Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Italy: summary of highlights, lowlights and other happenings that I found noteworthy.


Okay- so no kidding. 4 cities in a week. yeah, I am tired.

We left Paris on Tuesday and took a bus. Bus. BUS. Bright idea right? No, but it was cheap. Actually it wasn’t too bad- and proved to be a very relaxing way to travel. The tour company took care of all accommodations and travel between the cities so there was very little to worry about.
I almost died laughing though when we first got to Italy. We pulled into a gas station around 4 am and the reason I knew we were in Italy was because the pump was labeled “Servito.” A good friend of ours, Roxanne, believes that the Italian language is just an English word with “O” tacked on. Even at my groggy state that early in the morning, I could clearly tell that we weren’t in Kansas- err- France anymore. Not that the French don’t have their own issues with ending -or not ending- words in a funny way. Rox- I would have taken a picture but I wasn't thinking with a clear head!

Florence- Our first stop was a day in this quaint town. We had a some good recommendations on what to see in Florence so that helped a lot since we only had the one day to fit it all in. The most amazing thing about Florence is the history of the city itself. I particularly enjoyed the importance of art in this city and the amazing detail of all the structures. We asked a local for a dinner recommendation and it took us forever to find this place—it was one of those alleys, then another alley- but not THAT alley, then another alley etc. . . The restaurant was called 4 lions (in Italian) but it was tremendous. Excellent. Too much wine. I also had the best ice cream/ gelato of my life. KOOKIES. It’s a recommend. Almost worth flying to Florence just for the ice cream to end all ice creams. I spent the rest of the trip trying to find the same flavor. Florence photos: click here!

Rome- So overwhelming. So. Over. Whelm. Ing. We did a bunch of touristy things the first day we were there, Colloseum, Forum, Pantheon, the ancient Roman ruins, Trevvi fountain, Spanish steps. The second day we were advised by our trusty guide to get to Vatican City early- so we left our hotel at 6 am and made it to the Vatican by 7 am-not bad considering that included coffee. We started with St. Peter’s which is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. We then went to the top of the dome, which was a real test for those afraid of heights, and I bought some souvenirs for family on the roof of St. Peter—just because I could! Really- how cool is it that t came from the roof of St. Peters?! After we returned to the courtyard we saw why exactly you should get to Vatican City early. There was a GIANT line to get into St. Peter’s. Yay for Rick Steve’s. This picture is of me chilling with Rick. After lunch we headed over the Vatican Museum. Okay- here is my major rant about the lack of crowd control in this museum. There is only one path. . . and at the every room there is a sign that reads: “Sistine Chapel, this way!” Yay, I thought! We are almost there! 67 hours later *exaggeration* we were shoulder to shoulder with other tourists and still seeing signs that read: “Sistine Chapel, this way!” All I could think was—lies! lies! lies! And in the city of God. . . . shameful. Finally when we get to the famous ceiling I have to say—don’t shoot me here people- but I kind of thought it looked like every other ceiling in the Vatican Museum. I took an illegal photo of the Sistine Chapel just to help relieve my crowd frustration. Some Germans were doing it too . . . Hee hee. Rebel. We then stopped to eat- see the trend with the food- and took a pretty walk. After getting to an internet café, we caught up briefly with the outside world and looked for the restaurants that the beau-parents recommended. Sorry gang, I hate to say that we were unsuccessful. A very nice 15 year old helped us look up the addresses on the Rome yellow pages but we couldn’t find the addresses! Another big bummer for the beau-parents, but I looked in every shop available for green sambuca! I couldn’t find it! I was crushed. Sorry! If it helps, I have converted my friend Diana to looking for it as well! Rome photos: click here!

Padua- It was pretty cool to see the shrine of St. Anthony of Padua given my affiliation with the St. Anthony, Minnesota connection. (Not sure if St. Anthony is named after THIS St. Anthony.) Actually, I saw a lot of Tony—I saw his teeth, his vocal cords and his garments. Which made me wonder what Tony is wearing now. . . Not very modest. . . (blushing) We were only in Padua for a few hours, just enough to see the church, the relics and a bit of the town. During the course of that short visit, I did manage to lose my sunglasses. “Tony, Tony turnaround. Something’s lost and must be found. I went back to the restaurant where we had lunch and walked in the door and the cashier, who didn’t speak French or English, handed me back my sunglasses before I said anything! Pretty cool. If only I were that lucky every time I lost something. Maybe, I could just work on not losing my crap all the time. . . . Who is the patron saint of absent minds?
Padua photos: click here!

Venice- I heart Venice. HEART. Despite how touristy it is, I found Venice quite charming and relaxed. Venice is filled with street after street of mask shops, glass shops, lace shops and great food galore! After Rome, I was feeling a bit monumented-out, so Venice was a welcome break. Venice is just plain cute. I loved being around so much water and seeing the sites. I also had a good time watching the kids feed the pigeons. A big language breakthrough came while visiting Venice. Diana and I stopped at a café for dinner right before leaving. The menu had pages for Italian, French, German and Spanish. Casually, I flipped through the menu and started reading. I had been perusing for 5 minutes before I realized that I was in the French section. Winner! YES! (Fist pump.) In all reality, I kept wishing that the Barrister would have been there with me, he would have loved it and it didn't seem right to be there without him. Venice photos: Click here!

On the return trip to Paris, there was a woman, who reminded me a lot of a drunk Julia Child. This woman kept yelling to everyone who would listen and our tour guide just kept looking at the rest of the bus with his hands up in the air and making apologetic faces. At one point, I did assert myself and say in the nicest way (and probably with broken French.)

"Madame, those girls are sleeping, those girls are reading, please be quiet. Please. You are talking quite loudly." I nodded my head in the- you’re a wee drunk but I am trying to be nice in the middle of the night kind of way. - At which point she imitated my slow speaking speed and said: "I UNDERSTAND. I UNDERSTAND!" ok. At least I tried. I bet I get brownie points for the effort.

I am now back in Paris for a couple of days and I am heading to Munich tomorrow. While there we are going to drive through the Black Forest a bit and make a stop in Salzburg for a night. We are also going to visit the Dachau, the concentration camp, on the 61st anniversary of the liberation. I am really looking forward to this next trip and would appreciate any comments about people's favorite places in those cities.

I will post as I am able. lovies until then!


Anonymous said...

Italy?! I am sooooo jealous of you!

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Beth H. said...

Hey Dana! Beth (piano girl) here...I've been checking up on your blog every once in awhile. I am so jealous. It sounds awesome! Ironically, your past few trips have all been to places I went in Europe a few summers ago. I can't wait to hear about them in person. =)

Sriracha said...

Take the Sound of Music Tour in Salzburg. It is cheesy, but in the best way. You know the way. The sing-along way.
Munich (Moonch-Moonchies as I like to call it) is one of my favorite cities for a walking tour. Go to the Munchen HBf (train station) and on the side of the tracks is a little office. Ask for the "Hitler and the Third Reich" Walking Tour. They take you to all sorts of hidden history. It's a great preface to the Dachau trip.
Ah! Education!

Anonymous said...

gelato! yes! your lies, lies, lies quote made me laugh out loud! glad that you are having a hoot. sjansen

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