Wednesday, July 27, 2011
I realize it's been quite some time since I've blogged but in my defense I just spent the past 3 weeks directing a summer musical theatre conservatory with 24 kids with the end result being a performance of 2 shows, Aladdin and Beauty & the Beast. It was a LOT of work but also an incredibly great time!
So here we are... in Florence! The hotel was some what off the beaten path which was a bit of a downer... it's always nice to be right in the heart of the city however there was some kind of fashion show going on so not only were hotels pretty much booked but the prices for rooms in the city were insane! Our hotel room had MUCH to be desired... including space. We had no where to put our luggage. Granted we might as well have packed for 5 people but I digress... Luckily we were able to change rooms the next day to where we could at least have a bit more space.
There were some very amazing things about Florence... one is the shoes and did I luck out in getting the most amazing pair of heels! I simply love them!!! The next was food. Thanks to our good friend Rick Steves we went to a place that I imagine if it were nighttime would've been scary to walk to. Hidden in a narrow ally but a restaurant where all the locals hang out. We had the most amazing meal! A ministrone soup... cold... since it was hot outside. It was so good! Then the kicker and the meal that was the best thing I ate the entire trip was a gorgonzola chicken. Now anyone who knows me will tell you that I never finish a meal. Ever. I just don't eat all that much but when the food is this good... I don't stop eating. Not only did I finish mine but I had a few bites of mom's too since she got the same thing. I loved it so much that I asked the manager if the cook was single and if so could I propose to him? Well he wasn't single... but he was nice enough to come to our table and give us the recipe!!! I can't wait to try it once I get home in the next few weeks!!!
We managed to get into the Accademia Gallery where we met David... whose hands are abnormally large considering the size of... everything else. There was also time spent looking for leather wallets and things like that... but they were quite pushy and if there's one thing I hate... it's people who try and push me into buying their stuff. It's annoying. All in all... Florence was okay. The Duomo was beautiful of course... there's no question about that. But compared to Paris and Venice... I just wasn't into Florence. As we left we figured it was a pretty uneventful visit to Florence (minus my amazing shoe purchase) until...
Our cab driver must've already had a horrible day because when he picked us up at the hotel to take us to the train station he seemed pretty disgruntled. After putting our bags in the car and all of us in and ready to go he immediately raised the price on his meter. So naturally I looked at mom and said something along the lines of "I wonder why the price has already been raised". Well Grumpy not only gave us an explanation but he pulled over and yelled at us about it. Then continued to drive to the train station muttering to himself in Italian. I would like to point out that this man was not exactly what you would call attractive. Think of a slightly taller version of Danny Devito with a mix of Dick Cheney. ... yea... you understand now. So when this guy would intensely stare at women as he drove I would sit in the back seat and laugh. He definitely didn't hide it and it got to the point that while he was muttering under his breath I was muttering how he didn't have a chance in hell with these women.
We arrive at the train station and low and behold... the price for the cab ride went up... again. This goes on the list of things that I didn't like about Italy... they constantly took advantage of Americans... especially with cab rides. So we questioned him again and Grumpy decided to start yelling at us. He even called over one of his cab buddies to translate. Yelling is all fine and dandy but the second he stepped in my mothers face it was pretty much over. Now as we all know... there are universal signs and words that everyone understands. For instance the word "no" or waving to say hello or goodbye. I would venture to say that flipping the bird and using the f-bomb rank among them. So I'm using both of those lovely gestures towards Grumpy, he's yelling in Italian and doing all these crazy arm gestures and mom is telling him at in a very loud and authoritative voice to go commit a physical impossibility. It was an outstanding moment in mother/daughter history... tag teaming against this horrible excuse for a man because he over charged us. Not only that but all of the Florence train station was witness to this act. Turned heads were every where... and the big kicker... the part that makes this moment so monumental is that as we were walking away I looked back (just in case I had the opportunity to share with him my favorite birdy gesture again) and saw a nun. That's right folks. A nun had been witness to the entire event. Immediately I thought it might be a good idea to genuflect to her... but the moment past so I let it go. I like to think that the argument sounded a bit like this:
All in all, the food, the shoes and the mother/daughter tag team made Florence fun! Finally finally finally... we're off to the cruise!!!
