Monday, June 14, 2010

Catching Up

I seem to have hit some sort of wall with updating. I haven’t written any blog entries in 4 days now. Sorry, guys., what’s happened...I took the train back to Madrid where I stayed overnight. I walked from the station to my hostal, because this time I knew where it was, and it was either walk up the hill with my luggage, or do all the stairs of the two metro stations with it; you might even call it a rock and two pickles kind of situation (inside joke).
While back in Madrid, I went to the Plaza Santa Ana because there’s a “Federico García Lorca memorial” there, which sounded like something I’d want to see.
It’s a little, statue that says his name on the front. It’s tiny. It’s not even the dominant statue in that plaza. There’s a much bigger one for something else at the opposite end. I was disappointed, as you can imagine. So disappointed, I didn’t even take a picture.
That night, after dinner, I went for what is, apparently, a Madrid must-do, according to my lonely planet guide: I went for chocolate con churros at a place just off Puerta del Sol called the Chocolateria San Ginés. You might have had churros before at an amusement park or something, but they’re different in Spain. They’ve still got that characteristic long, thin, ridged shape, but they’re plain, and softer and freshly made, and you get a little stack of them along with a cup of chocolate that I would describe as being kind of like warm chocolate pudding, but not gelatinous like pudding can be. That’s not overly appetizing sounding, but it was good and different and a cool experience to sit in this little narrow street at an outdoor table at almost midnight, and the tables were mostly full and stayed relatively full—when one emptied, people sat at it sometimes before it was even cleared.
The next day...well, it’s pretty much like you’d expect, I think. I took the metro to the airport. It’s about an hour between transferring (might be less without all the luggage, but...yeah) and finding lifts and/or escalators. The one station, Cuatro Caminos, to get to line number 6 (grey) which I only had to take one stop further, you go down 4 of the longest escalators I’ve ever seen in my life. And that’s from another line, not even from ground level.I don’t want to know how far underground that puts you.
The airport was airport like. Lots of waiting and struggling with bags. This flight was on Meridiana, and they are officially known from here on as the luggage Nazis. Where BA, Air France, and Iberia all allowed up to 23kg for your bag, Meridiana allows 20, and it’s not per bag. You pay a fixed rate for the first 20 kg, and it can be spread out among as many bags as you want. Then you pay €12 for EVERY kg you go over that limit. Yeah. So I had to do a lot of creative shuffling. Long, loooooong story short, my bag...19.9, bitches. Yeah. I did it. Course, that meant everything heavy was in my backpack. If I hadn’t also weighed it, I would have sworn it was as heavy as my luggage. It’s amazing what a difference 3kg makes on your back.
So, we loaded onto the plane relatively on schedule, then the captain said they were just loading the luggage, so a short delay of 15 to 20 minutes.
An hour and 20 minutes later, we FINALLY took off. Someone in the back of the plane clapped. The rest of us we’re thinking it.
This put me about an hour late in Florence, where the people who run the place I was to be staying at we’re waiting for me to arrive because they don’t stay here the rest of the time. I was supposed to call if there were any major delays, so I tried to call them as soon as we landed, and I couldn’t make the stupid travel cell phone dial correctly, so I had to get a hold of my dad (it dialled fine when the number was already in saved in its phonebook. I’ve since figured out I was using the wrong combination of + and * and #, which go in different places in the number. Ugh.) and get him to call them, which he did because he’s cool like that.
I got a taxi painlessly, and the guy was really nice and let me butcher some Italian with him and even told me I spoke very well (which I have two theories on: 1, he sees lots of tourists who probably speak as much Italian as I did German when I got to Vienna, and they probably all have terrible accents for romance languages, and 2, he’s paid, ie tipped, to be nice to tourists). We got to the place quite quickly, and I rang the bell to be let into the building.
No answer.
On the sign, it says if there’s no answer to call the phone number I hadn’t been able to call at the airport. So again, I had to call my dad and get him to call them and then he called me back to say that she said she’d be right there, having left because she thought that my plane sitting on the ground for an hour meant I wouldn’t arrive for another hour. Not so much. Anyway, after she got there, all was well. The keys here are crazy. the front door is a fairly normal house key. The inside door of the locanda (I think that’s the Italian equivalent of pensione, somewhere between hostel and hotel) is this scary looking key that should open a magic book or something. The door key and bathroom door key (since it’s across the hall) are extremely old, simple keys that look like you could pick the lock with a butterknife.
By that point, after I got settled in, it was pretty late, so I just went for dinner. I found a little pizzeria near the Piazza della Independenza, I think, and pretty much felt like the obviously gay waiter was laughing at the stupid tourist girl, since he had a table of friends he was joking with most of the time. Want to know how I knew he was gay? Yeah, you already know the answer to that, don’t you? (The answer is that every time in the last 5 years that I find a man attractive, it means he’s gay. He was cute, therefore gay). Not to mention, straight men don’t wear pants that tight. Just sayin’.
The next day (yesterday, ie. Sunday), I bought some groceries for breakfasts, and then mostly wandered around the city to get my bearings.
I saw Ponte Vecchio, which is pretty much something I wanted to see since my very first Italian class in my first semester of University when I was 17, so that’s kind of awesome. It’s all jewelry stores in the buildings now. The bridge itself is a little over a thousand years old (seriously), which I can’t even think about properly. I walked a bit along the Arno river, and had lunch at a little outdoor cafe across the bridge—foccaccia with turkey, mozzarella and asparagus, and a lemonsoda.
I also saw, of course, the Duomo (Italian word for cathedral), with the huge dome, and the bell tower (or Campanile), though didn’t go into any of them just then.
In the evening, I went to the Piazza della Repubblica and had dinner at another outdoor cafe. Simple spaghetti pomodoro e basilico. I had a craving for it. On the walk home, there was a HUGE crowd down the street laughing and clapping, so I had to check it out. A Charlie Chaplin style mime street performer was doing his thing. He was awesome, even though I only caught the end of his little show. I got Nocciola gelato (hazelnut) on the way home.
I also stopped to buy a small bottle of wine, planning to try to recreate Tinto de Verano in my room. Bought a small bottle of Italian red, got most of the way home and figured out the folly of this plan: I don’t have a corkscrew.
Well, so much for that (I’m planning to look for one later today, actually).
Speaking of today, I slept in again, and then went out planning to do the Duomo, the dome, the campanile and the baptistery today, since they’re all essentially part of the same complex. I took one look at the line to go to the top of the dome, and turned around, on a tip from my guidebook which said the lines at the campanile are shorter and it’s almost as high.
Jackpot. I didn’t wait at all to get in. 414 steps later I was staring at all of Florence, including the dome itself. Gorgeous. (Note, that picture is taken from the dome, because I wanted you to see the campanile I climbed. Scroll down for the view from the campanile OF the dome)

