10 March 2007

italian vacation

it seems like the gods were smiling on me and xx for our journey. we encountered damn near perfect weather everywhere we went. except siena, but the insanely delicious meal (me: artichoke risotto, she: pizza with eggs and whatnot) totally made up for it.

without a doubt the highlight of the trip was the cinque terre. it'a a little cluster of towns that look like they fell down a cliff and piled up next to the sea. well, here:

yeah. charming as fuck basically. birthplace of pesto, make their own lovely white wine. awash in clams and mussels and such. and home to a seaside piazza where the local custom appears to be getting some wine and sitting around talking and watching everyone else do the same thing.

we did all the major tourist things at the rest of our destinations: leaning tower in; pisa, ufizzi, duomo, the david in florence; and too much stuff in rome to list.

my main goal throughout the trip was to eat and drink as much as possible. i would drag poor xx in to every paticceria (sp?) i saw for treats. i think i averaged about five meals a day. food is good.

one thing i don't get though: at what age do slim, gorgeous, trendy italians pull the ultimate Mr. Rogers and dump it all to turn into (adorable) shortish, cardigan-clad old people? it's REALLY bizarre. it's as though on some birthday they come at you with a little cap and cardigan (bowtie?) if you're a fella and a calf-length skirt, stockings, ortho-shoes, an apron and a headscarf (and perhaps a shopping bag or cart of some kind) if you're a lady. personally, i'd be looking forward to getting old if i got to wear that getup--and get to see my husband in a sweet little hat and suit everyday.

this trip afforded way fewer adventures than india, a welcome change, to be honest. however, there were two somewhat harrowing incidents which i will recount for you now.

the first occurred on our first night in pisa. we'd been in london much of the day (curry, pint, run for the bus), having arrived there after a much-delayed overnight flight. in short, we were shattered and just wanted to get to the hotel and crash. when we deplaned, the plan, as is always my plan but seems suddenly to be more often than not thwarted, was to find a cash machine and get local currency. i do not mess about with those rip-off huts called bureaus (does anyone else out there really hate spelling the word 'bureau'? not a single time have i got it right on the first try) de change. i refuse to pay money to get money, especially when i'm already losing money because our own dastardly currency refuses to be worth a shit; anyway i am not the kind of traveler American Express would approve of, i do not purchase currency in advance or upon arrival and i certainly do not use traveler's cheques. this is my own damn problem, because there were two cash machines in pisa airport. one of them told me my card was not valid for international withdrawals (a declaration xx and i would become well familiar with, and would cause us to rejoice and pull out money any time we found a deutsche bank or a banco tuscana, regardless of whether or not we needed it), the other one might as well have had Xs over its eyes for all the good it could do us. at this point (around 11pm? jetlagged to hell), xx and i just kept looking at each other and saying "what the fuck can we do?" i could smoke a number of cigarettes and pace, xx went in to check the thomas cooke, who, despite being occupied by a live man, was closed and unwilling to help two stranded (bureau-hating) american ladies. some people from the bus service to florence told us there was an atm about 10 minutes away "under that bridge". we clomped off with all our shit and no energy. but we were lazy and once we saw that there was no easy way to get under that bridge, we thought, "fuck this". we decided we'd beg a taxi driver to take us to the bank and then just pay him (for those of you paying attention, this is where the irony that we could've just popped off the plane to the then-open thomas cooke and had our sweet, sweet cash rather than literally paying someone to take us to get money (surely at a rate higher than even the shysteriest BdC's commission) comes shining through). so we go up to a taxi driver and explain our situation, using that incredibly rude, loud and slow version of english reserved for people who don't speak it, and after about 10 minutes of our panicked entreating the driver looks at us and says "you have a credit card? i take(a) the credit card".

the second involves us arriving extremely late from rome into london, taking the last bus from stanstead to liverpool street (in central london) and trying to get a taxi to go to the flat we were borrowing from rope-a-dope. r-a-d was in venice with her hubby and had given us the keys on our way through (see curry above) london the first time. so arriving at 230 am on a sunday and getting in a taxi rank as it's raining all over the place is not the most efficient way to get somewhere. things went from bad to worse when a group of girls came running up, one sans shoes, poked their heads in a off-duty cab, got in and sped off, prompting a girl in the queue behind us to scream "it's not like they're gonna shag yeh!" we waited about 40 more minutes and got into a cab. the driver wasn't quite sure where we were going, so i was craning out the window to make sure we didn't speed past the flat (i was slightly nervous i wouldn't pick it out, as i'd only been there once). anyway. we got to the flat and there was a note "they've had to change the locks, go to xyz Cassland road and ask for cara, she has a spare for you". it's nearing 3am. i'm supposed to go knock on some total stranger's door and ask for a key? yes. and that's just what i did, because i was not planning on sleeping in the rain, love london as i do. after buzzing thrice, a bleary eyed chap, who was uninterested in my apologies, came down and said gruffly (not that i blame him at all) "you sara? it's in the bbq". so back to the flat i went. in the bbq.

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