikes that people pedaled in tandem, but the pedals were definitely not all that powered them.)
  • Wifi hotspots in Rome are very weak and hard to find, even when advertised.
  • When entering a gigantic park and looking for a tiny building, try to find the map BEFORE you go in. Not when leaving.
  • Pamela wants a giant Renaissance painting on her soon-to-be-vaulted ceiling like the one in the entry room of the Museo Borghese.
  • SIM cards are easy to buy, as long as you provide your life history.
  • One of the artists of a painting inside the church had the foresight to imagine that the women must have needed ladders to get Jesus down from the cross.
  • “Prego” seems to have about a dozen different meanings.