When I came down, I went into the baptistery and saw these amazing mosaics on the ceiling. Then I went through the Duomo itself (which is a separate entrance than to climb the dome. After Sevilla, the architecture didn’t look like much, but the frescoes on the inside of the dome are a-m-a-zing.
I had some lunch, and then figured I’d come back to the room for a bit and go back fairly late to try to skip the long lines for the dome, but when I walked by it was fairly short, so I decided no time like the present. I ended up in line between a bunch of Americans (after explaining to a bunch of other tourists that they were in the line to climb up the dome, which caused them to promptly leave. Wimps), and we talked. There was a guy who’d just graduated high school, a girl who was that same age and her sister who was probably a few years older than me, all from the upper east corner of the states, and then an older guy from Lousiana.
This guy...Oh man...this guy was one of those guys who worms into every conversation and thinks he belongs there, and that he knows everything, despite the fact that I was clearly better read on the subject of Florence...and everything else, really, than he was. He kept saying stupid things, and inserting what I thought were totally inappropriate to the conversation the rest of us had (including his very own anecdote about if a gypsy hands you a baby, you drop it because the gypsy is going through your purse, to which I responded that I’d find it more traumatic to drop a baby than have my money stolen. Yes, I actually said that to him. Didn’t shut him up though.).
Sadly, of course, this meant I got to the top (460 steps up, ugh) about the same time as him. He was offering to take pictures for everyone, which was nice enough, but when I refused, saying I didn’t need a picture of me in front of the view, he followed me around and insisted. And then went on telling me I was beautiful and would probably get a modelling contract. Seriously dude, what the fuck? Also, this is the picture he took:
Yeah. Nice.
I bet he thinks he’s a photographer too. Although I kind of like that you can’t see my face.
Also, just for comparison, here’s the picture I took myself:
I like it better, but hey, maybe that’s just me.
Anyway, there, now you’re up to date on my Firenze adventures. Tomorrow, I’ve got an afternoon trip to Pisa booked, and Friday, I’m going to Siena and San Gimignano. In between, I’ve got to see the Accademia (where Michelangelo’s David is), the Uffizi (also an art gallery) and the Palazzo Pitti (once owned by the Medici’s, it’s now an art gallery, royal apartments, and big garden all together)
Oh yeah, and I have to eat everything in Italy.
Did I mention how I feel about Tuscan food?
It’s like the exact opposite of how I felt with Spanish food where if I liked it, I was surprised, and mostly was just eating safe stuff because I had to eat. Yeah, here, I want half the menu immediately, but I’m also trying not to be too expensive. Sigh. It’s very sad, I know. Don’t you feel sorry for me?
On that note, here’s my list of things I miss the most (in no particular order, of course):
1) My dog (seeing her on skype with my parents isn’t the same thing, and it kind of breaks my heart that it confuses her when I talk to her through the computer, though it’s cool that I can make her sit from another continent)
2) A shower which requires no contortions to be used effectively, and I don’t have to turn off every 30 seconds to avoid flooding the bathroom
3) My bed. Oh man, my bed. Ungh.
4) Carpeting. Vienna was the last place I can remember even seeing carpet in a building. Seriously. I don’t feel at home without carpet. Is that weird?
5) You guys, my friends and family! (sometimes, I gotta break out the cheese, sorry. But really, I do miss you guys)
That’s it for now. I’ve got MTV on right now, for some background noise, and oh shit, they’re playing Jersey Shore. I need to leave now. I can actually feel my brain shrieking and trying to escape.


1 comment:

  1. I'm quietly dying of jealousy over here in the corner. I have been pining to go to Italy, and Florence in particular for years now. Sigh. I'm glad you're having fun and that you still have such such a delightful, sardonic sense of humor when faced with the idiots that life seems to send along. Miss you