PS-I saw this amazing saying in a bathroom stall at the Accademia... I just had to take a picture of it!
Saturday, July 9, 2011
I had been looking forward to arriving in Italy pretty much the entire trip... so when we got to Venice (despite the fact that it was raining)... I was thrilled!!! There is something incredibly special about this place... even in the rain while taking the water taxi to the hotel I knew this. It has this kind of indescribable beauty about it. It's mysterious and alluring and simply captivating. When we arrived to the hotel... the elevator-less hotel... we were wiped! Lugging luggage is not a walk in the park.... especially when the hotel manager tells you dragging it up step by step is not allowed.
Our first priority was to eat. I believe I was way past starving at that point... and for those of you who know me... I'm not a happy person if I don't have food in me. We spoke to a few people in the lobby and they said there was a good pizza place that the manager told them about so when we asked her (the manager) she literally walked us there. The best pizza I've ever had in my life (up until that point)... and to make it all better the name of this place was "Pizza Planet". That's right! Just like the fun zone in the first Toy Story movie. We couldn't believe it. To make things better toward the end of our dinner a large party came in... all local Italians... and it was hilarious watching them! After we ate, Mom suggested we go to St. Marks Square. The sun was just setting and the colors in the sky were perfect. As soon as we set foot in the square I started crying. It was SO beautiful! I've never seen anything like it!
I should mention that when we booked our hotel they said they were giving us a room with a view along the gondola route. Well they were right about the route... but the "view"... it was our neighbors laundry line... whites in the morning... darks in the afternoon.
The next few days were spent walking, shopping and eating. We took our Rick Steves book with us every where and at one point we decided to go to a demonstration of how they make the murano glass. Our good friend Rick told us to just show the shop owner his book and he'd take us to a free demonstration. So we walked in... held up the book... and the look of recognition was instant! It was pretty cool... and their selection was beautiful!
Food in Venice was... alright. If we didn't go to the places that Rick Steve suggested we were mostly disappointed. For lunch one day we didn't have the book so we decided to trust our instinct and go to this particular whole in the wall (since past experience has already taught me that those are the best bets). They didn't have a menu in English (already a good sign) so the waitress read aloud to us our options. As soon as she said fried fish we were in! It sounded perfect! Maybe 10 minutes later she comes out with this very big plate of fried fish, fried squid, fried crab and fried anchovies. In a state of shock we just looked at each other and after a minute or so decided we needed to fix this. There was no way we would eat it... okay I take that back... not that we wouldn't eat it... it's just it was SO much food and we literally only wanted the fish. We called the waitress back to us and told her our dilemma and she said in her thick Italian accent, "I don't understand... this is fried fish". Well we couldn't argue that... they fried practically the whole ocean for us. After lots of hand gestures and some very bad italian on our part we got what we wanted. To their credit... it was very good! So moving on... for dinner that night we decided to go to a Rick restaurant... followed the map... walked a bit and where did we end up? The fried fish restaurant!!! We were already embarrassed about the afternoon so decided to just keep walking.
The other fun part about Venice was mask shopping. We some how managed to find a few shops where they personally made the masks... you could smell the glue and everything. They were SO beautiful. One of the shops we stumbled upon the man made the masks there but also had all these costumes to go with them. He said they use it for a big masquerade party that they have in in Venice in February... I'd give just about anything to go to it!!!
Honestly, deciding what to buy was kind of difficult... but you know how you just know something belongs to you? I had that with the 2 masks I got... especially the one below.
All in all, I really loved Venice. Don't think I could ever live there... but I KNOW I'd LOVE to go back some day!